Last weekend I wrote about cycling in Norway, the final country on my 3rd pan-European quest next year. I’m purposefully starting at the end and working backwards so as to avoid falling into the trap of thinking a lot about the first few countries in advance and ignoring those later on. This week is the penultimate country through which I will cycle: Sweden.
The plan for Sweden is a simple one. Arrive in Malmo and follow the west coast via Gothenburg. Google Maps suggest a flat ride of some 500km so nothing too taxing is anticipated. Incidentally, it’s interesting using the ‘cycling’ function on Google Maps. It doesn’t always work – for example there is a suggested route from Halden to Trondheim in Norway but not one for Trondheim to Nord Kapp – and I wonder if there is a distance limitation on the suggested routes. At some point I will attempt to map out the entire route from southern Spain to northern Norway using Google Maps, not because I intend following their directions but simply to have a fairly accurate measurement of distances and an idea as to where the big climbs may be.
Back to Sweden. The Rough Guide to Sweden has the following to say about cycling in Sweden;
“Some parts of the country were made for cycling: Stockholm, the southern provinces and Gotland in particular are ideal for a leisurely bike ride. Many towns are best explored by bike, and tourist offices, campsites and youth hostels often rent them out… There are a lot of cycle paths in towns, which are often shared with pedestrians.”
That’s probably what I would expect a guide book to say about any of the northern European countries (well, perhaps not the UK…) so nothing new there. A quick Google search brings me to the cycling section of VisitSweden.com, the ‘official website for tourism and travel information‘. They are clearly not going to tell me the bad stuff (if it exists) but I do learn that there are ‘well-marked cycle routes around the country’. That’s a good start. Time to copy and past. Over to the Swedish officials!
“Pannier packing cyclo-tourists will love the well-marked cycling routes here in organized Sweden; black for local district signs, green for national signs and blue for local signs. Cycling in one of Sweden’s major cities or towns? No problem – they all have extensive cycle path networks. And most local tourism centres provide maps and will happily give you tips on where to go and what to see. Before we get to the bit about ‘Sweden is absolutely gorgeous’ – a final tip is that Sweden has an extensive network of youth hostels. Camping? There are plenty of campsites where you can pitch your tent or rent a chalet/cottage. Do read about Sweden’s wonderful Right of Public Access before you come on your cycling holiday to Sweden. And a final tip, if the kids are under 15 year’s of age they must, by law, wear a helmet.”
Under ‘Cycling events’, there are these comments:
“Vätternrundan meanwhile is the biggest recreational cycling event in the world. The event takes place around huge Lake Vättern in southern Sweden. If you’re up to it there is a 300 km version, a 150 km version and a 100 km ladies only event. Some 20,000 cyclists from all around the world congregate in the town of Motala to take part in the main event. The atmosphere before the events is brilliant, the scenery is gorgeous and any keen cyclist will love this event.”
I’ve just had a look and the event takes place on the 12th and 13th June in 2015. I’ll probably be around those parts at roughly that time. The lake is a little off my route but with ‘20,000 cyclists from around the world’ descending upon Motala (roughly half-way between Gothenburg on the west coast and Stockholm on the east coast and in the north eastern corner of the lake) it seems that Sweden will be a country full of cyclists in June. I’ll no doubt bump into a few of them. If that isn’t exciting enough, the midsummer festival of the 21st June is celebrated big time throughout Scandinavia for fairly obvious reasons (no? well, there’s plenty of sunlight in which to party I suppose). The Rough Guide refers to it as ‘midsummer mayhem‘ and the festivities take place over the weekend closest to the 24th June. In 2015, the 24th is a Wednesday so it’s anyone’s guess as to which weekend they will be going for. ‘The populations’ national characteristics of reserve and restraint dissolve over midsummer weekend… parties go on through the night…’.
I have read about Sweden’s Right of Public Access, especially the dedicated cycling page but the information contained there is really more relevant for mountain bikers who want to escape the roads, not tourers like myself. So, what about the national cycle network with the green signs mentioned above? Well, the British Cycle Tourer website has some news on that, and it mentions the Cykelspåret. I’ve seen this referred to before. According to a translated page of Wikipedia, the ‘Cykelspåret is a bike path that follows the coast of Sweden. The main route is about 25o miles long and runs between Ystad and Haparanda.’ This can’t quite be correct as those two towns are about 2,000km apart at either end of the country(!). Is this word Cykelspåret a more general one referring to cycle paths? Online translations give me nothing for the word itself but the word spåret is translated as ‘groove’ or (progress at last!) ‘track’. Searching for a map of the Cykelspåret network (I assume) has given me nothing… Perhaps someone out there can shed light upon this Swedish cycling mystery. Specifically, can I follow the Cykelspåret all the way from Malmo, along the west coast to the border with Norway? Do the Eurovelos 7, 12 and 3 piggy back upon the Cykelspåret as is the case for so many other parts of the network across the continent? Answers please.
As far as recommendations go, I have so far only heard from Thomas Soininen on Twitter who yesterday gave the following advice:
More recommendations are very welcome indeed.
As far as accommodation goes, campsites and youth hostels are in plentiful supply. The hostels are run (mainly) by Svenska Turistforeningen (STF) and Camping.se provides an extensive list of campsites in the country. The wild camping might have to wait until I arrive in the wilds of northern Norway…
One last thing worth considering in advance is my arrival in Malmo at the start of the Swedish leg of my journey. From Copenhagen I will need to travel across the Øresundsbroen (Danish) / Öresundsbron (Swedish) / Øresundsbron (hybrid name!). Let’s call it the Øresund Bridge. Famous for being the bridge in ‘The Bridge‘ it is also the longest combined rail and road bridge in Europe which is brilliant until the point when you realise that you can’t cycle across it. This is probably because in order to access the long bridge you need to take a long tunnel on the Danish side of things. So, it will be a train border crossing for Reggie and me when we enter the land of the midnight sun…