Chiara is in charge for part seven of our coverage of the Freedom of Movement tour with Chiara Ginestra and Alexander Colling who are travelling across Europe on bicycle to discover the wonderful right of freedom of movement within the European Union. Don’t forget to follow them on their Facebook page , Tumblr and their Twitter handle.
So, week six. Long sigh. I’m still a bundle of funny ailments to the point that is no longer funny at all.
As a little diversion, a good bit of week six is spent cursing not only my weak constitution and inner couchpotatoedness, but also SJ (the main Swedish train company) for not allowing bikes on trains. Sweden, how retrograde is this?! For once, I wish the EU was this autocratic dictatorship the UK describes it to be, so that at least all European countries (or rather, the myriad of private companies operating within them) would have the same exact rules about everything, including bikes on trains and how to book them on – apparently, to do this there is a surprisingly endless variety of cabalistic combinations closer to the astronomical concept of infinity that a simple human mind cannot fully comprehend. Anyhow, in a way, SJ’s rules are simple enough: no bikes. So we cycle. And, in a way, thank you SJ as without this silly rule of yours we wouldn’t have seen the beauties of Sweden that much!
The weather is still so roasting it feels like I’m riding on a barbecue; furthermore, my feet have developed the mark of Zorro:
In our ascension (as in: proceeding north, but also: going steadily and inexorably uphill) towards Stockholm, we see moose, eagles, wolverines, cranes and snakes. We mostly cycle through amazing forests. We also get donated by the B&B owners in Långrådna an enormous amount of extremely free-range eggs which we brood around with us for a few days (if you ever want to do what we are doing, we recommend investing in a travel egg carrier); and we stop in Söderköping for a bucket (literally) of ice cream, thanks to a tip-off of one of our Swedish hosts.
Towards the end of the week it gets not only hillier, but also windier. According to our GPS maps, our route to Järna looks like this:
The reality of things being more like this:
My favourite stop was in Järna, where we stayed in a school for children with special needs. Our host there, a school teacher, treated us to dinner, and her neighbour, the school’s music teacher, treated us to a group ukulele lesson. That was exactly what I needed to heal my rotten body and battered soul, and for a moment I forgot the multiple rants I had at Alex for wanting to carry a ukulele around Europe on a bike.
SJ’s policies on bike transport may have allowed us to better explore Sweden, but they also made us fall a bit behind schedule which meant that we only spent a few hours in Stockholm, our 6th capital.
If you are currently compiling a bucket list, make sure you include in it taking the ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki, preferably on a sunny day, where you can spend hours island-spotting from the deck as you make your way through fjords:
In Helsinki we received royal welcome by our friend Riitta who shepherded us into her sauna and locked us in till we recovered feeling in our limbs.
The first day in Helsinki was spent going from doctors to bike shops, but that’s another story.
Speaking of royal treatment. I’ve heard that meanwhile in the UK a mixed-race immigrant was made a princess while thousands of perfectly good British people were sleeping rough. How disgusting, the world is turning upside-down, all these immigrants should just go back to their country. But that’s also another story.
For not sleeping rough on week six we thank Baiba, Andrea, Rita and Riitta!
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