September 25th, 2018

Cat Air

Småland Perfectly Formed 1: Thursday 13th September - Friday 14th September

We went to Småland because over Easter we met two Swedish blokes in a pub who recommended it.

This is a somewhat random way to go on holiday, but it all worked out.

We started by taking the overnight ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland, which meant I could put in a full if slightly distracted day at the office, go home, get changed, strap my luggage on the bike, fight the rush hour to meet Howard at Thurrock Services and still be on board in good time to relax over a nightcap as we waved goodbye to Essex.

Miles: 92.8

At eight on Friday morning we emerged from the ferry and began the journey to Kiel, in Germany near the Danish border. It was a long day of motorway miles, with morning coffee at a Dutch service area and lunch at a German one.

"Or you could have a bratwurst?" the lady at the snack counter suggested to me as I examined the selection of sandwiches. She must have been psychic.

We arrived in Kiel to discover that our hotel doubled as student accommodation and our high-ceilinged room was equipped with two single beds: one conventionally arranged and one in a sort of eyrie above, reached by a steep staircase. Obviously I bagged the crow's nest, and slept very cosily.

Miles: 390.3

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Småland Perfectly Formed 2: Saturday 15th September

I'd picked Kiel as our overnight stop because it was a great opportunity to catch up with schnee, who lives there. He'd picked a French café for brunch, and we made our way through rain showers, past a pretty harbour where impressive warships lay at anchor, to join him.

It was lovely to see a familiar face, and to hole up out of the rain drinking coffee and eating buckwheat pancakes with bacon, fried egg and cheese while we talked about travel, Kiel, whisky and Tintin.

We were sorry to leave, but we had many miles still to go and a ferry to catch from Puttgarden in Germany to Rodby in Denmark.

Before the ferry we experienced the border shop: a vast, floating hypermarket on three floors, filled with booze. A Carlsberg poster claimed it as 'Probably the biggest border shop in the world', and they're probably right. Scandinavians emerged pushing trolleys laden with crates of beer, wine and spirits, as well as soft drinks, sweets and washing-powder. I bought a litre of cloudberry vodka for €12 - only slightly more than I would pay for two coffees on the 45-minute ferry crossing.

Denmark! Flat and wet, with rainbows dancing in the spray thrown up by other vehicles. We took the Öresund Bridge, nearly five miles across and a long-held ambition of mine, and then we were in Sweden, our third and final country of the day.

Autumn, if you're lucky with the weather, is a lovely time of year to travel by bike: not too hot, not too crowded, with the leaves on the turn. We left the motorways for a road that ran along the coast of the Baltic sea, through little port towns, past churches with stepped fronts and low houses with high roofs. We noted that speed limit and Give Way signs have yellow centres rather than white, while chevrons warning of danger are a patriotic blue and yellow.

Our home for the night was a holiday camp in Ystad, a short scamper from the beach, where we stayed in exactly the sort of little red wooden cabin I had imagined. As we arrived I startled a red squirrel into running down a tree and immediately up it again.

Miles: 238.7

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