After a few weeks hiatus I returned to Helsinki for the rest of my adventure! Helsinki to Stockholm to Oslo, west across Scandinavia it is! …As quick as physically possible given the toll it’s taking on my bank account. At this point the cheap world of Russia seems a distant dream away!
To say Finland was a shock to the system is an understatement, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such never ending hills. Even on the flat the hill is always there… Just waiting maybe 5miles down the road >< I have never sworn at so many inanimate geological features in my life!
Helsinki in a nice city, but if I’m honest I can now see why so many travellers i’d previously talked felt a touch underwhelmed. Unlike the other Scandinavian capitals it’s lost the unique feel and become, dare I say, just another metropolitan city. I didn’t stay long, some places you are drawn to, others less so. Personally I think Finland’s charm lies in it’s wilderness, not in Helsinki! …nothing wrong with that!
The fields of Finland go on for ever, it’s amazing! The hills are a pain but if anything it prepared me for Sweden, and now it feels like I have thighs that could challenge Chris Hoy! So cheers Scandinavia! Finland was also a good introduction to Swedish weather, a truly unique phenomenon. At times cycling along a road I could estimate the time of a torrential downpour just from the black cloud I was slowly moving towards! Sure enough I’d have ten minutes of sheet torrential rain then sunshine as i cycled out! It’s crazy!
Talking of awful weather I can’t forget that damned day when after spending all night shivering to sleep, cursing myself for skimping on a cheap sleeping bag. I woke to a blizzard. Yup, not even kidding. Needless to say I got back in my tent and rearranged my whole route so that instead of heading north through Finland I went straight west to Stockholm… Hopeful for the sun!
Despite the constant deluge and one day of snow I actually had a great time in Finland, and the few Finns I met were always welcoming… If slightly quieter then their Swedish neighbours!
I took the Turku-Stockholm crossing and had absolutely zero problems! All across Scandinavia I can honestly say traveling by bike has been a breeze, probably because it’s so popular! On that boat there were two other cycle tourers and two motorbikes, we made a right crew! It’s getting to the point now where not a day goes by that I don’t run into another cyclist and hear tell of their crazy adventures… When I run off and do this forever you can blame all those fools who did it first!
So I made it to Stockholm!! And my god do I love it! Stockholm is a beautiful city, modern and you really can feel it. From all the aspects that I’d love to change in England, here they are miles ahead… Look at the cycle lanes for pete sake! And this was taken during torrential rain, in a building site!
The centre of Stockholm is gorgeous, it reminds me of York. It has a gorgeous old section on the central island, narrow cobbled streets and Viking museums – what more could you need?
I love Sweden, really do. It is lovely! Stockholm was great although I must say the further west across the country I’ve gone the more “Swedish” it has felt, from the arrival of the little traditional red cottages…
To the gorgeous Swedish churches..
The people too, they have just got more and more welcoming and helpful! It got to the point where on receiving a puncture a bloke actually pulled up within a few minutes of me flipping the bike to ask if I needed help. On many occasions people have offered me good and water – when I’ve looked particularly rough by the roadside haha. The hills here really take it out of you to begin with, although the views are one hundred percent worth it! The hundreds of lakes make for some dramatic descents and gorgeous camping spots. Now the sun has come out I honestly can’t think of any other part of the world I’d rather be cycling through, it truly is beautiful…. Mosquitos being the only downside so far!
Talking of Swedish lovely Swedish people, in one campsite the two fellas running it let me stay in their lodge for no extra charge just because it was going to be a chilly night and they didn’t want me being cold! …first night in a bed for a week and gosh it was lovely!! Bless them! I even got to sit out and enjoy the sun like all the middle aged german couples doing their leisurely motorbike tours!
Slowly but surely I crossed into Norway! A rather painful experience when I saw the dramatic increase in the price of my food! It deffinatly feels like one of the richest countries, and there is no way I can stay here long!… After a few days here In Oslo it will be a brisk cycle south back to the relative comfort of Sweden!
Now I feel I would be lying if I didn’t put this in, but unfortunately I did have a touch of trouble on my way Into Oslo. Turns out the city has a slight drug problem… For those who can’t tell the “slight” was sarcastic. It is impossible to walk far before the huge heroin problem rears it’s head. For me it became evident before I was even in the city. A guy, totally off his face, stopped me on the bike – now I didn’t realise he was high as a kite until a few minutes in. That’s what cycling up the huge hill into the Oslo fjord will do to your senses. In short the guy was so confused that I wasn’t speaking Swedish, grabbed my arm to steady himself, he was so gone he could barely stand, At which point I pushed him off and continued my slow progress up the hill leaving him to his spinning confusion! Luckily at the top of the hill I found some other cyclists he’d offended and they were already calling the police. To be honest it was just a “in the wrong place at the wrong time” situation. On the plus side the cyclists were so lovely and took me straight to my hostel! So silver linings and all that eh! Apparently Norway’s drug problem is partly the result of such high prices for all other substances… Such as beer and cigarettes, it ends up cheaper to turn to Heroin. Sad eh.
BUT… Despite it being a bit rough, there’s no doubting Oslo is a gorgeous city. The constant stream of tourists means you rarely hear anyone actually speaking Norwegian! The streets are packed with performers and there is beautiful architecture. If you can work out how these guys did this then please enlighten me… And all those confused tourists
I did get to a few sighs around the city for free, the opera house really is an epic building. The sloped roof goes from the very top of the building right into the sea, although I do agree with everyone saying it would be much more fun to come back in winter and sledge down it instead of making the trek up to the top!
But by far my favourite experience in Oslo has to be the Viegland installation, a stunning sculpture park. Seriously I liked it so much I went twice!! If you ever end up in this part of the world I can’t advise it enough! So I’ll leave ya with some pictures… Although they do no justice at all. From here it is back to England and I guess real life, sigh. Wish me luck eh, guess the fun always had to end eventually! Four weeks of life on the bike left!