The Big Trip: Week One

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So here I am in Sweden.  I left on Monday and it is now Wednesday.  I have ridden over a thousand miles in seven countries so far. I popped in to a BMW dealer on my way through Germany to check an odd noise on the bike, but he said it was ok. I’m now just 100 or so miles outside Stockholm at Timmen-nabben, just about to splash out on a tantalising fish dish, and am looking forward to it.

My first night camping was in Germany, close to Puttegarden, in a farmer’s garden (650 miles) and then another 320 miles yesterday. I saw a farmer in a field turning hay, and rode over to him. He was great, we chatted and he came over for a drink and an hour’s chat last night.  

Today I want to get near the ferry, so I can spend the morning in Stockholm and head out in the afternoon. Turku – it was once the capital of Finland, and is, By all accounts, a beautiful city. We’ll see. 

One treat today has been the four mile bridge to Öland. I love bridges, so the more I go across the better!  Three great one’s so far. 

I love Sweden too, the large spaces, the way the flatter landscape hides the houses in the trees, the painted farms, and the quality of everything. I love the way the drivers pull over to let motorbikes through on the roads. This is high summer and yet there is little traffic – though Lars the farmer said he thought the roads were very busy!

It is highly therapeutic to be out on the road, watching the countryside go by. Such rich colours, and peace. The sun is very hot, it is 27 degrees today, yet it is not oppressive. A cool breeze off the sea makes it idyllic. Gorgeous. 

I have met lots of bikers, some in groups, some couples, few like me. It is a real fraternity, with everyone acknowledging each other on the road with a wave. Always a few odd ones, though some would say we all are!

Time for coffee and then on my way again. 

3rd August. 2011
I came up through Kalmar, (well, visited it.  All these little coastal towns are off the main Stockholm route, the E20 by about 10 km.) a lovely waterside town with a posh harbour on the side of which I rested and slept and read. A big waterspout hosing up from the sea gave atmosphere, along with the local market stalls.
On my hunt for the perfect spot, I set up camp on another farmer’s front lawn. Cherry and apple trees abound. The sun is as hot as ever, with ‘big sky’ all around.  Brilliant. An old man has invited me in for coffee in one of the nearby houses. All the buildings round hear seem to me coated in red cedar paint and look beautiful, prettied up and the gardens trimmed.
Ingmar and Barbara are lovely and have invited me for breakfast in the morning. Although the lady whose garden I’m camped on is a bit suspicious, it is because they get a lot of hawkers round here, just off the road.
After lots of laughs and fun as we struggle for language, them remembering English and me finding ways to explain as simply as possible,  and getting both wrong, I go to bed.

4th August.
Breakfast.  Home made bread, two fried eggs and a sliced tomato, fruit juice,  strong coffee and friendship. More hilarity as we tease and play.  These folk are around 80 and full of joy.  Wonderful people.  I packed up my things and got on my way with a friendly toot of the horn.

Stockholm was ok, but a bit of a disappointment.  Although it is pretty with lots of grass and walking areas, and plenty of space, it still has that sense of constant disturbance, the restlessness of the city. I love the calm of countryside, the gentle landscape.  It soothes me. The city jarred me. It is of course a place for commerce and sales and I am happy for that.

I spent an hour or so in the museum looking round the exhibits.  It was an excellent overview of the Swedish culture.  It had a special pesentation of the Sampni(?) tribe in the north of Sweden and a self-castigation of the way the people were treated – measured, examined as animals.  Like the American Indians and Inuits, they were pushed out of their lands and persecuted.  

I left Stockholm after a few hours and headed for the port of Kapellskār further up the coast, having typed Turku, Finland, into my satnav. I met two Germans who I chatted to re 10/10 and coached. They were riding Heinkel Tourist scooters to Nordcap, which you can get to from Finland. Lunch was two sausages and chips.  I was tempted by a sauna but the place looked a bit seedy and I only had a credit card. 

Arriving at the port it became clear that the ferry was full, and that if I went in the morning I would pay £50 less with no berth and two free meals! I love ferries generally, so I put the tent up right outside the customs building and settled for the night.

I  discovered my iPhone App  was accepted today! Brilliant. (type Powerchange into the App Store search) One more step on the road to helping people find their true worth and support them as they enjoy and make their contribution to the world community.  

5th August 2011.

Today is our wedding anniversary, with Sue and I married 39 years.  I was up at 4.30am to be first in line for any tickets to the ferry. Having waited for 3 hours the ferry terminal’s computer terminals packed up!  Eventually i paid and was welcomed aboard.
I made friends with a lovely Finnish family with six children, and we talked for half the trip.  My celebratory ‘wedding feast’ smorgasbord was scrumptious (two meals are included in the ferry price) salmon steak, yummy curried sauce and fruit dessert, with cheese and biscuits to follow. Coffee, juice, all ad lib. Great.
I arrived in Finland, and booked into a campsite (€20 for a patch of grass and a shower!), did my washing and heard a dreadful noise from the sky as I was pegging out the washing on the bike.  An emergency helicopter landed 50 metres away on a car park to treat a fellow camper.
Finished my book , had a long chat with Sue on the phone ( it is a local call to me from the uk!) and  slept like a log.

6th August.
Awoke at 9.30 to the patter of rain on the tent and rushed out – just dressed enough to be decent – to rescue the now dry washing!  Back to recover from the shock and eventually left the site at about 11am. 

The treat of the day has been a wonderful little cafe on the motorway E18. The sweetest little motorway café ever, with coffee refills, a tiny breakfast bar and a kind older lady efficiently running the show. So special.  These people are a gift from God to the world.
Arrived through the endless rain in Helsinki and asked a couple of girls about the best place to visit – the Market.
I like Helsinki. Walking up and down the Esplanade was entertaining, not least the site of a woman having a reikki foot massage, lying on a table wrapped in polythene sheeting against the falling rain, another woman holding an umbrella over her head, and the therapist massaging her feet!  I took a photo.
Helsinki  has a lot of atmosphere. I liked it more than Stockholm, though I may not have given either of them a chance to show me their best as I whistle-stopped through.   I loved the market too, not huge but fun. And early supper was a reindeer meatball for a euro…  
I finally found the ferry by putting “Tallinn, Estonia” in my satnav, bought an expensive €61 ticket for the bike and me, and  boarded forthwith.
I wonder what Tallinn has in store? Estonia is an up and coming place, making a lot of effort to be thoroughly European. I’ll know in and hour or so.

As the ferry crosses the Baltic Sea, the last little islands of Scandinavia recede to the horizon and turn to grey.  Time for a coffee and there is wifi aboard, hence this blog upload! (This coffee was strong, double-creamy, and perfect. I bought a dark chocolate Toblerone to accompany it!)
The bike is out of fuel, so I’ll need to get some ASAP when we dock.

More later. Pics will follow eventually!

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5 Comments

  1. Dear Andrew.
    You turned up on my parents doorstep, chatted with my mother and later on joined my parents in the evening. They spoke so warmly about you and they really enjoyd talking to you. I am so happy and proud over my parents, they are so open minded, curious and welcoming to strangers.
    I wish you a nice and safe bikeride.
    Best regards
    Lena Westerberg(Barbro and Ingemars daughter)

  2. Brilliant, what fun your having, and great hospitality and food. WOW. Our friend Phil Mills lives in Tallinn, or very near, he went to bible school with Lyn, you never know, God may put you together? Take care my friend. Cant wait for more.

  3. Hello Andrew, remember those two Heinkel-scooter guys at Kapellskär in Sweden ?
    We are back since Mo.22nd of Aug and had a real good and safe trip.The north-cape is still there !
    Even our 50year-old oldtimers reached home safe.
    What we see is that you arrived Estonia. Well, no more signs since then. What went wrong ?
    If Andrew is not able to communicate- is there anybody around here to let us know what is going on, please ? We appreciate any infos , truly. Kindest regards, Klaus & Heinz.

  4. Hi Andrew, Klaus & Heinz are anxious looking forward to your 3-week story. We met at Kapallskaer.
    We hope, nothing serious happened to you. Take care and let us know when you are back, allright ?
    A Safe trip-Andrew; Klaus & Heinz.

  5. Hallo Andrew !
    On one boring day at the office I remebered your e-mail adress. Strolling through the net I found your Homepage and remembered our encounter in England. We are the Couple of BMW -drivers from Germany heading to Cornwall, Karl and Sirpa. Thanks for your invitation to that Teahouse and for the tip to the city of Padstow, we enyoed our holiday very much, although motorcycling himself is not so impressive like in the alps. We hope you enjoy your trip to Greece.
    Have a save ride, Best wishes Sirpa and Karl.

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