Winds Of Change

By Stephen Ewashkiw | August 17, 2013

5490 km so far.

When you make plans, set goals, and have dreams, sometimes you have to accept that things aren’t going to turn out how you hoped. You need to be open to making changes to your plans, to shifting your goals, or to altering your dreams.

Two days ago, one of my favourite bands, Calexico, played in Malmö for free at Malmofestivalen. We both really wanted to see them play, not only because we love them, and they are fantastic live, but also because they were the last band we saw play in Europe before we moved to Los Angeles. Jane and I had flown to Stockholm to see them, and to visit our friends who now live in Malmö. It would have been such a perfect circle.

However, my yoga classes meant we weren’t able to be there. The last couple of classes I have arranged have been a few days later than would have allowed us the time to bike to Malmö to see Calexico. Teaching is a priority, as is cycling through Sweden. Seeing a band I have seen live so much I couldn’t tell you the number of times just isn’t. We could have taken a train from Stockholm and missed riding the canal and seeing the interior of the country. But that is not in the spirit of our trip.

So we changed our plans. No Calexico. More Sweden.

Things Have Changed

As Jane already explained, yesterday we changed our plans. We realised when we got to the edge of Lake Vättern that we had a choice. We could ride north for a whole day around Lake Vättern to get to the other side, and rejoin the Göta Kanal route. Or, we could ride south along the lake, skip the rest of the canal, be 100 km further south, inline with Göteborg, and be on our way there a bit sooner.

Choosing the southern route led us to Vadstena last night. It is quite a town. We stumbled it upon it by accident. None of the local brochures we had seen pointed it out, but now that we were here we wanted to look around.

I am feeling better and whatever ailed my stomach seems to have passed, but I still don’t have all my energy back. Jane is also very tired, which probably also has somethng to do with me being sick. So we made today a bit of a day off and gave ourselves the opportunity to see Vadstena.

Saint Birgitta founded a convent here in the 14th century and it is a beautiful collection of buildings. These include a former hospital for the poor, which later became an insane asylum, the convent itself, which during the Reformation was turned into the parish church, and a great hall which is now where guests at the fancy hotel next door come to have breakfast.

Bikes outside the parish church, Vadstena.

Bikes outside the parish church, Vadstena.

The local fort is also quite remarkable. It is a 16th century work of art, surrounded by a moat and just a short walk from where we camped.

boats on a moat

Boats on the moat, Vadstena.

For years it was a defensive fort that also housed the local ruler’s family. Later, in the 19th century, it became a granary. Around this time, part of it was demolished so the stones could be used to build the harbour we camped on last night.

The marina where we camped last night, Vadstena.

The marina where we camped last night, Vadstena.

In the 20th century the towers were rebuilt, and it currently houses the local archives, a cafe, and a collection of art and furnishings from the 16th to 18th centuries.

The high street (they are almost always called Storgatan in Sweden, which in our minds can only mean ‘Store Street’) is very different from any we have seen in Sweden. It is actually quite reminiscent of a British high street, except it is clean and there aren’t people on the street corners who you shouldn’t make eye contact with. The buildings are all quite old, including the Radhus (City Hall), which Wikivoyage assures us is “Sweden’s oldest city hall in Sweden”.

oldest city hall in sweden

The oldest city hall in Sweden, Vadstena.

The high street hasn’t changed much since it was first built, except there are posh touristy shops in the place of what would have once been local shops for local people, presumably.

Blowing In The Wind

We hadn’t realised how windy it was today, and our route was taking us through farmland, which tends to be wide open, and perfect for the wind to really get going.

When you see lots of windmills, you know you're in for a windy day.

When you see lots of windmills, you know you’re in for a windy day.

We did realise, almost immediately after we started riding, that breakfast this morning consisted of pastries and coffee. We had zero energy. So, not long into our ride, we pulled into Hovs Kyrka, an old church with an immaculately raked stone path. Very zen. We had lunch on a bench in the churchyard, looking out at the beautiful cemetery, with perfectly manicured lawn and carefully cared for gravestones.

Back into the wind after refuelling, I really didn’t feel like riding. I was very glad we had decided to make today a short one, but with the wind this strong, our short ride was still going to take some time.

After lunch we set a goal of riding until 4pm, which isn’t the short day we’d hoped for, but would have to do. We finally made it to the town of Ödeshög, which is obviously pronounced Eau Des Hogs, about 40 km from where we started. Not our farthest ride by any stretch, but a much needed short day.

I Feel A Change Comin’ On

We also decided to pay for camping for our first time in Scandinavia. This is a big change for us. With the right to free camp written into the Scandinavian constitutions, we have been taking full advantage of free nights.

But I was desperate for a shower, not wanting to go to bed with the day’s sweat sticking to me. Turns out it was a good idea, as I found a tick embedded in my ankle, which I might not have found for a couple of days if we were free camping. Two days ago I found another and I assume I got this one at the same time. Why do they love me so? Both of these seem to have come out fairly easily, so hopefully no repeat of our trip to a Polish hospital will be needed. Jean-Yves, your tea tree oil is coming in handy!

It is actually nice to be in a campground with the amenities it provides us: a bathroom, shower, kitchen, and power. This one even has a pool (but it is too cold for us to swim). I also plan to sleep a bit more soundly, as I feel our bikes are safer here, where there is always someone on duty to keep an eye out for ne’er-do-wells.  

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  1. Comment by Håkan

    Håkan August 20, 2013 at 8:50 am

    It is nice to see that you pick up and care so much about the local culture and history on your way across our country, and that you share your impressions to us who is reading your road reports.

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen August 24, 2013 at 1:59 am

      Thanks for reading Håkan, it was great to meet you!

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