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Europe » Sweden
November 8th 2011
Published: December 23rd 2011
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Fifteen minutes later we disembarked into another new country and rode through the rather industrial port area of Helsingborg looking for a cashpoint and access to the town centre. Five minutes of drab grey buildings and we were in an underpass worthy of Milton Keynes with three possible exits each signed to local areas not listed on our maps, guessing that the town centre was to our left we headed that way and came upon a road full of take-aways and shops selling cheap plastic stuff with a lot of sad looking people trudging about and the occasional excited argument spilling out from doorways. The cyclepath seemed to be a place to put rubbish, smoking areas, pushchairs and advertising signs or to just wander aimlessly in. We found a cashpoint and left quickly, following the main road south to the hostel where we booked a couple of nights, planning to spend the next day looking around the area, finding route maps and deskogging my rear derraileur which seemed to be housing new life forms in a rather evil-looking grease and sand mix. It took a knife to scrape all the crud off the jockey wheels and the bike rolled better when I had finished excavating it.
Our "look around the area" became a tour around the town as the wind was very strong again and we didn't fancy a long ride into it, instead we found the tourist information centre for maps, a cafe on the harbour for lunch and people-watching, then ambled around the centre peering in the shop windows and looking in the art galleries.
On the way back to the hostel we made our first sortie into a Swedish supermarket, a vast warehouse of a place selling food, clothes, hardware, car kit, toys and, in one small area, beer but only 3.5% abv or less. Swedish law prevents the sale of anything stronger except at off licences, so the supermarkets carry the same beers as you would find pretty much all over Europe (Stella, Heineken etc) but they are all 3.5% abv, brewed especially for the Swedish market.
We headed south the next day, starting slowly with an extended breakfast, then first coffee stop at 6km, we had a nasty headwind once again and struggled to Landskrona following a cycle route most of the way, mainly on road but it included a bit of off-road cycle path which was surprisingly well surfaced and didn't require any special words about cycle route architects. All special words were, instead, reserved for the weather which decided to start raining on us shortly before we got to Landskrona. Cold and damp we rolled into the centre and found a farmers market so grabbed some supplies including a goat milk feta cheese called Geta (you see what they did there?), before heading to the tourist office which was shut, we tried phoning the hostel on Ven but got no answer so called the one in Landskrona instead, they were in to potential customers and had space for us.

Ven and Tycho Brahe

From Landskrona we took a ferry to Ven for a day of science (and wind and rain, it was all part of the package). We cycled off the ferry and up the hill towards Uraniborg, home to Tycho Brahe and where he performed many of his astronomical studies. On the way we passed the goat farm I bought cheese from at the farmers market and stopped to watch the workers running about in the fields.
Uraniborg is now a museum about Tycho Brahe's life in Ven and his work, he was a great empiricist and innovator, realising that repeated measurements where the only way to accurately map the universe he developed a number of tools to help him do just that and built an underground observatory to allow accurate readings on the windswept island. He was the first to use a transverse scale to read angles off quadrants and identified a new star in Casseopia, proving that it had no parallax and was therefore very far away (not within the moon's orbit), thus disproving the fixed model of the universe that Aristotle proposed and Ptolemy later developed. Understanding that the earth still had to be at its centre and that all the other planets moved around the sun and the sun around the earth, Brahe proposed a model for the solar system which fitted his observations and kept Rome happy, it was also, of course, completely wrong. This was before the telescope was invented and we both wondered how much more he would have discovered with such optical assistance.
Sadly although his nose got a mention "injured in a duel" there was no word of Brahe's pet elk (it died after getting drunk and falling down the stairs).

The weather closed in as we cycled around the rest of the island, causing us to shelter in a harbour hut, between the showers and a stack of fishing gear to eat our lunch. The views had all but disappeared so we headed back to the ferry, cycling past the planet signs along the way. The sun is at Uraniborg and all the planets are spaced out along the main road back to the port, unobtrusive signs which it is easy to miss, as demonstrated by me not seeing any of them on the way there in the morning. We "collected" them all on the way back though.
The ferry ride back to Landskrona was miserable, wet and windy, we cycled into the town and found a warm cafe for restorative coffee and cake (and free internet).


As we left the hostel the next morning we discovered that while playing with the map apps on our iPods we had managed to wipe our route to Malmo from Landskrona. A short stop in the cafe with the wifi was called for which has got to make it our shortest ride to a cake stop yet, 1.5km from the hostel. Once
Hire bikes on the island of VenHire bikes on the island of VenHire bikes on the island of Ven

They are the clean ones, the two scabby looking crud transporters are ours.
mapped and caffeinated we set off for real, following a cycle route down the coast before heading inland to Barseback and Loddekopinge where we stopped for lunch at a little cafe next to the supermarket. Further inland across open farmland into the headwind that had been plaguing us all day we crawled slowly to our destination. Vernon punctured at the most open, windswept point of the day, at the top of a small hill surrounded by corn fields with nowhere to lean the bikes or shelter from the wind. Of course it was the rear tyre that had punctured and for good measure it had also got a split in it so we unpacked the spare tyre from its hiding place at the bottom of the spares and repairs pannier, fixed the tube, repacked the pannier and put everything back together again. At Lund we found a bike shop, got a spare tube and ditched the tyre, we figured we wouldn't need to carry a spare for the distance we had left to ride and there were enough places we could buy one if needed, even supermarkets carry bike spares on the continent.

We rode into Malmo straight down
Dog at a coffee shop in LandskronaDog at a coffee shop in LandskronaDog at a coffee shop in Landskrona

It should have had a sign saying "Will look cute for cake"
the road to the harbour, looking for signs for the ferry to Travemunde. After a few kilometres riding further into the city I stopped at a petrol station to get directions, skillfully choosing the one place where nobody had even heard of the ferry company we were looking for. They pointed us in the general direction of the passenger ferry terminals and wished us luck. A brief tour of the city centre got us to the train station where there had to be a map surely? No. A woman in the bookstore waved her hand in a generally north-easterly direction so we headed that way and finally found the offices for Finn Lines, or rather the former offices with a map on the door directing us to their new building. Another few km through a what appeared to be a derelict wasteland got us to our tickets then we rode back to the train station to find some food before returning to the ferry queue through piles of scrap metal, warehouses full of paper bales, the european milk bottle mountain and masses of car tyres. It makes sense to have the recycling depot next to the port that it will be transported from but it was really off-putting riding through such a jungle of scrap.
We joined the queue for our ferry along with all the cars and motorhomes and two German cyclists who we shared our chocolate chip cookies with, biscuits do tend to break down language barriers. Eventually we all set off on the final 2km across the terminal to the boat, the freight was being loaded at the same time so we had lorries to our left and cars infront, behind and overtaking to our right as we all aimed for the one lane onto the ferry. The larger vehicles all ground to a halt as the boat began to fill up and we were beckoned past them all and directed to the cycle park. Once we'd secured the bikes we took our overnight baggage, found our cabin, grabbed a beer and tried to sleep.


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