Holiday Time...

Scandinavia, August 2008

Dover - Calais out, Stavangar - Newcastle home 10 days later. Actually did more countries in one trip than ever before - France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway. And Wales on the last leg home. North seemed the right direction to go at this time of year, free accommodation in Gothenburg clinched the deal.

It started wet, and from Calais east looked better than the more direct northeast, so I headed for the Ardennes but still hit downpours. First night spent a few miles north of Bastogne, leaving a long day to Gothenburg on the Thursday - over 12 hours as it turned out, not helped by a 10 mile tailback on the autobahn outside Lubeck. Would have stopped around 6pm at Fehmann (ferry port from Germany to Denmark - no booking needed) were it not so God-forsaken, and the 45 minute ferry ride gave me enough of a break to carry on to Gothenburg. Although the GPS announcing half way across Denmark 'turn in 345 Km' was a tad depressing.

Got to Gothenburg about 10:30, got drunk about 2 hours later. Gothenburg is wonderful, as was the weather that weekend. Public transport is abundant (trams, trains, buses, ferries) and cheap (like £2.50p for as many journeys as you can start in 90 minutes). I stayed for four days, boated out to the archipelago, took in an arts festival, spent a small fortune in the bars and restaurants (round of beers for 4 people - £20+) and didn't ride the bike until the Monday when we had a gentle two up trip to Marstrand.

Ferry from Stavanger, Norway, was on Wednesday 5:00pm, about 700kms from Gothenburg. So left Tuesday morning in pouring rain, arrived at Hotel Dalen in drizzle about 6:00pm. Totally wooden, eccentric, vaguely baroque architecture, frequented by royalty in its hundred year ago heyday, and recently restored, with prizes. Also, right at the end of the season and, to the mortification of the pretty young receptionist, the first two rooms she presented me hadn't been made up. So I got a free upgrade to a room with a balcony and a beer on the house, but overall not cheap. I'd not looked at the Norsk/Brit exchange rate when I checked in; got home and looked it up to discover the room and evening meal with a bottle of wine came in at over £200. Not worth it.

Next day dawned dull, but this was the best ride of the trip. Over the mountains to Stavanger, and the damp helped keep me out of trouble - Norway's speeding laws are draconian and the enforcement is (allegedly - I saw no coppers) ferocious. 50mph blanket limit out of town, 56 on (almost nonexistent) motorways. Caught over the limit? That'll be £100 for every 3mph over. More than 87mph? That'll be jail time then. So I took it easy, and enjoyed some lovely mountain roads, a bit of snow in the hollows, and almost empty roads. Just a shame it was generally dull and misty - no scope for stunning photos.

Stavanger ferry (I caught the second to last DFDS one ever, they seemingly can't make money on it) had good food, a lovely cabin and expensive booze, but not so expensive as to deter the locals. I'd forgotten the bear garden that any boat with booze from Norway turns into. Two hours in all the Scandinavians under 25 were done to a crisp. By 10:00pm all passengers visible were your best mate and the fruit machines, pontoon tables and bars were ten deep. The crossing was like a mill pond, I dread to think what I'd have been wading through had it been rough...

Finally a long day over the moors to mid Wales to stay the night with old friends and a fast blast home from there; about 2000 miles in six days riding. Good trip.