Bicycle touring southern Sweden

Before bicycle touring in Sweden, I was worried it’d be endless forest and way too many mosquitoes.  I was pleasantly surprised.  We were, however, entirely south of Stockholm in the southern third of the country.  I guess if you were to go north, well, it would be endless forest and probably way too many mosquitoes in the right (wrong?) season.  Compared to our flat ride from Hamburg to Malmö, the hills of southern Sweden provided some nice relief, giving pleasing views and fun riding.

This is a typical bicycle-touring-Sweden photo. by bryandkeith on flickr
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Hamburg to Malmö, on the bicycle again

A three-country 10-day bicycle trip with Krista and Kurt from Hamburg to Skåne, Sweden.  Ferda and I flew from Antalya to Hamburg via İstanbul, and Krista and Kurt were waiting for us at the Hamburg airport, smiling.  They’d already been on the road about a month, cycling from Amsterdam.  After our 10 days together, Ferda and I continued on to Stockholm.  The four of us had hoped to do the whole trip together from Amsterdam to Stockholm, but with various commitments we only managed these 10 days together at the end of their trip and the beginning of ours.

Starting the ride from the Hamburg airport by bryandkeith on flickr

Interestingly it was the second three-country bicycle tour I’ve done with Kurt this year.  We cycled in Spain, France, and Andorra in March, and here we were in Germany, Denmark, and Sweden in July.  That’s four new countries this year for bicycle touring for me, including two countries I had never been to before (Spain and Andorra).  I think I counted this was my 8th visit to Germany.  My complete lack of German language ability is a bit embarrassing.

Krista was a great help putting the bikes together at the airport.  They had also thought to buy all the food we’d need until the grocery stores opened again the following morning, Monday.  Since Kurt and Krista had been on the road, they had all the maps and navigation figured out.  Ferda and I pretty much followed them blindly for the first few days, not knowing which route they had chosen or which villages we visited.

The general plan was to cycle together to southern Sweden, passing through Lübeck, Roskilde, and Copenhagen — all places I was looking forward to visiting.  Lübeck’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for this city gate,
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Rize: The City of Glacial Lakes

Just a few days after returning to Antalya from this year’s Kaçkar backpacking trip, I came across a book called “Rize: The City of Glacial Lakes”.  The book catalogs 145 glacial lakes in the Province of Rize with a name, gps coordinates, and a short description.  Certainly the highlight of the 10-day backpacking trip was the lakes.  There are clearly a lot more to explore.  Of course, the lakes don’t abruptly end at the provincial boundary.  About half of the trip I did this year was in Erzurum Province (İspir İlçesi), and there were plenty of beautiful lakes there as well.

Just like last year’s trip, I started again this year at Verçenik Yaylası and spent a night camping at Kapalı Göller.  I had wanted to come back here to climb Verçenik, but once again that didn’t happen.  I didn’t want to haul gear for a one day climb of Verçenik.  However, I’ve learned since then that when there’s no snow, it’s reasonable to climb Verçenik without technical gear.  Still, I think I’d rather come back in June, climb the normal route with crampons and an ice axe, and then stay a few days for some trad climbing on the nearby walls.  It’s granite which would be a nice switch from all the limestone in so much of Turkey.

DSC05777 by bryandkeith on flickr
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Wrapping up Hokkaido: snow and food again

I can’t write three blogs about skiing in Hokkaido without commenting a little more about the snow.  Before coming I had really wanted to experience the deep fluffy powder that Hokkaido is famous for.  We definitely found it right at the beginning of our trip.  I think it was on our first day of skiing that I said I had never skied in so much powder before.  Then it was even deeper the second day.  I’d seen videos of skiers in steep and deep powder where their skis cause a wave of snow to form a couple meters in front of the skier.  Well, that was us, plus snow billowing up over our heads so we couldn’t see.  Combine that with the great food, and I couldn’t get the goofy smile off my face for the entire first week we were there.

The snow was incredibly light and fluffy.  It snowed almost constantly during our first four days of skiing, but somehow nothing got wet.  As I joked then, “there’s no moisture in the snow in Hokkaido.  It’s just air.”  Todd would scoop up piles of snow into his hands, blow on it, and laugh as every flake blew away.  In addition to snowing a lot, it also snowed really hard.  Sometimes it’d be snowing so hard that you could hardly see through the wall of snow, and this happened over and over.  I remember watching a Hokkaido powder skiing video years ago.  It was a white winter wonderland and snowed during the entire video.  That’s real.

After two weeks of skiing from the onsens, it was time to take Amy, Todd, and Galen to the airport in Asahikawa.  Amy went to Kyoto to visit her brother, Todd to his family in Alaska, and Galen to visit friends in Tokyo.  Galen’s flight was later so she had time for some lunch and a visit to the Asahikawa Snow and Ice Festival with Peter and me.

Dropping Amy and Todd at the Asahikawa Airport by bryandkeith on flickr
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Hokkaido onsen: stay, soak, ski, and eat

Food is a great reason to travel to Japan.  When I was talking to Peter about this trip deciding whether to come, one thing I really liked was their decision to stay in onsen (hot springs resorts) where breakfast and dinner were included.  Peter described the evening meals at these mountain retreats as “awesome multi-course experiences designed for the discerning Japanese tourist.”  Some foreigners come to Hokkaido just to ski, camping in the snow, staying in their van, whatever.  I’m not such a gung-ho skier, but skiing, exquisite Japanese meals, and hot springs every day, that’s a pretty great combination.

I even found a decent meal at the Chitose Airport in my jet-lagged stupor:

My first meal in Hokkaido -- at the Chitose Airport by bryandkeith on flickr

One of our evening meals at Goshiki Onsen looked this:
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