In Scandanavia from Bergen to Helsinki
12th July to 6th August 2000
our flight of one hour from the Granite City of Aberdeen to Bergen in
Norway, we were greeted to typical English weather. It was cold, wet,
and windy not a very bright outlook for the start of stage 9. My first
impressions of Norway is a land with an abundance of mountains and
fjords, a creation of natural beauty.
is a land where the traveler by road has to contend with many bridges,
tunnels, and ferries.
HILLS OF NORWAY
is also a land where a pint of beer will set you back almost four
pounds. So in the interests of economy yours truly found it advisable
to review the customary pre dinner habit. We departed from Bergen on day
195 with the weather much improved for the 100 Km ride to
Risnes. Within 3 hours we were either climbing over the mountains or
riding through them via a tunnel.
was on our third day in Norway that I overheard (in the shower)an
amusing conversation between two of my Odyssey companions. It appeared
that one of them had become involved in conversation with a local
Norwegian. The local had
enquired about our itinerary, such as where had we come from and where
were we going. We are heading for Oslo said my friend, but said the
local YOU ARE GOING THE WRONG WAY.
NORWAY SICK AS A *** WITH BEER AT £4 A PINT
said my friend you may be right but we go via the scenic route (which
is usually) over the mountain, and if I need supper and a bed tonight
then I have to go this way.
We arrived in Oslo after a very hard 6 days riding over 717 Kms
and numerous mountain passes from 2,500 to 4,000 ft elevation. So we
were ready for a rest day. As usual with our Odyssey layover days one
day is not enough to cover all that you would like to do and see.
AWAITING FERRY ACROSS THE FJORD
this stage in particular is making me appreciate is how much I had
forgotten from my school history lessons. It is my intention therefore
to include in my reflections some of the main points of interest.
In more recent times Oslo has become the focal point for the annual awards under the Nobel Foundation. This was set up by the Swedish inventor and Industrialist Alfred Nobel.
departed from Oslo on day 202 19th
July and there is much more I could say about this City which is set
in beautiful surroundings, and this year celebrates the anniversary of
it's own foundation 1000 years ago.
25 years of political debate, the Norwegian electorate decided in 1994
that it did not wish to be part of the European community. Whilst the
cost of living in Norway is one of the highest in Europe, the standard
of living and welfare benefits equal the best.
days after leaving Oslo we crossed into Sweden, with overnight stops
at Lysekil and Gothenburg which is the hub of a great walking centre.
From Gothenburg we take the 3 hour ferry to Frederikshaven in Denmark.
leaving Norway there is a marked difference in the terrain, which is
now low lying with many small islands. There is also a marked
improvement throughout the whole of Scandanavia (compared to other
Countries) in respect of the infrastructure. There are many good cycle
tracks which are a great asset to us entering and leaving a built up
day 207 ( 25th July) we arrived in
Copenhagen, the Capital of Denmark with the prospect of a day off on
26th. Whilst a day off the bike is always welcome I have found that
the amount of walking on those days in the process of our sightseeing
can be just as tiring, and Copenhagen was no exception.
MERMAID IN COPENHAGEN
quite sure if it is the Odyssey company I have been keeping, but
whenever we arrive at a location where alcohol is brewed then an
educational (?) visit seems to appear on our agenda.
March we had the pleasure of visiting some of the famous vineyards of
South Africa. Now in Copenhagen it is the World famous Carlsberg
Brewery which gets the stamp of our approval over 2 free glasses of
the famous brew. The
Carlsberg Brewery was founded in 1873, but it was not until 1903 that
Carlsberg and it's competitor Tuborg signed an agreement to share all
profits and losses. That agreement formed the basis of a merger of the
2 companies in 1970.
88% of the Carlsberg Group beer sales are generated outside of
Denmark. The beer is brewed in 72 production sites in 40 Countries.
The groups most important markets in Europe are headed by ??
YES the UK. The Company now boasts that every single day of the year
over 30 million people around the World enjoy a Carlsberg product.
(END OF COMMERCIAL).
next major destination on our itinerary is the beautiful City of
Stockholm Capital of Sweden. This required 4 days of riding a total of
650 Kms . I think that
stage 9 in Scandanavia gets a very high mark in my (Odyssey) book for
all round satisfaction. It was agreed by a majority that the food and
accommodation was first class. It was also a plus to find that English
is so widely spoken by the local population in each Country we
On 1st August we start the 8th month of Odyssey 2000 by
catching the 8.30 am ferry from Stockholm to Turku in Finland.
On 1st August we start the 8th month of Odyssey 2000 by catching the 8.30 am ferry from Stockholm to Turku in Finland.
Odyssey cavalcade have been transported from one Country to another by
numerous ways since January 1st. However our journey from Stockholm to
Turku in Finland by the 11 hour luxury Ferry was one of the most
relaxing journeys we have undertaken. The weather was good, and the
route wound it's way among the archipelago of islands from Sweden to
Finland. The ferry unloaded it's cargo and passengers at Turku around
7 pm, it was then a 16 Km ride to the hostel where we were due to
spend the night.
where the Hostels and camp site facilities were some of the best in
Scandanavia, the terrain was much easier, and the weather was good for
our brief 2 days of riding to Helsinki. Finland is comprised of 70% of
forest and 10% water, where the winters are long and severe, with
short warm summers. From my brief interlude here and later in Russia
it is difficult to appreciate that prior to 1917 Finland was a part of
Russia. The difference in the quality of life today between the two
Countries is so marked.
original Odyssey Itinerary gave us the promise of a few days cycling
in Russia. However due to logistical or diplomatic problems it was not
possible to take our support vehicles into the Country. A compromise
was therefore put forward for our consideration, it was that included
in our 5 day layover in Helsinki there would be an optional 2 or 3 day
excursion by train to St Petersburg. The cost of our accommodation was
already accounted for by the Tour Organisers, so yours truly (along
with 80 other Odyssey folk) went for the 2 day option. In view of the
visa requirements for entry into Russia our application via a Finnish
Travel Agent had to be submitted 3 weeks before the visit. Once again
it was noted how British and American passport holders are treated
differently around the World. Whilst our American companions were
obliged to pay $45 for the visa, myself and the other UK member John
were issued a visa free of charge.
are 2 trains which make the 6 hour daily journey from Helsinki to St
Petersburg. The first departs at 6.30 am the second at 2 pm. It was
pure luck that we decided to take the early train which is Finnish,
the second is Russian. There was much critical comment from our
companions who chose to take the late train. This was later confirmed
by the standard and quality of public transportation in Russia.
the train approached the Russian border we were informed that the
restaurant car would be closed, and all toilets would be locked.
Shortly after this all passports were collected and the Russian
customs and immigration staff came on board to inspect ALL passports.
It was discreetly commented upon that such a large contingent of
visitors from the USA may have been called to question by the Russian
authorities. Then it was confirmed they were a harmless bunch of
first impressions of Russia in general and St Petersburg in particular
was that of a Country sadly in need of all the every day things we
take for granted. There is much poverty in all walks of life. There
was no evidence of any recent development, in fact most Public and
private buildings were in a dilapidated state. It was like turning the
clock back 50 odd years, buses and trains alike appeared to need much
attention. Having said
that St Petersburg is still regarded as one of the largest and most
beautiful Cites in the World. It has some of the most exquisite
buildings that would be difficult to match. The City was after all the
Capital of the Russian Empire for over 2 Centuries ending that status
after the Bolshevik revolution in 1918. The construction of the City
began at the height of the Great Northern War when there was a need
for a fortress to defend the gate to the Baltic which the Russians had
won. The City was founded
in 1703 by Peter the Great, so any cultural historians (which I am
not) would be in their element here.
CHURCH OF RESURRECTION - ST PETERSBURG
my 2 day excursion, was an experience which I will not forget. With so
much to see and limited time at our disposal the bookings for the many
guided tours did record business. The 3 hour City Tour which we
selected was lead by a very good English speaking guide who later
turned out to be a Professor of Mathematics trying to make ends meet.
Whilst I can only marvel at the beauty of the Winter and Summer
Palace, the Church of Resurrection and the wealth within The Hermatage.
There has to be some feelings for the man in the street who has
suffered at the hands of one system after another, and is still
struggling in spite of the wealth around him.
So ended stage 9 a cycling distance of 2271 Kms plus many more by ferry. Look out for stage 10 from Berlin to Amsterdam.