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Bicycle Tour with three children in Sweden (2)

Karl Brodowsky, cycled 1997-07-04 to 1997-08-10, written in German 1998, translated to English 1998

Part 2

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For the following day we were planning to go to the next camp ground. It is off course allowed to pitch up a tent in the woods, but that works only for one night and we did not want to start with this kind of things just in the beginning of the tour, because having a days rest once in a while proved to be very convenient. So we had a look at our camping guide which suggested taking the N 40 heading for the neighboring community Jönköping, even into that community. So that was how we started our Sunday ride. To start with we had to climb quite a slope while leaving the valley in which the campground, the lake and even the town of Ulricehamn are located. In spite of the trailer I was kind of a little bit faster than Karin. So I stopped at some place that could be considered half of the slope by applying some optimism, placed my bike somewhere near the highway and rode Karins bicycle with the trailer bike up from where she was to the top of the hill. The next kilometers were quite flat and it took me almost an hour to catch up with Karin and Bernhard after having made the slope with my bicycle. It was not more than that anyway, because they were having a break somewhere.

This portion of the highway was having a speed limit as high as 110 km/h, which was creating quite a lot of noise. Apart from that it was very good riding. For the rest of the day we had only small and flat hills and a lot of moor land near the highway. 20 km before Jönköping the N 40 merged with the N 26 from Halmstad, making the highway quite busy for the last 10 kilometers. It was not more than that because the camp ground we had chosen to stay was not exactly in the center of Jönköping, but we had to leave the N 26/N 40 some 10 km before that town (or before its center, to be accurate) and go back for one kilometer on a parallel road. We found a nice little lake with a nice little camp ground an a nice little ice cream booth. This was in Axamo, a small village (formally part of Jönköping) that is not completely unknown because of giving its name to a small airport. Fortunately it was not at all busy, not even during the night. Walking around the lake took about an hour. It was very warm, maybe 24° C, at least warm enough for swimming.

We also had another attraction which was a huge moor that could be crossed on a small wooden path. It was not so easy to hit the beginning of this path. From the camp ground we could start walking on paths that had lights for the night time. But it was not so easy to find a place to cross the highway. Having a speed limit of 110 km/h required fences for the moose that had only few gates which obviously forced us to walk some distance on the highway to find a gate on the opposite side. There we found quite a bunch of paths again, leading to all kinds of directions. One of them really led us to the famous wooden path on which we could spend hours walking through the moor lands. Actually this path had the shape of huge eye glasses, consisting of two huge circles with several kilometers in diameter and some interconnection between them. So we walked around the northern circle and even a little bit towards the nose. Anyway even a huge moor has its limited extent so minor portions of the path were even more or less through woods.

The Tuesday following this day was even calmer, at least for the kids and myself. Karin took her bicycle to the city (Jönköping) to do some shopping, because Axamo had no shop other than the ice cream booth. Bernhard and Ulrich wanted to build great stuff in sand of the beach, trying to get me involved in this job as well.

Wednesday it was my turn to go shopping. Quite typical for that place the highway turned into a motorway closed to bicyclists and the highway that started on that intersection was open only for busses and pedestrians, so it was illegal anyway.

After having done that shopping we decided to see the southern part of the moor as well. So we took the highways leading to the airport and walked from there to the southern "eye" and even to the place where we had turned on the day before. In this area there was some portion of the path that was wide enough for wheel chairs or strollers, but we did not have that, but we had to carry Heidrun when she got tired. In the south we had a former railroad track that had been transformed to a forest path and then again a small wooden path that brought us back to our bicycles. In this part we had to be really good in keeping our balance, since it tended to go like a long bridge through real water.

Having been in Axamo for such a long time it would have been quite natural to continue to the next place on that Thursday. But instead we thought that it would be a good idea to see Taberg, which we discovered to be almost within our range for a day trip. This was a small mountain about 15 km south of Axamo. This mountain is supposed to be very old, much older than the Alps or the Rocky Mountains. At least we made it to that place, even though it was kind of hilly. After having taken some excellent Arab-Swedish-Italian pizza, at least pizza served by Arabs, we decided to walk to the top of the hill instead of cycling. That gave us some choice for our way down and we passed an old mine. The sign said something about guided tours that would take place on the same day. Even though it was quite late we thought that these underground mines are something you really remember for many years and waited for the guy to come. During that half hour I rushed to the bicycles and picked something to drink and to eat and even warmer clothings, since mines that are close to the surface, but without sun light tend to be quite cold.

We where told that this mountain is assumed to be much older than the Alps and the Rocky Mountains. During this 1 200 000 000 years erosion, ice and what not has made it smaller, small enough to enable us to climb it. But this had been accelerated recently. Consisting of very special iron ore, that was used long time before the discovery of iron ore in Kiruna, people tended to use this material. More recently it became known that this iron ore was very good for building weapons and quite a part of the mountain disappeared. Later it was understood that the high percentage of vanadium found in the ore provided for the high quality of steel made from it. A company wanted to buy the whole mountain, remove it fully, take out the vanadium and restore the mountain from the rest of the material. But some local people did not want to see their mountain being removed. They formed a club and bought the mountain at a time when vanadium prices where low. Now they have to rise money by having guided tours through the old mines. The children liked it, but Heidrun wanted to get rid of her helmet.

In spite of the northern location we had to use our lights when returning to Axamo. It was a great day and definitely worth staying up a little bit late. 1985 I had passed this place and even stayed there over night without paying much attention to it on a bicycle tour (that has not been translated to English).

After having spent the days before cycling more or less eastbound, we changed this to northbound and followed the coastline of the Vättern lake. Having cycled its eastern coast on our 1994 family bicycle tour we decided to take the western coast this time. On highway N 195, which happened to start in Axamo, we rode north. Off course we were not alway so close to the lake that we could see it through the trees. Anyway, we made it to Habo, which was the next community. Since there was no camp ground, we just pitched our tent in the wood. Again it was not so easy to find a suitable place for this, because we were not particularly interested in widow makers and we did need some space for our tent, even though it was quite small for all of us. But following some forest drive we did find a nice place. First we walked there to check it and then we took our bicycles along. The children had to walk, because it was so steep. Having bought enough milk only the stove for warming it was missing, but we were able to do at least this (and some coffee in the morning) with the infrastructure we carried along.

It is really sometimes allowed, to camp in the woods for one night, if you keep to certain rules. Just in short: This applies only for one night, not for the garden or the vicinity of a house. Neither for agricultural land, military training zones, parks.... Building a fire is frequently forbidden, because of forest fires. Driving off road is out ruled, so if you travel by car or by motorcycle, you might want to use a camp ground for the night, which should be possible to reach. Surprisingly everyone in Sweden has good knowledge about this "allemansrätten". In Germany and Switzerland it depends on the state (Bundesland in Germany, Kanton in Switzerland). But few people know about the rules in their state. Anyway I did know this for the state I lived in and I did take advantage of this for a couple of nights.

The next day, probably a Saturday, we cycled the next quarter of the lake shore. We had a very nice rest near a wooden church that was situated a little bit higher than the highway, with a good view over the lake. In the evening we reached the little town of Hjo, which has a huge camp ground situated besides the Vättern lake. We could follow the shore through a nice little park, which led to the center and the harbor. Some toy train with tires instead of real tracks does a tour through the town, we could also visit a museum and an aquarium with all the animals of Vättern lake.

In the harbor we saw an old steam ship, which was used for regular trips to the other side of the lake. Nowadays nobody cares about some extra 100 km and there is no regular ferry service. But a club keeps this ship operable. Once in a while they do go to Visingsö, an island in the lake, and once a year or so they go as far as Stockholm or Gothenburg. After the Estonia has sunk in the Baltic Sea it became more expensive to get the annual checks for the ship, almost beyond the range of the club. But somehow they do rise enough money. Finding a real captain is not so difficult. There are enough people who have this profession and who enjoy commanding such an interesting old ship for some weeks of holiday. Most of the other mandatory positions for running a ship can be filled by local club members and their friends.

[continue with part 3]

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