Cycling in Gothenburg, Sweden
Gothenburg is a city of commerce, bustling the length of a long thin harbour and along narrow cobble-stoned streets where shops furnish Swedish style and advertise Global Blue Tax Free shopping. The city was doused in hues of grey during our stay, except for one day when the clouds cleared and Nordic blue swept the sky clear. Sunshine sent the flowers into rapture and I joined them.
I walked that sunny day, soaking in the sun’s warmth and remembering our bike ride to Saltholmen.
Sitting by the seaside, Saltholmen marks the end of the line for west-bound trams and the start of a ferry ride to Gothenburg’s archipelago. It seemed like a good destination. I’d researched hiring bicycles and, although there is a city cycle hire scheme like Oslo, I decided to hire from a bike shop. It was a good choice.
We took a short tram ride to Stigbergtorget tram stop, walked over the road and hired bikes from Cykelkillarna. For a 24 hour hire, we each paid 120SEK ($21AUD / €13EUR /$15USD). The bike shop owner was very attentive, carefully adjusting each bicycle to ensure a comfortable riding position. The bicycles were a hybrid style, relatively new too and rode beautifully.
Saltholmen is about 9kms (6mi) from Cykelkillarna and very easy to find because Gothenburg’s bicycle network is excellent. There are clear pathways throughout the city, many separated from motor vehicle traffic and the paths are very well signposted.
On the day we rode I remember the chill of the wind most vividly. A temperature range of 6°-14° celsius, but a wind chill much cooler. Certainly nothing out of the ordinary for hardy northern hemisphere riders but for a sub-tropical cyclist like me, it was chilly.
The wind stopped us from spending too much time by the sea at Saltholmen. We had planned to continue with our bikes onto a ferry and over to an island in the archipelago, but outside was so windy and cold. So we went inside.
We found a snug café in a small garden centre where a forty-something man with a ginger beard smiled warmly and served us steaming goulash soup with two slices of rye bread smeared with something resembling quark, and each slice topped with two slivers of green capsicum. Overdosed on chilled salty wind and breakfast long over, I felt I’d landed in some type of temporary heaven.
Invigorated for the return trip, we retraced our tracks some of the way and then made a spontaneous decision to take a right hand turn towards Slottsskogen. On our maps, Slottsskogen showed as a green space, a large park criss-crossed with trails. On our bicycles, it brought some hills to climb. In my lungs, it meant crisp clean air. And in my eyes, the whole place sparkled. Not because I was having any sort of medical emergency. Quite the opposite.
Leaving behind streets lined with apartment buildings and neighbourhood shops, I was immersed in tunnels of leafy beech trees, tinting the air with a green hue and breathing life into me. When I posted photos of this forest on my Facebook page, Dayna (who writes for the Melbourne Brompton Club) described this wonderful feeling of being amongst trees, forest or bushland as “Shinrinyoku”. It means forest bathing or forest medicine.
In the heart of Slottsskogen, I felt all the grey skies and bustling commerce wash away, leaving a fond memory of a very enjoyable day cycling in Sweden’s second largest city.