We cycle out of the garage, up a short ramp and onto Swedish soil. We’re the odd ones out of a long row of Scanias rolling slowly out of the ferry. We skip the queue of lorries, speed through the Swedish customs without stopping, and get on the main road to Karlskrona. It’s just past 7pm, the boat was spot on schedual, cruising across an extremely flat Baltic sea under a warm summer Sun. The smoothness of the tarmac is flirting with perfection. A man driving a long hunch-back Volvo comes up to us with his window open and point to a cycle path on the other side of the road. We nod and say thank you, wait for the right moment to cross and move over the path.
We have a couchsurf lined up for tonight but it isn’t exactly in Karlskrona, it’s on an Island West of the city, and it’s going to take us over an hour to get there. We aren’t sure about what’s on the island, so we might as well fill our bags up with food here while we can. Sweden might look perfect, but we can’t forget our priorities. Running out of food can happen anywhere if you’re not careful. We stop at a supermarket. Spag throws me the dirty red purse which is slowly turning to black. I manage to catch it but only just. Food shopping is my responsibility, and by now I feel like I could write a whole blog about supermarkets around the world, the American supermarkets that give you paper bags with hugs recycle logos on them, but which tear at the bottom if you put something too heavy inside, the Canadian supermarkets where we couldn’t buy bottles of wine for our hosts because they don’t sell alcohol, the Chinese ones and their smell of dragon fruit, the Brazilian stores and their sticky shelves loaded with Maracuya and 7 different types of bananas without countain plantain.
I say « tak tak » to the cashier, one of the only words of Swedish I remember after having lived with a Swedish girl for a month a Beijing. The girl say « thank you, have a good evening » in a perfect English, and that’s why it’s impossible to learn any Swedish here, people speak such good English, just like in Finland. I hand over the yogurt and the pasta to El Afghani, the milk and the muesli to Spag, and I take the orange juice and the meat which I fit in the net of my Swedish-made backpack. We roll out of the car park, find the cycle lane, and move out of town. It’s a few miles before we have to turn laft and follow a narrow road down to the island of Hasslo. The country side is patchwork of almost-ripe wheat, fresh green grass, and small forests. The road twists and turns, and we push a little harder on the pedals as we heave the bikes up on a small hill from which we can see the sea ahead. We roll down, past a field of stones standing upright on the side of the road in a Stonehenge fashion. A little further along we ride past a golf course and a couple of bridges later, we’re on the island. A Volvo car pulls out of a small car park, and the driver seems to be telling us to follow him. We turn left down a narrow country road walled by tall pine trees and get to a typical house with the Swedish flag flying Blue and Yellow outside. The man steps out of the car, slams the door shut, opens a whole in between his white moustache and his beard, and lets out a loud « Welcom! ».
We are showered and told to sit down. Anette is drawing all sorts of dishes from out of the fridge and laying them on the table which is starting to look a little too small. It looks like we’re not going to have to cook our pasta tonight. Anette is a funny character with a good sense of humour and taste for fine food, nd she’s forcing us to clear the table. I’ve had worse punishments to be honest. I cut some cheese with a typical Swetdish slice-making knife, grab some brown bread and squeeze all of it in my mouth with the apetite of a hungry cyclist. The bread is world class, I can’t remember eating better brown bread ever before. The cheeses are also great, especially a dark brown goat’s cheese with a sweet after-taste. There’s salad, fish, potatoes, and I can even see an apple crumble and a lemon tart waiting for us on top of the fridge. Our white-bearded viking friend tells us about the upright stones we saw on the road. He tells us that they’re early viking graves, and we end up talking about Normandy and Danemark. I help myself to both the cakes, add some kind of custard, and bring it all to my open lips. And now I’m wandering why the Vikings had to go and settle in France… Why would anyone want to leave this place ?