Today I pedaled to the end of Sweden — and back. Technically, I may not have reached the end of this elongated country, because with countries and continents, it is difficult to say where one begins and ends. The place where I stood today, however, felt like the end.
In front of me was nothing but sea, although a map tells me that Denmark was less than 100 miles across the Kattegat, the sea that separates Denmark and Sweden. The Kattegat reaches up into Norway, and all year round, ships can be seen sailing this stretch of sea.
Each evening, for example, DFDS Seaways’ Crown Seaways and Pearl Seaways, which are ferries but with cabins, restaurants and other cruise-ship-like facilities, depart Copenhagen at 5 p.m. for the overnight journey to Oslo. I often see those vessels from my vantage point in Helsingborg and imagine myself on them, waking up the next morning while transitting the beautiful Oslo fjord.
During the summer, large cruise ships pass through the Kattegat almost everyday, familiar brands that you likely would know: Norwegian Cruise Line with its painted hulls, the gargantuan ships of MSC Cruises, the sleek small vessels of Silversea — nearly every cruise brand passes by at some point during the summer.
Back in Helsingborg, friends of mine live in a sprawling house on the edge of the Kattegat, facing Denmark. It is quite remarkable to sit on their terrace, glass of wine in hand (they are always gracious hosts), and watch the procession of big ships. On board, hundreds or thousands of passengers are setting out to explore the Baltic or the Norwegian fjords. They’ll return home with indelible images of this fascinating — and beautiful — part of the world.
Today, the Avid Cruiser pedaled, instead of cruised, along the Kattegat. I propelled myself about 20 miles from Helsingborg to the end of the road at Kullaberg, a gorgeous nature reserve situated on a peninsula of land protruding into the Kattegat. If you’re an active cruise passenger and avid cyclist, you can do it too the next time your ship calls in Helsingborg. It would be ambitious, but certainly possible. As you can see from the graphic below, I made the roundtrip in about three hours.
At one point during my ride today, I thought about Breaking Away, the 1979 movie where a small-town teen obsessed with an Italian cycling team vies for the affections of a college girl. My mind wandered from that to the Norwegian Breakaway. Our own Aaron Saunders raves about Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest vessel in his report, Norwegian Breakaway Revealed.
I’ll be back on a few ships myself this summer. In fact, it is a busy cruise week here in the Helsingborg region. Friday, I will have lunch on Eurodam (in Copenhagen, an hour away); Monday, Silver Whisper paid a visit to Helsingborg, another lunch, where I learned about plans for the Silver Galapagos, an exciting venture for Silversea Cruises and expedition cruisers like me (I enjoyed my cruise on Silver Explorer in 2011, and I look forward to cruising Silver Galapagos in November).
Until then, I think I’ll spend some more time “breaking away” in the south of Sweden. As someone who cycled across the United States in my 20s, I get a lot of pleasure from pedaling through beautiful landscapes. All along the way here today in Sweden, rhododendrons were in bloom, birds whistled melodious notes, the fragrance of flowers filled my nostrils — all on the way to the end of Sweden.