Farewell Denmark, Hello Sweden, Farewell Scandinavia

Some reflections on saying farewell to Denmark and traveling through southwestern Sweden…

The group departed Helsingor, Denmark on the ferry late Sunday morning. We arrived in Helsingborg, Sweden riding our bikes right through the gates. There were no customs to go through, as the Scandinavian and EU countries have open borders. We took a short ride around town and climbed up many sets of stairs to get to the foot of a surviving lookout tower of a the Karnan Medieval Castle. There were great views of the Oresund, Helsingborg, and Denmark from the top which opened up into a huge greenspace. I took a walk on my own down some narrow streets and then realized I had very little time to get to the meet up spot with the group. I hustled back to the monument where we were to meet up and made it just as the group was about to depart towards the train station. It turns out that the train station was right across the street so I would have likely found them either way. From there about half of the group got on the train bound for Lund and the other half of us traveled in that direction by bike. We had a 35-mile ride ahead of us, and I had no expectation of what we were going to see. I just knew that we would have a safe ride on bicycle-friendly facilities the entire way, based on the expectations set by Denmark.

The beginning of the ride took us through a port area of Helsingborg and along some railroad tracks, but as we got further away from the city we were riding along trails along the coast where there were beaches, small beach towns, and even a classy golf course. The coastline was even more beautiful than what we had seen the previous days in Denmark, with green seagrass, white sand, and deep, clear water. One wouldn’t be able to tell if this was the coastline along Lake Michigan, the Pacific Ocean, or the Oresund between Denmark and Sweden. At some point, we turned inland and were riding through farmlands of rolling hills. As we approached our first stop for lunch in Landskrona, we road down a long hill looking out towards the wind mills and deep blue water. I gained a good amount of speed riding it and it was a great near-finish to the first half of the day’s journey. We stopped for a little rest along a grassy edge of an old military fort before lunch. It was extremely relaxing looking out where you could even see Copenhagen in the distance at this point. Sam was walking around taking photos, Jordan fell asleep in the grass, and Gilly was messing around along the shoreline rocks. We arrived into town and went off on our own for some food. Most of us ended up at a Chinese buffet, where we were clearly judged for being too loud (having too much fun).  After lunch and some fruit in the town square, we dropped off most of the group at the train station for them to make the final trek to Lund by train. Only four students – myself, Gilly, Sam, and Taylor – and Marc, his wife Mindy, and Adam continued on with the biking. During the second half of the ride, we passed through some eye-catching small towns and road along a long, straight highway along the coast with the memories of Copenhagen and spinning wind turbines looming in the distance. The ride was so enjoyable but got tougher and tougher towards the end… but we made it! So rewarding to arrive into town having done the entire route by bike.

Lund was a pretty small city, but with a lot of cool architecture. Our group walked around trying to find a place to eat on a Sunday night and finally found a burger spot… and let me tell you, the Swedish do not know how to make a burger haha. We hungout back at the hostel and watched Harry Potter after a tiring day. The next morning, we heard from a tour guide about the centuries-long history of Lund and the role it played in religion and knowledge in Sweden. We toured the Domkryka, Lund’s cathedral, and learned that Sweden had a similar religious and human-value enlightenment to Denmark when they adopted Lutheranism as the national religion in the mid-1500s. Talking through all of the social change that has occurred throughout history in Sweden, it was very interesting to hear that Sweden allowed in 230,000 refugees in 2015 alone. Compare that to Canada’s 25,000 refugees in 2015 and that tells you something. Our guide just shrugged it off and said, while there are problems created by it, it is the right thing to do as humans. What he said following this little known comparison was fascinating and hit a nerve in a positive way, “We should think clearly if we want something out of the future.”

After the tour, the perfect weather became a downpour, which scared off some of my classmates from making the ride from Lund to Malmo; however, we still had a good crew that chose the cycling over the train to Malmo. I personally thought the rain added a fun layer to the ride and we even had some sun and warm temperatures role through for part of the two-hour ride. The rain reminded me of the time my friend Kevin and I were seeing Weezer play at Atlanta’s Music Midtown festival. That rain was some of the hardest I ever had experienced and all I could do was keep laughing. Similarly, as the Swedish rain was pelting me in the face riding down a hill away from Lund, I just kept laughing. All-in-all it was a great ride and we arrived in Malmo to more rain and began exploring from there, taking us to the 4th of July!

On the 4th, we slept in a bit and then headed to the Western Harbor and Augustenborg developments for sustainability discussions. I will talk in greater detail about these two developments and more sustainability issues in a later blog entry. But for now, I just want to say what contrasting, but equally successful developments. We were able to make use of the Western Harbor boardwalk and park for a group dinner and frisbee games to celebrate our nation’s birthday on the other side of the pond. I had to keep reminding myself of how lucky I was to be having a blast with a great group of new friends, “IN SWEDEN!” Our group continued to celebrate the holiday into the 5th of July, with much anticipation heading into today for our travels to the Netherlands, which brings me to Utrecht!


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