A new chapter could mean that my cycle-woes are over. But alas, nothing of the kind. But I don’t want to oust Astrid Lindgren... No, she and the main characters from her books deserve a separate chapter.
Day 8 continued. Friday July 17th, Vetlanda – Vimmerby
My first introduction to Astrid Lindgren was a Dutch television series about “Emil of the Hazelhoeve”. In Dutch, Emil is called Michiel but why this was altered in the translation, I don’t know. They did the same in Germany. A pity, he could easily have been called Emil, or even Emiel.
I was very young when the series was broadcast, but I clearly remember that his mother always called “Emiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiil ................. when he had been naughty. Apparently it also impressed my mother, as my youngest brother, Emiel, was named after him. With hindsight, not such a good idea, as he turned out to be just as naughty.
At Kråkshult I join the Astrid Lindgrensleden / "Welkome in Mariannelund"
I arrive in Mariannelund, the place where Emil’s first adventure also begins:
Emil’s mother allows him to lick the last bit of soup from the pan and he puts his whole head into the soup terrine. When the pan has been licked clean, Emil tries to get his head out of the terrine but it is stuck. At their wits’ end, Emil’s parents go to the doctor in Mariannelund and, as he is a polite little boy, he bows to the doctor. His head, in the terrine, bumps into the doctor’s desk and the terrine breaks in two.
With a broken soup terrine, Emil leaves Mariannelund. The story has an enormous tail to it but whoever is interested will have to read the book.
From Mariannelund I decide to take the shortest road to Vimmerby, the 33. On my map it is a thick red line which means: Gea, make a detour! But I have already been climbing such a lot today and, as the thin red lines to Vimmerby are not only longer, but also more twisty (= probably a lot of climbing), I decide to take the quickest way. Well, to cut a long story short: the road is twenty kilometres long and, till just before it reaches Vimmerby, all uphill, with a gradient of 6%. As it is holiday-time and many families want to visit Astrid Lindgren’s World in Vimmerby, it is verrry busy on the road.
In Vimmerby itself, there is a municipal camp site but that doesn’t appeal to me. I had already seen on the map that there was a site just outside Vimmerby, on a lake. As I want to stay here a day longer anyway, I would like a nice spot.
I could use the little field for short-stay campers, but there is no difference in price. I have come to realise that camping in Sweden is very expensive for me, as you pay for the spot. It makes no difference whether you have a tiny tent or a huge caravan, nor does the number of people influence the price. With a few exceptions, it is € 15,- to € 20,- a night for me, the same as for a Swedish Youth Hostel.
The site is nice, but also very child-friendly and I usually try and avoid that sort of site. In the little shop, I buy some lemonade and a tiny bag of crisps. Let’s blow it tonight for a change.
I’m glad to be able to sit down after supper. It was a tiring day. The route was very beautiful but there was a lot of climbing. A man comes along for a chat. I tell him that I intend to go to Katthult and Sevedstorp tomorrow. Kattult is the place where Emil was filmed, known to me as “Hazelhoeve”. Sevedstorp is a village where “The Children of Bullerbyn” was filmed.
The man, a Dane, tells me enthusiastically that he was there with his children today.
“Is it very hilly?” I ask.
“No, nothing to write home about”. And he shows me alternative routes on the map that avoid the busy road to Mariannelund.
”They’re beautiful roads and it’s not so far to cycle, the places are quite near each other”.
I look at the map and reckon that a round trip to Vimmerby, Katthult, Mariannelund, Sevedstorp, Vimmerby would come to some 55 to 60 kilometres. And a car driver who says that that the hills are nothing to worry about is not a reliable source of information (as I know from experience). Anyway, I know that when I wake up tomorrow, I will have forgotten how tough it was today.
Day 9, Saturday July 18th – Surroundings of Vimmerby
Distance, 64 km
Weather: sunny, hot, rain after 15.00
Own route, Astrid Lindgrensleden
Vimmerby, Skillinga, Solbacka, Rumskulla, Gibberyd (Katthult), Rumskulla, Mariannalund, Sevedstorp (Bullerbyn), Pellarne, Skillinga, Vimmerby
I’m woken up at eight o’clock by the ticking of tent-poles. It feels as though something is happening just a metre from my left ear. I zip the tent open and look out. I wasn’t far wrong: it’s a metre and a half.
I look furiously at two men who are putting their tent up right next to mine. And that not entirely noiselessly. Blast! Not in my backyard, please! They pretend not to see me and I want to ask if they can’t move a bit further away but, looking over the site, I see that the field slopes quite heavily and this is the only flat piece.
Alright then, I’m going to be away all day anyway and will cycle on tomorrow.
Around ten, I leave for the “Hazelhoeve”. The route is beautiful, but also tough. In Rumskulla, I go almost vertically downhill, knowing I will have to come up here again later.
Kattult is very touristy but it is fun to see and walk round it.
The house of Emil, his parents and his sister, Ida. In the foreground, the flagpole in which Emil once hung his sister. In addition the servant, Alfred’s house
The toilet where Emil once shut his father in and the shed in which Emil was often shut up and where he whittled hundreds of wooden dolls
After the “Hazelhoeve”, I cycle further towards Sevedstorp. I go through Mariannelund, where I get my umpteenth flat. I decide to look for a cycle repair shop again, this really is no good! I have a flat almost every day and put a new tube in each time, so I know it’s not because of my repair work. I’ve also got just about the best anti-puncture tyre, a Swalbe, which looks fine to me. That can’t be the cause. When I ask where the nearest repair shop is, it turns out to be in Vimmerby. I was there only this morning to buy a new spare tube.
A (good) cycle repairer must have a look at it and hopefully find out what is wrong. Walking to Vimmerby with the bike is no option: twenty kilometres’ steep climb. I put the new tube in myself and hope it will last a little longer. I would like to go straight back to the camp site now. I don’t trust the bike anymore and it’s going to rain. Threatening clouds are slowly coming my way, but I refuse to take the shortest route (the steep, twenty kilometre-long one) to Vimmerby. No, preferably a detour along a twisty little road through a wood. It is also steep but not as dangerous. And it comes through Bullerbyn, so I can stick to my plan for today.
The wind is picking up and I get a bit lost in Mariannelund. I can’t find the road to Sevedstorp/Bullerbyn. When I ask a lady the way, she warns me, “It’s quite a climb!” She’s right.
Astrid Lindgren’s father, Samuel August, grew up in Sevedstorp and Astrid got the inspiration for her book, “The Children of Bullerbyn”, here. The village, which only consists of a few houses, was also used for the film of the same name.
Sevedstorp, or “Bullerbyn”. This is where the stories in “The Children of Bullerbyn” are located. A village with only one street, with three little houses next to each other
While I’m walking round “Bullerbyn”, it starts to rain and I cycle further. I really want to go to Näs too, the house in Vimmerby where Astrid Lindgren was born, but first I must get to Vimmerby, climbing, with a strong head-wind and in pouring rain. After Pelarne, I use the nasty road for a bit, turning left again after a few hundred metres, on my way to Vimmerby. (Later, I read that Pelarne has the oldest wooden church in Sweden, from the thirteenth century. A pity I missed it).
I get to Vimmerby and then it happens. Yes, another flat. To my relief, I’m very near the cycle shop, I’ve even just passed it. I walk back and, to my horror, see that it is shut. On Saturdays he closes at one o’clock already. Shit, shit, shit! What a hassle. Rotten bike!
I’ve got no more spare tubes, repairing doesn’t seem to work anyway and the weather is not conducive to turning your bike upside down and repairing the tube.
There’s nothing else to do but resign myself to the situation and, with a sigh, I start to walk. The camp site is some way outside Vimmerby, but exactly on the other side to where I am now. Luckily, Vimmerby is not big, but when I come past the municipal site, I wish I had gone there.
During the walk, I decide to stay in Vimmerby until my bike is mended, so in any case till the day after tomorrow, Monday.
Meanwhile, I pass a supermarket and realise I need some things for tomorrow. It’s Sunday tomorrow and it’s always a question whether there is one open. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had nothing to eat on a Sunday.
After an hour, I get to the campsite. The rain is meanwhile pelting down and I am soaked to the skin and completely demoralised. What a holiday! You don’t do this for fun...
I arrive at the camp site and stand undecidedly next to the tent. I can cook and eat in the kitchen, but first I must see that I get my things. It is still pouring and if I open the tent, everything will get soaked.
“Would you like to come and shelter for a bit?” I look round and see that I have new neighbours opposite. I run to them and gladly accept the offer. It turns out to be a German family, father, mother, son and daughter. I get a cup of coffee and we have a chat. The woman apologises for not being able to offer me any food. They have already eaten and there is nothing left. But I am very happy with the coffee! And I don’t mind having to cook now.
It is very luxurious, a kitchen with dining room. It has everything: cooking rings, oven, microwave oven and a separate room where you can eat your meal. It is not really so special because almost all camp sites in Sweden have this sort of facilities.
Yesterday’s Dane comes in to do the washing up and we get talking. I tell him that the roads he recommended were very beautiful but also very steep. When he hears of my flat tyres and my decision to stay here longer, he suggests I go with him and his children to Astrid Lindgren’s Värld. I now know that he is alone (“Well, really divorced, but that is so long ago now ...”) and has two children, a boy and a girl. Very kind, but no. By the way, Astrid Lindgren’s Värld is a family attraction park.
During the cooking and eating, the rain has stopped and I am now sitting in front of my tent, writing my diary. I’ve already showered and cleaned my teeth, so if more water falls from above, I can get into the tent immediately without having to go out again. The two men who put their tent up in ‘my backyard’ this morning have got into their car and are lying there, asleep.
Day 10, Sunday July 19th – Day of rest
Weather: rain all day
I had looked forward to a sunny day of rest but alas ... it is pouring down all day and I spend the time reading and writing in the dining part of the kitchen. I could, of course, go for a nature walk with an umbrella but I can’t make the effort.
However, I’m enjoying myself very much because, meanwhile, I have company now and again and have even joined in a party game, the name of which I’ve already forgotten. It is certainly hilarious, as you have to guess a word from drawings, hints or gestures. My Swedish isn’t all that good, about as bad as my Russian, but that doesn’t spoil the fun. On the contrary, it makes it more so.
Day 11, Monday July 20th – Another day of rest ...
Distance: 11 km
Weather: sunny, a lot of wind and an occasional shower in the afternoon
to Vimmerby and back
I start the day with repairing the two tubes that leaked the day before yesterday. If I want to get to the repair shop in Vimmerby, I must be able to cycle as I don’t want to walk four kilometres both ways.
I have decided to try a new outer tyre after all, although the Swalbe still looks alright. If I still get flats then, I’ll be at a loss. I’ll probably throw it and the bike away then...
But it hasn’t got that far yet and I put my trust in the new tyre.
“Well ... I’ve got one make that is very good but it is also very expensive! I’ll go and get it”.
The man goes to the cellar and comes back after a few minutes. I asked him for the very, very best tyre.
"This is it”. And he puts a Continental tyre down in front of me. I’m pleasantly surprised, as I know that this is as good as the Swalbe. I’m curious as to the price, as he said it was very expensive.
“Pardon???” I can’t have understood it right – about €20,- is really very cheap for this make.
“Two hundred???” I ask to make sure.
“Yes, I already said it was very expensive”.
“Er ... yes ... but not so bad ...”
With the new tyre slung over my shoulder, I cycle back, but instead of going back to the camp site, I go on to Näs, the house where Astrid Lindgren was born.
I leave my bike locked and hang the new tyre over the handlebars. I walk away but think the better of it and chain the tyre to the bike and a post. It’s not Holland, but you never know.
Astrid Lindgren was born and spent her youth here
“The Lemonade tree”. This centuries-old tree was called the Owl-tree by Astrid and her brothers and sisters. Later, when Astrid Lindgren invented Pippi Longstocking’s “Lemonade tree”, this was what she was thinking of.
When I get back to the camp site ( for a change, I haven’t had a flat),I turn the bike upside down and make a start. I not only change the tyre, but also the brake blocks on the front wheel, oil the chain and clean the bike up a bit.
When the bike is right way up again and I try riding it, I notice that the tyre is rubbing somewhere. Sigh!
The tyre is thicker than the old one and only pulling the carrier up doesn’t help. The first bit of the mudguard is plastic and I break it off. Willingly or unwillingly, it helps in any case.
“Didn’t you put in a new tube”, my German neighbour asks.
“No, I’ve already spent so much on new tubes and even though I mended it, it is alright in principle, because it’s new. This one and all the others only had one hole which I mended and now they serve as spare tubes”.
You mustn’t throw anything away that is still good.
I must economise a bit. The camp sites here are far more expensive than I expected and all these new tubes are not exactly free either.
In the evening, I drink a cup of coffee with my German neighbours. It is dry, the sun is shining a bit, but it is chilly. We are sitting in front of the tent with thick jumpers on. I’ve noticed that, as soon as there is a ray of sun, the Swedes dive into the water. It’s the same this evening.
My German neighbour (ten years old) looks at the lake, shakes his head and mumbles, “The Swedes are mad...”.