Day 12: Lidköping all day (unexpectedly)

 I was supposed to be cycling from Lidköping to Forsvik today but when I got up, this was the view from my hotel window.

Oh shit

It didn’t really change for the next two hours and there’s no way that I could cycle through that.  My phone pinging me with “Severe weather warnings in your area for the next 24 hours” didn’t enhance my confidence in riding today.

For anybody who thinks I might be exaggerating the weather a bit, this Reuters story (h/t Lee) might put the whole thing in perspective.  We are making world news here in Sweden.

It was an easy win for discretion over valour therefore I decided to stay in Lidköping today and work out what to do.  One missed day in the route plan was going to cause a lot of knock on effects.  There’s no way I can cycle from here to Stockholm in three days and tomorrow looks pretty bad in terms of rain too.  

I spent most of the morning attempting to navigate the Swedish trains website.  We think that the train timetables and booking system is complex in the UK…hah! It’s a lot worse in Sweden.  Eventually I had to go down to the tourist office in the central square and ask a lovely lady to help me.  I think it was a bit of a trial for her because I didn’t really know where I wanted to go without trying to work out what I would do if I ended up being stuck there if the biblical downpour weather continued until Wednesday.  

It was all very trying — maybe more so for her to be honest. The tourist lady’s smile became a bit more insincere when I realised that the Swedish trains website is somewhat…vague…about whether or not bikes are allowed on trains.  Maybe some of them?  Maybe you have to have your bike disassembled in a bag on others?

The tourist office is one of the nicest buildings in Linköping.

An hour later, in the face of the lovely tourist lady’s fixed and glassy smile, I clicked a button on the website and I maybe have a ticket for train journey from Lidköping to Norrköping.  It involves three different trains and one of them probably/possibly/whoknows might not take bikes.  

Why Norrköping?  Because if all weather hell breaks loose then I can probably/possibly/whoknows get to Stockholm by train.

Now there was another hour of cancelling and rebooking hotels on booking.com.  Very sadly, I won’t be going to Linköping — it is amazingly confusing that I’m in Lidköping and the place I wanted to get to was Linköping.  When I saw this hotel come up in Linköping, I had to book it.  I was looking forward to herds of wildebeest etc etc.
As an aside, booking.com has been an absolute godsend.  Find hotels easily, almost always got availability even 24 hours ahead, cancel up to 12 noon on the day of arrival.  Alongside high accuracy mapping and routing in your pocket, booking.com makes a trip like this possible.  Without it I’d be reduced to arriving in some town and hoping that the hotels had a room.
That was the first four hours of the day taken care of.  What to do for the rest of the day?  

Well, I have noticed that practically every second commercial establishment in medium sized Swedish towns is a hairdresser or barber.  Since I had time, I thought I would try to not look quite as much like a homeless person by having a quick shave.  Obviously this wouldn’t do anything about the homeless person trousers, shoes and t-shirt but maybe I could aspire to being a freshly shaved homeless person.

I forgot to smile

The bloke without the shaving foam was the first Swede (or Dane or Netherlander or German) who didn’t speak English but sign language works pretty well when you’re a baldy middle aged man with a goatee.

The problem came when I had to pay.  It turns out that not only did he not speak English (which is fine, there’s no reason he should) but he was the only place in Sweden (or Denmark or the Netherlands or Germany) who didn’t take card payment.  I literally haven’t paid with anything other than my phone from the moment I left home 12 days ago.   I simultaneously realised why there are so many hairdressers and barbers in Sweden.  I was more than twice the cost of a similar head and chin shave in the UK.  He was very good about it and let me go — in the rain — to search for a bank that still had a cash machine…not all of them do as I found out.  By the time I’d trekked round the banks, found one with a cash machine, taken out a (surprisingly large) amount of krona and gone back to the barber, my quick shave had turned into a 90 minute epic.

It had finally stopped raining so I set out to explore the delights of Lidköping.  

The majestic grain silos

“Walk out on the pier” the tourist lady told me.

Looking back from the pier at the industrial splendour.

The bustling commercial heart of Lidköping

Eventually, the non-stop grandeur of the architecture and scenery became a bit overwhelming so I decided to go to the Vänern Museum which is a museum dedicated to the Vänern Lake — the biggest lake in Sweden.  Yes, I know this doesn’t sound very promising but the alternative was an exhibition of (and I quote the lovely tourist lady) “A local experimental artist who uses paint in interesting ways”.  Lake museum sounded good to me.

Not exactly the Met in New York.

This is a phone box.  No really.

It’s a bit of a hodgepodge.  The downstairs is a set of little dioramas with…stuff…from the ages.  Some of them have medical stuff or woodworking tools or things to do with shipping.  They also had an entire display dedicated to hats.

No, makes no sense to me either.

Here is some random stuff vaguely associated with boats.

It’s also got the world’s worst aquarium — and I’ve been to some bad ones.

Fish in a tank

This is what a kitchen in a home somewhere near the lake looked like at some unspecified point in history.

This is kitchen stuff.  From the past!

There is the obligatory “science” section which is…superficial.  I learned more from the Wikipedia article.

To be fair to the Vänern Museum, the staff there are disconcertingly enthusiastic about it and they’ve made a lot out of not very promising material.  It’s cute but a bit unsatisfying.  It’s also much further out from the centre of town than I expected so it was a long dispiriting trudge back to the hotel.

It’s been a bit of a stressful day sorting everything out.  One thing that is great about a cycling trip like this is that one is generally in complete control.  As long as you get on the bike in the morning and turn your legs for long enough, you get to where you’re going.  Now I’m dependent on the trains running on time — the Swedish train system is sending me increasingly strident texts in Swedish and English asking me to check the trains (all three of them) in case they are rescheduled or cancelled.  Having three tightly interlocking train bookings makes it all a bit more sketchy.  Even if there’s only a 20% chance that a train is cancelled tomorrow, my chances of being stuck in some town is nearly 50/50.  Something to look forward to.  Maybe they’ll have a hat museum too…






  



Comments

  1. The lower open air design is clearly intended to discourage baldy middle-aged homeless looking tourists from using it as a urinal or worse... they have your number.

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