• 6 November 2013

The Swedish bicycle adventure was unforgettable

The Swedish bicycle adventure was unforgettable

The Swedish bicycle adventure was unforgettable 300 169 Gürkan Genç

I bordered Overtornea, a northeast city of Sweden, from Finland. By this way, I crossed between the Schengen Countries for the first time. This is a small town but big enough to meet my needs (requirements). First of all, I need to find a bank. Euro is not used in Sweden and I do not prefer to carry high amount of cash, mostly around 30 €. Since I entered the city in the afternoon no need to take provisions and fill the thermos bottle. Somehow or other I will find a market and buy my needs.  Let’s head towards Stockholm.

I am pedaling downwards towards Haparanda starting northeast from Swedish-Finnish border. I passed 60 km but have not seen any store or a restaurant, only small villages. I2m not feeling as being in Sweden, rather as cycling through Moldavian towns and villages. The buildings are such similar. I didn’t run into a place for neither water nor food. Alright, I2ll knock a door in the next village and ask for water. While I was looking around, I saw a woman with her children walking on the roadside.


I stop and ask whether there is a place to get some water. Telling that her house was nearby, she filled my thermos bottles and offered my some cookies. If I had asked Jenny to overnight in her garden or nearby she would have said yes for sure.  But, I didn’t want to ask for and camped at a place cleaned by a bugger 5-6 km afterwards. The only problem to camp within a forest in winter is you immediately get waist-deep in snow as soon as you leave the road.

The next day, I arrived Haparanda. The presence of the cemetery of two Turkish soldiers in Haparanda might only known by only a few people in Turkey.


“Here rest in honored glory of 205 Austrian-Hungarian, 11 German and 2 Turkish soldiers sacrificing their lives away from beloved land

May rest in peace”

During the Ottoman-Russian wars, the Ottoman soldiers taken captured were brought to this region from Siberian prison camps upon cartel. Withdrawing out of war, Russia had to go through a civil war and those captured soldiers were left to their own. After the end of civil war, Russia started to send back the soldiers to their countries. But, meanwhile, Turkey was going through his war of independence and the soldiers were left behind. Some of these soldiers sent to the border of Sweden died and were buried in the garden of the Red Cross which is now the Haparanda cemetery. May they rest in peace. And, thanks to the Swedish people. These photographs are from the Swedish archives which are published for the first time through this web site in Turkey. I would like to thank to Erkan Bey (Bey: Mr) for his help and sharing with me this information.



Leaving Helsinki, I both pedaled and hang around with two days rest periods in between. I stopped at a restaurant for dinner. I didn’t have the energy to even raise my hands nor legs. While I was eating, I tried to manage to find a place to overnight through Couchsurfing. Somee Swedish teenager came and sat to the table next. After two hours the owner came with his son and sat behind the cash box. While he was talking with the teenagers he say to his son in Turkish “Ali, my son, don’t do it”. Hearing this I say:

–          Selam

–          Man! Are you Turk?

–          Yes

–          These boys told me that you were carrying Turkish flag on bicycle but I didn’t believe them? Where are you coming from?

–          From Ankara

–          Are you serious? (Are you kidding me?)

I must had been that much tired, even Ramazan recognized. He kept saying “Abi, you so look tired”. There was a camping area just next to the restaurant. He went over there and talked to the owners for me. Then, he gave some snack food from his store. That I didn’t sleep in my tent which was good for me, even for short time. I saw the message from coushsurfing om my mobile awakening the next morning. The guy leaving in Lulea some 100 km ahead was would be able to host me in hid flat whom I asked for staying for three days. I was just about to leaving while I realized that it was minus 28 centigrade on that day. Whoa, minus 28. Oh my! I took out my summer cloths already. I take the trousers and thermal underway out from my bag again. Man! It was warmer on the Arctic Circle. A snowstorm started right after 20 minutes I was pedaling. No matter, I will wear my snow goggles. It is also fogging up. I turn on the rear red lights and continue. If I decide to go to a point I definitely would go. I haven’t had murmured about front wind till now. But, I got so tired that I went inside the first bus stop I saw to have a break.

It is no matter how far it is, even 200 km ahead. But, I had never seen such narrow cross country roads before. The surrounding fields are empty why not constructing a broader road. Furthermore, there is a barrier diving the single lanes and also on both sides of the road. The bicycle roads were got closed due to ice and snow. Even, they were roughly cleaned I would have pedaled on the bicycle road. Even, in Russia the 8 wheels were not passing by that close. Pofff… I wouldn’t imagine that I would have my worst bicycle riding here, ever first. I had never seen such a road before and on top of it a fog like this. Some car sounded their horn. Yes, I’m maniac!!!. If someone would stop and say: “There is a bicycle road, why don’t you use it?” I could only reach Lule as it darkened. I enter the address of that guy into my GPS device. It is 10 km of west side of the city. No way, I can’t pedal anymore. I’m so tired. No way, I cannot camp. Immediately, I find a hostel and overnight there.

The overnight price of the room for six people with shared shower and toilet costs 60 Euro, and this is the winter price only.  Imagine what the summer prices would be! Since there are no other maniacs traveling at this cold, I’m on my own in this room. After Lulea, the Euro-Velo road was open. At the end a roughly clean road is lying in front of me. To pedal on the main road is a torture. I have seen such narrow main road with one lane on both sides only in Tadzhikistan and in Finland as well as Sweden. In Finland, I was able to pedal on alternative side roads which are not the case here. I pedaled for about five km and the road got closed.


On the right hand side the is a signboard for bicycle road. Euro-Velo road is totally covered with snow. The road on which I’m pedaling is the cross country road!!

No, no! The junction was 5 km behind! There is no way to come to the main road. Humm… Let’s see. I may step off just 1 km ahead. Time to push the bicycle… It would never came into my mind that I would push my bicycle in one of the countries proud of having a bicycle road.  In fact, I must admit that they are right. Who the hell would pedal cross country on the north in this season?  While I was pushing having such thoughts, suddenly I found my left leg deep in the snow. I lost my balance the pedal of the bicycle with 60 kg hit my calf. Buster! I’m going to die. The whole bicycle is resting on my left calf. I had not experienced such a pain for a long time. The pedal was just for 10 seconds on my calf but let me scream due to pain. I probably did a false movement due to panic which made me scream. It impossible to continue, I have to turn back. Pofff… The pain in my leg is enormous.

Anyway, I took a break in a gas station 10 km away from the city Petia. I ate something. My leg cooled down. I stood up but couldn’t walk. I’m not able to step on my leg. Haydaaa…I went to the toilet, took my trousers and thermal underwear off. Only a small spot became bruised but my calf was seriously swollen. Immediately I called Leman, the physician among my team mates. After I told her what happened, she said: “No pedaling anymore. You have got internal bleeding, probably you have muscle tear!!”. Don’t say that.. “Please, do not ride on bicycle and go to the nearest hospital and have your leg examined”. “Humm.. It means that the situation is critical”. “Hey! Are you maniac? I said not to ride on bicycle”. Alright, alright I feel that it is not a normal pain. Let’s pedal to the train station. Oh, no. The situation is really serious.  I turn back to the restaurant and call Nilufer from Tur-Assist (projemle ilgilenen). She said: “Go to the nearest hospital”. Since the problem with the leg is beg, there is only one choice. I have to go Stockholm where I already have a place to stay. Well, then how to go to Stocholm?  I open my bags to get some painkillers and swallowed 3 of them at a once (My family and friends know me, I’m not a medicine and above all not painkiller lover.). I pedaled with one leg using SPD for 9.40 km till Pitea. Then, from there I took a bus for 10 km to reach the train station. Meanwhile, I was not able to bend my leg nor to walk on it. What a misfortune. What else shell I say, every cloud has a silver lining. The train will depart at 20:30.

It was a small train station. There was no body, it is silent. After about 30 minutes 4 men entered the station. They were not looking like Swedish. Anyway, I didn’t pay attention to them and closed my eyes. Meanwhile, my mobile is plugged on the electrical socket next to me. One of them comes to me and tells something in Swedish whom I answer in English. I also wanted to plug his mobile. After plugging they went outside. My bicycle was standing just in front of the entrance. I saw them looking at my bicycle and talking to each other. They were also looking at me. The next time I returned towards them, I saw that the Turkish flag on my bicycle was missing!!!

Immediately I went outside

–          Hey! I don’t know where you are from but I’m sure that you understand me. Now, give me back the flag you have taken from my bicycle.

Silence for a short moment..

–          Don’t let me repeat once more. Give me bag my flag. Please!

–          I will give it back.

–          Thank you

–          But, I also want to tell you why I had taken it.

–          First give my flag back and then tell why.

He gave me the flag back.

–  I’m Armenian. Recently (Lately) Turks burned our flag in my village. As I saw the Turkish flag I wanted to do the same thing.

– I2m not the one who burned your flag! I have gone through many things. Every nation’s flag is vital for the ones who are carrying their own flag.

– You are right, beg me pardon. If you let me, I would like to mount back your flag back

They told me what happened lastly while waiting for the train which was delayed. (I don’t believe anyone who loves His/her country would burn a flag of another nation’s. This is what I think.). I told them why I was hobbling. As the train arrived, the trainmaster didn’t want me board the train while I was with my bicycle (Yes, it is not allowed to board trains, busses and metro with bicycles in Sweden. Not only that, the most frequented city in Sweden has a population of only 2 million people.). All the 4 young men mentioned that I had a accident and needed to go to a hospital loudly and keenly in Swedish to the trainmaster. They carried my bags and bicycle into the train and help me border. If he would one day read this page and make some comments I don’t know, but I would never forget our conversation.

Now, I’m staying by Mike and Maggy. I will introduce them in my next article. As we discussed with Tur-Assist, I immediately went to the nearest public hospital.



A wristband was wrapped on. A patient’s number was given which I could use in Swedish hospitals upon application. And a bill of 2300 Kron (630 TL) was reached over. I shot a photo of the bill and sent to the insurance company. A message came within two minutes: “We are sending money to your account in shortest time”. That’s all. It is not smelling like hospital, very good. After waiting for about half an hour a woman came and said:

– You have follow the blue line going to the orthopedics department.

Hey! That’s good. There are lines to each department. Anyway, after passing a couple of rooms I arrived. Hop.. The documents were taken and I was put in a room. My physician also came.

I told them what happened. After listening me astonishingly, they checked the tissue and muscles on my calf. They wanted me to do certain movements with my leg. The result: “You prevented your muscles from tearing while not riding on bicycle. You had an internal bleeding and therefore edema”. “Ugh, when will I be able to pedal?” “You should not ride for at least 15 days.” “Hugh, what? For 15 days??” There is the place where you can take your medicines. Get better soon. “We will follow you from you web page”. “We wish you success in your journey around the world”. Meanwhile, haven’t been checked in a hospital you won’t be able to get medicine in this country. First the physician needs to approve! You cannot have pills on your fling!

Pofff. 15 days is a long time…. Humm, what the hell I am going to do during this time.. Of course, I will go out for sightseeing in Stockholm, what else to do. While I was walking inside the hospital I happened to see some drinking boxes. You gotta be kidding me! There were a posting machine and a barcode sensor on each of them. I saw also in South Korea similar boxes. It is a good praxis as long as it is not abused (misused). I guess, it is not misused here. Whoa!

Black thunder and me are very sad since that happened to us. It was the last I would have wanted to face with such a problem after seven months on the way. The recovery and treatment period would last till I feel my leg healed. You already know that I had come before to Stockholm and had gone to Kiruna. I will mention in my next article, what I had undertaken and which towns I had visited at that time. Aside hoppling I feel myself well. I would be continuing in the shortest time from where I stopped. I’m not on hurry, I have plenty of time J

With regards.



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