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Memories of Norden Part 3: Midsummer in Dalarna

A 25 day bicycle tour of Sweden and Norway near midsummer 1994

By Dave Dermott (
This is part 3 of a report in 5 parts. See:

Sunday 19-june 1994 Motala to Askersund

I had planned to rest today and only ride a little. There didn't seem like much to do in Motala so I headed back north on Rt 50, the same road the VR had finished on. This morning the weather was cloudy and cool with some showers. I remembered seeing a grocery store in Medevi with a sign indicating it was open on Sunday. On the way there I bought some jordgubbar (strawberries) at a roadside stand. The store was open.

It was still early and I didn't feel like stopping yet . At a tourist info sign there was a good map of the county which had the Sverige Leden cycle route marked, so I turned off on a nice gravel road through the woods towards Godegård. I had a late lunch in a clearing as the sun tried to shine.

I turned on to the SL route which was paved. The signs pointed out a diversion around the village of Godegård so I followed them. These diversions often lead to interesting spots. If I had the maps and guidebooks I probably would know what to see. There was an historical iron works here.

I turned off the SL route and took a short cut to Askersund via Zinkgruvan, a zinc mining town . From there it was mostly downhill to Askersund , which a port at the north end of Vättern. I went to the Vandrarhem which was in a school, right by the water.

There were some heavier showers in the evening but as I was having supper a magnificent rainbow appeared. I rushed outside and took some pictures, which to my surprise turned out good.

I figured out how to use the the Swedish telephones and the hi-tech telefonkort and called my mother, 8 time zones away.

The direct distance from Motala to Askersund is only 45 km but somehow I managed to ride 75 km today. So much for a rest day! However I seemed to have picked up a flu or cold virus in Motala and my throat was getting sore.

75 km
400 m

Monday 20-july Askersund to Nora

This morning I felt I was definitely coming down with a cold or flu. At breakfast I had a chat with a nice lady who was on a 3 day cycle tour. She wished me "God Tur".

I got a tourist pamphlet of Örebro county which had a good map ( scale 300000)

I had to wait for the post office to open so I could mail newspaper clippings to my mother. It was after 1000 before I left town, heading north into a headwind.

About 10 km north of town several branches of the Sverige Leden join, I will follow one section north for the next several days.

At Vretstorp I cross the E3 highway. Across the fields I see giant wind-turbines , their blades spinning very fast. This is not a good sign for cyclists heading into the wind. Fortunately most of the route was more sheltered by trees.

I stopped for a lunch break in a nature reserve near Viby. It was a magical place with a grove of large, ancient oak trees and the sounds of many birds. It invoked images of elves, ents etc. There was a wood platform in the woods which I assume was for outdoor concerts.

Past Flagestra and I stop in for another lunch break in a National Park near Garphyttan. A major hiking trail, the Berlagsleden, passes through the Kilsberg hills.

The SL takes a short cut into the hills. Soon after I pass Kil the pavement ends and there are some steep climbs. I cross the Bergslags Hiking trail several times. The road runs along the side of a nice lake and I see a sign describing the large network of ski trails in the area.

My map had a "shoot field" marked on it and I was wondering what that was until I heard distant explosions and saw some army trucks pass.

Then the road decends to Nora, one the prettiest towns in Sweden. The VH here is in old train cars next to the lakeshore. The manager assures me that the train wont move overnight. That night I am lulled to sleep by the lake water lapping outside my window.

101 km

Tues 21-June: Nora- Smedjebacken

This morning started out sunny, and was warming up quickly. But it didn't last.

I cook my breakfast in the train kitchen but eat it on the dock at the lake in the bright morning sunshine. There is a summer camp on a island in the lake, and children start arriving at the dock to take the boat across. The ferry man rode up on a very ancient bicycle, from its colour I assume it was an old Swedish Army bike.

I went to the tourist bureau in the train station to look for some maps. They didn't have any for the Sverige Leden but had some booklets on county bike routes, which weren't really going in my direction but included good maps.

On to Born, Storå and Ramsberg and up the hills and through the woods to Kloten. The early morning turned out to be the warmest part of the day, it turned cloudy and cooler. I had a headwind of course. My cold is getting worse. At lunch I used my gas stove to heat up some water for blueberry soup.

I arrive in Smedjebacken and have a little difficulty finding the hostel (VH), when I get to it , the caretaker has gone home for the evening. Some local kids, who speak very little English, rescue me. The mother of one of them is the caretaker. The VH is in a modern apartment building. This is a rather industrial looking town, not as quaint as Nora, but much cleaner than any Canadian industrial towns I've seen.

119 km

Wed 22-June Smedjebacken - Lecksan

This day it was cool, there was some rain and more headwinds. The route was fairly hilly and the dirt roads turned muddy after the rain. I was still feeling a bit sick too. However it was a very enjoyable day, the countryside seemed to have some magic in it.

I was now north of Latitude 60 and in the province of Dalarna. I continued following the Sverige Leden signs north, to Gustafs and Torsång on the River Dal ( Dalälven). Then some more back roads through little villages where the "maypoles" ( are they really called may-poles in June) have been put up for the midsummer festival. The notice boards list local special events happening on Midsummers Eve. I hope I'm in some nice village on Friday to experience some of this.

There is a bit of cool rain so I stop to warm up in a rustic cafe in Smedsbo - log construction with big wood stove etc.

The route then goes along the north side of Lake Insjön , this is a very scenic road winding through typical Dalarna farms and villages, leading to Leksand at the south end of Siljan Lake.

The Vandrarhem in Leksand was in a very nice setting with lilac bushes surrounding several cabins. In the evening it turned clear and there was a nice full moon rising. Maybe summer is finally here??

After the World Cup football coverage on TV the weather forcast came on. I didn't need to know much Swedish to understand that tommorrow would be cool, but no rain. But then the winds! 10 to 20 , not km/hr or knots but meters/sec.! That's up to 72 km/hr or 40 knots! Surely that can't be right ???


Thurs 23-Jun Leksan - Oxberg

The wind forcast was true! A headwind of course!

The first section of the route was in the trees which provided some shelter. The view was rather boring, which was also a bit of relief from the visual bombardment I had been receiving for the past few days.

Things soon got less boring. Ahead of me I saw a large tree fall over, away from the road. But the trees on the upwind side of me were bending menacingly. Later in the day I did see where trees had fallen across the road.

I took a lunch break by an old Norse water mill, a type that predates the waterwheel mill.

The Sverige Leden route makes a scenic diversion to the island of Sollerön. There is an annual bike race here and the Siljan Rundt is a popular bike tour. I saw a few racers coming off the bridge so I thought it must be OK.

There was a wicked cross wind as I crossed the narrow bridge. I was very afraid of being blown off. This is one time I'm glad my bike was loaded down. At the end of the bridge the ordeal still wasn't over since the road continues along a narrow causeway across the lake. At the end I stopped to warn a group of touring cyclists of the dangerous winds - they were Swedish but understood English. In the village of Sollerön I stopped for a snack.

I thought that I had experienced just about all forms of bad weather in the last few days but there was one more trick - a sandstorm, something I did not expect to be riding through in the middle of Sweden! But then I entered Mora and the sun was shining on a sheltered cove of Lake Siljan. I found a sheltered spot and had a second lunch by the lake. I noticed quite a few people on roller skis ( classical technique, not skates) on the bike path along the lake.

Then I went to the end of Vasa Gatan - the most famous street in Sweden, at least on the first Sunday in March when over 10000 skiers come down this street to the finish line of Vasaloppet, the world's biggest ski race. There is a museum here with exhibits of old skis, trophies and authentic looking "Blueberry Soup" stains. I watched a movie about the race, they even had film clips from the first race in 1922.

For those interested, the 1995 race will be on March 5, but Feb 26-28 they have a "open track" event over the whole 90 km course, with full facilities. The trail is also there all winter, it is easily accessable from the highway. It is also a hiking trail with huts along the route.

I was on my own Vasaloppet to Sälen, going in reverse direction by bicycle - the road parallels the trail. I would take longer to bike it that the fastest ski times (4 hr)! It was ironic that now in late June I was wearing my down ski vest! It was that cool!

I was planning ahead enough to search for maps of Norway in a bookstore, but I didn't buy groceries. I thought I might find a grocery store out of town. The next store had closed for the day by the time I reached it.

Ahead on the road I saw another sandstorm. This time I wrapped a towel around my face, more for show than practical use!

I found a nice spot to camp by a babbling brook near an access trail to the Vasa Trail. Upstream there was an old grist mill and a nice hikers hut. I did have enough food left for supper. It was quite strange to be camping and not have it get dark in the evening!


Fri 24-Jun "Midsommar Afton" Mora - Rörbäcksnäs

The wind calmed down a bit by morning but it was very chilly. I had a quick breakfast of what little food I had left, then rode on to Evertsberg where I found an open grocery store. Then I went across the street to a small picnic park and had a full breakfast - porridge, blueberry soup etc.

This looked like just a small, ordinary village but a monument revealed that this was a major feeding station for Vasaloppet( 48 km) Thousands of skiers are fed in this small park, and there is live TV coverage from here on that day.

There is quite a climb between the east and west branches of the Dal River. From the top I can see snow in the hills beyond, I hadn't expected to see snow until I got to the mountains of Norway!

At Mångebodarna I stop at the Vasalopp Cafe which is another feed station on the race (24 km). The first thing I order is, of course, Blueberry Soup. I have a talk with an American artist and his Swedish friend and the hostess of the cafe.

On the road to Sälen I was startled by a strange 4 legged creature running out of the woods. It was a young guy running with ski poles!

Near Sälen I stop for a lunch break on the bank of the West Dal right near the start of Vasaloppet. The river is rather cold since it is being fed by snow melt from the hills. In about 2 weeks there will be a big swim (3000 people swimming 3km ) in this river at Vansbro. I was told that the water temperature usually runs around 15 C. I think I'll skip that event ! ( It's part of the Swedish Classic series)

The village of Sälen was almost deserted but I found a small convenience store open. I found a list of Midsummer's Eve activities in the area and headed for the Hembygs Gard (old farm museum). It was late afternoon, the wind had finally stopped and in the bright sunshine the temperature rose to about 15 C. There was folk dancing and music under the traditional "maypole" by the shore of the Dal River. Nice while it lasted but the event broke up by 6PM and everybody left.

So I continued to the west, climbing my first pass through the Transtrand Fjäll which are nearly 1000 m high. The road climbs up about 400 m from the valley to about 750 m which was close to tree line. There was some snow close to the road level. Fortunately the wind had died down, yesterday's winds would have been wicked in this treeless area. The top wasn't scenic- it is a major Alpine Ski resort with big hotels, discos etc. Just about everything was closed for the season. I had supper at some picnic tables by a closed gas station/restaurant.

Down the other side , I saw a Troll in the woods! I camped in the woods , no babbling brook but sounds of cuckoos, not in clocks! Again it never got dark this night.

The Norwegian border is just a few K's away so tomorrow I will see a new country. I don't remember any dreams on Midsummer Night, but now the whole trip seems like a dream.


This is part 3 of a report in 5 parts. See: