Gotland: Days 6 & 7 – Visby to Tallinn

Day 6

No travel

Date: 17th July 2010

We had originally planned to go back to Stockholm on this day, but all of the ferries were booked out. Rather than go for standby again we opted to book tickets for the 00:50 ferry at night. This gave us a very long day in Visby. Our plans of spending the day exploring the old town were foiled by a very heavy thunderstorm, which included a blackout from around lunchtime. We couldn’t walk around visiting the sites, and even our usual fallback when bored travelling, the movies, was out of action due to the blackout. Instead our day was spent hiding from the rain in bars and eating salad (the restaurants couldn’t cook anything). The best beer I’ve had in Sweden was from the local brewery and was stocked in all the bars, so it wasn’t all bad. Rather than being an enjoyable and relaxing day it was more of an uncomfortable and boring one. However candle lit dinners (and candle lit trips to the toilet) are always a memorable experience.

Day 7

Ferry Visby – Nynäshamn
Bus Nynäshamn – Stockholm
Ferry Stockholm – Tallinn

Date: 18th July 2010

None of the websites indicated that you could put a bike on the ferry bus to Stockholm, but apparently you can if you’re lucky, and we were. There were two buses picking up passengers from the ferry to Nynäshamn. The first told us definitely no bikes, but the second told us there might be space if we waited. After us, five other cyclists arrived to catch the bus as well. Our driver chatted to the other and between them they managed to fit us all on. I think it’s much like catching a plane on standby – if the driver likes you and you’re a bit lucky you’ll get on. Smile, be courteous, and be there as early as possible.

So we arrived in Stockholm at about 6:00 am and had all day to kill. We started by dropping our gear off in the train station lockers then having a sleep in a park somewhere. After that it was a full day of Stockholm site seeing which was easily filled up. It was actually difficult to find time to fit in a few drinks. The outdoor museum and zoo Skansen was worthwhile and could easily occupy most of a day. We also happened upon a dog show where I met my first Australian sheep dog. They’re a gorgeous breed which look like a mix between kelpie, border collie, and blue cattle dog.

Stockholm is an excellent city for biking around. It has bike paths everywhere which are well sign posted and easy to follow, but it’s not crazy busy like Amsterdam. A lot of design effort has gone into making it a safe and easy place for cyclists. There were enough hills to make me glad to have gears, mostly around Gamlastan (the old town), but not enough to be bothersome.

Again we went for the separate cabins option on the ferry on the way home, but this time we were both in rooms with other people. I had a bunch of Russian dudes who weren’t bothersome in nature, but were in body odour. I stayed up playing blackjack and hanging around the various bars until I thought my tiredness would overcome the bad smell of the cabin. Still, the ferries between Tallinn and Stockholm have a reasonable enough range of facilities to be comfortable, and after combining that with a sunset over the islands I’d recommend taking it over flying if you can spare the time.

We found Gotland a very easy cycling destination. The ride from Stockholm takes about a day, and once there you are only limited by how many hours of riding you’re willing to do. It’s flat and well serviced by small villages, camp grounds, and B&Bs. The views aren’t spectacular, but it’s very relaxing place for a ride.

Gotland: Day 1 – Tallinn to Stockholm ferry

Cycled Viimsi to Tallinn ferry wharf
Ferry Tallinn to Stockholm

Date: 12th July 2010

The ride to the ferry from our place in Viimsi is a pleasant ride by the sea. The Estonian bike route No. 1 starts in Pirita (near Viimsi) and goes into Tallinn and beyond. That part of it is entirely off road bike path and is mostly used by recreational cyclists and rollerbladers. It passes through the ferry terminal, which is very handy if your destination is over the sea. The ferry tickets to Stockholm cost 1900 EEK (130 euros) for two berths in separate single sex cabins and bikes. It was 3500 EEK if we wanted a cabin for the two of us and we went for the cheap option. It turned out there was nobody else in either of our cabins, so we just moved in together anyway.

The Tallin to Stockholm ferry ride went from 6pm to 10am and was non eventful for the most part, but there’s the opportunity to see a nice sunset and enjoy the bar. The ferry passes through a whole bunch of nice islands (the Stockholm Archipelago, and I think also the Ålands if you’re awake early enough.

Taking bikes on trains, buses and ferries in Croatia and Slovenia

It’s possible to take bikes on trains, buses, and some ferries in Croatia.

The trains didn’t seem too bad although we didn’t feel particularly welcome. The rail network in Croatia doesn’t have a lot of coverage though. As with Slovenia, you might have a bit of trouble getting on the trains with a bike if it’s particularly crowded.

Buses will accept bikes, but only when they’re in the mood, and it’s up to the driver. You have to wait until the bus arrives, and if you’re rejected try the next one. If the bus is not very full you have a good chance, so try not to travel in peak times. The charge for taking a bike is considerably more than for the same size of luggage, as well.

Car ferries are great for bikes, but the passenger-only catamarans won’t take them. There’s no reason why not, so, as with most things, this might be negotiable. You may also be able to negotiate with tour operators and the like if they are travelling to an island you want to go to. To be sure ahead of time, check that the route you want to take is serviced by a car ferry. Also, in some cases the cost of a bike on a ferry is more than the cost of a person.

In Slovenia we never tried using buses, but we used trains fairly regularly and never had a problem. We weren’t travelling in a peak time though, and I understand you can be rejected by the train conductor if he thinks it is too full.

In general, travelling outside of peak season will give you a good chance of getting onto public transport with your bike.

We never had to box or bag the bike on any trains, buses or ferries. Just take the front wheel off for the buses.

Slovenia and Croatia: Days 19 and 20 – Dubrovnik

Cycled Milna to Stari Grad
Ferry Stari Grad to Dubrovnik

Dates: 3rd and 4th June 2008

The ride back to the ferry at Stari Grad was fun because once you get through the tunnel at the top of the island it’s all downhill, and we knew the road well by now.

Again we shared the ferry with Pat and Ron, although they got off at Korčula and we had decided to go straight through to Dubrovnik. The view of Korčula old town from the ferry was almost enough to cause regret for not stopping off there. The rest of the island didn’t look all that exciting as we travelled down it’s coastline though, so I settled into reading Kafka’s The Castle and drinking beer on deck.

Dubrovnik is a fantastic city. The old town is as beautiful as any I’ve seen (or more so), is large, and the walls are very well preserved. It also has hundreds of stray cats. The rest of the city outside of the old town has some character and a good vibe as well. The only problem is the hills and the lack of bike shops. Also don’t go if you disapprove of tourists.

Dubrovnik's shiny street

One of the gates to the old town

A cat sleeping on the wall by the sea. One of many.

We stayed at Camping Solitudo, which is a campground near the suburb of Lapad, a few kilometres from the city centre. It’s a very comfortable place, particularly as there was a little market which sold our staple diet of the trip – bread, vegies, beer and wine. It was ideal for settling down for a few days, which is exactly what we intended to do, apart from our day trip to Bosnia the next day.

Slovenia and Croatia: Day 14 – Mali Lošinj

Cycled Osor to Mali Lošinj
Ferry Mali Lošinj to Zadar

Date: 29th May 2008

We left Osor quite early and the ride was very easy down the island of Lošinj to Mali Lošinj. The scenery along these islands was very rather sparse, with more rocks dotting the hilly landscape than trees. We stayed in Mali Lošinj for around six hours until the ferry left, then it was a further six hour trip to Zadar. It was dark once we started cycling from the ferry terminal to our campground, but it was well lit and not too hard to find our way.

The guy serving us at the campground offered us a 50 kuna deal instead of the normal 140 kuna if he could take our money under the table and we agreed to leave before the office opened in the morning.

In Mali Lošinj we dropped into an internet cafe and booked our plane tickets home. There was a new Estonian Air service from Dubrovnik to Tallinn, which we booked for the 7th of June. It cut our trip short a little both in time and distance, but it was the easiest way for us to get home.