Driving deep into the region's expansive natural beauty, we set out to find solace in the solitude of Sweden's backroads during this year's summer solstice.
Midsummer is a celebration of the summer solstice. Across different countries, this time of year is celebrated in varying styles with local traditions dating back hundreds of years. But in Scandinavia, it is Sweden that celebrates this affair in the most distinguished style. The vast size of Sweden makes it a place where one can easily live life in solitude if one was so inclined, making it easy to see how the Swedes have presented such a persona of being so well attuned to nature.
Midsummer in Sweden is truly a celebration of this connection with nature, where the cities become abandoned ghost towns as the local populations flock to the countryside to celebrate Midsummer Eve. With their Maypoles, dances, and elegant flower crowns adorned upon the heads of men and women alike, Sweden’s traditions have created a definitive portrayal of how midsummer is celebrated.
The long periods of sunlight that we get to experience throughout Northern Europe give us the chance to spend a full day out on our bikes. As a part of our midsummer celebration, a small group of the Pas Normal Studios team set out to ride 200km, from Copenhagen to Sweden, diving deep into the forests and national parks of Skåne, dancing on our pedals up steep climbs with crowns of salt around our heads.
Heading north from Copenhagen, it was a 45km leg-burning effort along the coast to catch our ferry into Sweden. This gave us a quick opportunity to recover while we stocked up on duty-free sugary snacks. The next 160km would pass through largely uninterrupted expanses of dramatic valleys and ancient forests; hardly presenting an opportunity to stop off at a nearby cafe or gas station to refuel like we are accustomed to around Copenhagen.
Immediately after departing the ferry, the roads took off like an undulant fever, rising and falling at dangerously steep pitches. At the 75km mark, we entered Söderåsen National Park and the roads kicked up towards the sky at an impressive gradient.
In the heart of Söderåsen lays Skäralid, a deep fissure valley that marks the landscape like a scar, cutting eight kilometres into the tree line. The washboard gravel climb that leads to this valley’s plateau brought us to a lookout ridge providing a stunning vista down into the valley below, trees puncturing the talus slopes that dove deep into a dense sea of deciduous forest.
Finally exiting the thick brush of Söderåsen National Park, we had 40km left of rolling hills through the bright-yellow flowering fields of rapeseed. Our final destination was Lund, the 10th-century city in Southern Sweden. The roads that led to Lund were lined with blooming poppies, harebells, cornflower, and an assortment of annual and perennial wildflowers that are often seen ornately arranged around the flower crowns and wreaths of Sweden’s Midsummer Eve celebrations.
With our small group beginning to fracture as the fatigue of the day’s 200km ride under the blistering summer sun began to set in, we road into Lund together as the sun became eclipsed by the western towers of the 11th-century Romanesque cathedral that dominates the city’s skyline. Parking our bikes against the wall of the nearest pizzeria, we ordered dinner and a round of beers and sat on the curb as we waited, enjoying the warmth from the late evening sunlight as it bathed the cobblestone streets of Lund.