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Cycling into Stockholm

That strange end of trip feeling was beginning to overcome me as I cycled towards Stockholm on the last day. Once again, part of me wanted to keep on going, keep on travelling. Gradually, the green fields and woods changed into grey concrete and traffic, and you could feel the tension in the air. I wove my way through colourless housing estates and past graffiti sprayed walls of suburbia, carefully following the signs to the city centre or risk being lost forever in a concrete maze. At least there was a cycle path and I didn't have to take my chances on the road. Cars were honking at me as it was, and an old man punched me in the back as I went past, for cycling too close to him. Maybe I was safer back in the countryside with The Beast.

After a long hunt I found the youth hostel I'd stayed at last year; in fact I'd been standing outside it's door at one point before continuing to search for it for another thirty minutes. I checked in, had a badly needed shower, and went into town for some breakfast/lunch/dinner - that all in one meal you finally sit down to at 1600 when you're too busy travelling.

I've always liked Stockholm and it's much bigger and more like a capital than Helsinki, but there's still something missing about all Scandinavian cities that doesn't make them feel as whole and vibrant as places further south. Still, I had a lovely day or two nosing around it's great architecture, cafes, and small shops - including Kartbutiken one of the best map shops I've ever come across. Just the place to go for that street map to Kinshasa!

The following evening I caught the ferry back to Helsinki. After queueing up with all the cars I was waved ahead of them through the hull doors and onto the massive car deck of the ferry where I tied the bike down to a fixing point and headed for my cabin. Maybe they just don't like cyclists, but, after much searching, it turned out to be deep underwater on a floor below the car deck next to the engines - making me feel like an Irish person on the Titanic. First sign of an iceberg and I was getting out of there!

After a fairly uneventful and ice free night I woke up to see Helsinki outside - well, not from my window obviously. We berthed in the centre of town, I cycled to my favourite cafe for breakfast, and Helsinki felt like a less stressed place.

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