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On Swedish Soil

I cycled off the ferry onto Fogero, which, with lovely green, rolling countryside was one of the prettier islands I'd been to so far. I was now much closer to mainland Sweden than Finland, and as well as being Swedish speaking, many of the Aland islanders consider themselves more Swedish than Finnish.

The thing was that, tourist season in Finland was now officially over, with everyone concentrating on getting depressed for the winter. Camp sites, cafes, and a lot of the shops were now closed as well, so although it was all very peaceful, facilities were a bit thin on the ground. I cycled across the island, and with evening arriving and the island's only campsite having shut down for winter the night before, began to look for somewhere to camp for the night. I hunted around but most of the countryside around the main village was taken over by summer cabins - a situation that can often make it hard to even get near to lakes in Finland - summerhouses just seem to be everywhere. The ferry to the next island, however, was sitting in the harbour about to leave, so instead I decided just to catch that then cycle into the biggest town in Aland, Marienhamina, for the night. After another hour of cycling I got there, checked out the town's campsite, was unimpressed, and opted for the freedom of camping on my own just out of town next to the water.

The following day I spent cycling around the island, and although it was pleasant, it wasn't all that different from all the other islands and you can only look at so many pine trees before you begin to go mad. I'd been planning to camp in the town of Eckero for the night, but arriving there I discovered that it isn't a town at all, nothing but a harbour, but once again I was lucky enough to arrive just as one of the two ferries of the day was about to leave for Sweden. As I'd now cycled across Aland, this ferry was the shortest, most direct crossing to the Swedish coast to continue my journey westwards and I quickly bought a ticket and cycled onto the big car deck with all the other vehicles, bound for new lands.

I did, however, feel a little unprepared for arriving in Sweden. I was going to be arriving in complete darkness with no idea where I was going to stay for the night, no Swedish currency, and no maps. As things usually do, however, everything worked out. The ferry pulled into the small village of Grisslehamn, and although the campsite was full, the guy there gave me directions to the village green where I could camp for the night. Finland and Sweden have laws that allow you to camp temporarily on any ground that isn't privately owned - a huge difference from Britain, and I enjoyed a very peaceful night on Swedish turf.

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