Alex takes up the role of reporter in part six of our coverage of the Freedom of Movement tour with Chiara Ginestra and Alexander Colling who are travelling across Europe on bicycle to discover the wonderful right of freedom of movement within the European Union. Don’t forget to follow them on their Facebook page , Tumblr and their Twitter handle.
Our time in Copenhagen was mainly spent trying to adapt Chiara’s bike. We had a few frantic darts across town to outlying bike shops in the hope of finding the right stems or seat posts. We made a little progress and also managed to spend some time seeing the city. The cycling is incredible in Copenhagen. Lanes are wide and omnipresent and laws defend the vulnerable.
Our host, Cathy, and her family were so kind to us and gave us plenty of encouragement as well as the aforementioned t-shirts in the last report.
We left Copenhagen on a train to Kalmar from where we hopped on a ferry to Öland for the night, then began our flight through Sweden.
We cycled for three days from Öland to a tiny hamlet called Långrådna through tranquil, pungent forests and dusty gravel tracks. The cycling was challenging but we were in good health and even increasing headwind and gradients didn’t get in our way of reaching our rest stop where we took the opportunity of a big room to sort out and photograph all our stuff seen in the image in this report. We became better acquainted with Swedish wildlife too. We had a very close encounter with a huge, startled moose that ran across our path, and we spotted eagles and other large birds, snakes, a wolverine and plenty of hares. Chiara even met Nigel Farage:
We met some lovely people on our journey and had many interesting conversations about Sweden, inline skating, electronic music, goats, spiders and, of course, Brexit.
Some people we have met or stayed with are well aware of the dangers of Brexit, the risk it presents to themselves personally, the UK and Europe and the earth as a whole. Some, like us, were British or partly so, and will be directly affected by it. Many have spoken about their rights being removed, their financial and political futures uncertain at best, about increases in racism and abuse, about the very real threat of their family being split up. Others, especially those not directly affected by it, those from other EU countries have talked about how stupid the whole thing is, how it doesn’t make any sense that firstly a country would vote for such a thing and secondly that a government would allow such a thing to go ahead, a thing that would obviously seriously damage a country and destroy people’s lives. I am still gutted about the Brexit vote and I see no reason for the whole debacle to proceed. There are no evidenced advantages.
Whilst I dread quoting a Tory, Matthew Parris wrote “[the Government] know (most of them) that the referendum placed voters in an impossible position. They know that, narrowly, the voters made a mistake. They can see this is becoming plain. They know — the majority that are not zealots — that our party is now acting against the interests of our country. And nobody has the spine to say so.”
There is much said in the media about softer Brexits. It is sad to say this, but I really believe we need a hard Brexit. I think it is important that the UK is not given yet another special deal. It’s important for the UK to be humbled. It’s important for the UK to suffer the economic and social impacts of Brexit. And it’s important for the future of the European Union, the future of peace and progression across the continent. A hard Brexit will dramatically affect my life. I would lose my freedom of movement. I would be forced to try and emigrate to another country to be with my wife. But I really think, if Brexit is going to happen, it should be like this.
The majority of people who have hosted us have a common link with migration. They are either migrants, or their partners or parents are, many have moved because of work or love. For them, and for us, migration is normal and human and right. As a result of their experiences they appear to be more open to people from other countries and cultures and especially supportive of what we are doing. For them and for us migration is an enormously enriching and very natural human behaviour that just happens.
A lighter note about food – one of the challenges with what we are doing is sourcing and preparing food. In some cases we have been offered food by generous hosts. We have also taken the opportunity to cook for our hosts. It’s a relatively cheap, enjoyable and thoughtful way to say thank you, to share something and come together.
Owing to the limited storage for food in our baggage we are restricted to mostly buying things every day, or carrying around things that are not so heavy and not so likely to go off or need refrigeration. When you have to carry everything constantly you really have to make good decisions about what to buy. A bag of oats is light and mouldable. A tin of beans is heavy and disagreeable when placed in a front pannier. Nevertheless we have found ourselves carrying various things around Europe. We currently have in our bags some tea from the UK, a tin of fish from Belgium, honey from Germany, garlic from Denmark and bread from Sweden.
The hotter days are more of a challenge or less, if your objective is cheese fondue and we usually have to carry around 6 litres of water with us each day. The biggest challenge is getting the right nutrition for the cycling we are doing and ensuring we eat a balanced diet – salad and fresh veg for the Italian, potatoes and fresh potatoes for me.
Finally, A special thanks to Cathy and family, Magnus and Shirin, Lee and Robert for hosting us in week five.