Friday, September 20, 2013

Goodbye Sweden


Gothenburg is a beautiful city. Downtown small shops line twisting pedestrian streets. Trees grow all over the city, bike paths line most of the roads, and trains run down the wide avenues. Two rivers flow through the central area. One is lined by parks and the other by wide cobblestone avenues and old four story buildings loaded with stores. Frequent stone bridges give the waterways the character of a sophisticated metropolitan who knows how to appreciate the vast forests and hills that surround the city.

I ran in those forests and hills almost every day, usually for one and half to three hours. The first time I went beyond the paved paths, I was totally lost after an hour. My innate sense of direction that I had been relying on told me that I was just about where I wanted to be.

I left the woods and found myself in a small village with small houses that were squeezed between mountains. I ran on a bike path and saw a young blonde man walking a dog and enjoying the clear sunny weather.

“You want to go where?!” he asked me.

I explained to him that I lived right near the zoo with the moose and the seals and the penguins.

“That's a long ways from here. You'll have to go through the forest.” German fairy tales notwithstanding, I thought that would be a fine way to go.

“Follow the signs that point to the botanical gardens.” At major intersections, the trails in the woods had signs.

As I started to head back to the woods, he called out to me “Botaniska.” So I followed the signs and after half an hour or so of running I recognized where I was and another 20 minutes had me home. After that, whenever I got lost--and I tried to get lost often--when I had enough trail running, I would follow the signs to Botaniska.

Yesterday, I saw a deer in the woods. Usually I'd see some other joggers and a few people out with dogs. The woods have lots of evergreen trees and plenty of deciduous as well. On the top of a mountain, there's a broad expanse of big stones and short flowery shrubs that affords a view of Gothenberg and the enormous bridges over the mile-wide river along the north edge of the city.

The temperature is dropping and my hands got pretty numb on my last run.  The air is crisp and smells like fall as the leaves change color, ushering winter in. I expect these trails will soon be covered by snow. Animal tracks will speak of the life that is there when people are not, and ski tracks will be freshly carved with regularity. And I will be kayaking on the Mediterranean.

I am on my way to Italy, and hopefully will meet my kayak there in the next few days. So far, it is only a week and a half past the deadline that Nelo promised, which is what I was kind of expecting.

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