As you well know, one of the first things I like to do when I arrive in a new place is to get my hands on a bike. It is honestly one of the best ways to visit a city, as you can traverse rather large distances while still travelling slow enough to soak in the unique bits that makes that city so spectacular. This is particularly true of Scandinavian cities, which are BUILT for BIKES!
Unfortunately, Stockholm seems to believe that no tourist is silly enough to bike in the Scandi winter, so they all stop renting bikes. Not to be dissuaded, I brought up my biking woes with my colleagues at KI, who mentioned that they happen to have several company bikes that can be borrowed (!!). Glory be! So, at the end of the day on Friday, I ambitiously set out in the general direction of my Airbnb (note that this tank of a bike easily handles all my luggage – the perks of travelling relatively light. What a dream!!)
I had been instructed to add some air to the tires, as they were a little bit soft, and so, about 9k into my ride, I cycled by an air pump, and proceed to suitably pump up the front tire and then promptly blow up the rear one… 😦 Making the adult decision to deal with it tomorrow, I locked up the bike and hopped on the subway (a truly multimodal trip).
The next morning dawned fresh, clear, and COLD! (Guys, Sweden is COLD! Who knew?!) and it seemed like a beautiful day to take the bike for a walk.
I walked several kms to the closest bike shop. Unfortunately, when I arrived, there was a hand-written sign that a passerby translated for me: Closed for a meeting, back again tomorrow. So I again abandoned the bike and went about my cheery way.
I repeated the process the next day, at which point I realized there was no date on the sign, so “tomorrow” is a really ambiguous time frame. No bike again, for the day.
The third time was indeed the charm, as when I showed up on Monday morning, the super friendly Uruguayan man had the tube changed in record time and I was off rolling again.
The sun was shining, there was a light dusting of snow on the ground, it was COLD COLD COLD, but stunning.
The ride back to central Stockholm was magical. I had time to spare and the sun on my face, so I was not glued to the little blue dot on Google maps, guiding me. I was able to just enjoy the incredible bike paths and the fresh Stockholm day. It was total perfection.
Sidebar: The silver lining in this broken bike situation was that I ended up exploring the Stockholm subway system, which is pretty spectacular. A number of the stations are clearly carved out of rock, so you feel like you are in massive caves.
Many of which have been painted in interesting ways, which really adds to the surreal experience of travelling on the system. Many of these features are really organic and “nature” based paintings, but there is even one station (Östermalmstorg) that is decorated with icons of feminism, which symbols depicting women’s rights movements. I love that on a daily basis, hundreds of people are reminded of strong, powerful icons of literature and scholarship as they go about their daily commutes.
Have I mentioned that I think Stockholm is great?!