Stockholm, Day 2 – August 15, 2015
Although I had been the one to suggest it originally, it was with considerable trepidation that I went out on the dock with Dale and Elmer to find our tour. I hadn’t biked at all this summer, so I was really out of shape for bike riding. Our tour guide, Joachim, was waiting for us with a dozen or so bicycles, each equipped with a helmet, which we were required to wear, and a water bottle.
Joachim worked for Stockholm Adventures, a tour company that provides biking, skating kayaking, sailing, motor boating and snow shoeing experiences for the adventurous traveler. He showed us how to adjust our helmets. Most bikers here do wear helmets although it is not mandatory, except for children. I recalled our guide on the canal tour last night saying that Swedes like to be safe.
Joachim showed us how the bikes work. The main brake is the coaster brake – stopping by pushing the pedals in reverse. There’s a hand brake also, but only on the left side. On the right handlebar was the gear adjustment – there were seven gears.
The first thing we faced on our route after leaving the pier area was a long and fairly steep incline as we rode over a bridge, one of many connecting Stockholm’s 14 islands. Needless to say, halfway up I had to get off the bike and walk. I was grateful for having a crew member, a young Dutch woman, stationed at the rear of our group, yet found myself compelled to apologize to her every time I couldn’t keep up with the others. Dale later told me that he hadn’t gotten up the hill without getting off his bike either, and the same was true of several others.
There aren’t a lot of hills in Stockholm and those we encountered weren’t usually very long, but I did struggle to get up many of them. We stopped often to take pictures at lookout points and other places of interest which Joachim told us about.
The nice thing about being on a bike tour is being able to go places that buses can’t, and being in the open air. Stockholm is very bike-friendly and encourages the sport as an ecologically friendly way to get around. There are bikes everywhere, something I’ve noticed in most of the places we’ve been. Stockholm has an extensive network of bike paths throughout the city, allowing bikers to feel safe riding on busy city streets. There are connecting bike and walking trails through parks and other areas.
It was Saturday, so the traffic wasn’t heavy anyway, and if it weren’t for festivals and other special events going on in the city, there would likely be fewer people out and about – it’s the last weekend of summer before school starts, and many families and friends like to spend sunny, warm weekends at summer homes outside the city on the archipelago. (In fact, we’d seen many such houses between Helsinki and Stockholm, and the scenery reminded me of northern Wisconsin – which I suppose is why the upper Midwest has the largest number of Scandinavian immigrant descendants in the USA!)
Swedes are sun worshippers, understandable for a people who live in a northern climate where winters are extremely cold and dark – although they don’t get as much snow here as we do, because of ocean currents. Their lakes and rivers do freeze over, though, so it’s no wonder that skating and ice fishing are popular winter sports. And kids here are required to learn to swim.
While it seems that in the U.S. we continue to build more prisons, Sweden has been closing some of theirs.
Below, a path through a park. I was worried we would be taking the path to the left – fortunately, we didn’t!
“I don’t see a hill, I see a possibility.”
I pondered, and rejected, the notion that Joachim would take us into the old part of town – with its narrow, cobblestone streets full of tourists. However, I was wrong – Gamla Stan was the last area we rode in before returning to the dock! The tourists there seemed rather perplexed by not one, not two, but more than a dozen bike riders invading these narrow streets, forcing them to get out of the way.
The cobblestone streets made the ride bumpier and in places, more challenging. One of the last streets Joachim took us down was a turn to the left where there was an archway and then downhill. I kind of squealed when I took the plunge, but made it safely. At the bottom, we got off our bikes to wait for the others (only one person could realistically ride down that street at a time). I wanted to take a picture and when I lifted my cell phone and snapped the picture, I realized I got a great picture of my husband Dale coming down that narrow passageway!
On this 3 ½ hour bike tour, I admittedly was the slowest and weakest rider, although no one seemed to care. One of the older men in the group said he was impressed that I was able to keep up at all, considering I hadn’t biked for awhile. To keep me going, he kept reminding me of something Joachim had said early on, when we confronted our first hill: “I don’t see a hill, I see a possibility.”
The rest of the day
It would have been nice to end the tour in Gamla Stan, where we could all relax and have lunch at an open air café, but we had to ride back to the dock so we could return to the ship. If I weren’t so tired and sore after the bike trip, I might have been up for returning into the city; instead, we went to Lido for lunch and mostly relaxed the rest of the day. The ship left port in late afternoon, and we took some lovely pictures of the archipelago with those summer houses we’d been told about.