Monday, October 25, 2010

I Want to Ride my Bicyle

Before moving to Stockholm, I decided that one of my first purchases once arriving would be a bicycle. Swedes bike everywhere. To work. To the movies. To the grocery store. They have little baskets attached, full of smaller versions of what Americans load in our cars. And lights on both the front and the back - it's against the law not to. They'll often squeeze 2 or even 3 people on board, a parent with their kids or friends or whoever and I always wonder how it's possible to get around without completely wiping out in the middle of the street. Regardless, I wanted to join this privileged group of cyclists ASAP.

The Swedish equivalent of Craigslist is, which quickly became my new most visited the site. Although I couldn't read any of the words, I learned how to search for sales - säljes - of women's bikes - dam cyclar, and then used my personal translator to figure out the rest.

I searched every day, and made the journey to a random Northern suburb where I wandered on foot through a pretty little neighborhood for at least 45 minutes, asking anyone I came upon where Nälstavägen was (no one knew) before finally finding the house myself and trying to communicate with the woman selling the bike (who didn't speak English) and then deciding I didn't want the bike after all.

And so I came to the last day of validity on my metro pass. I refused to buy another week, and so I went to the deep south of Stockholm's suburbs via commuter train to Handen where a kind elderly man named Stig met me at the station with his 30-year old bike. I tested it and bought it in a matter of 10 minutes. 950 kronor (divide that by about 6.5 for dollars). Wheeling my newest possession proudly back toward the trains, I was stopped and informed of the rule - NO CYCLARS ON THE TRAIN BETWEEN 1500 AND 1800. Only in Sweden does rush hour start at 3pm.

I had 2 1/2 hours to kill in a town which had, I discovered, nothing but a library and a mall. So I settled myself in a charming Konditori (bakery, of course - thank God there was one of those!) with tea and a cocoa ball.

The wait was well worth it for my new mormor cyclar. That's what the Swedes call the style, which translates to grandmother bicycle. I call it a beach cruiser. Whether grandma or beachy, I love it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Week 1 in Sverige

My new hometown

A long-awaited visa suddenly came through a couple of weeks ago, and was delivered to me via a FedEx envelope with an undistinguishable name and address. It's a miracle the package arrived at all, much less only two days after I'd finally spoken to someone at the Swedish Migration Board, nearly begging them to take action after five endless months. They did, and I was on my way nine days later, 85 lbs of baggage in tow, bringing me to the point at which I am now: at the kitchen table of my new, cozy flat sipping on Moroccan Mint tea.

I live in Solna, a suburb running just along the northern edge of Stockholm's city center. The area is dotted with office buildings, malls and apartment complexes for the most part, where janitors live next door to businessmen. Today, its tree-lined streets are paved in an orangy gold from leaves fallen with the steady sprinkle that's gone on since this morning. To the weather's defense, it's the first rainy day since I arrived.

view out the front door of my apt bldg

There are two good things about the precise location of the flat I share with my Niklas:

1) It's only about 5 stops on the metro system - the "tunnelbana" - from the city center. Walk 7 minutes through a lovely park, descend one of Europe's  l o  n   g    e     s      t  escalators, hop on the carriage, and 10 minutes later you're SMACK in the middle of things.

2) There's a pub with excellent kebabs on the ground floor of the apartment building. Which means that any given night when I .... er Nik doesn't feel like cooking, we just head downstairs and order a delicious kebab (the biggest I've ever seen). This proved extremely convenient last weekend after our 6-hour trip to Ikea via bus-train-bus. Although on the way back, arms full with our newly purchased stuff for the apt, we couldn't find the bus and had to walk the last leg of our journey - about 2k. The kebab and kebab pizza never tasted so good.

It's certainly been a week of new experiences, and coming to the realization that I need to learn Swedish pronto. Which has become my new long-term goal. That and the small detail of finding a job to support myself in this ridiculously expensive place. Until then, I'll just try not to convert to US$ and enjoy my new life in Sverige!