Friday, March 20, 2015

Seen from Copenhagen

the Copenhagen GoBike -- with GPS and battery power -- no thanks!

This 3-speed rental bike was more my cup of tea!

The King and I, Copenhagen
In Copenhagen I stayed at a budget hotel called Wakeup Copenhagen. It was somewhat spartan, but clean and comfortable, and they had bikes to rent. What more could I ask?

For 115 Danish krone ($22) I could -- and did -- rent a bike for the entire day. I did this two days in a row and spent most of the time from 9:00 to 5:00 riding around and exploring the city.

The bike lanes of Copenhagen are amazing, not least because of their simplicity. Most of them are nothing more than a raised section of pavement running between the traffic lanes and the pedestrian sidewalks. Every major road I encountered had this type of bike lane. The smaller roads had either painted lanes or simply "share the road" type markings. 

just me and the Little Mermaid (and a few tourists!)

I was surprised to see how many cyclists wear helmets, as I had been led to believe that virtually no one did. I was also surprised to see how little concession was made to the cold wind and the rain. I wore jeans and a sweater, a warm jacket and scarf, and wool gloves, but other people were riding with bare hands, or with only thin nylons covering their legs.

St. Paul's Church

The Marble Church

Seen from Stockholm

on the way to Gamla Stan, Stockholm
I spent my one-week break between sessions far from home -- in Stockholm and Copenhagen, to be precise. I started out in Stockholm and stayed there for three days, then took the train to Copenhagen, where I spent the last three days. 

[The above photo was sort of forced on me. A young Polish girl stopped me and asked me to take her photo with this weird dog-like creature, and then insisted on returning the favour.]

A friend of mine, on hearing my plans, objected, saying, "But isn't it winter over there, too?" And yes, technically it was. But as the flowers and green grass will attest, in practical terms it was already spring. Temperatures were consistently above zero, although there were times when the wind and rain meant it felt pretty cold. But overall, it was a wonderful break, especially when I saw that it was -25 back home!

Linnaeus Statue in Humlegården Park, Stockholm
I rented a bike in both cities. In Stockholm I had some trouble finding a place to rent one. There were a couple of bike shops not far from my hotel, but both of them said they didn't rent bikes. The one guy told me that in summer I would be able to rent a bike "on the street" but that didn't help me much in March. 
Walking to Gamla Stan
After some searching on Google, however, I found Gamla Stans Cykel, in Gamla Stan, the Old Town. I highly recommend this place! 
Gamla Stans Cykel
The staff were friendly and the price was right: in a city where prices are generally quite high, for a measly 100 kroner (~$15) I rented a 3-speed bike complete with lock, basket --and coaster brakes. I hadn't ridden this sort of bike since I was about 10 or 11, but after some tentative experimentation, it all came back, and soon I was sailing around the island of Södermalm
Cycling in Södermalm
This area of Stockholm is supposed to be the coolest neighbourhood in Europe, but I didn't really see much of it, just circled the perimeter, as it were. There is a multi-use path that follows the shore, so I rode on that. Along the way I took a couple of wrong turns so I did unnecessarily ride up a few hills, see a few of the interior streets and stand on a lift bridge; and I even met a few of the locals, who gave me helpful directions, but further exploration will have to wait till next time I am over there.
Gamla Stan square

One of the big attractions in the Gamla Stan (Old Town) area of Stockholm is the Nobel Museum. I liked the exhibit about this man, Amartya Sen, who conducted his prize-deserving research by cycling from village to village in West Bengal.  

bike lane along a canal, Stockholm
Bicycle parking at the Stockholm Court House

This is my kind of church-goer!