City Bikes, a little Shopping, and Djurgården Sights
On Saturday (August 27 for those following dates), our first full day in Stockholm, Tom and I secured two three-day City Bikes memberships at the front desk of our hotel and headed out for a loop around Södermalm. The mission? To kill time before the shops along Götgatan opened around 10 a.m.
City Bikes are similar to Minneapolis’ Nice Ride bikes. With a membership card the size of any credit card, one can approach a bike station, hold the card up to the built-in reader, and in seconds receive a bike assignment. Like a Nice Ride, City Bikes are three-speeds with front luggage space, heavy fenders, bells, and easily adjustable seats. Different were the wheels (tiny in front!), the coaster brakes on the City Bike, subscription lengths, and time limits. The three-day pass is the shortest term available for purchase (165 SEK) and breaks down to about $8 a day—much cheaper than any other form of bike rental in Stockholm, if a little more expensive than Nice Ride. And, in Stockholm it is possible to have a City Bike for three hours at a time without penalty, compared to the 30-minute limit on a Nice Ride. Later in the day, on Djurgården, we saw many people lounging around in the grass with a pile of black and white City Bikes around them. With the fear of Nice Ride trip fees deeply ingrained in our brains, most of our own rides were kept short, though. Arriving on Götgatan Saturday morning, we were happy to find several bike stations nearby, ride in a roomy bike lane, and learn that the main shopping area is conveniently restricted to pedestrians and cyclists only.
Also convenient is that every City Bike has space for a bag, as I was in scando-design heaven in Ordning & Reda, DesignTorget, and 10 Swedish Designers. Tip: DesignTorget opens first and is a convenient place to
stop in shop while waiting for O&R and Tiogruppen to open. Tom and I each found a few souvenirs: small matching notebooks from Ordning & Reda that would become our journals for the trip (Tom’s lined, mine not), postcards and an oil-cloth bag for me from 10 Swedish Designers, and a mushroom knife and other treasures from DesignTorget. I’m sorry to say we were a little too excited about bikes (!!) and shopping (!) to take many pictures in the morning. With plans for a longer ride and more sights to see, we decided to drop our bags back at the Clarion and head out once more for lunch at Blå Porten on Djurgården.
After dropping our bikes at Djurgården’s only City Bikes station, we set out to find Blå Porten and locate the Vasa Museum, where we’d be getting our Viking on later that afternoon. While the restaurant isn’t far from where we left our bikes behind, we made some mistaken assumptions about its location and took a rather circuitous route there. We walked just long enough for me to become really hungry and slightly desperate before spotting Blå Porten’s unmistakeable blue doorway.
Tom had lamb burger meatballs with potatoes and a yellow bean salad and I had boiled salmon with potato salad, carrots and a generous dollop of dill mayonnaise (these are items 1 and 2 on the menu above). I really liked my salmon, but Tom found himself wishing he’d ordered the chanterelle soup. Full of potatoes for what would be the first of many times, we sat on the patio washing it all down with a couple of beers and a lemon strawberry tart while writing postcards and making first entries in our journals:
So far, Sweden, Stockholm at least, really is everything I’d hoped for. The shops are amazing, the weather is fine, and the people are very nice…. It feels good to sit in the sun with a little wind, eat, and rest our feet. I am so thankful for City Bikes. We’re able to get around with ease while seeing the city and enjoying the air. I’m glad to be here at the end of August. The weather is ideal…. I look forward to more exploring in Stockholm and to what is yet to come…. It’s fun to be in a place where it feels like I know both nothing about it and have a certain familiarity.
As we were finishing up, a French couple asked if we were Swedish; they needed to know how to say “France” in order to address their own postcards. We may not be Swedish, but we did have a Swedish dictionary iPhone app and Tom was happy to assist. They wrote Frankrike in big letters on each card. We had the advantage of writing “USA” on all of our postcards instead of the longer, and seemingly less-often used, Förenta staterna.
We said goodbye to our franska vänner and walked to the Vasa Museum. It is nothing short of impressive—I found it hard to take a picture that did justice to the ship’s size. The museum itself has something like six levels from which to observe the ship and does an excellent job of fleshing out the historical context in which it was built as well as documenting the process of salvaging the ship.
There is a scale model on display that shows how the Vasa would have been painted on its maiden (and only) voyage and many full-sized decorative pieces recreated to match the original paint. The ring shown here is the only piece of gold found on the Vasa. It was displayed on a big velvet pillow in a vitrine with other recovered treasures. I wish I had more pictures of the artifacts on exhibit—there were cooking pots and other vessels, mittens and boots, and a game of backgammon. It is, however, very dark in there! The whole museum is cold and dark to help preserve this incredible hulk.
Back in the sun again after leaving the Vasa, we wandered in to the Nordic Museum‘s shop just before closing time to refuel on postcards and frimärken. We returned to the central city via Djugårdsfärjan and finding no available bikes at the Slussen station we decided to walk to Mariatorget for a drink and a snack at the Hotel Rival’s café. Despite the busy time of day, the Mariatorget bike station welcomed us with several bikes for hire, and we made our way back to south Södermalm for an unremarkable vegetarian dinner (should have had meat and potatoes, I suppose!).