So far, weather has not stopped me from walking to work. Come along with me one morning as I walk to work…
I cross through Humlegård, a large city park dedicated to Carl Linneus who is “known as the father of modern taxonomy and… one of the fathers of modern ecology.” There are several statues of Linneus in the park and the enormous National Library. The park was a royal garden established by Johan III, who grew fruit, spices, and hops. “Humlan” has been a public park and a popular spot to relax since 1869.
November is typically soggy and dark. The park’s unpaved paths are wet and gritty. Pedestrians bundled in black hustle past me talking on their mobile phones. Ridiculously fit (jealous much?) and ridiculously motivated joggers pass me wearing multiple spandex layers.
I cross Birger Jarlsgatan, a relatively wide city street with an island in the middle. The crossing lights aren’t coordinated so if I obey the lights then I get stuck waiting on the island which isn’t so pleasant in cold temperatures with whizzing cars really close. People “in the know” just walk against the lights. Well, when in Rome…
It’s important to note which part of the crosswalk is for bikes and which is for pedestrians, otherwise you either get run over by a cyclist or you get a warning bell from the cyclist or maybe even an expletive. It took me months to learn to remember to look which side I was supposed to walk on. The short white stripes are for the cyclists and wide white stripes are for the pedestrians.
(The National Library in Humlegården; the difference between pedestrian and cyclist paths.)
Once across Birger Jarlsgatan, I enter the walking tunnel I showed in a picture in a previous post. Here there is also some confusion about the whole walker vs. cyclist thing because they switch back and forth which side they want the walkers on and, to make matters more confusing, the paint establishing which is for which has worn off. (I suspect there is someone up in a window with binoculars who must get a kick out of all the confusion…) My strategy is to follow the people in front of me and stay to the side they choose. It’s like football—they are my blockers, clearing the way for me to carry the football into the end zone (or at least get to work in one piece.)
(The entrance to the tunnel in between 2 staircases; the tunnel itself.)
On the other end of the tunnel, which reader Monica, and I agreed looks like the famous Sasquach tunnel from the “Six Million Dollar Man” TV show, I come out at Sveavägen, a very busy street. I am on the backside of Högtorget, a popular shopping district. The tunnel disgorges people right near a back entrance to the subway and most people seem to be going towards the tunnel so it is always a fight upstream to get to Sveavägen. Plus, the walkers and cyclists switch sides again, just for yucks and giggles.
There is heavy construction at that intersection right now and it’s easy to miss the brass plaque in the paving stone walkway that commemorates the spot where Prime Minister Olaf Palme was assassinated in 1986. It was a watershed moment for Sweden and you can read more about that on the Internet if you like.
(The Olaf Palme commemorative plaque (with construction dust)…It says “On this spot Sweden’s Prime Minister Olaf Palme was murdered on the 28th of February, 1986.”; this sidewalk is better-marked about who should be where…)
I cross Sveavägen and now I’m on Olaf Palmes Gata (I guess he got the whole street named for him after he died.). Among other stores, I pass an electronics store, a nutrition store, an Asian speciality market and a Thai travel specialist. Right in there is the most amazing smelling bakery I have ever passed. I have not gone in because I can’t eat gluten anyway. I am afraid to ask if they have anything gluten free because then I would go in there every day. It’s a tiny, tiny place and you can see the bakers doing their thing. The cinammon buns…oh, don’t get me even started!
Pedestrians don’t tend to stick to the right so there’s lots of awkward moments where I nearly crash into people. I have tried to learn to stop saying “sorry” all the time because it outs me as American immediately and because Swedes don’t usually acknowledge this kind of thing. They wordlessly keep going, even if the fault is theirs. They aren’t meaning to be rude, I don’t think, it’s just the culture.
I pass Drottningatan, a pedestrian-only street (for many blocks, anyway) marked by two stone lions that must also function as a physical bar to drivers who try to turn onto Drottningatan. Early in the morning, the shops aren’t open but on my way home, Drottningatan is packed with shoppers and don’t even ask me about weekends!
I pass an antique bookseller that seems to also sell used books. They have a bin outside selling used thriller for 10 crowns ($1.50).
Left turn up an alleyway gets me to Kungsgatan where I turn right. I cross busy Vasagatan and sometimes have to fight my way through people milling outside the hotel on the corner. If I’m in a bad mood I think, why can’t these people see that they are blocking the sidewalk? It’s a mystery ho come people just stop in the middle of sidewalks and don’t notice the people forced to move around them.
(Sveavägen and the shortcut through the alley)
I cross Kungsbron (King’s bridge)–not my favorite part of the walk. There are two parts to the bridge. First I pass over all the trains coming and going to Central Station on the tracks below and then I cross over water between the islands that according to the map is called Klarasjö (Clear Lake) but which looks like a river and is really just part of the archipelgo water flowing between the islands of Stockholm. The reason that it’s not my favorite part of the walk is that it’s usually cold and windy on the bridge druign the winter. Sometimes it’s icy and there is lots of dark sand spread on the sidewalk to keep it from being too slippery. Also, one has to cross a number of on and off ramps leading to the freeway. But I do like looking down at the water.
(View from the two parts of Kungsbron…One through the safety fence on the bridge and one from where the bridge crosses the water, connecting two Stockholm islands.)
The bridge leads to Kingsholmen, the district where I work. The whole walk I have been playing zip up my jacket, unzip my jacket. The November temperatures have been all over the place and I find it challenging to have the right coat. I am either too cold or too hot. And the moment I enter the ground floor of my office building, I have to immediately take off my scarf, coat, etc. or else I will be a sweaty mess by the time I make it to my desk. Sometimes I am anyway.
In a way, I look forward to colder temperatures so that my jacket will not be too warm!