Summer in Sweden is brief, which makes it all the more precious. The months that are grey and wet and bitterly cold far outweigh those that are sunny and effortless. It ensures a certain appreciation for the sunshine, for blue skies and for the outdoors.
I landed in Sweden at the end of winter. Jamie and Johanna, my buddies from Manly, were living in the Southern city of Malmo. I was stoked to see them and they were excellent hosts. They put me up in their rad apartment, they gave me keys and a bike and while they were at work I had my days to roam the streets, to see the sites and to get a bit of work done.
These were my wheels for the week. The thing was heavy, it felt like it had built in the war. It got me everywhere I wanted to go.
Taking it to the streets.
The sun shone bright, it was warm but not hot. From the apartment into town I didn’t have to ride on any roads. There were broad green strips with bike paths and walking tracks for bikes and pedestrians. The bike had only one speed, mellow. There was no rush.
This a bike roundabout, it can get pretty busy in the mornings.
Most days that I was rolling through town I would stop off at Solde Kaffebar for a coffee. The Swedes have embraced cafe culture and this place had some of the best coffee in town. They had wifi and the guys behind the counter chatted about bikes and ice hockey and Australia; they were well aware of the Australian coffee obsession.
Selfies are ok if you’re on a bike.
The Scandinavian love of bikes is my favourite part of the culture. Everybody rides…young people, old people, people in suits and people in overalls. They have raincoats and mud guards for the rain, people have snow bikes with big thick tyres and at the train station there’s serious traffic jams in the late afternoon.
The government is on board with bike paths weaving across the whole city and even bike pump stations that have compressed air and bike tools. Riding isn’t a leisure activity; it’s transport, it’s as natural as walking and it suits the narrow streets of the city far better than cars do.
I rode down to the harbour. How’s this old ship and this light house! So rad.
On most days I would end up at the University of Malmo. Johanna was a student there and she had given me her internet access as well as the low down on the place. The building in the above picture is the library. The design was in stark contrast to the old architecture of the port, but that was the way with much of Sweden. Brutal minimalism sitting snug beside ancient stonework of old-world designs.
The library was as sophisticated inside as it was outside. There was a huge atrium that was flooded with light and a massive phallic sculpture that reached almost the full five stories of the building.
The interior design was fresh and in-tune with the clean lines of the building. There were splashes of colour and abstract art works. The students were similarly good-looking and suitably stylish. It was a pleasure and an honour to be able to while away my days writing my frivolous little stories in such grand surrounds.
I left the library after lunch as I was meeting Jo. Our first job was to find the art supplies shop, Jo wanted to buy some pens. Unfortunately it was closed for lunch so we had to wait. We did a little window shopping, dreaming of easels and posca pens and that perfect compass.
Jo went back to work and I set off once more to tour the little town of Malmo. I had no deadlines and there wasn’t much traffic. Just me my bike and my camera.
This photo above looks across the lake to my other office of the week, the Malmo public library. This was another great building. The huge glass facade flooded the main reading room with light. There were then four stories of narrow bookshelves with tables in between where you could hide and write and pretend to be doing something important.
There were also ducks and geese and tombstones. The cemetery was really nice. The trees had low branches and the path was made of hard packed gravel that purred as you rode over it.
Through the middle of town the roads are all given over to pedestrians. Even riding bikes is prohibited, they must be walked. I got plenty of disapproving stares, I worked it out pretty quick. The old buildings were classic. heavy stone and cobblestone roads.
At the end of the day i was back where I started. People were sitting at cafes drinking beer, their faces were turned to the sun, it is a most endearing pose; offering one’s cheek to the sun.