From Stockhom I headed north, to the town of Uppsala. A university city where I was hosted by Liselott. She was from the north of Sweden and missed it’s openness and sense of community. Thanks to her I got my first sailing experience, which when I was in charge mainly we went in circles as the strong wind meant I’d turn too hard. Thanks to the patience of Martin, a scout-leader friend of Liselott, we managed to make our goals of sailing around random points and back without dying.
Throughout not only Sweden, but Scandinavia as a whole (and even the US) the colour red is very prevalent in buildings, and especially barns. It turns out this comes from Falun, a city in Sweden that I visited, and is therefore called Falun Red. This wasn’t Sweden’s only export, it turns out that the command key on my Mac (⌘) comes from Scandinavia too. In Nordic countries the ⌘ is used on signs to indicate a point of tourist interest and the UI designer back in the 80s decided to borrow it for the Mac.
One thing that I started in Sweden, and continued afterwards, was inspired by another cyclist blog (which I can’t find right now) and that involves the pant system. Basically, bottles and cans have a deposit attached to them, which is called a Pant. This is worth between 1 and 2.5 krone (10-25c) depending on the size of container. This Pant system means that the sides of Swedish, Norwegian and Danish roads are considerably cleaner than other parts of Europe (and obviously better than the wasteland that the side of a Latin American road can resemble) but you can still collect a fair number. Depending on the road, I could easily collect 2-4 euros worth of cans and bottles in an hour of riding (including time to stop and pick things up). This basically paid for a big chunk of the food I bought in Scandinavia.
The last thing that comes to mind right now – the Swedish washing machine system. Most people live in flats and so have a communal washing machine that they share. To make sure that you get to use it at the right time, there is a simple yet wonderful system of reserving the machine. Basically you use a key to put your lock in the time slot and then the machines are yours then. If you don’t have a reservation, you leave you lock in the ‘parking’ section. Depending on the place, there can be a single machine that can’t be reserved so it can be used whenever, and also if no-one is using the machine when you go down then you might be OK to use it (but better be ready to remove your laundry if that person comes along).