I have backpacked around the world, but rarely have I stayed in hostel that was a convert from something funky. Which is why I jumped at the chance, even though it was a bit pricey, to stay in a former prison.
Stockholm was never on my Bucket List, but after making friends with Swedish guy during my 2012 backpacking trip, I had to say ‘yes’ when he asked me to visit.
While Peter did offer for me and my boyfriend to stay with him, we opted for the quirky hostel, Långholmen. It was not haunted thankfully and the rooms were clean, cute and sound-proof. The chefs there also made a delicious brekkie each day which we enjoyed on the patio with our fellow guests and by night we watched a bit of television in the privacy of our room, which was a rarity when staying in hostels.
Each morning, during our stay in Sweden, Peter would ride his bike to meet us and take us exploring his beautiful city. Below is a story I wrote for the paper I worked for at the time. It best describes the highs and lows of exploring Stockholm on a bike.
A closer look at Stockholm
IT looked like a scene out of the Tour de France.
I was puffing, panting, sweating and cursing under my breath, as I took on my first hill climb.
Unfortunately, it was just the beginning of what was meant to be a “leisurely” ride around the city of Stockholm.
In my mind, I had pictured me cruising alongside the waterways, waving to locals on their way to work, while listening to a bit of ABBA.
The reality was much grimmer.
My boyfriend Lion and I had gone to visit my good friend Peter, who offered to show us around his city, as it was our first time in Scandinavia.
I first met Peter in New York City, when I was backpacking solo through the States in 2012.
We became instant friends and have kept in touch regularly through Facebook ever since.
We decided to visit him during our world trip last year because we were keen to catch up with him again and explore Sweden.
He said renting a bike was the best way to get around his city and cover a lot of ground in a short time – words no doubt by the end of our visit he was regretting.
None of us factored in how fit he was and how unfit we were.
I, for one, did not realise Stockholm had an endless number of hills.
I thought the city would have had a landscape like Amsterdam or Copenhagen – both of which I rode around with no difficulties.
A distance that would normally take Peter 10 minutes took us half an hour (or maybe it was even closer to an hour).
Either way, it was not a pretty sight and I am sure it was not enjoyable for Peter, who literally rode circles around us.
To be perfectly truthful, riding a bike is just as bad as driving a car when you are trying to sightsee.
You can’t take your eyes off the road for fear you will end up in a ditch, submerged in the river or worse – hit by a truck.
However, riding a bike does give you an opportunity to stop as often as you want, wherever you want.
There is so much beauty to experience in Stockholm and it is best captured by riding.
Despite my best efforts to stay out of harm’s way, I had a few bingles.
The worst was a collision with a concrete slab and the fence it was holding up.
I was black and blue by the end of my first day exploring Stockholm, and the bruises just kept coming.
I ran into Lion and Peter, almost hit pedestrians, slid in puddles, got my leg caught in the bike chain, caused on-coming bikers to almost crash trying to avoid me and ran into multiple walls and fences.
When I was super-puffed, close to what I imagined as my last breaths, I would ask for a photo stop to capture some of the city’s beauty but also secretly to have a rest.
While the bruises from riding around Stockholm faded quickly, the memories of the (somewhat traumatic) experiences I had are still vivid and now are some of my favourite from our trip.
It goes to show that at the time things may seem hard, but we are a lot stronger than we think.