Random Thoughts

Here are a sampling of thoughts I’ve had over my first four days in Sweden.

  • The air is really clean here.  In Czech Republic there was a lot of particulate in the air and coupled with hard racing my lungs took a real beating.  Plus throughout our Europe travels there was smoking everywhere and often inside.  There seems to be very low pollution here and limited smoking (none indoors) which is nice.  I know there is quite a bit of pollution in Vancouver but the air still seems fresh and so here reminds me of home.
  • It’s nice to be able to drink the tap water again.  On the rest of our travels the tap water was not recommended for drinking.  It probably would have been OK, but we weren’t willing to chance it with getting sick for racing or traveling being undesirable.  But the amount of plastic (and glass in Vienna because they are classy like that) waste we created was unpleasant.  Hopefully it all gets recycled, but it’s hard to know because not everywhere had bins to separate the trash.  Here the tap water has no taste at all (better than at home!) and comes cold right out of the tap which I like.
  • Autumn is upon us already.  It’s about 6° in the morning here so I’ve seen my breath for the first time in a long while.  The weather has generally been sunny, but yesterday it struggled to get to 15° and the other days were not much warmer.  The apple trees all over the city are going crazy and there are good apples for the taking.
  • I’ve had “sticker shock” more than just a few times when looking at the prices of everyday items.  The standard of living is very high here and as expected the cost of living is also very high.  In Vancouver our housing costs are sky high, so here in a small town we’ll actually be paying less.  But for everything else we’re going to be paying more.  It’s hard to estimate the price difference percentage because it varies for thing to thing.  Produce is maybe 10-15% more but personal hygiene items can be 50% more.  All food seems to have a 12% tax on it and everything else is a whopping 25%!  But the tax is built into the price so what you see listed is what you pay, so comparing is a bit hard since at home the tax is added after.  However for food there generally is no tax at home so it’s an easier comparison.
  • In such a social welfare state I would have expected public transit to be more heavily subsidized (and thus cheaper).  Compared to the other cities we visited in Europe (and even at home) the price to use transit is very high.  Using $CDN as a comparison, it costs $4.60 just to get on the bus here and that will only get you one ride in the town proper which is small.  To get to the IKEA 20 minutes away costs $6.15.  At home it’s $2.50 within Vancouver which is much bigger than Gavle; in Prague $1.65 would get you 90 minutes on the subway/bus system or for half of that you could take a 6 stop metro ride; in Budapest $1.70 would get you use of the metro system; and even in Vienna which is expensive in general $2.70 would get you full use of the metro and trams for I think 90 minutes.  Obviously these comparisons aren’t exactly apples to apples since the big cities have more people to spread out the costs, but they also have a lot more services as all we have here are buses.  Maybe there are high subsidies and the system is just run less efficiently; probably there doesn’t need to be buses to IKEA every 10 minutes all day on weekdays as the 6 people on our bus demonstrated…
  • I haven’t been to a huge number of public washrooms here but the ones I have been to all have a common theme – everyone gets their own private toilet stall.  No urinal banks or heaven forbid the urination wall with trough catch basin.  It seems like a waste of space and really reduces throughput.  Maybe it’s one of the equal rights initiatives in Sweden that the Swedes are so proud of – everyone has to wait in line to pee, not just women.  Oh, and these private stalls are not like at home with a flimsy divider partially separating you from your neighbour – these are full on bomb-proof, tiled little rooms with a locking door.  Personally I think it makes sense to have some air flow in said situations, but maybe that’s just me.
  • I’ve been doing some investigation into gyms as I’d like to get back to some working out pretty soon (but of course can’t join until I get the all important personummer).  The gyms post their rates right on their website or outside the gym.  Everyone pays the same amount and it’s transparent.  No wondering (or knowing) that others are paying less for the same thing because they talked the high-pressure sales person down the day they came to check the place out.  Very civilized!
  • We went into the movie theater yesterday to see what was playing and noticed that different movies cost different prices.  I’m used to one price for all movies at a given theater (other than matinees or Tuesday).  I’ll have to spend more time figuring out the algorithm used to determine the price.  It wasn’t based strictly on length (i.e. you are taking up more space for more time so you pay more).  Probably it’s partly that plus the popularity of the movie and how long it’s been released.  Once I figure out the formula I’ll post it.
  • I think we’re going to get less precipitation than we’re used to (not hard coming from Vancouver right?).  I went for a run yesterday and at some point ended up following a path through a wooded area.  Based on the size of the trees, the underbrush and the soil I’d compare it to what I remember about hiking through the forests around Banff.  So not as wet as right on the coast, but also not nearly as dry as some place like Kamloops.
  • I didn’t think I’d miss paddling especially after the last hard year of training, but while out checking the city I did find a spot that looks like it would work well for training (well, until it freezes).  Coupled with the nice weather, I kind of wished I had my boat here. Even though September has normally supposed to have been time off I always like to paddle during this time of year because there is still lots of light in the morning, it’s generally sunny but not too hot and the pressure of going fast for racing has died down.  I think once I find my new athletic thing (handball?, skiing?) I’ll have less thoughts of paddling.  Plus it’s going to be cold here soon and paddling in the cold is painful.

    Looks like a nice place to train with limited boat traffic.  It's pretty narrow though so when there is an on-shore wind the waves get a little unpleasant looking (for K-1 anyway).  An OC-1 would probably be perfect as you could head from here out into the open ocean.
    Looks like a nice place to train with limited boat traffic. It's pretty narrow though so when there is an on-shore wind the waves get a little unpleasant looking (for K-1 anyway). An OC-1 would probably be perfect as you could head from here out into the open ocean about 1km away.


  1. wow – what a great collection of impressions – the details make it, don’t they? do you remember the taste of the spring water at the cabin? wow. that was water.

    i laughed out loud at the need-for-air-flow point: privacy vs. breathing? i think breathing wins.

    and i think the problem is less with how much it rains here and more with how cloudy it is – i’d take more rain if in between it was sunny and blue more often – not that it’s up to me and or anyone asked. whatever.

    keep up the commentary – the blog is GRRRRREAT.

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