Reunion in Malmo, Sweden

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The view from the steps of the Central Station in Malmo.

One of the attractions of Copenhagen is that it is a just a long bridge away from Malmo, Sweden, and my college chum Susie lives in Malmo. I was able to spend the with her on a Swedish national holiday.

Susie met me at the train station and we hopped on the number 7 bus and see more of the city. She was hoping that we could take the river cruise but it was not operating at 10:30 a.m. on this holiday. We rode along manicured boulevards with beaches just over the rise. We hopped off at an island called “Island.”

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Turning Torso or as I call it, Twisted Sister

We walked along the sea and admired the mixed income neighborhood and mix of old and new. The gym and cafe and market are located in a brick building that had been Hermann Goring’s airplane factory between WWI and WWII. Sweden was neutral and so they have lots of ties to Germany AND they allowed thousands of Jews to move from Denmark to safety in Sweden.

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Three buildings in downtown showing the many ages/phases of Malmo.

We then rode the bus into a “new” development (by Swedish standards) on an old infill site that had been a shipbuilding yard. In the mid-1980s the company stopped building ships and sold off its assets. The area was redeveloped and continues to grow and change. The iconic building the Turning Torso (designed by a Spanish woman architect) is also located here as the one skyscraper in the neighborhood.

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A brilliant idea for thwarting terrorist attacks on the city’s celebration.

We walked to a cafe called V.E.S.P.A. for salad and pasta. It was yummy. One of our servers was an expat from Minnesota. We talked and talked for 2.5 hours! By then we were ready to walk on and find gelato. It is generally windy in Malmo but it was particularly blowey this day. We jumped on the bus one last time to return to the train station. We walked into the center square of the old city.

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Hermann Goring’s factory

Lots of businesses were closed for the holiday and the city had a special program planned. We had a little time before it started so we continued our walking tour. Swedish flags were flying in many places as it was a “red letter day,” one of days when it people are allowed to fly the national flag.

The national church is Lutheran and there is no separation of state. Unless you declare yourself a non-believer and take action to separate yourself, 3% of your income tax will go to support the church. Devout Christians account for 29% of the population, but almost everyone is a member and most teams participate in confirmation as a rite of passage.

IMG_1092St Peter’s Cathedral is a lovely and inspiring. Susie said she and her husband John enjoyed a worship service where the pastor read scripture and invited people to meditate while the organist played Bach on the pipe organ. They loved it.

We watched the Fire Department band play and a goofy rhythmic gymnastic group perform an anachronistic routine that felt like 1950 not 2017. They juggled red balls and did mild calisthenics without breaking a sweat. They inspired us to giggle and marvel that this troupe still attracts participants.

We retired to Susie’s gracious apartment and enjoyed a home cooked meal. Her husband John, and her daughters Linnea and Olivia answered questions about “cozy time” and other uniquely Swedish things.

It was a quick 45 minute train ride back to Copenhagen. It made a great day trip.

Brilliant Idea: Airport Customer Feedback

Aer Lingus is a no-frills airline and my ticket to London was cheaper if I stopped in Dublin. I had enough time between flights to buy a pair of Guinness socks and eat the best yogurt parfait I’ve ever had and drink a decent flat white from the Chocolate Lounge.

IMG_1052No more time to browse and time to get to my gate. As I passed out of the main terminal I saw a brilliant small kiosk asking for customer feedback with just 4 quick options. I pressed full smiley face because the customs process and overall airport experience was terrific. The airport is compact and clean with great signage.

I am standing in line for boarding and see another feedback kiosk expressly for the restrooms. I decided to use the facilities. Imagine the worst scenario: trash on the dirty floor, messy sinks, toilet paper stuck on seat. Okay, that was LAX Terminal 2. The Dublin Terminal 2 women’s restroom was beautiful, very clean and fully functional. On the way out there was a further kiosk to allow customers to alert them to any problems. Clearly they will receive prompt attention. Simply brilliant. IMG_1053

What is Your Travel Stake?

stakeI am about to embark on a wonderful holiday in Denmark and England. Even though the logistics of the trip are mostly planned out–I have all of my hotel rooms, but not all of my train trips and ferries sorted–I am getting clear on my travel stake before I pack my bag.

In my leadership training with CTI I learned to be very clear about my stake, that is what my goal is for myself or for the organization or group I’m leading. I have found this concept helpful in planning a travel adventure–especially with others, and even when solo. When I haven’t thought about my stake I tend to get overwhelmed by all of the competing agendas of other travelers and my trip experience is diminished.

For example, for this upcoming trip, my stake is about reconnecting with old friends and keeping space open for meeting new people. My intention for this adventure is mostly about relationships. If I look back on my time in Denmark and England from Heathrow airport lounge, I will be very happy if I had plenty of time for long talks with Susie and then UK Sarah, and if I had a few memories of conversations with new friends I made along the way. Sure, there are things I want to do (bike rides) and places I want to see (Winchester Cathedral), but they can make way for people if that is what is needed in the moment.

Being clear about your stake is even more important when traveling with others. I often ask the question of my travel companions: What is your highest priority for this trip? Or what would you regret not doing on this adventure? I share mine, and then we are clear and we each do our utmost to make sure that everyone is able to experience at least this one thing. It may be eating at a fantastic restaurant, or having time to hike a certain trail, or time every morning to sit in a cafe with a flat white and read a book. Or maybe it really is spending time with the person you love and the rest is just background.

I have a tough time traveling with medium size groups. There are so many competing stakes and I get swamped by the friction. You would think that the trip itinerary is everyone’s stake, but each arrives with another sometimes secret agenda: gelato from the famous place in Siena, cycling around Lucca, or tasting as much wine as possible in 7 days. A good tour guide or group leader discovers what those things are for their guests and works to make it happen. I now accept that my travel style is either solo, with one other friend, or in a small family group, or maybe in such a large group that I can still carve out my own stake. Medium size groups are not for me.

Of course a wise travel planner also leaves room in the schedule for the unexpected invitation to join a birthday party for an 80 year old woman who does an awesome Tina Turner impersonation. But that is an Irish tale for another day.

Preparing for Denmark Adventure

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I am visiting Denmark this summer. I found my hotel on Trip Advisor. Thanks to Rick Steves’ I am taking a bike tour in Copenhagen with Mike. My chum Susie from University is going to show me her Malmo, Sweden on June 6–the national holiday to celebrate being Swedish. I have printed the instructions to find hidden Giant sculptures around Copenhagen on a bike scavenger hunt.

I am excited that I am going to be able to see two more Scandinavian countries (after Norway in 2013). Originally I thought I’d get into the countryside and see more of Denmark. Then I realized that second half of my trip involves a lot of travel through England, so enjoying one city more thoroughly and staying in the same hotel is appealing.

I discovered Helen Russell’s humorous memoir Year of Living Danishly at Vroman’s bookstore in Pasadena. I read it to prepare for my trip. The culture in Denmark is similar to Norway in many respects. The author refers to Jante’s Law, which I experienced growing up with a Norwegian grandfather.

Aksel Sandemose outlines 10 rules for living Danishly in his novel, A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks, known as Jante’s Law.

  1. You’re not to think you are anything special
  2. You’re not to think you are as good as we are
  3. You’re not to think you are smarter than us
  4. You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than us
  5. You’re not to think you know more than us
  6. You’re not to think you are more important than us
  7. You’re not to think you are good at anything
  8. You’re not to laugh at us
  9. You’re not to think anyone cares about you
  10. You’re not to think you can teach us anything

cod bookSome people think it is synonymous with humility and essential to maintaining the egalitarian Scandinavian society. Some people think it is about enforcing conformity. In another memoir, In Cod We Trust, by Eric Dregni, about his family’s year in Norway, he observes, “These ten commandments may have begun as a morality tale of how not to act, but over time these rules were adopted to teach kids not to be self-important narcissists.”

I am curious to soak up as much of the culture as I can for the relatively short time I am there, and to find out more about Jante’s Law.

Pro Cycling Shines in Sacramento

20170514_152403It is hard to beat Sacramento for watching a bike race on a sunny day. AMGEN Tour of California Stage 1 ambient temperature was a perfect 73 degrees with barely any wind. The only kink in my plans was the coincidence of Mother’s Day. There were many fans along the road and in the VIP tents, but it was still possible to find a place to watch the finish at about 3:15 p.m.

20170514_152209World Champion Peter Sagan moved to the tail end of the Quick Step lead out train for Marcel Kittel. Then it looked like he might get boxed in. Across the line it was Marcel Kittel first, Peter Sagan second. Thrilling!

20170514_152831Afterward I hung out to watch the jersey presentations and delighted to talk to the first female commissaire that I’ve ever seen at the international level. I asked her how she earned her spot. She said she paid her dues refereeing local races. Normally she rides along in an automobile. Today was one of the few times she was on a motorbike. I asked if she had to prove her ability as a motorcycle driver. The UCI provides a driver and she rides along. I asked how many women there are at this international level–not many. This race has three!  Could this be my third career? haha.

Safety First in Cycling

share the roadI pulled my June 2017 issue of Bicycling magazine out of my mailbox and inwardly groaned–another issue focused on rating new road bikes. You’d think based on the number of issues dedicated to it that every cyclist buys 4 bikes a year. I dove into it today to see if there was anything of interest to me and I was thrilled to find that much of the issue was dedicated to cycling safety.

If you are not a cyclist you may be thinking, bicyclists should follow the rules! This is the most common response I hear when people learn that I ride as my main form of transportation. And I get as aggravated as you when I see bicyclists riding on the sidewalk or jamming unsafely through an intersection. Arrogant and reckless cyclists hurt all of us because they erode respect for our vulnerability. But when I’m behind the wheel of my car I remember that cyclists (and pedestrians) are so much more vulnerable, cars are so much more numerous on the road, and road design is car-centric.

There have already been a few high profiles of professional cyclists hit by vehicles while training and some have died. The risks of dangerous drivers are real if you ride regularly. Italics are quotes from Bicycling magazine. 41% of you who pedal four or more days a week have been hit. 66% of you observe distracted drivers on most or every ride.

Dangerous drivers are sometimes intentionally aggressive: 31% have been the target of a thrown object. 52% of women say they experience aggressive driver behavior on at least some of their rides. 33% of men say the same.

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Bontrager tires with reflective sidewalls keep you on the right side of the law and are extremely effective.

This issue also includes many stories about the lack of concern by law enforcement when there are altercations between cards and bikes. Two pages are dedicated to the names of people killed by drivers in the last two years. They represent just 36% of the estimated 1600 cyclists killed.

The good news is that cycling is getting safer. And this issue shares research on the benefits of daytime running lights. Cyclists who draw attention to their moving parts are up to 83% more noticeable. Human eyes are wired to see motion. While a reflective jersey is good–highlight your feet, ankles and legs with reflective materials.

I am guilty of taking more precautions for children than for myself. This information is motivating me to invest in some reflective gear for my daily commute. It is worth it because the health benefits of cycling way outweigh the risks of riding alongside cars.