Advent Calendar 2017: Dec 16th - Driving and Parking
Dec 16th – Driving and Parking
We’ve driven a lot in Finland over the summers so I wasn’t nervous about driving in Sweden. The biggest difference is that in Finland we are usually driving in the country, on long roads in beautiful scenery with little traffic. When we get to our destination, there is no trouble with parking (for the most part) and there are very few traffic signs to interpret. Neither Finland nor Sweden bothers with using police to track speed, but Finland uses a LOT of cameras on the busy country highways to keep speed down. I blew through one of them in a speed trap because Freja had a blowout and was screaming at the top her lungs and we had our eyes on the prize – a gas station bathroom. Unfortunately the gas station was right after the speed limit dropped 20km/hr. Cora’s uncle was a miracle worker and manages to convince the police that we could be let out of the ticket…THANK YOU, JAN! Generally, no one speeds in Finland. There are a few roads that you’ll find some people driving fast, usually in really nice cars, going way too fast, but it isn’t common.
There are fewer cameras here and I am pleased to see that Swedes drive a bit more like Texans than Finns. Maybe it’s the big city, but I always miss Houston drivers. Seriously, they are the best in the world (of where I've driven), on average. Everyone is committed to getting through traffic as efficiently as possible. People merge sensibly, they use blinkers, they give a friendly wave when allowed to cut in. And they drive FAST. I am a Houston girl and will always drive like one.
I love that people drive the speed the road permits here, more or less, and not the speed limit on the nose. There is a flow to it that is so appreciated. There are backroads to get around heavy traffic, and if you avoid the freeway between 3 and 5:30pm or so, you can avoid the traffic, for the most part. Portland was becoming a snarl from 7am to 7pm. Even on the backroads. It was miserable!
One really beautiful thing about Stockholm driving is all the tunnels!! There are long tunnels all over the city. It allows cars to avoid downtown and other congested areas. Instead of plowing over historical areas to add in a freeway, the dug underneath. AND they have periodic art in them! The one to our house has a giant yellow mosaic braid that curves around the entrance with blue lighting leading up to it. There is a globe between the two diverging tunnels that represents (I assume) the Globe arena that is just above it. There are other places, under the butterfly center there is giant grass blades and butterflies, and others. It’s just nice! Even when we were first here and getting lost all over the place, the art gave us a marker to remember and reminded us to take a deep breath when it was stressful. And it gets stressful because the navigator can’t track you in the tunnels and they diverge quite often. That is less awesome. We should probably get a better navigator.
Now that we are in a big city, and not in the country, there are A LOT more signs to learn. A few parking tickets have been good teachers, unfortunately! Parking is the biggest headache and you do pay tolls to drive into the city, so it isn’t cheap. But the tolls are tracked through your vehicle registration and you get a bill in the mail. This is awesome because there are no toll booths, no lines, no congestion connected with the toll gathering. And they change depending on what day and what time of day you are driving. I’m impressed by all that. Certainly more efficient than the mail system.
In our neighborhood we currently have free parking but that is set to change starting in January, or soon thereafter. I wish we could have a resrved space because you constantly have to move your car to avoid snow plow days. Our street is Tuesday, our parking area is Thursday and in nearby areas it is Monday or Wednesday. And everyone who is in a snow-plow area needs a parking space the day they plow… so it gets rather congested.
Snow driving is another new thing to learn. We have snow tires, they are required after December 1st, and the streets are managed as soon as the snow starts to fall. It’s a paradise for kids who love construction vehicles; they are everywhere dropping gravel, plowing roads, doing construction. In our little courtyard they can drive a GIANT front-end loader as well as a mini-digger to do most things. It’s pretty amazing! I still avoid the roads when it seems icy, however, and will look forward to getting some schooling on that.
All in all – it’s not as bad as people make it out to be here. Yes you can live with out a car here, but we really appreciate having ours. It is our freedom to shop more efficiently, to explore the surrounding areas and to feel a little less tied to the transit system. It also helps that we can ride with the car on the ferry to Finland so we can get out to the country there. Thank you, Micca, for loaning us your trusty steed to help us get settled here! Hopefully Grandma Della would be happy to see her car being used for our adventures.