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Finding a bicycle 2006 August 29

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Helpful Hints, Language, Swedish Lessons, Transportation.

On my second day here, a German exchange student named Kerstin arrived. The next day we were sitting watching television when we decided to go look for a bicycle; Uppsala is a pretty pedestrian-friendly city, and a bicycle is a must-have for any student (or really, anyone at all) in Uppsala. It was a Saturday, and there would be flea markets and the shops would still be open, so we ventured to town on the bus and got off in the city center.

After picking up some newspapers at Pressbyrån and then finding a place to get some coffee, we sat down and looked through newspaper advertisements for anything about used bicycles. We found a neat place called Saluhallen, which I’ve visited quite a few times since my arrival. It isn’t the cheapest place in the world, but it’s not bad, either.

Saluhallen in Uppsala

We called one man who we later figured out lived way too far north for it to be anything less than a hassle to visit, but that was all that was good in the newspaper advertisements. We were beginning to get a little frustrated when we picked up a free newspaper that was sitting at the table, Uppsala Tidningen (which turns out not to be that bad of a newspaper; it reminds me of the Colorado Daily, but better). It was then that we discovered two advertisements for damcyklar (women’s bicycles) and herrcyklar (men’s bicycles), both with the same number; so, we figured we’d check it out.

We called the number in the advert and a nice Swedish woman answered, but I could tell she only spoke Swedish (I’d tried asking her if she spoke English, but that didn’t work). It’s considerably harder for me to speak Swedish over the phone because I can’t see the other person’s facial expressions or how their mouth moves, so I usually ask people to speak English over the phone. Nevertheless, she said that we could visit that day to see any bicycles. We got her address (after having to get it spelled out!) and proceeded to head over.

On the way, we took a small detour to Åhléns, and Kerstin found a German-Swedish dictionary and I found a nice bath towel.

We ended up going through a small flea market near the bus station on the way to the woman’s house. We looked at a few bicycles there, and I practiced more Swedish (lots of Hur mycket kostar den? – How much does that cost? – and Hur många växlar? – How many gears?), but we didn’t find anything good enough there. So we made our way closer to Norrtäljegatan and called the woman. Instead, her husband picked up, and he told us to keep heading down the street and his wife would come out and look for us. We stood around and looked down the street for a while, and after a few minutes, found each other!

I was right when I thought that the couple didn’t speak any English. It was an older couple, and that’s pretty standard that most older people in Sweden don’t speak much English if any at all. Some older people speak German, but I haven’t met so many.

the Sandbergs
The Sandbergs

After trying out so many bikes, I ended up getting the second one I tried. Above is a photo of the Sandbergs and Kerstin’s bike. The entire ordeal was a lot of my translation and not getting everything to Kerstin right away, but it ended up working in the end. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to make sure I tell everything to the other person when I already understood what was going on. I was also surprised at how well it went; I understood virtually everything the old couple was saying, whether it was to me or between each other. They were a very nice couple, and certainly got along like they had been married for a long time (“Are you sure that’s the combination to the lock?” “Yes, I’m certain. Maybe you should learn how to work those things.” “But you’re the one who taught me!” “Oh, hush.”). I was reminded of my grandparents each time they light-heartedly bickered about how the names of the bikes were spelled or how a certain bike should be put back into the shed.


There’s my new bike on the left. It was 1000 kr, which some might argue is too much, yet he gave me a few locks and it had a basket on it, plus a really nice seat. He was originally going to sell it to me for 1100 kr. It’s quite a good bicycle, and it probably was the only one comfortable enough, since I’m far too short for many of them even with the seat down the furthest. I’m going to guard it really well so that it doesn’t get picked off over the year, because I hope to get back around the same amount of money when I re-sell it. I’ll be happy if I get 80% of it back. In fact, I saw a bike quite like it for 1350 kr, without a lock. So I think I’ve made a decent purchase.

The old man offered to drive us back to Flogsta, but Kerstin and I thought we could make it quite easily by ourselves. It was a very nice day and we made it back without many problems; perhaps a small detour or two, since we were both quite new to the area and got lost pretty easily (it wasn’t the last time, I can tell you that!).



1. erin - 2006 August 31

That was a great story, and your pictures are wonderful — so colorful! I hope to read more about your cycling adventures in the future.

2. Dad - 2006 August 31

Nice bike. Did it come with snowtires??

3. dingus - 2006 September 14

Those nice elderly people probably steal their bikes from schoolyards.

4. Zach Malmgren - 2006 September 21


See, that’s where I fucked up in French. Talking to French people. Primarily old people. I was told numerous times I had a wonderful accent, and a good grasp of the language, but I froze if confronted with people who spoke it natively.

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