Stockholm is the cleanest big city I have ever been in. It’s incredible. It’s as if little garbage gnomes come out at night, like magic, and take away the litter. Because it is so clean, I never think about the alternative though. I never think about trash on the sidewalks and old beer cans in the streets. Not unless I am in other big cities.
When traveling with the family quite a while back, we headed over to Copenhagen. You know, the city that bikes everywhere and hosted the environmental conference a while back? Even Copenhagen seemed dirty.
Anyway, the cleanliness of Stockholm came to my attention in recent days because the snow has been melting. And melting snow means that all those things that were hiding in the snow come to the surface. The sidewalk is strewn with the dregs of the Swedish winter. Empty bottles, lonely mittens, sand and gravel to combat the ice, I even saw a large planter box that sits on my walk to work. It had been hidden for so long that I forgot it was even there.
So today, on my way to work, I was thinking about how clean Stockholm always is, and how very unclean it had suddenly become. For the first time since I moved to Sweden, Stockholm felt dirty. That’s damn impressive work over the course of three years. All the snow this year had just collected so much trash.
Then I went to the gym at lunch. Because some days at work result in needing to lift heavy things. And on the way there, I looked down at the sidewalk. Clean. Completely clean. It was amazing. Apparently the garbage gnomes drive a sidewalk Zamboni.
The entire sidewalk had been swept clean. No bottles. No lonely mittens. No sand or gravel. Instead just the faint outline of a Zamboni and the brush strokes of spring. For the first time in nearly three months, I saw virgin pavement in Stockholm, and it was glorious.
Welcome to Sweden. And garbage gnomes.
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