Who says summer’s just for students? The weather’s getting warmer, which means our team members are taking full advantage of stok’s flexible work policy to flee the office for the great outdoors and colorful cities around the globe. Alice Contopoulos—who got a little lost on her way to a family wedding in Greece—checks in with some highlights from abroad:
I’ve discovered the secret to the now second happiest country—or at least the city with approximately 1/5 of its population—on Earth. Thanks to some handy dandy sustainable city planning, Copenhagen residents never have to experience the mind numbing, time sucking, gas guzzling event that is the daily commute. Honestly, who knew urban planning could affect your mood so much? The entire city is designed for alternative modes of transportation, as illustrated by the heaps of bikes parked outside each cozy café and clear canal. Truly incredible.
The city is quiet and peaceful, with the common rumble of traffic replaced by bike bells and clinking Carlsbergs. Mounting a bike for the first time in nearly a decade—something I’ve always been a bit timid about admitting to my eco community—I was able to fully experience “easy as riding a bike” as we explored the Nordic city on two wheels. We passed offshore wind farms, the world’s cleanest waste-to-energy plant, the Freetown Christiania that fondly reminded me of my Berkeley birthplace, and too many parks to count, filled with beautiful trees, vines, lakes, and the occasional palace or cemetery—which locals use for soccer and sunbathing because it’s such a beautiful space! In five short days—figuratively speaking, as the sun was up before six and set after nine—this sustainable cycling paradise stole my heart, and I’m ready to spearhead stok Scandinavia whenever the opportunity presents itself. Also, amazing coffee. Wish I could transport some back to the office to help with my impending jet lag.
A distraction from my tapas tour came in the form of a bizarre basilica that towered over surrounding shops and looked like it was melting away in the warm Spanish sun. While a slew of recommendations had urged me toward La Sagrada Familia, its intricacies could never be captured in a picture, and I was left completely awestruck upon my arrival to its doors. Deeply inspired by elements of the Catalan coast, it was immediately apparent that Antoni Gaudí was an early pioneer of biophilic design. From gargoyles of Mediterranean creatures rather than grotesque fantastical beasts, to the bud-like shape of the apse, I was instantly immersed in stunning nature-inspired design.
And of course, no basilica is complete without its own massive metaphorical forest (metaforest, if you will)? El gran bosc—the great forest—spreads throughout the building’s interior, consisting of thick columns representing tree trunks, which branch out at the ceiling to filter in sunlight like foliage. I would love to see a bit more of this stemming structural support in our buildings back home. My quick three hours in its presence was truly a surreal experience, and I can only imagine the divine magic of the final product—scheduled for completion in 2026, exactly a century after the death of the biomimicry brilliance Gaudí himself. If you ever find yourself in this vibrant city, La Sagrada Familia is surely a necessary stop between the cobblestone alleys and Camp Nou choruses of Barcelona.