This is what it looks like at 7 am on a weekday in August, on the shore of the island of Kungsholmen, Stockholm, Sweden.


Lots of people jogging, walking, solo, in twos or in groups. Men and women. Sports clothes on, or slick office wear and sneakers. Lots of headphones. I belong to the minority that shuns them.

The whole atmosphere reminds me of the park at Dollar’s collony in Bangalore, which was brimming with people in the early morning. Families with children, couples, housewives and the odd dog  all taking advantage of the moderate heat to exercise and socialise. The fresh coconut water stall was strategically located at the entrance/exit.

Places visited stay with us one way or another. They pop up and remind us of their existence inadvertently. Like sirens in the mist…

Before holidays become a remote recollection, I thought I should document my northbound trip in late July that took me from Uppsala to Umeå via Sundsvall.

Whenever I travel north of Uppsala I get a special feeling. The landscape changes quite fast and there is something special about the wilderness of the nature and the character of the people that strikes a chord with me. I am convinced that the heart of this oblong country beats from a high up place.

It probably has to do with the fact that my family comes from the so called north. Technically speaking below the country’s  middle, but in the mind of every Swede and on any administrative map, definitively the north. The southern north, but still the north.

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Everything was quite a contrast to my holiday in Greece. A different climate, a different geography, a different way of traveling.

I planned the trip so as make space for a pit-stop at Sundsvall on the way up. After a walk and a really good lunch at the seat of my second alma-mater, we boarded a bus to coastal Umeå. The scenery along the High Coast of Sweden is magnificent. I can vouch for it, even if was constantly dozing off, rocked by the motion of the coach and sedated by the warmth of the sun…

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Several walks by the Umeå-river, a dinner at an Indian restaurant, a free guided tour, a late morning at the open-air museum of Gammlia…

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Voila. A short reconnaissance to put it simply, which left me a sweet aftertaste of wanderlust.

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This fall I want to make time for traveling by train to new or known destinations. Ι have just booked my first trip and I am already looking forward to it.

This is me, 06.30 am on the commuter train.

I packed my little backpack bought in Vietnam some years ago to the brim and I literally ran to the station.

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Running has been bugging me for some time now and I decided to give it a try. Twice a week. I went for my first run this weekend and I thought it would be terrible after two years of abstinence. I jogged for half an hour without problem which feels like all my efforts to lead an active life aren’t totally in vain. There is an imprint on my body.

That said, the toughest muscle to tackle is the brain. The big slacker and the great doer.

According to an article I read recently, running between 60-144 min a week on 2-3 occasions is optimal. Any running activity beyond that, does not show any additional health benefits. In fact, it pointed out that excessive runners and couch potatoes run similar health risks.

Whether you believe this or not, it certainly  provides me with a feasible framework made of modesty and contentment. My motive is resolution and not result.

 

 

A 24 hour ticket for 4.5 euros and a city of 4 million people. I spent my time between Goudi, Kifissia and Monastiron. I have visited Athens several times by now, so I focus on catching up with friends rather than on sight-seeing.

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That said, I always make sure to go for a walk around old Athens. When I lift my head to the view of the Acropolis rock and the Parthenon temple, I am reminded of how beautiful this city must have been before massive construction kicked in to kick out the picturesque. Monastirion_2_Juy 2016JPG
The very truth is that, whenever I set my foot in the Greek capital, I feel like I have a second home away from home, because I have always enjoyed great hospitality.

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Thanks to my diaspora of friends, I have explored different parts of the city that I would not have gotten to know otherwise.

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Every place has its own energy. I find that there is a certain tinge of melancholy about Athenian neighbourhoods…Maybe that’s what happens when the memories and roots of so many people come together to form something new in an already historical and unique location.
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Behind the masses of concrete however, there is a lot of warmth. I see it when I walk around the streets of Goudi with my friends and their pet dogs. We always bump into people who share their love of animals and who care for stray cats and dogs by feeding them, taking them to the vet, finding families to adopt them…

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I do of course feel disappointment every time that I think of the unexploited potential in Greece – that I cannot deny. I take a note of the negative, while I try to cling on to the positive because I really believe in the importance of supporting what’s good, allowing it to grow and develop.

So, despite its gray facade and occasional unfriendly vibe, Athens is a city of colour and the home to some amazing people. It is a place that I will hopefully visit many more times in the future.

My triangle visit to Greece was rounded up in the continental south. I arrived to the port of Rafina on the boat from Mykonos and after an hour long bus ride into Athens I boarded yet another bus on a mission to reunite with a dear friend of mine. The trail of our friendship goes all the way back to 2001, when we were both much younger and innocent and living at the administrative heart of Europe. I still remember the time when I bumped into her at the super market. We had a short chat whereby she declared that she had to dash because she was hungry. I casually assumed that she simply didn’t feel like talking.

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I don’t remember the turning point in our relationship, but very shortly after the super-market encounter we somehow became very close friends. My god have we talked since then! For some time we used to live just around the corner from each-other so we even bought a set of walkie-talkies!

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It’s a luxury to have your friends nearby. The luxury I have now is to be able to visit them in different places around the world. It does not make up for the distance, but at least I get to discover new locations. Take the beach of Lekouna for instance…It is a spot on the map that I would probably never have explored if it wasn’t for our little reunion. Now I got to experience it through her eyes and emotional ties.

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This was a very special visit, as I also got to meet her baby daughter for the first time. A little amazon that moved around the pebbly beach like a crayfish, climbed, crawled, walked with support… She never complained as she bumped into things. Sociable and easy-going. Time, distance and money can of course get in the way, but I really hope I’ll see them both rather sooner than later.

I could not be on Mykonos and not visit the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. The island of Delos became the safe haven for Leto to give birth to the offspring of Zeus and protected her from the wrath of Hera, Zeus’ official wife.

So says the myth, and I guess that was how the Apollonian cult on this 5 square km island, just off the shore of Mykonos.


I booked a package, a bit on the expensive side, but after visiting Pompeii on my own devices, I have concluded that it is really worth experiencing historical places through the narrative of a guide.


Many were the impressive facts, but I was mostly fascinated by the idea that Delos must have been in the Roman times what Mykonos is now. A pole of attraction for the affluent, a cosmopolitan, multicultural and…barren piece of land.

Delos was the home of 30,000 people before its decline. Compare that to the 10,000 inhabitants of modern 105,000 sq. km Mykonos and you will get my point.

I would most probably not visit Mykonos if it wasn’t for a standing invitation. I have a good friend, a  photographer, who works on the island during the extended summer period. This year, on his third season here, finally everything clicked. We arrived on the island last Monday, starting out from Thessaloniki via Chalkidiki.

Somebody commented on facebook that they did not expect me to choose Mykonos for a holiday. I would rather say that Mykonos chose me. This cosmopolitan place might be associated with parties, socialites, the lgtb community, etc, but once here, one discovers a quite diverse crowd of people.

 

Also, as my friend and I realised, lifestyle is something you take with you anywhere you go. A certain interaction between person and place takes place, certainly, but a new location is yet another backdrop to our temperament, habits and character.

We have been kicking off our days with a good breakfast, quite necessary when planning long days filled with both business and pleasure. “It is important to eat a solid breakfast” has become one of our mottos these days and we have been swearing by it…

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People around us say that the turnover is not as good as it usually is this time of the year. 

Bad tourism some say, referring to visitors that do not spend much while on the island. 

Bad tourism” we jokingly comment to each other when eating our home cooked meals on the beach, or the house patio without any sense of remorse. That’s what you do when you’re a hybrid between a tourist and a local.

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The biggest paradox about this barren island is actually the flow of money. On the one hand there is the affluent elite, the expensive brands, the luxury villas and exclusive entertainment. On the other hand, the folklore museum is falling apart, the archeological museum is closed for restoration in the middle of the summer, roads are quite badly maintained.  

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 In an ideal world, sustainability and infrastructure would be a priority. We are not there yet-sigh.

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In the meantime however, I am a grateful recipient of what my stay here has to offer, and that is distraction, variation and great company.

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Oh, and I forgot to mention mosquito bites. 

I may not have come here with an intention to party, but my winged tormentors are feasting on my blood all night long leaving me sleepless in all the wrong way!

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 Mykonos never sleeps.Why should I be an exception?

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