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Travelwise

Last week I traveled to the west coast archipelago, for the first time in my life, for some days of insular yoga – the kind of yoga practiced on a piece of land surrounded by sea.

I did not plan it long in advance, as things are a bit fluid right now. It bad been at the back of my mind for a while though and I am very content with my decision. The thing about taking up an interest is that it takes you places; mentally, physically and even geographically.

We spent our days doing yoga twice daily and exploring the constellation of three islands connected by bridges. I mainly on foot, and my yogi friend by bike. The days were sunny and windy. The kind of windy that is so special about Sweden and which means having the recurrent sound of leaves trembling in the breeze, rustling like sheer silk paper in your ears constantly.

And believe me, there is a lot of space for wind in these latitudes, because skies are very high here in the North – it’s an undisputed fact. When I look up to the skies it is like peering into a dome raised by its creator to meet the infinite…

After I got back from the island, which our rbnb hosts jokingly referred to as Hono-lulu letting the umlauts of Hönö disperse in the wind, I have been getting some things done at home, such as tending to the wuthering heights of my balcony and the plants that live on it. I have also been on a series of daily excursions for “business” and pleasure alike.

Juicing summer, resting, ticking off a list of things to do, that is where I am at right now. The feeling of total release, of holiday, of just being in the moment is a mental state. For it to materialise, I know I will have to make a conscious effort and let my self soak in it until it impregnates my cells. Once there, I do not want it to be lost to the days of dark and cold that are not that far away…

I was in Finland some weekends ago and it was still November. Now it’s December, a week before Christmas and time goes by unnecessarily fast.

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Right now, I just want to get organised, spend some quality time nesting and catch up with myself. Looking back at the pictures of my recent trip to Helsinki reminds me of what a nice thing it is to travel knowing that you have a home to return to.

 

The charm of the unknown familiar

I am in Helsinki, or Helsingfors for the Swedish speaking.

I cannot really count the times I have been to, or transited via the Finnish capital; they just feel many. Keeping count is quite difficult as my visits to Finland are all a familiar blur….

Figure that it takes 45 minutes to travel from Arlanda airport to Helsinki, compared to my daily fourty-minute train ride from home to work. I read a couple of articles in the inflight magazine, snoozed for a bit and and before I knew it the pilot was announcing our descent.

I landed with a small rucksack packed with necessities and loose instructions on how to reach my friends place. I did not want her to pick me up at the station, as that would spoil some of the fun of traveling. I ended up taking the wrong train-line from the airport, but I was not too worried;  traveling is not fun if you don’t allow yourself to get lost once in a while.

The man sitting opposite me was the typical shy-looking Finn. He took my situation quite personally. We studied the train diagram together; he consulted a fellow passenger, a distinguished-looking woman in her fifties, and asked her for directions on my behalf. After some minutes her husband, a smiling middle-aged guy with a fancy scarf, came back to us with additional information that he had looked up on his phone. I could picture the two of them eating croissants with coffee for breakfast before going to an art exhibition. Finnish people may appear distant and closed, but in reality they are helpful and down to earth people.

After a comfortable detour, I walked to my friend’s place and found it very easily. While I was walking in the new neighbourhood, I was once again amazed at how different Finland is to Sweden. Not only is the feeling different, but also the light, the landscape and the architecture. Same, same but different could not describe it better.

kapyla

It is Sunday morning and I am sitting on the mint-green couch of a funky little apartment built in the fourties, located in the Olympic village. The next door neighbour is either having a huge hang over, or dying of a stomach bug. The wall opposite me is painted in electric blue, a batch of laundry is drying and I slept until almost nine o’ clock EET.

Yesterday we had sauna at the Löyly, a public sauna by the sea and dinner at the fancy Yume restaurant, followed by a night cap at Harry’s bar, which smelled like a carpet populated by happy fungi.

It is almost noon, my host is having her beauty sleep and I am sipping on a cup of tea, but getting quite ready for breakfast. Let’s see what this grey November day has to say.

A weekend. Two hours of train-ride and a new place to discover.

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Train-trips and small getaways to new or known places is on my agenda this winter/fall.
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The first destination was Örebro – a vibrant one-hundred thousand people town. It really felt much bigger than I had expected. Interesting architecture, a big centre with plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants.
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We had  a really nice dinner on Friday night and walked around in the rain with a borrowed umbrella.
I started Saturday with a jog, followed by hotel breakfast, shopping and a guided tour of the Örebro castle.

In the early afternoon we walked along the river to Wadköping, an outdoor museum area representing five hundred years of urban history.
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The visit was short but sweet with beautiful weather, company and sceneries. Not to mention the nice dinners, drinks and lunch at Kungsgatan 1, Chandani, Paolo’s, The Bishop’s Arms and Vasa konditoriet.
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I am already looking forward to the next trip…

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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Valls cafe_umeå_juli 2016

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.

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.

View from a balcony in Goudi_4_July 2016JPG

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…

View from a balcony in Goudi_1_July 2016JPG

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.

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zee pause café

taking a moment, having a coffee, writing down some thoughts