On a train…

I’m on the X2000 fast train from Stockholm to Hudiksvall. I love this train. It represents the best of Sweden. The modern design, the environment friendly technological solution, the neat and tidiness. The way you get your coffee and sandwich in a recyclable cardboard box with smart foldable holders and unlimited Internet access. 

So here I am, in my South African Strussbob hoodie, in the quiet compartment, travelling without paper ticket and having four comfortable seats all to myself and two hours of green scenery.

It’s a rainy, grey autumn day. It’s perfect.

I spent two days in Stockholm, walking in my old footsteps, on streets I’ve lived and worked at, visiting my favourite cafés, books- and music stores. But somehow, I saw the city with new eyes. The eyes of an outsider. And I was surprised how the city gazed back at me, saying:

“That jacket is so last year”

“Java is the new caffe latte”

Everything is so pretentious in Stockholm and there is so much façade. Beautiful people, clean skin faces, tall trendy men in the latest casual “I’ve-copied-this-from-a-magazine” look and young cloned Swedish women following up on the latest H&M trend. I’m not saying that I am or used to be any different, but it was just so clear to me now how much in Stockholm revolves around consumption.

People seem to identify themselves with the area they live in, what brand of jeans they wear and what restaurants they go to. And I thought about the effect this city has had on me and how appealing it once was, but how small that “world” really is. Stockholm is one of the most beautiful cities I know, but if I’d live there I’d need to create my own, bigger world.

Like Jesper, my friend who lent me his couch for a couple of days. I know Jesper since I did an internship at the sustainable/ eco-tourism travel agency, Basecamp Travel. We also took the same Tourism and Service program at Akademi Båstad and have discovered over time that we share the same ideas and values, although his might be a little more radical than mine. He just bought an apartment on the south central island of Stockholm, in the bohemian “Sofo”area. I love how he has created a home full of his old travelling books, framed photos from places he has been to, African quilts and dark wooden furniture mixed with Swedish glass jars of beans and lentils, a recycling area and of course, a big portrait of Che Guevara. And with the selection of music, films and books he has, I could stay on his couch for an entire week and not go outside. I’ve been really comfortable on his couch and slept deeper than in a long time.

I was so excited about having Swedish breakfast the first morning after I arrived and thrilled to find that he had baked his own loaf of health bread and that he had keso (cottage cheese), ekologisk filmjölk (a type of yoghurt) blueberry jam and grape juice in the fridge. What a great start of the day and of my Swedish vacation.

Monday I had lunch with my grandfather’s wife, Ursula, in her apartment on Norrmälarstrand. Since my grandfather passed away we have a created a profound friendship which we both value greatly. Our little lunches and dinners are very precious to us and we can talk for hours about the meanings of life, art, love and humanity. She is a remarkable woman that has experienced a world war, a job for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan, great love and loss. Still, at the age of 70 she surprises me with her intelligence and curiosity and despite the age difference we learn from each other and share our experiences. I help her with modern technology and arranging her travels and she tells me stories and gives me advice on books to read. When I was there now, enjoying a lovely “graved” salmon, creamy dill potatoes and sparkling wine, she gave me the book “A thousand Splenid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini that she had just finished in English. What a woman.

30 minutes left of this train ride. My mother will meet me at the train station. She has already prepared a boeuf bourguignon for us tonight and maybe opened a bottle of South African red wine. I can not wait to show her my pictures and tell her the stories. After that, I am probably on my bike around town smelling the autumn leaves, fallen apples and fresh northern air.

It’s starting to feel now.