Last week I was in Stockholm, on a business trip. This was my first time in Sweden and so I tried to look around the city as much as I could, although time was short. Ideally I should have added few more days to my trip, but for many reasons that was not possible.
Whenever I go to a new country, there is one particular moment that I relish. It is when I exit the airport terminal and smell the air, hear the sound and see the sight of the brand new place for the first time in my life. Just before the exit, my mind goes blank…..I don’t know what to expect, and then the full thrust of the new land hits me. I always prefer to make the journey from the airport to the main city by road, not by metro. In the airport coach I stare outside the window as the new country passes me by. I almost feel like a child in those moments. The sight, sound and smell that I receive in first few minutes of setting my foot in a new country, always gets stored in my brain as characteristic to that place. Every time in future I encounter a similar sensation, I think of that country.
No exception this time. My flight from New Delhi to Stockholm was pretty long, almost 8 hours, and I had to travel from my home town to Delhi via a connecting flight in the same morning. So when I reached Stockholm, I was physically quite exhausted. But after passport control, when I got out of the airport terminal and boarded the airport coach that will take me from Arlanda airport to Stockholm central station, all my senses were heightened and I was feeling very very alert. My fatigue, exhaustion completely gone (only to come back ten fold after few hours), I was keenly processing all the inputs that my eyes, my ears and my olfactory nerves were receiving. I think it is fair to say that I could effortlessly achieve mindfulness in those moments. Every time I enter a new country, mindfulness comes easily to me. And every time I realize how liberating that experience is.
Unfortunately I am not in the habit of taking pictures with my mobile. Most of the time I forget to even take my phone out unlike many people who automatically click or record everything. And when I do remember to take some snaps, they are often not good, not worth-sharing really. So this blog remains without pretty pictures, and I am not sure if a travelogue in pure text, without a single photograph, is even legal these days. But I do want to mention few things which I found special to Stockholm.
1. The silence. Right after deplaning, when we were waiting for passport control, there was not a single sound. Even we Indians who are habitually loud, were talking in hushed tone. A large hall, packed with more than 300 people, and so quiet….I found it amazing. Later I noticed the same thing, on streets, inside super markets, at railway platforms….the noise level is far below what I have encountered at other places.
2. It is expensive, even the food. Unlike many other places in Europe, food is quite expensive in Stockholm, if you want to eat out. I stayed in a hotel apartment which had a fully equipped kitchen and this helped. Although I did sample the local cuisine, I did not have to rely on outside food for my every meal. I bought some simple ingredients from the local grocery store and used the kitchen. Saved me quite a bit of money.
3. The food is too good. I tried some of the famous restaurants there: Meatballs for the people, Kajsas Fisk, and their very own Max burgers. Loved them all.
Back to my own place now. Trying to get back to my daily routine, to bring my sleep schedule to normal hours again (thanks to the time difference, my sleep pattern has gone haywire), to restart my exercise (I am not going near any weighing scale for next few weeks, all eat and no play has surely taken its toll). And I am staying grateful through it all. I enjoyed this short visit, although it was hectic and I could see only little bit of the place, but I loved it all, and I am happy to be back, in my own place, among my own people whom I love. People who miss me when I am gone, who worry about me when I travel, who get unsettled when they do not get a phone call from me that I have reached safely, who count days till I am back, who are happy and relieved after I am back. I take none of these for granted, not anymore. This love that surrounds my life here, I am grateful for this everyday.