On one early and freezing cold morning our guide led us into the nature of the Limpopo region in South Africa. For weeks we had seen the most incredible animals and we were all curious about what we could see by travelling on foot for a change. There were no signs, there was no path, and all we saw for the first hour were rocks and trees. One of those rocks was our destination of the day, there were no animals that day. What we got to see, what our guide shared with us were the ancient spirits of South Africa. On this sole rock in the middle of nowhere the ancient San had once painted whole herds of kudu, springboks, humans, a hippo. And one sole giraffe.
That giraffe was so incredibly lifelike with its long legs and red spots, and it was painted far away from the other animals. Giraffes are relatively solitary animals and the distance from the other paintings struck me as it captured the wandering spirit of this animal perfectly. Half of the pictures I took that day are of that lonesome creature.
Recently I visited the famous site of the caves of Lascaux, a humbling and wonderful experience, where you can only see replicas to protect the original cave. It was a sharp contrast from this remote site in Limpopo where I easily could have touched the paintings if I wanted to, although our guide would have strongly scolded me if I did.
I realised I was happy. Sitting in the shade of a weathered pine tree I was happy.
It wasn’t the prospect of underwater adventure, or the lovely food we just ate. It wasn’t even the blue sky and even blue’er sea that brought upon this feeling of contentness, if anything at all it was the wind. Free roaming, warm, salty. A slight touch of pine and thyme in the air. The smells of the hot, rocky parts of the Mediterranean. Scents as old as time, as old as my surroundings.
Smelling all this made me realise I wasn’t home. That therefore, I wasn’t necesarrily “me”. I would come back again a slight bit different, transformed by travel and new experiences.
And this made me so happy I felt the soft smile break through the tired frown.
– Plakias, Crete
As the cold gets a hold on the city, and my fingers in particular, there is the realisation that whatever I write now will be incomprehensible. I might as well write in hieroglyphs.
Still, the Swedish cold doesn’t bother me. It gets my heart pumping, my blood boiling in a way that the more nothern countries seem to do to me. As I draw another big breath of that cold air it isn’t hard to imagine what I’ll do on my last day in Sweden. I’ll stroll around the city of Stockholm, enjoying the mix between nature and manmade structures while listening to the sounds that surround the city. At some point I’ll hop into this little bar that I’ve had my eye on for a while now. It’s located in the most tourist-y area of town and yet it has something that draws me to it. It is small, no nonsense and it sports classic Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingon berries on the menu. I’ll never, ever eat the tiny meatballs from IKEA in any other way ever again.
I might even just chill there for a little bit, if I can find a nice spot to sit. Just write, get some anti-freeze in my system in the form of tea or hot chocolate. The dangerous thing is that I can’t forget the time. At some point I’ll have to return, grab my backpack and head to the airport. Which I do not want to do, I want to grab that pack, a nice warm hat, and head north. Uppsala for a start and from there on further into the country of meat-and-potato-heavy food and cinnamon roles.
Before I return I’ll make sure to grab some fika for the road. Next to the classic meatball dish it’s the best Swedish invention I’ve ever heard of. I’ve had some fika from different stores now, it’s always best to eat it immediately and it’s no punishment to do so. Pure dough-y and cinnamon-y goodness. However, it’s impossible to say which ones I like best. Every genuine bakery makes their own bullar, all according to their own recipe. The only common part is that it has to have cinnamon or cardemom. So far I’ve loved them all. The warm and sweet cinnamon, the spicy and tingling cardemom hidden in dough and butter.
Looking at the sky and food, something I’ve done a lot during my time in Stockholm, I realise the Swedes try to combine land and sky in their capitol. Bind earth and air together on the water of the archipelago and around the fires in the houses. By using yellow, orange and red tones in the paint on the houses the city binds the sun to the streets even when there is very little sunlight during wintertime. And through the warm and heavy tastes of potatoes, butter, spices and meats the connection to the rocks and earth hidden under the cobblestones of Galma Stan remains. Stockholm, a city surrounded by water and heated by fire, is therefore really a city of earth and air. A city with a strongly beating pulse.
– Stockholm, Sweden