Stockholm gets it’s spring

It’s been eons I have been away from writing. Ok, may be not that long. Writing snippets for my Instagram posts took the better of my time. (Does that even count? Haha :)). But honestly we all did get caught up in the unforeseen, with this deadly pandemic. I hope everyone is holding up well. Today I feel inspired to write and share with you my readers, the beauty I have been witnessing all around in Stockholm. The seasons of Scandinavia have always elicited the artist in me, propelling me to get out there in the nature and create some memories to keep for a lifetime.

And if I am completely honest, this diversion is keeping me from constantly thinking about the trying times my friends and family are experiencing back home in India. I pray for everyone to get back the pink of their health and the spring of their lives very soon.

In my earlier posts I have expressed my thoughts on the enchanting autumns this place unfolds each year, and have also taken opportunities to share the winter experiences, but never got a chance to share what a garden Stockholm becomes during spring! I realized we were always travelling to other countries at this time of the year. Being in Sweden this year gives me a reason to explore more, with all the heart, the place where I live.

I have been taking a lot of spring walks during past couple of weeks, looking for some blooming trees and budding flowery corners. Up until 2 weeks ago, I didn’t find a single leaf of the trees (I live in Stockholm! It takes long for the weather to warm up :)) While the temperatures are still quite low, the city is starting to be blessed with some spring foliage.

Sharing some captures with you all.

Chess, anyone? 🙂

Read more:

Message from the autumn leaves đŸ
The breeze of autumn..
Visit the ‘Garden of Europe’ in April

How does spring look in your city? Would love to see!

Leaves begin to fall

Woah, that was a long break. I haven’t seen my lovely readers in a little over 2 months. Caught up in such whirlwind, pointing all fingers back at myself for this disappearing act, and having gobbled up high doses of guilt tablets (honestly!) , I’m now ecstatic about getting back to the thing I love doing the most – write about my experiences and sharing them with you! And what better time to find my resurrection than while I witness this gorgeous transformation of the nature turning from emerald to gold. Earth is peeling away a layer of its brilliance and green beauty, and emanating the glow of its fire within. Every leaf is a flower, cozying up to its own warmth, and in turn presenting a sight to behold.

Autumn in Sweden is such that I always fall short of names to aptly describe the colors that so delicately and beautifully unfold. Ochre, mustard, buff, amber, sienna, crimson and scarlet are a few that I feasted my eyes on this weekend, along with the familiar tones of yellow, gold, orange, red and brown. Every step in the woods, and on the little streets drawn out as a carpet studded with jewels, gifted our hearts with precious moments of joy and pleasure.

How much I’d like you partake in this happiness!

Read also : The breeze of autumn

Happy autumn! 🙂

Crossing the Arctic 66°N – Part 2 : Ice Hotel and Swedish Lapland

It’s still winter in Scandinavia. And it’s still freezing in Stockholm, where I live. Or rather, where I hibernate. While the natives would merrily make way to the Mediterranean, or to the beaches of Gran Canaria, to pump in some necessary dose of Vitamin D, we had apprehensively jumped on to a plane flying further up North to some more brazen winter and icy winds. Read about how I mustered courage for this adventure, in my first post on Crossing the Arctic series, and revisit some pictures of the snow-white land of Kiruna.

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As a matter of a stunning fact, the whole city is being moved to another location currently, in order for the largest mining company in Kiruna (LKAB) to continue with their mining operations, since it is the financial backbone of the place. So a lot of buildings in the city centre have been or are being brought down.

In my previous post, I promised my readers to share some tips for a short visit to the Swedish Lapland. Needless to say, one weekend is not sufficient to even scathe the surface of the Arctic landscape, let alone getting into the skin of it. But like I confessed my fears in my first post, I didn’t think my body was designed to battle the snow and ice for a period longer than that, especially on my first trip 🙂 More might come, perhaps after a cool-off period!

So, are you ready for some highlights? Here we go!

  1. Guided activity tours
    The best and only way to explore Kiruna in winter is to join a couple of the activity tours, like snowmobiling, dog-sledding or mountain hiking – organized by the various tour companies. They take you deep into the forests laden with dense snow, where it’s unthinkable to get on your own. They also offer all sorts of warm overall clothing to beat that chill head to toe. So there you go! No hunting for a life-saviour winter jacket if you don’t already own one. Snowmobile and Dog-sledding tours are the most popular. We took a snowmobile tour from the company kirunaguidetur, and I can’t begin to say how exciting the experience was, driving the snowmobile in the middle of snowy wilderness. Choose between day or night tours depending on the time of your visit.

    From October to March, there are good chances of catching the Northern Lights when the sky gets dark after 6pm. I’d love to share that we caught a glimpse of the Lights from the plane just before landing 🙂 but unfortunately, nothing during the stay, due to dense clouds and rain 😦
  2. Ice Hotel
    Trust me, even if you don’t get to see the Northern Lights, a visit to the Ice Hotel will make your trip to the Lapland complete! Situated in a small Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi, 18 kms from Kiruna, 200 kms north of the Arctic Circle, this hotel made of fresh ice and snow, is rebuilt every year in December and lasts until April when it begins to melt away. Every winter, large blocks of ice are cut from the frozen Torne river close to Jukkasjärvi, and sculpted into the ICEHOTEL – everything from the hotel facade, hotel rooms and galleries, hotel art and decorations, and an Icebar!  ISN’T IT AMUSING? New art, new sculpting, new hotel every year! Every room is designed based on a different theme, and showcase some intricately beautiful patterns made of ice. And what more, if you’re the courageous and adventurous kinds, you can rent the rooms and stay over on beds made of ice.
    What a thrilling, and chilling experience! 😉

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    Ice Hotel entrance

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    Decorations inside the IceHotel

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    Themed rooms

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    Inside one of the Icehotel rooms. Fancy sleeping on that bed, eh? 🙂

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    Ice Hotel entrance view from a distance

    Don’t forget to gulp down some cocktails in their ICEBAR, served in glasses made entirely out of ice! Warm up the blood before starting your stroll around the icy ice hotel 😉

  3. City highlights

    We went around to see a few highlights of the town, one of them being the Kiruna Kyrka (Kiruna Church), one of Sweden’s largest wooden buildings.
    There are a couple of other buildings like the Kiruna City Hall with some interesting art and paintings, but like I mentioned in the beginning of the post, the whole town is on the move, and the building is getting demolished to facilitate the move.
    If you have an additional day, you could consider visiting the LKAB underground iron-ore mine, which is the world’s largest and it’s operations provide financial sustenance to the entire city of Kiruna.  Guided tours lasting about 3 hours are organized to take visitors 540 meters down into the mountain, and walk them around. Tours run only on certain dates, so it’s good to check online in advance.

  4. Abisko Sky Station for Northern Lights watching
    Roughly 100 kms from Kiruna, is a Swedish village, primarily known for being one of the places with the highest likelihood of Aurora or Northern Lights watching, due to its relatively clearer skies on most days. They even have a chair-lift ride up to their Aurora Sky Station, situated 900 meters above sea level, which takes visitors high above on a mountain with no disturbing sources of light. We didn’t get a chance to visit the Sky Station due to time constraints, but if you can, then do try! Who knows, you might get super lucky! 🙂

Read also : Crossing the Arctic 66°N – Part 1

 

Crossing the Arctic 66°N – Part 1

”I will see you again on Monday if I survive”, were my words to my colleagues on a cold Friday afternoon in February, as I made my way to the airport to catch a flight to Kiruna, a city perched in the far north of Sweden, famous for its thick snowy landscape, brazen winter, some freezing bones, plenty of ice chills and well, if one manages to live through it, then other exciting things like dog-sledding, snowmobiling, skiing and catching the Northern Lights.

Trust me, it wasn’t a fanciful, over-imaginative and unrealistic construal of my mind. I was gradually and craftily brought to this state. This Swedish salesman from the ‘Five Seasons’ store once told me, ”I’ve been out in the cold quite a lot, right from childhood, but well, Kiruna is a different story.” I was at his store to look for the warmest jacket ever manufactured. His words, as you can tell, weren’t of much help.

I believe the only motivation for me to travel was the thought that this place is exotic, as it goes beyond the Arctic circle. And living so far up in the north, one would only be a victim of circumstances, or a slave of the couch, or perhaps a native of cold climate places, to not want to travel further up there. How many of us really get a chance to go nearer to the poles, and experience its life and landscape? There was no reason for me to miss it.

If that sounded any brave, it was my courageous side talking – to my freakishly petrified side, who I know would happily agree to being labelled as a couch slave. I think I would have spent more time packing the zillion layers of warm clothing, than figuring out the quintessential things-to-see/do. I’m not trying to dissuade, but I count myself as one of those who defy the scientific theory of mammals being warm-blooded.

I was so pre-occupied arranging for things to keep me warm, that I did not travel with a lot on the agenda, or with much expectations. Now when I look back, I see how unique this experience was, as it pleasantly surprised me at every step, and how it has become one of my favorite trips to talk about!

I will, for sure, say all about what we did, and share some tips on itinerary planning in my upcoming post. So stay tuned!

Meanwhile, how about a glimpse of the dense snow all around which greeted us with all the chill that it had? 🙂

And here I give away my pretending-to-be-cool pose, trying to brave the -30 degrees celsius! 😉

Yaay! #justcrossedthearctic

Read also : Crossing the Arctic 66°N – Part 2 : Ice Hotel and Swedish Lapland

Unfurling Stockholm

My thoughts when I moved to live in this beautiful city for the first time in Sweden..

The city plays a worthy wooer today…

Like a jealous beloved,

Attempts to absorb my attention

With it’s riveting views,

and unexplored contours,

Slowly unfurls what pleaseth a Lover’s eye;

And here I gaze enraptured,

Beginning to Be Bewitched.

The city plays a worthy wooer today..

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This veiled snow bride..

A Pearl, a Palanquin, a Vow, a Smile,
A Swan, a Seashell, or Soul of a child;
Source of a stream, Dew drops that gleam,
A Companion’s love, a Mirror reflection,
Pride of a truth, or Mother’s affection,
Astounding are Thy Myriad forms, PURITY,
What name can I offer thee?!
Elated as I am, BEHOLDING this Nature’s Splendor,
I sit by the window, in the streets I meander,
Gleefully watch My EARTH;
In a veil of WHITE
An embellished bride,
So pure as the DOVES of Aphrodite..
Walking on a bed of Jasmine,
Adorned in the wreath of SNOW
Countless wonders, in a single lifetime,
Will a man ever be fortunate to know!


The breeze of autumn..

Gosh! It’s October already! Summer has slipped through the fingers, and harsh winter is pushing its pedals to make it here in no time. The thought of longer hours in darkness and cold may already have begun to send a chill to those in the northern hemisphere, especially the likes of us living in the far north, where a beautiful warm summer is no less than a guest of honor. And if you happened to trade your fortune in search of greater pleasures, a warm summer may sometimes remain an unfulfilled dream.

But to share honestly, while the climate has really cooled down here (you won’t go too wrong even if you imagine warm down jackets, hats and gloves on people), the shrinking daylight has not started to take away all the joys.  Even before we begin to mull and brood over the fact that earth has just revolved a bit more away from the sun, nature unwraps yet another of her gift and splashes the most gorgeous and warmest colors all around. And we all soak in the inexplicable exquisiteness of the changing portrait around us. The autumn is here, so rich and abundant in beauty. It’s not for nothing that we call nature our mother!

”She lays a crimson carpet of leaves,
that twirl with the slightest breeze,
Golden birches or maple reds,
All for us to cherish along
Before we snug in our cozy beds..”

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I must admit having lived in India for most of my life thus far, I never consciously gave a thought to the changing seasons. It is warm, rather hot, in India most part of the year, and living a city life usually obstructs your window to the greater secrets of nature. Most of the poetry I read as a student drew references to a warm sunny afternoon to create an atmosphere of joy and positivity, and I never quite understood why. People can really thrive in scorching climates, I used to think.

Setting foot in the life of Europe a few years ago, and especially in Sweden last year, I realized why I was so wrong. The answer was the same skin-deep principle – To appreciate something more, it has to be scarcely available to you.  For an Arctic country like Sweden, that experiences really long winter, and sometimes four seasons in a day – common ones being rain, snow, wind and hail, it is perfectly understandable what a ‘warm sunny afternoon’ can do to the spirits and strength of its people. My husband and I ( I prefer to call us S&S :-)) never imagined that we could jump in excitement over a 20°C weather forecast, but now we do! 🙂

Sharing some happy pictures of the happy season in Stockholm 🙂

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