Sunday, May 9, 2010

1. Rocky Silence and nature at its best , like what I had experienced while posted at Pt 4729 on the Indo chinese border at Tangtse in Sikkim in 1984. I can equate the present quite surroundings of the apartment block in the North Eastern corner of ALMHULT the smallish town located in the southern portion of Sweden with those times and to top this similarity the chill factor is quite the same. The snow had piled up in winters but has just melted from the surroundings in a months time as post Easter the summer season appears to have set in for the locals, so what if I still have my coat and balacalava on most of the times.The night temperature remains as in winters and when there is no sun, it remains gloomy and cloudy.

2. ALMHULT is a smallish town with a population of about 10,000 persons. Our apartment is at the extreme eastern end of the town as the forest leading to a very scenic and off the road MOKELEN lake with nice small cottages laid out for renting and a serene löcale. Next to our house is the Haga Trail for morning walks of about 3.5 Kms, I got to see quite a few persons exercising with their dogs as the snow was thawing .The Swedes love their dogs and cats, I thought that I was overdoing it at home, but some of them are equally considerate for their pets. The town is neatly laid out with the shopping centre and the business establishments located around the railway station which is well served by trains from all the important stations.

3. A large number of old and well structured buildings stand in cluster juxtapositioned with modern smallish flats cum apartments in the main square .The market place is in front of the railway station, the whole area of about a Km or so could be described as the hub of the town. The shops and the stores are very neatly located as is in all towns and communes, there is a lot of symmetry which is evident once one gets round to other places. On the other side of the railway tracks is the domain of IKEA, the company which has given some recognition to these environs. IKEA is a privately run, multinational company which is a pioneer Swedish venture in flat pack design home and office furniture and accessories with a very vast inventory. It was a pleasure to visit a few of this company’s stores where the prices are very moderate even by our local standards and the quality of products is top class , wonder why India doesn’t have one. Maybe the competition would be too much for our local industries to handle.

4. The swedes or the locals are very quite by nature, the harsh climatic conditions have had their effects and with the socialstic cultural backgrounds the people tend to live in their own world. The only thing with which they acknowledge the others is by a courteous salutation of ´´ hej´´ spoken as ´hey- i` when somebody passes by on the road.This salutation is only observed in smaller places like Ålmhut. I heard that in big cities they ignore outsiders but here they are quite decent, may be a bit intolerant to the outsiders now working along with them. Here I would like to insert a couple of lines which I have picked up from blogs.

A random “Hello” and a smile, from a Swede in Stockholm, while they are in an alcohol-free state of mind: PRICELESS
The best way to really bother a Swede in Stockholm is to sit next to them on an empty train and say Hi!

5. The” moose country” people are an indoor tribe if ever there is , in winters no one seems to come out of their homes, except for picking up necessities from the stores and the summers may just last for a couple of months. The mornings are devoid of any outside or roadside activity, the day time is the same and so are the evenings. It is very normal for most to have early dinner and then go to bed. Life in winters is spent in a hibernation mode and there is a quick change over in surroundings and the people once the spring time arrives. All leisure and festivity or merry making is indoors, or in the village cottages/farmhouses where people spend their weekends. A significant deviation in the Swedes is absence of religion in their lives, most people are non believers, though each commune has a very typical church which look dominating and well kept as one drives by the country side. The divorce rate is very high and family life is rarely seen as the aging population comprises mostly of loners.

6. The influence of the western cuture is luring for the younger generation as in most nations. Music and night life may be the factors which attract the youth here to rub shoulders with each other, contrary to the sedate life style witnessed in routine.

7. In my short stay here I have not seen more than a couple or may be a few times when four or five boys and girls are in a group. You will never see the people idling about or in a cluster; even at the railway stations and the bus stops they tend to stand apart and refrain from conversation of unecessary kind.On the roadside one never hears any loud conversation or talking across the tarmac, yes the universal habit of quitely speaking on cell phone or listening to i- pod while walking outside has caught on here too. They live well and most persons have their summer and winter cars, boats\ yachts , bicycles and mobikes etc. The traffic discipline is to be seen to be believed, no horns and all courteous to the extreme for the pedestrians and the errants.

8. People in bigger cities like Stockholm, Gothenburg etc which I have seen are as in metropoles of such cities anywhere in the world. Fast moving and crowded shopping arcades, lots of fashion and the usual hussle bussle and look busy sense of such worlds. The fashion is mostly north Europeon with the females outdoing it very noticeably.

9. Tight Jeans [worn out, holes deliberately fashioned] or skins and hugguing tops with fancy caps , high heels and knee boots being the rage, these certainly add to the blondes, brunettes and the dyed or multi coloured mopped madonnas . The girls appear smarter than the boys , a large percentage of whom are bald at an early age for strange reasons.

10. Males are mostly casualy dressed, again in tight jeans or torn jeans, unicoloured jackets or wind cheaters, I hardly saw any one formally dressed here, no coats, trousers and ties etc.On the whole the fashion is not what may be seen in better part of Europe.A word about the mammas, the older ladies are really more conscious of their attire and looks than the carefree young’uns. It is a pleasure to see the retired and the mature ones living in high self esteem and maintaining good elegance about them , it is in complete contrast to the ones back home in India. The swedes are hooked onto smoking, most population are addicted to the puff and seeing men and women of 70 or 80 puffing away regularly in the open areas is a common site.Smoking is totally banned indoors through out and followed well. The market places and the tourist spots are very European with a plethora of tinker and gift shops, eateries and fashion shops with lots to offer. For a vegetarian, there is a very limited choice and that is one area where one itches for the back home culinary fulfillment.

11. The best part of the nation is the countryside, the green forests make up for the large portion interspersed with lakes and biggish waterbodies. The forests line most of the roads and in between are the isolated houses of the communes, what is striking is the similarity of the design and construction of the well spaced out double decker houses. Most have the typical swede architecture, predominant choice of red, yellow and blue colored façade with white frames. In fact all communes or the villages look very similar to the one a few Kms away.

12. There are no multistories except in big cities. It is rare to see any one along the roads or doing any sort of manual labour. The spaces are all devoid of any human activity. For Kms along the roads the only thing are the smoothly moving vehicles only.I heard it is similar on US roads but I am accustomed to the chaotic road population of India. The neatness of the country side, the sign postings and the monitoring of the highways, punctuality of the trains , three tired underground railway system, public facilities etc add so much to ones quality of life.

13.For tourists or casual visitors the big cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg, Helsingborg,Jonkoping etc have the usual to offer, the snow infested sea sides with windy and very well kept harbours, quays and the beaches and off course the appealing market places. The air smells fresh unlike in Asian ports which have a predominant fishy odor for miles around.

14. The swedes have a bit of history , the harsh climatic conditions have spared them from the ravages of the great wars. The castles and the fort ramparts are few, there is the King’s palace and the usual museums at Stockholm. Name of Viking is the familiar word used in books for describing the historic generations but very little remembrance of their valour over centuries exists in the environs of today. Unlike our country the historic sites are very well kept and do not give the ravaged and dismantled look of the protected heritage sites of the much more rich and historic magnificence strewn across our land. It was amazing to visit the Vasa museum at Stockholm and visualize how deep and persevering the Swedes have been in preserving their history.

15. For a horse racing lover like me it was but natural to seek what was the scenario like . There are numerous stud farms all along the roads which are neatly fenced and one could often see the stock leisuring away in the snow infested open fields. The racing season is in summers and “buggy racing” with horses racing with chariot like carriages is another form of racing which takes place there. The older lot of people is hooked onto lottery in a bigger way as at most stores special kiosks for lottery and buggy cum horse / hound racing are neatly set up with computerized information system. The problem an outsider like me faces is that everything is in Swedish and people are not very keen to help out as patiently as in our country where it appears to be past time of many to dole out free advice to anyone and everyone including those who don’t even desire. Visit to stores specially for horse/ dog/cat equipment and feeds was very educative; the amazingly vast inventory on display was refreshing.

16. The discomfort of not been able to communicate due to language barriers, the monotony of the slow paced life apart , the enjoyable and memorable things were the vastly improved Quality of Life , pure nature and freshness in all things in around at all places. The civic sense, the courtesy, free and easy life made up for lack of communication and the comparatively expensive prices of daily needs. The present visit was short but sweet, next one I hope to enjoy and experience more.


Easwaran said...

it is nice of you to share your trip experiences, the write up is fabulous, thanks for sharing it
and i felt as though i was there
thank you sir

prakash anand said...

Dont know whether you will get to read this message,since i am posting this on a very old blog of yours. have been following your blog on horse racing since long and have found it the best.Your understanding about the nuances of this sport is incredible.I dont know why you have de activated the 'post comment' option.I wish to thank you for the superb help you are rendering to novices in racing like me.May God be with you and your family always.

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