Take a second, close your eyes, and think of a city. Did you think of skyscrapers, busy streets, and a fast-paced life? Yes? Well, forget that, because Stockholm is the total opposite. It does not matter if you are in historic Gamla Stan or near the central station of T-Centralen in Norrmalm, fast-paced is just not a part of the Stockholm culture. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Stockholm has redefined for me what it means to be a city.
Let’s look at New York City, where I go to college. It has stores and businesses on every corner, and so does Gamla Stan or Norrmalm. However, unlike New York, these businesses are in beautifully made old architectural buildings. It’s like taking a step back in time, but having the modern technology to capture it. The vibrant, harmonious colors on the buildings, the intricate design of the cobblestone streets, and the tantalizing, mouthwatering aroma from every café and restaurant you pass transport you into a tranquil heaven you never knew existed. Stockholm is stunning; I do not have enough words to cover how, after three weeks, I am still in awe of this city.
Now, though Gamla Stan and Norrmalm are all stunning, the parts of Stockholm that I have gravitated to the most – though very unintentionally – is nature, especially the walking and hiking paths scattered around the city. Believe me when I tell you I am not a walker. My dislike for walking is so bad that when I found out my room in my DIS apartment was on the sixth floor, I declared that if there was no elevator, I was not staying. Very dramatic, I know, but I am not a fan of walking and exuding sweat. However, as the late and great Screamin’ Jay Hawkins once says, Stockholm has ‘put a spell on me.’
My newfound love for hiking started during my first week in Stockholm. I was struggling. In all the DIS orientations, they warn you about how hard it is to accumulate into a new culture. However, I never thought that would be an issue since I blended into New York so quickly and effortlessly after migrating there from Jamaica. However, I experienced the worse effects of culture shock after coming to Stockholm. I will not get into it too much, but as a black person living in mostly highly black-populated places, I have never been around so many Caucasian people my entire life. Every day of that first week, I got reminded of how different and out of place I was. Without saying a word to me, Stockholm screamed, ‘go back to your country.’ A bit dark and deep, I know. However, what got me out of this state of feeling excluded and out of place, was excluding myself from city life and entering nature.
There are several walking paths around my DIS apartment building, my favorite leads to the open water. These paths are spaces where I engulf myself in the ethereal, idyllic, and picturesque atmosphere that caters to self-reflection. On these walks, I learned that my struggle since being in Stockholm had nothing to do with the city or the Swedish people, as both had been really good to me. Instead, it had everything to do with my internalized fears of being separated from the culture I am accustomed to. I found peace and self-growth among the trees – now, that is something I never thought I would say.
Even my family and friends are shocked by my new hobby. Honestly, I am still shocked, but this is the part of Stockholm I have fallen in love with, and I want to share it with you. There are several hiking trails and parks around Stockholm that you can go to and immerse yourself in nature; you have to find the one that is right for you.
Also, please keep in mind, Google Maps is not only your guide but your friend.