Picture this, a day in December (that’s a Blondie reference). There is a soft crunch as my shoes step on a pathway of snow that has hidden the delicate greenery of previous seasons. The Baltic wind kisses my cheeks and I gently rub my earlobes to allow the blood to start moving. This sounds very poetic but in reality I am using all my strength to hoist myself up a flight of stairs. Holding onto the rail, pulling many muscles in my arm as I slip on the ice. This is my attempt to climb Södermalm hill, which at this point feels like Everest.
“So, what was your favourite place in Stockholm?” I have been asked this question over and over again since returning from my studies abroad. Now after living in the city for a few months, of course, I visited pretty much everywhere you could. You would think that it would be difficult to whittle it down to just one place. I mean there are multiple contenders; Gamla Stan – Stockholm’s Old Town and one of the main reasons for visiting the city. There is Stadsbiblioteket, the national library, also, the Modern Art Museum, which became my own personal muse, and so many other places. This is because Stockholm is a bustling and creative city bursting at the seams with action and diversity. However, the answer I always give to the question is; Södermalm hill (or more commonly known as ‘Tinder point’ to my friends – because if you happen to go on a Tinder date in Stockholm chances are he/she’s taking you up there!) but forget I told you that, Södermalm hill, or ‘Skinnarviksberget’ is Stockholm’s highest natural point, giving you the perfect view of this beautiful city.
Last year I was introduced to ‘Psychogeography’ by writer Nuala Casey. The definition of which is this; “the study of the influence of geographical environment on the mind or on behaviour.” For example, people from the north of England and the south are both seen as having completely different behaviours. It also relates to the idea that we have a connection with certain places; this could be a destination we went on holiday as a child, our home town, or anywhere we have a memory that sticks with us. I think of Psychogeography a lot when I look back at my travels because I think as I travel I leave a part of myself in that destination as I pass through. None more so as Stockholm because it’s a place where I really changed as a person. Södermalm hill nee’ Tinder Point nee’ Skinnarviksberget is special to me because it was the first place in the city I visited. I won’t forget that evening, the sun set at 8:30pm (which seems totally alien to me now) and there were hundreds of people sat on the rocks. They were drinking wine or beer and chatting as we collectively admired the beautiful city that sat before us. Some days I would go there by myself, whip out my notebook and just write. It gave me a lot of inspiration because it made me completely aware of where I was (literally because I could see everything) but also emotionally. It put me on a pedestal where I could evaluate if I was making the correct choice in how I was changing. If I didn’t have a choice I could both worry and be excited about how I would grow. The best times were on a night in December as my Stockholm journey was coming to an end. In minus temperatures (minus 16 one night) I would still go into the city and take on the mammoth task of climbing the highest point. I gracefully (not) slipped a lot on the stairs but luckily no one was around to see my embarrassment, as they weren’t stupid – tucked up in their warm houses. Despite this, when I got to the top it was worth it. Silence. Except the faint murmur of city life across the water in front of me. The bitter Scandinavian wind bit my cheeks and made my fingers numb. As I stood there in the dark and the cold, the only light was that from the metropolis below. I felt pretty complete. I was sharing a moment of reflection with myself. The person I had become. This new person stood where the old naïve person was sat drinking a beer five months ago. Both of us looking at the same view but with completely different thoughts. It’s actually hard to put into words how I felt up there. People may think I’m just super emotional but I believe we all have a place where we have had a feeling similar to this.
Psychogeography… think about it, think about if your surroundings make you happy, if not, think about a place that does make you happy, then take off your shoes and run there.