I was suppose to go to Sweden last year, in the summer of 2009. But I had to cancel Sweden, and had to be satisfied with only to Norway (which was amazing, btw). The reason for the cancellation was my friend Sophie’s brother, Pontus, has committed suicide. Yes, you read it correctly, suicide. He was 20 years old. Although I have met Sophie’s mother and sister Sanne, I have never met Pontus.
One Saturday, Pontus said to his mother that he was going cycling, but never came back. The following Monday, a person was running in the forest and found he was not alive, hanging from a tree, then reported to the police. A policeman then came and knocked on the door, only to tell them about the bad news in such an inconsiderate way. The mother screamed hysterically.
One theory… suicide rate in the Scandinavian countries are high because life is rather easier there. So they are not quite used to having difficulties in life. Call me ignorant, call me stupid, but this is just one theory. If you don’t have a job, state pays you money. Education and healthcare are absolutely free. Well I know many European countries offer this kind of social benefit system. But I have been to most countries in Western and Northern Europe, and I have never felt as peaceful as when I was in Norway and Sweden.
Other theory is because the lack of sunlight in the winter, which is really depressing, believe me. Sun rises at 7 or 8 AM, and sets at 3 or 4 PM. In some northern most part, sun does not rise at all for a while.
A year later, I finally went to Sweden. I spent 3 days with Sophie in Stockholm, a great city. Did pretty much the touristic stuff; boat ride around Stockholm (Stockholm is made of 14 islands), Swedish food, sightseeing the old town, central part, south part, etc; night out at a club that plays all-Swedish-hits, and met lots of people.
I must say life there is very comfortable. I can say it’s quite easy to survive there, having most (if not all) of the infrastructure working well.
After Stockholm, I went to Sophie’s hometown Falköping for 2 days. It’s a small town around 3 hours away by train from Stockholm. There I finally met her dad and saw her home. Again, I felt the same sensation like when I was in Norwegian homes. Everything was like in a postcard.
We went to the forest to pick berries and mushrooms. Being brought up in the city, I have never done this, and felt very excited about it. Funny thing happened, we got lost for about an hour in the forest.
Couple of months before, Sophie was interviewed by a radio station about Pontus’ suicide, and her family’s situation. The interview was intended to help other people with similar problem. Apparently the interview went very well, and they decided to broadcast it on national TV. So when I was there, the family was looking for Pontus’ and family photos for the TV broadcast.
It was very emotional, they were looking at family photos, reminiscing for every memory they had with Pontus. And I was right there with them choosing photos. I was very much touched and instantly remembered of my own family and how I miss them so much. There, I felt that they really accepted me staying there with them. Maybe this is a bit funny but I felt like a part of the family at some point. Especially when we were singing, Sophie and her mother were crying and hugged each other tight. I can see the way her mother looked at me and sort of hold my head. Okay maybe I am a bit weird feeling this way. But I was happy and sad at the same time. It was quite a weird feeling as well, because when I stayed there, I was sleeping in Pontus’ bed.
I took my flight from Gothenburg, so I went alone by train and stayed there for half a day to see and enjoy the city before finally went to the airport and took the flight. Gothenburg is really clean, peaceful, and quite a compact city. The airport (Gothenburg City Airport) was a bit funny though, which is more similar to a bus station than an airport.