Midsummer has always been a big affair in Sweden and this year was big.
Having missed a flight and a train to Falun, I was tired and hungry. Yet the familiar smell and sight of my mom-in-law, her home, my favourite pie of Broccoli and potatoes warm on the table, rejuvenated me completely. I ate up three quarters while Lisbeth talked on. She said they predict rain and thunderstorm for the Midsummer.

Between the big mouthfuls, I murmured, they can be wrong sometimes and Lisbeth concurred. And true, much to the delight of millions of Swedes, the sun shone strong on the Midsummer eve celebrations and also few days afterwards.

As I gathered with many others to celebrate the biggest Swedish festival, it struck me that as we become more modern, people long for tradition. I have never seen so many in traditional wear nor join in to sing and dance with great gusto.

Krakow. A city with so much history and culture and yet so modern. There is definitely no lack of restaurants and cafes. ‘Yes, ofcourse’ is what most Poles said to us. Ever ready to serve with a friendly smile, we relaxed, got entertained, ate good and rediscovered history.

After NYC, Prague is the second city where I walked around with my mouth open. Awe-struck by its architecture, alleyways, gardens and what not. And very multicultural. Ofcourse go a zone further and you meet only czechs who speak only czech. The best coffee and apple strudel we had was in one such place.

Then Joli and I parted ways. I wanted to trek in the High Tatras which is more grandiose on the slovak side. Arrived in Bratislava, the capital and rightly Europe’s biggest village.
There is the little touristy bit to do. Slovakia is going the Greek way, Ivan the local professor told me in french who lived in Montreal at one point.
Off to Poprad, my base for the hikes. The locals were amazed to meet me, an Indo-Swedish Canadian, single woman. 4 incidents stand out in my memory.

- A woman told me that she speaks ‘deutsch’ when visiting Barcelona.
- The man whose idea of hike was to drive up in the car, eat in Chaty (local cafe) and drive back. He is after all a Slovak-American.
- Compliments on being the best dressed hiker that the locals had ever seen. I was dressed in my traditional Salwar kurta with matching jewelry.
- Sudden silence as I walked into a cafe filled to the brim. It was raining, so to save my t-shirt I had taken it off and was in my bra.

But oh my...What astonishing resplendence of Vysoke tatry. Watch the photos to believe it.

Back to Bratislave, onward to Budapest.

Every city has a soul. Budapest has a grand old one. As the Euro rail chugged its way into the outskirts, I felt like a weary traveler returning home. The sights though seeing for the first time felt like from the past. So I fell in love, head over heals with this twin city, its natural and man-made beauty, its people, food, dance and its simple ways of life.

Buda and Pest (pronounced Pesht), divided by Danube river are different. Buda, on a hill is greener, richer, residential. Pest is on a plain, middle class and workplace, though it is where the downtown is.

I sat one day at a busy square and watched life unfold. As Hungarians bustled about, I understood one thing. It is good to uphold the past, because they give you strength for the present and guide you into the future.

To know where one is going, one only has to look back to, where one came from.

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