There is a little town in the North of Sweden with the name Umeå. This inconspicious place happens to be the European Capital of Culture 2014. I spontaneoulsy plunged into that experience – and now I have got some stories to tell which will appear here during the weekend.
Yesterday evening, after nine hours on the train, I arrived at the press center, where my hosts were working. This is the meeting point for a good number of international journalists. Being handed cheese and snow trousers, they got a little introduction to their weekend programme. As journalists, they will be carried around in a bus, visiting exciting places, and all they have to do in the end is writing about it. It was a different world there, in the hotel lounge filled with smooth music, while the other world was passing outside the huge windows, in the form of ordinary people wrapped in winter clothes, probably on their way home.
By now the town is abuzz with activities. Most of them involve heavy machinery. Setting up a dream scenery of ice and light is not an easy job. The town is filled with people in neon yellow working suits, cranes and the noise of chain saws. They sculpt statues and entire castles out of snow and ice for the opening ceremony. The temperatures provide perfect conditions for the stability of these pieces of art. After walking around for one and a half hours I had to seek refuge in a shopping mall, where the little part of my face that was exposed turned from blue to red. Minus 13 degrees and a little breeze that swirls the snow flakes around make me wonder how I will be able to volunteer today from afternoon until night.