It was a dull and cold winter day when I trudged through the streets feeling like a prisoner in a godforsaken place. I had not seen the sun for weeks and whenever I went outside I met Swedish men who did not like me at all.
I saw their stares and I got the impression that many of them would like to see me impaled or burned alive and they would do that with their own hands if only they got the chance!
However, I was relieved when I saw their girlfriends walking beside them. I knew that strong Swedish women rule the roost and they would never have permitted anyone to harm a person like me.
Since the Viking era nothing had changed here and the strongest Swede was but a little insect in front of his wife or girlfriend!
I also overheard some Russian tourists walking the streets and I thought that I was back in Siberia in Stalin's time.
It did not help to know that he had been dead for decades.
I was in my own Gulag without guards and fences around me and I did not know If I would ever escape fate which had brought me to a nation that puts sugar in bread and eats boiled potatoes almost every day.
With such dark thoughts I went into an art gallery, hoping to get some feeling of joy, but as my eyes swept the walls to my right and then to my left, I realized that I had made a mistake.
It was the darkest and most depressing picture I had ever seen The artist had used only three colours, grey, black and brown.
They were painted in thick oil on big canvases. The largest of them was 2 by 1.5 meters and depicted dark columns of some kind of monument against a grey background.
I glanced at the other paintings and they were even worse. There was no sun, no light, no happiness in them ... I felt pain in my stomach and wanted to run away.
After seeing these paintings life had lost its meaning. It would be best to go to the train station and throw myself in front of one of Stockholm's trains, and let people spend hours waiting in overcrowded carriages. I could almost hear them cursing me. There is no worse punishment for an ordinary Swede than sitting next to a stranger for hours!
"Welcome!" The voice woke me from my thoughts and when I looked up I saw a short, bald man in his late sixties with a little moustache above his thin lips.
"Does he always use the same dark colours?" I asked nodding at the canvases on the wall to my right.
"He always does.That is his style." he answered. He told me the painter's name, which I forgot the moment he told me, as well as some facts about the painter's life that never entered my brain and then he asked me if I painted myself.
I told him I did not paint but just enjoyed looking at pictures and speculating about them.
Our discussion about the modern painting continued and I mentioned Damian Hirst and his famous encased shark and the platinum cast of an eighteenth-century scull covered in diamonds and argued that they were more of a stunt than real works of art.
He completely agreed with me and said that he could not understand people who were ready and willing to pay millions of dollars for them.
We were alone. I saw people passing by in the street but none of them came in. They probably had other problems to think about.
After about twenty minutes he went to his desk and took out a little canvas no bigger than the palm of my hand from somewhere behind.
It was unframed and depicted a ripe yellow pear against a dark background. He hung it on the wall and said to me, "Wouldn't it be nice to have it in a kitchen ,for example?"
I realized that he had only talked to me because he wanted to sell one of the paintings. "How much does it cost?" I asked.
"It's 4000 crowns" he said, without batting an eyelid. It was about 300£ and for that money I could have bought about 250 kilograms of real pears.
"I never buy art of any kind, as a matter of principle ," I said knowing that I would leave him deeply disappointed.
Immediately, he took down the painting and put it back behind his desk. He probably thought that he had lost half an hour for nothing. I said goodbye, and left, walking out into the street where I passed a group of gypsies from Romania begging and selling red plastic roses to passers-by for some crowns.
They had undertaken such a long journey to a far-away country to make some money.
I felt I still had not even started my journey. I was glad that I had survived another day.
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