As far as university towns go, traipsing around them in Europe awakes in me the urge to go back to a life as a student. Now that is stating something. The day I finished labouring over science in high school, which only drove me into the arms of my original love, English literature, I was doing fifty jigs a minute. And, that day that I held my first paycheck in the offices of the Times of India: Exquisite. I was empowered. By the control I had over my own life. I had left the world of studying and loathsome exams behind.
Yet finding myself in university towns like Leuven or Lund, makes me rethink my stance.
The beauty of the Skåne region in southern Sweden had started revealing itself when we took the train from Malmö to Lund. A flat countryside stretched out alongside the train tracks, patchworked by farms, forests, lakes and manors. As these plethora of scenes rushed by us, even on that bleak day in winter, it turned out to be a scenic journey. At the end of it waited Lund of the quaint cottages and cobbled alleys. It reminded us of pottering about Bruges, the Belgian town famed for its veneer of fairy-tale loveliness. It was as cold if less blustery than Bruges.
In this second oldest university town in Sweden, students bicycled upon uneven cobbled lanes, couples sat in intimate cafes, medieval timber-framed houses flanked the narrow roads. Occasionally bright pops of yellow and green on the facades introduced a startling element of colour. The leafy parks still held on to the flaming hues of autumn. The university buildings, the old library, churches big and small, ignited the imagination.
Again we ambled around in Lund, no particular activity in mind because we can be random like that apart from being touristy at times, peeping into store windows, spotting bakeries with wonderful breads that glowed like golden sirens and enterprising cakes (one was themed The Backstreet Boys, the mouths of all five boys, dressed in very blue suits, gaping open as if somebody had threatened to slap them for belting out overtly cheesy numbers). There, shivering in the frigid November air, we broke out into terrible renditions of As long as you love me, Adi teasing me because I (am so ashamed to admit) fancied them as a teenager. Which girl did not? My husband insists, cheesy ones like me. Blonde locks, exposed chests, all-white suits, synchronised dancing…open the gates of heaven. That display window was proof. I was not alone in my teenage fervour.
The conclusion to our traipsing around town was struck in the shadows of the Lund cathedral, a behemoth in weathered stone, beneath dismal skies. This cathedral that stood as a paean to Lund’s historical status, for it was the religious capital of Scandinavia once. That is how we found ourselves charmed by one of Europe’s oldest towns, where we were for a short while, in a time bubble with a giant troll called Finn sitting somewhere in the crypt of the cathedral for sparkling company.