A Few Days in Uppsala

So far I’ve spent most of my time in Uppsala just getting organized. This has meant about 5 trips into town to apply for my Swedish ID card, social security number, student ID, buying Eruopean plug adapters, computer speakers, fleece gloves and my bike. It’s been annoying spending money and running around a lot, but it’s been fun too. I already feel like I know my way around town pretty well, and every time I venture into town it becomes smaller and smaller to me because it’s becoming more familiar.

Today I took another long run, this time through the forest behind our apartment. This is so far my favorite thing about Uppsala. - we have a huge forest with hundreds of trails right behind our apartment, yet it’s still only a 7 minute bike ride into the center of town. Aside from the water, Annapolis was lacking the natural element that is here, and I love it. 

I ran through the woods, following one trail just to see where it went. After about 30 minutes I came out on the opposite side of the forest, sort of on the far side of town. The other cool thing about Uppsala is that you can see the Cathedral spires from everywhere, so it’s easy to find you’re bearings. I continued through a small neighborhood, then around the castle that sits on the highest point in town, a pretty steep grassy hill (yes, there is a castle here too!). When i got to the river, I spotted some sailboat masts a bit downstream and ran down to investigate. It turns out there is a large wooden ketch here, about the size of ‘Woodwind’ that appears to be a touristy kind of boat. The canal from Uppsala eventually reaches the Baltic Sea, but there is certainly no sailing to be had anywhere near here. There were also a few cruisey looking boats that looked like people were living on them. It’s actually a pretty nice spot to hole up for the winter, and they all had winter covers on. Next to them were also a few houseboats...literally floating houses, not intended to move anywhere.

Later in the afternoon I met Mia downtown so we could go inquire about getting me a student ID. I’m not going to school here, but since I still have my PSU ID I can get an Uppsala ID, which lets me into the unions where beer is cheap and lots of events are held. 

The history in the town is pretty cool. We stopped by the Cathedral and had a look around inside. It’s absolutely amazing, by far the biggest church I’ve ever seen and just incredibly detailed inside. Uppsala Cathedral is the largest in Scandinavia and was built in the 1200’s. It’s hard to believe that America was only founded in 1776, and there is a church in Sweden that’s been here since 1200! Kind of puts things into perspective, especially considering the current politics of America...When we entered the church, a school choir group was practicing for a concert, and the sound that emanated from the church was otherworldly. The ceiling must have been 100 feet high, and the inside was essentially one gigantic room, with a few alcoves on either side where important Swedes are buried in above-ground tombs. The walkway around the pew area has several large stones with engravings on them, marking the spot where other, conceivably less-important Swedes are buried. At the far end is the largest alcove, where a former King is actually buried. In fact, the Uppsala Cathedral was used to crown the Kings and Queens of Sweden until the 1700’s. It’s quite a place.

The castle was also very intriguing to me, considering you don’t see too many castles in America. It was built in the 1500’s and is where the governor of Uppsala currently resides. It sits on the only real hill in Uppsala, which actually has rather steep sides, and overlooks the city in every direction. If it weren’t for the Cathedral that stands so high, this would be the highest building in Uppsala. Each year they actually have a prom inside the castle for students...must be pretty neat to have a prom in a freaking castle!

So far it’s been everything I’ve expected and then some living in Sweden. I think it goes without saying that it’s amazing to finally be back in Mia’s life. But beyond that, it feels good to be living the philosophy that I talk and write about so much. Eventually I’ll settle into a routine here, but for the time being everyday is an adventure, and I’m really enjoying it. I’m privileged to be able to see so many amazing things and places, and I’m really trying to savor every moment. Interestingly, the early darkness is less depressing (so far) than I thought it’d be. It actually makes you want to get outside and enjoy the daylight while you have it. Also, the town is lit up so beautifully at night it actually looks nicer than during the daytime. Most of the trees have white Christmas lights on them, and all of the main streets have white lights strung across them every block or so. The streetlights are a nice soft yellow, and all of the buildings are lightly colored in yellow, white, tan or orange, so the atmosphere in town is really nice, and very historic.