Do you know this feeling, when the sunlight touches your face and you realize how much you missed her? Sunshine, it’s like liquid happiness. Especially after these long, dark Scandinavian winters. Last week started with days of snowfall, yet soon it was replaced with bright, sunny days. The ice melted away, the gravel is being brushed off from the pathways. My bike is not wearing his winter tires any longer. The amount of people running outdoors is tremendous. You can feel the tension for the Valborg festival starting to build up. And to top it all of, this weekend we will get the best present you can imagine: Another hour of daylight, hurra!
Beautiful Uppsala, I took the photo last week. In the middle you see the famous Domkyrkan.
I promised already a while ago that I would tell a little more about Uppsala’s student nations. The nations play an important role when it comes to student life in Uppsala. Or as they describe themselves: “The nations are the social nerve of the student-community with accommodations, scholarships, clubs, culture, pubs, associations, sports and a lot more – by students for students!“. Even though all aspects mentioned are true, I would say that the nations are most famous for their energetic night life. The roots of the nations date back all the way to the sixteenth century. There are currently thirteen student nations in Uppsala.
Gästrike-Hälsinge, Göteborgs, Norrlands, Värmlands, Uplands and Västgota
The nations are named after the Swedish provinces from which they traditionally used to recruit their members. For example if you were a student from far North of Sweden moving here to study in Uppsala, it would create a possibility to hang out with people from your area of origin. As Sweden is such an outstretched country and regular visits to your parents may not be possible, I can imagine it to be nice to speak to people who share your dialect or maybe local habits. Especially in earlier times when the internet – or even phoning – were not existent yet. Nowadays almost all the nations allow everyone to join, no matter where you are from. Though in practice I think still many Swedes prefer to sign up for the nation that relates to their area of origin.
Some of these nations are rather small, while others count many members. As a member of one of the nations you get access to all other nations as well. However, almost all nations will charge different entrance prices for club nights depending on whether you are ‘their’ member or member at another nation. Membership isn’t cheap, about €30 per semester, but you’ll get a lot out of it! The nation pubs are cosy and freely accessible once you are a member, and offer alcohol at a cheaper price thanks to some tax discount system. The activities organised are usually pretty fun and offer a wide range of possibilities. For example I have been painting at Kalmars nation, active with sports at GH-nation and spend now quite some time social dancing at both Smålands and Värmlands nations. But if you are really keen to become part of a nation, it is strongly recommended to start working at them. I haven’t done it myself yet, but heard a lot of positive experiences about it.
Lund and Uppsala seem to be in a continuous competition about which of the two is the nicest student city of Sweden. A friend of mine who has lived in both places for a while told me that Uppsala wins to him without any doubt. The reason? Lund doesn’t have a river. This might sound a little strange, but also to me the river of Uppsala – named Fyrisån – is the heart of the town. It was one of the first things I heard about this place, that a river crosses through town. Neighbours of my parents had travelled through all of Sweden and had totally fallen in love with Uppsala in particular. I remember them say that they felt it was almost ‘French’; with beautiful small bridges decorated by flowers hanging over the river. Needless to say this is one of my favourite places around Uppsala – and I think it’s a top pick from locals and tourists alike.
The flower decorations reflecting in the water, summer 2015
Snowy trees hanging over Fyrisån in the city centre, last week
The river has not always been named Fyrisån. It was renamed in the 17th century to honour the Fyrisvellir plains. Before that it was called both Full and Sala. The river is about 80 km long and ends in lake Mälaren, at lake Ekoln (which I described in an earlier post). If you are in Uppsala and follow the beautiful bike tracks south along the riverside you will stumble apon our SLU campus Ultuna. This area is popular among bikers, hikers and usually there are many young parents here running while pushing their babies in those children-wagons. A sight that took me some time to get used to, haha. You can find many bird species and other wildlife as well as stunning sights around here. During summertime you may see people rowing or kayaking downstream.
The South-Eastern banks not far from town
And finally for students Fyrisån has a special meaning because of the Valborg celebration. Every year at the the last day of April a river-race is being organized by students on homemade rafts – which rarely make it to the finishline. This crazy tradition is extremely popular, the whole town seems to come out to watch. My friends and me were there last year and it was so much fun. Absolutely worth it to sit on a stone bridge for hours to claim a good spot!
Fyrisån full of students on homemade rafts during Valborg 2016
Feel free to leave a reply if you have any questions or comments 🙂
Student life in Uppsala is generally pretty exciting. I would say this is mainly due to the Nations which organize a large variety of activities. I am planning to explain a bit more on what the Nations are and do in another post, but today I want to tell you all about one particular activity: Dancing. Uppsala loves dancing. Every type of dancing! There is a lot going on in this vibrant small city, and lots of it is not for students only. Social dancing – in the sense of partner dancing – is quite big here, and if you ask me, lots of fun!
“The teachers, usually students as well, are great dancers themselves and create a very easygoing, friendly atmosphere.”
There are several dancing schools in Uppsala that offer social dance. The varieties differ, but in my experience I would say that the most popular types are lindyhop, salsa, bachata and kizomba. The dancing schools offer substantial courses that will teach you any type of dance during weekly sessions given over a certain period. These are paid courses, though from what I’ve heard it’s really worth it and the teachers are professionals. Occasionally the dancing schools organize an event which includes an introduction lesson, sometimes combined to a party.
Social dance after Latin class at Värmlands Nation
Photo: Sercan Caglarca
Another option are the dance classes at the Nations. I love these! Both Värmlands and Smålands Nation organize latin dance classes (salsa + bachata) and recently Värmlands added kizomba to their programme. The classes are progressive, but beginners are always welcome and they start every class with a short rehearsal of the basics. I guess you won’t make progress as fast compared to a real course, but still there is a lot to learn. The teachers, usually students as well, are great dancers themselves and create a very easygoing, friendly atmosphere. There are often people represented from all over the world and as you change partner all the times during class you get to know a lot of different people.
To me, learning a new social dance is a bit like learning a new language. If you get the idea on the rhythm, it’s only a matter of adding dancing elements to ‘extend your vocabulary’. And like with language, if you know more words, its easier to have fun together. Wherever you come, if people know the basics of the same dance you can join! I can recommend it to anyone 🙂 If you want to find out more, have a look at the website of Uppsala Danscenter, Swingkatten or join the facebook dancing groups of Smålands and Värmlands. And of course, feel free to ask or comment below.
Flogsta… where to begin? First of all, Flogsta is not a touristy place. There won’t be a page in the lonely planet, there is no natural wonder or any real must-see around here. Yet I would like to add Flogsta into this category I started of places worth a visit in and around Uppsala. Flogsta is one of the main living areas for students and ‘a little special’. It is rumoured for it’s wild party’s, famous for it’s 10 o’ clock scream but actually a really nice area to live.
Flogsta during autumn. In front the low-rises, the skyline is dominated by the high-rises.
A long, long time ago Flogsta was not a neighbourhood of Uppsala, but a former village on its own. The name shows up in literature dating back to the 1300’s, and is based on the old Swedish word Floe meaning something like a ‘body of water, less swamp’. There is still a swampy area, sort of mini-river running along here. Nowadays Flogsta is easy to recognize due to the seven story high buildings, built on top of a hill. There are sixteen of these so called high-rises and twelve of them are home to students only. The apartments date back from the sixties and on each floor you will find two corridors with twelve student rooms each. Corridor parties – BYOB! – can go really crazy here. Last year at the end of the spring term, a whole building teamed up and organized a massive party, offering different types of music on each floor.
Next to the high-rises there is also an area of low-rises, which offer more apartment style housing to a mixture of students and other people. These blocks of houses look very uniform and the numbering system is supposed to be based on the shape of a snailhouse, but in practice everybody simply gets lost. Even the dog of a friend of mine who lives here consequently messes up to find its way home…
“Every night starting at exactly 10 pm, students will go out on their balconies to scream as loud as possible.”
Then there is this Flogsta scream. Every night starting exactly at 10 pm, students will go out on their balconies to scream as loud as possible. The exact history is unknown, but the behaviour started somewhere in the seventies and it is nowadays a long standing tradition. Screaming at any other time of day or night will not be appreciated nor replied to by other screamers. And make sure you’re ready at 10 pm, punctuality is everything in Sweden. Perfect let-out for all your exam stress!
If you search ‘Flogsta scream’ on youtube you will find several homemade movies like this one, by fabianll
So now you’ve heard enough about Flogsta’s ‘wild side’. I want to add a little to this post showing you what I appreciate most: The stunning location. Flogsta is situated on the Western edge of Uppsala and surrounded by hilly fields and forest. There is a very popular loop that goes roughly from the low-rises to Kvarnbo(an old mill), Håga and back. Any time of day you will walk into people walking their dogs, bikers, runners and horse-riders. I enjoy going running here but this time I took my camera with me and went for a hike instead, so I could make a good shot of my favourite spot:
I was thinking it could be nice to start a small series of places worth a visit in and around Uppsala. After all, the place where you are going to live can be an important factor when choosing a studies abroad. I knew very little about Uppsala – and actually about Sweden in general – but found myself very lucky with this cosy, vibrant student town, surrounded by beautiful nature. So once in a while I will give you a small impression about my favourite spots. Starting with this beautiful lake, or should I say, sea?
View from the terrace at Skarholmen restaurant, which offers very fancy fika
Ekoln is the most Northern part of lake Mälaren, which is the third biggest lake of Sweden. And actually, you might question if you can really call it a lake, as it is directly connected to the sea. In theory you could kayak all the way from this lake to Stockholm, on to the Baltic. Might take a few days though! Ekoln is located about 10 km southwards of Uppsala city, but only 3 km away from our campus Ultuna. This makes it a perfect place to go for a hike or picnic in the weekend, or just to clear your mind after a busy day at university.
“Ekoln is located about 10 km southwards of Uppsala city, but only 3 km away from our campus Ultuna.”
Though in summer it can get really crowded, during the rest of the year you will find it peacefully quiet around here. There are several activities to do in and around the lake. But beware that most of them are only open in the summer season. Unfortunately we found ourself in front of a closed kayak rental the other day, so beware! Next to renting kayaks you can also rent little boats, there are several nice swimming areas and there is an outdoor climbing facility. In summertime there are possibilities for windsurfing whereas in winter ice-skates are rented out in case the lake is fully frozen.
Someone kayaking between the ice left-overs last Easter
To get to the lake you can either hike, bike or take a bus (to Sunnersta). If you are hiking or biking, there is a beautiful path going along the Fyrisån river which you can follow from Uppsala southwards. You simply can’t get lost, or you’d have to try really hard, haha. In a next post in this ‘mini-series’ I would like to tell you more about Fyrisån river and the special traditions around it. Feel free to question or comment below.