Tag Archives: Uppsala

Burma to Bangkok to Kuwait to London to Uppsala, Sweden

On February 24th, after almost four weeks in Burma, it was time for me to leave. Having flown from Bagan to Yangon on the evening of the 23rd, I took a friend’s advice to stay at the Gardens Guesthouse in order to take some night photos of the Sule Paya roundabout:

In the morning, I flew to Bangkok and returned to my hostel of choice there, Soi 1 Guesthouse. I picked up my laptop and a bunch of clothes I had left with the owner, grabbed a nice shoewr, and in the afternoon I took off en route to London via Kuwait.

A snapshot of the dorm room in Soi 1 Guesthouse in Bangkok:

Because of the time difference, I landed in Kuwait on the afternoon of February 25th. Here’s a shot taken as we were coming in for landing:

I sat beside a really friendly Scottish girl who, incidentally, knows a couple I met in Mae Sot, Thailand months before. After a number of hours in the Kuwait airport chatting with the Scottish girl and watching the Japanese animated movie, “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” on my laptop, I caught my onward flight to London.

After I arrived in London, I went for a coffee and some alone time, read a few of Checkhov’s short stories, then headed to my friend Aidan’s house. Aidan wasn’t home, but his flatmates immediately got me involved in a fun activity: filling his room with crumpled newspapers and phone book pages. We spent a fair bit of time doing it, and would have continued if we hadn’t run out of paper and run out of neighbours to ask for more paper. Aidan was slightly overwhelmed when he arrived home. Here he is, enjoying the new decor:

The next day I took a walk through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park:

I sat down on this bench to take a break and eat a sandwich, and after a while noticed the inscription in the wood:

After my long stroll, I walked over to the Museum of Natural History and spent an hour and a half checking out their interesting exhibits. I’ve never before been to a museum with a full dinosaur exhibit, so this place was kind of exciting for me! A few random photos from the museum:

This is the caption for the photo that follows:

That afternoon I headed back to Heathrow once again, boarded an SAS flight to Stockholm Arlanda airport, caught a train to Uppsala, missed my bus even though I was ready to board, standing looking at the driver through the door, walked half an hour on ice to my old apartment, brushed my teeth, and went to sleep.

Videography in Uppsala

Last week I got a vague request to participate in some sort of video project here in Uppsala, without really knowing what I was getting myself into.

The result? Well, you judge for yourself:

(Also viewable at: http://video.li.feproject.com/videos.html and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhWctnpeV_A)

Autumn in Uppsala / Höst i Uppsala

“Höst” means “Autumn” in Swedish. While I’m far from fluent, my Swedish skills are definitely improving. I read the paper most days, though I understand only about 10% of what I’m reading unless I know the context beforehand. Today (the 18th) I spent 2 hours speaking only in Swedish with a friend who speaks very little English, and although it was very challenging, it was also quite fun and a terrific learning experience.

On October 6th, I woke up to a bright and sunny day, blue skies as far as I could see, and bright autumn leaves glowing in the sun. I ate my breakfast as quickly as I could, packed my camera into my backpack, and took off on my bike to take some photos around town and get some fresh air.

This is the front of Carolina Rediviva, the main library at Uppsala University and the oldest of the University’s buildings. It’s not particularly impressive in my opinion, but there’s something nice about it, sitting at the top of a hill overlooking central Uppsala.

Behind Carolina is Engelska Parken (The English Park) which is a small park with big trees, and a handful of buildings where we had most of our lectures last year. I often go there in the middle of the night (I have an after-hours entry pass) when no one is around, to be more productive than if I were to work from home. Looking West:

Right beside Engelska Parken is a neat cemetery with lots of old graves and some new ones too. This is the plot of the Hammarskjöld family. Dag Hammarskjöld was the Swedish second Secretary-General of the United Nations, who was killed in suspicious circumstances in a 1961 plane crash in what is now Zambia.

There’s quite a variety of tombstones in this cemetery:

Uppsala domkyrka (Cathedral of Uppsala) is one of the defining landmarks in the city. The two towers can be seen from kilometres away. It was built from the 13th to 15th centuries and is the largest cathedral in Scandinavia.

Near the cathedral, I’ve always liked walking through this tunnel – basically just a hole through a very old building (17th century I think – the year is on the building but I can’t remember off-hand; might be 1694).

On the other side of the tunnel, just before the river, is a restaurant with a very cool window:

The River Fyris runs through the centre of the city, and quite a long way outside the city as well:

It even goes under this building:

In Stora Torget (The Big Square), there are a few old buildings that I think are neat. Most of them are banks now:

A couple blocks away, the river is lined with big trees and neat buildings:

Uppsala is very much a cyclist city. Everyone has a bike, and almost everyone uses it. There are very good cycle paths in most parts of the city, separated from traffic for extra safety, and on roads the drivers tend to be fairly good about cyclists.

Crossing the river is the bus I used to take, on days/nights when I had to take the bus, to my old apartment 7km outside town in Sunnersta:

I decided it would be nice to cycle a little bit further, to a park just at the perimeter of the city centre, and then I decided I’d go just a little further. I ended up cycling all the way to Sunnersta along the river, as I used to do almost every day last year, when the river path wasn’t covered in snow and ice (then I would cycle along the road with my metal-spiked winter tires).

Cycling along the river path. The river is about 2-3 metres to the left of the row of trees.

The path goes past SLU at a certain point, and they have a little grassy area and football pitch. I never understood this thing though; it’s a big hole in the ground, at which five paths converge, filled with strange-coloured water. It seems to me like a wrongful death lawsuit just waiting to happen:

Lastly, cycling back to town along the road (Dag Hammarskjöldsväg), is one of the few remaining reminders of the Great 1972 Tremor – an earthquake that shook Uppsala so badly that some buildings, in the lowlying farmlands surrounding the city, simply sank. For many farmers, it was too expensive to dig them out and try to salvage the materials, so they simply shored up the dirt around the newly-lowered buildings and kept on farming.

Valborg in Uppsala

On the evening of the 4th I headed to Slovenia, with plans to fly onward to Bosnia on the 7th and stop briefly in Croatia on the 13th/14th. I’ll be back in Sweden on the 14th, so that’s most likely when I’ll find time to post here again. As I write this, I am sitting in a hotel room with 4 beds and a couch that turns into a 5th bed! All to myself! However, that story is for the next post. There’s no internet here, so this post will go up when I find a connection in Sarajevo or back home in Sweden. Because I’m lazy, the text and images in this post are not really integrated, but a few pics will have captions.

April 28 was my 24th birthday, and four friends flew up from Dublin in time to celebrate with me. We had a few birthday beers and slept fairly early, because I had class in the morning. The next day was my official party, which ended up being quite the affair with people bringing me chocolates, wine, 3 cakes, and other random things as gifts. We went to sleep quite late, and were up again at 8am to get the new day started.

April 30, in Sweden and many other countries in the region, is celebrated as Valborg. In Sweden, Valborg is an occasion to celebrate the arrival of Spring/Summer, and forget about the Winter and the darkness that filled everyone’s life. Uppsala is home to the biggest Valborg celebrations in Sweden, and the University even closes all its buildings for the day. The city website said that about 100,000 people were to be in Uppsala city centre for the day and about 30,000 of those were not inhabitants of the city.

We spent the day roaming around town from one event to the next, and doing lots of people watching. I met up with several groups of friends in different places, and even saw some people who had left Sweden months earlier but returned for this party in the same way that four of my classmates from last semester did.

(I’m now in Sarajevo writing the rest of this post, no internet access in the hostel)

The day basically started with the raft ‘race’ down the River Fyris from 10am onward. We watched a few of the 90 entries as they started, and then watched a few go over the waterfall at the end of the ‘racecourse’ before heading to Ekonomikum Parken, the park behind the Economics building, where thousands and thousands of people were sitting in the grass having a massive picnic/concert with alcohol everywhere. I got distracted on the walk there, when I saw a raft with the King of Beer on it. I then spent some time taking more photos of some crazy battle between several rafts before finding the others at Ekonomikum. The mass of drunk people in the park was a bit of a strange sight, but it was interesting too, and the great weather kept us all comfortable out there for quite some time. I spent most of the time talking with different Swedish friends and flatmates in different parts of the park where they had set up with their respective groups of friends, but I also spent some time with my classmates and their friends. Later in the afternoon some of my flatmates and guests we had staying over started up a barbecue outside our front door, with delicious results. Then in the evening we headed to a set of dormitories where they had a rooftop barbecue and party going for a while. I hung out with some Swedish friends for the rest of the evening and had a relatively quiet night in the end, going to bed pretty early but very tired after a VERY long day.

People watching from the Pink Bridge (actually called Haglund’s Bridge, but I don’t know if anyone actually calls it that) one of a number of bridges that cross the river:

Safety precautions are high for the participants even though the river is VERY slow moving and relatively shallow.

Many teams engage other rafts in battles involving various artillery, mainly consisting of water balloons and squirt guns. This team had some sort of hose and pump rigged up that acted as a mini water cannon!

ICA is a grocery store here in Sweden, the logo of which looks eerily similar to the standard logo of IGA, a grocery store in parts of Canada. Their shopping cart raft was impressive, but not particularly stable. From what I could tell, all three sailors are wearing genuine ICA uniforms. And yes, those are real baguettes in the shopping cart.

This choo-choo train (it’s more fun to refer to trains this way, in my opinion) was equipped with a live catapult consisting of this guy’s arm. Note the type of ammunition being fired:

Retaliatory measures taken by the ICA team. Yes, the chef is also an anti-train gun armed with French bread.

I believe this is supposed to be the scoop of a tractor / bulldozer piece of machinery. I have a feeling I’m missing part of the joke because I’m not Swedish, but they’re still funny looking:

One of two rafts poking fun at the rising price of oil:

An attack begins. Note the flying water balloon above the rightmost member of the team farthest from the camera. Also note the team name, “We got balls.”

We were getting a little tired of watching all the rafts launch and move so slowly down the river so we headed to the waterfall to see some of them going over. As expected, this area was absolutely packed with people, and even a relatively tall guy like me (185cm / 6’1″) couldn’t get a view. Luckily some of my classmates had arrived earlier and found a spot, so I was able to trade places for a bit to take photos.

The line near the bottom of this photo is where the waterfall is. It’s an artificial waterfall, so it’s at an angle of about 35-45 degrees.

Ari, Javier Bardem, and Mélanie relaxing in the Sun for a while.

If you don’t understand why this float is so funny, check out this page about Schrödinger’s Cat

Teams 23 and 24 built castle pieces that made one big fortress if placed side by side, quite neat.

This is what happened to one of them after the waterfall:

Any time (which is almost every single time) that anyone from a raft falls into the water after the waterfall, a diver jumps in to make sure that every member makes it safely out of the river.

Schrödinger’s Cat about to go over. They were actually one of the very few teams to remain upright after going over the waterfall. Despite its appearance, it seems those physics students actually knew what they were doing when they built it, and figured out how to make it work. Or they had good luck.

The “Rest in Paris” team (no comment on their theme) before the waterfall:

And as they went over:

A moose!

Perhaps my favourite raft because of the high added value of the acting involved. Mimes normally bore me, but these guys performed quite an appropriate little act as they floated slowly down the river. Once they got near the edge of the waterfall they started freaking out, trying to pull themselves away from it along an imaginary rope.

Of course, they were working in the hot sun so they also had to drink water from their bottles, an act to which this picture does little justice. They each scooped the water out of the river to make imaginary bottles and then unscrewed the imaginary caps and drank the imaginary water which actually poured out of their fists as they tried to drink it.

As they went over the waterfall they resigned themselves to their fate and waved goodbye to all spectators in a very mime-ish fashion. The entire time they were going over the waterfall they maintained this waving, it was quite impressive!

Somehow the raft even righted itself!

One of the things about Valborg is that everyone drinks a lot of champagne (well, very little is really from Champagne, but it’s all the same stuff in the end).

This is the beer king I mentioned at the start of this post. This beer, which is really nothing special, is called simply “King Beer.” I wonder how long it took this team to drink enough beer to decorate their raft..

Louis Vuitton handbags float, apparently… who knew? I guess that’s why such ugly bags with ridiculously simple designs can be sold for such unbelievably high prices. And no, I don’t really care if you have a real one and feel offended by that comment. If you REALLY like LV bags, just get a good fake for $10 in Hong Kong and use the rest of the money on something less ridiculous.

These guys made a “Fejsbååt” (this spelling in Swedish reads phonetically exactly as Faceboat, thus simultaneously poking fun of Facebook AND Swedes’ tendency to adopt words from English and other languages and spell them with Swedish letters). The black thing beside the stickman drawing is a can that says “öl,” which means “beer” in Swedish.

This splashing water looks like a net being cast onto the other team. The guys in blue seem to be a joke about Explorer Vodka, which has a logo that could have been designed by a 12 year old using clipart from the internet in 1995.

Here we see the Baywatch team about to engage the Peak Oil team. Approaching in the distance, however, is a third team with a well-designed water launcher… let’s see what happens:

The team that had been in the distance now shows the power of their scooping mechanism to the Peak Oil team. The guy launching it, despite what you may think you see, is in fact fully clothed.

And that is how Valborg was celebrated in Uppsala. Sorry there aren’t photos of much other than the rafting; because of the huge number of drunk people and the high number of champagne bottles being opened and sprayed around, I didn’t have my camera with me most of the day. If you’re under 30 I would highly recommend checking out Valborg in Uppsala if you ever get the chance! Congratulations if you actually read through this entire post! If so, leave me a comment (even just a “I read the whole thing” one-liner) to let me know. I have no idea if anyone even really reads these things, but I’m quite interested to know who’s checking it out, even if I don’t know you :-)

I will try my best to get photos up from my trip to the Balkans soon after returning to Sweden, but my schedule is quite full so I’m not sure when I will have time to organise the pics and whatnot.

[[ I am now in the airport in Dubrovnik, Croatia, about to fly to Sweden and finally internet access for a few minutes! So now, over a week later, this post is going online, woohoo! ]]