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:
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! ]]