Abroad & Below: What's Upp-Sala?

June 29th

Spending the day in Uppsala gave us the perfect start to the small town European dream. Well Uppsala is actually the 4th largest city in Sweden, though you would never expect so being the first city we’ve seen since Stockholm. Nonetheless, the city is lively and geared towards outdoor living. Of course its summer and everyone is trying to soak up as much sun as they can, but I still have the feeling that outdoor seating, singing, and shopping is a specialty best known in Uppsala.

We walked to the Cathedral, brimming with elegance and dominant architecture. An orchestra played inside, reverberating sound through the pews where tourists and locals were seated for, I’m sure, hours on end.

Across the way was the brick castle, surrounded by cannons that were still aimed towards the city and Cathedral. As we sat at on a bench overlooking the city, we could even hear an ABBA cover band practicing for their performance the next day. Considering ABBA is not a part of the Swedish culture I have much pride for, I’m glad we were able to catch a few bars without having to attend the actual concert. Even though we aren’t big fans, ABBA is one of the best-known Swedish groups so I am happy we heard them in their native country.

We also found an old church that had been converted into a bed and breakfast. Drawn in by the rows of lavender flowers and shady seating around a pond, we asked to look around the Church. Even though it is used as a hotel now, the library, pastor quarters, historical room, and service seating were all still intact. It’s always a shame when there is such strong history tied to a location and yet so many changes are made. But here, history was still a drawing point and the owner loved talking about the past even more than the present.

Later we went to the Viking burial grounds where excavations are still being made on the 250 graves remaining. Once covered with over 2,000, Gamla Uppsala has undergone progress without any knowledge that their growth and building were destroying graves and archeological sites from even before the Viking Age. Now they are backtracking some, trying to piece together the land, discovering boat burials and burning sites. They have even found a woman buried with 12 different types of cloth, preserved through time, illustrating the dominance of the culture in terms of trade and wealth. Gold, jewels, and the skeleton of her loyal dog also surrounded her.

Oh and it turns out that Vikings didn’t even wear helmets during the Viking Age. Guess I will have to throw away what I thought was a quintessential Viking hat and horns!

By the evening, Christer and Katarina picked us up from Uppsala and brought us to their home in nearby Strovreta. Big on ice hockey and small on restaurants (only 2!), their house was focused on the family and good times. Recently they converted their grassy backyard into a deck and pool area, absolutely perfect for the unexpected heat we have found. Considering our two days here were the hottest and most suitable for swimming, we were so fortunate to be able to be with the Sparfs. They spoiled us with the best food and atmosphere and we can’t wait to do the same for them when they visit us in California next March!