Sightseeing in sub-zero: a tourist’s guide to winter in Uppsala

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Considering that I’m on exchange in Sweden for a full 10 months, you’d have maybe thought that friends and family would confine their visits to see me to the spring and summer months. Whilst summer temperatures in Sweden are never going to set any records, my hazy recollections of the first weeks here in August are marked by long warm days, where having fika outdoors, wandering through parks in the sun and even taking off the occasional layer *gasps*, was a tauntingly brief reality. Unfortunately for those who booked to visit me, however, the perks of being a summer tourist were a very distant memory when they came in November, January and February respectively.

 

Uppsala’s a wonderful place to be a student throughout the seasons, but when you’ve only a few days to experience what it has to offer, and those days happen to be consistently below zero and filled with intermittent bursts of snowfall, sleet or icy rain, the pressure to get creative with your tour-guiding is on. To save future Uppsala-students this panic, I’ve compiled this handy list of sightseeing musts, for when the elements are very much not on your side.

  • Escape the cold by ducking into Uppsala Domkyrka. The tallest cathedral in Scandinavia, this masterpiece boasts some truly beautiful wall paintings, King Gustav Vasa’s tomb and the relics of Sweden’s patron saint – St. Erik. It’s also free to enter, open until 6pm and, as a bonus, has an amazingly effective central heating system…

 

  • Use your student ID (guest cards from the uni also work) to get free entry to Museum Gustavianum. Learn about the university’s history, wander around one of the world’s oldest anatomical theatres and marvel at the Augsburg Art Cabinet, a 17th-century cabinet of curiosities which is, quite simply, mad.

 

  • Botaniska trädgården is maybe more attractive in the warmer months, but is still worth a visit for the tropical house (also free entry for Uppsala students) as an escape from the cold.

 

  • Bror Hjorths Hus is one of my favourite spots in Uppsala. A little out of the way, it’s well worth the walk for a look at the quirky art of local favourite Bror Hjorth, displayed in his own home. (Also free!)

 

  • Uppsala konstmuseum is another great place to seek refuge from the cold whilst getting to feel lovely and cultural. Set within the castle, the museum has a decent collection of artwork, regularly changing – so perfect for multiple visits with friends! (Need I say, this one’s also free…and open late on Thursdays, if you need somewhere warm to wait before getting dinner)

 

  • If you’re blessed with a sunny day, it’s worth embracing the cold and walking/biking to Gamla Uppsala. This site, inhabited since the 3rd Century AD, was an important economic, political and religious centre before activities were shifted to present-day Uppsala. There’s a museum (not free, sorry), a 12th Century church which still holds services, and most impressively of all, monumental burial mounds which offer an amazing view across to the cathedral.

 

  • If you want to pretend to be a true Swede for the day, a trip to Fjällnora Recreation Centre is a must. Serving as a haven for swimmers, hikers and canoeists in the summer, this massive lake entirely freezes over in winter, and swarms with skaters and cross-country skiers. It’s accessible by bus from Uppsala centre, and equipment is available for hire at a reasonable price. I went skiing with friends a few weeks ago, and can honestly say that despite it being the coldest day of the winter so far (lows of a very chilly -13°), it was absolutely worth it for the scenery and the fun of trying a new, and very Swedish, sport.

 

  • Bandy is a sport I hadn’t encountered before moving to Sweden, but for those also not in the know, it can be summarised as a slightly less exciting version of ice hockey. It’s immensely popular in Sweden, and Uppsala has its own team – IK Sirius – which plays regularly throughout the winter in a stadium not far from the centre. It’s possible to watch for free as a student, and though I’ve only been a spectator, I’ve heard it’s also possible to play.

 

  • If outdoor activities aren’t really your thing, however, or the cold is simply just getting to you, it’s always good to know that cafés and Nations are only ever around the corner. Both are an integral part of student life here, so you can easily justify spending a significant part of your tourism-time indulging in fika or enjoying drinks.

 

Cultural Guilt

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After almost 11 weeks in Paris, one of the things I’ve struggled with the most is the guilt of not making the most of my time here. When I’m relaxing after university, eating tinned soup and even when I’m studying I have the feeling that I could be using my time to see and experience more of Paris.

This feeling was growing towards the end of October as I’d spent a lot of the month worrying about and sorting wifi, my bank account and then even more so when I had a mid-term exam for each of my modules. Mid-terms at my host university count for about 20% of the module mark and normally take place between 18:00 and 20:00 in the evening. This is probably my peak procrastination time so really isn’t when I’d choose to take a relatively important test.  This meant staying in and studying for these, taking more time due to the language difference and resulting in more guilt. The other side of this is guilt for not studying. I was in a bit of a vicious cycle, yet to find a balance between everything.

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I will admit to a quick visit to Le Musée de l’Orangerie when I should have been studying.

However, with midterms over and everything finally sorted, I’m planning to assuage my guilt by getting some more cultural activities under my belt. The next week is looking hopeful with plans to visit the Catacombs of Paris as well as an organised run through the heart of Paris and a birthday party with lots of other Erasmus students.

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At the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.

This past weekend also allowed me to experience some fantastic food and discover what there is to do in Paris other than visiting museums. Despite being vegetarian and most menus listing only meat and fish based meals, asking for a vegetarian alternative normally results in some delicious food. On top of the incredible food, a highlight of my weekend was seeing a classical music performance at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. This was a brand new experience for me and was such an exciting opportunity to get dressed up and discover something a bit different. With tickets as cheap as 5 € I think I’ll go again!

Finally, I was lucky enough to be invited for a meal in the Eiffel Tower, by far the coolest thing I’ve ever done. This was an experience of a lifetime made all the better by exceptional food, breath taking views and great company. While we were up on the second floor, the weather changed from rain to fog and then cleared to give an amazing sunset. This gave us some dreamy photos (see below) which I’ll be showing to people for a long time to come.

 

 

 

 

 

Moving to The City of Lights

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Bienvenue à mon Blog!

In the first of many blogs I want to fill you in on my experience of moving to a different country, trying to remember how to speak French (it seems the words disappear from your head when you want to use them) and starting at a University where everything isn’t quite as clear as Durham.

I was lucky enough to have my family help me move to Paris, and so my first few days here were filled with sightseeing and more importantly food shopping for when I moved into my temporary house. Note the word ‘temporary’, as in I haven’t found anywhere to live yet… This is but one of several things I still need to sort out. Given that I’ve only been in Paris for 11 days, I’ll let myself off.

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A classic Eiffel Tower selfie.

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Top 10 Moments (so far)

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15000762_1170867532969204_8375154948438180072_o-1Hello again fabulous readers!

As the semester is coming to a close (it’s the last week, where has the time gone?!) I thought it would be nice to go through my highlights of the semester. There is an unreal amount of great moments but I miraculously managed to narrow it down to 10 so you won’t get overwhelmed by how much fun I’ve had. Here goes…don’t forget to scroll over images! Continue reading

Blog 7: Happiness is a Cold Country

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This month I visited Stockholm, the beautiful city in Sweden which is the biggest in Scandinavia. One million people live there, which isn’t very much compared to say Berlin (at about three and a half million) or even Paris (at two million). In fact, considering it is the biggest city in Scandinavia it’s quite small. But that’s quite reflective of this part of the world. Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, is only a little bigger than Liverpool (although it has a far lower rate of Beatles/capita). In fact, the Nordic countries made up of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Finland (and a landmass that would make them the 7th largest country on Earth combined) are as highly populated as the South of England. Continue reading

Ways in which I am now a Japanese person

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I’m well into my second month here now, and I’ve begun to realise that I’m feeling very settled-in. …TOO settled-in.

The people of Tokyo have quite a distinct set of mannerisms to other places in the world, and I have definitely adopted basically all of them. I’ve been told several times BY Japanese people that I’m very Japanese, or have a Japanese spirit. It’s a relief to know that I fit in, especially since the white-person stereotype here is something along the lines of too loud, too open, socially tactless, overly-sexual, not Confucian in any way at all… Yeah, you get the picture. But I’m sure that when I return home, I will be renowned as the girl who acts really weird. So here is a brief account of what happens to you when you come here and you’re susceptible to picking up mannerisms… Continue reading