Month: March 2019

How to Make a Swedish Sandwich Cake (Smörgåstårta) – By Müge

Hej guys, this is already my second semester here in Uppsala; time literally flies! As time goes by, I become more and more into amazing Swedish cuisine. Luckily, Swedish people are very friendly and they like teaching anything about their culture. So, I have been sticking around my Swedish friends to learn some new recipes. Köttbullar (Swedish Meatballs) was my favorite until one of my Swedish friends told me about Smörgåstårta (Sandwich Cake) last week!

As is evident from its name, it is a sandwich shaped like a cake! And yes, it’s a big thing in Sweden. Although Swedish people highly care about “living a healthy life,” they think that it is okay going extremes occasionally. The Swedish way of living is all about balancing everything in life; not much or not less just lagom (enough) of everything 🙂

People mostly prefer eating Smörgåstårta is at celebrations such as birthday or Midsummer. I also think that I might be a nice snack for a Eurovision party which is coming soon! Basically, you just need to make a huge sandwich, then fill and decorate it with many ingredients which do not really go together 😀 You can find a sandwich cake with a layer of pork liver pate, salmon, prawns, roast beef and topped with ham and cheese. Confusing? Nothing can surprise me after seeing the pizza with banana on top!

If you want to go with Swedish way at home, here you can find a recipe for four to follow! Hope you will enjoy!

     Ingredients:

  • 6 slices of white English bread crust cut off
  • 200 ml Skagenröra salad (mix together peeled prawns, dill, chopped chives, lemon, mayo, creme fraiche, salt, pepper – to taste)
  • a tub of good quality prawn
  • 200 g smoked salmon
  • 1 cucumber
  • fresh dill
  • fresh chives
  • a tub of mayonnaise
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs
  • Butter

    Instructions:

  • Butter the bread on one side. Place two sides side by side and top with as much Skagenröra mixture as you feel. Add two slices of bread on top.
  • Mash the eggs and mix with a little bit of mayonnaise and season with salt and pepper. Add to the top of the bread. Add the last two slices of bread.
  • Using a pallet knife, add a thin layer of mayonnaise all around the sandwich cake. This will help the other toppings stick.

How to Decorate:

  • Use slices of salmon on the top of the sandwich cake. Try to arrange in a nice pattern.
  • Use a cheese slicer to cut long pieces of cucumber and use to decorate the sides.
  • Once the sides are looking neat, you can decorate the top.You can add basically whatever you want. Swedish people mostly add some Skagenröra on top and then add loads of prawns and sprigs of dill.
  • Remember to refrigerate before eating.

You can watch the recipe to here!

P.S: If you don’t have time to make your own, you can find it in bakery or even ICA has it sometimes.

/Müge

Chasing childhood dreams – By Lidewij

Are international students known for spending their weekends exploring the country? It seems that we have gotten quite a reputation and I mean, why not? I am here, in Sweden, in a country that always have spoken to my imagination: glaciers, trees covered in snow, hats of fur, the typical Scandinavian houses, frozen lakes, and ofcourse the northern lights.

Uppsala does not have glaciers and its trees are not covered in snow anymore. I haven’t seen so much fur in the past weeks, and lakes do not get frozen that quickly while the snow on our streets has transformed into slippy ice roads. Uppsala has a charm on its own, definitely, and I will probably elaborate on that in one of my future blog posts. But I had a free weekend and as it is almost expected of an international student to travel, I decided to take the Arctic circle night train to find my childhood image of the nordic countries. I took the train to Jokkmokk, Lapland.

Arctic Circle Train
Oh these are such an adventure! Never have I travelled in a night train before and as I was travelling alone, I decided to treat myself to a three person compartment. I was lucky enough to spend it with only one other stranger. I was not so lucky with the fact that she was a heavy snorer, and sometimes farted in her sleep. Between her snores, and farts, I could hear the train moving on the tracks and it rocked me to sleep quite easily. Early morning I had to get off in Murjek, where an hour later I could take the bus to Jokkmokk. There I stood, in the snow, at this cute little train station. I saw the sun come up and I was all happy to have survived that 14 hours train ride.

Three person compartment of the Arctic circle train

Train station in Murjek

Jåhkåmåhkke, land of the Sami
While most travellers go further north to be in Abisko or Kiruna, I decided to search for other options. I did not want to be surrounded by too many tourists, especially those northern light chasers who can can be blind for all the other beauty there is. When I had a look on the map, the name Jokkmokk read funny and I decided that that was the place to go to (a week later in the IKEA I discovered that a table set is called the same). It turned out that Jokkmokk actually is a great alternative for a more cultural experience.

The city of Jokkmokk, or Jåhkåmåhkke as it is called by the indigenous people, is located in the Laponian Area and was made Unesco World Heritage in 1996. The name means “curve in the river” of Lule.  The city holds a Sami museum which is pretty great. It gives a good overview of how the Sami has lived in the region and how they have dealt with discrimination and exclusion of the Swedish government. The city also holds 1 hostel, which is the best option as a solo traveller on a budget (the price is still kind of expensive but to Swedish standards more than okay). The building was a typical Swedish wooden house with a view on the frozen lake, where during the famous Jokkmokk market reindeer races are held. There was no reindeer to be found now, but it perfectly lend itself for a hike in the sun with stiffening snow. On a FROZEN lake!

When in a new place, I believe that there are two ways to discover local life best. Firstly, you can visit a local church service. Secondly, drinking a beer in a local pub. Both were planned to do and especially the church service was a special experience with the songs in both Swedish and Sami language.

Reindeer herding
My childhood image of Lapland included these snow dogs, huskies, who would pull me on a sled. But as I was moving around in Sami land, I decided to go for a herding tour. Reindeer herding is legally reserved for Sami people as it is their livelihood and are engaged with these animals throughout the year. In summer they move with them from tipi to tipi in the mountain area, where they will mark the calf. They do this by cutting the ears in all different kind of shapes to recognize which reindeer belongs to which family. For an untrained eye, these markings are barely distinguishable, but there are so many different shapes that even the Sami people can look them up in some kind of a handbook. When the reindeer are old enough, they are sold for meat production and some of them are slaughtered for own use. After the supplementary feeding we tried some of the reindeer meat which has a very particular wilde taste.

I was sitting there on some reindeer fur (finally, fur!), enjoying the sun and fresh air. So in my element, so happy. So happy to discover more of Sweden, to chase my childhood dreams.

/Lidewij

The infamous nordic winters are actually not terrible – By Aishvarya

Most people, especially the new international students I encounter, dread the long, dark and gloomy Swedish winters. Totally understandable. No one looks forward for total dark times where just a glimpse of the sunlight feels like a blessing.

Life goes on; seasons come and go; the natural order follow. Human’s extraordinary capacity to adjust is put to test again and again, every year. The most common thing people I meet do is to keep themselves occupied with numerous activities such as practicing sports, joining gym or doing yoga and meditation- sometimes even both, taking part in innumerable activities Uppsala’s student nations and unions have to offer, playing video games, bingeing TV series and movies thanks to numerous service providers, etc. A lot of international students, especially the ones on exchange, travel around as well.

But let me show a different side of these seemingly scary winters.

Wise people tell that only in our darkest time, we start appreciating everything we are blessed with.

True here as well.

Sometimes, between the never-ending cloudy and short day-lengths time periods, the Sun shows up. And everything in this brief period starts to look heavenly.

These beautiful frozen, wraith-like frosts can also be sometimes observed on not-so-sunny days.

It is definitely worth a walk during your weekends just to observe and appreciate this calmness winter brings with it.

You guessed it, walking literally anywhere isn’t very safe. But no worries, the Uppsala Kommun takes care of frequently used roads and side-tracks as noticeable from the previous picture.

So, you made a proper use of your Sunday and did very presumable stereotypical Uppsala things such as:

Watching the Botanical garden from the castle

Looked around on your way back home to the tallest cathedral of the Scandinavia, literally visible from most of the places in and around Uppsala

But these things aren’t the ones you are going to do every time, Fact. Scary? Nothing to worry!

It is also said (probably by some other wise people), that the sunset after a cold day are spectacular.

Seldom a bit too unnatural as well

These things, the ones we are so used to in our daily lives, the things we take for granted, if I have to put it plainly, yet poetically, the winters take it from us- only to return them later in most heartfelt way.

Things like listening to the birds chirp and watch them go to their homes in the evening after a long day

Birds become happy as well, since they suddenly appear out of nowhere once the day-length starts to increase, and our days become melodious again

The very long nights which are associated with fatigue, suddenly becomes a blessing on a cloud-less evening when the heaven lovingly looks upon and enchants us

Who knows, what else is up its sleeves? Probably something incredibly rare as well?

Things which appear so normal, so usual, something which escapes our attention just because they are so obvious, are presented to us in a different manner. Such as a tempting football ground in the backyard

Or yet another old academic block right next to your door

Some international students don’t go to their home during the short unofficial winter vacations due to various reasons. It doesn’t mean that one should let the overwhelming cloudy days take over them!

One can do a very Scandinavian thing- go for skating over the frozen lakes and rivers! (or rather just enjoy from a distance)

Or
Be very brave and catch a train up north in the wilderness

Because who knows, that this wilderness maybe hiding the treasure of a lifetime!

Treasure or not, it definitely offers an easy trip to amazing Norway which also has tons of nature to offer, thanks to the mountains and fjords!

So, that’s the trick, isn’t it. To keep moving. No matter what the life has to offer. Who knows what adventures lie ahead! What is yet to be discovered!

Maybe something weird, yet unique?

On taking a break from our philosophical journey, I’ll answer a query. Yes, it is definitely not everyday when we get to see such spectacular sceneries and yes, the time period between late October and mid January may be challenging since there’s less snow and its cloudy most of the time. It’s wet and dark mostly. But again, no one is alone and with so many activities to do, the time flies and before we know it, the promised beautiful dawn after the darkest waits for us.

Meanwhile, the municipality takes quite interesting steps to make the city livelier. This winter, a light festival was organised where numerous artists created interesting pieces of arts with lights! Here’s a quick overview! (Uppsala Light Festival 1st-18th of November 2018 // Allt ljus på Uppsala 2018)

One can still appreciate the city’s lights even when the festival is not taking place

So, thanks for travelling the journey of a differently approached winter with me. See you around!

/Ash

 

Northern Lights! – By Johan

If I say the words “northern light” what do you think about?

You think about this kind of green waves in the sky that you saw in picture or video. If you are a normal person then you should find these so beautiful that you absolutely want to see it at least one time in your life. It is the same for me but my probability to see northern lights where I’m living in the south of France is near to 0 %…What a surprise! Moreover, I heard that even in the north, northern lights are a phenomenon very rare and that many traveler’s hopes were broken by clouds or a low sun activity. So it sounds like you have more chance to win the lottery than see northern lights.

Nevertheless, when I came to Uppsala to study and saw that we had the opportunity to visit Swedish Lapland then I said to myself “Why not?”.  So, we organized with my friends a trip to Kiruna in Swedish Lapland. We planned to do many activities like snowmobile and sled dog and everybody said that norther lights were a bonus and that it won’t be dramatic if we don’t see them. However, the reality was that we all hope to see them, but we didn’t accept it to not be disappointed if the sky doesn’t turn to the green.

The first think to take care is the weather, because if there is cloud in the sky you won’t be able to see anything, except if you can fly above them but I doubt about it. Nevertheless, as the sun activity, the weather is not a data that you can predict because we can not really trust the meteor channel, mainly if the weather forecasts change in function of the channel. So, when we arrive at Kiruna the February 28, the first good point was that the weather was nice! The second one was that many persons living there told us that the weather forecasts predict hight sun activity. Our hope increased.

When the night fall, the camp director told us to keep an eye outside to be able to detect any green lights. I listened him and stick my nose against the window, looking for any signs. At this moment, two of my friends decided to go to the sauna and proposed me to go there too. I told them that they are crazy. How could they manage to observe northern lights if they are enclosed in a sauna? They told me that they will be able to go outside in undershirt if they saw northern lights through the sauna window. I will never know if they were be able to do that because when they return they told us to take a warm coat and go outside. I had never taken a coat as fast as I did this night. When we came outside we saw green line in the sky. We hear people scream “Northern lights!” to warn everybody.

Even if it doesn’t look like we saw in picture we were so happy to be able to see it, even if it was small. But the line starts to increase and cross all the sky like a huge rainbow. Few minutes later, these green lights covered a big part of the sky. We could move our head in all the ways to see different forms like a tornado or a cyclone

Obviously, when you are the witness of a show like this it is difficult to not take your camera to capture these green lights. Then we assist to a paradox because in one hand we think that we should better to enjoy the moment rather to use our camera but in the other hand we know that we assist to a very rare phenomenon and we want to capture this moment.

By the way, we are not equal about the camera level. Some people have already prepared a fix professional camera long time ago before the northern lights arrived while some people like us just use smartphones. The challenge was to manage to take a photo of us with northern lights behind us to prove to everyone that we saw them! The strategy was to light the person while another person takes the photo.

When the Instagram photos and the proves were done we were ready to come to our mobile home when someone scream “Look! it’s turn to pink!”. We look at the sky and effectively a little pink color appeared in the green light and the whole start to move like a dance. To be honest I was too chocked by the beauty of what I was seeing that I have difficulties to remember the scene well.  After this, the northern lights started to disappear like a firework after the final show.

We came back inside and while we were cooking pasta we repeated all the time “We saw northern lights”. We had difficulties to realize what we have seen. Some people in the camp told us that it was a dream for them to see northern lights. That’s it, we assisted to a dream which came true for some people.

So if you share the same dream, tell yourself that is not impossible because if a simple student group in week end at Kiruna managed to see them, you could manage as well!

/Johan

Make your fika even more Swedish: traditional Swedish pastries – By Masha

Almost everyone who comes to Sweden knows what Swedish fika is. However, not everyone is familiar with typical traditional Swedish pastry (cinnamon buns don’t count!). Here is a small guide to traditional Swedish sweets you can (or even must) try during the next fika.

Punschrulle
Punschrulle is a small cylindrical sweet which is made of the mixture of biscuits and butter cocoa, and flavoured with punsch liqueur. It is covered with green-coloured marzipan with the ends dipped in chocolate. Funny fact: punsch-roll is often called dammsugare or vacuum-cleaner in English – this nickname doesn’t only refer to the appearance of the sweet but also comes from the fact that in the past bakers used to collect crumbs from the previous bakery in order to fill the punch-rolls. Punschrulle day is annually celebrated in Sweden on the 7th of March, so don’t forget to mark this day in your calendar!

Semla
Semla is a traditional Swedish sweet roll which you can see in the windows of all cafés and bakeries all across the country during the period from Christmas to Easter. Typical semla is a cardamom-spiced bun with an almond paste and whipped cream which is covered with sugar powder. Originally, semla was eaten only on the day before Lent which is called Fat Tuesday (Fettisdagen) – that’s why semla is also known as fettisdagsbulle. However, nowadays Swedes don’t stick to this tradition anymore and have fika with semla whenever they want. If you haven’t tried this amazing bun yet, you still have time to do that!

Princesstårta
Princesstårta is a cake which consists of several layers of sponge cake, jam, whipped and pastry cream. It is covered with a thin layer of marzipan (which is usually green-colored) and decorated with a pink marzipan rose on the top. The cake was created in the first half of the 20th century by Jenny Åkerström, a teacher of three daughters of Prince Carl, a brother of King Gustav V. Little princesses loved this cake very much, that is why it received its modern name. Despite the fact that the official week for the Princesstårta is the third week of September, you can find this cake in many cafés of Sweden. Nowadays it is very widespread to make this cake in different colours according to certain celebrations. For example, red Princesstårta is typical for Christmas and the white one for a wedding.

Chokladboll
Chocolate balls are another popular pastry in Sweden. These small balls are usually made of oatmeal, sugar, cocoa and sometimes coffee, and covered in shredded coconut. The first reference to a coconut ball dates back to 1943 when the first recipe was published in one of the Swedish newspapers. The pastry immediately gained popularity as it was very easy to make. It’s interesting to know that originally the sweet was called negerboll, but later was replaced by its current name due to the public debates about some racist connotations. Nowadays, the pastry is also known as kokosboll (coconut ball) or havreboll (oat ball).

There’s plenty of nice cafés in Uppsala where you can have a cosy fika and enjoy these pastries, but I will write more about this in one of my next blogs. Stay tuned!

/Masha

Gasques and what they’re like – By Huiyu

Those good and bad things you will never know about GASQUE only until you try it by yourself.

For new exchange students in Uppsala Uninversity, going to one GASQUE is always on the must do list. From the international Gasque to other several variations hosted by student nations, it is almost impossible not to be enticed by trying such a tradition-oriented event. I chose the one proposed by my nation with other two nations as collaborators and collected opinions and experiences from myself and other participants to compose this story so that my dear readers, you will have something prepared in mind about what you may experience both good and bad in your future Gasque.

Merits
A Reccegasque was composed of four sessions: reception ceremony, pre-drink, dinner, and after party. From three o’clock in the afternoon to midnight. Such a long marathon in my opinion was designed to cater to the maximum students who have various expectations toward what a first formal nation event should look like.

For example, first, the formal reception ceremony held at university aula (The University Main Building) displayed the most magnificent side of nation traditions. Members from each nation followed their nation flag and marched from their own nation house to the university aula. We stood in lines at two sides of the building, and entered the main building once the emcee called our nation’s name. When everybody was well arranged at their seats, here came the speakers such as Curator Curatorum and Vice-Chancellor for welcoming speeches followed by a live performance from nation choir and the award presentation to those students who have special contributions to their nations. In between, it was the music played by the orchestra to mark the transition of each small session.

After the reception ceremony, it was the time for interpersonal interactions. New members were guided to one nation house for pre-drink while waiting for the dinner at another nation house. The dinner was held at Östgöta nation with classic stairs leading up to the main dining hall. According to the seating plan, participants could easily find their name plates on the designated seat. Those who sitting next to you could be your friends, or even a stranger but later becomes your friends and ushers you into another social group. (Here is exactly my experience which I will share it in next blog) I truly agree with the notion explained by the inspectors about what the value of a nation is: It is a place where encourages students to socialize with other students with different professions, backgrounds, and life experiences. During the dinner, three dishes were divided by several nation songs, speeches, performances, and tons of dialogues exchanged on the same table.

Almost around 23 o’clock, the dinner went to the ending. To continue the atmosphere for nice dialogues, participants were invited to the second round after party in their own nation houses. In GH nation house, the place usually used for dinning became dance floors. With fast shining light and non stop music by the live DJ, people entered another state where some of them were very proud to boast, “I AM SUPER DRUNK” in another random conversations in the toilet.

Suggestion for improvement

As I said in the beginning, there is more or less some sort of secret fantasy about this event. No matter from the facebook event page or the oral promotion given by the nation representatives, it sounds like if you never try Gasque, your student life seems to miss one piece of puzzle to be completed. Therefore, before joining this event by yourself, you could imagine this event in very different ways. Once I tried it by myself, I saw some part I like from the bottom heart, some are new and striking to accept right away, some are of course deserve improvement, and mostly they are the problem of logistics such as time management and transition arrangement.

As a curious participant, if you want to participate in everything, what you need is a 12 hour energy battery. According to the time schedule given from the facebook event page, the first session started at 15:00 and lasted until midnight for the party. We came to the gathering point on time, but then realized an extra waiting time was needed before everything starts. As the night fell, the dinner times kicked off, but then within almost three hours, we were served only one dish, which was the entrée pie at the already passed dinner time.  Between each dish, participants were invited to leave the dining room and wait outside. Finally, when the delicious dessert and coffee were served, it was almost 23 o’clock, which makes the coffee itself as an energy stimulant look a bit embarrassing.

The transition between each session is the biggest challenge for organizers and participants because all of them were held at different places. On one hand, in a chilly evening, wearing high heels, formal dresses, and suits, walking on snow covered streets, it was as miserable as a bride running away from the wedding. Therefore, I noticed many students chose smart outfits rather than formal dress code or skipped the first two sessions to overcome this inconvenience. On the other hand, for the organizers, it was hard to use only one venue to serve such a group of people with a row of activities especially when the office team was probably outnumbered.

Good and bad experiences happen all the time in cross-cultural context. They are a process of cultural encounter and personal growth because when a person faces these conflicts, he gets to know what general people like and what himself likes, which will make a person more assured of his goal and preference at the end.

/Huiyu

Skiing in Åre – By Anne

Do you want to go skiing in Sweden? Travel to Åre!

This teeny tiny town in Jämtland, northern Sweden, has the biggest alpine skiing region in the country. By the way, the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships were just held in Åre, so maybe you have already seen the slopes on TV.

Half of my class went there just a few weeks ago. We were lucky enough to know about Studentkortet’s Skiweek Åre – every year, some thousand students enjoy the snow in Åre during three weeks in January. The 5-day ski pass and accommodations are super cheap during that time, you get lunch on the slopes and sooo many things for free (really student-friendly!). If you’re still in Uppsala next year, check it out!

We had a blast! Situated only seven hours by train from Uppsala, Åre consists of three different ski areas and has slopes for skiers of all levels, so that even international students who had never skied before could try it out. The nature was beautiful, and we were lucky enough to have some great, sunny days. Apart from skiing, we also discovered some new bits of Swedish culture (in form of Swedish after ski songs, with really great educational value).

I would really recommend taking a trip there if you love outdoor sports. Such a cool experience!

/Anne