Month: May 2019

Valborg 2019 – Expectations vs Reality – By Lucie

Since the very first sunny August day I came to Uppsala, I’ve been welcomed with the phrase: “Beware, winter is coming.” Everyone has warned me about the Swedish winter and how tiresome it may be. However, in the same breath they added: “Wait for the last of April, it’s worth it to outlast the winter to experience Valborg.” So I did.

After experiencing (and successfully surviving) both, I can say that the endless winter is more than compensated for by Valborg. Since I’ve heard so many different myths and legends about this annual spring celebration, I had several expectations. Some of them were fulfilled, some of them were not. Let’s see:

Expectation 1: Valborg is a full day of partying.

Right. But that’s not all. Valborg celebrations last about a week, which is full of events – not only at the nations, but also more official ones like Donning of the Caps at Carolina Rediviva or Spring Salutation at the Castle hill

Two days preceding Valborg are called Skvalborg and Kvalborg (meaning qualification for Valborg). The main activities take place on April 30th, which is followed by Finalborg. This finale day links elegantly to the ‘qualification’ day on Kvalborg. On the whole, this celebration race has also about 4 days.

Speaking about about a race…

Expectation 2: The boat race at Fyrisån is a breathtaking competition.

I had this image in my mind of people on funny boats going as fast as possible, trying to overtake each other while their boats gradually fall apart. In reality, this event taking place at 10:00 on April 30th was more of a parade. Nevertheless, that gave all of us more time to admire the original boat designs and greet the crews. And to satisfaction of those who expected some drama, a couple of boats overturned during the ride.

Expectation 3: There will be a lot of people at Ekonomikum park.

Wrong. It wasn’t a lot of people. It was masses of people gathering not only at Ekonomikum park, but everywhere in the city from early morning until late in the evening. Uppsala was truly living a life on its own. Young and old, Swedish and international, all people were mingling and celebrating together.

What I appreciated very much was the organization of the whole event. The official sponsor of Valborg (Varannan water) managed to keep everyone hydrated during the whole socially exhausting day. Although most of the plastic water bottles were forgotten in the park in the evening, impressively enough, all of them were gone when I woke up the next morning (or afternoon, better to say).

Expectation 4: I will see all of my friends during Valborg.

I couldn’t be more wrong. A meritorious Uppsala resident and Valborg celebrator told me – “Don’t make plans with more than one person during Valborg, it will never work out.” Indeed, it was difficult to make big plans as me and my friends had wholly different ideas what to do and see and it was close to impossible to find all of them in the crowds.

But don’t worry, you’ll never be alone. Instead, you may end up with a couple of closest friends or people you’ve barely seen before and still have the best time of your life. I recommend not planning in advance too much and rather being more spontaneous.

Last week of April has something in stock for everyone and there is no universal recipe how to cook your Valborg right. You can choose from a variety of ingredients – from hanging out at Ekonomikum park, watching bonfires at Gamla Uppsala to eating barbecue burgers at one of the nations.

So go and make the best mixture during Valborg 2020!


Welcome to Sweden – By Simarjit

Valkommen till Sverige!

‘College life’, like most people, I was looking forward to it. Pictures of students sitting in the park on a sunny day just hanging out with no worries of the world. Some of you reading this blog might be planning to come to Sweden for their University education, some of you may already be here, some of you folks couldn’t find anything better to do so you decided to search for random blog articles on the internet. Seriously guys, get your life together. Either way, if you came here to learn more about this ‘amazing college-life’ and the stuff that you’ll be doing once you get here, sadly, this is not the blog post for you. It’s grim and deals with some boring stuff. So if you don’t want your excitement to fade, I suggest you look for some other articles on the website.

So, let’s begin. Imagine waking up hungover. You wake up, try to get your feet on the ground with your head throbbing with pain and you saying to yourself,’Never again!’. Sad, considering you know that you’re going to go through that exact same feeling next weekend. It’s alright, we’ve all been there. Ahh, the irony! So, you stand up, look at yourself in the mirror and think about last night. You’re flushed with a feeling of embarrassment when you remember how walked into a pole and started apologizing to it like it was a person. You know it’s going to be a shitty day. You go to the kitchen to look for something to feed your stomach, it’s rumbling like the thunder during a storm. You open the fridge and Voilà, it’s empty. Except for a carton of milk that has developed new life and maybe some cheese, if you’re lucky. Grocery shopping, we all need to do it, nobody teaches us how to. Good grocery shopping is an art. I haven’t mastered it, not even close. Nevertheless, I figured that my experiences in last 7 months of staying here could prove to be helpful to noobs.

This article could be helpful to those of you who are staying/will be staying in Flogsta as the nearest grocery store is ICA Väst, one of the cheaper grocery stores out there.

1) Food
Start easy, if you don’t know how to cook, don’t go and buy onions, tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms thinking you’ll make something fancy. You can’t, not yet. Start with the basics. Get some milk (Lactose-free if you’re lactose intolerant, none if you’re vegan). Be careful as they have something called ‘Filmmjölk’ in Sweden. It’s not milk, it’s ‘sour milk’. It’s similar to yoghurt. Buy some cereal to go with the milk. Get some fruit that is easy to eat, like bananas, apples etc. Sometimes, they have some good deals at ICA Väst, keep an eye out..

And then, our saviour, pasta. You can easily find pasta in any grocery store along with ready-to-use sauce.

These are all just different types and brands of pasta sauce. If you’re just looking for the cheapest stuff, it’s usually on the bottom shelves. The brand that you see is ‘ICA Basic’. They make a whole range of ‘daily-use’ products which are cheaper than the usual brands. Of course you have to make a few sacrifices and the quality of these products is a hit or miss.

Once you get the hang of it, you can try and start cooking proper food in a few days. What I usually do is go to the sales section, check out what’s on sale, buy it and then cook something based on what I get. It’s cheaper that way and ICA usually has a wide range of sales so you have the ability to choose. You can also check out the sales on their Facebook page, saves you the time of going physically to the store.

When you enter, on the left, you have the candy section. Beyond it, on the left, is the sale section. They have some good stuff on sale sometimes, keep an eye out. In addition, if you’re a meat-lover, you can find amazing sales on meat at ICA as well.

2) General stuff
But, food is not the only thing you’re going to need. Basic stuff like toilet paper and hand-wash also needs to be on your list. You will also need detergent. It depends where you are living though. If you’re living at Klostergatan 16 with UU housing office, you won’t need detergent. Therefore, it is important that you read about your accommodation and what facilities will be provided to you. If you’re living in Flogsta however, you will have to buy most of the stuff yourself. Apart from the pans, plates etc that you can find in the common kitchen. Unfortunately, I had to buy all of that as well since my kitchen didn’t really have much to begin with. So you may have to go to IKEA once you get here.

I could keep on going, but there’s only so much you can read and remember. This post started out as kinda serious, but if I’m being perfectly honest, you’ll be just fine. It’s like learning how to drive a car, when you start, you’re lost and don’t know if you’ll ever get there. But you do. All of this may sound scary to someone who hasn’t experienced this before. I remember being nervous when I came to Sweden because I didn’t know how to cook. And now, cooking has become my hobby. It’s a stress-reliever for me. So, I will say the same thing to you that my friends said to me when I moved here ,’Teri lagne vaali hai’. Meaning? ‘You’re going to get screwed’. They were being sarcastic. Or were they?


An Ultimate Weekend Guide – By Lucie

Imagine this scenario: your family is coming over to Uppsala for a visit and they have entrusted you (as their Swedish expert) to prepare a program for the weekend. Your task is clear – to amuse them and show them the beauty of Sweden.

Don’t get me wrong, Uppsala is a wonderful city and there is nothing wrong about chilling at one of the cafés or strolling through the city centre. However, a more adventurous family may want to explore more than this university town.

So what to do at the weekend like this, when the weather is nice (or at least nice according to the Swedish standards)? If you have ever asked the same question, you are in the right place here. The solution: Plan a trip! Here are a few tips, which won’t devastate your bank account.

1) Lake Ekoln
Located only 10 km to the south from the Uppsala city centre, lake Ekoln is a place worth a visit. You can get there by bus, but I also recommend to make a walking tour or a bike tour. The advantage is that there is basically no elevation on the way, which is good news for leisure cyclists like me. Although it’s so close to the city, you can feel the peace and quiet of nature.

2) Gamla Uppsala
I know. You have probably heard about the renowned three magical hills in the suburbs of Uppsala. But there is something more than those “three humps”. The whole surroundings will splash you with the old Viking spirit. It’s the location of the general assembly from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages. According to ancient mythology, the three gods Thor, Odin and Freyr are lying inside the large barrows. If you want to know more, visit the Gamla Uppsala museum.

3) Storvreta
Still snowing outside? Ideal for sports enthusiasts, the cross-country skiing resort Storvreta is just 15 km away from Uppsala. For as little as 60 SEK a day, you can enjoy a full day of cross-country skiing. You can either bring your own ski or rent them at one of Uppsala’s rental shops.

4) Stockholm
I know I said low-cost tips. But even the trip to Stockholm can be made very affordable. Look for Flixbus tickets, you can get them for as cheap as 30 SEK only, with a 20 % discount with your Mecenat card. In addition, Stockholm offers a bunch of museums that are free-of-charge (such as The Royal Armoury, The Medieval Museum, National Museum or Moderna Museet).

Other popular museums, which are not for free, but worth the entrance fee include:

Vasa museum: Believe it or not, a museum about one ship can be so interesting that you will spend there at least 2 hours. The Vasa warship, built in the 17th century, wrecked after just a few hundred meters in Stockholm harbour. After more than 300 years, the ship was salvaged and can be seen at Vasa museum today.

Abba museum: How to explore the Swedish culture better than with one of the most famous music bands of all times? Watch, listen, sing and play. At Abba museum, you can do it all!

Nobel museum: An educational excursion to the world of science, economics and literature. Nobel museum explains everything about Alfred Nobel’s life and the Nobel Prize awarded each year to those who “conferred the greatest benefit to humankind”.

Not a fan of museums? Nevermind, Stockholm has something in stock for everyone.

Both art and transport lovers will surely appreciate the artistic Stockholm metro stations…

…bookworms and architecture enthusiasts will like the Stockholm City Library with a circular floor plan.

For those who ever wondered how the Swedish political system works, the Swedish parliament (Riksdag) is open for everyone who wants to attend a debate, take a guided tour or visit the Riksdag Library.

Nevertheless, a walk in Gamla Stan and a picture of the houses at Stora Torget is a must for all.

No matter what you choose to do, have a nice weekend trip!


Unexpected things about Valborg 2019 – By Huiyu

Everything starts from a window view. A window of building 34 Rackarbergsgatan (near one of the main event locations, Ekonomikum Park) broadcasts a non- stop live streaming for 2019 Valborg. Standing in front of this window, I had observed the city from the preparation from 26 April to the beginning of getting crowded on 30 April until getting back to normal on 1.May. No matter who you are, old, young, sober, drunk, single, couple, students, tourists……, the unexpectedness of Valborg proves its credible fame that Uppsala is worth it.

  1. Valborg is for everyone

Though Uppsala is a student city, Valborg is definitely not for students only. The first time I checked the programs, I came out with a question, “What are those adults and children do with Valborg?” Because from my preliminary understanding, everything surrounds the student theme: drinking alcohol, student race, throwing graduation caps, student performances, student night club. However, in these events, I noticed children and adults equally enjoyed themselves as students.

Along the Fyris riverside, while the raft race is going on, the main cheerleading team is from family with kids sitting behind the railing and shouting for the passing boats. Once their energy is used up, at two sides of the river, sweets and toy vendors are on standby. In the long queue, I always overhear intimate dialogues between families. In exchange of children’s proper behavior during an entire day, a box of churros, a funny design of balloon, an ice cream seem to be a very cheap trade. In such a sunny day, which parents would not want to take advantage of the free occasion as a precious family one-day trip?

Turning back from Fyris and going up to the main library, Carolina Rediviva, people will notice posters are all replaced with Swedish national flag. The countdown board arranged on the center of the façade predicts the grand opening of the ceremony at the following hours. When it is three o’clock sharp. People take out their caps and wave at the air according to the order from the main speakers. Among the white caps, it is not hard to find some beige color. Their owners are some old couples or friends. The beige color somehow symbolizes those fresh student lives in the past as gorgeous and impressive as what I am experiencing now in my exchange year. That is the moment I am pretty much touched for I feel the tradition deeply connects the people from different regions and ages in this particular time and place. Two of my interviewees from Gothenburg and Uppsala told me, “Valborg is good for bringing tourists to witness our tradition.  For example, the last song sung by the choir in the ceremony has 200 years old history.”

In front of Norrlands nation, the street is full of happy dancing pairs. What amazes me the most is several senior couples. They hold their lovers’ hands, wave their bodies while following the melody from the live jazz band and singers.  Compared to us such a group of young people who just stand and behave a bit shy, they are so chill and enjoy the moment. “Look, on the roof, there is another senior couple, standing there silently and watching their comrades downside. What a life!“

  1. Valborg price could be higher

Valborg in Uppsala is the biggest spring celebration around whole Sweden. It always attracts a big crowd of people to come and gather in the town. Where there is people, there is business. Valborg in Uppsala is like a carnival, so the price for many things are raised during the celebration, which are not necessarily correspondent to the quality a person can get from the normal day.  Access to many nation events also require entrance fee. Therefore, to distinguish a student identity with a tourist, many people bring their own food to the picnic area or spend time at night at the home party.

  1. Valborg events could be similar but also different

When I associate Valborg with a carnival, I always imagine it is a day full of activities. Yes, it is, but it is not as well. If you check the schedule from the morning to the midnight or from preparation period to Valborg day, you do see many proposals: gasque, champagne picnic, race, food, nation party, ceremony and speech, choir performance, and club. However, if you enter each occasion, you can conclude two or three similar patterns: People gather, spend time together, eating, drinking, and moving. Especially, in such a small town, the popular places to afford people could be numbered easily by fingers. Friends or acquaintances you know just take turn wandering around these places. Occasionally, I bumped into several friends and we exchanged our daily itineraries, the first one is pretty much the same even to the tenth one. If a foreign student sticks to one group of people from the morning until night, I wonder what else can they still talk about?

  1. Valborg chaos is under controlled

When certain number of people gather, there is a possibility to have chaos. On Valborg, the city shows its well preparation and experience to the major two chaos: security and trash.

The massive trash mountains at Valborg night is very frightening. Streets are full of bottles. Main parks or picnic areas are covered by plastic bags, food packages, and clothes or blankets. At the first sight, I could not make a conclusion whether this is about Sweden or human being. When alcohol starts working, the position of environmental protection becomes so little, even for the most environmental friendly country Sweden. It is until the second day around ten o’clock, I was once again shocked by the scenery from my window. The city is as clean and quiet as the other day before Valborg. At several places, I met some people wearing the yellow vest of Uppsala Council. They are high school students, football team, scouts, and others directly hired by the city council. In order to earn training and traveling fund, allowance, or out of responsibility for the environment, or another ironic way to cleanse what they did last night, they start the cleaning task from 7 or 8 to 11 to 12. In other words, if Valborg events end at 4 in the morning, around half a day, their mission is completed. From a participant of the cleaning task, there are 20 teams like this working on returning the city appearance. To face the massive trash, though they comment the amount is less than last year, I could not help but praise the organization and efficiency of Swedish government.

As terrorist attack has become a normalized phenomenon in many European cities, security force has always been alert for any kinds of assembly. On Valborg, in addition to the guard at the entrance for nations, around the main celebration venues, polices and ambulance cars are visible, which is not a common scene in Uppsala, but for the sake of the safety of the most safest city, this is necessary. Only under this level of confidence to the security, we do not need to worry about anything during the celebration. Just like the random keys I founds on the bench, they are still there waiting for their owners even until the second day.

  1. Valborg is an exception

“Heavy drinking is a student thing, but it is allowed. It is a process from a student to a grown up. One day when we look back, we remember we did something crazily together, and it is okay because we are allowed to do something on Valborg for something we might not do on the other day.”

For a student, Valborg is an exception…..of certain taboos or a normal way a student lives. It is also a highlight of the student life and of the friendship we vow to protect and cherish forever.  2019 Valborg, I was spending my time with my dear friends who I met for the first and second arrival weeks in Uppsala. I remember that kind of loneness and uncertainty when a person came to a new environment, but because of such a company, we have gone through so much hard time. Until now it is probably our last month in Sweden. No matter what we did, at the castle, at club, at nation pub, at the ceremony, on Valborg we celebrated the coming of spring and also the most quality time of just being together. To friendship, Skål!