“What is there to see in Uppsala?” asked by a friend.
“First the greenery, then the mood and culture of the town”, I replied, my friend was not satisfied with my answer. She wanted a guide and thus stared at me quizzically.
“Uppsala is the land of Carl Linnaeus, the great botanist and zoologist. So there must be wonderful botanical gardens, green houses and also lush greenery of deciduous plants sprawling the hill area during summer and riot of colors during fall”, I continued, “Also since it is a university town since the medieval age, you must expect students everywhere with studying, playing music, working in cafes and also spending time with their dear ones. And thus a culture has been developed in the city.”
I am unsure whether my friend will experience the same or not because she has plan to travel in next winter. I visited the city twice – once in summer and the second visit was during fall just to get the fall color. Today I tell you the experience of my visit in summer.
Uppsala University is known as a renowned university across the world. Based on the university, the township has been built from 200 kilometers of Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. This is the second oldest city of Sweden after its neighborhood town Sigtuna.
History of Uppsala:
In order to speak about the long history of Uppsala, I need to start roughly 5 kilometres north of the present city. 1500 years ago, the city was built on the bank of river Fyris (or Sala). Gradually the city grew into an important religious and political center. It was pre Christian Era of Sweden. Paganism was practiced in that time.
In 1087, Uppsala was burned and hence Christianisation was started in Uppsala. Gradually river Fyris became unsailable and the port was shifted to a location where the present city is built.
The ancient pagan city became Gamla Uppsala and the ruin is under some small hills known Thing of all Swedes.
Cathedral was built in the new city in 1435 and Uppsala University was founded in 1477.
Swedish king Gustav Vasa seized power in Sweden in 1523. During his reign the city experienced decline. But the castle, Uppsala Castle, was founded.
The city was revived and started flourishing when Gustav II Adolf became the King of Sweden. In his patronage, the university experienced renaissance. King Gustav II Adolf realized the necessity of education than war.
In 1702, a large part of the city was destroyed by fire. In next 200 years, the city was severely affected by socio-political reasons.
Again in 20th century the city the city was revived and now a days it is an University town.
I got up early in the morning and came to T-Centralen (The Stockholm City Center) station by public transport. The commuter train for Uppsala starts from there but from the bottom most floor. For the people from northern part of Stockholm can also avail the commuter train from Solna. I went to the ticket counter to check whether the SL card (The Stockholm local transport card) is sufficient for the travel or not. The lady in the ticket counter said since Uppsala is located in the different province of Sweden, the SL card needed to be topped up with 90 SEK for one trip, however a 24 hour pass could be cheaper – 160 SEK. The second one was my obvious choice.
The train service from Stockholm to Uppsala is very frequent as the train goes via Stockholm Airport. I boarded the train.
During my journey a reasonable change of landscape was observed. Till Solna, it was a usual cityscape of Stockholm, followed by the newly developed suburban from Solna to Airport and after that, a glimpse of lovely Scandinavian countryside was the treat to eyes.
Uppsala Central Station:
It took about an hour to reach Uppsala and after coming out of the Uppsala Central Station, I lit one cigarette. It was my first duty to finalize the route and accordingly set the Google Map – my all-time friend during any trip.
The time was early summer. After four months of ice covered and dark state the city was charged up with the warmth of sunlight. The trees look happy with the new born fresh green leaves. Common people looked very much refreshed by the blessing of sunlight.
“May I help you?” I heard from a melodious female voice. I looked up and found a young girl with greeting eyes.
“ciana”, I replied.
“It seems like you are a tourist and if any help is required then please feel free to share”
“Thank you, this is my first visit, so I was just marking the seeing places in my map, could you please check whether my route is correct or not.”
“let me check” She took my mobile and checked my route. She suggested me to cover all the places by feet and for Gamla Uppsala, get a bus.
I thanked her. Later I came to know that she was pursuing her degree in tourism and thus for some extra income and experience she is working under an organization as a trainee peer assistant. Her job is to guide the tourists.
I started walking towards Uppsala Cathedral. Like other Swedish cities the streets and cityscape are geometric and colorful. It was a nice and gentle walk as there was no time constraint. Walking for a few minutes I came on the bank of small Fyris River. The river flows through the landscape surrounded by large vegetation.
I crossed the river through the arch shaped bridge and walking a few kilometres I reached in front of Uppsala Cathedral.
As I said earlier, after the end of Viking Era, Gamla Uppsala (Old town of Uppsala) got completely damaged by fire, the construction of Uppsala Cathedral’s got started near the Fyris River. It took few year to get completed and currently the 118.7 metered long cathedral is the longest cathedral of Nordic Region.
The iconic cathedral is a legacy of Frech-Gothic architecture. Its latin cross ground plan consists of three aisled basilica with single-aisled transepts and a four-bay chancel with an ambulatory surrounded by five chapels. It posses twin towers in the western end.
I went inside or better to say the chants coming from the inside of the cathedral pulled me inside. I found a musician playing with an instrument that I had never seen before.
I spent a long time just for the music and later I came out for the next destination – Gustavianum.
Gustavianum is the oldest building of Uppsala University. Located on the opposite to Uppsala Cathedral, the university takes its name from Swedish King Gustav Adolph who patronaged the construction of the university.
Gustavianum is currently a museum. The origins of the University are displayed in the museum.
The museum was closed in my both visits else I had interest to experience its anatomical theater where the dissections were performed in front of the students.
Uppsala University Hall:
Though the departments of Uppsala University is spread over the city but the main building is located on the way to Uppsala castle. This building also known as the University Hall.
The building is an example of “Beaux-Arts Style” architecture and designed by the architect Herman Teodor Holmgren.
Currently the building is mainly used for lectures, conferences, concerts and ceremonies. When I visited a performance was taking place outside the hall.
My next destination was Uppsala Castle. The gigantic castle is located in a small hike to Kasaen Ridge. The castle was built by Swedish king Gustav Vasa III in 16th century and currently close to the Archbishop’s palace. IN 1792, the castle was ravaged by fire and now, what we see today is a smaller scaled construction done French Classicist style.
Some companies and three museums are still there inside the castle but only the art museum is opened for common people. I did not go inside, instead wandering the castle I saw the bastions are still there in defensive mode. Even some cannons are still there as a silent speaker of its working days.
I spreed few minutes and then found the staircases towards Uppsala Botanical Garden.
Uppsala Botanical Garden:
Uppsala Botanical Garden is adjacent to the castle and that was obviously my next spot.
Facing the castle and down a steep stone staircase lies the Uppsala Botanical Garden. King Gustav III donated this large garden to the university that contains neo-classical style building named as Linneanum Building that was opened on the birth centenary of Linnaeus. The large garden is full of colour and strolling along along the path of the garden was a treat to my eyes. Large number of flora across the world can be seen in this garden.
A series of interconnecting greenhouses was maintained by the botany department of the university. Mostly, professors, students and research scholars take care of the greenhouses.
Coming out of the botanical garden, I felt really hungry. My wrist watch was saying the time 2PM. First I thought to have lunch in some Swedish restaurant but later I chose a food truck ran by two students. I ordered a beef falafel wrap and a cup of coffee.
Having lunch I went to the Linnaeus Garden, the residence of the great botanist of Sweden Carl Linnaeus. Before entering the main building, I found two aged men (they were students, professors of the university) were singing some nordic folk songs and playing guitar, ukulele. Later I met them and came to know, every weekend of Summer, they do the same just to entertain the tourists. Sweden has a strong musical history. The great ABBA Band are all time best sellers. But these two gentlemen are actually folk musicians. When I met them they first recognised me as an Indian. I got astonished to know their knowledge about Indian Folk Music. They know Indian folks like baul, bhatiali and bihu.
I wanted to have more conversation with them but there were some time constraints for me. I entered to Linnaeus Building. The garden inside the compound is the oldest botanical garden and developed by Linnaeus himself. One side of the garden, there is a building that was the residents of university tutors where Linnaeus himself lived (1743-1778). This section is now a museum where the belongings of the great scientist have been displayed.
While coming out of the complex, a student informed me that a small street play and music concert was about to be performed by the students and tutors of the university inside the garden. I thanked him and waited for the show.
Within few minutes it started and it was a lovely show. It was based on the global warming.
My next destination was Gamla Uppsala. But before that I wanted to be a few hours in the Main Square of Uppsala. Baroque style houses containing small souvenir shops, restaurants, book shops, garments shops formed lovely geometry of the area. I was a bit tired, so decided to take a rest for an hour. I went to a pub and ordered a local crafted beer.
My last destination was Gamla Uppsala. The old, ruined town. I availed a bus and within 30 minutes I reached Gamla Uppsala.
Gamla Uppsala is the ancient part of Uppsala and currently a beautiful landscape can be experienced here. A vast swathe of countyside is a treat to eyes. A number of small hills (9-10 meters) are standing their keeping the history of the ruined pagan town in their souls. Three large mounds are known as “Swedish Royal Mounds”. According to the folklore, they are Thor, Odin and Freyr three Old Norse gods lying in three mounds.
Gamla Uppsala Church is the pre medieval archbishopic church of Sweden. It seemed like a wise old storyteller telling the tales of the ancient Sweden and the great viking people.
It was almost 7PM though bright sunlight was still there. But I had to come back to Stockholm, so I got the bus and came back to Uppsala Central Station. Walking on the street I met a university couple singing folk songs with guitar and ukulele. The guy was from Spain and the girl from Italy. They had planned to visit Greenland for honeymoon thus they chose music to earn some money. People were offering tips to them.
At the very beginning of this article I said, it was the mood of the city that attracted me a lot.