At times, hours seem to crawl forward, second by second, endlessly. At other times, days seem to go by as fast as the speed of light. I could not believe that my latest entry for this blog has for instance been a month ago! Digging in what are already becoming memories, I decided to update you about five things which – if possible at all – sum up my first weeks ‘up north.’ As you will see, these include places I have visited, things which has happened to me, and some general thoughts or particularities.
- I fell in a lake. Yes, you read that right. I am starting off with this one as it is probably the most remarkable one. The way it happened is actually as simple as it sounds: I was hiking in nature when I discovered a lake. I got a little bit too close, the surface below me suddenly felt very slippery, and like a small child going down a slide for the first time, I simply slid in. Shoulder-deep in the water, I was obviously soaking wet. Unfortunately, my beloved iPhone did not survive the adventure. Even an intensive five-day rice bag treatment did no good and it had to be put to rest. A new phone and 2 500 SEK later, I am now back in the game. Not recommended though!
- I went to Uppsala. Stockholm is by far the most amazing city I have ever visited! However, there is always more to discover ;-). That is why Charlotte and I decided to go up to Uppsala and have a wander around there. It turned out that Sweden’s fourth biggest city is actually quite small! Nonetheless, the Museum of Art and the Cathedral were impressive and Uppsala itself has a very nice, calm atmosphere to it.
- I visited the City Hall. This is probably the fanciest thing I have been up to since my stay in Stockholm. Stockholm Academic Forum hosted a welcoming reception for international students and researchers in the magnificent City Hall or ‘Stadshuset.’ The visit included some inspirational speeches by several directors and CEOs of academic institutions in Stockholm. We were also introduced to the Blue Hall (which is actually brick red) and the Golden Hall (which is covered in golden mosaic) where we were served lunch. All in all it was a very impressive reception!
- I got friends visiting me. As I have been away from home for a little while now, my first visitors have come up to see me! Two friends from the Netherlands, Martine, who is Dutch, and Robin, who is actually a Swede, came for a weekend. It was so nice having them here, and also a good opportunity for me to explore the city from a tourist’s perspective – something I had not done yet. We went to the Vasamuseum, which hosts a very large Viking ship, art exhibitions and Gröna Lund. I enjoyed seeing them mingle with my friends here. Right now I have my English friend Lauren over! :-)
- I really start to appreciate Swedish culture. Quite an amount of stores here do not have clearly defined men’s or women’s departments, which I think represents the gender equality which has been worked on for a generation now quite well. Also, I learned how frustrating it is being in a hurry and being blocked by people standing on the left side of the escalator. There are, however, also some less fun aspects of living in Sweden. To name the two most prominent things: cold and darkness! In the beginning of October already, I am wearing my winter coat with a heavy scarf and some gloves. When I left my house in the morning a couple of days ago, it was -3 degrees!!! Can you believe that? It also gets dark quite early, at around 18:30. I even started taking Vitamin D supplements already to make up for the lack of sunlight.
One last thing: although the darkness may not be the most loved feature of a life in Scandinavia, it does set the scene for one mystical natural phenomenon. The Aurora Borealis! So far, I have been really close to seeing it twice, but the magnetic strength was either just not high enough, or it was cloudy. And the one night the skies were actually completely green, I was asleep. I have to keep trying I guess :-)