Sunday, June 29, 2008

Glad Midsommar! (Happy Midsummer!)


Well, we experienced the longest day of the year last weekend. Here in Uppsala, the sun rose at approximately 3:30 in the morning, and set around 10:15 at night. I have now gotten used to the fact that we eat supper when the light outside makes it feel around 4pm. But the birds chirping at 2 am is harder to get used too...

Here is an image of the church backlit by the lightening sky at 2 am (and this was on May 23 a full month before the solstice).

The midsommar/midsummer holiday is pretty much the largest holiday in Sweden (maybe even bigger than Christmas). Swedes gather together, dance around poles, sing songs, drink schnapps and eat sill (yes, every holiday seems to encompass these food items), and play games. One of my students described a pentathalon of sorts that he took part in, where the games consisted of throwing a rubber boot as far as you could, walking with a stick between your knees, drawing a horse pooing (he used another term) with your bad hand, blowing up a condom as fast as you could and there was one other game that I've forgotten. My midsummer was slightly more laid back than that. S., J. and I rented a car and drove to their countryhouse (B. was in France). It was my first time driving here and I was slightly nervous that I may have forgotten how after my lack of practice :) On our way to the countryhouse we stopped in Gränna and watched them make polkagris (kind of like candy sticks), and picked up some fantastic knäckebröd (a hard bread like Ryvita). The country house is just outside of a small town called Gällstad (pronounced Ylstad) and it is about a 4.5 hour drive from Stockholm.

As usual, Swedes celebrate midsummer on the eve rather than the actual day, so Friday was a busy day getting the table set up in the loft and prepping for the arrival of the guests, which included 5.5 other Swedes and an Australian. We spend the afternoon making our midsummer pole and the girls made flower wreaths for our hair (mine was rather shabby looking but hey it was my first time!). We then did some traditional dancing around the pole and played some kubb. Our supper consisted of the traditional Swedish holiday foods and we enjoyed plenty of singing (luckily our hosts supplied song sheets) and schnapps after every song. Some of the other guests also brought along some song sheets of our own so we even ended up singing a German song (see video clip). I think that our celebration was somewhat laid back in comparison to those of other people but it made for a nice day.

Some cultures have taken to mocking Sweden for its love of this somewhat pagan holiday. The midsummer pole is actually a phallic symbol so this prompts some lewd ideas. For a crazy take on the midsummer tradition, watch this now banned Ikea commercial which aired in Germany....

Here is a video of our more tame version of midsummer...

For more photos from my weekend...

Well, that's it for now! We're moving tomorrow and B.'s parents arrive on Wed. so its going to be a busy week! We had a Canada Day Party last night (thanks J. and R. for all the Canada gear) and it was a big hit - and I think fairly educational for our non-Canadian guests...I'll write more about that in the days to come!

Hej då

Monday, June 16, 2008



Well, we recently returned from a brief trip to Italy, and I grew to truly appreciated Swedish efficiency during our time there. The trip was fantastic so don't get me wrong, but some events that occurred at the airport made me wonder about Italy and Italians :) One prime example, upon arriving at the airport in Florence we discover that our plane is half an hour late, no big deal...but then time ticks closer and closer to the time of departure and no one has come to the gate. Approximately five minutes after the time we should have been departing, a P.A. announcement announces that the plane has been diverted to Bologna because of bad weather (there had been a thunderstorm). And that's all it said. There is still no one at the gate, and no other information has been provided. So we all sit there and wait to see what will happen. Approximately 20 minutes later a second announcement repeats the information from the first and then announces that they will give us more information in 15 minutes. This is still all happening over the P.A. system with no actual physical presence at the gate. The announcement never comes, but we notice that we now have a new time of departure of 2 hours late. Phew! We're going to get to leave today. Fast forward to the time of boarding. The Florence airport is very small and you have to take a bus to the plane and then walk up the steps, so we all board the bus, complete with about 25 children under the age of 3, and wait, and wait, and finally a bus driver comes and drives us to the plane, only there are no stairs going up to the doors of the plane and the doors are shut. So the driver sits there for a minute and as we wait the plane takes off!!! Apparently that wasn't our plane. Our plane is a bit further away at another waiting area. At this point, we just had to laugh at the chain of events that has transpired. But it ended well, we made it back only 3 hours late, and still made it in time for our dinner plans with friends!

If you want to check out our photos you can take a look at:
(yes, there are three albums, I know, I know)

Ahhh, long live Swedish efficiency!
Hej då

Monday, June 9, 2008

Galen Studerande (Crazy Students)


I know its been awhile since my last post and I apologize. We are about to head off to Italy so I thought I better write something before we left. Last Thursday was graduation day in Uppsala. Not graduation from university but graduation day from high school (a.k.a. gymnasium). Students select the gymnasium they will attend based on the skills they want to learn. If you plan on going to university then you go to a gymnasium that will give you the classes you need, if you plan on doing something more hands-on, ditto. Graduation day started early last Thursday, as I was walking to the train station at 7:20am, the students were already lined up getting their graduation photos taken on the banks of the river. High school students also wear the traditional white student hat that I mentioned in my previous post. The girls typically wear a white dress, and the boys wear a suit. So far, nothing crazy....but....

I got off the train around 2pm that afternoon, met up with my friend Julie, and we headed into town. We had barely left the train station before a cacophony of horns and music met our ears. Apparently the graduation students either rent big trucks or big trailers that are pulled by tractors, or just have their parents drive them around in a convertible or other car, with the music blasting and the drinks a flowin'. Please see pictures for clarification! This continued for pretty much the entire afternoon, so traffic was somewhat chaotic in downtown Uppsala on Thursday.

Well, we are off to Siena and Montalcino this week. The weather forecast does not look great for Italy which is too bad. We have been having amazing weather here. Plus 25-29 all week!
We went for a bike ride on Saturday evening and saw a hedgehog! Pretty cool (we also saw some sheep but that was somewhat less exciting). Last night we watched the Germany-Poland (Tyskland-Polska) match, but it was not as exciting as I had hoped and I found myself doozing off in the pub (no, I had not had too much to drink, only one glass of wine).

Anyways, I'll write once we get back on Sat. and tell you how the trip went!