Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Uppsala...adopted home of Carl Linnaeus


Well, another summer is coming to an end (well here it seems to have come to an end up about a month or more ago) and that means that the Linné garden is also closing up for the season. (Carolus Linnaeus or Carl von Linné established the system of nomenclature that we now have today. He based his separations on the sex organs of the plants, i.e. the pistols and the stamens, the plants were organized into groups based on the number of each it had). B. and I had still not made it to the garden (although our hotel when we first came to visit Uppsala overlooked it), so I decided to make my way to that part of town today. Today was a beautiful day so it was the perfect time to check out the garden. I arrived in time for the 2pm English tour only to find out that it was going to be a private tour as no one else was there that day (at least not for the tour). So here's what I learned...

Carl Linnaeus did not actually establish the garden. It was Rudbeck The Elder who travelled abroad and brought back 800 plant species only to discover that the Queen, who had promised him the land to build a botanical garden (the first in Sweden), had abdicated the throne (this was Queen Christina who had travelled to Rome to become a Catholic). So he needed a home for his plants, and he took over his sister/sister-in-law's (I can't remember)kitchen garden. But this was not the best spot for a botanical garden as the soil was very alkaline and the Fyriså (Fyris river) often flooded the garden. Rudbeck the Elder ended up building a house by the garden (a very fire proof house) and he lived there and taught botany at the university. In around 1701, there was a great fire in Uppsala and most of the town burned down, including the castle, the cathedral and the garden (but not Rudbeck the Elder's house). This loss of the garden left Rudbeck so sad that he died a year later. His son, Rudbeck the Younger, was to take over teaching Botany at the University but because of the loss of the botanical garden and the loss of his father, his heart wasn't in it and Botany classes were not be found on campus. In around 1730, Carl Linné; came to Uppsala to take botany classes only to find that the so-called botany department was pretty much defunct. He was at a loss, he couldn't afford to go back home and he wanted to study botany. He happened to meet a man by the name of Celsius (not Anders Celsius who invented the thermometer; an aside:it was Linnaeus who reversed the scale so that 0 is the freezing point and 100 is boiling instead of vice versa; but his uncle). This other Celsius was also a professor at the University and offered Linnaeus a place to stay, and gave him a job as a demonstrator at the garden (some of the plants had survived the fire). Linnaues thus worked on the garden and started teaching Botany classes at Uppsala University. He never actually took a class in Botany and so was entirely self taught. Linnaeus expanded the garden and brought in animals, including monkeys that lived in little houses on the tops of poles. People were allowed in the main part of the garden but not in the various quarters, which were surrounded by hedges in the Baroque style. The garden flourished.

At some point, the King donated the Castle gardens to the University and these became the new Botanical Gardens. Linnaeus's garden fell into disrepair after the death of his son (another Botanist). About 100 years ago, the Swedish Linnaeus Society was formed and they helped to restore the garden based on Linnaeus notes. The university house that is on the property (and is where Linnaeus lived upon becoming a professor) has also been made into a museum. So the current garden has been in existence for about a hundred years. Last year, 2007, was the 300th anniversary of Linnaeus's birth and there were a lot of celebrations in the city. The people of Uppsala are very proud of him.

Here are few shots from my day! Enjoy!

Hej då

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A year ago...

I find it hard to believe that its already been a year since I arrived here in Sweden. Yes, a whole year! September 4th was my anniversary day and my goodness how times flies. Although it has not always been easy living here, I have truly appreciated the experience. And as I plan to enjoy my second kulturnatten (Culture Night) here in Uppsala I was reminiscing about all that has happened this year...

A year ago today, Ben and I headed out on the town with our friend Kim, from South Africa, who sadly left Uppsala last November. That is one of the things that has been great about being here, meeting so many new people from so many places but its also a sad part as we often have to say goodbye. I was feeling the pain recently as one of my good friends here in Sweden left to join her fiance in the Canary Islands. I guess the one positive thing about seeing people leave is the possibility of visiting them one day! :) And hopefully that will happen with everyone who we've met.

B. just left in the taxi to the airport and will be gone for three weeks. I'm trying to make a plan of attack so that I don't get too blue while he's gone. Luckily I started two distance education classes and my Swedish for Immigrants class this week. So I should be able to keep fairly busy.

The new words I learned this week are: modersmål = mother tongue (moders = mother's, mål=tongue) and huvudstad = capital city. Its been a slow start to the Swedish class, but hopefully it will pick up. The positive part is that I've already met so many interesting people in the class. Its like a mini United Nations with people from Germany, Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, South Africa, New Zealand, El Salvador, Chile, Mexica, Colombia, China, Lithuania, Poland, Bosnia, Sudan, Bangladesh and of course, the lone Canadian. Pretty amazing though.

I'll probably be lonely in the next few if anyone is in the mood to chat, give me a call or Skype me!
Trevlig helg (Have a nice weekend!)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Visby, Sheep Island and Maneter!


We're just about finished up an exhausting weekend/week! I think I'm getting to old to do this whole vacation and work thing in the same week...but it has been pretty busy! Thursday I spent in Stockholm, teaching a class, prepping more classes and exploring the Nobel Prize Museum while I waited for B. and our friend, S.-l. to come into town. Of course, the train they were supposed to be on was cancelled so we ended up rushing to our final destination, a concert by the Latvian Symphony featuring a somewhat weird cellist (strange clothes, long curly grey hair which he kept having to brush off his face, you get the picture - but I guess you need to have some eccentricities to be that good). The concert was really good though and was in this concert hall that had seats all around it - which I've never experienced before.

After the concert we crashed at S. and J.'s for the night as we were rising early to catch our ferry to Gotland (well first we had to take the subway and two commuter trains to get to the ferry). The ferry ride was uneventful, 3.5 hours of smooth sailing and a crappy lunch.

Visby was a really neat town. Its the biggest town in Gotland and has around 20,000 inhabitants although not everyone lives in the town walls. Yes, it is a walled city! We spent the afternoon wandering around the town, examining all the old crumbled churches, going into the existing cathedral, buying godis (candies) at a candy sale!!! We then headed back to our cell, for some pre-dinner drinks and some cards. We literally were staying in a cell, as the hostel was an old prison, complete with barbed wire around the walls. It was an interesting set-up as all the rooms were pretty narrow.

The next day we checked out the museum in town, which has a lot of picture stones in it and talks about the Geology of Gotland, which is unique in Sweden. Nothing too exciting...although we did all seem to have more fun in the kid's science part of the museum then we should have. Next stop was to pick up our brightly coloured rental car (see photos) and to head up north towards Fårö (translation: sheep island). We stopped in the town of Bro to examine the old church which contains some picture stones in its walls and has some of the only remaining standing stones in a farmers field (which we almost drove by). Then we stopped at this place (the name I can't remember) that has an old fort submerged in the middle of a lake (Atlantis????). Apparently you can dive and check it out if you want. It seemed from the limited signage, that the fort might actually have been built over the lake, but we are unsure of that detail. We didn't have our scuba gear with us so we refrained from diving in :)

We took the ferry (5 minutes) to Fårö and continued our drive up to the south beach where our cabin was. The beach was amazing there, super soft sand, very calm sea, thousands of jellyfish (maneter). Yes, I'm serious, for every square metre there must have been 7 jellyfish. It wasn't that it was exceptionally warm so we weren't planning on going swimming and suntanning that much but its always fun to run into the ocean. We tried this the next day, the others made it out a ways (the jellyfish still didn't subside though), I made it up to my waist and then decided it wasn't fun standing on jellyfish and having jellyfish brush against you every second so I beelined it for the shore. And I'm the swimmer, not a brave one obviously. Our second day on the island we rented bikes and rode out to some sea stacks. The sea stacks were formed when either the sea subsided or the land rose and then the coral reefs were eroded by the elements, until only these towers of rock remained. Our bike ride was a bit of an adventure on tractor roads, read: bumpy, swampy and windy. We did see many sheep so the island lived up to its name, we also saw old wooden windmills, and houses and barns with very cool thatched roofs. Of course, we had to stop for a fika so we stopped at bakery and enjoyed some paj (pie) and some saffron pancakes, a specialty of the island. The pancake is more like a gelatinous/eggy pie with raisins, rice and, obviously, saffron in it. It is served with salmbår (a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry) jam and cream (of course).

The rest of our trip included more sea stack spotting, some frisbee playing, walks on the beach and wine. We got back to Uppsala at 11:15pm on Monday night and were pretty tired.

To check out our weekend click here...

Trevlig helg!