Saturday, April 30, 2011

Valborg välkomnar våren (Valborg welcomes spring)

Today is Valborg day again, the day that Sweden welcomes spring with great anticipation and merriment. In Uppsala the day starts with students racing their assembled and decorated boats/floats on the Fyris river, mainly attempting to survive the river rapids without tipping over. The whole Uppsala is out in town and having picnics in parks. Many old Uppsala students make a pilgrimage back to Uppsala to take part in the "Mösspåtagning", where the rector of the University appears on the balcony of the University library - Carolina Rediviva,  and waves his cap, upon which the sea of onlookers raise their student caps in recognition. The rest of the day is spent in various states and modes of celebration. In the evening people gather in different parts of the city and the Valborg bonfires are lit to officially welcome spring.

Valborg is an original pagan festival which heralded the onset of the growth season. In days long gone, this was the day farm animals were let out to graze for the first time after the winter, and bonfires (majbrasor) have been lit to scare away predators.

Below is a video of the bonfires at Gamla Uppsala (Old-Uppsala) that we also attended last year.

Happy spring to all Northern Hemispherians!


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Picture Perfect Picnic

Yesterday we cycled down to lake Mälaren to have a picnic. We found a lovely spot next to the water and made ourselves comfortable. The weather was perfect, no wind, no clouds and a the lake looked like a mirror. We had our first "braai" of the year and had very nice accompanying dishes.

Afterwards we had a nice little nap (without worrying too much that anything will be stolen). Getting out in Swedish nature during spring is completely different from the snow covered landscape just a few weeks ago, but is still very nice.

Looking forward to more cycling picnics this year.


and this is how the lake looked like a few weeks ago...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring is in the air

The last 2 weeks were the first time one could really notice that spring is coming. The snow started to melt and has almost disappear completely now. There are only a few patches of snow remaining and some snow-grid heaps. The grid is put on the snow and ice on bicycle paths to try to prevent slip accidents. Every time the paths are ploughed the grid together with the snow and ice end up at the side of the paths and roads. At the end of the winter there are small mountains of ice-grit-snow on the sides of all paths. It is these ice mountains that hold out the longest against the approaching spring. Not all the grid are scraped from the bicycle paths though, and when the ice-snow cover melts, a lot of grid remains on the paths. This grid has a nasty habit to get into your shoes, but even worse into the grooves underneath your shoe-soles, which then systematically force cracks into the bottom of your shoes. I must say however, the grid is absolutely necessary in the winter and may have prevented many nasty accidents over the years. In April the city management starts to sweep up the grid with sweeping machines and you know that spring has arrived. It is very nice to cycle on the grid (and ice) free paths.

I have come to the conclusion that April in Sweden is comparable with August in SA. Not the prettiest of months, although you now spring is coming, its not quite there. Everything is still very much dead and just starts to wake up from the winter chill. Furthermore, there are nasty windstorms that kicks up a lot of dust and always seems to come from the front, no matter which direction you are cycling. But all and all I am very happy the summer is coming again, after a winter which seemed as if it will never end.

With all of the snow melting in the last couple of weeks, our city river, "Fyrisan", is also in flood. The, almost-to-the-brim-full river, in the city center is quite a nice sight. The past Wednesday evening after Swedish class, we celebrated the coming spring (and the ability to sit outside) with a burger next to the flooding Fyris river.  Below are some pics

Unfortunately Ronnie has already started to complain about all the sun, which is now rising ten to six in the mornings and setting ten to eight in the evening. For my part, at the moment - I'm loving it (the sun - not the complaining :)