Sunday, August 9, 2009

Perfect Uppsala

First impressions:

1) Size & good order. Uppsala seems exactly the right size for itself. There are just enough tables outside the coffee shop for it to seem full, and yet someone always leaves just before the next customers arrive, and so it never feels crowded. The botanical gardens are the same. It's 27C today, reportedly among the few good summer days they've had this year, so I expect everyone is out. But fullness doesn't make a crowd here, just a steady flow of active, sunny people wearing just the right thing on their charming, one-gear bikes. It's like the 1950s. Even the tough kids collect their rubbish after them.

2) Costs. It's bad form to go on about money when you're travelling, but I can't help myself on this occasion. Entrance to the pool facility--again, busy but pleasantly so--was 85kr, or about AUD15, while a little later I got a very respectable local beer in a riverside bar for 42kr. I always thought the Swedes had inverted this equation, making fun things expensive and good-for-you things affordable. Last time I was here, I paid AUD12 for a beer, some 50% more than today. Hooray!

3) Good order (again). There can be no accountants in Sweden. Everything seems so ordered already. The gardens are informally divided into ages, with the first bit set aside for groups of young drinkers, the second section more family-focused, and so on. There wasn't a part set aside for jet-lagged, slightly lonely academics trying to stay awake until at least 8:30.

4) Forthrightness. Who can beat the Swedes on this? Consider this item on the back of my tourist map: "The Linnaeus Garden, laid out in about 1655, is arranged in accordance with Linnaeus's sexual system."

5) My bike hire (see two posts earlier). The hotel lends bikes. Yes, as in for free.

6) Bottle shops. I had mistakenly thought that Sweden was more enlightened than Iceland on the matter of state-run bottle shops. Nope. There are no bottle shops open after 3pm Saturday. In fact, I haven't even seen a bottle shop. And I've looked. Trust me, I have looked.

7) Viking Heritage.

The epic world made real: locals going for a swim in Viking helmets

8) This is a very pretty place: