Our time in Uppsala was brief but very packed full of class and field trips. Monday through Friday we had class for eight hours where we learned about chemistry. I’ll be honest, none of were really looking forward to this science class but we got our general education requirement taken care of and compared to a semester of science at Gustavus, we can’t complain too much. This week we had three guest speakers come and talk to us and two of them were Gustie alumni. The first speaker talked about the work he is doing with pancreases and trying to come up with ways to help people with diabetes. We were all fascinated and very impressed with the work he is doing. Our second speaker told us about Swedish railways which was mostly about the maintenance of railroads and its environmental impact. Our last speaker talked about the environment and what we can do to be more “green”. We talked about what we as American’s are doing that is harmful to the environment and what we can change. Then we talked about Sweden’s environmental goals and what they are currently doing to have a positive impact on the environment. We have experienced first-hand Sweden’s efforts on this front. Whenever we go to a restaurant or cafeteria there are always multiple recycling bins (one for paper, plastic, glass etc), a bag for compost and a bag of things that can be burned. Sweden actually burns their trash and uses it to heat water that runs through the radiators to heat buildings. In the past, Sweden has had to buy trash from other countries so they could use it for heating. This country also charges people for how much garbage they have by weight. This really shows how important recycling is to Sweden. The trash collectors only have to come once a week or even once every other week! Sadly, I don’t think America will ever charge people for how much trash they have and trash collectors will most likely continue to come at least once a week unless a change is made to our recycling programs.
One of the field trips we took this week was to Gamla Uppsala. We went to the museum where we had a guided tour that was full of interesting information. We first saw three very large burial mounds which are still very mysterious today. Archeologists started to excavate one of the mounds and found that all the bodies had been cremated making it almost impossible to find out who these people were. They did however find some artifacts such as pieces of a sword, board game pieces and parts of a belt that lead archeologists to believe someone royal is buried there. There is also a legend that this is the burial site of the Norse gods Thor, Odin and Freyr. After talking about the three mounds, we got to walk to the top of one and from there we had a great view of Uppsala.
We also walked around inside the museum and saw some artifacts from a past king, a real Viking helmet, shield and sword. Our tour guide told us that someone always asks to see a Viking helmet with the two horns coming out the top such as on the mascot of the Minnesota Vikings. She told us however that those helmets do not actually exist! They would be very impractical if a Viking were carrying a sword and axe. Despite this truth, the Viking helmet with horns is one of Sweden’s most popular bought souvenirs.
After that we got to walk around outside (we got lucky, it was one of the only sunny days this week) where we got to see the cemetery which was beautiful and the outside of the church which was 850 years old! We walked inside the church to look around only to discover there was a funeral being held. We quickly left and thought “well that was awkward”. That concluded our day at Gamla Uppsala and we headed back to the University. For lunch this day we had pancakes and pea soup which yes, sounds like a very unusual combination. We’ve discovered it is fairly common to have strange combinations of food at meals here. One day in class Daniel gave us ginger snaps and blue cheese to try together which was also surprisingly good! We’ve realized just how important it is to keep an open mind when in another country and to be open to new experiences. You never know what could come of it!