Visiting Sweden doesn’t mean just to see Stockholm, Malmö or Göteborg. A small trip to Uppsala always worth your time. Considered as the fourth biggest city of Sweden, you can reach it in 1 hour by train from Stockholm. It comes with a huge history that hold thousands years, from the Vikings until nowadays. Seat of one of the oldest Scandinavian university, it’s the favorite destination chosen by students looking for relax and fun.
I started my tour from the modern Uppsala where you can visit the cathedral, the old castle belonged to Vasa’s family, the university and Linnaeus’ botanic garden.
The gothic cathedral was built in 1287 after that the old church in the old city was seriously damaged by fire. Used for coronations of Swedish kings, today is consecrated to S. Lawrence, S. Olaf and S. Erik, patron of Sweden, killed exactly in the place where the cathedral was built. His ashes are preserved in one of the chapel inside the church. You can see also the small memorial to Dag Hammarskjöld, former secretary-general of the United Nations. Here you can find the famous sentence he said, impressed on a stone: “Not I, but God in me“.
The castle was built for king Gustav Vasa and was completely damaged by fire in 1702. Unfortunately now is turned into a ruin. But from here you have the best view of the city: by the left side you can see the big cathedral; by the right side is it possible to observe people walking among the Fyris river; and exactly in front of the ancient castle you can admire the Linnaeus’ botanic garden.
The garden is now turned into a museum, since it was here that the famous botanist and scientist Carl Linnaeus started to classify plants and flowers. Unfortunately I visited Uppsala on April and the garden is open just from May. I’m sure that in spring it’s a rare wonder.
The place that I enjoyed most, it was the university library, Carolina Rediviva. Beside the cathedral, you can see the most beautiful university building I’ve ever seen. It’s considered as the oldest university in Sweden and it’s part of the Coimbra Group (an European foundation in which just universities with high standards can be part of). The library holds more than 5 million books and manuscripts. The ancient collection includes the Codex Argenteus, a gothic bible completed silver made. You can have also the opportunity to admire a notebook belonged to Nicolaus Copernicus, in which the famous mathematician wrote his first ideas about a new theory of the universe.
4 kilometers away from the modern part of the city, surrounded by an uncontaminated countryside, you can visit the old Uppsala, Gamla Uppsala. So let’s discover the mystic side of this Scandinavian field.
Here there are more than 2000 graves, most of them completely invisible. Surely the most important ones are three big burial mounds, which it’s possible to climb on. According to the history (such as the poems Ynglingatal and Gutasaga), in these three mounds are buried kings from the Kungshogarna’s dynasty. According to the legend and to the myth, mounds represent graves of Gods Odin, Thor and Frigg.
I don’t know which version of the story is true. But I can say that when I reached the top of one of the three mounds I took a very small stone from the ground, like a souvenir. Suddenly the sky turned dark and cloudy and it started to hail. I threw away the stone and the weather turned sunny in few minutes. Maybe Thor, the God of thunder, wanted to punish me. Do you believe in magic? Sometimes I do.
Over the mounds, you can visit the medieval church of the old town. It’s surrounded by an old cemetery with graves of the 16th and 17th century. There are still archaeological excavations thanks to which archaeologists are finding out old treasures and traces of Vikings era. They are preserved in the Viking Museum of Gamla Uppsala, where you can also see an old Drakkar, a Viking ship completely undamaged.
I can surely advice to go to Odinsborg restaurant and cafè in Gamla Uppsala. The building takes place in an old wooden house completely built in a Viking style. You can eat traditional Swedish food, like meatballs with lingonberry sauce.