en koppargruva och en dag vid sjön i Dalarna

We all got up pretty early Friday morning (after a long night pub crawling) and met at 25 Studentvägen at 09:00 to get on the bus for Dalarna.  I was super excited for this Friday trip because I’ve always wanted a real Dala horse and I knew we’d have some time to explore in the afternoon after we’d finished with all the planned things on our schedule.  On the way, we saw this HUGE Dalahäst!


The trip took about two and a half hours and we arrived at the Falu Gruva copper mine in Falun at about 11:30.  Its a World Heritage site and we were lucky enough to have a tour scheduled!  I chose the English tour guide. I’m relatively sure that I can understand enough now to have gone on the Swedish tour, but I was really interested in the mine and wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss any cool information.  I also know that if I had gone on the Swedish tour, I would have spent the whole time focusing on understanding the Swedish instead of enjoying the mine.

Here’s it is from the outside:


We had to put on rain capes and hard hats for our tour just to protect ourselves from the wet and muddy conditions inside the mine, as well as to protect our heads from the low tunnel ceilings.  We looked pretty awesome ;)


The elevator was out of order so we got to take the stairs all the way down in to the mine (and back out again!).  I was actually grateful that we got to walk because I’ve heard the elevator ride is a longgggg way down…

We knocked three times on the entrance to the mine before we went in to please the mine’s “ghost” that haunts the tunnels.  Then.. off we went!


There were some really cool things to see all around us and throughout the entire mine.  The old mining tunnels and tracks were eerie but spectacular!  Our tour guide kept stressing the fact that every single hole, tunnel, and cavern was made by thousands of men.  None of it is naturally occurring at all.


We arrived at a light part of the mine which was an opening outside to the top of the mine. There was a bell dinging that we could here from this spot which meant that the water pumps were working to keep the mine from flooding.  If you didn’t hear the bell, it meant that someone had to act pretty fast to fix the problem.  It was also how the men transported ore and copper in and out of the mines using a bucket and pulley system. So cool!


We went deeper and deeper in the mine, up and down stairs and muddy tunnels.


Here is one of the terrifying ladders that the men would climb up once or twice a day.  They’d need both hands to hold on to this rickety contraption, so they’d hold their torches between their teeth.  It is said that you could tell someone was a miner if they had no eyebrows or eyelashes because they’d been burnt off this way ;)


We arrived at a huge cavern that was lit with an eerie blue light.  The cavern walls had caved in a time or two, so in the 18th century the miners decided to fortify the ceiling with a wooden structure.  There is a particular quality to the air in the mine that preserves wood (and bodies, actually) so it’s survived in good condition even to this day.  There are even older wooden braces dating back to the 16th century in the mine as well.  We were at our deepest point in the mine in this room: 67 meters below ground.


Leaving this cavern, we came to the “wall of fame” inside the mine.  Lots of celebrities and royalty have visited the mine over the years and were allowed to sign their names on the rock.  At the top you can see the signature of Carl Gustav who is the current King of Sweden, and underneath him is Victoria’s signature- the Crown Princess.


We made our ascent and I managed to make it through the entire mine without falling, slipping, or getting my shoes muddy!Image

There was a little museum outside the entrance to the mine as well as a small cafe.  We went to grab a sandwich and I chose one that had salami, brie cheese, cucumber and bell pepper on soft ciabatta bread.  It was delicious!


The next stop of the day was about 30 minutes away from the copper mine.  We visited the home of Carl Larsson, a famous Swedish artist and painter, who lived on a spectacular piece of land right beside a lake.  We got to take a tour of the home and see where he, his wife, and his 8 children lived and played.  Lots of Larsson’s paintings were done of his children and his home, so it was interesting to see the setting in person and compare it to his art.


The gardens were beautiful and it couldn’t have been a more perfect day to relax and lay by the lake.



We went to an antique shop close by the gardens and I finally found a real Dalahäst that was whittled and painted in a nearby town in Dalarna called Mora.  He’s so cute!


We also met this precious cat outside the antique shop who wanted to snuggle and sit in our laps.  Too bad we couldn’t take him home with us!  He tried to follow us when we left for a fika… I’m sure he wanted some too :)


All in all a beautiful day in Dalarna.  Don’t worry– I remembered to get a jumping picture ;)


foton, godis, och en spektakulär pubrunda!


After a marathon of a day on midsommar’s eve, I slept in and ignored my alarm (apparently resetting it six times in my sleep) until 11:55.  i woke up to a facebook message detailing plans to go see “Rojar Ralf” (Wreck-It Ralph) in Swedish at the Filmstaden in Uppsala since nothing else was open on Midsommar’s Day.  I dressed, brushed my teeth, and rushed downstairs to meet up with everyone by 12:10 and we were at the theatre in time for the film at 12:30. Since it was a Pixar animation, the whole movie was dubbed in Swedish and there were no subtitles, so I was a little disappointed that I didn’t pick up as many words or jokes in Swedish as I would have liked to.  But, it was a good experience to figure out the dialogue and be exposed to a whole film completely in Swedish and the plot was easy enough to follow based on the context.

We were all super tired after the movie and went to MAX to find something to eat since everything else (including all the groceries) was closed.  I had a surprisingly spicy chicken salad and managed to do the entire transaction in Swedish! :)  After lunch, we stopped at the Godis (candy) store.  I’ve been longing to go ever since I arrived in Sweden and we found an excellent shop lined with bins and bins of candy!

ImageI stayed far, far away from any sort of sour candy and there were tons of options if you liked the salmiakki types (sour/salty licorice flavor made with ammonium chloride, YUCK).  I got a bunch of different kinds to try including anything that had a marshmallow center and a bunch of gummy things.  I think my favorite kind was a chocolate coated marshmallow that looked like a bear. AND of course I had to get some of my favorite hallongelés and marshmallow svampar! Yum!  Here’s a look at what was left in my bag after the walk home…

ImageI spent the rest of the day figuring out the (slightly terrifying) laundry machines located in this cave of a basement at the bottom of my building.  You have to electronically sign up for a time to wash using your key chip and then you get a two hour window in which to wash.  It was quite an ordeal but at least I can say I have increased my Swedish laundry vocabulary after trying to decipher those machines!


Sunday was a slow day full of homework and grocery shopping.  I got up late again, wrote a paper in Swedish detailing my Midsommar activities, and met up with a friend to make a trek to the large ICA that was open in the middle of town– a 25ish minute walk from where we live on Studentvägen.

We decided to get together to make dinner that night so we shopped around for ingredients for the week as well as something yummy for dinner.  I bought some halloumi (MY FAVORITE) and tomatoes to grill that evening. Everyone came over to my place around 18:00 and we all started cooking.  James was making ramen and added a raw egg to the broth while it cooked until it resembled a sort of egg-drop/poached egg noodle dish– and it was DELICIOUS.  I pulled up a few episodes of Summer Heights High and we had dinner while we watched.

After dinner we broke in my new Kubb set I’d purchased for 99kr at the ICA in town.  It was a pretty inexpensive set, so we weren’t too surprised when we played a few games and noticed that the pins were drastically different weights.  One turn you’d throw a pin and it would fly way out of bounds because it was so light, and the next one you’d try to compensate and throw it softer but it would land just a few meters in front of you because it weighed twice as much as the last one.  I actually think that the cheap quality of the set just adds another level of difficulty ;)


It was back to class as usual on Monday.  Our afternoon course went on a visit to a preschool in Uppsala to ask the director lots of questions about how the operate and what their priorities are in terms of education for the little children.  The school was adorable and the director was very nice and happy to answer our questions and give us a tour.  In Sweden, each municipality is responsible for providing daycare and preschools for children in their community.  It was really cool to see the welfare programs in action at this preschool and I was very impressed with the resources that the school was given by the government to make it a really great place for the kids to explore and learn.

ImageAfter class, we hit the shops.  All the stores around town were beginning their huge summer sales, so at 4:15 a bunch of friends and I went store to store marveling at the (sometimes weird) Scandinavian styles and trying on clothes for ourselves.  I found a nice pair of jeans, a dress from H&M, and a new pair of shoes– so I would consider the shopping trip a great success :)

Monday night was also my first time in a real Scandinavian Bastu (sauna).  I would talk more about it but I felt like I was going to die the entire time I was in that hot box of a room ;)  Let’s just say that it was fun to try once, and I can now check it off my list, but I won’t be eager to try it again any time soon ;)


It was a spectacular day weather-wise on Tuesday and we wanted to be outside as much as possible.  I remembered to get a picture of Hamnpaviljongen where I eat lunch every other day… look at this setting!

ImageWe had a delicious lunch and found out that they have a fika station set up inside for guests to enjoy after their meal.  I was super excited and got a cup of coffee and a few different cookies to try out. Mmmmm!

ImageAfter class, some students had organized a grillfest outside of my building to further enjoy the beautiful weather.  I brought down a few more princekorv and they grilled chicken, kebab, and bratwurst as well.  My favorite part was roasting marshmallows and giving them to my Swiss and Dutch friends who had never had one before :)

ImageLiana’s brother was in town from the US to visit and we decided to go upstairs to my kitchen to play Kings.  Sara is from Finland and had never played Kings before, so we taught her our custom set of rules and had a fantastic time drinking wine and completing all the silly tasks.  My favorite rule was one called “Viking Master”: whoever draws a Jack is the viking master and whenever they make viking horns with their hands, everyone else has to immediately start rowing an invisible oar.  We amended this rule later to mandate that everyone row backwards and yell “RETREAT!” as they did so.  I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed harder than I did that night because I was the Viking Master for almost the entire game;)



Wednesday was mostly uneventful, except for one hilarious (and very embarrassing) thing that happened in class.  Austen and I were working on an assignment and had to draw our “dream apartment”.  We made this extravagant place in Gamla Stan overlooking the water, added a bastu and a “bubbelpool” (aka jacuzzi), and were drawing the kitchen floorplan when we didn’t know the vocabulary word for “kitchen countertops” in Swedish.  I took out my phone and translated “counters” on google translate and came up with the word “motverka”.  Well… turns out that isn’t really the correct word for countertops.  Our teacher came over to see our apartment and was confused when he saw the label for countertops.  I looked it up again and here’s what “motverka” means:

ImageOops. :P


It was picture day on Thursday and we were let out of the morning class slightly early to go up to Uppsala Uni and take photos of each class and a giant group shot as well.  I convinced my class to take a jumping picture ;)


UISS 2013 A2B Jump 2!

And here’s the whole group trying to do an ABBA pose :)

UISS 2013 First 3 Weeks Group Picture

Thursday night was our first PUB RUN! We went to seven different Nations and stayed for about 45 minutes at each one.  It was an amazing night, beautiful weather, and a lot of fun :)  First, a view of Upplands Nation from the rooftop terrace at Västmanlands-Dala (V-Dala) Nation:


Next, the backyard at Gästrike-Hälsinge (GH) Nation (and all of the people who live in my building on Studentvägen are members of this one!):


And lastly, the beautiful Västgöta (VG) Nation from the outside:


It was a really great tour of all the nations around Uppsala and there are 13 in total opened during the school term.  Seeing the student culture and getting to be a part of this beautiful city makes me more and more sure that I will be looking to do my Masters work here in Sweden!

Stay tuned for a post tomorrow about my incredible Friday trip to Dalarna!

glad midsommar, allihopa!

Friday was Midsommarafton, or Midsummer’s Eve, in Sweden.  This is a huge holiday for Swedes and for many Scandinavians because its the longest day of the year. After surviving 5 or 6 months of winter, the Swedes are more than ready for sunshine, hot weather, and lots of light.  It is traditional to celebrate the whole Midsommarafton and sleep the next day when the shops are closed and the streets are deserted as everyone recovers from their hangovers!

We had a big day planned.  I woke up around 09:00 to get ready for the day and put on a bright yellow dress in honor of Sweden’s national colors ;)  We were heading to Hammarskog, an area right outside of Uppsala with lots of fields and a great big lake, to celebrate all day long. Some friends and I decided to take a picnic so I went to the kitchen to make sandwiches.  I packed a nice little spread: a few ham and cheese sandwiches, carrots, chips, saft, and some pear Somersby to enjoy on the picnic blanket.  I didn’t forget the snaps– I packed some of my brännvin from Nyköping to sip as well ;)


We all met at the bus at 11:00 to head to Hammarskog and arrived about 30 minutes later.  It was a beautifully perfect day to be outside and celebrating in the fresh air!  The midsommarstång (midsummer’s pole) had already been raised and was decorated in lots of green plants.  There were men and women dressed in traditional Swedish clothing dancing around it while a charming lot of musicians played along!


We found a place to picnic and laid out the makeshift blanket (aka my bedsheet). As it was afternoon already, we enjoyed our lunch in the sun with a spectacular view in front of us. After a quick bite, Sara and I went off to pick flowers for our midsommarkrans (midsummer’s crown).  We got lots of little white flowers and green grasses and stems to twist together and added other flowers at the end.  They were beautiful!  The tradition is to pick seven different kinds of flowers and bring them home to put under your pillow on Midsommarafton.  If you have picked the right seven, you will dream about your future husband!  I was lucky to have dreamt about Alexander Skarsgård that night ;)


James decided to make his own kind of crown…


The light was beautiful so we went off to take pictures in the field.  I was using David’s camera which was super nice, so we were able to get some great shots!



And of course there had to be some jumping pictures!!

kara jump midsommar


When photo time was over, it was time to dance around the Midsommarstång!  We had learned the dances and songs the night before so we (kind of) knew what we were doing :)  There were tons of adorable little kids hopping all around and enjoying themselves immensely!  David was able to catch a video of my favorite dance, “Små Grodorna”, as we all danced around.  I’m trying to figure out how to share it with all of you… stay tuned!  For now, here are the UISS assistants in their traditional outfits doing the dance to Små Grodorna and making the little frog ears :)


We were hot and tired after dancing, so I got an ice cream (Daim!) and we sat in the grass and relaxed.  We’d brought two sets of Kubb and set them up in the grass, so all of us decided to play a round or two.  These little Swedish children wanted to join in and insisted on playing “barn kontra vuxen”, or kids vs. adults– so we had a blast!  We had to be very careful not to hit them when we cast our sticks!


The bus left Hammarskog around 16:30 and we arrived back at our flats around 17:00.  We all rushed to cook and prepare foods for the potluck dinner at school at 18:30.  I made macaroni and cheese which was stone cold by the time we all got to eat, so it wasn’t super tasty.  But there were many other good things to eat, including traditional Midsommar foods like sill, potatoes, lax, and strawberries.  I even tried Kalles Kaviar and it was FOUL.  But I can check it off of my Swedish bucket list!  We ate and sang snapsvisar (drinking songs) which was so much fun!  I kept the lyrics sheet so I can bring them home and sing them in American bars ;)

After the dinner we were all invited out to Norrlands Nation for another drink.  It was a great end to a long day and we relaxed and chatted over Falcon and Somersbys.


I already know that Midsommarafton will be one of the best memories I’ll have of Sweden, but it was also one of the most fun and wonderful days I can remember in my entire life!  I hope I have many more days like this in the future :)