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This last weekend I was lucky enough to get the chance to see some of Sweden. I had a few days off from class by coincidence, and with a couple of friends hit the road on an epic and unforgettable adventure.

Class ended at 10am and by midday we were out of Uppsala heading up the coast to our first stop Gävle. We had a brief look around the small town, which was resplendent in autumn colours. It reminded me a lot of Uppsala, however lacked the large student populace that gives Uppsala its life. After wrangling some goats and being stalked by an army of ducks, we collected some supplies and rushed back to the warmth of the car.
The lovely grandparents of one of my companions lent us their holiday cabin on a lake for the first night; but more than that, they travelled out especially to light a fire in the cabin and bake a cake in preparation for our arrival!! I felt very spoilt. We spent a relaxing first night in the sauna (almost every Swedish house has one) and entertained ourselves with Swedish charades and reading Plupp (Plupp is a character in a wonderful and popular series of Swedish children’s books).
The following day we visited a beach, which of course was coated in ice along the water line; and went to a nordic wildlife park. It was AMAZING! I loved it. We got to see multiple packs of wolves(varg), moose (älg), reindeer (ren), wolverines (jarv), lynx (lodjur), many different owls (luggla) and eagles (kungsörn), and the bears (björn)! This was extremely lucky in fact, as it was the last week before the 3 baby bears and their mum were due to go into hibernation. They were so cute!
That afternoon we drove up to Sundsvall were we had a bit of trouble trying to find some accommodation (a testament to our lack of planning). Thoroughly hungry when we settled in our hostel we decided to go out for dinner, where we spent a good 4 hours at a buffè!
From Sundsvall we toured the High Coast, a beautiful stretch of coastline to the north of the city. Unfortunately motion sickness ruined the views for myself and another friend, however the time we spent outside the car was wonderful. We also drove out to a national park for a wander, where we found the remains of trees that had been freshly cut down by beavers. Another very exciting thing for me. I always thought cartoons were exaggerating when beavers chew-down trees, but apparently not.
In Östersund we had another complex game of Celebrity Heads. This became a major time-passer on our trip. We played a special version of the game, in which people did not have to be celebrities but could be anything! (items of food were particularly common) It snowed over night while we were in Östersund, the first snow that I have seen this winter. It was quite exciting, and absolutely freezing. In the day we hunted for the lake monster whose infamous nature is reminiscent of that of the Lochness monster in Scotland, and visited a history/culture museum, ‘Jamtli’. This was more fun than I have EVER had in a museum. Everything was designed to be interactive, and probably for children; but it was thoroughly stimulating for 4 university students, including dress-ups, quizzes, giant slippery-slides and chocolate prizes. Why should children get all the fun?!
We spent our final night in Möra, another small town on a picturesque lake. The town is the finish line for a large cross-country skiing race which begins in Salen, and tracks the route originally taken by Gustav Vasa. It sounds like it is a massive race, with approximately 15 000 participants! Nearby to Möra is the site where the Swedish Dala Horses were originally carved by the Olsson brothers. We visited the factory where they are still handmade and got to paint our own Dala horse which was fun.
On the way home we stopped by in Fälun to visit the copper mines, however we missed the last tour by a couple of minutes and had to just go to a cafe and “fika” to make ourselves feel better – poor us!!

Two days ago, only just after we got back from our road trip the first real snow fell in Uppsala. We had a blizzard all day, with about 20cm of snow...and it is only November!! I can’t believe it. People were telling me that we probably would have snow that actually stayed on the ground until after Christmas. Maybe it was just a freak snow fall? Anyway, it is very exciting. I had forgotten how beautiful Uppsala looks in the snow. All the white really helps to brighten up the landscape too, especially as the daylight hours are beginning to become quite short now. The snow is also making everyone prematurely excited about Christmas. In the supermarkets the traditional Christmas foods are starting to appear: gingerbread cookies (peppakaka) and a special wine to be drunk warm (glögg). I’m super excited to get to be involved in some of the Christmas activities. It is really interesting to learn about how the festivities differ between countries. For example, in Sweden they celebrate Lucia Day, and have ‘julfest’s (though I’m not sure yet what this is).

The highlight of the coming weekend is going to be working for fika on Saturday, and...my first nature-science-party. (I don’t know how to explain this, except as a sort of society like we have at USYD for chemists/biologists/physicists mainly, which organises different events throughout the year). As these parties are organised by Swedish students mainly, and everything is in Swedish, they are not one of the common activities for International students. This is probably one of the most disappointing things about exchange – that local and International students are so segregated. Anyway, I guess it means that I just have to put myself out amongst the people a bit more!

Finished my first course, and into the 3rd week of the second, with things going well so far. This subject ‘bioorganic catalysis’ is definitely a lot more challenging than my last though. I really must settle down to study ...and stop writing my blog as a procrastination tool =D

Anyway, signing off on another awesome month of exchange xxox

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