Uppsala is about 100km south of Gävle, roughly an hour on the train. It seems to enjoy MUCH better weather, warmer, less snow and ice, earlier spring time with flowers blooming 2-3 weeks ahead of us in Gävle.
It is also a “cooler town” by almost everyone’s account; a University town with a youthful vibe, scenic river winding through town, lots of nice gardens and old buildings including a pink castle and Scandanavia’s biggest church, Domkyrkan. We spent some time in town looking at the Gustavianum museum, including an anatomical theatre from the 1600s and the intricate Augburg Art Cabinet. We also went to the classy old Ovfandhal’s Konditori for fika, where the king visits when he is in town. There are also lots of street-side cafés and restaurants and pubs and mini-music venues.
Then we walked the 6km long old pilgrim’s trail to Gamla Uppsala. We were there only a few days after St Erik’s Day, when St Erik’s remains are (creepily) paraded down this route to the old church by the Viking burial grounds.
The burial mounds have a really cool vibe, rising up from agricultural lands not far from the train tracks. People have felt that vibe for a long time… there have been lots of pagan temples, stave churches, bigger chapels and updated versions of Christian churches on this site over hundreds of years. There is a great museum outlining Viking history and the contents of the burial mounds… people used to bury special leaders in boats filled with weapons, tools, household items and even animals like dogs and horses for the journey to Valhalla. A fairly-old tradition tells that there are 3 famous Viking kings in the big mounds, but more recent archaeological work shows that one of the 3 mounds was a woman. Graham pointed out that it is very Swedish for the Vikings to be so egalitarian.
After the historical visit, we took a bus back to town and ate on a great little river-side terrace. We had to wait a bit to get a table but it was worth it for the riverside location, watching tärnar (gulls) catch little fish in the river.