Or so I have been told by almost every Swede I have ever met. If one was to come to Sweden in the winter, they would most likely find a country that has fallen asleep. It’s cold, it’s dark, and most people choose to spend their daylight hours feeling guilty for staying inside while the sun is out.
When I first landed in Stockholm, it was snowing quite heavily (at least I thought it was heavy). This may not have been the first time I have seen snow, but it is the first time I was going to be living in a snowy region for an extended period of time. The -10 degrees temperatures on the first few days may have been treacherous but once you get yourself a nice warm coat or two, you find the cold suddenly isn’t so bad anymore. The Swedes have nice little saying “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing”. Now I can see where they’re coming from. It was quite a shock to come from the Australian summer where cold is only something we can dream about to a land where everything is frozen. When I told the Swedes that it was 40 degrees in Sydney when I left, they kindly asked what that would be in Celsius. When I told them that was Celsius, more than a few less than pleasant expletives may have been exclaimed.
Despite all the bad reviews, the winter in Sweden provides many exciting opportunities for those of us who have never lived in a city where it snows. Building snowmen and having snow fights might seem like the most obvious thing to do, but the more common activity I’ve noticed is going sliding down the various hills around Uppsala, an activity supposedly reserved for small children but don’t think that us older kids weren’t going to give it a try. Sleds, pans and trash bags all work wonders when trying to slide down the icy hills that can be found everywhere. The photos below are from the hill just behind our building and yes it was as awesome as it looks.
During the winter here, we managed to get a few days above freezing which to us seemed like it would be heaven on Earth, after a few days of -20, 2 degrees feels really warm. However, we soon discovered the dark side of having days above freezing during the middle of winter. What we didn’t realise is that all the melting snow covers all the paths and bicycle tracks with water which then refreezes as ice once it goes back below zero creating a wonderful maze of super slipper trails. I never would’ve thought walking to class could be a potentially deadly exercise until now. Thankfully most major pathways have gravel laid out on them on a regular basis to ensure they can be somewhat useable, although even this doesn’t always stop various people from falling over. Good shoes are a must if you want to avoid concussions.
The winter here is beautiful but the darkness is more depressing than the cold. Thankfully the snow can be incredibly fun and various winter activities like skiing and ice skating can make it all worthwhile.
Of course snow fights are fun too (Sorry buddy, couldn’t resist 😉 )
Sameed Khan – Autumn 2013 – Uppsala University