Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My daily bus ride


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I've always liked using public transportation. Public transport is a cheap and easy way to see people, and all sorts of people take the bus here. It is not uncommon to see kids younger than 10 taking the bus by themselves, and some of the city busses also serve as school busses, when you can get groups of up to 50 8-year-olds crowding on. (Actually, err, I will probably try to avoid that bus in the future.) In Uppsala, you are allowed to take bring your pet with you on the bus, and there are also spaces reserved for baby buggies, which are loaded in the back doors, and fastened to the wall.
I love my bus ride into work. Every morning I walk over cobblestones to Stora Torget, the main square, which is ringed by bank buildings (Nordea is the reddish building to the right) and the old city hall (the white building, built in 1883). I have my choice to catch either the #6 or #7 bus, which follow the same route for a while, one of which leaves about every 6 minutes in the morning.

A block past the square, we pass over the river, and if the sun is shining, the view up and down the river is stunning.

As we head up Drottninggatan, the hill turns steep and Carolina Rediviva, the old university library (which houses the 5th century tome "Codex Argenteus," the only surviving text in Gothic) is at the top of the hill—it's the building at the very end of the street in the picture to the right (because of the hill and the way the streets run up there, it's surprisingly difficult to take a decent picture of it!) According to rumor, the building itself is sliding backwards down the hill at some fraction of a millimeter per year, because the hill is made of soft alluvial clay and is therefore unstable.

Drottninggatan dead ends into the library (the picture at right is taken from the bus), so we hang a sharp left at the worst 3-way intersection in all of Uppsala. It's a fairly busy crossing point for University students walking and on bicycles, and last year, for reasons that are not clear, someone decided to take away all the traffic signs at this intersection. Fortunately most cars are going fairly slowly at this point anyhow, and everyone makes way for the busses that are charging up the hill... except, of course, for the pedestrians, who, acting on their privilege as a sacred species, occasionally put the bus's brakes to a severe test.

Having turned left off of Drottninggatan, we are now on Dag Hammersjöldvägen, and on the left, on top of an even higher hill, is the huge pink castle, now used mainly to house municipal employees, but which also hosts the formal ball for graduating doctoral students and professors who have been promoted. (The morning cannons for commencement are fired from here as well.)

If you can tear your eyes away from the castle, and instead look to the right, you (and the castle's inhabitants with westward facing windows) get a great view of the formal part of Botaniska trädgården, the University's formal garden with topiary and fountains (in the summer) and botanical samples from all over the world. The yellow buildings at the far end are the Linnèanum, which served as the hosting point for the 2007 city-wide celebrations of Carl Linnè's 300th birthday, and continues to house some part of the University's botany department.
Two stops later, when I get off the bus at the Evolutionary Biology Centre, the first buildings I see are the Museum of Evolution Zoology, the building on the left, which houses the public exhibits and is where F. had his Disputationsfest. The building on the right has classrooms, a part of the library, and the EBC's cafeteria, where Joe and I had our Valentine's Day lunch of split pea soup and pancakes (click here to see what's on the cafeteria's menu this week... Swedish only, I'm afraid!). 

When I cross the road, directly in front of me are the low brick buildings of the EBC's research departments, and hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work I go. (The Department of Physiological Botany has helpfully put up a picture of the EBC from the air, which gives a better feeling for the whole complex.)
The ride home is always in the dark at this time of year, so there's not much to see until one gets back to the river, where sight of the lights still hanging on the trees over the river is cheering after a long day of staring at DNA sequences.

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