Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Life in a small northern town

JenniferSo it's true that in a town like Uppsala a car is not really needed (although it would come in handy for those weekend Ikea binges), and many people do not own cars. On the other hand, having a driver's license is not at all unusual, and renting a car or RV for summer camping is a common way to vacation. There is a lot of Scandinavia to see that is not readily accessible by train or bus. Besides, we are used to having a car, and being able to just up and go somewhere for a day or a weekend. Sounds good, right? But... how? The first step was to spend an afternoon in small-town Sweden for a test drive.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A bucolic nature walk

JenniferIt's true that the 'summer feeling' has gone from the air now, but even so the weather can still be quite nice, so yesterday we went for a little walk in Hågadal, the nature reserve near our apartment. Hågadal is not really pristine wilderness, as it includes several more-or-less ancient human monuments, such bronze age burial mounds and a runestone. The valley is the bottom of what used to be an inland sea, which is not too hard to imagine, as you stand on the rocks at eastern edge and look down and out onto the cultivated fields and pastures and forest fragments. It is a very pleasant place to walk on a sunny day. And on this walk, we were treated to an unusual amount of animal life as well.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Akut Situation

Joe I know that the meteorologists of SMHI would frown at the suggestion, but it certainly feels like autumn has arrived. Daytime highs have fallen below 20°, rain storms are blowing through every other day or so, and the sheep have gone home for the season. Autumn means students, and students in Uppsala means housing trouble, as evidenced by this translation of the e-mail I received yesterday from the University rektor:

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Rainy Afternoon with the Stasi

Joe We had a beautiful week here—clear and sunny, with highs in the mid 20s—but nothing lasts forever, and today has been gray, wet, and 19°. In response, we decided to have a movie afternoon, so in honor of our recent stay in the former East Berlin we re-watched the excellent Das Leben der Anderen. And since the weather has suddenly become autumnal, I decided to make us an extremely traditional autumn fika treat: Swedish äppelkaka. It's a very simple recipe, one that everyone in Sweden should have learned from their mormor. It's too simple, in fact, to show up in any of our cookbooks, so I was forced to googlar it. I eventually settled on a combination of two recipes, mainly a very traditional one from Dorie Greenspan. The other was a recipe that Jennifer found, which suggested sautéing the apples in butter and cinnamon beforehand. Here's what I did:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I mentioned the war once…

(but I think I got away with it.)
Abbey in the Oakwood (1808), Caspar David Freidrich
Joe Berlin was the end of our (by this time conjoined) trip. I'd never been before—Jennifer had, of course, but that was before the wall came down, and things have changed a bit in the meanwhile. On second thought, let's give that present perfect a progressive aspect: things have been changing, for by Friday afternoon it was clear that the reconstruction isn't done yet. But that's getting ahead of the story.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


JenniferJuly 7, 2011: Wolfsburg was, as predicted, not especially tourist-y, although there are some nice things there in addition to soccer. For instance, there is a castle, and what American doesn't love a castle? Schloß Wolfsburg includes a relatively tiny but obsessively well-clipped Baroque garden, plenty of decorative animal-themed flourishes (dragons for downspouts, wolves for weathervanes, and eagles just for pretty), a sizable garden of mirrors. There was also a Teahouse at the end of the garden, which had a bit of Art in it. The best thing, though, was that the castle housed a family of kestrel falcons ('Turmfalke' in German and 'tornfalk' in Swedish; 'tower falcon' in both languages). One young kestrel had left its nest, high up on the castle wall; the young 'un was now hopping about on a lower windowsill, while the other chicks peered out from the nest, and occasionally peeped at their precocious sibling.