XIV: Uppsala and the drive home

Uppsala and Stockholm, Sweden

Previous: XIII: Bohuslän: Lysekil

This is the last part of the series about our Swedish journey, but we actually had three days remaining till the end of our vacation. This wasn’t really a lot though. Driving from Smögen Camping to Uppsala (475 km) took up most of the first of these three days in particular.

1. Here we go again. Our route was: E6 — Road 44 — E20 — E18 — Road 55. Major cities passed were Trollhättan, Örebro, and Västerås. (The latter is pronounced a lot like “Westeros”.)

2. Rest area near Road 44 in Grästorp Municipality. Sweden has absolutely amazing rest areas. Finland and Norway do not even come close. Rest areas virtually always include toilet facilities (suitable for disabled people), information boards, some tables and chairs, and garbage bins. Very often there’s something else, like a playground or a scenic viewpoint. There are about 350 of these rest areas in the country. In Finland you’d be lucky to get a simple toilet.

3. This particular rest area, for example, features a Saab AJ 37 Viggen strike fighter. The fighter comes from Saab factories in Trollhättan. Its various modifications (strike fighter and interceptor were most common) were the backbone of Swedish Air Force from 1970s to 1990s. There were 329 Viggens built; all of them served in Sweden itself and were never sold to any other country. Viggen was supposedly the first mass produced place to use integrated circuits in its avionics, and to implement “canard” design (a small “secondary” wing ahead of the main one). It was also originally supposed to carry Swedish nuclear weapons. Yes you read that right, Sweden once had its own nuclear weapons program. The idea was to build some tactical nukes for possible defense against Soviet Union (who else?), and Sweden got far enough to consider beginning tests. Eventually the Swedes decided the whole idea was just gross and scrapped the program in 1966.

4. Viggens (Swed. Thunderbolt) were replaced by the multipurpose JAS 39 Gripen (Swed. Griffin) in the 1990s.

5. I think it’s a pretty neat plane, anyway. It was put here because the largest air base of Sweden, F 7 Såtenäs, is located nearby.

6. Driving on. No pics for the rest of the trip. It was uneventful anyway.

7. And here’s Uppsala. Hi Uppsala! We left our car at a parking lot near the university, and walked quite a bit to our hotel near the railway station. The hotel was called Centralstation as well.

The hotel deserves a special mention, as the smallest and most cramped accomodation ever. Even tiny camping cabins do not feel that claustrophobic. The room was about a size of my bathroom at home, and lacked any windows. 2/3 of its area was occupied by a bunk bed. Thankfully at least it had its own (even tinier) bathroom. I didn’t take my own pics but here it is at their website. Breakfast was very nice though.


9. We walked a bit around evening Uppsala. Honestly it seemed kinda boring. Maybe we were just too tired of trips by that point, or maybe that’s just like Uppsala is. We dined at some Italian restaurant and went to bed.

10. Uppsala is known for several things. First, there’s Uppsala University. It’s pretty well known, as the oldest university in all Nordic countries (established in 1477). The university is now second to Stockholm, but it’s still huge, taking up much of the area of the city. We didn’t see any of the major buildings of the campus, but here is its botanical garden, right across the castle.

11. And here’s the castle. Time for some history of Uppsala I guess. Old Uppsala (Gamla Uppsala) was known as the capital of what would become Sweden since the first millennium. Kings of the semi-mythical Yngling dynasty ruled there, and Thing of All Swedes, the yearly governing assembly of free people, also took place in Old Uppsala. And of course there was the great pagan Temple of Uppsala with huge idols of Norse gods. After conversion to Christianity Old Uppsala was eventually overtaken in significance by the nearby Östra Aros village, and when the construction of a new huge cathedral started in Östra Aros, it was officially renamed to Uppsala. Gamla Uppsala still exists as a village a few kilometers north of Uppsala, but there’s not much to see there; just a small ancient church and a few huge burial mounds. According to old legends, Norse gods Thor, Odin, and Freyr are buried there; in reality they’re more likely to belong to some first millennium kings.

New Uppsala thus was the capital of Sweden before Stockholm. It took a century and a half to build the huge cathedral, and it wasn’t consecrated until 1435. The Archbishop’s Castle was located next to the cathedral, until King Gustav Vasa carried out protestant reformation in 16th century. He ordered the Archbishop’s Castle demolished and built his own castle from its material in 1549. The castle was badly damaged by a fire in 1702. By that time the capital had already been moved to Stockholm. The rest of Uppsala history was fairly quiet. Modern population is 140,000 (187,500 metropolitan area). Doesn’t seem like much but this is the fourth largest city in Sweden. The rest of the cities have population of no more than 100,000-110,000.

12. Gustav Vasa is easy to recognize on paintings and monuments. He’s a big guy with a huge beard.


14. A particularly cool fact about Gustav Vasa is that he didn’t stop at destroying Archbishop’s Castle and replacing it with his own; he also put a few cannons near the castle and permanently aimed them at the cathedral, just to make a point and to prevent archbishops from having any funny ideas.

15. The castle is built on a hill and surrounded by a small park. For some reason there were lots of huge whitish snails in that park. (And the same nasty black slugs we saw in Stockholm, too.)

16. Almost as cute as Bohuslän crabs.

17. Queen Christina (ruled in 1632-1654, although her coronation only took place in 1650, and before that due to her age Sweden was mostly ruled by Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna). By all accounts, she was a very unusual queen. She was very interested in religion, philosophy, and sciences, but never particularly wanted to rule. She also publicly declared that she intended to never marry. She didn’t look very feminine and dressed like a man; historians believe she was a lesbian. Thus only four years after her coronation, she abdicated her throne of her own free will. There was a big sigh of relief from everyone (she really wasn’t a very good ruler, and was very careless about spending her treasury in particular), and the throne went to her cousin, Charles X Gustav, while she immediately converted to Catholicism, and moved to Rome where she spent most of the rest of her fairly long and extravagant life chatting with Popes. I guess the lesson is “don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams even if you are the Queen of Sweden, and your dream is to be an Italian socialite”.

18. Continuing our walk. This is Drottninggatan (Swed. Queen Street).

19. And the huge Gothic cathedral itself.

20. Cathedral interior. This is the prettiest non-Orthodox church I ever saw.


22. A list of all Archbishops of Uppsala, starting in 12th century. The Archbishop is effectively the head of Swedish church. The Archbishop since 2014 has, for the first time ever, been a woman, Antje Jackelén.

23. Gustav Vasa himself, along with all three of his wives (he was twice widowed), is buried in the cathedral in an exquisitely decorated tomb.


25. The only other king buried in the cathedral is John III, Gustav Vasa’s second son. (His first son, Eric XIV, went insane and was deposed, so, no tomb for him.) I like his relaxed pose.

26. St. Lars, St. Erik, and St. Olaf, saints to whom the cathedral is dedicated. Erik was an ancient Swedish king and patron saint of Sweden, Olaf was an ancient Norwegian king and patron saint of Norway, and Lars is more commonly known as St. Lawrence. St. Lars is missing his head for some reason, but this is possibly due to some restoration; I don’t think he’s supposed to look like that.

27. Portraits of Uppsala deans in a cafeteria next to the cathedral.

28. After visiting the cathedral, we walked around Uppsala for an hour or two. This is the City Hall.

29. Uppsala is built on a small river named Fyris.

30. Some shopping street.


32. We still had some four or five hours before the ferry to Turku (it was an overnight passage again), but we decided to drive to Stockholm a bit earlier.

33. Uppsala is in just 70 km from Stockholm, and the drive is trivial, down the huge E4 motorway. I got a bit lost in Stockholm again, but in the end I found the Londonviadukten parking lot right across the ferry terminal, same one we used a year before. When I went to pay for parking, some Swede ran to me, shouted that they were leaving early, and gave me his parking ticket, valid until next morning or so.

The ship at the terminal is not our ferry (which was going to be Amorella), but rather Cinderella, working on Stockholm —Mariehamn (Åland Islands) line. Our ferry has not arrived yet.

34. We walked around a bit, climbing the Södermalm cliffs this time.

35. Stockholm Old Town, as seen from Södermalm.

36. It’s always fun to find the traces of fellow Russians abroad. This is the most famous word of Russian language. It means “dick”.

37. We ate a bit at some Old Town restaurant, and then returned to the terminal. I’ve never seen that many empty bottles at once. Of course I don’t think they all come from a single cruise, but still.

38. We boarded Amorella ferry. As I mentioned, it is much older than Viking Grace, and our cheap cabin was on the deck number two, under the waterline and next to the engines. It still was alright though. We used our last money to buy another all-you-can-eat dinner.

39. Goodbye Stockholm!

40. I don’t have any pictures for the rest of the return trip. We just wanted to get home as fast as possible. For some reason we were all quite hung over the next morning. Finnish police at Turku just happened to check all drivers leaving the ferry with breathalyzers, and I got quite nervous, but apparently I was fine. We stopped to grab some cheap horrible Finnish coffee after driving 100 km, and the rest was one non-stop drive. Well, excluding the border crossing of course, and the customary refueling on the Russian side — I managed to avoid refueling in Finland, driving on the last drops of gas, to avoid their 2.5x more expensive fuel. Some more hours and…

41. It’s over. 3313 km, two major ferry crossings, ten and a half days, and probably about 70,000-80,000 rubles per person.


This was my second major road trip. Parts of it were similar to first one, in April-May 2014, when we rented a car in Helsinki, took a Turku-Stockholm ferry, and drove to Flåm in Western Norwegian fjords. This time, the trip was longer, and I drove my own car.

This time, I got to know Sweden significantly better, and saw a bit of Denmark for the first time. Neither Sweden nor Denmark are my favorite countries (those would be Finland and Norway of course), but both of them are very interesting in their own right. Sweden and Denmark are generally more suited for more traditional tourism and sightseeing, while Finland and Norway are more about beautiful nature.

I would again greatly recommend Stockholm to everyone, and Copenhagen too. Both Öland and Bohuslän shore are also excellent if unusual locations for a relaxed vacation. Uppsala and Malmö on the other hand aren’t really worth a detour by themselves.

And honestly I didn’t plan this trip very well. Too much driving and not enough focus. It could have actually been even worse (for example, we considered a very brief detour through Norway), but this felt rushed even as it was. In hindsight, we should have just went to Copenhagen or to Öland for a week. Although pitching Öland to my friends would not have been trivial.

Anyway, this was a very nice vacation, and a great trip. And now I can move over to the next one, to Finnish Lapland! I’ve been waiting for it for ages!

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