Uppsala and the Pink Castle

We arrive in Uppsala at 18:00 and 18:00 on time… the cathedral is closing! I pretend not to know and I quickly go in looking around the cathedral until the guardian comes to inform me that the church is closing. Before leaving I take a few brochures, even if they are in Swedish; that’s even better… I can practice the language!

I discover that the Uppsala Cathedral is the largest church in Scandinavia and that in the past the kings were crowned here, not in the capital. The style is Gothic; building began in 1273, as ordered by the Roman Church. It was never completed until 1435 due to problems between the Church and the monarchy. By 1435 the king had affirmed his authority over religion, setting the Pope aside.

Just behind the Church stands the University. The city is renowned for its university, and in effect, after studying for his first year in Umeå, Fredrick continued his studies right here! It ‘s the first university built in Scandinavia, founded a few years after the inauguration of the cathedral in 1477. At that time the city was considered the most important city in Scandinavia. Even today the University is on the top ten of the most renowned universities in Europe and among the 100 all over the world; fifty Nobel award recipients have studied here.

Arriving in front of the University, Fredrick points out to me the coats of arms of the twenty-five Swedish regions. I try to guess what might be the emblem of the region of Västerbotten, Fredrick’s region. We ate rainbow trout last night, a fish that is found only in the area of Västerbotten, so I logically point at the coat of arms with three rainbow trouts… WRONG! The coat of arms of Västerbotten has a REINDEER! I had ruled out the reindeer because I thought it was the emblem of Lapland. Fredrick tells me that the rainbow trout belongs to the region of Ǻngermanland, while the coat of arms of Lapland is the only one that doesn’t show an animal but a man with a cudgel. I ask him why, but he is unaware of this unusual choice.

The University and the Cathedral are separated by a delightful garden with purple flowerbeds. At the center of the garden we can see the first evidence of the Viking civilization. Although they appear as prehistoric, actually they date back a few years after Christ.

In fact, while the Greek-Roman civilization built the Acropolis and many cities, while brilliant philosophers laid the base of our modern philosophy, such as Aristotle, Socrates and Virgil, Sweden was still in a primitive state, mostly populated by shepherds. In this regard, Fredrick calls my attention to the coat of arms of Gothland that depicts a sheep. The other regions indeed call them the “shepherds!”

There are exactly three stones representing the Old Swedish regions. In that period there weren’t twenty-five, but only three: Götaland, the western part, Noordland, the northern part, and Svealand, the area to the south-east.

We walk to the city and Fredrick points out the “Union,” the so-called brotherhoods, subdivided by regions; to distinguish the various brotherhoods there is is an emblem at the top of each house.

The city is full of delightful wooden bridges and stone houses contrasted by modern restaurants with glass walls that overlook the river, the Fyrisån, the longest river in Sweden.

Before going back to Stockholm we go to the PINK CASTLE—which I have talked so much to Fredrick about—situated ten minutes from the city center. It was built by Gustav Vasa, the man who separated from the Catholic Church to join the Protestants, who brought Sweden in a single nation, and who adopted a single currency, the crown, which remains to this day the Swedish currency. That’s not all: Vasa also established the first bank in the world, the Central Bank. Fredrick says that Gustav Vasa was gay, which explains the pink color of the castle. It is based on the Italian model and was originally a fortress, on top of a hill with a wonderful view. Looking at the sky on one side, we note that it’s about to rain, while on the other side there is a rainbow. Fredrick tells me that the castle is awful, due the color pink, but I don’t mind; it is a pale pink and I like the black of the roof.

Today the Pink Castle is the “Art Museum,” the Museum of Modern Art. I’d love to go in but unfortunately it’s too late; the museum is closed and we have to continue our journey.

Writing and talking seems to speed up time! We have already arrived in Stockholm!