Monthly Archives: April 2006

Valborg Spirit(s)

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Valborg is simply Walpurgis Night, or describing it in the Uppsala-way, useless drinking in the park. Swedish news website “The Local” already wrote that “if you want the wild, student version then make the pilgrimage to Uppsala or Lund, the two biggest university towns in Sweden”.

The “wild student version” was actually not wild at all. Throughout the day nearly all students of Uppsala gathered in the city’s various parks, which were protected by a huge number of police agents (the parks, I mean). It was just crowded, but in contrast to Maastricht, the crowd was again amazingly silent. They were just drinking loads of alcohol and did nothing else. No dancing, the only music that could be heard came from battery-powered portable radios, a.k.a. ghetto blasters.

The only entertainment was a boat race in the morning, otherwise there was no stage or something else. A speech held in front of the main library could not be heard, due to the lack of a decent PA system. The whole event was actually accomodated by most of the people as yet another reason to drink excessive amounts of alcohol. This alcohol bought for high prices in the state-controlled “Systembolaget” was then carried to the city in backpacks and even trolleys. At 10 o’clock in the morning I could see the first people vomitting.

The many student associations, called “nations”, were all “sold-out”, in my opinion a bit on purpose. In the afternoon, for instance, Värmlands and Stockholms nations had outdoor parties and seemed to have engaged in a competition which nation had put up more security fences. Both nations were crowded, but there was still plenty of space. However, they didn’t let people in anymore. That wasn’t too bad, though, because the Värmlands DJ had the idea to play “YMCA” from Village People.

Throughout the day, everyone seemed to be totally drunk. The city was literally full of people unable to walk anymore. The Swedish state must have earned a lot of extra tax income from the masses of alcohol consumed. The biggest gathering of non-drunk people took place in the evening at the castle: a choir sang for half an hour and the whole performance was broadcasted live on Swedish radio. Here also “normal” people attended the concert, which was really nice. I even understood half of the speeches they had held in Swedish.

See some pictures here, a video is available here

Video: Uppsala In Spring

Here a video from Uppsala in spring:

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Click on the play button to start playing (logical, no?)… Videos on my blog are in “beta” state, I don’t know whether I will keep them here. This video for instance is 20 megabytes big.

Germanwings: Flight Deck Visit

Pilots are loneley, at least sometimes. During the flight, the door to the flight deck has to be locked and after the flight everybody rushes out to pick up their luggage.

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Flightdeck

Since I had the opportunity to be on Germanwings flight 229 from Stockholm-Arlanda to Cologne-Bonn yesterday, I just asked the flight attendants whether it was possible to take a picture of the flight deck (of course after touch-down). “Sure” they said, I just had to wait a bit until the majority of the passengers had left the plane. “It’s ok, you can go in now”, said one of flight attendants finally to me.

Eventually, I made my way into the cockpit and asked the pilots “Hello, can I take a picture?”. “Sure, also two if you like!” replied the pilot. So I did. I also told him that it was a nice flight and he answered “I like to hear that, you are welcome!” He seemed to be really happy about that positive feedback. Already during the flight he had made two (normal is only one) announcements.

So I took the following pictures and I was really surprised how real the Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 actually is. I installed an additional Airbus A 319 (which was the one I flew with yesterday, too) in the programme and the real flight deck indeed matches the one from the computer. Although being no aviation expert, I could recognize the most important parts.

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Autopilot

This part is the Autopilot. As you can see, the selected heading was 310°, the altitude 5000 feet and the vertical speed -100 feet per minute.

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Landing Gear

This part controls the landing gear. There is a lever for extending and retracting the landing gear. The three green buttons above indicate that the landing gear is currently extracted. Below these three buttons are another three buttons, which set the intensity of the automatic brake (low, medium, max).

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Flaps and Speed Brakes

The lever on the right controls the flaps, the one on the left the speed brakes. The switch between “ENG 1” and “ENG 2” starts the engines.

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Throttles

These throttles regulate the power of the engines. The “black and white discs” are the pitch trim wheels. Above the throttles, left and right, is the “MCDU”, the multifunction control display unit, a kind of flight computer.

If you want to really know all the details, have a look at this excellent page. It explains nearly everything. Thanks again to Germanwings, they really offer an excellent service. I’m sure this was not my last flight with them (next one is next Tuesday :-) ).

Falun: First class to Uppsala

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Last Saturday, I went with Sam to Falun, a small town roughly two hours north of Uppsala. Since Sam is also a blogger and well-known for endless entries picked with all the details, I just link to his post, which pretty much explains everything we did there. :-)

I took (as always) some pictures there, which you can see here. I will write in a special blog entry in the near future about how nice the trains in Sweden are and how perfectly the railway works in general, so stay tuned for that.

“Stängt”: Last One Out Switches Off The Light

Even if you are not taking a Swedish course, you probably come across this word these days: “stängt”. It means “closed” and everything seems to be closed due to the Easter holidays.

The whole corridor I live in is emptying. It all started already a few weeks ago. Today, I only saw two of my Swedish neighbours. Only we, the exchange students, are holding the fort.

When I look out of the window, to the house opposite to me, most of the windows are dark. In Uppsala as well, many shops close completely during Easter. One has to adapt to that because normally the shops have quite long opening hours and open even on Sundays for instance.

So my only hope is the local ICA supermarket. It says “Öppet alla dagar 8-23”, open all days from 8 am to 23 pm.

Göteborg and Abandoned Islands

I am currently sitting in the train on my way back to Uppsala. The good thing when you carry you laptop with you is that you can edit all the pictures already, this saves some time. Why don’t I just look out of the window and enjoy the Swedish landscape? Well, that is easy to answer.

The countryside between Uppsala and Göteborg pretty much reminds me of our “Westerwald” in Germany, where you have many fields, from time to time a house and everything looks a bit abandoned. Here in Sweden, there are even less houses and lots of forests. Next to that, the weather is not really good, it had been raining since I came to Göteborg and it still is.

So editing pictures while in train seems to be a good alternative. Additionally, the car of the train where I am sitting in is unbelievably cold. So the laptop warms a bit. :-)

Göteborg

About Göteborg: I liked the city, however, as already said, I was unlucky with the weather. So what we did on Saturday was to go to a museum first. We picked the “Universum”, a kind of science park, which is divided into several areas.

First you “follow the water” from its source to the ocean. You can see a lot of different sorts of fish (all alive), from normal Swedish fish to more exotic ones. Then there is a jungle part with lots of butterflies and plants from the tropes. This part is incredibly hot and humid, I was happy when I was out of it.

Finally, there is -maybe more meant for children- a part in the museum, where you can explore different sorts of science (biology, etc) and see “how things work”. They also had a morse key there, which was nice to use and reminded me of the fact that although I can still send the code properly, I cannot read it anymore.

Bränno Island

After having visited the museum, I wanted to explore the southern archipelago of the city. I went to a small island called Bränno, a very deserted place. There was absolutely nothing going on, the one grocery store the island has (it includes the post office and a pharmacy) was closed. In summer it is for sure a nice place to be and relax at.

Since it was still raining and very windy, I decided to go back to where the ship stopped. The island was actually said to have a cafe, but I couldn’t find it (most likely it was closed anyway). Unfortunately, I had to wait one hour for the next ship departure.

With me waited a married couple for the ship. We talked a bit and I came to know that they wanted to buy a sailing ship on the island. Not a big one, but a small one with a kitchen and 2 beds. However, the ship didn’t meet the expectations of the husband, so he was very disappointed.

They were really nice and so the time quickly passed by. They were also looking for a toilet, but a quick look at the information leaflet said that “The toilet beside Rödsten pier is open from 1 May”. Since it is still April, there is no toilet on the island.

A few pictures of my stay are here.

This is Gothenburg calling…

I am currently in Gothenburg (that is Göteborg) for the weekend, accessing the Internet via an open Wireless LAN access point, which is apparently somewhere in the neighbourhood. Haven’t seen that much of the city, yet, but so far Gotheburg seems to be a bit different from the Uppsala and Stockholm region. Unfortunately, the weather is not the best, so I hope that it improves tomorrow.

There are still the same shopping chains here, so when I stepped out of the station after a 5 hour train ride from Uppsala, it felt a bit strange to see a shopping center where everything looks so familiar. But there is a nice opera building here, I went in there and picked up the programme.

Pictures soon, so stay tuned…

Cultural Differences

A few short comments on some minor cultural differences I am observing here in Sweden:

In the bus…

…it’s quiet. Altough the bus might be packed with people (one of the very few places in Sweden where that is the case), nobody talks. You can easily play “Spot the exchange students” by just listening. The loudest conversations are either in English or sometimes, and then even louder, in German. The whole thing can only be topped by Dutch (“Jeetje!”).

Ipodding and calling is socially allowed, as is reading academic articles. The later observation is especially funny, since at home most people read the “Bild” tabloid when travelling in bus or train, a news paper that has in total less letters than the title of the academic paper only.

at the checkout…

…in the supermarket, it is absolutely important to mark out your purchases by one of these “things”, where I don’t even know the German name for (there is even a discussion [DE] going on, whether a name exists at all).

I mean these bars you place on the band that mark the beginning of the next customer’s groceries. A “separator” maybe? Anyway, even if there are like 3 meters between your stuff and the customer before or after you, they directly put one of those things in between. Today I tried whether it would work without one of those bars. It didn’t. The cashier scanned my apple juice together with the stuff from the woman before me.

This procedure takes place very quietly, too. The silence is only interrupted by dragging the bank card wrongly through the card reader. I was wondering whether there is any intention behind this behaviour. Is it that the Swedes don’t want to talk to the cashier? Do they want to prevent a mixing up of groceries at any rate? I don’t know.

at home, they talk…

But actually, the “Swedish model of silence” has also its positive sides. The most stupid conversations can be heard at a German discount supermarket.

The actors: cashier and customer. The customer is proud that he or she “knows” the cashier. The customer has some meat and cigarettes on the band and a small child sitting in the cart and just says “One never knows these days…”. The cashier looks irritated, the customer explains “I mean with the bird flu.” The cashier now gets the point and says: “That’s true, we don’t know what we eat anymore.”

“There is something bad in everything, be it chicken, beef or salad”, says the customer, pays, takes the cigarettes (!), her child and leaves the supermarket.

Back from Molvania

Just returned from a one-day visit to Molvania. We flew on Friday night from Stockholm Arlanda airport with Wizzair directly to Lutenblag, the country’s capital. It was still cold there, about -7° C during the day. Although everything was much cheaper there, the hostel we stayed in was expensive and really dilapidated.

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View from the TV tower (CC)

The city looked very run-down and often reminded me of pictures of the former Soviet Union. Although you can buy a lot of Western products (Coca Cola and so on) there, the shops do not stimulate you to buy something. Nothing is nicely arranged, every looks as if it was just thrown into the supermarket. We also wanted to visit the National Museum, but I was closed due to construction works.

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Typical houses (CC)

The picture below shows one of the main streets. The city does not have that many attractions, most of them are just boring. We took a guided tour of Europe’s oldest nuclear reactor, which was quite interesting, but also a bit scaring. I had to wear thick, protective safety clothes, but the guide told us that there was absolutely no risk of radiation. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take pictures of the reactor.

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One of the main streets (CC)

The language, Molvanian, is absolutely weird. “Zlkavszka” means “Hello” and “Grovzsgo” goodbye. The people we met were actually not very friendly, but that might have been because it was so cold and we were tourists. Many of the inhabitants didn’t speak English, but some of them spoke German since the country was also invaded during World War II by Nazi Germany. The country’s currency, the “strubl”, is funny, too. To buy a can of Coca-Cola, you need to pay with 10 bank notes. The coins (1 strubl = 100 qunts [100 q]) are absolutely worthless. Luckily, they took at some places my Visa card.

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The underground (CC)

A few times we took the underground, which was built -as many other things- by the Russians. The air in there was pretty humid. Outside, Lutenblag has to deal with smog quite often. Most of the industrial companies do not adhere to the strict European environmental standards and therefore just “blow out” their exhaust. I would have liked to take a round trip through the country itself, but the time didn’t allow that.

What bothered me a bit was the fact that the country applied for admission to the European Union in 1997. I don’t know whether there are any real negotiations at this time, but the guide from the city tour told us that many Molvanias are hoping to become part of the EU. However, I currently see that everything there is so different. The government is said to be very corrupt and there are often ethnic unrests, since many Molvanias come from very different backgrounds.

I will put more photos online, as soon as I have them ready…

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(All pictures of this entry are licensed as creative commons, the credit can be found as a link “(CC)” in the description of the image)