Coming back from Christmas break

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A house under the snow. Credits: Unsplash/
Fabian Mardi

 

Hi everyone ! I have been off for a few weeks now – I was back in France for Christmas.

First of all happy new year to you.

Second, I must confess one thing: the picture I used at the top of my article does not reflect at all the atmosphere here, in Linköping. I must admit that I am a little disappointed: I was convinced that I would come back under snow falls and extremely low temperatures, but I did not. In Linköping it is still pretty warm (2°C) and no snow on the horizon… Meanwhile, in the north of Sweden snow has been falling like crazy, entailing huge electricity blackouts and storms all over the place. My phone’s weather forecast is telling me it should be coming soon, but at that point I don’t know if I should believe it.

 

The “Vinterstad i Ljus” event was organized to lighten the street light for Christmas in Linköping.

Anyway I had a very good time celebrating Christmas with my family and spend an amazing New Year’s Eve with my best friend in Brussels. Plus, in December I had time to enjoy the all-christmassy atmosphere in Sweden, and I loved it ! I am going to tell you why.

 

Swedes go crazy on traditions

 

In France we have a few traditions that keep existing for Christmas, such as the advent calendar or the Christmas tree decorated in gold and red – or blue and silver, depending on tastes. But here, in Sweden, Christmas traditions exist on a whole other level.

First, they organise a big celebration on the first week-end of December to light the streets. In Linköping the event was called “Vinterstad i Ljus” (The winter city enlightened). Concerts, speeches, videos… the city center was full of people waiting for the lights to shine in the night – it was 4pm.

Starting from there, each Sunday before Christmas is an advent Sunday. Swedes usually have a set of four candles, destined to be lighted one Sunday after the other. And while you light them, you must say a short poetic line, which almost sounds like a witch incantation. You can see the candles my Swedish housemate handcrafted herself on the picture below – the fourth one is missing, but don’t worry we made it on time.

On the second advent, my housemates and I were also invited to an “advents fika” at our neighbors’ house, to share pastries and coffee in a very warm atmosphere.

 

Our set of candles to celebrate the Christmas advent.

 

Christmas markets

 

Of course in France, we have a lot of Christmas markets. But I think it is nothing compared to the ones you can find in Sweden. Here in Linköping, the main one is settled in Gamla Linköping (the old town). It is very traditional and you have a wide range of corners where you can buy woolen gloves, hot wine (glögg) and biscuits (peppar kakor).

It’s only organized two week-ends in December, but it’s worth blocking one afternoon in your schedule to enjoy the Swedish Christmas atmosphere !

 

Gamla Linköping’s Christmas market.

Food & drinks

 

I told you in the previous section about glögg and peppar kakor. These two are the main reasons I love Christmas here. But what are they exactly? Glögg is a wine you can buy light in the supermarket (2% of alcohol) or strong in Systembolaget* (up to 14% of alcohol). You usually warm it up in a pot and put some almonds and other dry fruits in it to give it a nice sweet taste.

Peppar kakor are ginger biscuits, Swedes eat all the time during Christmas. You can bake them – I did not – or buy them in the supermarket. They usually have some meaningful shapes, such as hearts. Then you can also decorate them with a special paste you can also buy in the supermarket.

Finally, I strongly recommend to organize Christmas dinners with your friends. I organized one with my housemates, where we all cooked and baked traditional dishes from our home country and we had a really good night!

 


* Systembolaget is the state shop where you can buy strong alcohol (over 3%), I will write about it in a later post.

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Swedish Toolbox – How to find housing in Linköping

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I remember being extremely stressed out about finding housing in Linköping. I started to look for it last May, and found it after a couple weeks of internet searching ! From the info I had gathered, I knew I could find housing for a rent between 3.500 SEK and 4.000 SEK (between 350 et 400 euros). That is the average budget in Linköping.

As a master student you don’t get help from the university to find housing – it’s different I think when you are on exchange. To get student housing (a room in a corridor), you need to queue. In order to do that, you must create an account on the website of Studentbostäder and start collecting points. The longer you are in the queue, the more points you get, the more housing offers you get.

However, I started to queue only in May – not early enough to get a good number of points. So I started to look for housing on Blocket, a website where you can buy second-hand products from other people and where owners put their rooms to rent. That is where I found the room I am actually renting.

Another mean to find housing is Facebook. Many groups exist where you can put up posts about what kind of housing you are looking for:

You can also look for housing on the university online board: Anslagstavlan. There, you can put up your own post or answer to some offers.

I live in Ryd, the student area. However, I am renting a room in a house I share with six other people. I found it on Blocket as I said and I must admit my Swedish helped a little! My only advice is not to give up, you will find a place to stay !

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Swedish Dictionary – What is… fika?

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Unsplash/Sarah Swinton

 

This morning our neighbors invited my housemates and I for fika, as well as other people living in our street. So, we went to their house and enjoyed a nice morning gathering.

Fika = cosy coffee break

Fika is the traditional coffee break. It usually takes place in the afternoon like the French “goûter” or the British “tea-time”. But it can be organized at any time! You can have fika with friends, your family or your partner, at home or in a coffee shop.

Swedish coffee shops are really cosy and usually offer a wide range of sweets and candy, such as carrot cake, chocolate cake or the traditional cinnamon buns (kanelbullar). On the side, you can drink coffee or tea.

My favorite fika combo is a Chai Tea with a piece of cheese cake, carrot cake or Daimstårta (a pie with Daim’s candy !).

 

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Travelling – Jönköping: almost like seaside

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Around Munksjön, in Jönköping.

 

Two weeks ago I took a spontaneous trip to Jönköping (Småland region, see map), on my own. I had a free Saturday and wanted to get some air. When I checked the destinations available (and cheap) from Linköping, I immediately chose this city because it was close (only 1h30 minutes away by bus) and the lake it was built around made it the perfect destination for a trip between nature and city life.

 

Trip from Linköping to Jönköping. Photo: GoogleMaps/screenshot.

How to get to Jönköping?

  • Train. Going to Jönköping by train costs between 400 and 500 SEK return (around 40 to 50 euros) and takes around 2 hours. Not very cost-efficient in my opinion.
  • Bus. I took the bus to go to Jönköping. Indeed, with Flixbus I paid only 22 euros return and the trip took only 1h30. (However, my bus home was veryyyyy late, and I had to wait an hour before it arrived at Jönköping Centralstation to take me to back Linköping.)

 

What to do in Jönköping?

  • Walk by the lake. Jönköping has been built next to the second largest Swedish lake, lake Vättern. Thanks to a dam, a smaller lake has been created inside the city, lake Munksjön. You can walk around it and enjoy nature, while being close to the city. Even though, the weather was not really good – the sky was mostly grey and temperatures were low due to the wind – I walked around it during almost two hours.
  • Visit museums. I did not visit any museums in Jönköping, simply because they were either too far from the city-center and the station (like the Art Gallery) or were closing to early (around 4pm). However in Jönköping, you can find the Matches Museum (yes, a museum about matches, a Swedish invention), the Länsmuseum (regional museum) and the Art Gallery (Osterangens Konsthall).

 

  • Enjoy the city-center. Jönköping’s city center is pretty much like any other Swedish city-center – and mostly like Linköping’s. You can find shops (Flying Tiger of Copenhaguen being one of my favorite), historical buildings (like the theatre of the Court of justice, see pictures) and a beautiful church. I ended my day-trip taking fika at Wayne’s coffee.

All photos, except when noted, are mine.

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Swedish life – First snow & beginning of (true) cold

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My alley under the snow.

 

When I studied in Uppsala three years ago, it only started to snow around the end of December. At that time I was back in France for Christmas and could only start enjoying the snow in January when I came back to Sweden after New Year’s Eve.

This year, everything is different. It has started to snow maybe two weeks ago. However, it suddenly stopped because it became too cold. The temperatures dropped to -13 degrees celsius and instead of snow, we had frost. I must admit it was kind of disappointing. But the landscapes were still covered in white, and were glowing under the winter (autumn?) sun. I took many pictures to immortalize sunsets.

 

 

Right now, snow is back (see picture on top of the article). I love this weather: (very) cold and sunny. However, at first, I did not think it would be that cold in November. So, I kept biking, wearing my cotton gloves. Until one time, I could not feel my fingers anymore. Then I started using what I call my “Lapland gloves” (because I bought them in 2016 to go to Lapland). They are supposed to keep your hands warm until -30 degrees celsius – let’s say that it works pretty well.

Right now, I don’t feel like biking anymore. I am going to start using buses I think. Or walk. I will let you know another time about transportation in Linköping!

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