The Tourist’s Guide to Uppsala
If you are, in fact, reading this pamphlet, and not ripping pieces of it out one by one to use for the wiping of unmentionables, you are exactly the sort of cultured individual who would most enjoy a trip to the famed University town of Uppsala.
It would be absurd to think that a literate connoisseur of fine travels such as yourself wouldn’t already know of the Great Cataclysm (Den stora katastrofen in Swedish), but life does seem rather absurd these days. If you try for a moment to think about the Earth as if it were a rotisserie chicken and meteors as if they were grains of seasoning shook out from some great celestial pepper-mill, you would undoubtedly be left with a rather poor understanding of astrophysics. However, you might have a passable understanding of the sort of barrage the Earth experienced in 2020. This was understandably to the detriment of human society, which is famously allergic to being superheated and crushed.
"They speak Swedish, eat fermented fish, and drink altogether too much schnapps – which is to say, any amount of schnapps."
Uppsala used to be a very international city, when nations still existed and their borders mattered. Now, the term ‘Sweden’ is mostly historical, ‘nation’ is confusing at best, and ‘Swede’ is just a word for people who live what is generally agreed upon to be a traditional local lifestyle. They speak Swedish, eat fermented fish, and drink altogether too much schnapps – which is to say, any amount of schnapps.
In contrast to this, there is a section of the population which, despite having lived in Uppsala for generations since the Great Cataclysm, clings to its ancestral roots. They call themselves foreigners, speak English amidst a variety of other languages, smartly avoid schnapps, and only eat fermented fish as a sort of intimidation tactic to disturb one another. Typically, it is vomited out immediately after consumption. This population lives scattered amongst Uppsala’s territory, but is found in the heaviest density in a region called Flogsta.
FUN FACT: The abundant foreign population in Uppsala has taken to calling the GC ‘Magmarock’ in what they seem to think is a hilarious play on words with the traditional Scandinavian conception of the end of days, ragnarök. In the early days post-Cataclysm, several disgruntled Swedes responded with a petition To Just Say Ragnarök which, as of the writing of this pamphlet, can still be found taped to University Hall’s main door. However, the foreign contingent argued that only the Swedes know how to properly pronounce the ö, criticizing the entire petition as inherently exclusionary.
“This is nonsense,” was the official response by Just Say Ragnarök’s campaign leader at the time. “I’ll teach you all how to say ö right now.” Pandemonium immediately erupted in University Hall as representatives from Skåne put forward the motion to Pronounce It Correctly, Actually only to be shot down by the strong Stockholm Enunciators Opposition. The entire population of Sollentuna was in attendance (3 delegates, two children, and one small dog), but they walked out midway through the proceedings in apparent disgust.
The Fyris River: This scenic river winds through the center of Uppsala, and is the location of the annual Uppsala raft race. Several companies offer scuba lessons in every season except Summer, when the river invariably dries to a thin stream. You can even harvest your own bicycle from the river’s depths if you take a scuba tour with Linnéa’s Touring Company (not to be confused with the terrible Linnéa Company Tour).
The Cathedral (Domkyrkan): The Great Cataclysm rendered many a building to ash and dust. By some miracle however, the Uppsala Domkyrka was utterly untouched. 10 years later, or so residents report, the roof collapsed due to the weight of fallen scaffolding from pre-Cataclysm reparation projects. The scaffolding has since been arranged by local artists into a series of sculptures meant to represent man’s inhumanity to man.
The University (Universitetet): Any building not marked with a clear “Private Property” sign probably belongs to Uppsala University. Any person not marked with a clear “Private Person” sign also probably belongs to Uppsala University. Sit in on a lecture like Making a Profit In The Barter Economy at Ekonomikum, or take a quick stroll through the Carolina Rediviva to peek at the eldritch tome bound in human leather.
Student Nations (Nationerna): Making up for the lack of alcohol caused by the destruction of historic supply lines, the 13 Student Nations of Uppsala have constructed their own breweries and stills. They boast an exuberant night life as well as a myriad of daytime activities. Each represents a different province (or landskap) of pre-Cataclysm Sweden, and do their best to keep alive old traditions. Uplands Nation, for example, named for Uppsala’s own ancestral landskap, sends a yearly raiding party down to Lund in September to set fire to the town and pillage its dry goods.
The Pit (Stockholm): The Pit is about four hours cycle from Uppsala, making it a very accessible summer day-trip. In pleasant weather, locals love to fika around its haunting edge, and in winter (roughly nine months of the year) go sledding down its gargantuan, snowy sides. Several kilometers into The Pit, only half buried in rubble, you may be able to make out the silhouette of a great old ship, the Vasa. Do not try to go to the Vasa. It belongs to The Pit now.
Things to do in Uppsala according to locals
“Well we can’t watch Netflix anymore, and the only hard copies of movies anyone has are from about four decades ago, so we spend a lot of time outside.”
“There’s a few community gardens where everyone is welcome to help plant things! And by ‘everyone is welcome’ we mean you are legally and morally obligated to contribute. Listen, we need vegetables and we’re pretty sure Denmark has completely sunk into the ocean so if you want to eat this winter -“
“Every night at ten o’ clock exactly everyone goes to an open window and just screams. It’s really good for relieving the stress and tension that comes naturally when you’re fighting for your life in this new and terrible world.”
Give it a miss!
The Vegan Cafe. While most vegans you’ll meet around Uppsala are perfectly nice, charming individuals, and most vegan food places are quite good, we recommend you give Les Vegans, otherwise known as the Vegan Cafe, a pass. You’ll recognize the building by the large printed banner hanging from the cafe-front which reads “Cannibalism - It’s Vegan Meat”.
Mosquitoes. Tiny and terrible in the summer months, but a true scourge in fall when their democratically elected queen, roughly the size of a small cat, emerges from her subterranean den to lead the Southward migration. Analysts studying the phenomenon from EBC hypothesize that the fallout from crushed nuclear reactors in Finland may have had something to do with this bizarre shift in the size and political structure of Swedish mosquitoes. Attempts to infiltrate the hive and sway the vote in favour of not draining humans of all blood have led to an in-optimal amount of blood-draining.
"The sheer amount of disease and mould incubating in these tepid waters is likely to become sentient any day now, and thus ought to be avoided."
Central Station. Back before the Great Cataclysm travelers far and wide invariably entered Uppsala through this train station. As many miles of track have been rendered utterly inoperable, train cars have been repurposed into hip hang-out spaces for youths. Central Station can also be counted on for a good flood every spring which turns it into Uppsala’s premier mostly-indoor swimming pool. The sheer amount of disease and mould incubating in these tepid waters is likely to become sentient any day now, and thus ought to be avoided.
This short story is written and illustrated by Veronica ”Rudi” Simon. It was chosen as the winning entry in Ergo’s short story contest 2019