When I first arrived to Uppsala, the people leading the culture programme told us not to miss the 30th of April: Valborg for anything. Even if you are an exchange student for just a semester, you should come back for just a couple of days and take part in the biggest celebration is Sweden. And it is all in Uppsala: people from all over Sweden come to the student city where the feast is going full speed. They have a bonfire in most towns in Sweden, but it’s nothing compared to what it is here.
So let me tell you what happens: plans are irrelevant. Nations cell tickets for their släpps (parties) weeks before Valborg, and many end up buying a ticket and not going. Valborg is chaos, and being sober at any part during the day is implausible. I was constantly being warned that mobile networks would fail and calls would be hard to make. Don’t worry: if it doesn’t go through, try again. I made more calls and sent more texts this day than all of the remaining April.
So our day started at the boat race: the typical Valborg thing to do. It’s a display of hand-made boats going along the river from 10 till 12 o’clock, with wacky themes such as “The teenage mutant ninja turtle boat”, “The Soviet Union boat”, “The condom boat”. There were at least a hundred of them. We were ready at the river around 8:30 am to save a good spot, ending up on the grass in front of Gotlands nation. It’s a very nice place to sit and see all the boats. However, if I am to see this again, I would pick a standing spot farther along the river as the flow gets swifty and the people on the boats start falling into the water.
So the boat display is supplemented with the traditional champagne breakfast, consisting of champagne and strawberries, sometimes supplemented by bread and cheese (especially brie). Before Valborg Systembolaget is full of people buying sparkling wine, and as almost everybody brings one, the hangover from the previous night, Kvalborg, (if present) is killed off by winebibbing.
On Valborg everyone goes to the Ekonomikum. It looks like a typical festival area: the whole park is full of people sitting on blankets (or the grass), drinking bear and talking in the background of discordant beats from several stages and speakers people brought with them that might have been music from closer by. The sun was blazing, and everybody’s noses were red in the evening. Sunglasses were a luxury of the wise, and so were bathrooms: I was very glad to have friends in Rackabergsgatan and Studentstaden, as the queue for the ecotoilets was outlandish.
A notable Valborg tradition that I missed was the champagne run (Champagnegalopp): the practice of entering a nation on Valborg afternoon to drink and pour sparkling wine on your friends. After such an experience you would obviously need to go home and take a shower; the Snärikes street reeks of champagne and sweat for days after Valborg.
After getting bored with the Ekonomikum and walking around not doing much for awhile, we found the Triangle, a little park where live bands were playing until 10 and people were barbecuing (with instant BBQ). Although I had expected to meet many friends at the Ekonomikum, the place was much too crowded, whereas in the Triangle I ran into four different groups of people I knew. We went to an afterparty until around 2, and as most of us didn’t feel like joining Flogsta parties, we ended up going home around that time.
2 am might seem a bit lame: we are talking about a great celebration, right? In Bulgaria a huge party like this would never end before 5. However, in Bulgaria it would never start at 8:30. This is the longest day I have had in Sweden. I saw the sun rise as I got up and set a long time before I went back to bed. I was tipsy during most, if not all of the time, without getting too drunk to . I met great people, friends of friends that came to visit for just a little bit. I had expected Valborg to be a disappointment as everyone places such high expectations on it, but it actually turned out pretty cool. I didn’t even have a hangover.