Coffee, Cake and Good Company

Fika has seemed to be a perfect topic for this week’s entry. However, earlier today, when I tried to make up my mind as to what exactly I would write about since there is so much to fika that I could possibly go on for, well, let’s just say that you would get brownie points for finishing such a novel, my thoughts would always come back to a sweet treat. So, a while later, I am sitting in my room in a relatively cosy chair (oh, Jerry) with a cup of raspberry crumble I made, finally able to focus on writing.

So what is the unfamiliar word? It sounds so welcoming and comforting, does it not? Fika means to have a cup of coffee, a piece of cake and chat. As simple as that. I might not have made the ‘miraculously-wake-up-one-morning-speaking-fluent-Swedish’ progress I had hoped for yet, however, I seem to have mastered the art of fika.

Do you remember the excitement you used to feel as kids when you entered a toy shop? The world has stopped. There is nothing but this very moment and everything is just the way it is supposed to be. Well, welcome to a konditori, a traditional Swedish café offering a great selection of delicious cakes, pastries and sandwiches; an ideal place not only for fika but also for lunch. What makes a kondis, as it is familiarly called, such a comforting and reassuring place? Time has stopped here. Time does not exist here. Time does not pressure you anymore. Famous konditories date back to late 19th century and their appearance has not changed much since then. And newly established cafés tend to imitate the cool oldschoolness of the original konditories.

It sounds like wonderland to me. Which is why I was asking myself why would people go to Espresso House (homogenised Swedish café chain) instead every time I passed by one of them. The answer is simple: Wi-Fi. As much as I love the 19th-century atmosphere of Swedish cafés, Internet would really not hurt. 

Alternatively, you can go to a fika at a nation. There will be a post on nations coming soon so be patient. For now let’s just assume that a fika at a nation is an event where you can socialise with other students over a cup of coffee and homemade cakes and pastries. And, generally speaking, it is cheaper than a konditori.

As much as I enjoy fika, there are two drawbacks I should mention. Firstly, there is just as much sugar your body can take before a sugar overdose comes to say hi. Secondly, the joyful and fulfilling illusion of time having stopped is directly proportional to the disillusion on the prowl maliciously waiting for you to come home and realise the work you had left there is still there.

If you are the kind to sit up in their room, you can get cinnamon buns from the grocery store on the way back from uni and have a fika at home. Or you might as well make them yourselves. Baking is undoubtedly part of the fun.

This past weekend a friend of mine, who studied in Uppsala about 3 years ago, shortly visited. What can I say other than ‘fika!’. From the train station we headed directly back home. There was a freshly made (yes, I did get up early in the morning and still managed to come 10 minutes late to the station) Czech sponge cake bábovka daring us to have a bite. Well, that had been the plan anyway. After a lovely conversation over a cup of tea we went out for lunch. We decided to go to my friend’s favourite konditori – Ofvandahls – which is the oldest konditori in Uppsala as far as I know and a really good place for lunch or fika. If you’re looking for fancier, more sophisticated cakes, then you might want to try a new place called Café Linné Hörnan, definitely one of my favourites, which is where we headed for lunch the next day. Alternatively, you might try Café Linné Konstantina, another favourite of mine, combining both a great selection of cakes with a homey and good-old-days atmosphere. Let me just point out that it was cold last weekend. Therefore, we would start freezing more and more every time we left the lovely warmth of a konditori. One might think that this would stop us from sitting down in yet another konditori. No, it would not. To finish off the visit the proper Swedish way, after a long walk having realised that we arrived to the station 45 minutes earlier, we sat down for a last cup of coffee and a tiny little cake nearby the station. What a lovely weekend!

So, now I know the answer to the two probably most irritating questions I get asked as a language student (except for ‘What do you wanna do after you graduate?’ that has always topped the blacklist). What is your favourite Swedish word? What comes first to your mind when talking about Sweden? Fika! Coffee, cake and good company.

To those of you who could not resist and left in the middle of reading to make themselves a snack, thank you for coming back to read till the end and dobrou chuť!

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