The Cabinet Of Curiosities: Collecting The Wonders Of The World

Cabinet of CuriositiesBefore there was the museum, there was the cabinet of curiosities. Starting in the 16th century as Europe expanded its horizons during the Age of Exploration, the rich and powerful began to collect curios and display them. Their collections were eclectic – everything from strange weapons from distant islands to beautiful coral formations.

The objects were all put together in no particular order in one room or cabinet, which was sometimes called a Wunderkammer (“Wonder Room”). This blending of natural history and anthropology with no accounting for geography or time period allowed the viewer to see the world as a whole in all its rich diversity. Many of these collections became the nuclei for later museums that are still around today, while others are still preserved in their original state.

Ambras Castle
in Austria has the Chamber of Art and Curiosities, a collection most famous for its many portraits of “miracles of nature”, mostly people suffering from deformities, plus this guy who managed to survive a lance being stuck through his head. There’s also a suit of samurai armor, silk artwork, mechanical toys and plenty more.

The Augsberg Art Cabinet in the Museum Gustavianum in Uppsala is a beautiful little piece with all sorts of panels and drawers devoted to various themes such as life, death and religion. Click on the first link for a cool interactive exhibit.

The tradition of the Wunderkammer is kept alive by some museums. The British Museum in London has the Enlightenment Gallery, which is jam-packed with busts, fossils, Greek vases, rare books, weapons, and Asian religious statues. The Museum der Dinge (“Museum of Things”) in Berlin is a fascinating if somewhat random collection of, well, things.

%Gallery-186870%In Los Angeles there’s the Museum of Jurassic Technology, a bizarre collection of sculptures made from single human hairs and displays of dubious cures from the days before modern medicine. Strecker’s Cabinets of Curiosities in Waco, Texas, proudly displays its prize item, a humpback whale skull measuring 19 feet long and weighing 3,000 pounds. An Iron Age jug sits nearby. Random associations are what Cabinets of Curiosities are all about.

But why not start your own? A bit of travel or rummaging through yard sales can get you a constantly growing collection that will become the envy of your friends. You can even open it up to the public like the owners of Trundle Manor in Pittsburgh.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

An Insider’s Guide To Exploring Uppsala, Sweden

Most people that go to Sweden for their first time head to Stockholm, a beautiful city that is well worth a visit. But just outside of Stockholm you will find another Scandinavian gem: Uppsala. It’s a university town, and founded in 1477, the university is the oldest in Scandinavia. The fourth largest city in Sweden, Uppsala has managed to keep its quaint feel, the center a mixture of cobblestone streets, old architecture, and local residents on bicycles.

For me, Uppsala is a combination of cozy cafes and brightly colored houses. Although it is big in population, the city center feels small and welcoming, and because it’s a university town there’s plenty to do.

You could spend several days in Uppsala, but if you have the time for a day trip or two from Stockholm, here are a few things that I never miss when I am there. And although traveling to Sweden isn’t necessarily “budget travel” (you can blame that on the exchange rate) these things are all reasonably priced and/or free.

What to see

Domkyrkan – Uppsala Cathedral

You can’t go to Uppsala without visiting the cathedral. It dates back to the 13th century, and in the middle of town, its spires stand high above the rooftops – it’s no surprise that it’s the tallest church building in Scandinavia. It is an active cathedral, with not only the traditional mass, but also presentations and concerts. Every Saturday there is a free concert offered in the afternoon – well worth a visit. Domkyrkoplan, www.uppsaladomkyrka.se

Botaniskaträdgården – Botanical Gardens

The oldest botanical garden in Sweden, Botaniska Trädgården was founded in 1655 and was originally used for teaching students about botany and pharmacy. Today the gardens extend over 34 acres with some 11,000 species from all over the world. The original garden is today called Linneträdgården, Linnaeus’ Garden. Here you will find a museum and a cafe. Entrance to the Botanical Gardens is free (except for the tropical greenhouse which is 40 SEK) and entrance to Linnaeus’ Garden is 60 SEK. www.botan.uu.se

Gamla Uppsala – Old Uppsala

Take a bus out to Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala) for a feel of ancient Viking times. Just outside of central Uppsala, Gamla Uppsala is a historical site that has. During the Iron Age, this site was home to an established society as well as a place with religious importance. Gamla Uppsala’s main draw are its great Royal Mounds, three large mounds that stick out of the ground and are covered in grass. There was much speculation as to their significance, but in 1846 an archeological dig showed that it was in fact a burial ground. The identities of the people buried inside are unknown, but they were certainly people of importance. At the local Gamla Uppsala Museum you can learn more about the history of the area and the Royal Mounds (entry fee is 60 SEK). The site is perfect if you want an outdoor getaway; there is a nice selection of trails making for a good walk or run, perfectly free of charge. After a walk, grab lunch or coffee at Cafe Odinsborg.

Godsmagasinet

In between the train station and the concert hall, Godsmagasinet is a design and craft gallery, featuring local artists. There are textiles, ceramics, jewelry and clothing, and if you are interested in Swedish design, this should be the first stop on your list. Explore the gallery and then grab a cup of coffee and an open faced sandwich in the cafe that’s located in the building. Rosalgsgatan 1, www.godsmagasinet.nu

Ulvakvarn

Just outside of Gamla Uppsala you will find Ulva Kvarn, Kvarn means “mill” in English, and sitting right on the Fyris River, Ulva Kvarn was in use as a watermill from the early 1300s all the way until 1960. Today you can visit the old mill house, built in 1759, but there is also an entire collection of local artisan studios on site, making and selling traditional Swedish goods from blacksmiths to jewelry makers. There is also a good cafe on site, so it makes for a perfect day trip from Uppsala to go and explore the countryside. Ulva Kvarn, www.ulvakvarn.com

Where to eat

There is nothing more Swedish than coffee and a baked good. Here are some of my favorite cozy cafes around the city.

Cafe Kardemumma

Located inside Uppsala’s library, Kardemumma is a quiet cafe in the middle of town. It has a quaint outdoor courtyard that’s very enjoyable in the summertime. They bake their own bread, and source much of their ingredients for sandwiches and salads locally. Try one of their chokladbollar. Svartbäcksgatan 17.

Cafe Linne Hörnan

An old fashioned styled cafe, Cafe Linne Hörnan is like stepping into a Swedish cafes from several decades ago. They serve breakfast, lunch and the traditional Swedish coffee break, fika, which means you can choose from a wide array of baked goods and classic Swedish cakes. Svartbäcksgatan 22, www.cafelinne.com

Ofvandals Hovkonditori

My mother ate here when she was a student at Uppsala University, and the decor and menu have barely changed. This bakery and cafe is an iconic Uppsala destination – it has been there since the late 1800s – and if you want a taste of traditional Swedish cakes, this is the place to go. Sysslomansgatan 5, www.ofvandahls.se

Getting there

Getting to Uppsala from Stockholm takes 55 minutes on the train, just enough time to enjoy the scenery and drink a cup of coffee. Because it’s a common commuter line, there are frequent departures and tickets can be purchased at the Stockholm central station. A one-way ticket costs between 80-100 SEK (about $12-15).

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[Photo Credit: Anna Brones]

Photo Of The Day: Uppsala Botanical Gardens, Sweden

Sun in the middle of Swedish winter is a sought after thing, and this photo by Flickr user mjlacey captures the seasonal beauty of sunlight on snow.

The oldest botanical garden in Sweden, Botaniska Trädgården (Botanical Gardens), located in the university town of Uppsala, was founded in 1655 and was originally used for teaching students about botany and pharmacy. Today the gardens extend over 34 acres with some 11,000 species from all over the world. Certainly worth a visit if you ever find yourself in this Swedish city.

Do you want your travel photo to be featured on Photo of the Day? Submit via our Gadling Flickr pool, or on Instagram by tagging your photo with #gadling and mentioning @gadlingtravel.

[Photo Credit: mjlacey]

Uppsala, Sweden: A University Town With Viking Roots

Uppsala
Uppsala University in Sweden is 535 years old today, having been inaugurated on this date in 1477. As one of the older universities in Europe, it has quite a few sights to see and is located in a town of ancient importance.

The city started as a religious center for the pagan Vikings and the location of their Thing, a general assembly. An ancient temple at Uppsala was said to have had statues to Thor, Odin, and Freyr and the entire building was encircled by a golden chain hanging from the gables. While the old temple has disappeared, there are still some Viking remains in the form of runestones and three large earthen mounds. Legend has it that they’re the barrows (tombs) of the three principal Norse gods, but excavations showed them to be the resting places for three early Norse rulers.

As with many pagan sites across Europe, Uppsala was turned into a center for Christianity and became the site for the country’s first archbishopric in 1164. There’s a little medieval church dating to the 13th century and a much more elegant cathedral from the 15th century. I wish I could describe the interior of the earlier church to you, but on my visit I walked in on a wailing baby getting baptized and had to walk right out! Such are the hazards of travel.

The later house of worship still serves as the cathedral today. Its brick exterior has a warm, homey feel, but when you go inside you find the soaring arches and fine stonework that you’d expect from a European cathedral. Inside you can find the tombs of important Swedes such a King Gustav Vasa (of Vasa ship fame), scientist Carl Linnaeus and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg.

As for the university itself, such an old center of learning is bound to have some attractions. In good weather visit the Linnaean Garden, a beautiful botanical garden founded in 1655 and reorganized by Carl Linnaeus, who created the taxonomic system still used to categorize plants and animals today. He got in trouble with church authorities for categorizing humans as primates. Above is a view of the gardens courtesy Andreas Trepte, who caught them on one of those warm, sunny days that are so precious this far north. The gardens are an easy stroll from Uppsala Castle, complete with throne room and a rich collection of European art.

%Gallery-167737%The Gustavianum, formerly an operating theater where 17th century medical students could watch dissections, is now a museum showing off the university’s art and archaeological collections. There’s also a cool exhibit of early scientific instruments. The old operating theater still exists if you want to see what it was like to get cut up in public.

Take some time to soak up Uppsala’s atmosphere. Stroll through the narrow medieval lanes and along the riverside where the students like to lounge. Being a northern city, it changes dramatically with the seasons. My first visit was in winter and was in fact my favorite. Standing atop an old Viking barrow and looking out across the snow-covered fields as the church spire rose in the gray distance, I felt like I was seeing Sweden at its best. Sure, we all like sunshine, but biting cold wind and short, overcast days seemed more properly Scandinavian!

Uppsala makes an easy day trip from Stockholm and is one of the top places to see in Sweden. Gamla Uppsala (“Old Uppsala”) with its pagan remains and early church, is just outside the more modern town.