Thursday, September 20, 2001

What makes all university towns seem somehow alike?

I just got back from a night and a day at a meeting in a village outside of Lund, in Skåne, the southernmost province of Sweden where the dialect is particularly strong and, to me at least, difficult to understand (it sounds gargly in a very Danish way, not surprising considering Skåne was part of Denmark for centuries). Lund is where Sweden's second university is situated (Uppsala, just north of Stockholm and founded in 1477, is first).

And while it has an interesting and old cathedral (built on top of an old pagan temple), and the charming half-timbered and brick buildings characteristic of southern Sweden, it is the intense feeling of being a university town that strikes me most.

Is it that youth of a certain age (at least in the west) confer a certain energy to the air? I suppose it's more likely that the place just dredges up memories of my own college days, the liberating feeling of first independence, of smoking cigarettes and drinking endless cups of coffee, of having a crush on life and all its possibilities, the feelings of intense love and intense loathing that anything and everything inspires.

Cheap nostalgia, no doubt, is at the bottom of all of this.

The Swedish word for the day is längtan. It means longing.

- by Francis S.

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