Umeå in Sweden is known as Björkarnas Stad, the City of Birches. In June 1888 the eastern part of the city was devastated by fire and in the restoration which followed, silver birch trees were planted along the avenues, apparently to prevent future fires from spreading (though one wonders how effective they would be).
John Powell, from the Countryside and Communities Research Institute in Gloucester (see CCRI blog), and I wandered around on our first morning in Umeå (pronounced Umeo), before the start of the International Association for the Study of the Commons’ third European conference at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
Umea is the 2014 European capital of culture and it is proud of its art and sculpture, although we unfortunately didn’t have time to visit the galleries and sculpture park. Some of the town is being rebuilt. When we visited the main square we were met by students wanting to know what three things we would like to see in the square. They didn’t mind that we came from England and were unlikely to benefit from the results. I offered (1) no traffic, (2) a wild area for birds and butterflies, (3) a place for children to play, making a safe and natural open space. Three wasn’t enough of course.
There are some attractive parks and gardens.
Umea is on the river Umeälven, which was numinous this morning.
There is a pleasant riverside walk, with more birch trees
Birches are celebrated in art too.
The transport system is, as expected, extremely efficient. We made good use of the bendy buses to get to the university.
The university campus is spacious and attractive, with nice modern buildings.
I am hurrying to finish this blog before heading off on the field trip to Skellefteå, up the Baltic coast. So more will follow.