One thing is certain in Sweden. You don’t explore the streets for very long before you are hankering for a fika. This urge comes on strong largely because in the generally chilly weather the act of fika swiftly becomes an imperative. It’s no struggle whatsoever to succumb to this delightful local practice.
Invert the two syllables of the word and you’ll immediately understand. Fika (ka-fi) is an institution in this friendly, convivial country. In Uppsala, in particular, we are never far from a cosy, warm, comfortable cafe in which to indulge our instantly-acquired Scandanavian habit.
But fika is so much more than simply having a quick cup of coffee. Fika almost always involves sharing lively conversation while, at the same time, nibbling on delightful small pastries called bulle – Swedish for “boulders”. The prime specimens are flavoured with cinnamon or cardomum.
The finest examples of kanelbulle and kardemummabulle that we tasted were at Rosendal, a greenhouse-style cafe set amid a community agricultural project on the island of Djurgarden in Stockholm. But that particular outdoors excursion is the basis of another Scandinavian yarn.
Meanwhile, on this cold and wet Uppsala day, having paid a visit to the splendid cathedral and marvelled at its extraordinary collection of Medieval vestments, our first fika stop is at Ofvandals (Sysslomangaten 5), which has been a legend ever since opening in 1878.
The cafe is popular with all ages but is a particular favourite among Uppsala University students who generally impart a sparkling vibrancy to the streets of this lovely old Swedish town.
Later in the day we stop for a second fika, this time at Caffe Linne Hornan (Svatsbackgaten 22). It’s on a corner across from the city gardens made famous by association with Sweden’s most famous professor, Carl Linneaus.
Having no fixed agenda we spend more time than the usual fika break lounging in comfy armchairs enjoying the convivial atmosphere and simple, elegant creature comforts that are a natural feature of Swedish cafes. Bravely, we resist overindulging on the chocolate cakes, lemon slices and other rich pastries and confections displayed before our eyes in glass cabinets.
Another fabulous choice for fika in Uppsala is Guntherska Hovkonditoriet (Ostra Agatan 31) where everything is made in-house. On our second day in town we sip our coffee beneath chandeliers while watching artisans make chocolates and other mouth-watering seductions.
Guntherska is also the perfect place to try one of those huge, fresh North Sea shrimp sandwiches that are a staple of the Swedish diet. But this is only possible if you have learnt the golden rule of fika: go lightly on all those tempting, tasty boulders!
Some fika trivia:
The city of Kalmar was the first to set a Swedish fika record when on 6 June, 2007, 2,620 people sat down together for a fika. In 2009, a Swedish coffee company organized a fika tour in ten different cities to break the record: Östersund was crowned the new Swedish fika champions for having 3,563 people at fika on 30 May that year.
– courtesy Wikipedia