GOTHENBURG – First Impressions

Last year in August whilst flying to Gothenburg via Berlin, I realised that I actually didn’t know much about Gothenburg at all, let alone Sweden.  I imagined big blue skies, fluffy white clouds, lots of tall pine forests, plenty of Ikea shops and a sufficient supply of Swedish meatballs to last a lifetime.   Well, I guess the stereotype was true in part.  I was very lucky with the weather whilst I was there and did get to see big blue skies and days reaching the early 20’s in temperature.  Upon our decent we flew over many forests and I saw the fluffiest clouds I could imagine.  But during my stay I didn’t see a single Ikea store or any meatballs for that matter.

After my very exciting but tiring adventure in Vienna I was pleased to have a few days to relax and be a complete tourist.  Nic, (my second cousin from Melbourne who has been living in Gothenburg for several years now) greeted me at the bus station.  I hadn’t seen him in probably about 10 years so we had lots to catch up on.  We caught the tram a short distance to the Haga area.  The area is very pretty with cobbled streets and lots of cafes.  It’s also close to the city centre so I knew I’d be happy to explore on foot.  After dropping off my luggage we went for a very pleasant stroll around the city so that I could get my bearings.  Nic pointed out various sites and explained a bit about the city. We walked down to the harbor and saw a replica of the 18th century Swedish East India merchant ship.  Construction began on the replica – Gothenburg III – in 1994 and was built in the traditional style, almost entirely out of timber.

Walking around the city I was struck by how similar the architecture was to Amsterdam.  Gothenburg was founded in 1621 and many Dutch planners and engineers were employed to design the city.  Similarly to Amseterdam, there are many canals winding through the city. I decided to take a canal tour as a way of gleaning some more information about the city and thought it also might help me to decide what I wanted to explore further.  One of the sights, which I found most fascinating, was the horseshoe shaped hospital.  When it was being built back in the early 1800’s, people believed that bacteria and disease built up in corners so the plan was to build a hospital in the shape of a round donut to eliminate corners.  Unfortunately they ran out of money before the completion of the project and ended up with a horseshoe shaped building instead.   There was also the lipstick building, affectionately nicknamed considering it looks like a giant lipstick.

I visited the Art Gallery, which had a refreshing selection of works by many Scandinavian artists whom I’d not heard of before.   I usually feel rather peckish after standing around viewing art and so of course when I discovered that there was a square with international food nearby I couldn’t resist visiting.  My favourite stall had a selection of French pastries and tarts.  I did return to the square on several occasions and one day I decided to try the Australian stall selling Aussie burgers.  I realised then and there that no one does Aussie burgers quite like the Aussies and I’d just have to wait ‘til I returned to the Land Downunder to eat a proper one.

One pleasant morning I dropped in to a lovely little café run by an Aussie and a Kiwi bloke. Nic had recommended their coffee and it was fantastic.  I found it rather amusing that when they realised I was from Australia they checked to see if two coffee shots in my latté was ok.  That appears to be the norm here and since I’m a fan of strong coffee, it couldn’t have been more perfect.  Energised with my caffeine hit I wandered along to visit Slottskogen (Kings Forest Park), which has a zoo in the centre.  I was delighted when I saw a moose! I hadn’t seen one in real life before and what amazing creatures they are.  There were also some seals and peacocks. While strolling through the park I was amazed to see so many bikini clad people stretched out on beach towels and working on their suntans. I only considered the day to be pleasantly warm, but they were acting as if it were 30 degrees plus!

That evening Nic and Anke took me on a picnic to the top of a hill.  Skansen Kronen (Crown Fortlet) was built in 17th century to protect Gothenburg and there was a clear view overlooking the city. With the sunshine streaming down and stunning scenic views it was no wonder that half of Gothenburg had made their way up the many stairs as well.  Everyone crammed in on the hill to enjoy their portable mini BBQ dinner.

On my final day I visited the Opera House.  When I arrived I discovered that a free concert was about to begin in the foyer.  A lovely singer performed accompanied by a pianist.  I loved my tour of the Opera House – and because I was the only English speaking person there I had a private tour! The building is absolutely huge and was obviously planned with much care so that the costume designers, set designers, dancers etc can all work on site.  Special tram tracks have been set up so that the scenery can just glide in from the workroom and onto the stage, while the costumes and wigs are kept upstairs.  The stage is also so large that they can have six productions all set up at once, making the change over between productions quick and easy if there is a different show on the next evening.  Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to watch the dancers as they seemed very private about their rehearsals.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Gothenburg.  Such a picturesque little city with lots of charm and good coffee! It was also fantastic to catch up with my relatives and get some tips from the locals.  However, I was itching to get back to dance classes so I continued on my way.  Next stop, Copenhagen!


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