Hej, Sweden!

A trip to Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, with one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines, was just what I needed after going far too long without a proper holiday! Staying with a friend made it all the more special since getting an inside perspective always provides a far richer experience than relying on websites and a Lonely Planet guide – not that those aren’t great too of course. Highlights of the trip included sunbathing for hours between the rocks while a gentle sea breeze blew all around, and tasting the various baked goodies on offer at Tjörn’s superb sourdough bakery. I really had forgotten how good it is to forget all about working! 🙂 Inevitably we stuffed ourselves with some of the amazing fish and seafood that Sweden is renowned for. Sjöbaren restaturant in the old part of town has a great selection. Personally, I would recommend their “Wallenberger of the sea” (which I think is egg yolks, cream and ground fish?) with asparagus and flavoured mashed potato. The staff are also really friendly and don’t mind taking some time to explain their menu to you.

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At Röhsska Museum of fashion, design & applied arts, we wandered through an interesting mixture of permanent collections and temporary exhibitions. “Ond Design”, or “Evil Design”, was particularly intriguing. The objects on display are either “designed to harm” or can be “linked to evilness through events that can be called bad”. This means everything from machetes, nazi flags and explosive devices designed to look like children’s toys, to clothes made in sweatshops, consumer electronic goods that harm the environment, and products tested on animals. Röhsska also has a great collection of Japanese statues and a plethora of furniture and glass. Nordiska Akvarellmuseet (the Watercolour Museum) on Tjörn was really worth seeing. Yes, their exhibition on Alice Neel was fascinating – but the setting and the design of the museum itself were equally memorable. Sitting snugly amongst the island’s houses and shellbanks, the museum is bright red and typically Swedish, with relaxing views over the water and studios for both artists and researchers to create and contemplate.

Gothenburg is full of cheerful and beautiful people and it’s hard not to think that some clichés about Sweden are true. Still, not everything is predictable. I was surprised to find that it has a fair few little sushi bars, all of which cater for vegetarians as well as lovers of squid and raw tuna. Another unexpected treat came in the form of some local bagpipers, whose music drifted up through the park one sunny afternoon. Formed in 1976, the Murray Pipes and Drums of Gothenburg play “everything from christenings to funerals” and their founder was himself trained by a genuine Scotsman, somewhere near the banks of Loch Lomond.

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It was kind of cool to be in Gothenburg for various nationally significant events. First, Sweden’s national holiday brought everyone to the park with picnics and surreptitious bottles of wine; then, the national football team lost 2-1 to Austria during a qualifying match for Brazil 2014. But at least a Royal Wedding (which seemed to put even Kate and William’s in the shade) gave everyone reason to celebrate again. Amusingly, the groom was a British-born American who speaks barely any Swedish and who seemed to understand just about as much of the ceremony as I did!


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5 responses to “Hej, Sweden!”

  1. Jemster says :

    Really interesting article and as usual, you never let us down with the photos! You really do like your international cuisine! Stunning scenery. Glad you had such a good time. Speak to you properly later! Oh, and would be nice to see one of you (not just from the back!) xx

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