Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of Sweden  , Swedish Lakeland,
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I used my “Reading Week” to—no, not read—visit a friend of mine in Gothenburg (or Göteborg in Swedish), Sweden for a few days.  Gothenburg is the second largest city in Sweden with about 500,000 people.  The city is quite large but is connected by an extensive tram system that snakes in and around the city at every hour.  In fact, the rail network is the largest in Scandinavia.  Gothenburg was founded in the 17th century, making it a relatively new city in terms of European history.  Much of the city is a product of the 19th century when it expanded greatly.

After an early departure to Gothenburg, I met my friend Nadia at the bus station and we went for a quick rest before heading out to sight-see.  I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Nadia's mother who is from Chile.  Now, Nadai's mom only speaks Swedish and Spanish, so most of the time I spent there consisted of Nadia laughing at me while her mother and I tried to speak to each other...

The first stop on our tour was the Haga District, an area of almost entirely wooden buildings.  Haga grew just outside the original city walls of Gothenburg as the city’s first proper suburb.  The area expanded in the 19th century and was able to escape demolition (due to resident protests) to become one of the most charming areas of Gothenburg today.  Now, the area is mostly residential and home to many cafes.

On the other side of the Haga District there was a very steep hill leading up to the Skansen Kronan, built in 1687 to protect Gothenburg from the Danes; however, the fortlet has never been used.  The hardest part about reaching the Skansen Kronan was the fact that the steep stairs leading up to it had iced over almost entirely.  After watching another pair of tourists brave the stairs successfully, we decided to do the same.  Once we go to the top, we realized that the other side of the hill was not near as steep and had a nice footpath down so kinda felt a bit cheated.  However, the view at the top of the hill offered a great view of the Haga District and much of city center of Gothenburg. However, on the way down the other side of the hill, we past one of Gothenburg’s most famous cultural phenomenon: a dog in a sweater.  Almost every dog in Gothenburg wears a sweater and nearly everyone has a dog!  Granted, it was still quite cold in Sweden even though it had warmed up considerably in London.

We wandered around city center for the remainder of the day.  We walked up Kungsportsavenyn, or simply known as Avenyn (Avenue) which was mostly built during the expansion of the city in the mid 1800s.  The Avenue is a wide open street packed with restaurants and pubs leading up to the Gothenburg Museum of Art.

We stopped in at the Stadsbibliotek Göteborg (Gothenburg City Library) to use the internet for a few minutes to plan more of our vacation, but we were hampered by the fact that the library computers blocked transactions so we couldn’t book anything online.  Furthermore, the computers put us on a one-hour time limit for computer use.

After the library fiasco, we headed down to the Göta älv, the river that flows through Gothenburg.  Along the river is Gothenburg’s new opera house (built in 1994) and the new Wheel of Gothenburg (recently opened in 2010), a big ferris wheel.  The best feature of the Wheel of Gothenburg is the “special” VIP carriage that seems to have tinted windows and “VIP” written in gold on the outside.  I can only imagine what sort of hijinks goes down in the VIP booth.  Obviously, this is the booth that Paris Hilton rents when she visits Gothenburg.  Adjacent to the Wheel is the only official skyscraper in Gothenburg known as the Skanskaskrapan or Läppstiftet (Lipstick), built in the late 1980s.  Officially the skyscraper is called Lilla Bommen (after the district in which it resides) but because of its odd color and shape, it is known not only as the Lipstick but as Vattenståndet, Legohuset (that's Lego House in English), and Skanskaskrapan.

Before taking the trams back out to the suburbs, we stopped in a store to get a semla, a traditional Swedish pastry.  A semla is essentially a sweet bun with the top cut off and then filled with a whip creamy custard.  As you can imagine, it’s delicious, and a perfect way to end a day of sightseeing.

I still have one more day of official sightseeing in Gothenburg, but so far I like what I see.  The city is big, but the streets are wide and airy.  It doesn’t feel as big as it really is.  The streets are all carefully planned out, and overall the city is very clean.  Also, the tram system is really intuitive and easy to use.  The best part about it is that there are no “zones” so you simply pay one fare no matter how far you go, unlike in London.  It was a very efficient and convenient mode of transportation.
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