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A wintry Gothenburg

Whilst combing Marks and Spencers for the last of their thermal underwear, I couldn’t help questioning why on earth had I booked to travel to Sweden in mid-February. I was already suffering in London’s (not really that cold) cold snap and a myriad of unsettling thoughts concerning flying back home with less fingers than on arrival were swirled my head. Aside from this, I was very excited about my first trip to Scandanavia.

I had decided on the less touristy, student hub of Gothenburg, on the west coast of Sweden and flew into the city at around 10pm. I was immediatly struck by the city’s enchanting architecture.  Even my arrival point, Gothenburg’s central railway station is a beautiful timber building, swarming with fairy lights and lanterns. A great introduction to Gothenburg and a far cry from King’s Cross!

Whilst researching the trip, I became attached to the idea of catching a boat to Gothenburg’s Archapelagos- however, upon querying the logistics of this trip at my hotel reception, I was met with bewlidered stares. It seems that this journey is only really made in winter out of necessity, and not by visitors…

I wanted plan B to fit my backwoods theme, so walked across to the other end of the city to the immense Slottsskogen park. Spanning 272 acres, Slottsskogen is among the most beautiful I have ever seen.  At every turning could be found beautiful, albeit frozen, waterfalls, deer, bird houses, giant lakes and tumbling streams. Happening upon the Natural History Museum, just inside the park, we decided this was to be our next stop. Having a much larger inside than its exterior would seem to permit (House of Leaves?), the museum contains a giant collection of apparently 10 million specimens, and… drumroll… the world’s only stuffed blue whale, which apparently has a 19th century cafe inside. Unluckily, I only found about the cafe after my visit as all signage was in Swedish.

Day two

On our secod day we decided to explore the highly reccomended region of Haga in West Gothenburg. A formally working class district, Haga’s pedestrianised cobbled streets and small wooden store fronts are reminiscent of old 19th century paintings, only without the horse and carriages.The streets are composed of small boutiques, antique jewellery shops and idiosyncratic cafes and restaurants.

Remaining in Haga, next on the agenda came Hagabedet, a rennovated 19th century bath house, originally built for the poor people of Haga. Today, however, Hagabadet is an incredibly modish spa complete with swimming pool, relaxing roman bath, gymn and treatment centre. On a budget, we paid for just the baths (£38) and loafed around within for about 3 hours, a very relaxing affair indeed.

Day three

On our last day we decided to visit the colossal Nordstan shopping centre, famed for being the largest shopping eporium in Scandanavia or ‘north of London’. This was decidedly the low point of the trip as I was left with that empty, sterile feeling one gets after spending the best part of a day in an indoor shopping centre . In addition, one of my companions got hit by a flying hamburger, discarded from a higher floor. With a view to a more resorative location, we returned to our favourite eatery of the trip, Solrosen, a bustely vegetarian restaurant with the cheapest beer on tap we had encountered thus far (please note!) and an as much as you can eat buffet. The shopping centre and burger missiles were soon forgotten.

  Three days seemed the perfect amount of time  to spend a wintery break in Gothenburg. Had I travelled in one of the summer months, I would have liked a little longer, giving more time to explore the many parks and archapelagos.

Things to note:

Unless you originate from somewhere else in Scandanavia, or perhaps Iceland, you will find the alcohol here incredibly expensive. The stories are true. But help is at hand! Why not buy a large bottle of Disorrono at duty free, dispense it into small plastic bottles and top up coffees, hot chocolates and teas throughout the day! As well as bolstering the merryment, this also most certainly takes the edge off of that arctic wind. I would imagine. I’ve said too much.

Most restaurants will ask for you to leave your coat in the cloak room and charge you a small fee for the privilege, be warned!

When a restaurant has ‘fondue’ on the menu, this does not necessarily mean cheese fondue! This is not really advice, as I think every one knows this except me. Anyway, this blunder resulted in three plates of raw beef  and a pot of boiling hot oil being brought to the table made up of two vegetarians and one meat eater. Hilarity ensued. And the pot went on fire.

Gothenburg is one of the most visually beautiful places I have been, with stunning archtecture and huge expanses of green, none of which is hindered by the cold if you come prepared! Layers are essential. I took this to the extreme and needed help buttoning my coat most days as I was unable to bend my arms.

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