Published: August 23rd 2012August 19th 2012
Remember those police shows on TV where 2 officers would interrogate a crime suspect under the glare of a bright light in a small room trying to bleed a confession? One cop would be the good looking guy with the soft features and in an equally soft voice would offer all manner of possible compromises and positive ramifications if the bad guy was prepared to cooperate with the authorities. Meet Officer Stockholm. The other cop was the crusty, no frills tough guy threatening the suspect with a right royal thrashing via a phone book and making things tough on his family if he didn't fess up. That's Officer Gothenburg.
Sweden's big 2 cities have plenty to offer visitors but with completely different approaches. Stockholm has all the silicon, Gothenburg all the "what you see is what you get" character.
Starting with Stockholm, the Belle of the Ball of Scandinavian capital cities. Its Old Town is a tangle of twisting lane ways begging to be explored and the cobbled streets are lined with the types of architecture that get tourists cooing. Atmospheric watering holes bulging mostly with those tourists, make up a reasonable proportion of those buildings.
Stockholm Royal Guard
Helmet reflecting the Royal Palace
the canal from the Old Town, Stockholm sprawls languidly over about 10 islands, is the enclave of Sodermalm, Stockholm's hipster central. Peppered with quirky galleries, cafes and boutiques, Soldermalm's range of watering holes, unlike those of the Old Town, bulge with mostly locals. Swedes seem partial to a drink despite the price.
So Stockholm has the look and is Sweden's groove headquarters. Mention to a Stockholmer that you've been to Gothenburg and you'll invariably be pitched the kind of witty quip that goes hand in glove with most nations top 2 cities, a la Sydney/Melbourne.
"You went to Gothenburg? I hope you remembered to wind your watch back a year".
There's some merit in those jibes. You want edge and looks, Stockholm's where it's at. If grit and earth are your poisons, take a peak at Gothenburg. This city is a genuine workaday port town and you get the feeling the locals wouldn't want it any other way.
Gothenburg does have its trendier side, Haga in particular is one cool quarter to while away a half day or two. Even then, this little area is no quasi attempt to replicate its big brother over in the
east but rather a take on Gothenburg's version of shmick. Any genuine attempts at mimicking Stockholm would probably be viewed as effeminate anyway.
Culture buffs will still get their fill here, the Kunst Museum, for example, was a cosy few hours one rainy afternoon followed by a thirst quencher in Haga.
Stockholm and Gothenburg. Give them both a snippet of your time, juxtapose and come to your own conclusions, a cross country battle of Swedish urbanites.
Time now for a little conundrum. How many consecutive days can you wear the same pair of underpants and still maintain some semblance of basic personal hygiene? I reckon 2 if you are prepared to turn them inside out on the second day. From there on you're hanging free until you manage to dry the rascals after washing them in the bathroom sink.
Why bother raising this issue? Very few weeks slip by without having to negotiate some form of speed hump and this week I was faced with the above dilemma and I now realise why people pack spare underwear in their hand luggage. For our 40 minute flight from Oslo to Stockholm, SAS decided my backpack was looking
travel weary. Nothing a couple of days in the Croatian sun and a red light stop in Amsterdam on the way back couldn't fix.
The good news is the bag eventually showed up looking tanned, a smile on its face and smoking a cigarette, fully prepared for the next phase. The down side of that was we spent way too much time staring at the 4 walls of our apartment awaiting its arrival and not having enough time to give Stockholm a reasonable crack.
Thus we decided to linger on here but had to cancel our planned few days on a Finnish island a few hours away. So there will be no Finland blog.
However, we did spend a single day in Helsinki on our cruise a month back which allows me the luxury of ripping out a paragraph on that town:
We all know the line from the days of our youth when we'd enquire about someone's new girlfriend and the response might be,
"She's got a nice personality".
You didn't really need to read too deeply between the lines to know that translated as,
"She's no oil painting".
It's not ugly but there's no gloss and she won't be winning Miss Universe in the near future, maybe a result of the fact it shares WAY too much border with Russia. Compared to other cities in the region it's just as well it has some "personality" to fall back on.
You want to simply look, a day is plenty. If you prefer to dig and discover the real character, give yourself a lot more breathing space.
Yeah. Helsinki, a day is too long and a month not long enough.
There are more photos below