Gloomy but beautiful view of the main canal running through Gothenburg near Brunnsparken, with the Christina Church and Museum of Gothenburg on the right.
"It's autumn in Gothenburg,
I'm walking home to my suburb,
Rain falls hard on the city,
On every homeless kitty,
Oh please God bring relief,
Even if it's only brief,
But she said that dreamers just make-believe,
But I thought she said maple leaves."
98% of you will have no idea what the lyrics above are all about, but it just about sums up my September trip to Gothenburg, Sweden.
The lyrics are from one of my favourite songs
by one of my favourite artists
, who comes from this very city. Therefore, this trip was somewhat of a pilgrimage and this blog entry will be packed with more Jens Lekman lyrics and references
than there has ever been in any piece of writing not actually about Jens Lekman.
It was also a return to Sweden, a place of beautiful landscapes, music and people. Within minutes of my my first visit here
, I definitely thought that I could live here. Not sure if I can handle The Cold Swedish Winter
With my boys Davies, Gkee and Kelley in tow, and with another one of my good high school friends Sadra already over there, this was a lads' weekend that promised much.
No airport dramas this time - well, at least
Jens wanted to burn it down, but he didn't have a cigarette lighter.
not for me, surprise surprise.
Kelley underestimated the London rush hour traffic and paid the price. Wonder who will miss the plane on our next trip? So four became three, as Gkee, Davies and I bought two bottles of duty-free rum in preparation for the Swedish prices which like us, were to be sky high.
Arriving at the rather dinky Gothenburg City Airport, we caught the airport bus which rather conveniently, stopped 5-minutes from our hostel. Also convenient, was the midnight-closing McDonalds and ATM next to the bus stop. I receive a text from Kelley telling us that he is booked on the next flight here and will arrive in the morning.
As we approach the hostel, we peer through a window and notice a familiar, unshaven face. It was our good friend Sadra. I haven't seen him for a good seven years, and catching up, nothing much has changed either, apart from the fact that he is a much more spiritual person these days and does stuff like yoga.
Our hostel is like a half-and-half hotel/hostel and as a result was very nice and well furnished. The water feature in the lobby was certainly impressive. The reception closes rather
One of Gothenburg's main landmarks.
early at 6pm so our keys are left for us in a box outside, although rather typically, Sadra has replaced them with his nail-clippers.
Anyway, I was hoping for not-such-a-huge-night since we had two nights here and I was feeling rather tired from a tough week's work. Any hopes of that were dashed as soon as we find out Sadra doesn't actually have his passport on him and that he has to leave on a train bound for Italy at noon the next day. So tonight was Sadra's only night here. Fine, two big nights out it is then.
Sharing our dorm with us was an Australian guy called Brian and a Swiss girl called Olivia who we convince to help polish off half our rum and come out with us.
We jump on a tram into the city and make our way to a place Sadra has lined up - it's his last night, so we are happy to shift responsibility of how good our night will be onto him. We stop by a public toilet where the door opens to reveal two Swedish chicks inside. Woah.
"What were you girls doing in there and does this happen
Gothenburg's Museum of Art that sits at the top of The Avenue.
regularly in Sweden?", I had to ask. When people think of Sweden I think they have the wrong idea, like Cliff Richard who thought it was just porn and gonorrhea
The girls are cool and friendly and they tell us about a cool place to go to. We tell them we might see them later.
We get to Nefertiti's, Sadra's club of choice but it looks a bit quiet. Wary of Swedish-priced cover charges, the friendly bouncers kindly allow Sadra in to do a patrol. I get talking to two more Swedish chicks outside the club who are not sure about the place either and Sadra re-emerges to confirm as much.
As we walk around the city, we have no idea where we are going. We decide to pop into a pub which I forget the name of, and I offer to buy a round of Jaeger Bombs. I suddenly shudder when I realise how much this is possibly going to cost. I hold my breath and price appears on the register. 534SEK. That's about £46 for six drinks. Luckily Gkee goes halves with me for it. After noticing that the pub was filled with English Premier League memorabilia, I
Iconic building that is one of the oldest in Gothenburg.
get talking to another Swedish girl who invites me over to sit with her friends. We chat about all sorts of stuff but mostly about how I look Japanese and how she had spent quite a bit of time in Japan. Anyway, it's not long before our gang moves on again and we end up at a club called Excet, where I realise that time has flown by and it's already 2.30am. The place is pretty cool and is playing mainstream Sex On Fire-type stuff. The place has about three different floors including a really cool outdoor patio space on the roof. We end up on the bottom floor where it's 80s and Michael Jackson. One really weird thing about all Swedish nightclubs is the fact that they all have blackjack tables. Just as the place is closing up, Davies has a bit of a flutter while I try to distract the dealer by chatting her up. Can't imagine it's the greatest job in the world having to put up with all these drunken punters. Like all the Swedes I have talked to so far, the dealer is very friendly, but alas, Davies loses his money.
Anyway, we are all
Night Out #1
Davies, Olivia, Sadra and me.
keen to hit one more place before going home and we end up at Valand where Bon Jovi power ballads are the order of the day. It is here also that I develop a pet hate for another Swedish nightclub tradition that requires compulsory coat-check complete with extra charge - no jackets allowed inside. At least they're not charging you every time you use the toilet like they do in Amsterdam I suppose. At this stage all I remember is taking lots of photos and dancing with lots of random guys who were all ogling Olivia.
I have no idea what time we eventually finished up, but we are waiting at a tram stop and it is pouring with rain. We aren't really in any state to work out public transport so we all take a Black Cab
The next day was rough.
Kelley arrived while I was drifting in and out of sleep and when I finally got up he revealed that he had spent the night at Stansted Airport! So he was as tired as we were if not as hungover. We bade farewell to Sadra before he took caught his train to Italy. It was a
shame to only have seen him for just over 12 hours (two hours for Kelley) after not seeing him for seven years but at least we got to see him I suppose.
Olivia had planned to take a ferry today out to one of the islands in the Southern Gothenburg Archipalego. I didn't think that hangovers and ferries went together too well, but the rest of the guys thought it was a cool thing to do and I was feeling far too rough to argue so we all caught a long, long tram ride to the southern tip of Gothenburg to catch a ferry. The ferry ride was actually quite pleasant and there were several large yachts out sailing which reminded me a little of home. Though not as scenic as the Stockholm Archipalego
it was still a lovely 45 minute ferry ride.
We eventually disembarked on the island of Brännö Husvik. The cute traditional houses painted in an array of colours ranging from yellow to pink certainly set a scene and there were beautiful views of the harbour from the shore. None of the islands have any cars on them and walking across the island and passing through all the
Sailing On The Archipalego
There were several BOATS sailing through the Southern Gothenburg Archipalego as our ferry made it's way to Brännö Husvik.
houses where the locals live was so peaceful. I can imagine a lot of people wanting to retire here, and why not? It was so quiet that the silence was deafening. Coming here from London this was a walk to savour and the air was crisp and clean.
The aim was to walk across the island to catch another ferry back to Gothenburg. Our peaceful meander across the island had caused us to lose track of time and we suddenly realised we had a lot of distance to cover in order to catch the ferry in just 10 minutes - or else it would be another two hours stuck on the island. Olivia couldn't miss it - she had to meet her CouchSurfing host - so she ran. We doubted whether it would be worth running before slowly realising that although it is nice and pleasant out here, we probably didn't want hang around any longer than we had to. So we belatedly sprinted after her - only to see the ferry agonisingly leaving the pier. Only that it was coming in and not going out. Phew.
The ferry back was much shorter as it was a direct ferry but
Walking Across Brännö Husvik
It was so awesomely quiet and peaceful on the island. From left; Olivia, Brian Gkee and Davies.
the tram ride was still long and we all fell asleep on it at various junctures. We wanted to have a wander around the streets so we waved goodbye to Olivia and got off the tram at Järntorget to begin our wander.
We walked through the streets of Haga, the oldest part of Gothenburg with it's distinctly 19th century atmosphere where the streets and buildings are all completely built of bricks.
We then walked up a hill to Skansen Kronan, an old fort tower built in 1687 used to defend the city against the Danes. These days it is used a venue for hire where a couple were getting married today. We couldn't go inside, but I imagine that it is a pretty cool place to get married. Kelley and Davies decided to race each other up the hill and were rewarded with very sore legs and a magnificent view across the city, which we used to get our bearings. Passing late wedding guests running up the hill, we walked our way towards Gothenburg's main boulevard Kungsportsavenyn, colloquially known simply as "The Avenue". On the way we passed the Excet and Valand nightclubs we were at the night before, that
Old defensive tower built in 1687 that now hosts weddings.
happened to be just over the road from each other.
"I swear that they were further apart then that last night!", exclaimed Brian. I thought so too ;-)
We then walked up The Avenue past the picturesque Brunnsparken which is arguably the postcard shot of the city. We continued our walk back to the hostel past the Opera House and the Barken Viking, a huge sailing ship built in the 1906 and is reported to be the biggest sailing ship ever built in Scandinavia.
When we finally got back to the hostel (we so should have caught the tram) we were pretty exhausted, but we were hungry too so it was out to dinner!
The man running the hostel recommended a place around the corner that did very good traditional Swedish cuisine. The place was called Tilda's and it was packed with locals and there wasn't word of English on the menu so we knew that this place had to be good.
Our waiter could speak only limited English, so we were relying on his interpretation of the menu as well as our European-language know-how to make a choice. There were indeed many interesting things on the menu -
Cheesecake - Swedish Style
It actually was made of cheese.
for example you could order a bottle of milk - among them a "cheesecake" starter.
Kelley and I decided to be brave and go for this "cheesecake" as I opened up a Zingo
(Zingo is a cloudy Swedish Fanta). It turned out to be exactly what it said it was - a quiche-like pie made up mainly of what seemed to be uncooked cheese with bits of onion and bacon, topped off with some orange caviar (which apparently is the only thing that is actually cheaper in Sweden). It was delicious! My mains was disappointing though - it was pretty much a fish pie without the pastry. I would have gone for reindeer meat if they had it, a Swedish specialty.
After dinner, we were all dog-tired and it took the rest of the rum and some Lonely Island
to get us up and out. We thought we would try going to Niva, a multi-floor club with different types of music on each floor.
Walking down The Avenue, I had a Sweden moment as I noticed that every single girl that was walking past was absolutely gorgeous - like every single girl
. I've travelled to a lot of places and I can say that this never
Take A Picture
Like all awesome cities, Gothenburg has canals.
happens anywhere else.
We arrived at Niva to see a big queue. The place looked a bit snobby as did the people, and we weren't too keen on waiting outside for ages, so we moved on and caught another tram down to Järntorget, where the locals go out apparently. We popped into a club that seemed to be a bit happening. After compulsory coat check, we all agreed that we have never seen a club with such a low average age. It must've been like 18. And they had two blackjack tables in there - is that really what we should be encouraging children to do? The music was very techno/electro and we cut some shapes to Dizzee Rascal's "Bonkers" before watching some blackjack. Kelley lost some dough as did Davies and in both instances, I'm sure they both lost hands when they had 20s. Something wasn't right I reckon. Anyway, none of us were really feeling the place and we knew that we would only have the chance to check out one more place. There was a place nearby that was recommended by a Swedish girl Michael met in Croatia called Pusterviksbaren that did indie club nights. Knowing that
Michael, Elsa and Molli
Gkee with the other girls that we hung out with at Pusterviksbaren.
Sweden has produced indie artists such as Jens Lekman, The Knife, The Radio Dept., Lykke Li, El Perro Del Mar, I'm From Barcelona, Dungen, Peter Bjorn & John and The Hives (just to name 10 artists completely off the top of my head), I knew that any indie night here had to be good. I am after all, on a Jens Lekman pilgrimage.
The initial signs weren't good - a girl who was checking out as I was checking my coat in told me she was leaving because the club was crap and once I got upstairs there was a dude rapping on the stage who was err...crap. Looking at the swathes of Swedish chicks dancing on the floor in front of us (prompting Gkee to tell me that we should've come here first and stayed here all night), we decided to get another drink and stick it out a little. Once the rapper finished, on came The Cure's "The Walk". Now this is more like it. Then suddenly a girl with big glasses falls flat on her arse in front of me. She is OK but me being me, I tell her to watch out because the floor is
Me & Kristin
The rather handsome fellow on the right is not Kristin.
slippery. Good thing she was cool about it. Suddenly I am surrounded by dancing Swedish girls and I start talking to one of them, Elsa. The music gets better as Babyshambles' "Fuck Forever" comes on and by the time The Hives' "Walk Idiot Walk" comes on I'm in full-on air guitar mode.
Having lost the other guys, Gkee and I hang out with these girls until the place closes and I have a conversation with Kristin, the girl with the glasses, outside the venue. Turns out Elsa and Kristin are friends and were heading the same way as us on the tram. On the way, my stomach and mouth convinces everyone to get off the tram for a kebab. The girls were great fun to talk to and I chatted mostly with Kristin who partially understood my Jens Lekman obsession. We sang his songs out loud in the streets and Kristin hence became only the second person ever, to sing Jens Lekman songs with me (the first was my sister). It was like a moment of prayer for Jens. Sadly, I also learned from Kristin that the man himself no longer lives in Gothenburg and that I wouldn't be bumping
Gustav Adolfs Torg
Featuring a statue Gustav II Adolf, funnily enough. There were some markets set up here on the Satruday.
into him anytime this weekend.
If I thought I was feeling rough the previous day, then I was wrong. The next morning was bloody awful. We all bade farewell to Brian who has been cool to hang out with this weekend, before Gkee, Davies and Kelley left to catch their flight back to London. I was on a later flight in the evening so thanks to the awesome dude who ran the hostel, I was allowed to sleep in til 2pm before I thought I'd better make use of my last few hours in Gothenburg.
I caught the tram back to Brunnsparken where I then walked around taking photographs. I started off at Gustav Adolfs Torg and walked past the Christina Church of Gothenburg and the City Museum down to the Domkrykan (the Gustavi Cathedral), passing the Kronhuset, another of Gothenburg's landmarks, along the way. I then walked all the way down The Avenue which really is a cool boulevard complete with a cool 1920s feel given to it by the overhead tramlines. At the end of The Avenue is the Poseidon Fountain located in Gotsplatsen where the City Theatre, Konserthus (where Jens Lekman played a magical acoustic gig
Statue of King Karl IX riding his horse in Kungsportsplatsen.
- of course you all wanted to know that) and Art Museum are located. Walking away from Gotsplatsen I caught sight of Liseberg, arguably Gothenburg's biggest attraction. I think we would all have been keen to spend some time in this world top ten amusement park complete with the Best Wooden Tracked Rollercoaster in the world, if we had a bit more time. And if we weren't so hungover on both days. Some rides make me sick when sober.
I still had some time to kill so I was left do the one thing that would complete this trip - a pilgrimage out to Jens Lekman's home suburb of Kortedala. So once I was at the Central Station, no time for being patient
, I caught tram #7 (To Heaven)
out there. Have to say that Gothenburg's tram system is pretty efficient. Kortedala is a fair way from the city but I was there in about 15 minutes.
Don't exactly know what I was expecting going out there but it had to be done. Kortedala had a kind of weird setting - set among some rocky hills, it was surrounded by what seemed to be a pine forest. The buildings were pretty
"Now at the central station, no time for being patient..."
plain. Not much to it really, but my pilgrimage was complete and I felt a weird sense of satisfaction as I walked around Kortedala Torg.
Anyway, on the way back to the hostel to catch my bus to the airport, I had left it it pretty tight. There is a bus for every flight, so if you missed it you missed it. Despite thinking I was making good time across Gothenburg's public transport system, I had got the bus departure time wrong and missed it by ten minutes. Luckily there was another one in 45 minutes that would get me to the airport on time. I was knackered, so I was quite happy to spend my last 45 minutes in Gothenburg just sitting at the bus stop.
So as night fell over Kortedala I stared into the blood red sun
and flew off into the sunset.
Now when I say that I could live in Sweden, I am quite serious. There is a really cool culture here and they all love football just as much as the English (well most of them). The air and the streets are cleaner and people are friendlier. It's like combining the good qualities of London
The main boulevard and the epicentre of Gothenburg.
and New Zealand with something else a bit different. Just have to wait three more years for that EU passport now...
Now I started this blog entry with some Jens Lekman lyrics, so it is fitting that I end it with some;
"Do you remember the riots in Gothenburg?
In the autumn of 2009? (OK so I adjusted that lyric)
Boy, we sure had fun."
Adjö så lä´nge - ha det så bra!
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