A Moment in Gothenburg, Sweden

A Moment in Gothenburg, Sweden

Flying into Sweden was an incredible experience. As we approached Stockholm I was surprised by the sheer number of lush, green islands nestled in the Baltic Sea. And I was equally as surprised by the never ending landscapes filled with indigenous forests and lakes on approach to Gothenburg. I was left wondering which fish species inhabit them, and when I could return for more than 3 days to explore with fly rod in hand.

Another thing that amazed me as I flew over Sweden (as well as Germany, Austria, and I’d imagine a lot of the rest of Europe) were the vast wind farms, consisting of arrays of monumental wind turbines, producing power for the country. The sheer size of these turbines is astounding, and they dwarf even the largest buildings around them.

After landing at Gothenburg, I was again amazed by the never-ending indigenous forests as we drove the 30 minutes from the airport to the hotel. We also passed an amusement park coming into town, complete with an old-school, wooden roller coaster which again left me wishing I had more time on my hands to enjoy the country.

Overlooking the Kungsparken from Hotel Flora

We stayed at the Hotel Flora, which is a quaint little hotel overlooking the Kungsparken (King’s Park). The rooms are small, but comfortable, containing a double bed (made up of 2 single beds), a desk and a TV. I had a rack to hang my clothes on, but no cupboard, which in itself was not a problem. What did concern me was that my room was lacking a safe, an item I’ve come to expect in hotels for storing valuables such as my passport.

The bathroom was small, comprising of a bath with a shower in it, a toilet and a sink. Strangely the bath was not plumbed; instead the water ran down a pipe and poured into a second drain built in the middle of the bathroom floor. This strange setup created some excitement on my first evening when trying to take a shower.

Having spent 10 minutes trying to get the shower working, I gave up and began running a bath. Half way through running the bath I had a eureka moment and finally got the shower working (I can confirm it was obscure). As such I pulled out the bath plug and let the water drain through the pipe and into the drain in the floor. Surprisingly the drain could not keep up with the pace of water entering in, and soon the entire bathroom floor had flooded. Being tired I did’t have the energy to care and continued enjoying my hard earned shower while the bathroom slowly filled up. Thankfully it did eventually drain leaving the bathroom damp but water free.

While there was no gym in the hotel, there was a small bar in the reception area, which was also used as a restaurant in the evening and to serve breakfast in the mornings. It is worth noting that the hotel’s breakfast was spectacular. Despite being very limited compared to other hotels I’ve stayed at, they served what was quite possibly the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever eaten. There were also the usual continental pastries, as well as fruit, yogurt, and cereals.

Feeling refreshed, my colleague and I left the hotel and wandered the streets, which were surprisingly quiet perhaps due to it being a Sunday evening. We eventually settled down for a beer at a small craft harbour on the European Route E45. We chose a small pub called the Provianten Lilla Bommen and enjoyed an ice cold, Ship Full IPA.

A clipper in the small craft harbour where we enjoyed a beer

Chatting to a few locals they recommended an Italian restaurant for dinner. Sadly, despite walking quite some distance and speaking to more locals on route, we never found it. This led to us popping into a Tourist Information kiosk where we were pointed to Joe Farreli’s, an American-Italian fusion restaurant. I enjoyed a pizza, which was great, although I felt a little guilty eating something not native to Sweden on my first night there.

Joe Farreli’s did however give us a laugh, so the remorse of eating Italian food in Sweden was short lived. When we arrived there was a massive TV on the wall playing football. The general vibe was that of a sports bar, so we ordered a beer and started chatting. Having committed to staying by ordering our meal, the TV was suddenly raised into the ceiling, out of site, and was replaced with a large oil painting. Waiters then ran around placing candles on all the tables, and suddenly my colleague and I were enjoying a very romantic dinner for two.

The following morning we set out on the 15 minute walk to the office, stopping off at Cafe da Matteo to grab a coffee. Apparently the Swedes love their coffee, and our colleagues in Gothenburg had recommended this little cafe 100 meters from our hotel. The coffee was good, on par with my regular favourites back in South Africa. Where it earned my respect however was that it was served it’s coffee at a temperature I can drink, rather than the usual 10 000 degrees forcing me to wait longingly for my first sip, ultimately resulting in me burning my tongue.

The walk along the cobbled streets to the office was amazing. I’ve never seen a city quite as green, and with quite so many parks as Gothenburg. I’m not joking when I say there was rarely a moment when I couldn’t see a park. The buildings were beautiful, the streets were clean, and there were people walking and on bikes everywhere. I use the word “everywhere” loosely since the population density appears to be very low, as the city is by no means as crowded as other big cities such as London. The cobbled streets of Gothenburg are lined with small shops of every sort. There is also an abundance of canals in central Gothenburg which definitely adds to the beauty.

A Gothenburg “street” view

The larger streets are shared by cars, busses, and trams. Although there appear to be far more trams and busses than cars, and I never saw a traffic jam. Perhaps due to the trams there are a lot of overhead wires which do subtract somewhat from the beauty of the city, but you quickly get used to it.

It’s worth noting just how polite the drivers are. So much so in fact that it caught me by complete surprise. My colleague and I waited patiently at all street crossings until we realised that a lot of people simply step out into the road and walk (on the smaller roads, not main roads), as the cars just stop. The cyclists on the other hand are not quite as polite. Should you accidentally walk on their side of the divided sidewalk, you will be rudely greeted by the blast of a loud whistle, and if you catch a particularly grumpy rider, they may even add in some angry eyes.

Perhaps it’s worth mentioning here that my view of Sweden may be slightly skewed by the fact that we had 3 days of perfectly clear skies during our visit. I only pulled on a jersey once, and quickly removed it as I warmed up walking back to the hotel.

Office life in Gothenburg was relaxed and open plan. There was pile of shoes at the door as everyone kicked them off as soon as they entered the office. While t first I thought this was for comfort, it’s apparently commonplace in Sweden since shoes are often wet from the walk to the office.

Pork buns in Gothenburg

Our Swedish colleagues spent the morning talking up pork buns, and then offered them to us for lunch, which is apparently initiation into their team. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when we walked through the streets, ending up at a small truck down a back street called the Jinx Foodtruck. You had 2 options – pork buns, or vegetarian “pork” buns. Four options if you consider you could order a small or a large. We all ordered our buns and then walked to a nearby park to enjoy them. 

To say they were exquisite is an understatement. You simply can’t describe the Asian fusion of Kassler chops in a pork dumpling, with a peanut sauce, and various other bits and pieces. For me to include a photo of food in a blog post is a big deal, so you must know how good these were. WOW!

Back at the office I made myself a cup of coffee. It started off well, coffee from the filter coffee machine in the corner, and a cube of brown sugar. But then things took a turn for a worse when I poured in the “milk.” As the liquid left the green container I knew I’d made a mistake…rather than a silky white liquid a thick but smooth liquid dropped into my coffee. My immediate assumption was that it was cream, so I stirred it in and took a sip. FAIL! After forcing down the dreadful mouthful I asked around and, as it turns out, it wasn’t cream. After a long discussion they concluded the closest English translation was, “sour yoghurt,” but nobody really knew what it was. The following morning, when I arrived at the office, they’d written “for coffee” on the one green carton, and “not milk” on the other.

After a productive afternoon session we got down to some serious business – we cracked open an IPA, which was brewed by one of the staff in honour of the launch of their first game, and then enjoyed a few games of table tennis on the office table.

That evening we visited a restaurant called Pinchos. How we chose this particular venue I’m not sure, but I was sold by the fact that they had no waiters. You order your food (and drinks) via an app, get an alert when it’s ready, and then collect it yourself. In fact, at the end of the evening you even pay with the app. It was such a novel idea I wasn’t even too concerned about what type of food they served.

Canal views in Gothenburg, Sweden

For the second time that day I was once again surprised by our food choice. While I knew we’d be serving ourselves, what I wasn’t prepared for was the carnival theme of the restaurant. But once I got over the red, merry-go-round decor, the food was spectacular. This time it was tapas style and we enjoyed chicken wings, sliders, ribs, steak, prawns, chilli with nachos, and quesadillas. This was washed down with frozen beer (the only disappointment of the evening) and caipirinhas. While for dessert we enjoyed creme brulees.

The following evening we were taken to Brewdog (clearly the Swedish know us well) for a unique burger experience. I ordered the Nutty Professor which was a beef burger with bacon jam, peanut butter, bacon again, and cheese. While it wouldn’t usually have been my first choice, due primarily to the strange combination of ingredients, I just had to try it – after all, “when in Rome.” Amazingly it was fantastic, being predominantly a bacon and cheese burger. The peanut butter was merely a subtle hint of flavour that truly added to the burger. This was of course all washed down with a few craft beers, sticking to IPAs as this had become the theme of the trip.

After saying goodbye to our Swedish colleagues the 3 of us ambled back to our hotel, stopping of “briefly” at the Irish Embassy, where we saw the night out listening to live music. But that’s a story for another time…

More Gothenburg views