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Göteborg 🇸🇪

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We arrived to no fanfare. A nondescript black bus dropped us off at the city's central station at a gate very similar to the one we departed from in Oslo. After the awkward unpacking that follows every bus ride, we began the trek across the city to our Airbnb about 1.5 km away.

The streets here were not as new as in Oslo. Many of the driving surfaces were cobblestones, and the sidewalks were a mixture of the two. Two concrete stripes about 18" wide ran parallel to the rough stonework. I assume this is to aid in accessibility for the elderly, but it also made a surface just wide enough to roll a suitcase. The brightly shining sun showered us with its warmth as we passed a large public park and crossed a dozen intersections.

After a little fuss retrieving the key to our Airbnb, we entered the large complex of apartments and made our way to the designated building. In my experience, if you're getting a deal on any sort of accommodation, there is always a catch and this day was no exception! Our hostess had informed us that the unit was on the "third" floor. In Norway, the floors had been numbered similar to the American nomenclature, but I think our hostess was used to British travelers as we soon discovered our haven at the "fourth" floor. The narrow winding staircase was the icing on the cake. 🙂

The single bedroom apartment was utilitarian, like most things in the Nordics, but it was spacious. There was a large entryway, an eat-in kitchen (for 2 people), a bathroom with a shower large enough to stretch out in, and finally a large living/dining/bedroom. Huge windows faced east and let in all the sunlight you could ever want at 5:30am! A myriad of plants adorned the window sills and stylishly complemented the smörgåsbord of furniture from Ikea. We are in Sweden after all!

We were scheduled to stay for five nights and this city was now our home. Located only a block away from the popular Avenyn (The Avenue) district of the city, we had access to anything and everything.


Upon our arrival, we did the usual stuff. Food, 7-Eleven dessert, and some light exploring via the next street over on our way to and from various destinations.

One evening, I decided to go out for a long walk around 9:30pm. Exploring a city at night is one of my favorite things to do. You learn so much about the local area and get a much better vibe for life there beyond the tourist destinations and crowded restaurants and bars lining the main strip. With a rough direction in mind I set out. I started at the south end of Avenyn and walked north along the broad street. The shops gradually shifted away from modest restaurants and bars to high end storefronts for international brands, and eventually receded back to more humble roots. After about a mile or so, I reached the bookend of the high street at the Göteborgsoperan (Gothenburg Opera House), a large building sitting on the edge of the harbor snaking through the center of the coastal city.

From here I turned eastward and began walking along the edge of the water on the street "Gullbergs Strandgata". Boats both large and small lined the water. One of them was even a bar featuring live music that I visited the next evening! This night however, I was walking. I walked on this road for what felt like an hour, but it was probably closer to 20 or 30 minutes.

At some point I decided it was time to head back towards civilization and the cozy apartment. Consulting my dearest companion Google Maps, I was left in a pickle. A large highway intersected the business park I had been walking along. Unlike America, it's not common to have streets cross over/under a highway except in a few specific areas. This creates districts and a sense of separation between different parts of the city. It's also not uncommon for the highways to feature large walls or steep grassy linings to capture the noise of speeding cars. There was also a small river in the way.

As I saw it, I had a couple of options. One, I could turn around and walk back the way I came, seeing the same things just in a slightly different perspective. My second option, would be to continue on and attempt to snake between various businesses and try to find a way across the highway and the river. I think you know where this is going! 🙃

After crossing a small bridge along the road, I spotted an open pedestrian gate next to a larger gate blocking access to the parking lot beyond. I went through the gate and hugged the back of the parking lot, my head on a swivel scanning for angry security guards as I trekked through the night dressed in my usual getup of black on black. To my right, a wall separated me and the river, but the small green bridge on the map made me hopeful.

At the end of the parking lot, another gate opened to an adjoining business, but I was more interested in the end of the large wall just a few meters beyond the new entrance. A little back tracking would be required, but I was finally rewarded with an embankment suitable for walking over! I clambered up the slope and was now overlooking an off/on ramp from the highway. A solitary car rumbled down the ramp in my direction. I would love to know what they were thinking!

I carefully stepped down the thick grassy slope, my marginally healed ankle a reminder to take things slow. A quick hop over the guardrail and a scurry across the street led me to my destination! A pedestrian/bike bridge awaited me on the other side of the large highway. If only I had known what was to come...

The bridge ended abruptly at an 8 foot chainlink fence. The fence ran in both directions as far as I could see. The map had made me hopeful to cut through the streets of this industrial park and back into the city proper, but alas I was stuck again. I turned south and followed what was an admittedly nice walking trail that continued parallel to the fence. For those following along at home, I was now walking along "Partihandelsgatan".

About 5 minutes later, I reached the end of the street. Eager to get back to civilization at this point, I was faced with another decision. Construction had mangled much of the street at this intersection. Eyeing the pedestrian paths of Google Maps, I took a gamble and turned onto "Minuthandelsgatan". The road was lined with construction fencing and gravel sidewalks for workers arriving to the jobsite. This should have been a clue, but upon reaching the end of the road at the final corner, I was greeted by a large gate and no way forward. Bummer. I would later learn that this was all construction to transform the current Central Train Station into an underground metro. You can read more about that here.

Not looking to attract any more attention from the cameras atop the looming gate, I promptly turned around in defeat and went back to the mangled intersection. From here, I turned west, following the long single lane streets bookended by roundabouts in a variety of sizes. I was hoping to walk through some residential areas and see more of the city, but instead I was resigned to the dusty driveways interconnecting the construction sites along the north edge of the rail lines flowing into the city.

Another 15 minutes passed. Not everything was doom and gloom though. About 11pm, a notification popped up on my phone for a virtual happy hour at work. I tapped the notification and was transported to a Zoom room with about a dozen of my coworkers. It was nice to see some familiar faces, and a new colleague had even joined for her first social event. The banter of friendly voices was a welcome addition to my solitary walk of shame.

Eventually, I rounded a corner and was greeted by the backside of the central station we had arrived at only a couple days before. I confidently walked into the large building and out the other side, once again greeted by the bright lights and hum of trams snaking through the narrow streets. A couple more blocks and I was again walking down Avenyn. I stopped for a couple beers to keep me company for the remainder of the work happy hour and then headed back to the apartment and promptly fell asleep.

Music and Nameless Friends

The next day went by uneventful. The hike from the night before had left me exhausted and I wasn't keen to go much of anywhere until the evening-time rolled around again. A quick search revealed a small concert in a bar on a boat near the water where I was the night before. The bands on the ticket described themselves as a mix between Americana and Indie Pop. Good enough for me!

The concert was just what I needed. The "dining room" was intimate; the stage tucked away into the fore-hull of the roughly 20ft wide boat. Plush bright red chairs and small ottomans were abundant. This was obviously a place where friends came to relax and chat for hours with a drink in hand. Tonight, it was more crowded, but by no means full. About thirty people occupied the snug room and clapped along to the original music.

Not one to make the same mistake twice, I left the same way I arrived. Waiting for a light at an intersection, a man from the concert stepped up next to me. I struck up a conversation, asking if he knew any of the musicians playing. He had seemed chummy with some other patrons upon his late entrance to the venue. He said he was just out to hear some music, but the woman he recognized was a co-worker and they happened to come to the same show. Her husband was the pianist for one of the acts. We chatted about our lives some. I expressed how nice it was to hear my own language again; all the music for the evening was sung in English. Side note: I asked one of the singers about this after the show, and he told me that he had never really tried to write songs in Swedish. I'm not sure if the genre was the limiting factor, but it was surreal to me to see a man in his late forties express something so strange to me. That moment was when I truly saw the worldwide reach of American cultural export.

My walking companion talked about his trips to America and we lamented the lack of public transportation and walking infrastructure in the US. In an ironic change of pace, it turned out he was following me back to the city center as he was unfamiliar with the streets amid the construction for the new metro lines.

Once again, I found myself face-to-face with the looming central station building. We departed with a friendly wave and went our separate ways.

At this point, it was late. 11:30 perhaps? As I rounded the corner onto the street housing the apartment building I now called home, bright lights and a long line extruded from a small building on the corner of the large park dominating this block. I had seen this busy cafe in the days before, but the line had put me off. Tonight though, I was alone, a little tipsy and had nowhere to be!

I joined the line behind a group of severely inebriated young adults chatting with some women old enough to be their mothers. I couldn't understand the conversation, but it was clear from their facial expressions and friendly banter that the drunk adults were having a heck of a time decided what to do next. The motherly figures were encouraging, and eventually the young people decided to try their luck somewhere else rather than wait for an hour at burger shack in the cold.

The man behind me seemed friendly enough, gruff, clothed in a dark T-shirt and sweats. Just like me! I asked if he spoke english and he said "a little" and then I jokingly asked if the guys who had just walked away were okay? He said they would be fine and to him they were really just being dramatic. From there the floodgates were open for conversation as we'd be standing next to each other for the foreseeable future.

He was almost 40 and in town with some friends attending a concert. His friends had decided to stay at the bar drinking and he had ventured out alone in search of sustenance. From there we talked about a lot of things. Speed limits, northern Sweden, the conflict in Ukraine. Nothing was off limits. Our travel plans eventually came up and he gave me some advice for different places to visit in Copenhagen. He also had plenty of advice for protocol surrounding the consumption of illegal drugs in the city. I'm not sure what about my persona indicates that I'm looking to get high all the time! 🙃

Eventually we made it to the front of the line. I offered to buy his food as a sort of thank you for the great conversation, but as I glanced off to the side to pick a drink, he snuck his card in front of me and tapped the terminal to pay. I guess enjoyed our chat too. 🙂

Our greasy burgers and hot dogs soon were served at the window, the brown paper bags already starting to darken with sweaty meat juices. We said our goodbyes and departed in opposite directions. I arrived at the apartment a few minutes later and scarfed down the burger in the small kitchen, Alanna asleep in the next room. A satisfying end to a satisfying evening of fun and new friends I would never see again.


Two days later, we departed how we arrived. The central station loomed above for the final time as we boarded a nondescript black bus headed south to our next destination, Copenhagen, Denmark. 🇩🇰