Göteborg; or Gothenburg in English, is the second largest city in Sweden with a population of over a million people inhabiting the metropolitan area. Rough 470 km away from the capital Stockholm, Gothenburg is located on the West Coast of Sweden bordering the Northern Sea. King Gustavus Adolphus founded Gothenburg as a heavily fortified Dutch trading colony in 1621.
I once had an opportunity to take the high speed train from Stockholm to Gothenburg and back on a one day business trip. I never expected to encounter such breathtaking sceneries on an autumn day where the temperature was exactly Zero degrees Celsius! During the morning hours, I noticed a soft layer of white dust on the rocks and foliage as the train swooshed over the rail tracks at 200 kmph. It was when the train came to an abrupt stop that I realized that the white dust was a layer of Frost! I was reminded of a scene from Harry Potter in which the Dementors attacked the Hogwarts Express when a heavy mist set around the stationary train while the sun hid behind a dark cloud! Spooky yet beautiful! The railroad slithered through open fields and farmlands where livestock roamed freely. I saw many pristine lakes with crystal-clear placid water that reflected the surroundings like a polished mirror.
The second time I came to Gothenburg was on yet another business visit. This time however, I spent almost 3 weeks living and working in a city called Kungsbacka which is 30 kilometers south of Gothenburg.
I didn’t feel that Gothenburg was that much different from Stockholm. The major difference that I did notice was the fact that Gothenburg had no subway system. Instead, Gothenburg hosts the largest Tram system in Sweden having a length of 160 kilometers of single track.
During the first weekend of my visit, a colleague from work offered to take me on a City tour. Thus, the next day, we rendezvoused at the Kungsbacka train station and were on our way to Gothenburg. When we arrived in the city, we took a stroll through the busy streets searching for the “Gothenburg Tourist Center” where we planned on purchasing a Gothenburg Pass. The travel card is definitely a must have for someone looking to explore Gothenburg. The card provides you with free entry to over 30 attractions and Museums. Armed with a travel card valid for 48 hours, we set off on our adventure.
The first thing we did was to jump on the Hop On-Hop Off Sightseeing bus. This bus tour goes through the city passing some of the most iconic locations in Gothenburg. It’s calla Hop On-Hop Off bus because you can get onto the bus or get out of the bus at any of the designated stops. During the ride, you can listen to the electronic tour guide who describes the various buildings and locations as you pass them.
The tour bus stopped at Götaplatsen a public square found on the Southern end of the city’s main boulevard, known as the Avenyn. The square was inaugurated in 1923 when the city celebrated its 300th anniversary. Popular as a cultural hub, the square is encircled, by the Gothenburg Concert Hall; home of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, the Gothenburg Museum of Art, the Gothenburg City Theatre and the City Library. At the center of the square is a fountain built around a huge statue of the Greek God Poseidon. This statue by Carl Milles has now become a symbol of the city. My colleague told me that on a warm summer day the square is packed with people eating ice cream and enjoying the sunny weather on the steps of the Museum of Art.
Another iconic structure in Gothenburg is the Ullevi, a multi-purpose stadium built for the 1958 FIFA World Cup. The stadium is one of the biggest in the Nordic region, with a seating capacity of 43,000 and a total capacity of 75,000 during concerts. Many sporting events such as the 1995 World Championships in Athletics, the 2006 European Athletics Championships; the UEFA Euro final in 1992, and the UEFA Cup final in 2004 have been hosted in this stadium. Many world famous musicians like Michael Jackson, Elton John, U2, Slayer, Metallica, Foo Fighters, Iron Maiden and most recently Ed Sheeran have also performed at the venue. It is said that the Ullevi nearly collapsed during a Bruce Springsteen concert in 1985! The stadium is built on clay soil and the rhythmic movement of the tens of thousands of spectators in the audience caused the structure to sway.
After the bus tour we had a quick lunch and headed over to the starting point of the famous Paddan tour.
The Paddan is a boat that takes you along the canals of Gothenburg. The tour guide on our boat was simply awesome! He told us about Gothenburg’s history and current situation whilst weaving in stories and anecdotes to keep us entertained. The tour covered many of the landmarks in the city, and took us out into the harbor lined with traditional shipyards. Unfortunately, the weather turned, it became quite gloomy and extremely cold. I think being on the water made it worse because I was FREEEZING!!!
One of the canals took us past the Feskekôrka, which means “Fish Church” in Swedish. No, this is not a Church built to worship a Fish God, in fact it is an indoor fish and shellfish market where you can buy all kinds of fresh seafood! Part of the structure is used as a restaurant where you can enjoy many seafood delicacies. The building that houses the fish market does have certain architectural similarities to church buildings found in the Nordic region. This is probably why they named it the “Fish Church”.
After disembarking from the Paddan, I was in no mood to continue sightseeing. So we decided to call it a day and head back home to Kungsbacka. When I got back to the apartment, I sat down with a hot cup of coffee and started planning for the next day.