Dispatch from Gothenburg

I had the chance to do a little work and visit Sweden towards the end of December. I had every intention of writing and publishing a ton of material.  I did accomplish the writing part – volumes and volumes of content.  But not all of it is ready to be published. So instead of waiting around and trying to get it all together, here’s a short recap that’s a little dated now, but talks about my first week or so.


Ok, its Sunday afternoon here in Sweden, so factoring in the 15 hour trip, 9 hour time difference, and the fact that it gets dark at 3:30pm, I think I’ve been here somewhere between 3 and 12 days.  Hard to know exactly.

Coming at you now from Gothenburg, a short 40 minute train from my home base in Vargarda. Calling Vargarda a town is kind of like calling the New Mexico Bowl a Bowl Game. There are literally 6 restaurants, one cafe and one bakery.  I’ve walked by the restaurants at 12:30 pm, 3:30 pm, 7:00pm and 11:00pm and haven’t seem anyone in any of them, so I’m not sure how they exist. Could be supported by the government. Or a front for Al Qaeda. Who knows. You might think, “Well at least you’ll get to try some Swedish food.” Well interestingly enough, when Swedes go “out” for dinner instead of cooking at home, the last thing they want is Swedish food. So the restaurants are 3 pizzerias, a Chinese joint, what appears to be Thai, and something else. Maybe that’s the Swedish one. Anyway, instead, I went to the grocery store and stocked up on meats and cheeses I can’t pronounce. And caviar in a tube. Which is as good as it sounds.
The only place in the town where I have internet access is the library, which is actually remarkably nice. So I have access to the outside world M-F from 10-7 which is about all I can say about the town otherwise.
The house that is my home base is more cabin than house. Radiators keep it comfortably above freezing but below warm. No internet, No TV, no washer/dryer…. but there’s electricity and a table so theoretically I should be able to get all my work done.
That being said, it didn’t take me very long on Friday morning to walk over the train tracks to the library, gaze west and ponder, “Hmm… Gothenburg….” And a few hours later I was checked into a hotel for Friday and Saturday nights.
So I had a good 3 days and 2 nights of wandering, exploring and adventuring. Gothenburg has an amazing tram system. They have 17 tram lines, so at first you’re like, “Shit, I’ll never figure this thing out.”  Then you realize that all the trams go through one center near the middle of town. So if you see any tram heading inbound, you know where it will end up, as well as one of the 5 or 6 mini-hubs that circle that main hub. Once you figure out that, life is a breeze. No matter how lost you get, you just jump inbound and you get back to someplace you recognize.
You might think, “At $3 a ride, that sounds expensive.” Well that would be the case, but it appears paying for the tram is more of a suggestion than a mandate. I bought a 24 hour pass for day one, then watched gamely as about 1 of every 5 Swedes who got on the tram ever checked in. So since then I”ve just waved my hand at the sensor and gone on with my day. Ah, the joys of socialism.
So like I said, it’s Sunday evening and the last two trains leave at 8:55 and 10:55 – and when I figured THAT out, my mood changed considerably.  My math isn’t great, but 1:00pm Eastern plus 6 hours = 7:00pm Sweden, which gives me a half or even a whole NFL game if I want it. I mean for Christ’s sake, they put a sports bar in the train station.  What do they expect me to do?
Speaking of sports, I got to my Swedish Hockey League (SHL) game Saturday afternoon in Gothenburg. The game here was a special SHL Christmas event – JULMATCHEN – so they played it outside in the soccer stadium. As far as I can tell, JULMATCHEN roughly translates to, “Game played outside in cold rainstorm” so we had a 45 minute rain delay while 6 poor arena employees spent a good 90 minutes sweeping the rain off the ice – and it continued to come down pretty well just above freezing temperatures at 35 degrees. The rain finally stopped, and we had a hockey match. We lost. I stood in the supporters section wearing my Sounders jacket and talked to a few drunk fans who kept wanting to know my thoughts on all the Swedes playing in the NHL. Apparently, if you live in the US, it’s your God given responsibility to follow hockey even if you don’t have a team in your city. Especially in an Olympic year, when they want to ask about how the US team looks. My chance to make friends in Gothenburg was blown because I can’t talk about freaking NHL hockey.
Also last night I got to Liseberg – a wonderful sugar covered Christmas Wonderland with powdered candy cane joy sprinkled on top.  Liseberg deserves it’s own post.  It’s just to Noel-ly-ful to describe in a paragraph. And it should get its own photo album.
Anyway, back to Vargarda tonight, hope to lay low and get my work done this week, keep walking 5 miles a day and then either see a friend from Manchester in Stockholm next weekend or something else fun like that.  Or, with train tickets about $30 round trip, I may be commuting into Gothenburg all week. Who can tell…

Some photos: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjPZL7VZ


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