From Berlin the flight to Gothenburg takes such a short time that you can listen to about 5 songs and gulp down a tomato juice before they announce the plane’s descent. Effectively, though, those couple of minutes constitute a trip to a different world — the Scandinavia I continue to fondly think about ever since my trip to Copenhagen last year. Yet reality tends to be a bit harsher than the idolized image, as illustrated by our first morning there: We woke up to the sun coming up over the harbor, immediately followed by a freak snowstorm that lasted for 5 minutes before vanishing without a trace. Clearly, the place Margot and Lisa have chosen to call home was something else, and yes, winter was already there.
Visiting Sweden in late fall has some obvious downsides, but we went in with a deep-seated sense of amazement that swiftly carried us over some initial disappointments. The tourist guide we had at hand enthusiastically explaining that the iconic blue trams were the city’s standout feature. That is a pretty lame city highlight”, Tobias pointed out, adding his trademark remark that they also bored him. And right he was. In fact, my fascination with everything Scandinavian was a bit tested, as it took me my full 5 days’ stay to realize what the city it was really about.
And so the journey began that made be reevaluate my initial impression and turn it into a sense of wonder about the unexpected perks of life in Sweden. Such as a trampoline in the city center, which we had to stop at for a few jumps whenever we passed. Or the language, which is, for a lack of better terms, spectacular. Surprisingly much like Dutch, only spelled wrong and with a much nicer melody to it. A few hours into the trip, our contest to find amusing Swedish words was in full swing. Yet behind it was only a tiny part ridicule, heavily counterbalanced by fascination and a huge degree of simply wanting to understand everything that was being said or written. Fassadengöring, anyone?
It all really clicked when we took a trip to the island Brännö, off the coast. Firstly, they reminded me just how much Gothenburg is a droplet of civilization in an otherwise vast country. In fact, the Swedes have so much nature that you can buy canned moose meat at the airport; a great souvenir for that special someone, I assume. It also means that within 30 minutes you can leave the city perimeters and be in the huge wilderness. While on Brännö, we roamed through tiny streets with red houses, climbed rocks on the coastline, exclaimed “het meer!” while everybody just repeatedly looked around with their jaws dropped to finally say “It is beautiful”.
On the way back from the island, we got into an epic rainstorm and spent a good deal of time perched under a little roof while it was perpetually getting colder, wetter and less understandable why anyone in their right mind would come to Sweden in fall. Yet again, the Swedes have a cultural solution for those considerations, which somehow seems to fit to the Dutch notion of gezelligheid: Fika, which takes place when the ice-cold winter prevents you from leaving the indoors and you instead spend your time in cafés with friends, eating amazing varieties of cake and wondering what the big deal is with the winter. I could have binge-eaten on cinnamon buns while I was there; the older section of town with its rational Scandinavian buildings basically made you do that, aside from making you feel Swedish and want to wearing thick, beautiful and overpriced sweaters and dream yourself off to summer, which must be absolute paradise up there.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the city life, love Berlin and currently the city life with everything it offers is all I want. Yet part of me kept on wanting to buy a house on that island we visited earlier, spent the winter drinking rosehip tea and read all those books I have always wanted to read. And once it becomes summer and the sun never sets, me and everyone I know would come to visit, we would go swimming off some rocks in the middle of the night, ride army bikes through the forest and have our own shot at making blueberry soup. I guess it won’t have been the last visit to Gothenburg.