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Gothenburg is a temple for foodies

When I first moved to Gothenburg, back in 1992, I was shocked after my first visit to a grocery store: strange looking (and tasting) sausages, five types of cheese, tons of cabbage and apart from that, there really wasn’t much to choose from. I’m exaggerating, of course, but this country and its cuisine have changed so much in the years since.

1995, joining the EU, was revolutionizing for Sweden’s food industry

By Steffen Wurzel [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons
By Steffen Wurzel [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
After we joined the EU and importing food from other countries became easier, our grocery shops changed, radically, and the range of supplies increased dramatically. But not only grocery stores, our restaurants changed, too, from serving “classic” cuisine, based on red meats, pork, venison and locally grown vegetables like carrots, potatoes, onions, and cabbages (we are, after all, a Nordic country, meaning, our climate isn’t ideal for a lot of produce.) and brown sauce and lingonberry jam.

Here on the west coast, people have always eaten fish, often pan-fried, served with potatoes, some vegetable and sauce. And there is something to be said about a delicious home-style cooked classic dish. Sadly, in the past quality was not necessarily something Swedish cuisine was known for.

If you’re interested in learning more about traditional Swedish cuisine, feel free to ask us. From IKEA meatballs to smörgåsbord and “halv special”, we’ve got you covered.

Modern Swedish cuisine is among the best in the world

I say this with pride. Our cuisine is among the top in the world. Our chefs are proud to use fresh ingredients, locally sourced products, and the suppliers are keen on trying out new ideas.

While Sweden may never be a cheese country like my own home country of Switzerland, there are some cheesemakers who produce some amazing cheese these days, a far cry from the industrialized and tasteless, wax-covered stuff you get in your next-door grocery store. For some, like my husband, a cheese plate for dessert is the highlight of a meal.

Fish, seafood and then some

Last night, I served my family a fillet of cod. Just lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. Delicious. You should see what a real chef can do with cod. One of my favorite fish. Or a catfish… Mouthwatering!

Definitively a favorite of mine is salmon, which you can catch right here in Gothenburg, in our moats. Swedes eat a lot of salmon! Most of it comes from farms in Norway where salmon are kept in huge basins in their deep fjords. Environmentally not without question marks, but things are getting better. If you go to a quality seafood store here in Sweden you’ll have a choice between Norwegian salmon and wild salmon, caught either in Sweden or abroad.

Salmon can be served in many different ways…

© Copyright Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence..

It’s a very versatile fish. I’m having a bit of a love story with warm smoked salmon right now. It is pink in flesh, very tender, moist and tasty that I could eat it daily. But that wouldn’t be good. Salmon is a very fatty fish, healthy fat mind you, but still. Lots of calories, and besides, if you eat something as good as salmon every day,  you grow tired of it… There’s also cold smoked salmon, which I’m sure we all know, that orange thin slice you find on smørrebrød or canapés around the world. Here in Sweden we also eat cured salmon, which is available year-round, but particularly popular on our smörgåsbord and for Christmas.

Salmon is also easy to fry fresh or from the over. One amazing way to cook your salmon is to cover it entirely in salt and to cook the entire fish in the oven.

Seafood isn’t just shrimp

Shrimp are a staple food and Friday night favorite not just in our house, but all over the West Coast of Sweden. It’s a quickly prepared meal with a good baguette and aioli, paired with a dry, fruity white wine. Great when you have friends over. You can take your time and eat slowly.

But did you know that we have amazing oysters right here on the West Coast? And we also have amazing clams and scallops that are grown here? We even grow our own seaweed for Japanese inspired seaweed salad.

Crayfish or “scampi” is also a Swedish delicacy and while most of Sweden prefers sweetwater crayfish, cooked in dill, the West Coast prefers their ocean-dwelling cousins, bigger, cooked in salt water and with a pink/orange color. Needless to say that we’re about to begin our lobster season, and while our local lobsters may be smaller than what most people remember, properly prepared (which isn’t easy!), they’re an amazing dish.

Where to go? Where to eat?

Luckily, these days, there are few places where you will not eat well here in Gothenburg, whether it’s Swedish or international cuisine. There is a case to be made that you’re more likely to eat well when you eat local cuisine because it’s easier to get fresh ingredients. And more difficult to find a chef who truly knows how to prepare e.g. Szechuan, Salvadorian or Angolan dishes… Having said that, there are people from over 190 countries living in Gothenburg, and they all like to taste a meal from their ancestral home every now and then. You’ll find a lot of international restaurants in town, not just pizza and kebabs.

Welcome to Gothenburg. Enjoy your meal!

PS: Don’t eat meat? We have some excellent choices for vegetarians and vegans, too. Ask us!

As we wind down the sunniest summer, ever? Lessons to be learned?

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The summer of 2018 will go down in Gothenburg history

Spring was late and lasted all but a couple of weeks. An arctic inversion kept cold air pouring down over Scandinavia well into mid-April when suddenly things changed and a high-pressure system decided to park above us for the summer, bringing us virtually three months of unabated sunshine and literally no rain. You should see my lawn!

One crazy summer makes no climate change, but…

It's 9:35 pm and the sun is readying itself to set for the day. Summer in Sweden.
It’s 9:35 pm and the sun is readying itself to set for the day. Summer in Sweden.

As a “normal” citizen I’ve been having the summer of a lifetime, with daily swimming in our warmer than usual ocean, daily meals on the patio and a tan that built up over time, you know, the kind you develop carefully, without overexposure? A tan that lasts. Our farmers, however, have been suffering. Without watering (and we’re in  Sweden, right, so who waters crops?) crops all over the country have been withering away, there’s been no hay for cattle to feed on and at its worst, farmers couldn’t even send their cattle to emergency slaughter. The queue to the slaughters were too long.

Papers have been filled with images from NASA satellites showing just how “brown” Scandinavia has become this summer, compared to previous years. And article after article discussed whether this is indeed a sign of things to come or just a “freak” summer.

It IS getting warmer up here…

This summer was unusual with ocean temperatures above 22 C (71.6F) making a swim after work a real pleasure.
This summer was unusual with ocean temperatures above 22 C (71.6F) making a swim after work a real pleasure.

Scientists all agree that one hot summer is no sign of climate change. However, 2018 is well on track to be another hot and warm year, seen on a global scale, and that is where signs of climate change can be tracked. The four years (including 2018) are the four warmest in recorded history. And if you look at weather phenomenon across the globe, things are crazy, everywhere. It seems to me, we keep saying this, year after year, and at some point, denying the impact of climate change becomes mute.

My memory serves me right!

During my second visit to Sweden, with my university at the time (you can see me trying to get the BBQ to light), this was not uncommon. Rain and cool temperatures forcing us to wear sweaters and jackets even in July.
During my second visit to Sweden, with my university at the time (you can see me trying to get the BBQ to light), this was not uncommon. Rain and cool temperatures forcing us to wear sweaters and jackets even in July. Photo: private

When I first moved to Sweden, in 1992, August was scorching hot, and I was in heaven. Finally a place with decent temperatures. Two years later we endured a cold and rainy, miserable summer. But what I do remember from the first summers after we bought our house is that we were usually unable to sit outside in the evenings, enjoy a glass of wine on the patio. It would be too cold unless you had some infrared heating device. We’d cherish the four or five nights that were the exception to that rule. Summer evenings could be chilly with temperatures as low as 10-12 degrees C (50-54F)

Nowadays, we would theoretically be able to sit outside almost every night, and still now in August, we wake up at six am and the temperatures outside are 18 degrees C (64.5F.) So yes, things have changed in the past twenty-two years that I’ve lived here on the island.

Climate change and tourism

How can we adjust our offerings to our visitors as they come all year round, not just for a few short and –hopefully–sunny summer weeks?
How can we adjust our offerings to our visitors as they come all year round, not just for a few short and –hopefully–sunny summer weeks?

We cannot deny that climate change is here, nor can we deny that it affects tourism. We have plenty of water (in most parts of Scandinavia) for now, and while our farmers may need help in adjusting their crops and install systems to water them, overall, this peninsula might just be one of the few land areas on the planet that ‘benefits’ from it all. Warmer and probably wetter.

That impacts our offering with regards to tourism. A shorter winter season will gravely affect the north, where skiing and snow draw people from countries without such commodities. Here in the south, we may have to rethink what we offer and when we offer it. We still see people closing their restaurants in mid-August for vacation, while our ferry company is still operating on a summer schedule, bringing hundreds of tourist to the islands, every day.

Accepting that tourists, for different reasons, will visit us all-year round is an important first step. Once that lesson is learned, we can move on to offering different services to our visitors, according to the season.

What we do, offer

As a small tour company, our focus is flexibility. We can guide you walking, or using public transport, or in our own EV, a second generation Nissan Leaf. We can also try to show you just how the changing weather patterns and climate change affect our city if you are interested. From areas prone to inundation to plans of how the city is preparing for increasing sea levels. Ask us, we’re here for you.

Midsummer: Sweden’s most important holiday #Sweden #Gothenburg #tourism #GothenburgTours

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Midsummer is only rivaled by Christmas, but summer. It’s summer!

I’m sure you’ve seen pictures from Sweden, people dancing around a colorfully dressed maypole. Unlike its counterparts from Germany and elsewhere, our maypoles are dressed with birch twigs and flowers. The songs we dance to aren’t traditional folk songs, but children’s songs including clever lyrics such as “ooh-ack-ack-a” in the evergreen “small frogs” (don’t ask…)

Midsummer marks…

Midsummer Sunset
This is what midsummer looks like in Gothenburg. 10:15 pm approximately.

Midsummer in Sweden marks not primarily the middle of summer, but the longest day, midsummer solstice, this year taking place the day after solstice, always on a Friday.

It’s really the beginning of summer, but even here in Gothenburg, this week and for another week or two, the sun doesn’t set until after 10 pm, and rises just after 4 am. Now imagine further up north. In a small town, I know well, Gávtjávvrie in Sápmi, way up north, but still short of the arctic circle, the sun sets for only one hour. Once you cross the arctic circle, the sun never sets during the weeks around midsummer.

It is our most important holiday, bigger than Christmas. Why? Is it the sunlight? The fact that is is as much an adult holiday as it is for kids? Is it the promise of a long vacation that awaits most Swedes around the corner in July? We’ll never know for sure, but midsummer is “da shit” around here…

Eat, drink, dance, sing, repeat

Our maypole here on the island. A big and traditional celebration.

Long days, sunshine, and flowers are key ingredients in our midsummer celebrations, along with the season’s first potatoes, small, sweet, delicious, herring in sauce, a Swedish delicacy, and strawberries, also the season’s first. And I’m sure you know we consume those with copious amounts of beer and different types of vodka, flavored schnapps etc.

Traditionally, you’d put seven kinds of flowers under your pillow, jump over seven fences and dream of your future partner. These days, you swipe seven times and start over. Sweden is a modern country. LOL

Where to celebrate

midsummer
Strawberries. Nothing says midsummer like that first taste of strawberries of the season.

There are many places to celebrate Midsummer in Sweden, and if you happen to be here in Gothenburg, I can recommend the celebration at our amusement park. Always lots of people, professional song, and a great maypole.

Here in Gothenburg, there are celebrations, big and small, all across the city. One of the more famous ones takes place just a few hundred feet from our house, on our island, Styrsö. We have a large meadow where they put up the maypole. You can help decorate the pole in the morning and at four pm, the entire island and a ton of guests gather to sing, dance and have fun together, before we return to our homes for a barbeque dinner. There are several restaurants on the island, so you won’t have to starve, even if you’re just visiting…

But there are other places you can visit, all around our city. Check out this list from our tourist office.

The weather? Midsummer usually means moving indoors and outdoors because often enough the weather will be typical for the summer: sunshine and rain, changing constantly. For now, the forecast (the most serious topic we discuss these days) seems okay. Trust me, I checked with four (sic!) weather sites. As I said, the weather forecast for midsummer is not to be taken lightly.

Gothenburg is a naval city, and it shows… #tourism #sweden #

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Gothenburg has a special relationship to ships

If you live in Gothenburg, you most likely have an affinity for water. The way the river meets the ocean, with its open views toward the west, and the promise of whatever lies out there, has drawn people westward for centuries.

In the nineteenth century, almost a million Swedes left our country to emigrate to the promised land of America. They all left via Gothenburg, and our big port, and the vessels connecting us to New York. Gothenburg is a naval city, always has been, and  I see no signs of that changing.

We still love ships, big ships, fast ships, tall ships

Still, in the fifth decade, after the big shipyards closed down and that part of town has transformed into a hip neighborhood filled with fancy condominiums, Gothenburg is still a naval city. The city made its fortune based on trade with China, and our East India traders were so profitable that even a sunken one, just off the coast, was still profitable, even though the majority of the goods were lost. A replica of the Götheborg sailed to China and back in the latter half of the first decade of this century, stirring emotions from Kanton all the way around the world.

When the Göteborg returned from China, on June 9, 2007, the harbor basin was filled with boats. We were one of them. Photo: private
When the Götheborg returned from China, on June 9, 2007, the harbor basin was filled with boats. We were one of them. Photo: private

When the Götheborg returned, on a gloriously sunny summer’s morning, it seemed as if the entire city was welcoming her back home, with tens of thousands of people watching her sail into the harbor and thousands of small and bigger boats and ships awaiting her and accompanying her in the harbor. You could’ve walked from Hisingen to the Archipelago that day. I was one one of those boats, and it’s a memory I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. Goosebumps don’t begin to describe the emotions when the Gothenburg sailed past us!

Tall Ships Race

Tall Ships are always a sight to behold. Photo: Arne List, CC

There’s something majestic about tall ships, these reminders of a time when sailing the seven seas was a true adventure. I am a big fan of cruise vacations, and I love the comfort of modern cruise ships, but I’ll be honest, the sight of a tall ship makes my heart skip an extra beat.

These tall ships, often maintained by associations and military training units often compete in friendly giant races under the name of Tall Ships Race, and they’ve been to Gothenburg more than once since I moved here, last in 2016.

Not only do we have two permanent tall ships in our beautiful skyline, the aforementioned Gothenburg, but also the hotel barge Viking downtown, a four-mast beauty that is one of the most unusual hotels you can find in Gothenburg. And very reasonably priced.

Volvo Ocean Race

The Volvo Ocean Race Vessels near Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Volvo Ocean Race.

One of the toughest sailing races out there, if not the toughest, is the Volvo Ocean Race. Sponsored by our local car and truck manufacturer, these ships are out on some of the most difficult waters for almost two years, a true test of engineering prowess and human courage. Next month, on the tenth leg of the 2017-18 race, the ships will reach Gothenburg, undoubtedly cause for yet another huge celebration here in town. You can learn more about the race and the stopover here. A week before we celebrate midsummer, this is a great time to pay Gothenburg a visit…

Our sunsets are for the history books, and the beckon to the west, Denmark, the Atlantic and the promise of America. Photo: private.
Our sunsets are for the history books, and they beckon to the west, Denmark, the Atlantic and the promise of America. Photo: private.

Gothenburg, a naval city

It comes with the territory, and this city owes everything to the sea, our history is one with the ocean, the islands lining our coast are pearls you don’t want to miss, and our sunsets late at night (as late as 10:12 pm) on a beautiful summer’s day are quite something. Why not visit us soon and let us show you around? Contact us today!

 

Getting ready for a trip… is half the fun! #GothenburgTours #Gothenburg #tourism #Sweden

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Doing research, looking at images is part of the fun of getting ready for a trip

I travel a lot. In fact, as I type this, I have trips scheduled to the UK (2), the Netherlands, Switzerland (2), and the US (3) until the end of the year. Some destinations are new, others I’ve been to before. But no matter what, one of my favorite past-times is getting ready for those trips, researching online about what to do, what to expect, and – last not least – indulging in images.

Guidebooks

Guidebooks, I used to buy one for most of my trips. These days? I'd rather use my phone. But that isn't practical everywhere.
Guidebooks, I used to buy one for most of my trips. These days? I’d rather use my phone. But that isn’t practical everywhere.

Long gone (it seems) are the days when you’d venture to a local bookstore and buy a guidebook. I still have an entire bookshelf filled with guidebooks from journeys all over the world. But those books had their challenges: updates! While they’re still being produced (and manually updated every now and then), for those of us who own them, they’re quickly outdated, at least with regards to the important sections about restaurants, hotels and other more volatile information.  The Colosseum will always be in Rome, but that quaint restaurant on the corner around the Fontana di Trevi? Who knows.

No matter how old-fashioned a guidebook may be: they don’t require to be online to work. Worth considering in the roaming day and age…

Online guides

Instead, we use places like TripAdvisor, LonelyPlanet, Yelp or just plain good old Google to find information about the places we want to visit. I’ve been a frequent contributor on TripAdvisor, reviewing the hotels and restaurants I visit during my trips, and I often use it to find places during my own trips.

Here’s a tip though: Don’t disregard a place just because it has a few one-star reviews. Look at the reviewer. If it’s their first review, it’s likely just a one-off disgruntled customer. Disregard such reviews. instead, look at the reviews from people with dozens, hundreds of reviews even. They wouldn’t be there if they weren’t trusted contributors. Those are the views you can trust more but don’t just focus on the star-rating. What some people dislike may be exactly what you look for, e.g. casual dress v formal dress in a place.

Maps & Images

This is where I live, or a good twenty minute walk from my house, on the very west coast of our small island, looking back. Now you tell me it doesn't make you want to see this for yourself?
This is where I live, or a good twenty minute walk from my house, on the very west coast of our small island, looking back. Now you tell me it doesn’t make you want to see this for yourself?

I could lose myself in pictures. I love to look at pictures from our beautiful planet. If you have an Instagram account, looking for your destination is easy using appropriate hashtags, e.g. #gothenburg. We have this amazing account here in town, a woman who takes pictures for fun, all over our city, and just looking at a couple of them (I follow her), makes me feel proud about living here, and makes me want to visit a particular corner of it. You can follow her here.

I’m not a big fan of Pinterest, but that is also a place where you can find a ton of pictures (and links) about places to visit. Or Twitter, although it tends to focus more on verbal aspects, you can follow places you’d like to visit.

I love to use maps, be it Google Earth or just any map application. It helps me get my bearings, understand where I will stay, where the best restaurants are, what is within walking range etc. It just helps me sort the world. I’m a bit OCD that way, I like a certain order. An example: a few years ago, we visited Disney World and we booked times (FastPass) for certain attractions. Our son was two-years-old at the time and the attractions he could go on, limited. So we booked them online ahead of time. What we had failed to do was make sure we could get from a) to b) in time. We learned that lesson the hard time. Don’t make the same mistake, booking a restaurant you can’t reach after that museum visit across town.

Whatever you do, take time to get ready…

It doesn’t really matter if you prefer an old-fashioned guidebook, or if you go all ‘social media’ in your preparations. In fact, none is better/worse than the other. Just different. My point is this: be sure to actually get ready, not because I don’t like to keep some of the mystery until I get there, but because part of the enjoyment of visiting a new place is anticipation. And nothing helps us build anticipation like looking at images, reading menus and maybe even meeting people online, friends to be. For all the other stuff, you can contact me. I’d be happy to help you prepare an unforgettable stay.

GothenburgTours: Liseberg, our local amusement park is extraordinary

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Liseberg is an amusement park unlike anything you’ve seen

I have a thing for amusement parks. I like them. Not “freaky” like them, but I like a good roller-coaster, I enjoy a great theme ride and to walk around a place that has happiness written squarely across its business idea.  Liseberg, the local amusement park of Gothenburg, opened in 1923, the last time we celebrated a big anniversary for the city.

That was almost a century ago, and we’re only three years from the next Jubilee. More about that some other day. The last Jubilee was two years late (for various reasons), and many aspects of our city are still standing. If you visit the park you can also find some ruins of things that no longer are (e.g. a cable car to the city.)

 Liseberg is a green park

Unlike most amusement parks I’ve visited, Liseberg is super green. It really is a park. I’ve been to Six Flags (no offense) stateside and they’re mostly concrete and pavement. Same can be said about the park in Stockholm. Liseberg is small by comparison to the big American parks, but there are flowers and trees everywhere. So even if you just go for a stroll, you’ll feel relaxed.

So much fun for kids all ages

The bunnies at Liseberg are not only the park's mascot but also a children's favorite. My son loves to hug them. Photo: Liseberg
The bunnies at Liseberg are not only the park’s mascot but also a children’s favorite. My son loves to hug them. Photo: Liseberg

When I first moved to Sweden, I had barely set my foot in an amusement park. I was sold and for years, I bought a season ticket and spent many a weekend day there, on the rides, eating in one of the many restaurants or going to a concert. But yeah, after twenty years, there aren’t enough news to keep you entertained. When our son was born, things changed. Suddenly, we saw the park through the eyes of the newborn (the fluffy green bunnies, the park’s mascots were the highlight), the toddler and now the five-year-old, who is so tall that he can already go on many an adult ride.

Liseberg has a special area solely for children, with special rides just for kids and a playground, unlike anything you’ve seen before. It’s spectacular. They even have special bathrooms for moms to breastfeed and dads to change diapers. This IS Sweden, after all.

Some of the best roller coasters in Europe, the world?

This year, a new roller coaster is opening, joining three other rides. The new beast is called Valkyria, and you can already go on the ride, virtually. It is in an area of the park which is inspired by Norse mythology, hence the name of the ride. Next door is a wooden roller coaster which has been voted best in the world.

On the hill that separates the park from the city are two more roller coasters, Helix (trust me, it’s amazing) and Lisebergsbanan, the oldest of the coasters, but a fun ride for the family. My son absolutely loves it.

There’s more…

Roller coasters are fun, but there are a lot more rides in the park, including a log ride, floats, a free fall with Sweden’s best view etc. But Liseberg prides itself to be a park for everyone, and there are plenty of restaurants with good food, from fast food, seafood to buffets and a quirky restaurant that resembles a train station where you eat in train wagons.

The big stage at Liseberg. Photo: Liseberg
The big stage at Liseberg. Photo: Liseberg

Many in the older generations visit Liseberg just to walk, or why not dance?

There’s a large dance stage with weekly concerts for people to dance to. Liseberg also has a big main stage and once you’ve paid for the entry fee, all concerts on all stages are included, for free. Great names have played there, including my personal favorites, ABBA, through the years. You can find this year’s concert program here.

A summer in  Gothenburg without Liseberg just isn’t summer…

 

Liseberg at Christmas. The park presents itself in a very different costume. Photo: private
Liseberg at Christmas. The park presents itself in a very different costume. Photo: private

Liseberg opens next Saturday, April 28th for the summer season which lasts until early October. They reopen for a three week Halloween stint (the decor is stunning) and then again in mid-November for Christmas. The park is closed from January to late April. When you come to Gothenburg, and you like amusement parks, make sure to add Liseberg to your itinerary.

What’s the best time to visit? An overcast day I’d say, although you’ll find the longest lines, too. Early in the week or early/late in the season work, too.

PS: This post was not solicited or paid for by Liseberg. I really like the place.

Gothenburg Tours: Spring is in the air, or is it?

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Today is spring equinox, but the weather outside, as sunny as it is, feels more like winter

Spring is in the air, and the sun is shining.
Spring is in the air, and the sun is shining. Photo: Private

Weather and climate change, right? Every time the experts talk about climate change, some wise ass mentions the freaky weather outside. Well, they are connected of course, but… It’s complicated, like most relationships. Spring is definitely in the air, even if the weather is currently out of whack over much of Europe due to something strange called Arctic oscillation and which has been disturbed recently, allowing ice cold air to reach places it usually doesn’t (all the while the Arctics were inundated with very warm air.)

Weather ain’t climate

Here in Gothenburg, we’re enjoying super sunny days right now, but the temperatures are still below average for the season. Spring is late, it usually arrives here in the second half of February, and we’re now in the second half of March. Yet just today, the Swedish Met office (SMHI) and our nation NPR (SVT) published data that shows that the country has warmed by 1 C in the past century, on average. That’s quite a lot. And it will only get worse and that has an effect on cities like Gothenburg, with severe consequences.

How climate change might affect Gothenburg

It’s hard to imagine catastrophic scenarios on a sunny day like today. But city planners are working on contingency plans. Gothenburg is built on sea level, and most quays are about a meter (three feet) above the average water line. During a strong fall storm with western winds, the storm surges already surpass that line and low-lying parts of the city flood easily.

Spring is in the air, but in secluded bays, the ice still covers the sea.
Spring is in the air, but in secluded bays, the ice still covers the sea. Photo: Private

Even the island, where I live, sees the nice lawn near the boat jetty flooded every now and then. It will get worse in the future. As Gothenburg has Sweden’s largest river running through its midst, that adds to the complexity. And while London is protected by giant flood barriers to keep storm surges to push river water back into the city, Gothenburg doesn’t really have that option. Our geography just doesn’t allow for such a barrier, or it would have to be placed too close to our harbor and would seriously impact the city.

Today, storm surges push upstream and with water pushing from two sides, the city easily floods. With rising sea levels, even if only ten or twenty centimeters, that is enough to cause severe flooding in more and more areas of the city within just a few decades, all the while the city is expanding and growing near the water (where else?)

Gothenburg isn’t alone

Flooding of Gothenburg, worst case scenario. Image: Göteborgs-Posten
Flooding of Gothenburg, worst case scenario. Image: Göteborgs-Posten

Gothenburg isn’t the only city threatened by climate change. In many cases, we are lucky, as warmer weather also means a more temperate climate. More days to spend outside in the evening with a glass of wine. More rain means we will have less risk of draught (a problem in many other areas of the planet.)

But that is no reason not to act, to leave things as they are because we are all on the same speck of dust traveling through the universe. And as for now, it’s the only one we have at our disposal. We’re literally pissing on ourselves. Not smart.

Sweden is a hotspot for environmental technology

If you’re interested in the environment, climate and what we can do to stop pissing on ourselves, there is plenty to see and do here in this town, from car maker Volvo who pledges to only produce electrified vehicles from next year to our universities and many other companies who are at the forefront of ecological innovation.

Welcome to Gothenburg, rain or shine, spring, summer, winter or fall!

GothenburgTours: my city is changing, rapidly. Come see!

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What was once an industrial city is changing, rapidly, into a modern cosmopolitan city

Gothenburg as a city is changing. Rapidly. And right now, the changes are happening faster than ever before, or so it seems. I’m not sure if this is true for other cities, as well, but my town seems to need a “reason” to change. In 1921, ahead of the previous big jubilee, it saw huge changes: an amusement park, several museums and stately buildings which still dominate the landscape, to this very day.

Does it take a large event for major change to happen?

After that, the city seemed to have slumped a bit and just evolved. When I moved here in 1992, Gothenburg seemed to be a tired, beaten city. Run-down buildings everywhere, fifty-eleven shades of gray, you name it. The demise of the three large shipyards in the harbor, the troubles Volvo was going through, it all affected the spirits of the city. But there was a sense of hope, nevertheless. We had been awarded the 1995 IAAF Athletic World Championships, and we were going to clean up our city for that event. Boy, did we succeed!

Major projects underway

a changing city
This just won the design competition for the new cable car across the river. It will ferry thousands of people across the river with dramatic views. Image: City of Gothenburg

Since then, the city has grown, loads of new housing has replaced the empty spaces where keels were laid out and ships were built. Particularly on the western banks of the river Göta. But more is yet to come, and with the immense growth of that side of the city, there is a need for better transportation infrastructure.

As we approach the next big celebration of our town, 400 years, in 2021, the city is suddenly ready to take leaps into the future:

  • a futuristic cable car across the river as a means of mass transportation
  • a brand new car, tram & bus bridge to cross the river, replacing the old one from 1939
  • a brand new tunnel to help with traffic congestions
  • our first “subway” tunnel of sorts, with two new underground railway stations across the city
  • Karlatornet (and the entire neighborhood), which is going to be Scandinavia’s tallest skyscraper
  • and several other neighborhoods are in the process of being re-developed with tall buildings adding thousands of apartments for tens of thousands of new inhabitants.

Karlatornet

Here's a rendering of what Karlavagnstornet will look like, the beacon of a changing Gothenburg.
Here’s a rendering of what Karlatornet will look like, the beacon of a changing Gothenburg. Image: Serneke

Traditionally, we have very few “tall” buildings in Gothenburg. Several devastating city fires put a damper on that. However, when the city fairgrounds built their third hotel tower a few years ago (which includes Sweden’s very best hotel), that tower breached 100 m, thus officially (ridiculous compared to other cities, I know, but this is Sweden) making it a skyscraper.

When builder Ola Serneke announced the project, people went nuts. The idea was so crazy, so outlandish that nobody believed it. And against all odds, it is actually being built. All the permits are in place and many of the apartments are already sold. It’s going to be a landmark for sure, replacing Turning Torso in Malmö as Scandinavia’s tallest building with its whopping 245 meters.

Along the river

A new bridge to cross the river and brand new neighborhoods for a changing city.
A new bridge to cross the river and brand new neighborhoods for a changing city. Image: City of Gothenburg

But there is more. About a decade ago, we tunneled the main traffic artery through the middle of the city, and that entire space is now ready for development. Sadly, in our town (I’d be happy to tell you on a tour) some of these things seem to take forever, but you can already see the changes in a few places, and with the coming train/subway tunnel, it sank some of the plans even further.

Gothenburg: a changing city
The view of a brand new neighborhood being built behind our current central railway station. Looks almost like sci-fi…

Gothenburg is built on clay and every building needs to be firmly “poled” into solid ground, sometimes dozens of meters into the ground. Not easy when you’re also building a tunnel through all of that.

Right now, a further stretch of the city freeway along the central station is decked over and an entirely new neighborhood is being developed. The sketches from the city almost appear like science-fiction.

It’s always a good time to visit…

Gothenburg: a changing city
This graphic gives you a great idea of how the city is changing in the coming years. Red is imminent, by 2021, while the orange and yellow depict plans until 2035. Image: City of Gothenburg

Whether you like to see the old or watch the new city grow, or if you’re interested in how we tackle the future, which includes getting ready for the ever-increasing sea-levels, then you should visit Gothenburg now. All the rest, food, great lodging, art, fun, entertainment is in place as always, but a city in a revolutionary transformation from “industrial” to “futuristic” isn’t something you get to witness every day.

#GothenburgTours: “But if I don’t know what to visit?” #tourism #gothenburg #sweden

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Good question: what if you don’t know what to expect, what to see?

In a previous post here, I underlined the importance of talking to your tour guide, to let them know what you want to see, do. This has prompted some reactions, both online, on social media, but I’ve also received an e-mail, from Paul, living in Manchester. He writes:

“…but what if I don’t know what do see, what to do in a new destination? Clearly then, a standard tour may be a better option for me, to get a flavor of what the place is all about?”

Allow me to clarify…

don't know? Let me know what interests you, and I'll take care of the rest...
There are things to see for anyone and you can get really “nerdy”, e.g. the construction of a new bridge across Sweden’s biggest river.

First a big thank you to Paul for his e-mail. I do understand your point, and tour companies selling standard tours make it very well, in destinations all over the world. I’d not want to see my post or this company as a competitor to those offerings. We’re a complement, for the most part.

If you spend a week or more at a destination, if you have plenty of time, I think those off-the-rack tours can be very valuable. We recently spent two weeks on Madeira and spent one day on one of those hop-on-hop-off buses as a means to get an overview of Funchal.

There are pros and cons to everything

But with every offer, there are pros and cons. With a standard tour, you have no choice. You’re either in, or out. You get to see things you want to see, and you’ll be dragged to see things, or do stuff you don’t care for. As I exemplified in my very first post, one of my personal pet peeves is shopping on tours. For someone else, it may be architecture, or museums, or…

Trust your guide

I've lived in Gothenburg and guided people here since 1992. I know that most people will want to see Carl Milles' famous statue of the sea god Poseidon, even if they don't even know he exists...
I’ve lived in Gothenburg and guided people here since 1992. I know that most people will want to see Carl Milles’ famous statue of the sea god Poseidon, even if they don’t even know he exists…

So what if you don’t know what to do, what to expect. Trust your guide. We’ve lived in our cities for a long time, we know what people tend to like. I’ve guided visitors through Gothenburg since 1992, and I know what people like to see, and what they will wrinkle their noses at.

The whole point of customizing is to provide that little extra. Allow me to exemplify: say you love architecture, building techniques. I could spend days just showing you different buildings here, I could show you differences in Sweden’s building standards, fire safety and even take you to homes to see how we actually live. One tiny topic, we could ‘nerd’ for days!

Any information you provide makes your tour better

I maintain: the more information you provide your guide, the better and interesting your tour will be. You don’t need to know your destination, but I presume that you do know what you like, and if you tell me to just surprise you, I can do that, too. But you’ll forfeit the right to complain about my choices… 😉

Make sense? Welcome to Gothenburg. Contact us here.

#GothenburgTours: “Smultronställe” is what we call a secret spot in #Sweden #Tourism #Gothenburg

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“Smultronställe” is a place you cherish and do not (necessarily) share with everyone

Smultron, aka wild strawberries

Smultron is the Swedish word for wild strawberries, this super yummy, flavorful tiny berry that kids in Sweden love to thread on a dry grass straw to enjoy in peace and quiet. It’s a berry that grows all over Europe and elsewhere, but in Swedish folklore, it has almost magical properties. Smultronställe could be related to either a place where you can find them (that you wish to keep to yourself, just like your favorite mushroom places) or a place where you can sit in the sun and enjoy them.

Over time, the term has been expanded to be used for other purposes, meaning. Today, it simply stands for a secret spot, a place you cherish but do not necessarily want to share with anyone. It could be your backyard, a particular beach etc. And it doesn’t have to be “secret” or “hidden” either. But because no one else knows about it, it becomes that, even though it may be a very popular place. “It’s in the eyes of the spectator”, as the saying goes in Swedish.

Smultronställen can be found everywhere

I recently visited South Korea and had hired a tour guide for a couple of days. He showed me to the places we had discussed, the research I’m doing for my book. After the first day, we were done, and I asked him to show me Seoul off the beaten track, the Seoul of the locals, where you wouldn’t see tourists (normally), and I was curious about his favorite spot (his smultronställe) in Seoul. This is where he took me:

This is one man's smultronställe, by the banks of the river Han in Seoul.
This is one man’s smultronställe, by the banks of the river Han in Seoul.

Smultronställen around Gothenburg

To understand a smultronställe means seeing that place through that person’s eyes, or at least from their point of view. I understood Yaek-Wang’s reasoning. It is a serene place, and I think the panorama reflects some of that.

I have many smultronställen to show you here in Gothenburg and the surrounding towns. These are places that speak to me, not necessarily from a historical point of view, but because of their beauty, their serenity etc. They have a purely emotional appeal. I look forward to showing them to you. Feel free to contact me to learn more.