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.

#Gothenburg Tours: “It’s raining cats & dogs! What are we doing now? #travel #tours #tourguide

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“It’s raining men, hallelujah!” – If only, right?

What is it with raining men or “cats and dogs” anyway? I once taught a class in Singapore, with trainees from across Asia, some whose English wasn’t as good. When suddenly faced with a downpour, I looked out the window (it was one of my first visits to Singapore, too) and – utterly amazed by the downpour exclaimed: “Look, it’s raining cats and dogs…” Some of the trainees, unaccustomed with the expression, rushed to the window, taking it literally. Imagine their disappointment when it was just water…

Gothenburg & raining = a thing

I’ve lived in Gothenburg for twenty-six years, and yes, it rains a lot here. It’s not actually as bad as our reputation claims if you look at the official statistics:

Average precipitation (rain/snow) in Gothenburg, Sweden
Average rainy days (rain/snow) in Gothenburg, Sweden

You can expect rain, more or less, every other day. That doesn’t mean it will be pouring constantly!

We don’t normally get tropical downpours here, but it’s more what we in German would call  “Landregen”(steady rain)  and a drizzle, annoying but you hardly even need an umbrella. Rain also feels different in summer and winter. Summer rains are calmer, it’s not usually windy so it’s just raining.

 

Oil garments are perfect for rainy weather.
Oil garments are perfect for rainy weather. Traditionally manufactured right here on Sweden’s West Coast. (c) Didriksons

In the winter, when it’s also blowing with gale force winds, our rains are like something taken from a Hollywood movie, horizontal and coming right at you. Still, not bucket loads, but don’t bring an umbrella. It.Just.Does.Not.Work!

 

Instead, people here wear “oil garments”, at least on the islands. They’re not quite as practical in the city, but a waterproof coat with a hoodie, and you’re good to go.

So what do you do?

It's raining a lot in Gothenburg, every other day in fact.
It’s raining a lot in Gothenburg, every other day in fact. Photo: private

Loads! We have so many amazing museums, from our city museum where they often tackle historically sensitive topics, to our famous art museum with exhibits that focus on the “Nordic Light” (more later) to our Design museum, the Universeum with its amazing aquarium, or why not the Volvo museum?

Museum visits can be added at any time when the weather turns sour. If it’s a short rain (we usually track weather radar around here and have a pretty good idea how bad it will be), you go for a Swedish “fika”, i.e. coffee/tea and cake and enjoy a break. Or you could go shopping, or you could catch a movie (we show most movies in the original language, so always plenty of English spoken movies to see)

Sometimes, it’s raining for days…

A forest visit, rain or shine, is always a treat
A forest visit, rain or shine, is always a treat, and in late summer/early fall, you might even find mushrooms. Photo: private

Let’s not despair. It’s not ideal. I agree. When I studied Nordic culture at the University of Zurich, one of our professors told us that research in the Nordics showed that visitors who enjoyed good weather on their first visit, would always return, addicted by the Nordic light, which is quite unique and which as inspired artists for centuries. On the flip side, those who had bad weather would never return. So yeah, bad weather up here means darker days, the walls of buildings are wet and dark, and it’s easy to get the impression that this is a depressing place. We share that across all the Nordic destinations. It’s part of our DNA.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to do. Dress properly and I promise you that a visit to a forest for a walk (less rain under its canopy). I promise you, the smells will make you feel quite relaxed and, depending on the month, we might even find mushrooms.

A visit to the ocean…

Or, you take that raincoat of yours for a walk to the coast. The worse the weather, the more impressive it can be. A storm around here is rarely dangerous (unless you’re acting recklessly), but visually impressive. Sitting on a public transport ferry that’s rocking in the waves, drinking coffee, or walking along almost overflowing jetties and beaches, watching waves crash against the boulders out west. Trust me, it’s an unforgettable experience, and you’ll completely forget that it’s raining around you.

Rain can be annoying, but at the end, there’s always a rainbow…

After rain comes shine, and we see loads of rainbows...
After rain comes shine, and we see loads of rainbows…

Sure, we all wish that our destinations were always sunny. It’s why so many of us travel to the Mediterranean in the summer. I get that. But that’s just not what we have up here. Instead, we offer lush greenery you don’t find in many other places. You can’t live here without embracing the rain.

And we know that after each downpour or drizzle, there’s a chance to see a rainbow, and that’s always something to look forward to!

Coming to Gothenburg means expecting rain. But I promise you, I’ll make sure you’ll want to come back again, despite what research says! Feel free to contact me to learn more.

Why #Gothenburg keeps ranking as a friendly city… #tourism #GothenburgTours

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Gothenburg,  a friendly city

 

Gothenburg, an open, welcoming, a friendly city, her eyes focused on the west, the open sea.
Gothenburg, an open, welcoming, a friendly city, her eyes focused on the west, the open sea.

I moved to Gothenburg in 1992 to study at the university here, one of the largest ones in Sweden with almost 50,000 students. It’s also home to some really large multinational companies.

 

I had little knowledge about the city I’d chosen to move to.  I should’ve known there was something special about this place. It’s a uniquely friendly city.

Allow me to explain why. I hope to be able to welcome you in person soon, to show you just how deserved this honorary title is.

The 1990s – Sweden’s friendliest Swedish city, year after year

Back then, the Swedish tourist office conducted annual surveys of cities in this country and year after year, Gothenburg was considered the most friendly one. Why? With regards to other Swedes, I believe it has to do with our language (or dialect if you prefer). The local accent is considered “friendly” and “welcoming”, funny even. To make a finer point, when Disney and other filmmakers dub their movies into Swedish, the comic relief characters always speak our dialect, while the villains are from the north or south and the heroes from the capital region. This is annoying and extremely stereotyping, but that’s how we are perceived: funny and well, funny is friendly, right? Gothenburg humor is also a bit of a national treasure. We have this weird tradition to name our buildings with double-entendre names, often including a pun.

The headquarters of our local electricity company, Göteborg Energi. We call it "Elyséepalatset"
The headquarters of our local electricity company, Göteborg Energi, “Elyséepalatset”

E.g. we call the HQ of our local electricity company “Elysée palace”, a pun for how expensive it was to build, comparing it to the French presidential residence. However, “el-lyse” is also Swedish for electric light. A classic Gothenburg pun.

Gothenburg is an open, welcoming city

Gothenburg's trams or street cars are a feature of our city life. And many a friendship has begun waiting for the next tram.
Gothenburg’s trams or streetcars are a feature of our city life. And many a friendship has begun waiting for the next tram.

We have always been a city built by immigrants, from the very beginning, when  German, Scottish, and Dutch engineers dug the trenches into the moor that was on site where the city stands, they poled the entire old city to make sure the houses don’t sink into the clay underneath. This wasn’t the ideal place to build a city, and we still pay a high price for everything that needs digging, because of the clay.

Therefore, we have always had an open attitude toward visitors, immigrants. Yes, we also have fringe elements that are extremely xenophobic and racist (they are – sadly – the proof of just how welcoming the rest of us are.)

In poll after poll, Gothenburg scores as a welcoming, friendly city

These days, Gothenburg is also a welcoming place for the LGBT community, one of two locations for this year's EuroPride. Love is love, right?
These days, Gothenburg is also a welcoming place for the LGBT community, one of two locations for this year’s EuroPride. Love is love, right?

This week, I read another article, this time in the UK’s Independent about Gothenburg topping a list of thirty-nine cities around the world, beating such iconic cities as New York, Chicago, Berlin, Vancouver, Sydney, and Rome. How is it possible that a city of roughly 550,000 inhabitants can beat such great cities?

I think our size is part of it. We still see tourists, visitors, and while we wait for a tram or a ferry, we strike up a conversation. We still care, and we’re curious. Not to mention that we are proud of our city, and wish to share it with the world. Unlike many large metropolitan areas where tourists are seen as a nuisance, clogging metros and buses etc.

A friendly city is also one where the pulse isn’t beating too quickly, where the pace of the city isn’t stressing visitors who’re simply taking a stroll. We have tons of cafés and great restaurants where you can enjoy great coffee, cakes, or enjoy the freshest seafood available.

Welcome to Gothenburg, my beautiful and exciting hometown #travel #tourism #Sweden

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“Göteborg, we love you!”

When I moved to Gothenburg in 1992, it was to study. It was a different city then it is now. The wounds (scars?) after the disappeared shipyards were still gaping on the north shore of Göta River, yet there was an optimism in town, something that really appealed to me.

Gothenburg Tours
The official logo of the 5th IAAF World Championships

Gothenburg had recently been awarded the IAAF Athletics World Championships and the year 1995 proved to be pivotal for how we locals viewed our town. Perfect weather, huge crowds, and amazing competitions made those days memorable to anyone who’d been there. In the local amusement park, our tourist organization kept showing a short movie while we waited to see the city from what was then a turning viewpoint (since turned into a freefall attractions) about various parts of town, and I’ll never forget the slogan: “Göteborg, we love you!”

A rapidly changing, but friendly city

Yeah, yeah, I know, corny. BUT, us Gothenburgers really do love our city, and we hurt when things don’t go well, and we love to show her to our visitors. As a Gothenburger, I am proud of the city I live in, the progress we make, the way the skyline is changing, new business sprouting, in life-science, computer science, new buildings, including landmark Karlavagnen.

The Gothenburg archipelago at dawn
The Gothenburg archipelago at dawn. Photo: Hans M Hirschi

I’ve lived here, in the archipelago, for over twenty-five years, and with all the cultural happenings, the infrastructure investments (roads, railway, tunnels), and all the new food places and cafés, this is an exciting time to visit Gothenburg. On this blog, I’ll share (weekly, that’s the plan) some of my favorite places.  Keep in mind, there are loads of them, there’s so much to do, which is why Condé Nast, the Guardian, the Independent and many U.S. papers keep referring to Gothenburg as a top tourist destination. Did I mention that we are really friendly here?

What about that name?

You probably wonder: Gothenburg? Göteborg? Huh? They say a dear child has many names, and our city was built by Scots, Germans, Dutch, and Swedes, so it’s no surprise that it’s been translated, just like many other great cities. In Swedish, it’s Göteborg, Gotenburg is our German name, Gotemburgo our Spanish/Italian and Gothenburg our English one, but you can also hear “Goteborg” or “Göteburg”. But don’t worry, whatever name you use is fine with us! 🙂

Gothenburg Official Tourism logo
Gothenburg Official Tourism logo

I’ll grant you this though, the aforementioned film uses the Swedish name. For a while, we had a mayor who insisted that we use the Swedish name, even in international marketing.  The year after he retired, things slowly went back to normal and we now use Gothenburg again, mostly, but the city’s official marketing logo is still a reminder of that ‘era’, although I like their twist on it, using the internationally mostly inexistent “ö” and turn it into a call to action: GO to Gothenburg!

This blog

I moved to Gothenburg twenty-six years ago to study. I’m still here, and I love my hometown. I’ve learned a lot about our history, culture, and I know a great many places to visit. I’ve been showing people around here for as long as I’ve lived here. I’d love to show you around, too, virtually, here on this blog, and personally, during a visit.

I’ll add photos here, too, but let me finish with a tip of someone who uploads the most beautiful pictures of our town on Instagram, daily. Don’t miss her account: https://www.instagram.com/goagoteborg/

Meanwhile, if you have questions, feel free to reach out to us. Any tips on what to write about? Suggestions are welcome.