“Smultronställe” is a place you cherish and do not (necessarily) share with everyone
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:
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.
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:
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.
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?
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…
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…
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 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.
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! 🙂
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!
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.