Tuesday, June 30, 2009

frutti di mare

Joe We didn't actually know much about the area we would be staying in before our arrival in Göteborg, beyond the fact that Liseberg was located just across the street. Fortunately, sometime on Tuesday Jennifer noticed that our location at Korsvägen put us just a few short blocks away from one of the city's more famous spots: Götaplatsen, a square surrounded by the art museum, symphony hall and city theater, with the broad Kungsportsavenyn running down hill from it towards the old town.

What Götaplatsen is most famous for, however, is the large statue of Poseidon at it's center. It's a Carl Milles statue (the same fellow responsible for the fountain on Rackham Mall at U of M) in which Poseidon crushes a large fish while the rest of the ocean's denizens cavort about him. When the statue, which is a nude, was revealed in 1931, the good citizens of Göteborg were a little put off by his, erm, somewhat oversized attributes. So much so, in fact, that they eventually had his… attribute replaced with a rather more modest one.

City Museum

Joe My plan for the afternoon was to go to the Aeroseum, a relatively new aircraft museum located in what had been a secret, underground hangar on the (now ex-)military base outside Göteborg. It was also on the north side of the river, if somewhat further outside of town, so it seemed like a good idea to combine the trips. I had a carefully orchestrated route between the two museums, involving two city buses and a regional bus in between, which should have gotten me there in just under an hour. Unfortunately, I cut one of the connections a little too closely, and missed the last bus by a minute. Since the next bus wouldn't be along for an hour, I decided to pack it in and catch the next tram back into the city.

So I wound up spending the afternoon at the Göteborg city museum, instead. There was no photography allowed, hence the lack of gallery. It was a decent museum, though, housed in the former headquarters of the Swedish East India Company, about which… OK, I know nothing, because the wing with the 17th and 18th century exhibits is closed for renovation until next spring. So I browsed the prehistoric room, looked at the remnants of the only Viking ship ever recovered in Sweden, and read about the founding of Göteborg. The problem with that last bit is that the city is staggeringly young: it was founded only in 1621 as a fortified trading city, replacing a couple of earlier settlements further up river which had become a little too isolated. The museum did have a nice model of the city from the time before the defensive embankments were demolished, which helped to give a better feel for the way things are laid out. Oh, there was also a somewhat bizarre exhibit of the 700 chairs the museum has collected over the years.

They're boxy, but good

Joe My Tuesday morning destination was the Volvo Museum in Arendal, at the extreme western edge of Göteborg's working harbor, which lines the northern bank of the Göta. According to our guidebook, "you really need a car to get there," which was not strictly true—a tram to the middle of a residential neighborhood north of the river, followed (after a brief but lovely sit in an air conditioned waiting room) by a half-hour bus ride into the harbor itself, left me just 100 m from the entrance.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Boats in the Sun

Joe We're back in Uppsala now after a busy week in Göteborg. Obviously I didn't manage to keep the blog up to date for the bulk of the week, so I'll just have to play a little catch up now. Incidentally, I've decided to cheat, and backdate the next few posts to the days they happened on, not when they are being written—it just seems like they'll make more sense that way. Anyway, when we left off, it was Monday afternoon…

By the time I had taken the boat back from Nya Älvsborg, it was 2 in the afternoon. Seeing as I was already in the harbor area, I decided to indulge my inordinate fondness for maritime museums by making a quick stop at Maritiman, Göteborg's floating ship museum. It also claims to be the world's largest floating ship museum, with as many as 20 ships available for viewing at a time, but I suppose we'll just have to take their word for that. The twin highlights of the collection are two Swedish naval vessels: the destroyer Småland, and the submarine Nordkaparen.

New Elf Mountain

Joe On an island at the mouth of the river Göta lies Nya Älvsborg Fastning, where I spent a pleasant few hours wandering about this morning. It's the "new" fortress only in relative terms, as it was built in the 17th century to replace the old Älvsborg fortress, which the Swedes had recently decided they needed to tear down. The old fortress, unfortunately, was good for nothing except as a revenue source for the government of Denmark: when the Danish king was running low on funds, he'd simply send his navy over to capture Älvsborg fortress, and then ransom it back to the Swedes for a lot of money (indulging in an age old Viking tradition, there). So in the end the Swedes decided the cheapest thing to do was just tear the place down and build a new one. To this end, they hired the leading fortification expert of the day and set out to fortify the island of Kyrkogårdsborg. Alas, construction took so long that by the time the fort was in service, it was also completely obsolete. Despite this fact, the new fortress worked out much better than the old one, fending off not one but two Danish invasion fleets.

Karaoke, Swedish style

Jennifer One advantage of living temporarily across from Liseberg (Sweden's biggest amusement park and its most visited attraction every year) is that there's always something to watch from the window. The park has a stage as well, and this evening we were treated to "Lotta på Liseberg," a sing-along pop show, in which some lucky lottery winners (that's the "lotta" part) get to do sing on a stage with a big audience and live-music accompaniment. It was also broadcast on TV, so we opened the window to listen live. If there's any thing in the world more Swedish than a drawn-by-lots karaoke (it's fair, and it's singing), I can't think of it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Joe This evening I felt like exploring the neighborhood, so I set off to investigate an interesting looking building we can see from our window. Unfortunately, I quite missed it at first, leading to a much longer walk than I intended; fortunately, I accidentally stumbled on to the Göteborg University campus, which was quite nice. There were lots of people laying about on the lawn and sunning, and a nice näckrosdammen.

I've gone to Valhalla...

Jennifer... it's right next door to the hotel, you see. Today was a little light, conference-wise, so we seized the chance to wander around the corner to Valhalla Idrottplats, home of Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC, currently third in the Swedish league. Today they played Linköping FC, who now lies second. It was a really good game, and a nice park, and I will probably write more about it later.


Joe When we first got to Sweden, and spent weeks in hotels, I sort of OD'ed on breakfast buffets, but apparently that was long ago enough, because this morning felt like a pleasant return to tourism. The Gothia's buffet is absolutely typical for a Scandinavian hotel: open-face sandwich fixings; muesli and yogurt selection; bacon, sausage and eggs for the foreigners; bread and rye crisps; fruit. With the exception of the scrambled eggs (powdered!?!) it was pretty good, and of course fulfilled it's critical role in that we now have sandwiches and fruit to eat for lunch today. There is, after all, just no way to get lunch for less than 60 SEK per person, unless you have you own kitchen, and that adds up fast. (Good news is that there is a massive ICA grocery store on the next block, so affordable eating should be relatively easily accomplished.)

Jennifer is off registering for her conference, and then it looks like she has the afternoon off, so we're off to watch the Göteborg v Linköping Damallsvenskan match which, coincidentally, is going on just around the corner at Valhalla IP. Hopefully the seats are in the shade, because it looks to be bloody hot again today.

To Göteborg

Joe We're in Göteborg now (or Gothenburg, if you prefer), on Sweden's wild west coast. We'll be here for the next week, while Jennifer attends the FEMS conference. We took the train over this afternoon—one hour to Stockholm, then another three to get to Göteborg on the high-speed X200 train, which it must be said is quite comfortable, even if the high speed internet is only free for first class customers.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

One More Midsummer

Duka din veranda till fest
För en långväga gäst
I landet lagom är bäst
Vi skålar för en midsommar till
Färsk potatis och sill
Som om tiden stått still
        -"Sverige", Kent
This past Saturday was that most Swedish of holidays, Midsummer. It's a day when everyone abandons the cities for their familial stuga in the woods, to bask in the nigh on 24 hours of glorious midsummer sunshine while eating plates full of herring and potatoes, pausing only to sing traditional drinking songs and down yet another glass of aquavit.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hedgehog sighting

Jennifer I eftermiddags såg jag en igelkott!

I have wanted to see a real live hedgehog for a long, long time. Since 1985, in fact. That's the year my grandparents took me to Europe, and we spent a lot of time in Germany with my aunt, and apparently Germans love hedgehogs because we saw lots of hedgehogs... as stuffed toys. I've been to Europe a couple times since then, and never managed to see a real one. Joe saw one a few days ago as he was biking to the grocery store, and I was quite jealous.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Gallic Troubles

JoeThose of you with particularly long memories may remember a time when I was a regular contributor here, a time I like to call "before the spring semester." Well, the semester's over now, and I appear to have survived it, so perhaps I'll be appearing here a little more frequently in the future. I've had a week now to recover from my surfeit of projects, papers and exams, and metaphorically things are looking much brighter now (although if you've read Jennifer's missive on the weather, you'll know that the brightness is, alas, only metaphorical).

The weather

JenniferSo that's it—I've nearly snapped. I made it through autumn with its chills, winter with its alarmingly short days, and a spring that was long and cold and in which the icy slush seemed to stick around forever. After all that, two weeks in June has almost done me in.