Sunday, June 16, 2013

Travel Log: Sweden

One of the best perks of living in London is that it is truly a global hub for travel. Want to get to South Africa / Brazil / India / Italy / Japan? You can get there from London. We've decided to make it a goal to get away and explore a new destination at least once a month in order to take advantage of this unique traveling opportunity.

The weekend of June 8th we left London early Saturday morning and headed to Gothenburg, Sweden. Why Sweden? Well, why not? Google Flights showed us some fairly good airfares to Gothenburg. We probably wouldn't think of Sweden as a destination place from the US, but when it is less than a two hour flight from London it looks much more attractive.

Sweden: The land of the unisex bathroom
Upon arrival, Heidi decided to use the facilities before leaving the airport. Why am I writing about this? The sign for the bathroom indicated that it was a unisex stall, however, it wasn't just a single stall, but an entire unisex bathroom! You walk in, and to the right are a bunch of men standing at the urinal, and apparently the women just walk right into the stalls. She was so unprepared for this cultural difference, however, that she just walked in and straight back out! Apparently this is a very normal thing in Sweden and we even read later on that there are many unisex bathrooms in the work environment there as well.

Swedish fare
On Saturday we spent much of our time walking around the city. We ate local Swedish cuisine which consisted of a cheese plate, bacon and tomato omelette, and sweet potato mash and sausages. It was delicious! We went to the Gothenburg City museum, where we discovered how thought-provoking the Swedes can be! Almost every single description of the artifacts ended in a rhetorical question about what it might have been used for or what a symbol may have represented.

Entering the Botanical Garden
Sunday we went to one of the largest botanical gardens in all of Europe, which is located just south of the city and very easy to get to via streetcar. It may have been one or two weeks too early to see all the flowers in bloom, but we saw a large variety of floral species in addition to many trees and herbs. We then rode the streetcar back up to Liseberg, the amusement park located in the center of the city. It was quite fun to see the similarities of a European amusement park to the ones at home. There were plenty of rides for the younger kids, along with a few roller coasters. We tried out some carnival games where the prizes were bars of chocolate.

Streetcars Everywhere
Not understanding a word of Swedish, it was a little bit tricky getting around, but almost all the locals speak English as it's taught in schools from a young age. And the streetcar system was very good, so we were able to see a lot in a very short amount of time. Prior to our arrival in London, we didn't know a thing about Gothenburg except that it is one of Chicago's sister cities, having seen the large blue and gold cross among the other flags in the depths of O'Hare. Now having been there, we've seen that Gothenburg, and Sweden more generally, is a great place for a quick getaway.

More photos: