After the epic Midsommar party in Alingsås and the slow, sleepy day spent cleaning up the aftermath, Jonas, Pauline, and I climbed onto the train for a short journey to Gothenburg. We arrived early in the evening on Saturday to a city eerily quiet and still, deserted for the holiday. As we walked through the empty streets, the threat of rain hanging over our heads, they pointed out their favourite places to me, painting a picture of a vibrant and busy city full of things to see and do. That night, though, I was so tired that I barely registered the shopfronts passing by outside the tram window; I climbed the myriad steps up to their flat, overlooking the city to the north, in a haze.
We passed the evening in a relaxed way, expending as little energy as possible – or at least Jonas and I did. While Pauline went out for a long walk, we cooked a traditional light Swedish dinner of hard-boiled eggs, sill (pickled herring), cucumber, kaviar (fish paste), and ligonberry jam, and watched Låt den rätte komma in (the original Swedish version of Let the Right One In).
The next day, the city seemed just as quiet, though as the hours wore on, signs of life started to appear. While everyone else was gone, Pauline and Jonas took the opportunity to show me their version of Gothenburg. One of the reasons I love Couchsurfing is because it gives you the chance to see a city through the eyes of a local. Instead of relying on impartial travel guides or slogging through endless conflicting reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor or Yelp, you get taken straight to the places that locals love most. Often, you’ll find gems that no one else would have been able to tell you about.
Here are a few of my favourite places in Gothenburg, which I would not have discovered if it weren’t for my lovely Couchsurfing hosts.
Café Kringlan was my choice of breakfast place on Sunday morning. It’s situated halfway down Haga Nygata, the main street in the famous Haga district, which is full of cafes, shops, and quite often tourists. Café Kringlan drew my eyes because of the table out front laden with fresh strawberries, pastries, and a waffle iron ready to make fresh waffles on the spot. I opted for a cozy chair inside, though, as a quick respite from the misting rain outside.
This cute little alleyway that connects Södra Larmgatan and Vallgatan is populated with a bakery, a chocolate and candy shop, a coffee shop, a stationery shop, and a home furnishings shop. What’s not to like? Rum för Papper, the stationer’s, is enough to brighten any gray day with shelves upon shelves of rainbow-coloured papers, notebooks, envelopes, and more. If you’re the kind of person that loves simple, well-made stationery, you could easily spend an hour or two browsing through all that’s on offer.
The candy shop, Flickorna Kanold, is a Gothenburg institution, dating back to 1901. They’ve got around 30 to 40 different flavours of beautifully decorated and mouth-wateringly delicious truffles at any one time. When I went, there were typical Swedish flavours like lingonberry, cloudberry, and dark chocolate truffles made with local Gothenburg seasalt; there were also uncommon flavours like violet and my personal favourite, goat’s cheese and honey. Yes, in a truffle. Trust me, it was delicious. In addition to truffles, they also make all sorts of other sweets, such as lollipops, candy laces, and that infamous Scandinavian salt liquorice, salmiak.
Gourmet Korv is a hole-in-the-wall sausage shop right at the Grönsakstorget tram stop. It’s almost always got a line of hungry Gothenburgers out the door, and for good reason. What they offer is simple but good – pick a kind of sausage from the 7 or so on offer, add relish and a kind of potato salad on the side, and finish it off with a drink. You can stand at the bar along the wall and eat it or stand outside at the checkered tables to share your meal with the other customers. Best of all, they had a bucket of crispy onions you could pile on top of the sausage and potato salad to your heart’s content.
When Pauline and Jonas told me we were going to go have coffee and spend an afternoon in a watertower, I was a bit skeptical. Now that I’ve been, I’m convinced it’s one of the best places to visit in Gothenburg. Situated on a hill overlooking the whole city, the watertower is home to a little café serving fika-style smalls plates, pastries, and pies. There is also a balcony outside where you can walk around and get 360 degree views; on a clear day, like when I visited, you can see for miles in all directions. I had a slice of blueberry pie drowning in hot vanilla custard, washed down with strong, black coffee as we played various tabletop games like Kasta gris (apparently Brits know this game as “Pass the pig”) and Fluxx.
After Guldhedstornet, we spent the evening cooking real Swedish meatballs, attending the local swing dancing classes (which I was entirely too excited about, having been an avid dancer myself in high school), strolling through the local kolonihagen as the sun set, and finally drinking a few beers at one of their favourite bars. Even though it was June, the air begin to have a chilly bite to it as the rays of the sun lengthened and began to fall behind the buildings. I succumbed to wrapping myself in a blanket to ward off the cold, blaming my Southern heritage.
From the coziness of my blanket, I chatted with Olle (he of the glorious Midsommarkrans) and got to know him a bit better after meeting in Alingsås; with Ule-Martin, a Norwegian friend of Pauline’s, we discussed his ongoing PhD in noctilucent clouds and other atmospheric phenomena, which was endlessly fascinating; and I listened to the story of Pete, the Aussie Couchsurfer who decided that he wanted to move to a new country and learn the language, and now lives in Gothenburg.
Were it not for Couchsurfing, I’m not sure I would have met so many interesting people on my journey, and I definitely would not have seen many of the neat parts of the city that Jonas and Pauline took me to or told me about. Because of them, I now consider Gothenburg one of the many cities around the world that I have friends in. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t get to spend much more time with them, as Sunday was my only full day in Gothenburg. On Monday, it was time to continue on to the next part of my journey: Norway.
Read the previous part of this journey here.