Geat Castle: A beginning

As I write this, I’m sitting in our apartment in Göteborg, with the scents of roasting potatoes and onions and the sound of screaming (One of these concerns dinner). Jason has just gone out to try out his new bike with much enthusiasm. Göteborg, it turns out, is a city of cyclists. As we were informed last night, the pecking order is 1) Trams 2) Cyclists 3) Pedestrians and 4) Cars. As neither of us have much interest in getting a car and working out how this mad opposite-side-of-the-road driving works (walking on the opposite side of the footpath is bad enough and has already resulted in a few near misses!), this seems perfectly logical and sensible. Which is the case with many things here in Göteborg. It has the sense that everything is as it should be, and the rules are followed by all. Neatness and politeness rule, from the streets to the design of buildings.

In case you haven’t read the Wikipedia article, Göteborg, or Castle of Geats, is a sprawling city on the west coast of Sweden, full of the clatter of trams echoing off old stone buildings. It is now also my home, for at least the next year or two. My partner and I arrived on Tuesday morning 5 days ago, trailing baggage and jetlag, and have since explored the city with the strange feeling of not-quite tourists. Head to all the major landmarks right now, photographing everything that moved or didn’t? No need. This city will be our home, and the getting to know it has been leisurely.

On our first day, after meeting our new landlady at our new home, we settled a bit and enjoyed the much anticipated showers (OMG a hot shower after a long flight), then headed out for supplies. Bedding and food were the main priority, and thanks to advice from the landlady we found what we needed. This was the first time I was confronted by the quick change Swedes make when they realise you’re an English speaker. Even when you try a bit of Swedish, they tolerantly  and politely accommodate you. I keep wanting to explain that I’ve only been here since Tuesday but they’d probably nod politely while thinking I was a very odd person.

On the second day we set out on another shopping expedition, this time for slightly less life-and-death items such as sim cards and clothes. This involved catching trams, walking, more trams, carrying things and relaxing and eating to make up for all the rest. It was yet another sunny day, very much like the Perth spring we’d left behind. I’ve been told that this has been the last gasp of summer, and the last three days have been descending more and more into light showers and overcast skies, with short bursts of sunlight. Soon I’ll get to discover whether I really am a winter person as I’ve always claimed

.Canal in Göteborg

On the third day, Thursday, we decided to try out the touristy thing, wandering around the city and checking out the City Museum. The pre-history and Viking exhibits were really good, and I loved the open-ended question style of the descriptions in the pre-history room. ‘These tools were found unfinished near a camp site. Why were they unfinished? Had the craftsman been interrupted, and by what?’ The Viking exhibition had the remains of the only one of it’s kind in Sweden, which looked like a pile of planks until you looked down from the second storey and it became ship-shaped. After that things became a bit modern and the English translations tailed off, so went headed out for more adventures. After more wandering we went to Haga, which is one of the parts of town where the old buildings are more intact, with tree lined cobble streets and cafes at most corners. Crowning it was a small fortress, which had never seen battle but which had a lovely golden crown and I believe it’s name related in some way to this adornment.

The fourth day was a chance for both of us to do our own thing and I took myself off to the forest near the apartment. It was exactly what I’d hoped. You know the fairy tale forests with glades, birch stands, hidden valleys and old oaks? Yeah, it was that. When I eventually left the quiet, leafy greenness I felt rejuvenated, my batteries a little more charged.

Which was just as well because that evening we met up with one of Jason’s friends who’s been here for 5 years and who had places to show us. Places that involved food and drink, particularly the latter. We ended the night at Publik, a bar situated underneath the headquarters of Sweden’s most left-leaning political party. I couldn’t make out how much party politics was being discussed, but it was the loudest, liveliest and most un-Swedish place I’ve yet seen. It was pretty great.

The fifth day was when the week finally caught up with us. We’ve both been nursing some sort of cold since we arrived, and myself before I left Perth, which hasn’t been helped by the jetlag and general rushing about. The previous night may have contributed as well… So when we got out of the apartment around midday to get some lunch, our fridge now consisting of margarine, vegemite, frozen beef mince and soft drink, we decided to take it easy. More shopping and another walk in the forest, and the ride I mentioned as the start followed, culminating in the first meal cooked in the apartment.

Göteborg from the forest

As I type this, the passionfruit sorbet next to my laptop is slowly melting to an edible consistency and the patrons of the amusement park across the motorway are still screaming. From the sounds of it the rollercoaster is going around the tracks, perhaps in the time to come I’ll be able to tell which ride it is by the pitch of the voices…

The sorbet is getting edible so until next time, hej då!

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