Getting off the bus at Gothenburg, you walk into a huge wooden shed-like structure that forms the rear of the city’s bus/train hub. If you keep walking, you’ll end up outside at a labyrinth of tram lines. Gothenburg is quite well-connected.
As with every tram in Europe that I’ve ever been on, you can almost certainly blag your way across the tram network for free. There appear to be no ticket inspectors. But being a good girl for once, I invested in a three-day tram ticket to get around the city, and was accosted by a woman begging outside the tourist information booth. I felt bad, but I have bad form with beggars on the continent.
Trams, walking, hostel. This hostel was a reasonable £13 a night – very decent for Sweden – and has a big kitchen. So far, so good! Then I found I was on a top bunk. ARGH. The weather was horrid, and I was unable to locate anywhere capable of serving me a smorgasbord. There was a nearby, cheap-ish restaurant that I could have a carbonara from and read more of Love In The Time Of Cholera (still beautifully written, still disarmingly creepy).
The weather was even worse the next day, so unless I wanted to get soaked, I was penned in all morning. I had planned to walk round the mammoth nearby park of Slottskogen, but the weather and endless partisan political sniping online had put me in an utterly foul mood, so that when it dried up, I only made it halfway through the park before getting into a sulk, walking back to the street by the hostel, and sitting in Ethel’s Cafe, eating kladdkaka – a very gooey, very rich, very AMAZING chocolate cake that was served with whipped cream and berries. This definitely improved my mood.
By an amazing coincidence, I had come to Gothenburg on Walpurgis Night, the day of its famous Cortègen parade. Honestly, I swear I had no idea that I’d be in Gothenburg on a day when a quarter of a million people would be descending on the city centre. It really does seem to be my sixth sense (1, 2, 3). On route to the parade, I stop at McDonalds to go for a slash without getting any food (#PunkAsFuck) only to be thwarted by capitalism – you need to pay to use the toilet in Swedish McDonalds. That’s right: PAY. TOILETS. MCDONALDS. What the hell? Come on Gothenburg, you’re not London. You’re not allowed to charge for the facilities.
After sticking the requisite coinage in with some bladder-swollen anger, I queued up for an hour for a parade that was meant to start imminently. It took an hour of waiting in the cold and being jostled by camera-wielding Swedes, but when it did start I was more than pleasantly surprised, because it turns out that Swedish people be cray.
It was a mish-mash of minor technological wizardry – unusual, but then the carnival is organised by Chalmers University of Technology, and has been for over 100 years – and plain madness in the form of satirical floats based on whatever newsworthy things have been happening over the past year. The likes of Luis Suarez biting Giorgio Chiellini and Brazil being humiliatingly drubbed 7-0 by Germany in the World Cup were on show, between ones recreating Seth Rogen and James Franco’s North Korean-skewering The Interview.
There were also a number of Russia/Ukraine-themed floats, and occasional groups of cheerleaders that were definitely being leered on by some of the hetero boys around me. For the hetero girls, the sole piece of ‘eye candy’ was the guy in Speedos whose vehicle broke down so, in an attempt to distract onlookers, he laid on a beach towel and pretended to sunbathe. Well, I do like a man with a sense of humour. [All the pictures are HERE on this photoblog.]
I had been planning to go to Liseberg – commonly thought of as the best theme park in Scandinavia – for a long time, as it had opened for the year just a few days before I arrived. I’d looked up opening dates, times, rides and prices (it was only £32 for a day’s entry, which was cheaper than shooting guns for an hour). So on the tram I hopped early* in the morning (*10am), only to find I was there an hour early. Oops! Having had no breakfast, I needed to source and locate some grub. After 10 minutes’ fruitless wanderings, I happened across a small cafe which sold little in the way of food – except for some sandwiches. So I bought a sandwich.
…Which turned out to be A FUCKING MASSIVE SWEDISH SANDWICH, stuffed to the gills with lettuce, Brie and ham. Now, Brie is OK in small doses, but this was like trying to eat a whole cheese counter. As for the lettuce – a few bits of lettuce, I can handle (if only so people don’t judge me for being a massive fatty and picking it out). But again… this was a whole forest of lettuce leaves. Not the best thing to eat before going to a theme park. I feel a bit sick thinking about it.
Still reeling from eating a lifetime’s worth of Brie and lettuce (even though I only ate about a quarter of the lettuce. Still too much), I returned to the park and was sad to see I was the only person by myself. Theme parks are one of the best things in the world, but going alone is somewhat unedifying.
Helix, their biggest and fastest rollercoaster, was phenomenal. Extremely fast, extremely twisty, made me laugh hysterically with fear the whole way through – basically, a really great ‘coaster. (How do some people not like rides? Why wouldn’t you want a mad adrenaline rush?! Unless you’ve got some kind of condition or fear that prevents you from enjoying it – in which case, that explains it quite well.) I went on it three times, enjoying it each time. This was followed by a go on the swingy thing, which was surprisingly good, and more enjoyable for the fact that my ‘king of the world’ type pose amused several other ridegoers.
There was also Atmosfear – a Tower of Terror type affair without the tower around you, except that the trip up to the top is so deceptively slow and peaceful that I genuinely thought I’d misunderstood the concept of the ride and that it was actually a sight-seeing type thing. About two seconds later, we plummeted down at a velocity my body did not realise possible, and I actually screamed. I, Jen Steadman, fearless queen of theme parks, screamed on a ride. I never scream on rides. To quote Simba from The Lion King, I laugh in the face of danger! But not this time. This time I thought the sweet release of death had finally come for me.
The actual sight-seeing ride was called the Liseberg Wheel and is basically a smaller, not as cool London Eye that is cheaper and faster and gives you two goes around. (Eyyy.) More excitingly, there was Balder – one of the world’s biggest wooden rollercoasters – and, again, I was petrified. There’s something about wooden rollercoasters that feels inexplicably more dangerous than a non-wooden one. This shit be fast. Kanonen was also fast, but reassuringly metal; the speed at which they fire you off with is thrilling. Although if you don’t put your head against the headrest like they tell you to, you will get whiplash or something.
They had a new ride called Mechanica, an extreme version of those rides that swing you back and forth and get progressively higher. This not only swings you upside down, but each individual seat ALSO rotates you upside down. So you’re being rotated twice. I had high hopes for it. Due to its newness, my hopes were dimmed somewhat by waiting for an hour by myself, including 15 minutes in a torrential downpour. It was my third frightening ride of the day. Apparently multiple rotations wrecks your nerves. Bear in mind that I enjoyed all the terror – I just increasingly began to wish I had someone to share it with.
However, with the weather hereafter committed to sending a month’s rainfall to Gothenburg in a day (…mild exaggeration) and my loneliness beginning to get the better of me, I was unable to find good food and trudged back to the tram stop, got the tram back to Olivesdalgaten, and bought a really classy meal from the corner shop of microwave Swedish meatballs and mash, and some Ben and Jerry’s. LIVING THE DREAM.
I came away from Gothenburg feeling quite disappointed – not in the city, but in myself. The sad thing is that I liked the city; I just wasn’t in the mood for it. The weather sucked, people weren’t particularly sociable – something I found across the Scandi countries – and I missed my then-boyfriend like hell (mainly because he really, really sucked at keeping in touch despite my best efforts). Theme parks are awesome and Liseberg is great, but if you have no-one to go with, it makes you feel very lonely and a bit creepy. This is pretty much the only downside to travelling alone.