07/03/2017 - 07/05/2017
There's nothing like the feeling of getting started on a European road trip. As soon as we got back on the bridge over the Øresund, my mind was filled with anticipation of all the exciting places ahead of us. The mood was only slightly dampened by the huge and unexpected sixty dollar bridge toll. We hadn't had to pay on our first crossing from Malmö back to Copenhagen, although I'm not sure why. Of course, it made sense that the costs of bridge construction be born by those actually using it rather than by the entire population through taxes. God knows the Danes and Swedes pay enough of those already.
We had an uneventful drive to Gothenburg, punctuated by a single stop at a farmstand for strawberries and tomatoes. Once we arrived we went straight to our Airbnb in the nondescript residential suburb of Brämaregården, on the other side of the Göta River from central Gothenburg. Like Copenhagen, Gothenburg had a number of market halls and once settled, we drove immediately to one called Kville which was very close by. The market was nearly empty on a Monday evening, but the delicatessens and groceries on the first floor looked very appetizing. Upstairs we were able to put together a very satisfying dinner from a Peruvian ceviche restaurant and a Turkish grill, washed down with Czech Krušovice beer.
It was still early and we didn't want to end our day without seeing downtown Gothenburg, so we drove across the bridge and then underneath the city center via a subterranean highway. We emerged close to the Haga district, a picturesque and bohemian pedestrian area. As we were driving, a very colorful and ornate church caught our eyes and we decided to park and take a closer look. It turned out to be Oscar Fredriks Kyrka, a beautiful example of 19th century neo-Gothic architecture.
As the kids blew off energy in a playground next to the church, the clouds grew thicker and greyer bringing a premature end to the long midsummer Scandinavian day. We needed a supermarket to stock up on milk and other supplies and fortuitously found one on the central island of Inom Vallhaven, across the street from the indoor fish market Feskekörka. The fish market was closed, of course, but the kids enjoyed the playful sculpture of working fishermen outside the market.
We woke up the next morning well-rested and alert, ready for a full day to absorb the essence of Gothenburg. The kids had breakfast in the Airbnb's cozy kitchen, and then we went back to the car. The apartment was in one of a group of buildings that surrounded a large courtyard, in which some people had small vegetable gardens. It was interesting to see the environment that most of Gothenburg's inhabitants call home, an experience that is usually missed when staying in hotels.
We arrived back at Feskekörka an hour before the ten o'clock opening time. I hadn't even checked the hours, assuming a fish market would open early in the morning. Rather than wait around, we walked to the Saluhallen market hall which is also located on Inom Vallgraven. I'll probably put my foot in it here, but I believe Vallgraven refers to the moat that turns the historical center of Gothenburg into an island, and Inom Vallgraven means "the area within the moat". The moat is all that remains of the original fortifications of the city, the formidable twenty-foot stone walls having been torn down in the early 19th century. Thanks to the low bridges, the moat is now only in use by Paddan sightseeing boats. Walking alongside the moat, we could see the pretty green space of Kungsparken on the other bank.
Saluhallen was already open, but we were practically the only visitors. It was a very modern, clean market brightly illuminated by the sun which filtered in through the greenhouse-like roof. We were pleased to have the market almost to ourselves as we wandered between the different stalls packed with gourmet delicacies. We found a cafe and ordered coffee and sandwiches while I made some purchases around the market to complement our meal. By the time we left, I was happy to see the market getting a little more populated as the early lunch crowd began to arrive. Outside in the square there were a few fruit and vegetable stalls where we picked up some perfect cherries for the kids.
We spent another pleasant hour walking around the eastern half of Inom Vallgraven, which was partially pedestrianized and filled with shops and cafes. We explored the pretty little park around the Gothenburg Cathedral, after which we climbed the hill behind Feskekörka for the view over the canal to the rest of the city. We frequently encountered the little touches that make Scandinavia unique, such as the Zen-like gardens of glass shards that lined the stairway back down to the canal.
Feskekörka was quite busy when we returned, and the seafood selection was very diverse and appetizing. There was a fairly crowded restaurant upstairs and we couldn't resist sitting down for another meal, especially once we saw they had wolffish on the menu. Despite having just eaten at Saluhallen, we found the room to consume some excellent seafood dishes. The wolffish turned out to be flavorful with a somewhat dense texture, a little like triggerfish. We resolved to try it again when we had the chance. Feskekörka actually means fish church in Swedish, and the name refers to the unusual design of the market that was inspired by Norwegian stave churches.
After lunch we drove to the Universeum, a highly-regarded science museum which contains a multi-story rain forest with live animals. The kids loved it, especially the maze of suspension bridges and spiral staircases within lifelike trees.
Between the rain forest and the play area, it was practically dinner time once we got out of Universeum. We drove back to Haga but the restaurant I had selected was booked solid. We walked around for a while and couldn't locate another real restaurant, instead encountering a preponderance of sandwich shops and cafes. I still thought we would find a decent restaurant nearby fairly easily, given that we were still in the center of the city, so we set off eastward along the main boulevard Vasagatan instead of returning to the car. Unfortunately, we spent almost an hour walking an ungodly distance yet completely unable to find a place to eat, despite the assistance of TripAdvisor. Adding to our discomfort was the sudden appearance of a sharp evening chill as the sun began to descend. Eventually we found ourselves at a Thai restaurant with a good rating more than a kilometer from where we'd started. We had to eat in an outside booth whose plastic walls did little to block out the increasingly icy wind. We hurried through our dinner, which despite the pleasant appearance of the restaurant was just on the edible side of awful. Walking back to the car in Haga in the cold dark was unimaginable, but fortunately we were able to flag down a taxi on Vasagatan. He seemed shocked that we were taking just a one kilometer ride, but we were all inside before he had a chance to turn us down. It wasn't an ideal ending to what had been a great day, but that's the nature of traveling. A few bad meals and annoyances aren't that high of a price to pay for all the amazing experiences we've had on our adventures.
On our second and last morning in Gothenburg we went to the park west of Inom Vallgraven called Trädgårdsföreningen, which translates roughly to Garden Society. The park was beautifully designed with serene pools, lush gardens, and an amazing topiary. Naturally there was a playground which had one of the roundabouts that are ubiquitous in European parks. Our older kids tried to keep up with the some bigger local kids who were spinning it faster and faster but both of them eventually gave up the game as well as their breakfasts in the bushes.
For lunch we returned to the scene of the previous night's downfall in Haga. This time we were able to get a table at Sjöbaren but the lunch menu was very limited. We ate enough to tide us over to dinner, but it was nowhere near as satisfying as the previous day's double lunch. We found Haga much livelier during the day than it had been in the evenings, and spent a pleasant half hour wandering up and down its cobblestoned main drag Haga Nygata. There was a lot more we could have done with another day or two in Gothenburg, but our itinerary demanded that we get back on the road. Norway, the last country of our round-the-world trip, was waiting for us.