00.08 Lördag, 11 Maj, 2013
I’ve had another busy few days this week – this time, I went on a three-day trip to Göteborg (pronounced ‘Yuh-teh-bor-ee,’ and known as Gothenburg in English) in southwestern Sweden, and Norrköping (pronounced ‘Nor-shup-ing’), which is between Göteborg and Stockholm. You can see them on the map here. I went on this trip with some of the same people I went on the last cruise with, and we had a great couple of days exploring Sweden outside of Stockholm!
On Tuesday, we woke up very early to go to the Central Station to catch our 05:59 (!!) train, which took us the nearly 500 kilometers to Göteborg in just over three hours. Since we had slept on the train, we naturally needed some caffeine when we arrived, and in the Göteborg station, we found the first Starbucks I have ever seen in Sweden (apparently there are only three in the whole country). However, I was very disappointed – all the coffee I have ever had in Sweden was better than the coffee I had at Starbucks. No wonder there’s not many here; Swedish coffee is just so much better!
A canal in the center of Göteborg
After finding our hostel, we walked through a large city park that even had a free zoo complete with penguins! After this, we had lunch and then visited Stadsmuseet, the City Museum, where we saw the remains of the oldest Viking ship ever found (mainly just a few wooden planks). Then, we went to an amusement park, called Liseberg, which is the largest amusement park in Scandinavia. Although it was rather expensive, we had a good time, and we spent the rest of the evening there.
Entrance to Lisebergs Nöjespark
The next day, we walked around the city to see the main sights, and we went on a boat tour through the canal and the river. Göteborg has many cherry blossoms, and we happened to be there during the short period of time that they are in full bloom, so everywhere we turned, we saw sights such as the one in the picture below!
Cherry Blossoms in Göteborg
Because Göteborg has always been a very important city for Sweden, it was fairly heavily fortified in the past with a moat and large bastions surrounding the city center, as well as two large defensive towers called redoubts located on hills on the north and south sides of the city. The northern one is called Skansen Lejonet, because it has a gilded lion on the top, and the southern one is called Skansen Kronan, because it has a gilded crown on the top. We climbed up the hill of the southern one to have a closer look.
On the boat tour that we went on, we were taken through the protective moat that goes around the city center and into Göta älv, the river that flows past Göteborg. Many of the bridges that we passed under in the canal were very low, and some of them were so low that we even had to get out of our seats and crouch down on the floor of the boat in order to pass under! In the main river, we passed by the old shipyards (only one is still in use) that were part of what made Göteborg so important for Sweden. We also passed a building on the edge of the water with the word Amerikaskjulet written on it, which is where, throughout the nineteenth century, millions of Swedes boarded the ships and set sail on a one-way journey to the United States.
A street in Göteborg
After the boat tour, we walked around in another park in the center of town, then headed to the train station to catch our evening train to the city of Norrköping, which is about two thirds of the way back to Stockholm. The reason we added Norrköping to our itinerary was mainly because the total price, including accomodation, was actually cheaper than just taking the direct train back to Stockholm. However, it turned out to be a very interesting stop, and it gave us an interesting story to tell…
When we got to our platform at the train station, we discovered that our train had been delayed by about 25 minutes, and that the train that was waiting at our platform was not actually ours. So, we waited 25 minutes, and shortly after that, our train arrived. However, we couldn’t board it for several more minutes, and when we finally did, we left Göteborg about an hour late. In order to get to Norrköping, we had to change trains in a little town called Katrineholm, but since the first train was so late, we were clearly going to miss the second train. We did not know how we were going to get to Norrköping until we were pulling in to Katrineholm, and the conductor said that there would be some form of transport for us at the station. So, we got off and waited in front of the station, along with a few other people who had also missed their connections. After about half an hour, a taxi-van showed up to take us to Norrköping, which was about 60 kilometers away. So, we got in the taxi and about 45 minutes of foggy countryside later, we arrived at the central station of Norrköping, around 23:30. Fortunately, our hostel was very conveniently located – it was on the second floor of the train station! However, when we got to our room, we discovered that there was another woman already in the room. This would not have been a problem, as there were eight beds in the room, except that the woman had been told on her reservation that she had a female-only room. She seemed rather annoyed at us, but after a midnight call to the owner of the hostel, she was assured that everything was okay, and she finally let us come in to the room. So, in the end, everything was fine and we made it to Norrköping – just three hours late.
When we were waiting for the first train, from Göteborg, we were rather surprised that the train was so late, because usually in Sweden, everything is on time right down to the minute. However, we were happy that we were able to get to our destination so smoothly; I have a feeling that if we had been in a similar situation with planes instead of trains, it would have been a lot more stressful! It turns out that the reason for the delay was that the previous evening, a fire near one of the tracks southwest of Stockholm had caused train traffic going south out of Stockholm to be delayed, and the delays were still being resolved when we left Göteborg.
On Friday, we woke up and set out to explore Norrköping. It turns out there was plenty to explore for a town I had previously known nothing about! Norrköping used to be one of the largest industrial centers for Sweden, and along the shores of the cascading Motala ström (the river that used to supply hydropower to the town) were many old factories, several of which are now museums. We visited a few of the museums, including Stadsmuseet (Norrköping’s City Museum) and the Arbetets Museum (the Work Museum), which both focused on the industrial history of Norrköping.
A waterfall in the old industrial area of Norrköping
The old industrial area of Norrköping
After spending some time in the museums in the city center, we walked along the river to a large park on the edge of town, where we ate lunch and then went to see a very important part of Swedish history. Norrköping is home to the densest collection of Viking rock carvings in Sweden, with several thousand individual carvings throughout the city. In the Himmelstalund park, you can see several hundred of them, so we walked through the park to have a look. In the picture below, you can see some of the carvings – most of them represent either Viking ships, people, or animals. There are also some carvings that relate to the rituals for the Vikings’ sun-god.
Viking rock carvings in Norrköping
After seeing most of the carvings that are visible in Himmelstalund, we stopped to play a round of mini-golf, then walked back through the park and along the river to get back to the town. We then took a quick walk through the town center before heading back to the train station to head back to Stockholm. I think the trains were still recovering from the delays of the previous day because our train was about 15 minutes late. However, we made our connection and arrived back in Stockholm around 23:00, concluding my final mini-trip of the semester!
Himmelstalund park in Norrköping
Now, I’m back in Stockholm for two more weeks while I finish up my studies and take my final exams. Then, at the end of May, I will travel for a few weeks before returning home to Texas in mid-June. But more on that later…I should probably study now, and enjoy my last days in Stockholm!