There’s something definitely special about getting on a train. Maybe I romanticize train travel a bit — but I’ve been on quite a few trains and I haven’t stopped getting that slight adrenaline rush when I get settled into my seat (preferably by a window). Maybe it’s the simple excitement of travel, the anticipation of arriving in a new place with new adventures to embark upon. I’m an unashamed people-watcher and one of my favorite things to do while train traveling is casually observing my fellow passengers: an older woman intensely reading, parents trying to contain their energetic children, couples leaning against each other, solo travelers, like me, with backpacks and passports and similar eagerness.
While on the train to Aalborg from Copenhagen for the first time, back in February, I was nearly shaking with nervousness. Of course, I wasn’t used to the Danish system and I probably looked like an obvious newcomer as I clutched my only belongings from home. Luckily for me, another woman who was also traveling alone sat across from me. As we struck up a conversation I felt my anxiety slowly ebbing away. Betty, my newfound travel buddy, explained that she was on her way home to Gothenburg after visiting a friend in Denmark. We talked almost the entire ride to Aalborg and became good acquaintances. Before I left, she offered to let me stay with her and her cat, Miau, if I was ever to visit Sweden. We were able to stay in contact and this past weekend, I was happily able to take Betty up on her very kind offer.
Gothenburg is a really beautiful city. I feel like I have been spoiled by gorgeous cities during my time abroad: Copenhagen, Oslo, Edinburgh — they’re all stunning and very photogenic (as you might be able to tell).Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like I had enough time in the city to get a true feeling for it — impossible in a weekend — maybe I’ll be lucky enough to visit again one day. For the time that I was there, I was lucky to have a local show me around.
I feel that there’s a side to Gothenburg that doesn’t immediately reveal itself to newcomers. However, Gothenburg is one of the more unique cities that I have been. It felt like the majority of Gothenburg was covered in parks and natural spaces; forests seemingly creeped in on the city and tried to take over. I wasn’t used to hearing Swedish and I have to say, I prefer it to Danish. I can’t help but smile when I hear the strange inflections. It’s a bubbly language, while Danish is more rocky. I don’t know how else to describe it.
Betty walked me through a few parks, one of which was a large public zoo (completely free) complete with an eclectic mix of moose, horses, goats, penguins and seals. Other parks we walked through had natural waterways and were so huge, it was hard to believe the city was in the immediate proximity. From taller vantage points the Gothenburg skyline was interrupted by patches of voluminous green trees. Another interesting thing about Gothenburg was the vintage tram system that is still in operation throughout the city. Although Betty described the trams as “noisy and bumpy,” I wasn’t dissuaded to test them out. Indeed, they are noisy and bumpy, but charmingly nostalgic. Although they might not be the most convenient/comfortable way to get around, they definitely gave the city character.
Of course, a city with so much green space has an amazing botanical garden. I love plants (reading about them, looking at them, etc.) and so the botanical garden (one of the largest in Europe) was at the top of my must-see list. I definitely wasn’t disappointed. I could have spent days at this garden and not have seen everything. I wanted to disappear into the rhododendron forest that somehow contained almost all colors of the spectrum. Nature is a wonderful designer, if you ask me.
We were also able to visit the Swedish countryside as a short day trip. Betty’s friend generously allowed us to use her car for the trip, and we made our way to the 4th largest island in Sweden, Orust. Coincidentally, Orust’s sister city is Aalborg, so, naturally, it was the perfect destination. Of course the weather was that familiar combination of cold/rainy/windy (not surprising in Scandinavian spring time) for the duration of our excursion, but I would like to think that it just added to the experience. The island probably would have looked very different with a blue sky and sunshine from the moody low-lying grey clouds and drizzle we had. Despite the weather, I wasn’t deterred from exploring the island’s quaint neighborhoods (with what I assumed were vacation homes) and quiet forests.
It’s back to Aalborg and back to work. As of now, I’m struggling through the last bits of my semester project: polishing, straightening out citations. All the not-fun parts of academic writing. But I get to turn it in on Monday, and I’m happy to say that my project partner and I have a solid piece of writing that I can be proud of. I’m also missing Swedish kanelbullar, (aka amazing cinnamon rolls made with Swedish magic). Can I get some shipped to me in Arizona, please?