Smultronställe – (Swedish) – Pronunciation: smUl-tron-‘stel-e. Literally a “place of wild strawberries”; a special place discovered, treasured, an underrated gem of a place, often with personal or sentimental value.
Go to Gothenburg. It’s a wild little city – I imagine it is the dirty little cousin to grand old Stockholm. Gothenburg is a well loved coat or old faithful vintage jeans to Stockholm’s expensive show stopping party dress. Gothenburg is Stockholm if you gave it more vowels, a can of cheap beer and showed it a good time.
Stockholm may have the unobtainable cool but Gothenburg is all rain, bicycles and late night bars and, it seemed, the perfect city break. Luckily my friend was living there on his Erasmus year and promised us, despite the dismal state of our student loans, Gothenburg was not an opportunity to miss.
Thirty quid return booked, we hopped on the plane last minute with barely 100 quid in our pocket. Our suitcases were lined with Cup-a-Soups and crackers. Gin was bought duty free and squeezed into our case which were already overstuffed with thick jumpers to brave the weather and party dresses to seduce stylish swedes.
And stylish swedes there were. Easily the most beautiful people I have ever seen: more beards and blonde babes than you can imagine. Record shops, vintage emporiums and sweet coffee shops at every turn, it could easily be brushed off as just another hipster playground. But this is a hipster haven with a civilised soul. While it is equal parts cobbled streets and vast stone architecture, nature also winks at every turn. You can spy the vast greenery from behind the rained streaked window pane of a tram(which we hopped off and on for free following the advice of a homeless man) or spot the sun socked trees while cycling around the canal. But by far the greatest views were found by the coast. We ran through parks down to the harbour where we hopped on a ferry and visited the neighbouring islands. The sights were spectacular. If there ever was a city to discover on foot – this is it.
The days flew by in a blur of museum trips, morning runs, late night gin fuelled cycles and more shopping than I’d care to admit. We baked and attended fancy dress parties (missing the theme completely), we sang the Moulin Rouge medley at the top of our lungs on a ferry stuffed with reserved swedes. Gothenburg did not disappoint. Simply put, there is no greater pleasure than being led around a city by someone who knows, and adores, the place. I would return in a instant.
photo credit: Kirsty McKenzie and Kenneth Pritchard