Monday, June 13, 2005

hej då, Göteborg

[file under: Wingin' It]

oh boy. Göteborg turned out be quite the surprising little adventure.

So, I managed to find a hostel that would take same-day bookings over the web and made a reservation before I left Oslo. The confirmation email said that the checkin time was between 4-6 so i sent them an email saying that I would be late.

Got into Göteborg around 9:30 and checked my email for the reply from the folks. And what do I get? An apology from them that the earlier message was incorrect ! they were all booked for the night. They gave me another hostel's # to call, which was nice of them. Call them and the cost of a room is 700 kronor! so i then try to call as many phone numbers I can find (and this being Sverige, it's 2 bucks everytime you lift the receiver). Finally I found only a hotel that i was referred to by another one since they were full. This was 500 kronor but it was a hotel and included breakfast the next AM. Out of choices(the sleeping in a park was shot 'coz it was raining out :), I said OK. Asked for directions from Central Station and couldn't understand a word of what they told me. So I said I'll look on the website & they gave me the url.

Type it - and it's all in Swedish. No english option anywhere at all. Sitting there baffled, I asked the guy sitting in the next kiosk if he knew where it was. He asked for the address, walked off to talk to someone, and comes back and is looking on the web. I realize something's odd - look over his shoulder and he tells me he's googling for it. In French. Turns out he's also a traveller like me, from Paris. It was nice of him, but we got nowhere. So, I said my thankyou's and walked over to the bus station (the train station was just about shut) and wanted to buy a map. The only store open didn't have one ! but the three ladies behind the counter conferred among themselves and managed to give me some sort of directions. I have to say, that was really kind of them.

I walked out of the station, and follow the directions and along the way realized something didn't add up. It was almost 11 by this time, streets were pretty much deserted and I was getting a bad feeling about this. Then, one of those unexplainable mysteries occured.

Litter. In Scandinavia !

Thrown on the side of the street, and soaked wet, was some kind of map. True Story ! So I picked it up, and it was some kind of map of a shopping mall that was supposed to be in my path. Followed it, stopped a few more people along the way, and finally found one of those big city map boards. Figured out where I should be going. And, me being me, decided to take the scenic route. Pretty soon I found myself at some sort of deadend facing smokestacks. Luckily, the hotel was around the corner. Phew. Warm Shower. Sheets. TV. Heaven.

Woke up yesterday morning, had a hearty breakfast, walked to the train station, made reservations for the next trains and walked around town. I like Göteborg. It doesn't seem as compact as say Amsterdam, but it has canals, cobblestone streets, the entire package. Found myself near something called the Universeum. This is the Swedish Science Center or some such and has an aquarium that traces the path of water from the Swedish highlands all the way to the ocean. It's on several levels and has lakes, streams, rivers, and even an ocean with sharks in its huge aquariums. The next section is a rainforest with piranhas, birds flying about, even an anaconda ! Very cool.

Walked over next to the världskulturmuseet - the world culture museum - and strolled through an amazing exhibit on voices from Africa. Everything from the music of bob marley to the history of voodoo, slave trade to immigrants in sweden. Awesome - I highly recommend a visit to this place if anyone is in town. It's free to boot.

It was getting late for my train, but managed a walk through the ridiculously charming grounds of Göteborg University. Bought myself a chorizo sausage at a roadside stand and this was dinner, eaten along the banks of a canal.

Found my train and made it to Malmö. From there, got on a night train that stopped after 20 minutes or so. Turns out it was loaded onto a ferry! Asked the conductor and he said the ferry ride was 3 hours long. And, we could go onboard. Headed out to deck with a backpacker couple from Seattle, bought ourselves a 24-pack of Carlsberg from the duty-free shop, and proceeded to get ourselves piss-drunk over a game of 3-man :-)

Now, am in what I think is the coolest city I have yet encountered on this trip - Berlin. Why so cool? I was strolling around East Berlin this afternoon, and walked into a junkyard-type alley. Among the painted trailers and broke-down cars, I found what looked like half a helicopter all graffit-ed over. Flying proudly next to it - the Indian tricolor !!! Funky !
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