Leif Pettersen's Travelogue

The long-winded-niest travelogue on the internet!



Posted on 7/8/03

My very short stint in Gothenburg was nearly made even shorter as I barely made the bus out of Stockholm. What I had thought was a conservative schedule to get my ass to the bus station was completely annihilated after being stranded on the fourth floor of my hotel for 15 minutes. They were making repairs to one of the two elevators, consequently, the one functioning elevator was being severely taxed by all the lazy Germans that refused to walk up or down a single flight of stairs. I stood there in a huff, scowling at the elevator’s floor display as it crawled to one floor, paused for an eternity and then crawled to the next floor. As time dragged on, I seriously debated throwing myself and my heavy bags down the four flights of stairs in the interest of just getting out of the building in my lifetime.

Despite doing my best to speedwalk/jog with my bags to the subway stop, I missed the train that I wanted by about 30 seconds. I had to wait another 12 minutes for the next train which would have still gotten me there in plenty of time if it didn’t make inexplicable, lengthy stops at each station on the way into town. (So it turns out that the trains are unreliable!) By the time I got to the central train station I had about four minutes to sprint the length of the station, get launched to street level by the escalators, cross the street and find my way to gate 38, deep inside the bus station. If I had been anywhere else in the world I wouldn’t have panicked like I did since inter-city buses never leave on time, but I knew full well that punctuality was followed to the letter in Scandinavia. If the bus schedule says it leaves at 9:00 then it goddamn well will pull out at exactly 9:00.

I made it to the bus with no time to spare. All of that running with my baggage had resulted in the expected river of sweat down my back and my condition was made worse when I clamored onto the bus. It was nearly full with prompt Swedes that had all been sitting there for 20 minutes and all those bodies had heated up the inside of the bus to what seemed like a scorching and musty 90°. The bus wasn’t running so there was zero air circulation. I sat down next to the smallest person on the bus, in order to maximize my personal space, and proceeded to flop sweat all over the place. The poor girl must have been horrified as I’m sure that I probably looked like a heroin junkie going through withdrawal.

The bus ride was long. Seven hours. The train would have only been three and a half hours, but the bus was half the price and I planned on sitting and writing the entire time. Well, after four hours, both of my laptop batteries were dead and I was wishing I had had the brains to pay for the train. Unlike Norway, Sweden is about as flat as Kansas, so watching the scenery was not a part of the entertainment schedule. I was too tired to read and the bus driver was driving like he was in the Paris to Dakar Rally, so the constant jerks left and right, sudden stops and hard accelerations kept me bouncing around far too much to sleep. Then God decided to make me even more miserable by causing, of all things, a traffic jam outside of Gothenburg. I didn’t think Sweden had enough cars in the entire country to cause a traffic jam anywhere, but there we were, stuck. I got off the bus after eight and a half hours and lurched to my hostel.

I was heartened to see that the Gothenburg hostel was much closer to the action than the Ibis. Beyond that, the Gothenburg hostel was easily one of the worst hostels I have ever stayed in. Upon arrival, I had to search the entire hostel to find the desk clerk who was hiding in the back of the community kitchen. My free and unfettered wanderings around the hostel left me a little uncertain about security, but that was only the beginning. One bad thing after another came to my attention. The lighting in the place was only slightly better than the lighting in my colon, there was no soap or paper towels in any of the bathrooms - a germaphobe’s nightmare - and there was a surprise charge of 50 kroner ($6.25) for their pathetic breakfast spread.

Not having eaten since 7:30AM, I headed out immediately to find food. My spirits were lifted dramatically by what I found. Pasta Etc., only about a half block from the hostel, looked like a crappy, generic, Italian place a la the Spaghetti Factory from the name, but it was fabulous. Not only was their menu utterly packed with affordable, succulent sounding meals, but I was informed immediately by the cute and friendly waitress that glasses of wine were only 25 kroner (just over three bucks) before 7:00PM! I promptly ordered the house white, got settled into my comfortable window seat and started leafing through all the Gothenburg tourist brochures I picked up in the hostel lobby.

I knew from a previous visit that Gothenburg was a great city, so it came as little surprise that the visitor guide was packed full of groovy things to do and see, even for an anti-tourist like myself. The fantastic food, the cheap wine and the long list of places I wanted to go, put me right back into the mood for some action.

Then it started to rain. Hard. And it kept raining until three hours before I left the city two days later. This was the most terrible, ceaseless rain I had seen in a very long while. I managed to get out to a bar with a fellow hostel resident on my first night. When we left, the rain was lightening up, so I just brought an umbrella, but when God saw this, he opened the heavens and I was soaked from the chest down by the time we got to the bar. Fortunately the bar had Strongbow cider on tap (a rarity outside of England), so I was not miserable for long.

With the rain coming down in sheets the following morning, I ventured out to the local library to check my email in the morning and again, even with an umbrella and a raincoat, I was soaked. I tried to find the courage to venture out and roam the city, but I didn’t have the strength. I spent the entire day either at the library or in the hostel. I was devastated. I desperately wanted to see the city, but my schedule required me to leave for Malmö the following morning, so I was quickly being robbed of the opportunity to see Gothenburg. And I wasn’t the only one. The hostel was full of people hiding from the rain. Despite the hostel’s no alcohol policy, beer was being smuggled in by the six-pack and everyone was shitfaced by 2:00 in the afternoon. I was also disappointed that, if you hadn’t noticed already, the precipitation level was so prohibitively high that I was too chicken to pull out my high price camera for even one photo, lest it choke on the moisture and die an expensive death.

That evening, I sprinted through the rain to Pasta Etc., for yet another delicious meal and three glasses of 25 kroner wine. Again, I was baited into leaving the hostel for a few drinks when the rain lightened up. After we arrived at the bar, it started to piss down so hard that no one wanted to leave. We all got plastered and then finally relented and walked back through the downpour at midnight

On the day of my departure, the rain had nearly abated. I was able to haul myself and my bags to the train station with only minimal water damage. Then, as if on cue, thee hours before my train left, the clouds disappeared and the sun shone with almost a mocking intensity. I locked and alarmed my bags in a train station locker and headed out for an abbreviated tour of the shopping district. I wandered around a huge, domed street mall where I observed several talented street acts and a bizarre, poor man’s candid camera moment. While I was blissfully walking along, I noticed a women standing in the middle of the mall, with her head down, preoccupied with something in her bag. I looked down at the bag and saw a very poorly made lens hole in the side of the bag, sloppily cut and taped up with black electrical tape, as if she had just cobbled it together out in her car five minutes earlier. She had the camera trained on a young man and an older gentleman who were talking to one another. Since they were conversing in Swedish, I was not privy to the subject of the conversation, but I stopped and stared just the same until I was satisfied that I had not just hallucinated the whole incident.

After watching some impressive singer/musicians I stumbled upon my first juggler of the trip. He was just a teenager, doing basic three club tricks. I grabbed a slice of pizza and sat down to watch him. Without a rap and without doing anything too impressive, the poor kid wasn’t doing very well tip-wise. I was debating going up and talking to him. It’s always nice to meet another juggler, but meeting European jugglers is a little different. If you meet a juggler/street performer in the States, usually they will talk amiably with you for a short while and then you go your separate ways. The street performers that I have met in Europe have usually gone a little further and invited me to juggle with them. This usually back fires on them in a big way, because inevitably after 20 years of juggling, I am much more technically proficient than they are and I end up showing them up in front of their audience. They goad and goad until I relent and agree to juggle a little. Then the color drains from their faces as I warm up with five balls and it just gets worse from there. Juggling is a hobby centered around one concept: Showing off. In my desire to wow them, I often wind up drawing a bigger audience than they had before I showed up as I pull out all the stops and then they are left standing there with their three clubs and a newly spoiled audience that clears within seconds of them resuming their usual shtick. Realizing the problems I was causing, I just watch from afar now or flatly turn down their offers to juggle with them.

The lack of action finally got to the teenage juggler. He gave up, packed up and left while I was still eating, so the internal debate of whether to accost him or not was quickly ended. I debated whether or not to wander out of the shopping district and see something more appealing than 284 clothing stores, but time was running short and I still needed to navigate my way back to the station, so I turned around, found the station and boarded my train.

Go to Malmö/Lund

Back to the travelogue index


©Leif Pettersen 2012