Peter and Elizabeth - RTW 2009-11 travel blog

Down at the water as the clouds roll in. Pretty grey!


Let's go that way - it looks like blue skies!

On the ferry to the Fortress

In case we forget where we are!

The main gate at the fortress

More of the fortress

And more

A view of the city from the boat

August 27, 2010

When we woke up this morning I noticed that the crazy old lady was still asleep. It was almost 9am and everyone else in our room had left except us two and the nutcase. Give “quiet time”, which she obviously sets her watch by, was over at 7am, I put the TV on and I deliberately put it on loudly solely to disturb the crazy old lady. I wasn’t even watching it! When she went out of the room a short while later she gave me an evil look and then she left the door wide open. After she had gone out I closed it – it is an 8-bed dorm room and she isn’t the only person who has bags and valuables in the room and there was no reason for her to leave the door open. It was almost as if she thought she owned the room and could do what she wanted. She marched back into the room and, in her gracious and witty style, demanded why I had closed it. I told her that it was safer for everyone staying in the room and their belongings if the door was shut and thought this was an entirely acceptable reason. Her follow up response was to ask me if I was taking any pills. I couldn’t believe what she was trying to allude to and it was pretty obvious what she meant. I asked her to repeat what she had said and she asked if I was on medication for mental issues and “crazy problems in my head”. At this point I had enough of her and I told her she should probably leave the room unless she really wanted to get into an argument. I told her she was a complete nutcase and she had no right to think she could boss people around like she had been as well as spreading malicious gossip about people she knew nothing of. However, being the confrontational old hag she was, she decided to sit on a chair opposite our beds and barked a couple more orders at me. By this point I couldn’t be bothered and I ignored her and turned the TV back on loudly and continued packing. Her patience wasn’t up to much and she walked out after barely 30 seconds of her scary staring. Oh, had I mentioned how bad she smelt? She had a really bad body odour problem and after she had gone I was able to clear my nasal passage and made a loud comment about being glad the stink was gone. Childish, I know, but fun nonetheless!

After this Elizabeth popped out to a bakery and grabbed some breakfast and lunch stuff and I finished packing up. I didn’t want to have my shower until Elizabeth came back as I didn’t trust the woman not to do something to our bags if she came back. I have to admit I was a bit petty just before we left though as I made sure I kept shutting the bathroom door on more than one occasion after my shower, knowing full well it annoyed the crazy old bitch!

We had a while between checking out and our bus so we hung out in the little café downstairs eating our breakfast before we walked to the bus stop. We were about 20 minutes early for our bus but this soon turned into a much longer wait. The bus was coming from Stockholm and had been held up by an accident. By the time it had turned up about an hour late, we had made friends with a local guy who was giving us tips on things to do in Goteborg. I was a bit wary at first because he reeked of alcohol and Elizabeth does attract some strange people at times but he turned out to be really friendly and helpful. He even told us we could get a refund for our bus tickets as the bus was over 40 minutes late! That is good information to know! Once in Goteborg we got a bit confused trying to find out where the hell we were going as the directions given by the hotel on their website were not very clear. We eventually found a really helpful lady who told us exactly which tram to take and where it would drop us off and she even told us where to buy the tickets!

We had decided to stay at a proper hotel for the next few nights as a treat from the dorm rooms. Having had the problems with the bugs in Stockholm and then the problems with the old, wrinkly bug in Orebro we were certainly glad of the change. The hotel claimed on the website to be 10 minutes from the centre but after a 10 minute tram ride and a 15 minute walk we had barely reached the reception! Thankfully the reservation was all OK and we were soon in our nice, reasonably spacious, very clean, private room with lights we can switch on and off when we want, a TV we can watch when we want and as loud as we want and a bathroom we can close the door to if we want! Such small pleasures can really brighten up your day!

Our hotel was a bit over our budget but we had been under budget for the rest of Sweden and this place had advertised that the room rate included “breakfast and a light dinner”. We weren’t sure what that would actually be as it was a bit vague but we had high hopes that it would help us save on our food budget. We weren’t disappointed either, and in fact were pleasantly surprised. The dinner buffet consisted on three different types of salad, new potatoes and a variety of meats from burgers, sausages, pork, chicken and steaks. We also had free tea, coffee and even water – that is a luxury in some places! We both ended up stuffing ourselves and decided that this was definitely a good hotel choice, even if the trek from the centre had been a bit longer than the 10 minutes mentioned on the website!

August 28, 2010

After a good, completely undisturbed night of sleep in a comfortable bed, we got ready to head out and went for breakfast. With expectations raised after last night we weren’t disappointed here, either. They had plenty of choices of cereal with dried fruit and nuts, eggs, bread, jam, cheese, salami, ham… It is kind of hard not to stuff yourself with so much choice and Elizabeth certainly fell into the trap of having eyes bigger than her stomach!

We had bought Goteborg cards yesterday which lasted 48 hours and gave entry to a few attractions around the city and so we started the day heading out to one of them. We caught the tram to the main harbour and from there we took a boat ride out to the Alvesborg Fortress. The boat ride was about half an hour and was quite pleasant. Once at the fortress we found out that the included tour was in Swedish unless we wanted to wait around for two hours. We decided to walk around for ourselves and explore the castle. It was quite nice wandering around as the weather was pleasant but the fortress itself was a little disappointing. Most of the pictures we’d seen had been from above and showed its amazing star shape but from ground level it wasn’t actually very big and you couldn’t get any idea of the shape unless you stood in one place where you could see most of the corners jutting out.

We got the ferry back and then had a walk through the main shopping area, heading towards Universeum. Universeum is a “science discovery centre” and included an aquarium area. It seemed quite set up for children but we decided to give it a try and see what it was like. Much of the aquarium focused on local waters and fish and as a result it wasn’t the most exciting aquarium we’ve ever seen but at least it did try and teach you about the location rather than just have loads of tropical tanks. They also had a rainforest area which was full of birds and monkeys including some brightly coloured and loud parrots! The rest of the building was more setup for education and given it was a Saturday and the place was teeming with children, we decided to leave after the animals!

We had bought the Goteborg passes for 48 hours and today we had done the two most expensive things we had wanted to do and they had already covered the cost of the card. Whether they provided value for money or not is another matter!

We went back to the hotel and had a laze around before another good buffet dinner. It is so nice having a private room with nobody else to bug you and where you can lie and watch the TV or sleep in peace and quiet. We’ve been trying to stay in dorm rooms more and more in Europe as it is so expensive but this place was honestly worth the extra just for some relaxation.

August 29, 2010

Today we visited two of the museums in the city – the Naturahistoriska and the Art museum. The Natural History museum was supposed to be well known as it has the largest stuffed blue whale on display and we both had high (and large) expectations! Most of the displays were of the stuffed kind and there were hundreds of birds and mammals on display as well as some skeletons of various animals. They had one of a rhinoceros which told how the horn was not bone or ivory as I had thought but was in fact mostly muscle tissue. At least I learnt something today! They also had a curiosity cabinet which included Siamese twins in a jar amongst other weird things. As for the blue whale, it was a bit disappointing. It was a juvenile male so it was not as big as a full grown adult but was still about 16.5 metres long. The taxidermy work left a lot to be desired though as the skin had been visibly SCREWED together. The whale was stranded and died in waters near Goteborg in 1865 so I suspect the taxidermists of the time thought they had done a great job although now it looks quite messy and rough. There was also Smilet, the alligator, who was 66 years old when she died and was thought to be the oldest of her species in captivity at the time. Just like yesterday though, we felt that the museum hadn’t been very good and we discussed whether museums like this really have a place now given the growth of aquariums, zoos and even the accessibility of safaris where you can see most of these animals alive. Alongside this, you have the growth of the internet where you can research and see any creature you wish and the depictions and details are often much better than seeing a stuffed version in a glass case. I guess for extinct animals and large dinosaur skeletons (this museum was so excited to show off the exact replica they had!) there is still a need for show but do they need their own dedicated museum spaces? I suspect not.

After a brief stop for lunch consisting of sandwiches made from stolen breakfast ingredients (!) we went to Goteborg art museum. The majority of the pieces here were of course by Scandinavian artists including 3 or 4 paintings by Edvard Munch. It was good to see more of his stuff as his Scream painting is so well known but I’m not sure I could recognise anything else of his. They had a small collection of impressionist art but it was pretty good including a van Gogh, a couple of Monet’s as well as some of Degas’ ballet dancers. It wouldn’t be an art museum though without a Rubens and this gallery obliged with two large works by the Flemish artist. They had a contemporary art space too although all the descriptions were in Swedish so it was hard to get anything out of them. The Hasselblad Centre within the museum housed their photography collection and this was pretty good. It was interesting though to note that unlike many other art museums it does not have its origins in royal collections but is a result of the work and donations of the people of the city itself.

There ended another day of sight-seeing and we were soon back at hotel in relaxation mode! We’d done all the attractions we wanted to here and we were glad that we’d have tomorrow to lie in and just do as little as possible!

August 30, 2010

Elizabeth took having a lie in to the extreme and didn’t even get up for breakfast but by the time she surfaced just after 11 she was starting to get hungry so I got ready and we caught the tram into the city. Last night when we were making the long trek back from the tram stop, I had noticed a tram going down one of the side roads nearer to the hotel. I asked reception where the closest stop was and the girl there pointed directly up the road opposite the hotel, barely a 2 minute walk away! On the plus side, at least we’d been getting some extra exercise for the past three days but the biggest plus was that tomorrow we wouldn’t have to drag our bags quite as far! A number of places in the city had lunch specials but many of them were still around 120 Krone which is around $16. Given we had dinner included and it had been filling and tasty we didn’t think we needed to spend excessively on food. One of the best offers along the main pedestrian shopping area was actually the Hard Rock Café so we decided to go there for lunch especially as I can get 10% off! Lunch didn’t actually work out as cheap as planned as unfortunately Hard Rock stocks the very tasty Starporamen Dark beer and we both felt obliged to have a large glass to accompany our cheap lunch. My lunch was 80 Krone and my pint of beer was 89 Krone! We didn’t fell too bad as we had done really well in Sweden not spending too much, greatly helped by the hospitality of Claus and Goy in Helsingborg and being able to purchase multiple day museum passes.

After lunch we had a slow walk back along the main road and stopped in a book store which was selling books in English for 25 Krone (just over $3 each). After a good look around we ended up with five books which is great as it means we have plenty to read but not so great for the weight we’re already carrying around. Having now decided to spend a couple of weeks in England after Denmark I have already started trying to work out what stuff in my bag can be left behind and what stuff I really don’t need. I think my hand luggage has grown to be almost as heavy as my bloody suitcase!

It was nice to have a day with nothing to do and it gave us some time to try and talk about what we wanted to do going forward. More and more recently we have found that we aren’t taking much in from some of the museums we go to and we are increasingly racing through them. This was really the case in Goteborg but has been symptomatic of much of Europe. It is almost as if Europe is a bit too easy to get around in and you don’t have the challenges of getting around, interacting with the locals and a sense of relief/pleasure when you get to some remote, not that we’ve been anywhere that remote yet really. I also think, although there are a lot of exceptions, that much of Europe is very similar. Sitting having lunch or dinner in a restaurant or walking around some of the streets some of the places in Northern Europe all seem to blend together. Of course you have things which set one out from the other, like Amsterdam’s canals, but that isn’t completely unique as we saw with the canals in Copenhagen. Looking back through our trip, the things we’ve enjoyed more which have really stuck out have been the large, ancient ruins – Petra, Angkor Wat for example – rather than the cities. Despite wanting to stop at lots of places in Europe we may well skip over a lot of it now in favour of getting down to Greece and Turkey sooner and then heading on to India. I think Elizabeth is still a bit wary of India and the crowds and poverty but I suspect that when we actually get there it won’t be as bad as we imagine and will actually provide more of the amazing sights we seem to enjoy and get more out of.

We have an early start tomorrow to get a 9am ferry back across to Denmark so we made sure we packed all our stuff tonight and were ready to go. Having lazed around much of the day (and Elizabeth getting up late AND having an afternoon nap!) we weren’t very tired so I’m sure we will be tomorrow when the alarm goes off early!

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