CultureShock - Day One: Gothenburg

The Flight
August 12th, 2009
Checked luggage: 1 Backpack
Carry-On: 1 Messenger Bag and 1 hiking-stick/tripod.

The flight was long, but smooth. The greatest challenge was transporting a 4 ft hiking stick that unfolds into tripod. Air Canada has a sports equipment registry, but a phone rep said it was unclassifiable. Saint John airport didn't seem to care. “Just bring it on the plane with you” the security guard said. The airflight attendant stashed it behind the back seat of the plane. Of course something like that wouldn't fit in the over head of that mosquito they call “the plane to Montreal.”

Munich Airport

I had to pass through security again at Munich airport. They deemed the hiking stick a weapon and checked it at the oversized luggage counter at no cost. I considered myself very lucky avoiding additional luggage fees. My backpack weighed in at 67 lbs (the limit is 50 lbs). God bless the lax people at the Saint John Airport. Not to mention the good designers at Eureka! for making a backpack that can handle that weight without a single tear.

The Arrival
Gothenburg - Pop. 622,000 (Over 910,000 in the metropolitan area)
August 13th, 2009
Gothenburg - Canal

My sense time and location at this point was completely obliterated. Watching Start Trek XI on the plane didn't help. I inspected my gear as soon as the plane landed in Gothenburg. I had nightmares of finding my microphones cracked in half or my beloved king-sized jar of peanut butter ground up with my clothing (I was warned about the price of peanut butter throughout Europe. 150g costs how much?). Everything was intact. Perhaps more difficult than flying with this awkward mess was carrying it! The messenger bag, aka man purse, went on first. I knelt down as I put on my backpack so I wouldn't have to lift it too high , then pushed myself off the ground with my hiking stick. It felt like a large dead animal was strapped to my shoulders. After less than a minute, my hands turned beat red. The straps were cutting off blood circulation to my arms.

Getting on the shuttle bus without falling over was a challenge, but I made it without injuring any bystanders. I had no idea where I was going. Luckily there was a rack of maps at the front. The original plan was to call a cab or find a bus, but it looked like the hotel would only be a 15 minute walk from the final stop. Without the dead animal on my back, that estimation would be correct. With it, the trek required a 2 hour break at the harbour.

 

As I sat there waiting to regain feeling in my arms, a group of twenty-somethings gathered in front of me looking very nervous. They constantly scanned their surroundings. They were standing at the edge of the dock beside a small motor boat that was tied up. I thought “Are they going to steal that boat?” when suddenly they stripped down to bathing suits and jumped in the water. “Woo! Göteborg!” one of them shouted. They tread for about a minute laughing and trying to drown each other, then jumped back up on the dock. Within 2 minutes, a harbour security boat came down and a guard on foot. He talked to the rogue swimmers for a second, laughed and sent the boys away. The guard then inspected the motor boat, looked over at me and said something in Swedish

“Sorry, I don't know Swedish”
“Is this your boat?"
“No”

He looked down at my gear, then back at me with a sarcastic smirk.

“Good luck!”

My hotel room was a pleasant surprise. No, I'm not a spoiled brat dead against hostels. It was the same weekend as Way Out West (a large music festival I will write about in my next posting). Every hostel in town was booked solid; even the ones with Swedish-only websites (thank God for translate.google.com). Anyway ... the hotel was clean, modern, had free breakfast in the morning (a wider spread than your average continental), free self serve waffles in the evening, free WIFI and a prime downtown location for a reasonable price - about 700 SEK a night (a bit over $100 CDN). The room was snug, but the layout and appliances used every inch of space to it's full potential. Very smart design.
Comfort Inn - Gothenburg
Once I got settled, I headed out to explore downtown Gothenburg and find some grub. I ended up at a pub called The Bishop's Arm. The food was so-so, but the beer was amazing. I asked for something local. I have no idea what the waitress gave me, but it was delicious. It was a golden red ale with a head like cream; it wouldn't fizz away. A very natural taste.

 

After supper, I went to pick up my wrist band for the Way Out West festival. The will call desk was at a restaurant on Gothenburg's busiest street. When I left, a girl on the street asked me something in Swedish. I asked if she knew english.

“Where did you get your band?”
“My bag?”
“No, your wrist band.”

She was blond, about 5' and a half, blue eyes, very pretty … immediately I thought of a story to say like “Oh just down here. I gotta grab my buddy there. I'll come with you.” Remember, as George from Seinfeld once said “It's not a lie if you believe it.” I thought of supporting information like if she asked “What's your buddy's name?” I would say “Wheels” because I really do have a buddy named Wheels who I thought of inviting on this trip. After starring at her awkwardly for 5 seconds, I wussed out and just pointed down the street.

“There. Down the really crowded one. A place called Scandic or something. Number 24 … I think.”

George Costanza would be disappointed.

FAQs leading up to the departure date
Q: "What language do they speak in Sweden?"
A: Seriously?

Q: "Do you know any Swedish?"
A: No.

Q: "Are you scared?"
A: No.

Q: "Are you going alone?"
A: Shut up! You're freakin' me out, man.

More Photos from Gothenburg

http://www.flickr.com/photos/41812587@N06/sets/72157622196337390/with/3875016060/