A Travellerspoint blog

Copenhagen

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Maybe I was tired when I got to Copenhagen, a bit jaded after nearly six months on the road, or maybe it was the greatness of Stockholm and Gothenburg, but I didn't really take to Copenhagen, couldn't summon up any enthusiasm to see any of its attractions. I walked about the city a fair bit: I imagine its centre is as old as Stockholm's but it has not been preserved in the same way, is instead a pedestrianised shopping area, bright and glitzy.
Shopping Street

Shopping Street

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I was impressed with the number of bookshops - one I spent at least an hour in, checking out its stationery and English book collection, and came out clutching several completely unnecessary pens and a marked down copy of Murakami's 1Q84. Just as well, as I finished the Game of Thrones on the train from Gothenburg and couldn't quite face the next one, which is lurking in my bag. Little did I know that not long into 1Q84, I'd be facing an assassin, although she's more Stieg Larsson than George RR Martin.

Outside the centre, I found the buildings to be quite cold and unwelcoming - a lot of grey, or very straight-edged brick buildings - but I did find a couple of things to amuse me as I wandered: a cheerful Christmas market, a factory making an unusual product.
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Factory

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Best of all was Paludin Cafe - just around the corner from the central public library, it was an antiquarian bookshop started in the 1950's which had a relaunch in 2000: most of the books are gone, but the bookshop still operates, with the space opened up turned into a flourishing cafe, open from some hour in the morning I don't even like to think about until 10:00 at night. It was always busy and getting a seat among the books was a mission, but I made several visits. The food was good, the coffee was certainly OK, the beer was slightly less than eye-gougingly expensive and the staff were nice.
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Speaking of food, I found a very traditional Danish kitchen/pub near my hostel (the biggest in Europe - the hostel, not the pub, which was half a dozen tables) and found that at least one of their traditional dinners was not a whole lot different from a New Zealand one: roast pork, roast potatoes and veges although they added in a red cabbage pickle and these wizened up sugared potatoes. I also found another restaurant with woeful service: my server was cheerful and delivered my meal promptly, then went home and I was forgotten. After I finished, I sat waiting to be noticed for about ten minutes, very ostentatiously put my coat and bag on and lingered at the deserted bar for another while, stood outside for at least five minutes - no-one paid me any notice, so I ended up stomping off. Of course, then I started to panic about the level of security cameras in Copenhagen (it turns out they trialled them but the Chief of Police decided they were a waste of time) and was even more perturbed to find a police car outside the hostel.

Opposite the Paludin cafe, there is a grand brick building, through the windows of which I could see very high wooden bookshelves and old leather-bound books: I so hoped it was a library, and indeed it had been, but is now research space for graduate students. The public library was nothing special and totally packed - to the point I needed to retreat to the cafe to work at one stage.
Old University Library

Old University Library

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I was staggered by the number of bicycles in this town - many buildings had a line up similar to the one outside the public library. Of course, that was not the only library in town, and if it hadn't been for the Paludin, I'd have abandoned it after my first visit. Apart from a couple of grumpy library staff and the amount of noise some made walking (boots on hard floors are not a good combination if you want a silent environment), the Royal Danish Library was a fantastic place and just around from the hostel.
Royal Danish Library

Royal Danish Library

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The library is on the river which runs through Copenhagen: beside it, is the "Dome of Visions" - they built a house, of sorts, and put in a bunch of plants and then put a dome made from perspex panels over it. Apparently this is the way forward for sustainable living: when I saw it, I thought it an idea that won't catch on, but have actually seen similar things in my subsequent travels. Behind the library, you have the Royal Library Garden and then the Parliament.
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Just a couple of random photos - the Round Tower was built in 1642 as a combined church, library and observatory, and now houses a cafe and lets people climb laboriously to the top to get a slightly elevated view. I think my favourite building in Copenhagen is the old Stock Exchange, which was actually built at the same time as the Round Tower, was used to trade various things for a couple of centuries and is now a function venue. The spire is apparently a good luck charm - the nearby Parliament has often caught fire, but never the Stock Exchange. The last tow photos? No idea, sorry.
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Posted by NZBarry 18:06 Archived in Denmark Comments (1)

Gothenburg - Cafes and Libraries

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Cafes and libraries are what make me tick on this journey: I need the latter as a space in which to work and the former to give me the sustenance to work. Although I never actually made it into the central shopping area of Gothenburg until my last night when I thought I should at least see it (and immediately wished I'd spent longer there because it did seem, unusually, quite delightful), I found plenty of the good stuff elsewhere.

My walk in from the hostel would take me along a street called Andra Langgatan, a semi-bohemian area with three record shops (one of which had a shabby-genteel coffee shop run by grand-parents), lots of cheapish places to eat, some funky clothing shops, a couple of live perferomance venues and half a dozen bars. I was amused to see the Kings Head and Queens Head side by side, one packed and the other deserted - pubs really are all about the vibe. As I said in my last post, I found a pub which spoke to me, the Rover, which was on this street.

After a kink, I'd then walk along Haga Nygata, one of Gothenburg's oldest streets, which had been workers' accommodation but has undergone quite a transformation: mainly nice wooden buildings, it is a mix of good cafes and boutique shopping. A couple of the side streets running off it were classical in their lines.

I became a bit confused by some of the cafes - they had piles of food, mainly sweets, laid out haphazardly, as if I was supposed to help myself: it looked a bit like the Italian aperitivo but with cakes, I didn't quite know how to navigate this experience so opted for cafes with more traditional cabinets - I could still try a different cafe on Haga Nygata each day.
Haga Nygata

Haga Nygata

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My first couple of days, I then had a fairly long walk along Vasagatan - the main public library and university library were at its far end. Gothenburg University is pretty strange, in that it has a very small campus, but many buildings strung out along Vasagatan.
Vasagatan

Vasagatan

large_270_IMG_0113.jpgGothenburg University

Gothenburg University

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Up near the public library, I found a great cafe - the coffee itself was a bit average, but they had nice cakes and people, and had a big pile of fresh bread and butter you could help yourself to (at least, I HOPE so) but best of all, lots of brocaded sofas I could cosy myself into with my stolen bread and a book (still going with the second Game of Thrones, although the violence wearies me, and I wonder how someone can write so casually about rapes, murders, beatings and pillaging) - Eva's Paley. While it can trace its history back 70 years, the cafe had a complete refit just last year.
Eva's Paley

Eva's Paley

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I'd walked past a building which intrigued me, way back at the other end of Vasagatan.
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Eventually, curiosity got the better of me and I had a good old nosey - I could see books inside.It turned out to be the Economics library of the university - I took up residence here for the rest of my stay.
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Near the end of my stay, I went up to the Volvo museum - while I was trying to find the right bus stop (had to ask three people), I noticed a nice looking cafe, so nice that I made a bee-line for it when I returned from inspecting Volvos. Criminally, I failed to record its name, because I loved the vibe of this place, including the wall covered in records (behind glass, so I couldn't get a decent photo).
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There are so many more places I didn't see here, so yes, Gothenburg is another of those places I'd love to come back to.

Posted by NZBarry 17:07 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

Gothenburg - Not Gothic but Volvo Central

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I really knew very little about Gothenburg, just had ideas about gloomy, stone, spikey people, no I meant churches, well maybe people as well, and that my train was going through. I hopped off for a five night stop, and it is a great city - helped by the fact that, curiously enough, the sun was out most of the time I was there. I did see one shop which sold goth-related gear and there was a club which had a goth night, but that was about it. I saw lots of record shops (i.e. selling actual vinyl records), but they were more likely to sell Neil Sedaka or coffee and cake than Fields of the Nephilim. The churches were largely cheerful brick buildings. Not far from where I was staying, in a former jail now hostel, the Rover pub made me very happy - 32 beers on tap, the ones I had (including an IPA from famous Danish brewer Mikkeller) were fantastic.

I also had one of the best meals of my trip while I was in Gothenburg - I'd noticed a restaurant (Rustica) with a daily special of beef bourguignon and thought that would be nice. What I didn't know was that instead of cutting the fat out of the beef or even cutting it up, they just cooked it very slowly as one large chunk: delicious. One table of fellow diners intrigued me. For a start, they didn't dine - one of the three fellows nibbled at the hard bread put free on the table, on one of his rare pauses from talking. He looked like he was lecturing - very intense, gesturing, deliberate. Another fellow, green jersey matched with horribly bright orange trousers, took notes. The third fellow, very natty, complete with bow-tie, questioned. When the note-taking one took a break, the other two went for their smart-phones, every so often sharing screen with the other. Maybe it was a job interview, maybe an oral examination or maybe they just had an odd way to socialise.

My big touristic endeavour was to go up to the Volvo factory. Way back when Volvos were big, chunky, square cars, I really wanted one but they evolved and even with my eccentric approach to car purchases think that the old ones are getting a bit long in the tooth to be a sensible acquisition. I had actually hoped to go on quite a special tour of Gothenburg: a fellow has a small fleet of Volvos from the 1950's, and lets people drive them in a bit of a convoy, but he'd stopped for the season. So going up to the factory was the next best thing - it took a couple of buses to get there,
large_IMG_0117.jpgthe second one went right in to the depths of the site, past all sorts of buildings- a bit like a really big, industrial looking university campus.
There wasn't actually a tour inside the factory to see the cars being made (which would be cool), just a museum showing off the company history. It started out as a bearing manufacturer, SKF, which is still going - Volvo was the name of one of their products. At the start, it was a two man (Larson and Gabrielsson) company with one desk - they kept this desk the whole time they were together, and would stamp on the floor or bash it with a broomstick to communicate with the workmen down below.
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Their first car was a bit of a botch-up: they installed an important part of the gearbox backwards, and that was the direction the car would go. 14 April 1927 was the big day for their first public display - not bad looking for a first effort. Within a year, they had one with a roof, the PV4, and sold 700 of them. Top speed was a credible 55 miles an hour. Then came a 6 cylinder version, the PV651, in 1931, a wee bus and a 7 seater taxi that was "impossible to wear out".
First Volvo

First Volvo

PV4

PV4

PV651

PV651

large_IMG_0137.jpgUnstoppable Volvo Taxi

Unstoppable Volvo Taxi

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In its first twenty years, Volvo was only selling its models in the hundreds - to succeed, it needed a hit. Post World War II, it produced the PV444, a "little black hump-backed car" (sounds SO appealing), planning to sell 8,000 - but ended up selling a staggering 200,000 of them. I don't know why they planned to sell 8,000 as they had pre-sales of more than that. I can't say I like the look of them, but this is the model that the fellow who runs tours around Gothernburg uses - I would have had a go at driving one given the chance. In the early 1960's, it had another success, with its P1800 sports car: Roger Moore drove one in TV Programme, The Saint. He (or the production company) didn't look after it very well: it was found in 1982 in a paddock in North Wales, engine on the back seat and in a very sad state. Nearly 40,000 of these were made.
PV444

PV444

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P1800

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If you look on trademe, or see Volvos on TV, you might be forgiven for thinking that they only make station wagons, and yet they didn't even start making them until 1953. This one was bought by the Volvo employees to give to the boss on his 60th birthday. Coming into almost modern time, the Amazon was made until 1970 and then we finally get the first of the boxy Volvos, the 164 and the kind of Volvo I'd really still quite like to have.
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Amazon

Volvo 164

Volvo 164

Volvo 262

Volvo 262

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Volvo don't just make cars and buses - there was a big exhibition of their machinery and of their trucks, and of a stupid looking concept bus where the driver sits in the middle, and finally, a Volvo made from Lego.
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Posted by NZBarry 18:34 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

Stockholm - Odds and Sods

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Apart from the two tours I took in Stockholm, I didn't actually do very much that could be called organised. I tended to just wander around, so that my trips back from the library could take hours to accomplish - mind you, it was about 5 km away. There was nothing closer - I thought I had found one, went in, sat myself down and was ready to get settled when I found myself escorted from the premises. It was a library, yes, but for "ungdomen" - young people. Somehow they knew I didn't qualify.

In my wanders, I tried hard to get a good picture of Riddarholmen Church, the burial ground of the monarchs. It is the oldest church in town, one of the oldest buildings, although it has not been used as a church with a congregation and masses and the like since 1807. It is huge and is an enclosed space, so the best I could do is a little sacrilegious. I did better with the rather pleasant looking S:ta Maria Magdalena kyrka, which I'd walk past twice a day.
Riddarholmen Church

Riddarholmen Church

S:ta Maria Magdalena kyrka

S:ta Maria Magdalena kyrka


One officially touristic thing I did do was visit Fotografiska, a three storey building devoted to photography. I went in at about 7:00 in the evening and was surprised to find hordes of people - obviously a popular spot. I had two favourite photos, both by the same photographer, which I enjoyed for their sense of whimsy. When I was done with the photos, I went up to the restaurant on the top floor for dinner: didn't really appeal, but I found a band doing sound-check - they sounded so good, I stuck around and ate, late, elsewhere.
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Nadja Al-Malki @ Fotografiska

Nadja Al-Malki @ Fotografiska

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The band was called Nadja Al-Malki, and were delightful - they sang in English, were sort of pop-jazz, very cheerful and fun. As far as I can tell, no-one in the band is actually called Nadja Al-Malki. I have found a couple of videos, but they are collages rather than performances of a single song

From various vantage points on Södermalm, there were good views of the Old City, which was to the north with a hint of east, and then further east the harbour opened up a little. The big brick building in the fourth photo is the town hall - it is where they hold the Nobel banquet and apparently is very flash inside. I haven't found confirmation, but I was told that the tower was a bit of an after-thought, added to ensure that the Stockholm Town Hall is taller than the Copenhagen Town Hall. The three Crowns on top probably relate back to the period when Sweden, Norway and Scania (part of Denmark which was pawned to the King of Norway) were ruled as one.
Looking in to Old Town

Looking in to Old Town

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As always, I have a couple of photos of buildings I like, but have either failed to identify them or can't remember what they are.
large_WP_20141123_008.jpgRandom Bridge, Stockholm

Random Bridge, Stockholm


I do know what the building is in these last photos - the Stockholm Public Library. I had intended to go to the State Library of Sweden, because state libraries tend to be rather grand, but in Sweden, they seem to have put the books in the wrong building - the State library is a grotty little thing, so I didn't even go in. The only problem I found with the public library was that the acoustics in the reading room are fantastic, so when they put in a fellow to perform some sort of half-spoken, half sung play-poem-song, it was a brilliant place for him and his audience but not so great for people using the library.
Stockholm Public Library

Stockholm Public Library

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Posted by NZBarry 16:10 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

Off to Stockholm

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More trains, about a dozen of them, for a journey of about 8,000 km exclusively by rail. I am counting a short ferry ride, because the train will be on the ferry with me although I understand we will be released from the train. The one out of Oslo left so early that I had to forego my delicious free breakfast. The train was in an older style, quite high and rectangular, although modern inside. The one thing that marked it as a Scandinavian train was the use of blond hardwoods for trays and finishings - otherwise it was grey and bland. As was much of the journey - no sign of sun anywhere.

As I arrived at the edge of Stockholm, I worked out what I had expected and not found in Oslo: a sense of grandeur. I am not sure which suburb the train entered through, but it went past a sequence of tall, gracious buildings - all with golden-yellow walls and orange tiled roofs. While in Stockholm I learnt about the reason for the yellow walls, and it has nothing to do with its evocation of gold. Back in the day, noblemen had their houses painted (they'd NEVER paint them themselves) a deep red colour. Aspirants and no-hopers copied them, wanting to show off a bit and because the paint, being made from a by-product of copper smelting, was cheap, relatively speaking. So the noblemen, not wanting to be associated with the riff-raff, found the most expensive paint on the market - a golden-yellow coloured one. If you walk around the oldest part of Stockholm, you'll see this is the colour of most of the buildings. Even my hostel was painted that colour, although it was far from grand, and far from the oldest part of the city - it is at the western end of Södermalm, which is (I think) the most southern of thr 14 islands that are in Stockholm city. It is an old fashioned looking building, not close to anything, and I was initially dubious but came to enjoy it greatly. Apart from one night when I shared a room with a fellow off to tramp around in the Himalayas for the 14th time, I had the room to myself, there was plenty of space and a nice bar I'd have a closing beer in at the end of the day.

Södermalm has one modern claim to fame: it is where the Girl With a Dragon Tattoo is set: the buildings used in the movies for the Millenium offices, Milton Security and the houses in which Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist lived are all here. On my first day in Stockholm, I actually did a Dragon Tattoo tour with a fairly batty lady from the library and got to see these places and learn a bit about Södermalm, an island/suburb I actually enjoyed. Some clever spark has gone about and created little wasps in the rocks near Blomkvist's house. I actually came here because of the movies, particularly the cool bars: never found any of them, but did get to visit a couple of the coffee shops. While I was waiting for the tour, I had to keep out of the way of the filming of some soapy TV programme
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Milton Security

Milton Security

Blomkvist house

Blomkvist house


TV Show scene

TV Show scene

Södermalm Pedestrian street

Södermalm Pedestrian street

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At the same time, I loved walking across the causeway - I had the choice of going past Parliament, which had an island all to itself, which I thought was a bit at odds with its policy of being open to the people, although it does have a very busy pedestrian thoroughfare going past the front door, which connects with a very long (3 km or so) pedestrianised shopping street.
Swedish Parliament

Swedish Parliament

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The alternative was to duck to the right after the causeway and walk though the old town, which is what I did every day, once I worked things out. It is a maze of little streets.
Old Town Street

Old Town Street

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That last little alley is Mårten Trotzigs Grand, the steepest and narrowest of them all. It leads up to a rather pleasant square, the iron square, called this because this is where the city's official iron scales were, to control all trade through the city. Now you'll see the first ever central bank. The wee man standing outside is not a banker, but a famous local troubadour, Evert Taube. Walking further up, you'll notice some odd things on the walls - when a building was insured, a shield would be put above the door, so the fire brigade would know they would be paid for their efforts. The floors came through the walls, and had a pin inserted to make them secure - the style varied according to the builder and the era. There is also the one surviving Viking rune.
Central Bank

Central Bank

large_WP_20141124_004.jpglarge_WP_20141124_001.jpgInsurance plaque

Insurance plaque

Floor pin

Floor pin

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Viking Rune

Viking Rune

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In another square, there was a Christmas market, quite colourful but it never seemed very popular. I was going to try some of their Christmas drink, glogg, until I was told that the version sold in the streets has no booze in it. What's the point. The market surrounded one of the scariest fountains I've seen!
Christmas Market

Christmas Market

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Up at the top end is the Royal Palace - which does not look very glam, but is enormous! I was on a tour when I first saw it - there are stories about the Swedish Royalty straight out of Game of Thrones, or perhaps which inspired some Game of Thrones stories. There was the mother of the King, Catherine. She had used her influence to install him as King, thinking they would share power, or she'd control him. He proved to quite like being King and was not amenable to his mother's wishes. So she spread rumours among the noblemen that he was illegitimate (as Joffrey actually is) and he quickly fell out of favour. I should really have taken notes, because the other stories are mere flutters in my memory.
Front, Royal Palace

Front, Royal Palace

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The architect who designed the Palace was permitted to build his own house right next door, which created something of a challenge, as he couldn't just build himself a skodie little cottage. The house he did build, Riddarhuset, is "the most beautiful house in Stockholm" - I'm afraid I can't see it. Apparently it is nice inside, and being occupied now by the Mayor as his official residence, it is opened to the public twice a year.
Most Beautiful House in Stockholm

Most Beautiful House in Stockholm

Posted by NZBarry 13:50 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

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