Moments from our weekend getaway to Sweden
I went to Gothenburg, (Göteborg) Sweden for a little weekend holiday with my friend Lauren (loulabellerose.co.uk) a few weekends ago and it was the perfect mix of exploring somewhere new, and getting a very relaxing chilled out holiday! I have well and truly fallen in love with Gothenburg. For some context, I’m originally from a small city in Northwestern Ontario, where the Northern influences run rampant. Our approach to this trip was explore, eat as many pastries as possible, find #accidentallywesanderson buildings on every corner, and to just fall headfirst into the traditions of hygge and fika.
I grew up surrounded by Nordic influences, Thunder Bay has the biggest number of Finnish people settled outside of Finland, I myself am Finnish (it’s hard to be from Thunder Bay and not be). And recently I’ve realised how much of my upbringing was actually quite strange… It’s strange to grow up somewhere that you have to fly at least an hour to get to the next big city, it’s strange to grow up somewhere with so many different cultural influences, where I ate traditional Indigenous foods alongside traditional Finnish, Polish, Ukranian, and Italian foods and just never realized quite how diverse it was.
I spent my entire Christmas holiday at home practicing what I call “the hygge” (pronounced incorrectly as hih-gee). Hygge is a Danish concept of coziness, and of wellness and contentment. It’s become a very trendy sort of thing back home, there’s a new shop called “hygge loft” that sells Nordic things (I’ve never been, so I’m assuming). So I butcher the pronunciation (it’s actually pronounced “who-guh”) and add a “the” to the front because I’m trying to be cool and ironic. It’s not working, but it makes people laugh. My mom always just says it means “hunkering down for the winter” which isn’t entirely true, but it was when I was home. We would sit and do a puzzle (sidenote: NEVER buy a Van Gogh puzzle), we would light tons of candles and cuddle on the sofa and listen to TV shows play, or, when the power went out in a snowstorm, the radio dispatch. Naturally, when I came home to a cold and empty apartment at the end of the holidays, it was a bit heartbreaking.
I was in desperate need of a holiday after a month of blues, of poor-paying tourists and disappointing tours, and of missing home. We flew to Gothenburg late in the day, AND our flight was delayed (TWICE!) so when we landed it was late and we went straight to our Airbnb with the idea of ordering pizzas. We took a taxi and even though everything was so dark on the drive, I looked out my window and saw snow covered trees and big sheer rock faces on the side of the highway, and I felt like I was on a drive home from a day out in Grand Marais.
Gothenburg (or, in Swedish, Göteborg) is the coziest little city. In the summertime the Liseburg amusement park is open and it’s quite the tourist hub, but this time of year it was quiet, and comfortable, and we were some of the only tourists around. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and spoke perfect English to us as soon as they realised we were tourists. Usually the language barrier is a bit intimidating, but it wasn’t something we had to worry about at all! The flights there were cheap, the accommodation was cheap, and the public transport was a dream! All in all, it was the perfect place for a wintery holiday getaway.
Our accommodation was a studio apartment we found on Airbnb. I *love* Airbnb, by the way. I love it so much I wrote a whole blog post called “Why You Should Try Airbnb“. Read it before continuing on. We mostly booked this place because it was the cheapest with our dates, it was a bit out of the centre but that just made it the extra bit cozier! It was decorated in the traditional Scandinavian style, very minimal and Ikea-esque with tons of character. Loads of plants, white walls and cupboards, fairy lights and candles dotting the shelves. With the snow falling outside, the candles lit inside, and ‘friends’ playing in the background on the TV, I felt perfectly at home. Every night we settled in with some pizza and hygge-d to our hearts content.
Every morning we would walk into Haga, a neighbourhood just outside the core centre that is riddled with the cutest cafes imaginable. In Kensington Market in Toronto there’s a cafe called Fika, years ago I went there and loved it so much I wrote an entire blog post on it (something I RARELY do, but I should do more really). Fika has a few definitions but generally is seen as the Swedish practice of taking time to have coffee and pastries with loved ones. Fika Cafe in Toronto, while it’s a lovely place, is strangely a little too refined, giving it too much of a hipster-esque to really get a sense of fika. While frequenting the cafes in Haga, I got a sense for the true meaning of a word I’d long since thought I’d known.
These cafes had real candles burning at every table, they had rustic antique chairs and tables and walls littered with beautiful art and prints – oftentimes looking like they had been brought out of your grandmother’s attic. When you went up to order you were faced with beautiful glass display cases brimming with traditional nordic pastries like semlas and (my favourite) cinnamon rolls. I had grown up on Pulla (braided Finnish bread) and the cinnamon rolls were like individual sized rolls of Pulla, and they tasted like home. I ate a cinnamon roll every morning, and even had one giant one from Café Husaren on our first morning (swiftly realised it was too big for one small human). We also tried to have as many different pastries as possible… but always came back to the cinnamon roll!
Some lessons learned in Sweden: A coffee and a cinnamon roll in the morning (fika) is a sure way to have an excellent day. A warm room full of candles, fairy lights, and good company, and a snowy landscape through the window (hygge) is an excellent way to end an excellent day.
Lauren’s Vlog: A Weekend Away in Gothenburg, Sweden