Last time I blogged I said I was taking a week off on my eye consultant’s advice but this has turned into many more weeks than originally thought.
Still no improvement on the eye front but having another series of eye injections. One eye has more or less given up on me, and the other is stable at the moment but has periods of behaving badly. Bright sunshine makes for difficult days when I have to keep the blinds drawn indoors and can’t venture outside and my reading, computer work and tv watching, are all drastically reduced.
However, I did manage to get away for a 3-day trip to Gothenburg for a 50th birthday party which was brilliant. No time for sight-seeing, as it was purely to visit family and talk but great to be able to hug and be hugged by family again.
And last week I was invited to lunch in the New Forest with a friend who was driving there, making it all possible. We had a glorious day and we drove through the wilder parts of the forest, avoiding the towns and villages, pretty though they are, and just enjoying the sight of the wild ponies and donkeys along the roadside.
We had a late lunch in the lovely old Ship Inn on the Quay at Lymington (high recommended by the way) and watched the swans in the water for a few minutes before catching the ferry back to the Isle of Wight. A few pictures here of my day out.
Meantime, I’m still rationing my time online, time spent reading and time watching TV but I’m now managing to read some of the blogs from those I follow. I don’t comment yet, but I’ll be back soon!
The Göta Canal which links Sweden’s two cities Stockholm and Gothenburg, runs through the heart of Sweden. A one-way trip on one of the historic ships that plies the route takes 6 days; it is like a journey into another world.
Cruising through archipelagos with thousands of small islands, one river, eight lakes, two seas and three canals with 66 locks (in one case ascending 91 metres) the ship makes several stops at places of interest along the way.
The ships used were built between 1874 and 1831 and are considered historically important. Furnished in a period style there is neither radio nor TV on board any of the ships, and the use of mobile phones is discouraged. Between 40-50 guests are accommodated in small cabins about the size of a sleeping compartment on a train with bunk beds and a wash basin with hot ad cold water. Communal showers only, I’m afraid, but the food makes up for it.
Fresh lake fish every day, game from the forest, the freshest of vegetables and saladings, lots of the berries for which Scandinavia is famous and of course that marvellous coffee and cake.
This journey along one of the world’s great canals is an experience like no other but is only available during the summer months. And in those cabins you really get to experience what travelling was like in the 19th century on board these ships that carried immigrants from rural Sweden out to America.
The 190 kilometres of the Göta Canal were dug out by hand between 1810 and 1832 and it runs from Sjötorp in the west to Mem in the east, it is three metres deep and approximately 14 metres wide.
In Sweden last week, and despite the -4 degrees, I had one of the best walks I’d had in Gothenburg for many years. I’ve always loved the city but on earlier visits to family, we’ve stuck to the areas I know and enjoy.
My first visit is always to the Feskekorke – quite literally translated as “fish church” – where fishmongers have been hawking their freshest wares since 1847 and where the shop in the basement and the restaurant up top can satisfy both the inner and outer gourmand. Sweden’s fish, in its quality, is the best in the world in my opinion.
Then there’s the Avenyn, the wide Boulevard that runs from the centre of town up to the Konstmuseet, where one can see works by Van Gogh, Picasso and Rembrandt, and some truly delightful 19th-century Nordic art, including the beautiful, evocative paintings of Carl Larsson. The old part of town is known as The Haga, well worth a visit to browse the chic boutiques in the narrow streets full of old Swedish charm, and to people watch from the cafés that serve everything from vegan to high-end Scandinavian food. Many of these are housed in pretty 19th-century wooden dwellings that not long ago were slated for demolition.
Skansen Kronan, on Risåsberget Hill in the Haga district.
I never seemed to get beyond these places, partly because of the numerous coffee shops selling cinnamon buns that I found it difficult to resist. In Gothenburg, independent coffee shops are the rule: ask for a Starbucks and you’ll be directed to the train station where you’ll find the only branch of the chain in the city. Coffee comes strong and black but there us always milk on the side. In many places, a second cup comes free.
This time in Gothenburg, however, we went somewhere quite different.
The Gothia River, which cuts through the city, was home to the massive Swedish shipbuilding industry between the mid-19th century and its demise in the 1970s, much like the shipbuilding industry in Scotland and Belfast.
At its peak, 15,200 employees worked in the industry; Gothenburg was known as a shipbuilding town and Sweden was a world-leading shipbuilding nation.
In recent years, however, the wharves, factories and large tracts of derelict land have been undergoing a slow and painstaking transformation. The area of Lindholmen is now one of the most dynamic places in Gothenburg, a hub of entrepreneurial skills, universities, colleges, and a business hub to encourage business and academia to work together. Cranes and overhead gantries are silhouetted against the sky, ferries bustle across the water carrying workers and residents of the new elegant apartments lining the embankment to and from the new ‘town’.
Lindholmen has moved on and has morphed from a lively shipbuilding area into a flourishing residential town, businesses have relocated here and former industrial buildings have become sports halls, gymnasiums, and chic cafes and restaurants. The well-laid out streets and paths along the waterside, the canals that run through the ‘town’ and the sense of a young, innovative spirit is palpable.
There are many ways of getting to Lindholmen, bus, tram, cycling or by the free ferries which runs every 8 minutes between Stenpiren and Lindholmspiren, weekdays between the hours of 07:00 to 18:00. The ride only takes 5 minutes.
As we had walked from the train station in town we took the ferry and walked around the area, admiring the elegant apartments with balconies that overlooked the harbour, the colourful buildings and the ducks that waddled up to us when it looked as though we might stop and feed them. It was a delightful walk in an area I’d never visited before, but it’s now on my list for further exploration and a return visit to the Turkish restaurant which served one of the best pastas I’ve had in years.
How’s that for Internationalism!
A few tips:
Invest in a Göteborg City Card. It may seem pricey at £28 for 24 hours, but this gives you free or reduced entry to most museums and attractions, free travel on public transport including the Gothia River ferry taxis, as well as some city tours.
Do have a ride on Electric bus route 55: Gothenburg’s first route for electric buses runs between Lindholmen Science Park and Johanneberg Science Park via Avenyn, Brunnsparken and Götaälvbron. The buses are silent and emission-free and run on electricity from wind power and hydropower. The bus route is among the most modern in the world. Among other things, passengers can recharge their phones onboard and enter and exit the bus from indoors. Ordinary Västtrafik tickets are used to ride the bus.
Beware of cyclists – like many Scandinavian countries, the bicycle is king in Gothenburg. Don’t walk on the cycle tracks (the trails are well posted on the pavements) and keep a particular eye out for them on the pavements of the wider streets.
Every once in a while one comes across a really superb restaurant in an unexpected place, sometimes on a main road, sometimes hidden away down a side street, and last week this happened to me.
On the long drive between Gothenburg and Oslo, I found Laxbutiken LJungskile by exiting off the main road to this “salmon house” recommended by my friend Kelly Andersson from Gothenburg, who spoke in very complimentary terms about the food.
Situated beside a lake, with outdoor seating surrounding the elegantly designed restaurant, one could imagine the pleasure of dining in the outdoor space during a Swedish summer, but this was November, so it was inside for us.
The interior did not disappoint. Elegant décor in grey and lime green set of the food which was arranged in a long glass cabinet behind which stood smiling waitresses with advice.
And advice was needed! Here was more salmon than I’d ever seen served in more ways than I’d ever known. Eight types of smoked salmon, from the basic Gravdlax to smoked salmon with different herbs and mixtures of herbs, there was poached salmon, grilled salmon, boiled salmon, salted salmon,
deep fried salmon, salmon pie, salmon cake and more. To go with these were delicious sauces like caviar sauce, white sauce with dill, lobster butter sauce, Malibu sauce, and a deep green garlic and spinach sauce.
The choice was difficult so I eventually decided on the Large Salmon Platter which gave me five varieties of salmon, 2 sauces, salad and boiled potatoes (at an unbelievable 145 Kroner). More than I could eat, I was relieved to be offered a “doggy bag” (a rather elegant box packed in another bag) to take away.