Western Sweden: More than Meets the Ikea

If you’re reading this article, then we can all safely assume you know your geography a bit. Now, turn to your less-traveled friend ask them where exactly Sweden is located. If they mention anything about the Alps, they are wrong. Every Swede I know who has ventured past the borders of Scandinavia (and generally closer to a group of Americans) has experienced this. And my American self laughs at them. But I digress.

Sweden is not the most visited nation on this earth. It doesn’t have a Paris or a London. And that’s why I love it. I took Sweden a step further into the obscurity and did not even visit Stockholm; I stayed on the west coast and was constantly enveloped by the salty sea air.

Thanks to the confines and stressful purchasing process of Ryanair, I ended up flying into Oslo, Norway and being picked up by a friend and driven through the inviting Swedish border. Thankfully, he lives somewhat near the border on the west coast of the country, scattered with the beautiful archipelago islands. I will never forget that drive. My jaw swung low the entire time as I gazed at lush green hills prefacing dense forest from the border, all the way to the small city of Uddevalla.

This was the polar (figurative and literal) opposite of the world of Southern California I know so well. I glanced at the clock. It was after 11 o’clock at night and it was still light enough outside to read or even paint a house. I had forgotten how far north I was. I can see why Santa lives there.

One of my evenings was spent exploring a tiny seaside town called Smögen. I löööve Smögen. It had elements of a New England town, but the rocky scenery begged to differ. Smoothed after many ice ages, I found myself constantly running my hands on the flat surface. I couldn’t help but think of Long Beach and all of the broken beer bottles scattered along the jagged rocks. This was definitely an improvement. I urge visitors to spend a good day at this town. Window shop. Grub. Enjoy.

If you’re into råka kråftstjartar, then this place is for you. Oh, you don’t know what that is? I didn’t either, but it’s grand. Råka kråftstjartar are tiny shrimp, cooked but eaten cold (think shrimp cocktail, but mini and covered in a white sauce). If you like seafood in general, this coast is your dream.

Another day was spent in Goteburg (or Gothenburg, as we call it). The second largest city in Sweden and the first friendliest European city I have toured. The first stop was the Fiskhallen, which is a lofty indoor fish market, resembling the piers of San Francisco. Definitely make a lunch stop here. I made a good old American fool of myself and gasped at the fully intact, angry, toothed fish on display.

After the Fiskhallen, I was given a personal walking tour of Goteburg. My favorite neighborhood is called Linnëgatan. The looming stone and brick buildings were simultaneously cozy and old-industrial. It was like no other architecture I’ve seen. Be sure to get a cinnamon bun with pearled sugar (a famous Swedish treat) and just pause to enjoy the scenery surrounding you.

I’ve established that Sweden’s three main food groups are as follows: fish, caviar and cream sauces. And they do them well! One of my last mornings in Sweden was spent breakfasting Swedish-style. I have never seen so many pastes, spreads, caviars, and jars of herring in my life. Realistically, the table had more of the previous foods than I have seen in my entire life altogether. And I am a fan of (nearly) all of said foods.

I plan on returning and getting a heavier dose of the great outdoors which I so admired in that fairytale country. Seriously, Middle Earth has nothing on Sweden.

September 27, 2011

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