This Easter we decided not to fly far away from Oslo, like it is a tradition among many – but to visit our closest neighbor, Sweden. Oslo becomes pretty empty during these days, and already on Wednesday afternoon the streets miss their usual crowds. There are two classical ways to spend Easter here: 1 – you leave country for some sunnier place or a big city rush, 2 – you leave for the cabin in mountains to enjoy the last snow (this must be very Norwegian thing, because who else is missing snow in April? :)), go skiing and read detective stories (the genre is very popular here and even got the name of påskekrim, which can be roughly translated as Easter crime). As you see, in any case, you leave the city, and staying in such a forlorn place, with all shops and cafes closed can feel somewhat sad.
Our destination this Easter was Gothenburg, Sweden, which is just three hours drive from Oslo. It is a charming city, with channels, pretty buildings and cozy cobblestone streets. The Swedish seem not to leave the city in such great numbers like Norwegians, and there was life in the streets. Also many cafes, restaurants and shops are open even on Easter Sunday, which gives a lively vibe to the place. What we didn’t count with was the unpredictable April weather. Which turned from sunny and sweet with temperatures close to +20 just the week before – to winter cold with temperatures around zero and the cold Northern wind. Outside of Oslo it snowed and facebook was full again of snowy pictures and kids in a sleigh.
Though we did count with the weather. But it turned out to be in our favorite style of pathetic travels (this is our trademark, if you wonder). My man had his birthday some days before Easter and I decided that we will celebrate it in a nice hotel (not in a 2-star shelter as we sometimes do :)) with a spa service where we can hide away if the weather turns unfriendly. What a great idea to sweat in the sauna and walk around in bikini while it rains or snows outside… I didn’t book many spa hotels in my life, so I couldn’t suspect that the spa service may not be included in the total price. But it was not. On our arrival we found a nice hotel (Gothia Towers), tall and modern, and I would recommend it to anyone. We got a great room on the 21st floor, with a view of Liseberg amusement park, the staff was friendly and the breakfast was nice. But we had to find out that the spa service is to be booked extra and would cost 80 euros per person. Which is an ok price, if you want to spend a day in a spa. But as we had only one and a half day in Gothenburg we chose to see the city instead. And so the idea of spending a couple of hours in the spa evaporated like the hot damp over an open pool which we saw out of our window. The spa was located just in front of us, with its open pool on the 20th floor, where people swim over the glass bottom and see the traffic underneath. We also saw an inside pool and a sauna behind huge window panes. That was our total spa experience in Gothenburg :))
What was left to us is the city itself, which we walked all across and around. The weather was not inviting, though the trees started to blossom. We went to Haga, the old neighborhood of Gothenburg, with wooden houses, cozy little shops and cafes. Haga is promoted as a place for cozy shopping and fika. Fika is a Swedish word that means a food bite (which can be a sandwich or pastry), and the Swedish seem to be masters of that (or so they present themselves). This is the art of life as I like it – finding pleasure in little things. So this is what we were doing: checking the tiny shops or their windows and learning to eat fika in a Swedish way. Taking our time just to sit and enjoy, no great goals ahead.
On our way back, on Easter Sunday, we drove through a huge supermarket outside of the city and bought a lot of food. Which is another good Norwegian tradition: to drive to the mall at the Swedish border and shop food and alcohol which are cheaper than in Norway. The choice was enormous and the prices made us sigh and cry. Ok, no crying, but we were very close to the shopper’s rave and running around throwing everything into the cart. Our souvenirs from Sweden were cheeses, meatballs, herrings, olives and pickles. Not because it is a typical Swedish treat (though the meatballs and herrings are).
Lessons learnt: check with the hotel about the spa service if you don’t want to overpay. Make sure to eat fika in a Swedish fashion. And don’t bring your own herrings to Sweden!