A weekend in Gothenburg

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While I am quite happy to enjoy a weekend at home in the mansion, with a fire roaring in the fireplace, a mug of tea at hand and good book, I also like travelling and visiting new places. And by visit I mean “go somewhere for a walkabout”. Last weekend saw me getting restless and once it was determined that WDG was up for going somewhere I started mapping out the options. Last minute trips are seldom going to be hugely exotic, and even though we have a local airport blessed with cheap flights to many destinations there was little available at the last moment, so Copenhagen, Berlin and … eh, Liverpool, were out.

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So Gothenburg it was. 3 hours drive away and probably the third most interesting town in Sweden (after Stockholm and Malmø/Lund/Copenhagen, which isn’t actually a single town in a single country, but the three are close enough to be considered almost as one, at least if you’re not Swedish or Danish, in which case you probably think the lumping together of the towns is quite offensive, but there you go). The route from Oslo to Gothenburg is blessed with pretty decent roads these days, so once the chariot is aimed in the right direction and the open road is hit, it’s really just a case of setting the cruise control and supping the en-route brew from your thermally controlled canister.

Unless you’ve set of at such a time of day that you cross the border at sundown, in the rain. Then you discover that while the Swedes have endeavoured to make a really good road, they skimped on the lighting and in 2015 this is a noticeable shortcoming. Driving at 70mph in the driving rain, in the dark, with cars keeping just enough distance to make dipped beam fraught and enough traffic coming the other way to discourage full beam, is no fun.

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Anyhow, we’d scored an excellent deal on a pretty decent hotel bang in the middle of town, and found to my immense delight that traffic in Gothenburg city centre on an early Friday evening is almost non-existent, so getting to the hotel was easy as could be. Parking was in the nearby Nordstan shopping centre though, which is pretty nasty. I’ll revisit Nordstan in a bit. The hotel, Clarion Post Hotel, was pretty swanky, at least for those of us that used to search out the cheapest hovels in Bayswater 20 years ago. The “post” bit comes from the building being the main post office in town, at a town when the postal service had funds and pride and provided a service, and resided in a building that reflected this. These days it’s been expanded and extensively subjected to lots of interior design. And I quite liked it.

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We really did not strike gold with the weather in Gothenburg this time. Granted, January isn’t the best time to visit anywhere, but the driving wind and pouring rain did put a damper on our stroll of the avenues and promenades of the city. The umbrella lasted about 15 minutes before finding eternal peace in a bin, shredded and bent by a gust that almost sent WDG flying. From there on out it was elemental indeed. We tend to forget that humans are mainly waterproof though, so if only one can endure the momentary discomfort of being cold and soggy, life will return to normal at some point.

Shopping in Gothenburg is, with few exceptions, pretty poor. Nordstan, the large indoor shopping mall in the city centre would have been a good place to spend the day, given the weather, but frankly it is a hellish place. Avenue upon avenue of boring chain shops and other missable entities, all shrouded in an utter lack of ambience. I could not leave fast enough. They do have plenty of parking though.

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Gothenburg is the home of Nudie jeans, so there are two Nudie shops there. The flagship store, which offers the free Nudie jeans repair service. And a separate Nudie jeans repair shop a few hundred meters away. I will not speculate upon why Go-burgers put so much wear into their Nudies that they need two repair shops, but note that Nudie only has repair shops in 4 cities worldwide, so it does seem excessive to have two in the same town. The flagship store is ok though, if a little underwhelming. They had a good selection of jeans when I stopped by, but were rather poorly stocked on the rest of the range.

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I did find a rather splendid shoe shop though. Lester manage to cram an incredible amount of stock into a quite tiny shop, featuring an impressive array of Red Wings, and also Fracap. Grenson, White’s, Fry and lots more. Quite remarkable really and proof that a small independent can be a much better shop than a large chain store.

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Another independent shop I visited was Stuk Jeans. A nice selection of denim and other brands, but also including a brand I’ve only seen mention of before, Claes Gøran. As you can tell from the name, it is a very Swedish brand, though they have their trousers made in Italy. I fell for a pair of their vintage look trousers, liking their fit and style. I feel they are about 50% overpriced considering their simple construction though.

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I happened upon a rather good vintage and secondhand shop, Beyond Retro, which appears to be part of a chain of vintage shops. A well presented shop with a pretty decent collection of stock, and prices seemed to be realistic as well. Nothing really caught my eye, though I did enjoy the browse.

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The most unusual shop I came across was Knapp-Carlsson, an entire shop, and not a small one at that, dedicated to buttons. Yes, buttons. And it was busy! I had to wait 15 minutes to be served, and bought the buttons I needed to attach braces to jeans with (as mentioned in my post about getting started with braces). The selection of buttons was remarkable, and the whole shop had a very vintage and cool feel to it. If you ever happen to feel a yearning for buttons when you’re nearby, this would be the place to slake that thirst.

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Knapp Carlsson even had an excellent selection of buckles that could be successfully used for waistcoats. Makers of waistcoats might like to take note of this and not make further awful mistakes when designing their waistcoats.

Apart from this though it seems Gothenburg is infested with shops owned by the Norwegian Varner Group, i.e. Carlings, Solo, Volt, Urban and so forth. These shops typically carry mostly their own “fake” brands, and a smattering of slightly more premium brands. The end result is that they crowd a city centre, Starbucks style, and offer little at all of interest.

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Saturday evening saw us enter the establishment known as Liebling, and it took a few hours before we exited. An interesting selection of beer and gin was stocked there, the interior was interesting and there was plenty of good atmosphere. No more will be said about this.

More of a smile than you usually get from me! WDG and me at Liebling.

More of a smile than you usually get from me! WDG and me at Liebling.

An oddity of staying on the 5th floor of the hotel, in addition to the already stormy weather, was that the room creaked as if on an old boat. Quite a strange feeling and I thought you might be interested to hear about it.

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Sunday saw more high winds strafing the streets, so having expended the joys of the city, we decided to head off while there was still daylight to drive in. We made it to the border just as darkness descended and enjoyed the lighted roads all the way home. End result of one weekend shopping in Gothenburg? A single pair of trousers, which weren’t really worth the price. Which is a bit like Gothenburg itself.

I recommend visiting Gothenburg during the summer, when the fun fair is running, the outdoors cafees are open, and the icy cold wing and dagger-like rain is usually absent.

Postscript:

After WDG read this she exclaimed “You’re really quite negative and mean about Gothenburg”.

Me: “You think so? What did you think of it?”.

WDG: “I thought it was … ok…”.

QED.

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