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Aug 25

A visit to Gothenburg

Posted on Thursday, August 25, 2011 in Humanities, My life

Yesterday (Wednesday 24 August) I went to Gothenburg to see my friend from Scotland. The day started out rather badly, with me almost missing my train, even though I’d got up an hour earlier than I usually do, just to make sure nothing like this happened. I would have missed the train if the train host hadn’t been looking out to see any last-minute stragglers. Finally, one minute past the train’s scheduled departure time I was in my seat, hot and breathless from my run. Why do these things always happen to me? LOL.

I arrived in Gothenburg at around 10 am. On the way, I’d texted my friend to let him know I was on my way, but it turned out he hadn’t received it. I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find him especially since he wasn’t on the plaltform waiting for me when I got off the train. On the other hand, I didn’t go on the one I’d told him I would. I had just found out that I’d be able to take a direct train, and not go by the roundabout route I’d made up. Since he was already on his way, it would have been difficult for me to reach him. I stood at the end of the platforms, right outside the railway station searching for him and fortunately, very soon he came wandering around, looking form me, looking a little lost. As soon as he turned in my direction and I waved at him.

He told me he’d found out that the musuem didn’t open until 12. Since I’d already told him about another museum, quite close to the railway station, we decided to go there. There was supposed to be a short history of the actual building (“The East Indian House” – named for the East India Company). We started with that. The city of Gothenburg was founded in the early 17 century (ie 1621) and the place where the museum is now, had some buildings on it from that time. The present day building was built somewhat later. It’s been a museum for 150 years (the anniversary was celebrated earlier this year).

That exhibition was quite small and only involved one rather narrow room or corridor, but it was very well made, with a representation of the building with cutouts so you could look inside at photos or objects from its long history.

After that we moved on upstairs to the 17th century room, the 18th century room and the 19th century room. We were in a little bit of a hurry so unfortunately our viewing of the 19th century room had to be cut short. This is the sort of thing that I really love. By displaying objects from the era, the museum had succeeded in visualizing the period. There were glass display cases, but also fullsize models of objects and so on. All in all, I think we were given quite a good impression of what life would have been like in those days.

For instance, in the 17th century the upper classes had spring water brought in from a place outside the city center (which is today merely a part of the city). I’m familiar with the place because my mother’s cousin lived there for many years. According to her, people still went there to get fresh water, but today mostly because they appreciate the taste. However, in the 17th century (and probably later too) the poor took their drinking water from the canals. For this reason throwing trash, dead animals (or people), household waste etc into the water was illegal, but as you can imagine, that was impossible to prevent. In other words, the poor drank sewer water. Ugh. No wonder it was a long time before people really wanted to move to the city. The countryside must have been healthier up until the mid-nineteenth century.

Because we were in a hurry, I wasn’t able to find out if there was a 20 century room as well, or if the last room really was a 19 and 20 century room. I’ll definitely return soon and find out. I must say that it was rather difficult to find my our around. The fee was very modest and on top of that, we were given a card that will entitle us free entry into this museum and one of three or four others for the rest of the year. I’ll definitely use it at least one more time.

When it was getting closer to noon, we rushed off to walk all the way to the Museum of World Culture. Some parts of the walk, it rained, but not too much. There was no fee to enter the Museum, only one or two of the exhibitions. We decided to stick to the parts that were free.

This experience was far more ‘modern’ in every way. There were silvery tunnels to walk through, multicoloured lights and big and small video screens all over. The main exhibition was about travel. How humans have always traveled and migrated. No doubt there was much deep, philosophical thought behind the exhibition, but I can’t help but think that it was a bit more flash, than substance. Or maybe it was just a bit too confusing for my linear mind. 🙂 There was a ‘wheel of fortune’ that you could spin to see where you should travel. We waited a while, as a group of people, friends or colleagues, played with that, but in the end, we moved on. I think the wheel was made to spin for far too long, before it stopped. The group members had to stop it by force to see their destinations.

Up a couple of stairs and past a huge cafeteria smelling of food, was another exhibition called Earthlings, which was aimed mostly at children, but I think the parents who were taking their children there took that a bit too literally. The oldest child I saw seemed to be two years old. He wouldn’t have understood anything. I think it was just an excuse for the mothers (and the father of the two-year-old) to get out and get some variety. The mothers were just talking and their children would really not have understood anything of where they were, since they were just babies. The father had sunk down on one of the child-sized sofas and let his boy wander around on his own. Clearly he was too tired to do anything else.

I’m still trying to process the experience and so far I haven’t come to any conclusion, except that it was fun and cool and since it’s free, I think I might return to try and make more sense of it all.

After the visits to the museums we went to find the Indian restaurant we’d decided to go to. It looked a bit more like a cafe, but it did serve lunch and we decided to go in. There was a nice, relaxed atmosphere in there, and the food was simple and nourishing. The owner was anything but Indian but he seemed to have visited India and had a strong interest in Indian culture, at least judging by the photos on the walls, and the spices in the food. On the webpage it was described as vegetarian, but vegan-friendly so when I asked about that, the owner replied that he’d substitute a yoghurt sauce for one with tomatoes. First he served a bowl of lentil soup, which was very nice, then the main course which was veggie burgers, rice, with that tomato sauce and a salad. He also mentioned bread, but I decided to do without that. I don’t like to eat too much when I’m away from home.

When we’d finished our meal, my friend asked if I’d like to return to the first museum to continue our tour of it, but I said I’d rather just go somewhere we could talk in private, so in the end, we just walked back to the railway station and sat down outside and had our chat. After all, it had been two years since we last met and even though we email and talk on the phone, it’s nice to be able to catch up.


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