Tag Archives: Sweden

Hiking Bohusleden

My track (click for interactive map)

Late January I set out to take on Bohusleden, a hiking track that starts near Göteborg and winds its way up to the Swedish-Norwegian border and then towards the coast. Its total length is about 370km so I obviously did not do all on one Saturday; I set myself the rather ambitious goal of hiking the first stage’s second half and the second stage, a total of something between 15km and 20km. Weather was fine, temperature just about freezing and a little cloudy. I took the bus to Kållered and started walking from there, missing the trail at first. But once I was on it I hardly ever lost it, with one or two exceptions. It is very well marked, the next orange painted post, tree or rock (almost) always just in sight.

Had the trail not been trodden into the still-present snow cover by former visitors, the markings would have been everything you could have seen of the trail. It literally is just that, a series of markings in the woods. I liked that a lot. Were it not for the constant drone coming from a not-so-nearby highway and occasional electricity lines, you could really imagine being in the wilds. Enjoying the trail was made hard by unsure footing, though. Especially on the more often travelled parts, ground was covered by thick sheets of ice that were not always solid. That made climbing over stone formations a real treat. Streams of meltwater and the planks crossing them hid under yet more snow. So I had to be careful and still managed to fall twice and break into a puddle once. Suddenly I did not consider bringing spare socks ridiculous anymore. Next time I will bring even more equipment. Read more »

Do as the Swedish Do: Organisation

Seen at a supermarket's fish counter

In this post I want to share some bureocratic and economic standards in Sweden that struck me as very different compared to Germany.

Tax office, bakery, fish counter in the supermarket, bank office — wherever you go, if there is even the slightest chance of a a queue forming you have to draw a number. This is something I like very much. Not only can you enjoy the oftentimes very cozy waiting areas without having to fear losing your place, but you can also estimate your waiting time and do something else in the meantime. Skatteverket even has a machine that sends you a text when it is your turn.

Most supermarkets and big stores have really long opening hours, often 7am till 11pm. And they open on Sundays for almost the same amount of time, so no need to stack supplies for the weekend. Spontaneous Sunday dinners are something I can easily become accustomed to.

It has appearently become customary to install express checkouts in larger supermarkets. My experience has not been too good so far. Might have been my fault, but the supervising lady had to enter her code several times because the machine thought I was cheating for some reason. And I have been ripped of every single time I bought rolls; the machine just does not offer the correct choices. Professional cashiers are faster, anyway. That is, they are in Germany; I miss Aldi for that.

Mobile rates are stupidly cheap. With my regular prepaid card one text message costs 50 Öre and calling 70 Öre per minute. Calling a German landline number is also 50 Öre per minute. Compare that to your German contracts — and remember, it is prepaid.

The biggest bureaucratic issue as foreigner in Sweden is the famous personnummer. This is a unique number every Swedish citizen is assigned immediately after birth. Consequently, everything works with this number: any kind of contract, bank accounts, flat rental, online transactions, public libraries, and so on. This is very convenient — once you have that number. Without it, nothing important can be done in this country, you are not a fully capable human. My salary, for example, cannot be transferred to my impromptu bank account because Chalmers just tells its bank to transfer amount X to personnummer Y; they reacted very confused when I wanted to give them my account number. Too bad it can be very hard to get a personnummer, especially if you stay here for less than several years. Many people get into the death-trap: no job without personnummer, no number without job. You really have to get employed through connections before coming here in order to have a smooth start.

Do as the Swedish Do: Groceries

Beer you get in supermarkets.

One of the first things German people are bound to notice when they get to Sweden is the lacking availability of decent beer. It is called öl here; you put Öl in German engines and what you can buy in Swedish supermarkets does not taste significantly better than that. That is because the state has a monopoly on alcohol in Sweden. Everything with more than a certain percentage of alcohol has to be bought in restaurants or at Systembolaget. That makes alcohol also quite expensive. During my first week here, I bought a small beer for 48 SEK (slightly more then 5€ at the moment) and it tasted like … well, not good.

The next thing is bread. While you can get decent wholemeal bread and white bread, sourdough bread is rather rare. And the bread you get is subject to what appears to be a collective Swedish taste: sweet and spicy. Most kinds of bread have some kind of sugar in it and at least one spice or fruit. That is not necessarily bad but needs some getting used to. Speaking of spices: cinnamon. It is everywhere. Honestly, if you do not like cinnamon do not go to Sweden. Read more »

Three Weeks Youth Hostel

Because of some bad timing, I had to stay three weeks in Slottskogens Vandrarhem. Although staying at a hostel for that long was certainly not my dearest wish, I think I did a lucky pick with this particular one. It is friendly and comfortably equipped; especially the large common room and kitchen are very inviting. Free wireless LAN pleases the nerdy soul although reception is quite bad in some rooms and — of all things — the common room. For me as long-term resident the opportunity to do laundry is great. The dryer is useless, but they have a drying room with a big heater; my clothes were dry as dust after eight hours in there. The only thing that bugged me a bit was the bathrooms; people can just not keep them clean, even though they are cleaned every day by staff. And the toilet paper could be used in any printer, I am sure.

One big issue with staying in a five- resp. four bedded room — I had to switch due to the big book fair — is the inherent lack of privacy. I felt I could never relax completely, but that may also be a personal issue. Also, you cannot just drop something; but then, maybe cleaning all your dishes immediately is a good trait. What really kept me alive were all the nice people, roommates and others, I had the opportunity to meet. Musicians, pupils, students, doctors, soldiers and Australian, Swiss, Dutch, Libanese, Swedish, German — name it. I had many a good conversation and funny evening with those guys and gals. Thank you for making the stay worthwhile!

Slottsskogens Park

On my first day in Göteborg, I went to Slottsskogens park near the hostel I am staying in. It happens to be the biggest park in Göteborg and I certainly have not explored most of it. I liked what I saw, though. There are parts that appear largely unkempt while others are kept orderly for sports or relaxing. In the park’s center, sheltered on a wooded rise, lies a zoo were elk and other animals are kept. I have yet to visit this part and might as well wait for spring.

Many different people were about: parents on a stroll with their kids, elders on their daily rounds, joggers, power-walkers and more. It was certainly not crowded, but well frequented despite the weather. Large bins filled with one-way barbecues remained as witnesses of busier times.