Thursday, June 23, 2011

SE - Göteborg

June 23                 Thursday                             Sweden                                                Göteborg                           

OK, Göteborg: show me your good side.  The sun was up, the air was warm, and I got a particularly good night’s sleep.  After grabbing some pizza, I made my way into the city’s center to take in its sights.  There weren’t too many things I’d marked as must-see; mostly just tall places where I could try and get some shots of the city.  So sure enough, I worked my way directly to the waterfront… well, the tourist-oriented waterfront; or what little there is of it.  The vast majority of Göteborg’s riverfront is given over to industry, leaving just a small sliver as a harbor featuring a couple boat-bars, cafés, and souvenir shops.

But there was also a tall red and white-striped office tower right by the river, including an elevator up to the top for the tourists (named Göteborgs-Utkiken).  This was another one of those cases where you had to show up on the hour to go, but the receptionist let me up despite being 10 minutes into the hour… when I reached the top I came to guess that it was because things were a bit quiet.  There were two other people up there: a mother and a 30-something daughter (or so I assumed it was a mother/daughter relation).  So that pretty much gave me free reign over circulating about the windows endlessly, nabbing photo after photo of everything I could set my lens upon.

Once I grew weary of that I made my way to a nearby Ferris wheel to do it all over again: rise up, photograph, circulate around… albeit circulating a bit more vertically rather than horizontally upon a level platform, as in the office tower.  En route to the Ferris wheel I passed by a trio of Italians, letting me get to use a bit of my Italian skills… which haven’t returned nearly with the pizzazz that my German skills have returned these past few weeks.  But with two of the three being absolutely phenomenal-looking women in their young or mid-20’s (and I’ll be first to say that I really don’t fine Italian women, on  average, to be that attractive), I didn’t hesitate in the slightest when they asked for a photo and I got a chance to strike up conversation.  When their battery died just as I was taking their photo: I think my heart skipped a couple beats when one of the girls came up to swap them out.  Of course, with them both traveling with a guy who could easily grace the cover of any European fashion magazine: I knew it wasn’t worth my time stopping to chat any more than necessary.

I boarded the Ferris wheel with only one other group: a team of Bulgarian athletes who took up two other cars.  While I’d been in the office tower the weather had started to cloud up considerably, and it was while I was hovering about in the Ferris wheel that the rain started up with abundance.  Fortunately I got some great photos before the rain & then used the rain to get some photos of a bit different variety… and I was very dry; that was good, too.  The rain quit just as I alighted and returned to the streets.

The Stadsmuseum (Göteborg Museum) was my next stop, really just because I wanted to see their Viking exhibit.  I’d been in Scandinavia for nearly a month and really haven’t seen anything Viking-related; I figure that might be a sin or something… but really, Norway is the center of the Vikings: so I haven’t forsaken it yet.  But I appeased the Viking heritage by finally getting my first taste of their culture, seeing the remains of a longboat and some neat statues of the various Norse deities.  The statues were really cool: almost cartoonish but exquisitely crafted… I was forced to wonder if they were actually more modern constructions; they seemed in far too good of condition.  Indeed, I’d put my money on that they are pretty new; but the longboat sure wasn’t.  The boats remains were laid out & left it very easy to visualize its shape and look.  I’ve always loved the longboats, and seeing one firsthand granted me a renewed appreciation for their ingenious structure.

My next stop was the Trägårdsföreningen, a botanic garden in the city center.  This was a lovely stroll and with the recent rain: it offered some great opportunities for photos.  The clouds were blocking the sun, but sometimes it’s worth thinking of the clouds not as an impediment but a very large diffuser… it helps reframe the situation when you’re trying to take photos.

After that I kept heading southeast toward the Universeum, a science museum specializing mostly in the earth sciences.  Along the way, however, I passed by some film crews in front of the city’s university.  Curious, I hovered about a bit and attempted to stay out of the way of the camera, which seemed to be focused on a vehicle parked on the sidewalk.  I started walking up the stairs to take a look and get a good shot of the action, as the stairs seemed to be out of the shot & there seemed to be a crowd of other onlookers.  But just as I’d ascended a couple stairs, one of the crew assistants stole my attention and asked me to hold on… and seconds later the scene started & all those folk along the stairs suddenly set in motion.  They were all extras.

I ended up getting to be an extra in that scene.  From speaking with the staffmember I learned that they were filming the next Johan Falk movie, a Swedish crime drama or something like that.  Apparently it’s quite popular; unless that was just her attempt to make her job feel valid… I really have no idea if it’s popular or not, but Wikipedia’s mention that the last couple movies have gone straight to video has me a bit concerned; or it could be that Swedes watch a lot of videos & “straight to video” isn’t such a bad thing?

At the Universeum: there was a great exhibit on water, focusing a bit more on its interrelationship with the Arctic regions.  Another exhibit was a large indoor rainforest, replete with free-roaming monkeys, birds, and other critters.  I watched as a monkey hopped onto a railing – inches away – and nabbed at a rather large insect which I hadn’t noticed right beside me… it made for fun photos as he consumed his dinner.  The water-oriented stuff was interesting, with one contraption showing a bunch of different hydraulic engineering concepts in a very hands-on manner, including locks, hydraulic jumps, and even Archimedes’ screw.  Seriously, every civil engineering lab should have one of these: what a great way to show the stuff I’ve spent 6 years of my life studying in classrooms.  Sure it was for kids, but what’s a college student (or even an adult) but a child at heart?

The aquarium was your pretty typical aquarium; not too much of interest considering I’ve been to some pretty phenomenal aquariums in my lifetime.  But one thing they did have going for themselves was a huge swordfish which seemed to enjoy coming right up to the windows.  There was also an underwater tunnel… always a win for an aquarium.

One of the museum’s rooms was clearly intended to make science fun for children, but I’d wager its designers knew full well that the parents would likewise have a blast.  There was a huge variety of interactive exhibits, including a bunch which used various lights and sounds to assault your senses, gauging your body’s reaction in various ways.  I was a bit surprised at how much warm colors increased my heart rate and how cooler colors really soothe me… but the musical aspect was more interesting: I was in motion along with the beats the whole time, but the rock & roll caused my heart rate to surge whereas the downtempo music caused me to become so calm that some doctors might have considered me legally dead.  The rock + warm colors combination contrasted immensely with the downtempo + cool colors bit… it was like comparing the Himalayas to Kansas.

Within that same room was a game where there were a bunch of large red buttons scattered about a board that I’d say was about 1.5 meters tall and 2.5 meters wide.  You had to press the one that lit up, and keep going for 30 seconds to see how many you could press.  It was basically a game of Whack-a-Mole.  There was a definite limit on how fast you could go based on the delay between hitting the button & the next one lighting up, but with my score of 44 almost doubling the best of everyone else who’d tried: I deemed myself to have done quite well at it.

There was one more room which was dedicated to forensic science.  I’d wager this would have been immensely more interesting had the translations worked… both English and German seemed to not work.  While the translations didn’t work in the previous room, either, at least the previous room was rather self-explanatory; this one had a bit more info on the science which I wasn’t able to understand.  But there were still some activities that I could figure out well enough… from fingerprinting to tracking footprints to DNA sampling to facial recognition… lots of fun stuff.  But my favorite was the laser room.

So in this darkened black box were a whole bunch of lasers going from wall to wall, leaving but the faintest red beam across the way.  Of course, as anyone who watched Mythbusters knows: real security lasers use invisible infrared; not visible red beams… so unless the dude who installed security decided to be a cheapskate: you’re not going to be able to see the beams in a real-life break-in situation.  But here: I didn’t care… this was my chance to be a thief; a criminal; to reenact Entrapment in all its Catherine Zeta-Jones’ rear-end’s glory.  And that I did.

I left my backpack and camera at the entry so that I could artfully maneuver up, over, and around each of the criss-crossing beams, with great deft making it to the very last trio of beams all crossing over one another.  I contorted my body and readied myself to pass through, when all of a sudden my thievery was foiled by a small child bursting in and dashing gleefully through the beams.  Alarms sounded, ruining all I had worked toward… but fortunately the otherwise pitch black room bored the child, and when no guards carrying AK’s showed up: I continued with my break-in and finished the room.  Alas, the exit just took me to the same room as the entry… no industrial secrets or extravagant wealth to be had for the taking.  So at the point I nonchalantly walked around to the entry to grab my gear and depart.

It was at a place called Smaka where I grabbed my dinner, and for once Lonely Planet served me quite well.  I got the standard Ikea meal: meatballs, mashed potatoes, and lingonberries.  The berries were actually berries, though, not the jelly-like paste of Ikea which I am personally not a fan of.  The actual berries tasted much the same (perhaps even a touch better), but had the berry texture that I love so dearly.  The meatballs and mashed potatoes weren’t Ikea, but they were still quite tasty… far better than the meal I’d had back in Stockholm.

Back at my hostel I tried to plan the next day, with much of the work consisting of trying to secure transport up to Oslo & then a room for me to stay in.  Once again, however, Oslo seemed to be booked solid… much like Stockholm had been.  Saturday night was easy to find a room for, but tomorrow night – Friday night – was considerably more difficult.  I ended up paying about $250 for a room on Friday night and about $100 for the same room on Saturday night… ouch.

This was all complicated by the rather lacking internet at my hostel, the Masthuggsterrassens Vandrarheim.  While they had wifi, there seemed to be some issue with their ISP in that I had to log into the ISP in order to activate my computer on it.  Since I didn’t have their username and password for the ISP (they’d be pretty dumb to give that out!), that meant that some pages redirected me to the ISP’s login page… but oddly some other pages didn’t.  This was a problem that everybody was having, but fortunately I seemed to be less affected by it than others… plus I learned how to cache pages & work around the redirect somewhat, but that didn’t work when I had to submit forms to book transit tickets or reserve rooms.

I ended up having to use the sole public-use computer to look up info & then use my email to book reservations, hoping they’d act upon my email just as readily as the online booking system.  Fortunately this worked for my hotel reservation, but left me open on the whole travel part… I figured I’d just show up at the station and catch the next ride to Oslo, whatever and whenever that might be.

While waiting for the public-use computer, I got to talking to a German guy, a man in his 40’s or so who worked as a pharmacist for Bayer. Apparently he was gearing up to do some work in Sweden and wanted to learn some Swedish in preparation for that, but we both commiserated over the difficulties in learning technical language when classes & daily use only teach more casual conversation.  I’ve been wanting to learn German for some time now in hopes of opening myself up to potential job opportunities through a large chunk of Europe, where I think my profession is a bit more progressive than in America; but learning my profession’s technical language isn’t the kind of thing that’s easy to do until you’re on the job.

The bed above me – occupied by the German girl the previous night – remained empty this time around, with only the French couple being my roommates over the night.  Once again the guy came back and still smelled horrendous, but once again I was able to tune it out.  Phew. 

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