Sweden, Norway and Spain 2002
The beginning of November 2002, and I find myself moving to Gothenburg, Sweden. I'd met a Swedish girl the year before, and we had a long distance relationship courtesy of Ryan Airs cheap flights. To take it any further, however, meant my moving to Sweden, as she couldn't move to England due to having a small child syndrome. Strangely, from the moment we had started seeing each other, I'd had this feeling that I would end up living in Sweden at some point, so although it may have seemed an odd thing to do to the people around me, it wasn't that big a deal to me.
So, over several weekends of visits to Gothenburg, I arranged a room in a shared flat, (due to not really wanting to move in with said girl straight away), and on November 2nd, I was there. A brief shopping extravaganza got me an old TV, bed and computer for the room, I opened a bank account and signed up for a language course. My room was on the opposite side of the city to T*** (name has been protected, but feel free to insert your own letters!!), and each journey to her house took about an hour. The tram system took bit of working out, and to start off with, each trip on it was a bit of an experience, but it was all good fun.
Despite being told by almost everybody that working in Sweden would be hard (my Swedish was pretty minimal at that point), within a week I had one job, and within a week and a half I had another. My day job was through some sort of agency, but basically, I ended up moving the XC90, which at that time was the new four wheel drive, around the Volvo factory. There had been some production problems with the car, and our job was basically to find certain vehicles in the biggest car park you've ever seen, drive them into a warehouse where they would be repaired, and then drive them out again to the finishing line.
A week went by, and I settled into my apartment, and got to know my way around the transport system. There were no big supermarkets close by to my new home, but the local shops had everything I needed. Visited Ikea (had to, really!!) to buy some other things for my room. My flatmate Mats was ok, if a little boring, and the apartment block was fine. Each block had its own laundry room, and there were some strange communal rituals associated with washing your clothes, such as how you should leave the machine for the next person, and having to book the time you wanted to use it a week in advance.
Tuesday 12th November, and things start to go a touch odd. The job and the flat situation were both fine, but I'd noticed that T*** had been acting a bit strangely towards me. To cut a long story short… The End. Well, perhaps that's cutting it a bit too short, but apparently it was the end for us, in any case. There were reasons, but I have to say, typing this a couple of years after the event, none of them stand out particularly. Deep down inside, I never really expected it to work long term, but on the other hand, I had expected it to last a little longer than two weeks. Then again, I wouldn't be Dave Briggs if things like that didn't happen to me!! So, there I was in Sweden, but with no actual reason for being there. I decided to stay, however, and see out three months, and I'm glad that i did.
On the Thursday, I went for a job interview to be a bouncer at a nightclub called ‘Sticky Fingers', and without any references at all, bagged the job straight away. Must be my charm, but more probably I look scary!! So now i had two jobs… Working at the Volvo factory during the day, and being a bouncer at the weekends.
The first night at the club that Saturday went really well, and if I wasn't working there, it would have been the sort of place I would have liked to have gone out to. Downstairs, they were playing extreme death metal, ground floor was more commercial and popular rock metal and indie, and the top floor was acid jazz funk. There wasn't much trouble, and as soon as I started talking in English to people, they stopped being drunk, and wanted to practice their English back on me. Easy stuff ! Four thirty in the morning by the time I got back home, but excellent all the same.
My day job on the weekdays involved getting up at 5.30 to be picked up by Lennart, (a colorful and very un-Swedish character in his fourties) to go to the Volvo factory. We worked in a team of five people as we moved the cars around the grounds, and I met some cracking people. I'll list their names at the end. There's not a lot to mention about my job at the factory, as most days were similar. Sometimes we would have to scrape the snow and ice off cars before we moved them, sometimes I worked on the finishing lines driving cars off, but it brought in the money, and it was a great experience working there.
So, my days were planned out for me, without me having to do a great deal. Work at Volvo during the day, work at the club on Saturday nights, and go to my language course on Monday and Tuesday nights. It was good to keep busy, but it would be also nice to have a girlfriend, so…
I went out on a Friday night (22nd), and pulled within two and a half hours, which was a record, even by my standards!
H***** was and is a lovely girl, and we still keep in contact.
Things took there normal course, with just a few odd scenes. The flat above the one where I was living, was home to some junkies (and you though Sweden was just full of clean living people!). One night, they flooded their apartment, and on another occasion, they managed to set fire to it. Bizarrely, the fire brigade was called by one of the neighbours who noticed flames. The junkies were actually in it at the time, but were too out of it to notice there stuff was on fire. Being woken up in the middle of the night by a Swedish fireman to be told there was a fire above my head was a bit strange, but at least it gave me something to talk about at Volvo the next day!!
I saw H***** quite a bit over the weeks that followed, and although we got on really well, I knew that I didn't want to stay in Sweden permanently, and so I started to plan my onward journey to Spain. My Swedish lessons were going well. Work at the club was fine, and i worked on New Years eve which pulled in some big money, and it was a pretty hassle free night.
Some people to remember – H***** of course. Lennart who gave me a lift to work. Tom with the green hat at Volvo. Jasper the flamenco singer. AnnSophie, then little blond girl. Sophie, the mad girl. Lolly, whose face was horribly burnt from where he had been caught in the big nightclub fire in Gothenburg, which killed 63 people. Shaffi, the night club owner and nazeem his daughter. Mats the student who I rented my room from. Dora, Catarina, Angela and Rumis with the terrible stutter from the language class.Monica and Ulika who I met at Jamesons and the Norweigan couple. All good people that made the experience out there what it was.
And so that rounds off Sweden… very roughly. Of course, lots more happened that I could write about. Things that happened at the club, nights out with workmates and much more, but hey, my fingers are getting tired, and I can tell you all about it if we meet in real life!
(Book a hostel in Gothenburg)
Mon 3rd Feb, and after sorting my stuff out with the apartment, and saying goodbye to H*****, it was on to Norway. I caught a bus to Oslo from Gothenburg, got a taxi to Aker Brygge, and then a ferry over to Nesodd. H***** had a cousin who ran a guesthouse and restaurant called Pavilongen, and me being the lucky sod I am, was fortunate enough to stay for free for a week… Bonus!
Now, maybe this wasn't the best time to visit Norway, but I enjoyed it anyway.
I found Oslo to be quite a compact city, although it was covered with snow and ice, which made walking difficult. Whilst I was there, I visited the Kon Tiki museum. After reading thor Heyerdahls books about his various expeditions, it was brilliant to see the raft, along with the Ra 2. For anyone into reading about adventurers, his books are definately worth investing. I agree with his general theory of contact between ancient civilisations, and this guy proved that it was possible. Looking at the museum, i knew that I'd also end up going to South America and Easter Island at some point, which you can read about on my previous trips sections.
Next was the Fram museum, which is dedicated to the polar exploring ship of the same name. Some interesting exhibits, and the ship itself, of course.
The Viking ship museum was also a good one, which displayed ships recovered from burial mounds. The general consensus was that those types of burials were for important figures in the viking society, and they were buried in the ship, along with their possessions, much as the ancient Egyptians.
The resistance museum was a thought provoking and interesting place and anyone that visits Oslo should put that at the top of their to do list.
Took a walk around the national Art gallery. Some interesting and well painted pictures… What do I know!! Ha Ha!! Some I liked, and some I didn't. I got to see ‘The Scream' by Munch, which I've always wanted to see in real life. A couple of years later it was stolen, i think, which was a shame. Not sure if it was recovered or not.
And my views on Oslo… Some very interesting things to do and see, but EXPENSIVE!!!
(Book a hostel in Oslo)
Wed 12th Feb, and I land in Girona, after spending just one night in Germany en-route. The Ryan Air flights were ridiculously cheap, so I had to take advantage of them!
There's not a lot to report from Spain really. I spent a few days in Girona, witnessed an anti war march, went down to Barcelona and then to Malaga, where I spent a while just thinking things through, and planning my return to England, along with my next trip, which would be to India and Asia.
On Monday 3rd march, I returned to England, and here endeth the Swedish adventure combined with a holiday in Norway and Spain!
(Book a hostel in Girona)