48 hours in sweden

if you're ever feeling a bit overwhelmed about christmas, or just not in the holiday spirit, i'll say this now: GET YOURSELF TO SWEDEN. this was an epic weekend - we were literally on swedish snow-covered soil for 48 hours (it should have been longer, but our saturday morning flight was canceled, so we were rebooked for later on in the day). and while that may not seem like enough time to enjoy a completely foreign city where you speak not one word of the language or have much knowledge of the culture, let me tell you, with a little bit of forward thinking, it was one of the best holidays i've ever been on. phil and i decided to do this weekend trip a while back when we remembered that he had monday off work. we've always wanted to do a european christmas market trip, but most of the classic christmas market cities were too expensive (berlin, cologne, vienna, prague) so we picked sweden. it's a country i've always wanted to visit - but when we saw how pricey stockholm was, we had to think outside of the box. luckily my friend suzanne has a great europe travel guide that raved about the smaller southern city of gothenburg. after a bit of research and a lot of excitement, we booked flights and 4-star hotel on expedia all for under £500. not bad!

the best resources i found for information on gothenburg came from the main tourist office website, goteborg.com. they also had a great twitter account in english with timely tips on happenings around town. but the best part of finding this website was their amazing gothenburg pass deal, which gets you free entry to most of the major sights around the city, but also free public transport and 2-for-1 on the airport bus. we saved SO MUCH money this way! (more money for christmas shopping...)

in a nutshell: i love sweden and would definitely like to visit again, perhaps in the summer when the views must be so different but still just as beautiful (and i don't have to wear 8 layers to keep warm! and they have more than 5 hours of daylight!)

on to the visual delights....

i have to start things off here with a photo of dinner from night 1. along with researching things to do in gothenburg, of course i looked into veggie-friendly restaurants. this was first on our list - an organic bar and restaurant called lokal. they came recommended via the happy cow website, which is a brilliant resource for veggie/special diets travelers. the irish/swedish staff were super friendly - it was a great introduction to the city. we both had the fish platter, which came with salmon, tilapia, and another type of fish that i don't remember the name of, but was so delicious. it also came with a sweet potato mash, and a roasted cauliflower salad. one of the best fish meals i've ever eaten.

while we're on the subject of food, our hotel's free breakfast was better than expected, definitely. a huge buffet with all kinds of scandinavian specialties. rye bread, meats, cheeses, pickles, weird looking sauces - but then a huge muesli bar with different yogurts, nuts, sunflower seeds, dried fruits, jams... and of course eggs and bacon. but the most impressive part was the gluten-free and lactose-free section! yes an entire section devoted to the restricted folks! a few different gluten-free breads and rice cakes were available, as well as some lactose-free milk and soy yogurt. this was a wonderful way to start each morning (all two of them!)

we also had a great lunch at andrum, a fully vegetarian buffet-style restaurant. this is where phil first fell in love with chokladbolls (essentially a very large chocolate truffle covered in coconut - i will certainly be attempting a raw version one of these days).

if i had to sum up swedish cuisine in two words... buffet and fish. lots of pickled and jarred fish. yum. fish buffet!

okay, enough food.... some scenes from snowy gothenburg:

the sights, sounds, and smells were all divine - they do the run-up to christmas right in sweden! those beautiful star lanterns glowed in every window in the city, and twinkling lights hung everywhere. i guess when it's mostly dark in the winter, you make the most of it. style-wise, everyone looks utterly chic, even when wearing heavy winter coats and boots. the design is just as you'd imagine - extremely practical and hip (like you're living in an ikea display). i'd go back in a heartbeat.