Goteborg (Gothenburg) Pronounced Yootbory
I’m visiting with family in Gothenburg. My wonderful host is a long lost Swedish cousin, Alex, who we met a few years ago in America and since then he’s visited with my folks a few times.
I’ve spent the time here working on some of the logistics for my trip, going over charts, measuring crossing distances, verifying port locations, replacing my GPS that broke after only one outing, trying to make sure my kayak will arrive in Naples on time* and even doing a little bit of exploring.
I visited with my cousin’s family, his brother and mother who are, by the transitive property of relations, my family too. Alex’s brother Marek was happy to help me saw my new paddle down to size** and tell me about the time he met a drunken moose***.
Marek’s son is a race car driver. Mom, if you’re reading this, please know that you don’t have it so bad after all. The young man, of about twenty or so, was happy to show me the different kinds of racing cars they had in their driveway.
Next we went to visit Alex’s mother, Dorota, who greeted me with a big hug in a way that seemed very Neimand and welcomed me into her home with fresh apples off the tree in back. She was 16 when the Nazis invaided her home in Poland. They fled and she was separated from her parents for an unknown amount of time before they found each other and made their way to the Soviets who sent them to cut wood in Vologda in the Russian north.
During that time Alex’s father was fighting the Nazis in the scorched earth brigade. That is, as the Russians were retreating, he torched the farm land so the Nazis wouldn’t get the crops.
They survived starvation and Russian cannibalism before they made it back to Poland, where she became a dentist and later an anesthesiologist and he a professor in thermodynamics.
Years later, as Alex grew to a young adult and met with state sponsored antisemitism at every turn, he decided to dodge the draft and repatriated to Sweden with his family . Now, in 2013, my family is here. And I know some of what they’ve been up too since my own branch in the family tree left for the United States in the 1890’s.
The last couple of days, I’ve been running in a heavily wooded park and free zoo just five minutes from Alex’s house. The woods have a very northern feel and smell like the beginning of fall. The zoo has moose and seals and penguins.
The buildings here in Gothenburg are old, from the 1&00s and have stone details delicately carved into window frames, around the doors, and basically anywhere the design artists had a chance. Around them are newer buildings replacing those old works of art that were unable to survive the years. Fortunately, the rule here is that new buildings have to fit in, so while they don’t have the attention to detail that I love, they don’t stand out in the way that many of the modern buildings in Oslo did. Gothenburg is a beautiful old city.
In Swedish “exit” is utfart and “entrance” is unfart. And now, for cooking in swedish ...
* Not optimistic, despite repeated promises made months ago.
**Paddle shafts sometimes come in an all purpose size that’s good for very tall people, but it’s easy to fix.
***Moose get drunk off of fermented apples.