For us, no visit to a city is complete without going shopping and exploring at least one art museum.
The Konstmuseum at Gothenburg, a stark edifice on the outside, had two exhibitions – ‘Watched – Surveillance, Art and Photography’ an exhibition of photographs that explored the extent to which we are all subject to surveillance and included a hologram of a woman who spoke greetings in several different languages. and Gränslöst– Unbounded. The Eighteenth century Mirrored by the Present, an exhibition giving the modern take on 18th century art. There are also several floors of their permanent collection of Scandinavian artists and a room of impressionist pictures we were unfamiliar with.
Eighteenth century porcelain amazed us with its detail. I tried to imagine what it would have like working often under poor lighting with a soft material that would flow this way and than and maybe all for a pittance.
There were unsettling modern porcelain figures by Christian-Pontus Andersson, so different from the delicate waif-like ballet dancers of Degas , especially his Little Dancer of Fourteen Years.
When we were in Gothenburg for a long weekend, except for a few obese men in the beer cellar, already scoffing beer mid-morning, and a scattering of overweight women, we didn’t see any other grossly obese men or women the first four days. Most people were trim, rather than thin, but even a bit of plumpness was uncommon.
Then, on day 5, as we sat drinking coffee in an outdoor café, a family of an obese woman and her overweight children, well on the way to obesity, passed by. It was Monday and there were more people out and about than previously. A scattering of obese men and women then strolled past – none of the size portrayed in Ilu Susiraja’s selfies.
Back in London, our first morning back, two obese women were queuing at the bus stop and then, as I made my way to Sainsbury’s, obese men and women were common.
According to the latest (2013) avalable data International Obesity , only 12.9% of Swedish people are obese, while here in England the figure is 24.8% (Scotland 27.7%, Northern Ireland 23%, Wales 22%). In the USA, heading the Obesity league table after the Pacific Islands and Kuwait, the Obesity Prevalence is 35.9%. Japan has the lowest figure for obesity at 3.5%.
Obesity is multifactorial but the abundance of cookshops we saw in Gothenburg (and in Stockholm) attests to the Swedes’ interest in home cooking as opposed to living on takeaways.
This must be a significant factor in their enviable place at 26th on the 2013 Obesity League table which shows England at 7th place and USA in first place, a clear winner – or loser!
Most of our favourite cookshops in London have vanished. John Lewis and Peter Jones still have respectable cooking departments, while those in most of the other big stores have shrunk.
In contrast, not only were there large cookshops in the big stores within walking distance of our hotel in the centre of Gothenburg , but there were at least five independent cookshops full of ‘don’t need but must haves’!!
And even with the unfavourable rate of exchange the prices were quite reasonable . Perhaps in Sweden they don’t only sit glued to cookery programs on the TV but they actually cook!! Judging by the amount of space given to cake baking and decorating, the Swedes are into cakes and pastries in a big way.
Gamla Stan – the old town of Stockholm – has it all – cobbled streets, a palace, statues, lots of cafes and restaurants, some good shops like this model train shop with a toy train chugging around the window, and lots of tourist traps full of the usual Swedish horses, sweaters and toy Vikings. We sold toy trains for a short time in our John Dobbie toyshop but you really need an expert to give advice. Had a toy train set up at home for a while but it never became a big thing for us.
Cobbles look impressive and authentic, but not very kind if you have a sore hip.