Before coming to Sweden, one of my biggest concerns about the semester was the weather. Sweden is known for its chilly and snowy winters, and I’ve definitely had my fair share of slips when the ground freezes over. When I first arrived, the majority of the time I woke up to a gray sky where the sun wouldn’t rise until 8:30am and it would set at 3:00pm (less than 7 hours of sunlight!). However, I noticed that the Swedes didn’t let the weather affect their daily activities; I’ve seen locals ice skating on the lakes and going on long strolls with their walking sticks. At first, I thought Swedes were extremely daring to even go outside in what many would call miserable weather, but I realized that they were just making the best of what Mother Nature decided for us each day. Seeing them outside on snowy days reminded me of a saying our Swedish professor taught us: “In Sweden there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” While being able to appreciate the cold has taken some getting used to, it has made me appreciate the warm, sunny days that much more.
Despite the fact that I was just adjusting to wearing multiple layers of shirts and pants to go outside, it felt like my prayers had been answered when I checked the weather forecast and found that the upcoming weekend was going to be completely sunny. To make the most of the weather, my friend and I planned a spontaneous trip to Göteborg, the second biggest city in Sweden. I was eager to explore more cities within the country, especially because Göteborg is situated right on the west coast of Sweden. When my friend and I stepped out of the airport into the city streets, we stopped for a second, closing our eyes to soak in the warm sunshine. We decided to walk around the city center before checking in at our hostel, and stumbled upon the horticultural society of Göteborg, called Trädgårdsföreningen. The park and horticultural garden felt like a little oasis in the middle of the city; it was situated right next to the hustle and bustle of Central Station.
My favorite part of Trädgårdsföreningen was a large greenhouse called Palmhus. Inside it had different glass rooms separating different types of plants, from towering palm trees to flowering hibiscus trees. There were plants that had been imported from different countries and continents; they even had sampaguita flowers (Arabian jasmine in English), that I remember smelling in my grandma’s garden in the Philippines. It reminded me so much of my childhood; I picked a sampaguita blossom to dry and press as a little souvenir.
The next day, we took the tram to another botanical garden, called Göteborgs Botaniska Trädgården. I had expected the park to be similar to the one we had visited the day before, with rows of cacti and blooming flower bushes, but we were pleasantly surprised. Göteborgs Botaniska Trädgården was a huge park, spanning 175 hectares (432,434 acres!) across hills and rocky mountains. What we thought would be an easy stroll turned into an hour-long hike up a mountain, to a stunning overlook of the entire city. When we reached the top, there were different groups of families and friends listening to music, sharing drinks, and picnicking on the flat rocks.
Because Göteborg is situated on Sweden’s west coast, one of the most popular attractions was to explore the Göteborg archipelago by boat. However after doing some research my friend and I found that ferry tours were very pricey and decided to do our own DIY archipelago tour. We bought $3 tickets to go on the hop-on-hop-off ferries that circulated the area that most people took to get to work. We got onto the boat a little before sunset, and were able to climb to the top deck for a stunning view of the water on the horizon. The setting sun bathed the entirety of the city in a glowing, orange light. After so many days of snow and ice, I felt so grateful to just feel the sun on my face, watching it until it dipped below the horizon.
Having such a relaxing weekend in Göteborg made me appreciate all of the different types of nature that we can experience in different parts of Sweden. It reminded me of a concept my Swedish professor taught us called “allemansrätten,” which loosely translates to “every man’s right to roam.” This saying refers to the Swedes’ pride in how untouched the nature in the country is, that every person in Sweden has the right to explore it in any way they see fit, and that the nature here is something we should protect, preserve, and appreciate. While of course I prefer warm weather, I’ve definitely learned to appreciate the rainy days; they make the sunny days just that much brighter.