I’m never in one place for a long time. Most days, I’m in a city for just a day. Some days I get lucky and I’m there for two. Such was the case when I flew to Gothenburg, Sweden. Because of the schedule of my job, I was rostered with a day off there. Since I arrived early in the morning of my first day, I slept it through noon. So technically, I only had a day and a half, yet as I backtrack to what I did during those days, I feel like I did so much already.
If you’re planning to go to (or already are in) Gothenburg for a couple of days, and would like an idea of what to do, maybe my itinerary can help you out. Here’s what I did:
- Haga Street
This is one of the more well known streets in Gothenburg. Haga is a quiet residential area close to a busy square, but it’s well visited for this one street that’s lined with cafes and restaurants. You can busy yourself by looking through the pretty displays of The Kawaii Store or Unicorns and Sons, or simply find the perfect souvenir in the number of souvenir shops nearby. If you want to hit two birds with one stone, you can enjoy a Fika break in one of the coffee shops lining the street. Don’t forget to try their famously gigantic cinnamon buns!
2. Gothia Tower’s Heaven 23
If you’d like to get drinks and have a nice view of the city, Gothia Tower’s Heaven 23 is a sky bar/lounge with a good atmosphere, great wine, and a wide view of the city. The place is popular for it’s “King Size” Raksmorgas, Heaven 23’s take on the popular Swedish prawn sandwich.
3. The Horticultural Garden
In my opinion, Gothenburg is a place of quiet and relaxation. So activities should also be in between those lines. What better way to admire those two aspects than to visit a garden. The Horticultural Garden houses quite a number of plants that belong to different climates. The greenhouse has a rose garden, an entire wing for tropical plants, a rainforest section, and an area dedicated to cacti. The place is good to walk around in and just admire the different colored greens. Not to mention, to enter is free.
4. Gothenburg Art Museum
Another place that’s worth admiring is the Gothenburg Art Museum. To see all of the six floors of art, it’s 60 Swedish Kronas (SEK). On some occasions, they have artworks from different countries/museums that they show for some time. To be able to see such displays, it might be an additional 40 SEK or so, making it 100 SEK to be able see all the art inside the museum. At the time of my visit, I paid 100 SEK to see the Mloda Polska exhibit as well.
Not only does the museum house different forms of art by Swedish artists, they also keep works by foreign artists such as Vincent Van Gogh.
Travel truly does educate. If I hadn’t flown to Gothenburg, I wouldn’t have known what this Fika thing is about. Fika is the Swede’s practice of taking a break from a day’s work and making time for friends. It’s a socialisation that relies heavily upon coffee (or tea) and a little snack. It’s more than a social behavior, it’s an important culture that, as I’ve read, the Swede’s are very proud of.
The first time I read about fika, I thought it was like taking a siesta minus the sleeping part. It is still, essentially, taking a break. I thought that this Swedish practice was making time for one’s self, and just letting go of the worries we’ve encountered in the day for a mere hour or so – while sipping that deliciously smelling coffee of course. Well, it is kinda. I was almost there. As I read more and more about fika, though, I learned that doing it by yourself is simply just a coffee and snack break. Although they’ve revolved fika around coffee as its most important factor, it isn’t just the mere drinking of coffee; its second most important factor is being able to make connections with the people who’ve gathered with us.
But still, I wanted to try fika. I thought I’d been doing fika all along whenever I went to coffee shops alone during my layovers. So I told myself, “since I’m in Sweden, I’m doing Fika too.” So I strut myself to Haga, Gothenburg’s famous neighborhood, known for it’s one street that’s lined with cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops. It also had a Kawaii shop – yes, a shop filled with kawaii items like Sailormoon’s clothes and TONS of Pikachu products – and a Unicorn and Sons store, which sold multiple items with either pictures of unicorns or unicorn horns on them! EXCITING.
But I digress.
So after setting foot on the street and admiring the trinkets on display and the people sitting in the restaurants, I searched for my very own cafe to kill time in. By the end of the street stood Cafe Hebbe Lelle, which sold Sweden’s famous cinnamon buns known for their bigger-than-normal size (for a vague point of reference, they’re bigger than my face). Since I have such a sweet tooth, I was lured in. I ordered that and a cappuccino, and spent my afternoon in that one spot.
Work has not had the best effect on my physical and mental health lately, so I wanted to go away for a few days keep my mind off things. With the privileges I’ve been given, I could have gone anywhere I wanted to but I chose Bali. Particularly, Ubud. The place is peaceful, popular amongst yogis, and heaviy strewn with villas in the middle of rice fields.
I wanted to be somewhere where I could only see green and blue, where I could just sit for hours staring at nature’s beauty and not get bored, and of ourse where I could only breathe in fresh air. Ubud was the perfect haven for me.
A friend of mine shared her experience with one villa called Santosha Villas and Spa, I was such in awe of what she had told me that I booked the same place for my little getaway. There were a few bad reviews about the place, but I couldn’t have cared less as long as I was in the middle of nowhere taking time for myself.
When I got to the villa, I thought of how perfect it was for me. The size of the room was enough for two or three people even though it was only me staying there. The bathtub and shower were situated outside and had a sunroof. A round wooden table was perched on the porch, perfect for a healthy breakfast and greeting the early morning breeze. The only negative thing about the place is probably the fact that you wake up to tiny lizard droppings, and when it rains, multiple insect wings. It’s understandable though when you keep in mind that you are in the amidst flora, the breeding ground for all the tiny forces of nature.
I’ll give the place a 4 out of 5 stars. Although the food choices were limited and there’s a certain stone-y, moldy scent in the bathroom, nothing beats the personal care that the hotel’s staff provide. They make sure everything you want is put in place. Need a Yoga instructor at 8 a.m. sharp everyday? Say no more. Want that breakfast delivered to your room while you shower at 9 a.m.? No worries. Need a taxi in 5 minutes? You got it. Want personalized tour that’s not even part of the hotel provided package? They’ll make it happen.
Santosha also perfectly set the ambience of the place that it’s become the main bait for me. From their yoga station, to their swimming pool you’ll hear calming music so soothing to the ears that it feels like the day isn’t going slow enough. Just reliving this entire experience makes me want to quit work and move over to Bali.
I read on multiple blogs that Filipinos, who have a US visa, can enter Georgia without applying for the country’s visa. On top of that, Filipinos who have residency in any Gulf country can enter upon showing our residency cards. Luckily for me, I happened to have both the card and a US Visa.
So off I went to Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital city, for my four days off. It was wonderful. Basically, I did all the important things in just half a day and saw the extras on my second and third day. Here’s a sample of my first day’s itinerary for your perusal, should you have limited time to see Tbilisi in the future.
- Arrive in Renaissance Hotel Tbilisi (a review to follow)
- 1 minute walk to St. Trinity Cathedral/Sameba Cathedral, the biggest catheral in Georgia and third tallest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the world (lucky for me, this was literally just outside my hotel)
- 6 minute walk to the Presidential Palace. (people are only able to see the back of the palace, and the area is heavily gated. There’s no way of seeing the front as how one would see the White House. Tourists can only see this while driving on the road or when on the Narikala Fortress)
- 2.50 GEL metro ride (+4 GEL for the card) to Marjanishvili Square for lunch
- Lunch at Barbarestan, paid 59 GEL (24 USD) for good food.
- 2.50 GEL metro ride to the city center
- 2.50 GEL cable car ride to the Narikala Fortress for an awesome view of the city (the metro card can be used for the cable car as the latter seems to be part of their usual “public transportation,” even though everyone using it is a tourist)
- went down the pathway to get to the I LOVE TBILISI sign. Yes, this is just right below the Narikala Fortress
- walked our way to VinoGround for some 10 GEL wine tasting. (I believe we ended up drinking with the owner -he refused to admit that he was the owner- and he vehemently wanted to waive our payments as a gift to us. But we refused and insisted we still pay.)
- 3 GEL taxi back to the hotel and end the day (there is no Uber in Tbilisi, so I used the app Yandex.Taxi)