I leave for Stockholm tomorrow, and I just can’t believe it. I have really grown to love Gothenburg and feel at home here. I still have quite a few blog posts I want to write for Gothenburg, including some health posts, as I’ve had multiple meetings for my project in the past week. But right now I’m feeling sad about having to pack and can’t muster up the energy for a project post, so I thought I’d tell you about my weekend fun instead. I spent Saturday afternoon at Liseberg Gardens, a huge amusement park right here in Gothenburg and apparently the biggest in Scandinavia. It’s Gothenburg’s #1 tourist attraction, and it’s expensive, so obviously I avoided it like the plague. An amusement park? On the Watson? No way. But after hearing about it for 5 weeks, I figured that I wouldn’t want to regret not going.
As it turns out, I’m so glad I went. I only spent a few hours there, but it was a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon. Families with young children and day passes could easily spend a full day or two and have lots of fun, but I only bought enough coupons for one ride, and I could only spend so much time walking around the (admittedly large) grounds by myself.
Liseberg surprised me; it was a spacious whimsical world rather than a set of flashy rides. Well planned out and immensely charming, it reminded me of Disneyland without the characters and merchandise. Like Disneyland, it had a main street, Storgatan, with old-fashioned candy shops and colorful store fronts. Some of the stores even sold fancy ceramics and jewelry.
There was something for everyone there. In fact, I was so impressed by the range of rides and things to do that I started making a list: roller coasters, arcades, futuristic steampunk rides (à la Epcot), lazy rivers, the not-so-lazy “Colorado river” ride, a retro section with bumper cars, a fake waterfront area with a harbor and a haunted hotel, a log flume, a Ferris wheel, princess castles, a mirror house, spinning teacups, and even a playground made to look like a birdcage. This was all in addition to a beautiful garden!
Wandering around Liseberg by myself, surrounded by groups of high school friends and families with small children, I kept thinking about goodbyes; saying goodbye to Gothenburg and Sweden as a whole. I think I was hyper aware that I had, in a way, saved Liseberg for last, and so going there meant the end of something.
Gothenburg will always be the first place I visited on my Watson year. Of all my time in Sweden, I am spending the majority of it here. It’s also one of the few places to which I’ll have returned over the course of this year. I’ve been so lucky here meeting great friends and staying with a lovely family. I’m off to Stockholm now, but I’ll only be there for 3 weeks before heading to Qatar; leaving Gothenburg feels like the beginning of saying goodbye to Sweden. I’m excited to see Stockholm, and I’ve achieved all my project-related goals here in Gothenburg, so it’s time to move on. But it’s still hard, and I’ve felt somewhat listless these past couple days even though I’ve stayed busy. (Full disclosure: I saw a poster for a big Halloween event here in Gothenburg, and I felt myself get choked up. On October 31st, I’ll be in a totally different country that doesn’t celebrate the holiday, and if I’m seeing advertisements already, that means Halloween is in the very near future…and I will have to confront my fears about Qatar sooner rather than later.).
I don’t have a picture of the ride I did, but it was the Balder, the old-fashioned wooden roller coaster. It was the only ride recommended to me, and it seemed perfect, since New York’s old wooden Cyclone is the first roller coaster I ever enjoyed (all previous roller coaster attempts had been scary and unpleasant). It seemed like I found most of Sweden in line for the Balder – the wait was a full hour. That hour gave me plenty of time to reconsider. I seemed to be the only person waiting in line by myself, and I wasn’t sure if it would be any fun to do a roller coaster solo. I had never done that before. As the line moved forward, I wondered if I should turn back.
Of course, I didn’t, and with all my anticipation and nerves built up, I finally climbed into the roller coaster with an empty seat beside me. We took off, and I’m pretty sure the whole thing took 60 seconds, but wow, it was worth it. The ride was a blast and I (almost) forgot I was alone.
And now to be totally cheesy: it is hugely worthwhile to do the things that you want to do by yourself, even if you think that you would never want to do those things alone. Maybe it’s eating out, going to a movie, or going on a roller coaster with no one in the seat next to you. It’s true that it might be less fun by yourself. But if you can find the self-confidence to do it and still have fun, well, it feels pretty awesome. And most importantly: roller coasters are ten times the fun if you throw your arms up in the air.