Gay Times Magazine - - TRAVEL - gote­ and westswe­ Words Si­mon Gage

There’s a man in the park in the cen­tre of Gothen­burg kick­ing a ball around. Noth­ing funny about that, you might think. It’s just that he’s wear­ing a sheer top and fetish trousers. Our sports knowl­edge might be skimpy, but we’re sure that’s not a team. Well, not a sports team.

But this is Gothen­burg, the town that couldn’t be more lib­eral if be­ing lib­eral was made com­pul­sory. Come Pride – and we’re here the week that Gothen­burg shares Euro Pride with big sis­ter Stock­holm – the whole town joins in: even teenage straight boys, not known for their lib­er­al­ism to­wards the Ls, the Gs, the Bs, never mind the Ts are walk­ing the streets done out in full rain­bow. It does a body good to see it.

So, the facts: Gothen­burg is a post-in­dus­trial sea­side town in western Swe­den (their Pride is ac­tu­ally called West Swe­den Pride), built in the 1700s on marsh­land, which is where the city’s fa­mous chan­nels come in. Like many post-in­dus­trial towns, it has mor­phed into a smar­ty­pants des­ti­na­tion for peo­ple who know their cof­fee and like to buy old­school de­sign items.

For that sort of thing, while we’re on it, you need DaMa­teo, widely con­sid­ered to be the best cof­fee in town, if not Swe­den, in an edgy Shored­itchy ware­housey kind of lo­ca­tion, with its lit­tle court­yard and ad­ja­cent gar­den­wares out­let. But then that bit of Gothen­burg, Ar­tillerier Street, is loaded with gor­geous bou­tiques sell­ing gor­geous things, most of them mas­cu­line and highly cov­etable. We’re torn be­tween some Ae­sop we’ve never seen be­fore and some clas­sic Swedish work­wear. And don’t old-school Ther­mos flasks look cool all of a sud­den?

Up the other end of the main street – past the rinky dinky Bel­lora ho­tel, with its funky Ital­ian restau­rant and whose rooftop bar is the cen­tre of smart Gothen­burg so­ci­ety on a sunny evening – is the civic cen­tre: a more-than-ad­e­quate Kontsmu­seum, mix­ing old and up-to-theminute konst (that’s art to you); a cin­ema/arts cen­tre and a con­cert hall, all look­ing in to­wards the mas­sive statue of Po­sei­don hold­ing a life-size shark with wa­ter com­ing out of it. It’s here that dur­ing Pride Boy Ge­orge and Cul­ture Club played and where many of Gothen­burg’s famed mu­si­cal go­ings on, you know, go on.

But most of the gay stuff is down the other end of main street, the street along which spe­cially com­mis­sioned gay trams glid dur­ing Pride week. There’s Bee Bar, which does gay-trendy food and where the mu­sic can turn de­cid­edly schlager (it’s a Swedish-cen­tric genre of mu­sic which is cheap, cheer­ful and de­cid­edly gay) and good old-fash­ioned Gre­tas, which is un­so­phis­ti­cated (in a good way!) sparkly and fun. And ev­ery last Fri­day of the month Club Queer hits Park Lane right in the cen­tre of town.

Also up this end of town, on Drot­tning­tor­get Square, is per­haps the most im­pres­sive ho­tel in town, the 500-room Clar­ion Ho­tel Post, where din­ner is served in the for­mer main post of­fice, with many of the orig­i­nal fea­tures still there in the huge space now oc­cu­pied by aqua­ma­rine ban­quettes, im­pos­ing mod­ern eye­ball lights and full-size olive trees. For a town this dinky, it’s an eye-opener with food that is a mix­ture of burg­ers and Swedish clas­sics like prawns on toast (seafood is big in Gothen­burg, by the way, what with the sea and ev­ery­thing). Gay par­ties – both of­fi­cial and im­promptu – have been known to take place in the diminu­tive pool on the roof and in the mas­sive ball­room.

And when you’re done with this small but per­fectly formed town, there’s the whole of wild and ruƒed western Swe­den to ex­plore, with its thou­sands and thou­sands and thou­sands (you get our drift) of is­lands pep­pered with cute towns and hol­i­day homes you wish you could af­ford. You might need to pack more than a sheer top and some fetish trousers for that, mind.

Im­age Drew Wilby

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