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 rued 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