Sweden offers Nature’s Best

Natures Best

Natures Best

In line with Swedens attitude towards eco conservationism and the green movement, a national eco-tourism certification was created during the UN’s International Eco-Tourism Year 2002, identifying companies and activities that practice responsible tourism and eco-friendly tours.

Natures Best was created to help raise awareness of and promote eco-tourism in Sweden and has been designed to guarantee a high quality travel experience, in combination with an actively responsible attitude to protecting nature, a more environmentally friendly way to travel, and a caring attitude to the people and culture of the destination.

West Sweden has 8 experiences that have received Natures Best eco-certification, including sea kayaking, lobster safariing, and wool handling on local farms. Given the current need to keep our environment as sustainable as possible, Natures Best is a great way to enjoy your visit to West Sweden and keep your eco-footprint as small as possible. Check out more things great activities in West Sweden here or for a full list of the 124 Natures Best certified experiences in the whole of Sweden check out the Natures Best website.

Sweden is Chrisma-rrific

Lucia Festival - "Lucia" and her procession of maidens and "star boys".

Lucia Festival - "Lucia" and her procession of maidens and "star boys".

I’m not quite sure any other culture is as fanatical about Christmas as the Swedes. The celebrations start at the beginning of the first Sunday of advent  and don’t end until after the new year.  This year advent was Nov. 29th, and the Swedes started things off in a delicious fashion with a traditional glöggfest – a gathering to imbibe hot, spiced, mulled wine (glögg) accompanied by blanched almonds and raisins, with saffron buns and ginger biscuits. Who doesn’t want hot glögg on a brisk, snow-filled Gothenburg evening?

Liseberg Christmas MarketAfter the glögg, the cities of Sweden are decked out to the nines, with lights, decorations and more Christmas markets than you can imagine. Gothenburg has not only seven distinct Xmas markets but also the largest one in the country: Liseberg has dozens upon dozens of stalls selling gifts for all, shows, ice skating, holiday delicacies (including of course more glögg) and what holiday market would be complete without St. Nicholas sitting in his workshop to listen to the wish lists of excited children. As if that weren’t enough, the market is bedecked in over 5 million (!!!) Xmas lights to celebrate the seasons.

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Illuminating Geniuses of the Renaissance


Michelangelo, da Vinci and Raphael together in Gothenburg

Leonardo. Raphael. Michelangelo.

No, not the Ninja Turtles, but the Renaissance artists for whom they were named, were not, as their reptilian counterparts, the best of friends. In fact, most would describe their relationship with something akin to rivalry. These three great minds of the turn of the 16th century competed to create works of genius to inspire commissions and of course fame.

Now, for the first time, the trio will spend the next 8 years traveling the world in a new exhibition starting out in Gothenburg Sweden in March of 2010. And There Was Light is a unique and intriguing exhibit put together by artistic director Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Leonardo da Vinci museum in Tuscany and scientific director Francesco Buranelli, the scientific director. It unveils the intricacies of their relationships with each other, the competition, the rivalry, and the brilliant works that it fueled.

Traveling with the expedition, will be da Vinci’s ‘La Bella Principessa’ (1490), Michelangelo’s ‘Plan for the bastions at Porta al Prato’ (1529) and Rafael’s ‘Study of a possessed boy with father to the right from Transfiguration’ (1519). ‘La Bella Principessa’ has been the victim of overnight fame, when it was discovered that a piece bought at auction for a mere $19,000 by a Canadian collector, was proven to be an original da Vinci worth over $165 million (or approximately 8,684.2 times what it realized at auction).

Eriksbergshallen in Gothenburg, West Sweden, will host the exhibition (20 March-15 August 2010) prior to its world tour. Admission is SEK 200 pp (£17).

It is surely a once in a lifetime opportunity to see not only such inspiring works by the three Masters of the Renaissance all in once place, but also to discover how they worked, how they lived, and how they competed with each other to be the best of the best.

Boxed Vacations, now ordered to go!

The newest way to travel in Sweden is in a box…sorta.

The Swedish Tourism board has created a very amusing video to promote Swedish City Breaks – easily assimilated boxed packages of fun for visiting Sweden. It’s a great tool that has some really cool “breaks” like getting Soundtracked in Gothenburg – where you get your own personalized soundtrack played by an instrument-imitating mouth orchestra during your entire stay in Gothenburg.

On the less quirky side, the relaxing Feel Good Trip, is basically a relaxing spa package with all the details worked out for you so you don’t even have to stress making your vacation plans. These boxed City Breaks are really a unique way to see what Sweden has to offer without having to spend forever researching and booking everything separately.

Of course with the holidays coming up the Christmas Spectacular in Gothenburg, with 5 million fairy lights strung throughout the worlds largest Holiday Market also makes for a tempting to go box…Don’t forget to bring me back some roasted chestnuts please!

Capturing Castle life in West Sweden

The Fairytale-esque Lacklo Castle

The Fairytale-esque Lacko Castle

Castles abound in Gothenburg and its surroundings. It’s a throwback to days gone by and an homage to a simpler way of life that is utterly foreign to modern existence. In West Sweden there are a myriad of castles and manor houses that are open for tours, dining and even some overnight stays.

You can explore the Bohus Fortress guided through its historic halls by guides garbed in medieval costume. Take a guided tour of Carlsten Fort and climb up to the roof of the tower and be rewarded by a magnificent view of the whole Marstrand archipelago! Dinners, historical meals, conferences, and historical reenactments are also arranged at the fort. Explore the variety of accommodation options Here.

Check out this short video on the Castles and Manors of West Sweden.

Rocking the Gothenburg Harbor

Kristoffer Ragnstam

Kristoffer Ragnstam

Next on the list of interviewees is Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist/All-around Musical Genius, Kristoffer Ragnstam, a native of Gothenburg but a rocker of the world. “Ragnstam specializes in an exuberant type of rock, with strains of everything he’s ever heard – musical and otherwise — found like footnotes in his songs…” declaims his website, and come to think of it, declaims his music as well. The eclecticism and yet simple appeal of his music draws listeners like moths to the flame – which of course is a perfect segue into the topic of the interview: his new music video for Who Set the City on Fire.

Explore West Sweden: Your newest music video, Who Set the City on Fire, was a single continuous shot. What was it like filming for it? Were there any nerves about not making any mistakes? Or did you just shoot and go with it?

Kristoffer Ragnstam: The whole idea behind my new EP is: one take, be proud of who you are, and have fun with it. That idea left us pretty open to options how to make the video. But the Director “Markus KoKoKaKa” had an idea of trying to get the live vibe out of the song and with a homemade touch of it. He nailed it!

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West Sweden, Pharologists Welcome

Pater Noster Lighthouse is on an island accessible by boat only

Pater Noster Lighthouse is on an island accessible by boat only

Perhaps contrary to first thought, Sweden’s pharological hotspots are not Egyptian Pyramids or statues paying homage to the ancient rulers of the Upper and Lower Nile. No, the attractions that draw pharologists from around the world have nothing to do with Egypt at all. So what are they? you ask – Lighthouses.

It is not surprising, given West Swedens extensive coastline and rocky shores, that it finds itself home to a fair number of these oft isolated but beautiful beacons that welcome ships home and warn them of rough waters. Some remain active today and some are not but many are open to the public for visits, dining, and even overnight stays.

Here is a list of lighthouses in the area with a plethora of information on what to do, how to get there, and who to talk to about it all!

And for the interested etymologist – pharology derrives from Pharos, the lighthouse at Alexandria, and one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.

Culinary Adventuring in West Sweden with Alison Stein Wellner

PIckling Herring at the Salt & Sill hotel

Pickling Herring at the Salt & Sill hotel

If I could do only two things for the rest of my life, it would probably be traveling and eating, so it’s good to know that apparently you can make a living doing just that! Alison Stein is a culinary travel writer (among other sundry genres of journalism) who spoke with Explore West Sweden about her trip sampling the gustatory delights of the region! She’s About.com’s culinary travel guide, and blogs for Luxist.com and the Huffington Post as well!

Last week Alison was in West Sweden partaking in the Culinary Academy of Sweden – a 4 day long excursion exploring the culinary arts of West Sweden. She sat down and talked to Explore West Sweden about her experiences… Continue reading…

Boating and Fishing and Locks Oh My!

Göta Canal

Göta Canal

What do you get when you cross the civil engineering project of the century, an ambitious government minister and a desire to evade Danish tariffs? Why the Göta Canal of course! It’s a one stop shop for tourists today, but when it was first built it was also a major trade route and the largest civil engineering project ever embarked upon in Swedish history.

Conceived of many centuries before it’s realization, the Göta Canal was begun in May of 1810 and was expected by Baltzar von Platen, the man in charge of the project, to become the major thoroughfare for goods and passangers throughout the region. After it’s 22 years of construction von Platen’s dream was acheived and throughout the 19th century served not just Sweden but all of Europe. Today however with planes, trains and automobiles, it has transformed into the biggest tourist attraction in West Sweden.

Stretching 190 kilometers and comprised of 58 locks, the Göta Canal passes through beautiful countryside, fantastic restaurants, and fascinating museums among other tourist beloved staples. You can cruise its waters, bike its shores, and even fish its inhabitants! More of the myriad activities along the canal can be found online here, along with accommodation and dining options, and historical info or you can peruse the online version of the Gota Canal Magazine filled with all the tourist info you could possibly require.

And just something to think about while you’re lounging lazily on the boat passing through the locks, that the structure you’re sailing took about 85 million (85,000,000) man-hours to make!

The opening of the Göte Canal in Mem 1832. Painting by K. Chr. Berger

The opening of the Göte Canal in Mem 1832. Painting by K. Chr. Berger

What a Wonderful World

Luis Jacob's Without Person (1999-2008) Installation view Courtesy: Luis Jacob

Luis Jacob's Without Person (1999-2008) Installation view Courtesy: Luis Jacob

Gothenburg’s art scene is currently in the midst of an exciting collaboration that showcases artists from around the world – the Göteborg Biennial for Contemporary Art. What a Wonderful World is the fifth such contemporary art exhibit and brings 26 international artists to 7 different venues including museums, a library and a cinema.

For ten weeks this year, from September 5th to November 15th, you can go from museum to museum in Gothenburg to see contemporary works all celebrating and commenting on the theme What a Wonderful World, curated by Celia Prado and Johan Pousette. “This biennial presents reflections on the conception of the political by elucidating various aspects of individual versus collective choices, democratic participation, and the power of art to depict, interpret and convey observations and movements in society.” They further describe the idea behind this exhibition and the theme in a curatorial statement here.

This biennial is a reminder of the power of art to inspire and as a means to not only represent the world we live in but to help shape it. In typical Swedish fashion it does not suffice to express such a theme in a simple exhibit, instead it must be a large collaborative exhibition, over a year in the working that spreads throughout the entire city of Gothenburg and involves a variety of media originating from the world over. Typical!

Candice Breitz's Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon) (2006) Installation view: Bawag Foundation, Vienna, 2006 Photograph: Alex Fahl Courtesy: Candice Breitz & Jay Jopling / White Cube

Candice Breitz's Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon) (2006) Installation view: Bawag Foundation, Vienna, 2006 Photograph: Alex Fahl Courtesy: Candice Breitz & Jay Jopling / White Cube

Amit Goren's Kafa, 2009 Video still Courtesy: Amit Goren

Amit Goren's Kafa, 2009 Video still Courtesy: Amit Goren