For so many years, I’ve heard so much excitement, buzz, and hype about Copenhagen. I never really believed it because I’m not one for mainstream travel (I refer to my stint in and love for Latin America here). Well…I totally understand now. Copenhagen really is a blast! I arrived in an exciting way, getting on the metro instead of the train and being super late to pick up my keys from my Danish host. I finally arrived at the beautiful, enormous apartment and settled in comfortably. My hosts here are fantastic and extremely helpful and social. They gave me a multitude of suggestions for sights to see as well as foods to eat (my favorite thing).
I started off my first full day here with a visit to the Black Diamond, a modern extension of the Danish Royal Library (anyone else noticing my apparent trend of starting each city with a bookworm outing?). There I saw some old papers from people like Nietzsche and Hans Christian Andersen. I had a small lunch as suggested ahead of time by the guide that led the dessert food tour I did next. 3 hours of walking, talking with Danes (I got lucky and was the only foreigner there, so I had 5 Danes to myself to learn about culture and customs in Denmark! ), and consuming an obscene amount of sugar? Highlight of my trip so far. Food tours are expensive, but if you are with a good group, oh so worth it (check out the Sweet Tooth Tour by Foods of Copenhagen if you ever decide to do it!).
Treats sampled included:
•Blackcurrant white chocolate truffles
•A sampling of pies
•Chocolate coated licorice
•Blackcurrant candy and chocolate covered licorice
•Vegan ice cream sandwiches
After the tour I somehow managed, in my sugary stupor, to make it to Tivoli Gardens to hear some live jazz (the Copenhagen Jazz Festival is going on) and walk the beautiful grounds.
Yesterday was also a full day. I started at Christiansborg Palace (where Parliament meets) and made my way to Torvehallerne, a food hall. On my way I happened upon the best live jazz I’ve ever heard. They were a large group, and did some jazzy covers of popular songs as well as originals! I was also fortunate to discover a hot dog truck beside them with vegetarian hot dogs – yum! Eventually I got to the food hall… where I ate some more. Then it was off to Magasin, an enormous Danish department store, to see Hans Christian Andersen’s old apartment. One of the women from the food tour had told me to go in and ask about it, as it’s not really mentioned in any guide books or websites. A sales girl let me in (private tour!) and told me a little bit about it and Magasin, which used to be a hotel with slums behind it. After some shopping and trying floedeboller (again, per Danish recommendation), I took myself to dinner at a ramen restaurant and finally went home, exhausted!
One more day in Copenhagen and then the last stop: Oslo.
Stockholm has been both engaging and relaxing over the past few days. My favorite day here was still the first full day, but the past few days were enjoyable as well! I spent one entire day (Tuesday) in Gamla Stan, the old part of the city, where the royal palace and Nobel museum are located. I walked there across a bridge and had a lazy lunch in a sunny square. After some exploring I went through the Nobel museum, which I have to say, was underwhelming compared to the museums I was treated to the previous day. There was some live street music to enjoy afterward to end the day. Wednesday was spent in Södermalm. I basically spent my entire day eating – first, smørrebrød at a cafe for lunch, and then coffee and chocolates (rosehip, tea, salted caramel, lingonberry). And I am zero percent guilty about any of it (one of the days this week I walked over 12 miles!).
Today I opted for a day similar to those I have on my non-traveling weekends. I started the day with a yoga class. It was a standard flow yoga class, taught in English. It was a little more “woo woo” than I’m used to (and I’m used to pretty crunchy granola yoga), but still what my body needed due to all of the walking I’ve been doing. Another lazy lunch followed by light shopping (remember the single backpack as my luggage), exploring a pastry counter at the food hall in Östermalm, and a glass of wine on the terrace at the Swedish Royal Opera House, which boats a beautiful view. I ended my day of light shopping with a rather heavy bagful of chocolates – when in Sweden…right?
The Swedes really like their sweets (and the fika, a term for a break for coffee and sweets – but there’s more of a cultural overtone to this, I’d liken it to the Spanish sobremesa). In fact, so much so that the government made an announcement/suggestion a few years ago that Swedes only enjoy sweets on Saturdays (not a law, just a recommendation for dental/health purposes).
Sweden has been fun and my host was lovely! Next stop, Copenhagen!
I’ve finished my first full day in Sweden! I am really enjoying Stockholm so far. The weather has been perfect, 70s, and I got to kick off my time here with 2 things I was super excited about. Yesterday I spent my morning at Junibacken, a museum dedicated to beloved Swedish children’s books (like Pippi Longstocking). I rode the Story Train, a moving ride that moved past dioramas depicting scenes from stories along with narration, and ended at a model of Pippi’s home, Villa Villekula! Of course I shamelessly went in to explore (along with all of the other children…). Follow this with lunch and the most colorful, extravagant ice cream I’ve ever eaten? With pleasure. I spent too much money at the bookstore and the next few hours walking around in the Djurgárden, a beautiful park near the water. Then off to the ABBA museum to continue my foray back into my childhood. The museum was awesome – I mean, I like museums in general, but this one truly was an awesome museum. Interactive, bright, full of music, flashy, the whole thing! I really enjoyed learning more about them and some light history of Swedish pop (did you know Sweden is number 3 in the world for pop music exports -as in artists and songwriters- behind the US and the UK?).
Hopefully I continue to enjoy my time here – if the weather is any indicator, it seems like I will!
Today I headed to Suomenlinna island for the day! Words really don’t do it justice, so the pictures I upload at the end of my trip will be much more telling than anything I could say about it. Finland is so green at this time of year, and because everything on Suomenlinna is made of mostly stone (the old naval buildings and the fortress at least), I definitely felt like I was on Middle Earth. Helsinki is a pretty small city, so I think tomorrow being my last day here works out well. Next time I write, it will be from Stockholm!
Today is midsummer’s eve in Finland, and so many Finns are away for the weekend at their country homes. My host showed me around this morning, and we stopped at the beach and Seurasaari, a countryside-like town. Helsinki is a pretty small town, but the architecture is beautiful. There are lots of old building exteriors that have been renovated inside to house things like restaurants and shops (similar to DC, actually!). In the afternoon I visited a couple of old churches and had some tea (many shops and museums are closed for the holiday), and tomorrow I might head to Suomenlinna, an island with a fortress that was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s supposed to be beautiful! This evening I am headed to a midsummer bonfire in a nearby park, an old Finnish tradition to welcome summer. Some also have maypoles, and many choose to enjoy saunas during this holiday. Though many shops will open again tomorrow and Sunday, there are a few that have signs saying that they will be closed throughout the summer because the owners are away at their country homes.
I have arrived! I reached Helsinki at about 7:30 this morning, after about 3 hours of sleep. I very slowly made it to my Airbnb, where my host kindly greeted me with options to have coffee and porridge. Needless to say, I was soon eating after a shower. My host, Rose, told me that there was a nice park behind the building, so I took my journal and set up camp there for about an hour. I bought some groceries and took myself out to lunch at a Nepalese restaurant (of which there are many), and did what every sensible traveler does – got myself properly lost (calm down, it was intentional) and found my way back so that I could get a bearing for Helsinki. I ended my day at Löyly, a new sauna that has both smoke and stone saunas, as well as stairs leading into the water (the word löyly refers to the steam that rises off of hot stones in thr sauna when you pour it onto them – remember, the Finns invented saunas! Geniuses). As in the ocean. As in the Baltic Sea. Normally I would’ve been too chicken to do this, but when with Finns…
And let. Me. Tell. You. Until you have felt the contrasts between sweating out of more pores than you thought existed, seeing the steam rise off of your body when you step outside into the cold and rainy weather, and feeling the pain of icy cold water (I actually cried aloud) – I tell you, you haven’t lived, my friend! A standard visit at Löyly is 2 hours, but I could have stayed all day. The Finns, they really know how to sauna. While there, I was chatting with a Finnish man and his American daughter, both of whom gave me some lovely suggestions of things to do, to go along with some other suggestions I’d gotten from another local. Tomorrow…we’ll see!
It’s that time of year again – where I grab my passport, camera, and head out into the world to see what foods I can eat, people I can watch, and sights I can see. This year, I’ll be spending 17 days going to Finland (Helsinki), Stockholm (Sweden), Copenhagen (Denmark), and Oslo (Norway). It’s always been a bucket list item to go to Norway, and for some reason I decided that I don’t like money all that much anyway, so hey, why not add some more of the most expensive countries in the world? That being said, I much prefer spending my money on experiences than things (I say this while typing on a very old computer that dies when not plugged in).
There are a few things that will make this trip particularly different than my Amsterdam trip:
- Local hosts. I am not staying at a hotel this time, but rather, using Airbnb to stay with locals in each country (with the exception of a layover I have in Iceland). I hope that this will add to the experience and that my hosts will have some nice suggestions of what to do.
- No daily itinerary. That’s right. Believe what you just read. I, Planner of All The Things, Organizer Extraordinaire, Lover of Type A-ness, do not have an itinerary. There are a few things that I would like to do in each city (who could miss the Pippi Longstocking or ABBA museums?), but other than that, I’m going to just…go with the flow? Here’s to trying out this new life thing where I don’t plan every detail of every day and see what life brings to me. You can be certain that it will be uncomfortable for me at times.
- Lengthy trip. At this point, 2 days before I leave, I’m feeling just a little silly about my second ever solo trip being 3 times the length of the first one. There really isn’t much more to say about it – oh, well! The flights have been booked!
- Just 1 backpack. Is all I’m taking with me. As in, a carry-on (and not a backpacker’s backpack – a school-sized backpack). 1 backpack, 4 outfits, 1 camera, no hairspray. I’m going to travel, not lug stuff around Europe. Honestly, my biggest concern (as usual) is how many books I’ll be able to bring with me.
So bring on the pastries, potatoes, and fish, Scandinavia! I’m ready for you (I think).