The end of my Nordic Countries involved a visit to Freetown Christiania, an area in Copenhagen that is not monitored by the government and run exclusively by its inhabitants. It was small and artsy, and fun to walk around. I also went to The Church of Our Saviour, where I faced my fear of heights and climbed up an enormous, winding, tower to overlook the entire city. Beautiful views, but I’m not sure that teetering on the side of a church tower is really my cup of tea.
The Danes on my dessert tour had recommended a canal tour to me – I tend to avoid these larger city tours, but since locals said that it was worth it – off I went! It was a nice way to get up to Nyhavn without walking, which is where the statue of The Little Mermaid is. Since so many people make a big to-do about this statue, I was expecting something much grander than was there, and I was glad to have been on the canal tour instead of taking half a day just to see it.
Language tidbit: “havn” means port. Anything preceding “havn” refers to the kind of port that something is. “Koben” means merchants, therefore “Kobenhavn” (Copenhagen) means “port of merchants.”
After Copenhagen came Oslo. My hosts were absolutely delightful, and gave me a map of the city and very clear directions for everything I wanted to see. I spent my first evening in Oslo walking up to the Vigeland Sculpture Park, an expansive park with fountains, sculptures, and no shortage of green space. The amount of nature in the Nordic Countries did not cease to impress. My full day in Oslo was full of the Viking Museum in the morning, followed by the Nasjonalmuseet, the art museum. I was specifically going to see The Scream, painted by Edvard Munch. I was delighted to also find art by Picasso, Degas, Monet, Manet, and more! This was perhaps the most surprising and exciting part of my day. There was an additional special exhibit of Japanese art, including The Great Wave off Kanagawa (Katsushika Hokusai), which was another unexpected encounter. After, of course, buying my souvenir, another children’s book, I had fish cakes for lunch and wandered about the city. I climbed up the roof of the opera house to get a glimpse of the water on one side, and the city on the other (including the well-known “barcode” buildings, which are a number of buildings planned to look like, you guessed it, a barcode). There was a cafe inside the opera house where I sat, enjoyed a coffee, and gazed out onto the water. Though it was a packed day, I felt like I saw everything I was hoping to in Oslo.
I was so grateful to have had such a long time to explore these four countries on my own! I’m glad I did it by myself, but I did learn that about two weeks on my own is probably my maximum. I learned that I am quite the subtle traveler, as most people assumed I was a local, and I appreciate the parenting culture in Northern Europe, as well as the way that children are treated (like normal humans). I feel done with Europe for a while, but who knows what’s in store next!