Scandinavian Vacation

Well folks, I thought it was high time that I post some pictures about my trip to Scandinavia.

I began my trip in Copenhangen, Denmark. My super cute and tiny hotel, the Hotel Bethel, was located alongside the quintessential tourist photo op–the Nyhavn canal:

The hotel proved to be the perfect jumping off point for my Copenhagen adventures. Not only did they have the most amazing breakfast buffet, complete with the most delicious chive cream cheese and homemade bread ever, but it was also in the center of all the action, within walking distance of all the major sites, and close to many transit options. Nyhavn is also home to the DFDS Canal Tour, which I enjoyed so much, that I rode it twice. I also used the Hop On, Hop Off boat bus to get to the lovely Trekronor Fortress:

When I travel, I love walking around. I have luck…bad or good depends on your interpretation of events…but oftentimes I will board a bus or a train only to realize moments later that it is headed in the direction opposite to where I wish to go. But somehow I always find really cool locations, and by the end of my trip I usually have a good map of the city in my mind and can find my way nearly anywhere. This windmill was located behind some building on Kastellet Fortress. Many native Danes were jogging around the fortress walls, but I only saw three other tourists.

Walking around I also discovered the King’s Garden. I am a huge fan of good public art (for my favorite example of bad public art, see The Porter Wave), and the King’s Garden had some really cool sculptures:

My only disappointment was Den Lille Havfrue (the Little Mermaid) statue. I had been looking forward to seeing her; in fact, she was one of my reasons for visiting Copenhagen. But she wasn’t there!! Instead she was in Shanghai for some World Expo, and in her place was a video screen that showed a live-feed of Chinese tourists walking past her in Shanghai. Disappointing!

But all was not wasted, just beyond the Little Mermaid were my two favorite Copenhagen sites. Saint Alban’s Anglican Church…I must have taken 20 pictures of it from all different angles:

And the Gefion Fountain:

This fountain depicts the story of the goddess Gefion. She was promised ownership of any quantity of land she could plow in one night. To aid her in her task, she changed her four sons into oxen. The land they plowed was cut from Sweden and thrown into the sea, thus creating the Danish island of Zealand and the Swedish lake Lögrinn.

My other favorite part of the Denmark leg of my trip was the village of Roskilde. The Roskilde Domkirke was a true spectacle. Almost every Danish king and queen is buried or entombed in the Cathedral. From ornate coffins to kings buried in church pillars or buried underneath cathedral floors, I often found myself accidentally stepping on a tomb or two. My favorite tomb room (for lack of a better phrase)…

…had a beautiful ceiling. The Cathedral was just as gorgeous from the outside:

My main reason for visiting Roskilde was to visit the The Viking Ship Building Museum, which has to be the most interesting museum I’ve ever visited. Unique in layout, I explored the outer harbor of the museum first, learning about traditional ship building and viewing traditional Viking ships.

The museum practices traditional ship building, and I was able to watch museum staff add to the basic frame of a ship. There were also outdoor installation pieces depicting the voyage of the Sea Stallion, a large Viking warship constructed using traditional techniques by museum staff.

The museum tested the vessel for sea-worthiness by sailing it around Britain, to Dublin, and back to Roskilde over the course of a year and a half or so. Watching the videos of the voyage was awe-inspiring. The Vikings are basically the most manly race of human to ever exist, end of story.

Inside were the excavated ruins of six Viking ships that were sunk in the Roskilde harbor centuries ago, creating a ship boom in order to protect the harbor. This was an astounding find because each of the Skuldelev vessels, as they are called, represent the different types of vessels built by the vikings: trading vessel, fishing ship, large longboat, small longboat. I probably spent a good 4 hours exploring this museum, and I even skipped some of the movie reels about the Sea Stallion.

From Copenhagen, I traveled to Helsinki, Finland. I loved Finland. It’s all forest and water, sooo pretty. By this time, however, I was exhausted and lonely. It’s hard traveling alone. I wanted someone to share my adventure with, and had no one. I wanted someone else to be with me when I made an ass out of myself in restaurants because there was some other sort of restaurant protocol in Scandinavia than in the US. I also wanted to visit Suomenlinna Fortress, and Nuuksio National Park, home of the flying squirrel, but I didn’t have time or energy or physical strength left to make the attempt. In fact, by the time I got to Helsinki, I would not have been surprised to find bloody stumps in place of my feet. I did, however, get some great pictures of Suomenlinna while on the ferry to Stockholm, and am incredibly inspired to return to Finland for future explorations:

I also walked around Helsinki quite a bit. I was lucky enough to visit Helsinki when the United Buddy Bears were on display. This piece is the brain child of German artists Klaus and Eva Herlitz. They commissioned native artists from each country represented in the UN to make a bear that symbolized their country. The Bears were arranged in a circle, holding paws to symbolize peace and unity. I loved it! Some of the bears were gorgeous and symbolic:

Others could have used a little more creative thought:

There are some really great religious buildings in Helsinki, including the Luthern Cathedral, the under ground, granite Temppeliaukio Church (which also doubles as a bomb shelter during times of war), and the largest Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia.

My random wanderings also led me through a small botanical gardens with a gorgeous greenhouse building, and a cute little water pool:

I spent so much time walking around, that I was pooped by the end of each day, especially when I got to Helsinki. I loved turning in at 5pm and finish out the evening watching television. And although I do not speak a lick of Finnish beyond Kiitos (thank you), Finnish Big Brother became a fast favorite. Not only do young twenty-something Finns have a unique alternative fashion sense, but Finnish is a fantastic language to listen to. It’s all vowels and Ks and Js and Ps. “Ei koske merkittyjen paikkojen vuokraajia eikä huoltoajoa” means something about parking your car…I think. But see how neat it is?

To get from Helsinki to Stockholm, I took one of the Viking Line overnight cruises. As we sailed out of the Helsinki harbor, we passed the super exclusive yacht club, one of my favorite Helsinki sites.

The Finns aboard were hilarious. Bunches of drunk 50somethings intermingled with the equally drunk teenagers. There is a joke that alludes to the Finns’ quiet nature, but damn. I can tell you they are a talkative bunch of people, especially when drunk. At one of the bars, I think a really drunk Finnish guy (not cute or remotely my age) asked me to fuck him. It’s really hard to say no when you don’t know how to say no in any language the other person understands. The bartender saved me though, and it was more amusing than threatening or lecherous…he was so drunk a stiff wind would have knocked him over.

When I reached Stockholm, I was completely pooped. It was about 10am and my hotel was not ready for me. I dropped off my suitcase and went to Stockholm’s outdoor air museum, Skansen. Skansen was created by Artur Hazelius in 1891 in order to preserve Swedish history. He searched the country for traditional buildings–farmsteads from the 1600s, homes from the 1300s, examples of Sami and Finnish settlements–and gathered them in one place. In addition to the traditional Swedish buildings, Skansen serves to preserve native wildlife and livestock…yes, livestock. These are Skåne geese. I totally wanted to steal one.

But by far my favorite animal was the wolverine, blame my Michigan childhood for that ;) The only problem was that the little bugger was fast!! He would run from one end of his dual enclosure to the other. And every time he would stop and sniff the air (ie every time there was a photo op), all the little Swedish kids would run over yelling “Järv”, Swedish for wolverine. Of course, this would snap little Wolvey out of his perfect pose, so none of the photos I got were great.

I did go home two days early–crippled comes close to describing my body at the end of the trip. My RA didn’t act up too much, but my body definitely wears down faster these days because of it. But I was happy with my vacation experiences, I felt I saw what I came to see. And with my body screaming at me to sit the eff down already, I think it was the right choice.

But I will definitely be making another trip to Finland. I fell in love. Perfect weather (cloudy and gloomy), amazing nature, quirky language (to my American ears), fun people. It was fantastic. I’m even researching various ways to get to Finnish National Parks. Google some pictures, they will make your heart stop.

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2 responses to “Scandinavian Vacation

  1. Yay, I have been looking forward to your recap and photos! Looks like you went to a lot of cool places – I’m a fan of botanical gardens and that giant organ makes me salivate a bit. (I used to take organ lessons and I love how powerful they are.)

    Finland sounds like my kind of place. My sense from your comments is that it has a sort of a lovely melancholy atmosphere?

    I love the word “Jorg.” It feels like a word that should be shouted on many occasions.

    For sure, there are definitely pros and cons to traveling alone. Pro: you choose your itinerary. Con: what you mentioned in your post – how you want someone to share the travel experience with.

    It seems like you got a lot out of your trip, even as tired as you were by the end. :)

  2. I love pipe organs too. I have about a hundred pictures of organs from 3 places in Copenhagen and 1 in Helsinki. Love them! And love the tones!

    And yes, lovely, melancholy atmosphere describes it perfectly. Maybe less descriptive of Helsinki itself, but the outskirts and landscape. There is a forlorn-ness to Finland because it is so remote. Though the city is more modern and Iron Curtainy, the land feels ancient and weighty. It was almost like having nostalgia for a place you’ve never been and a time you’ve never lived in.

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