Scandinavia: The Capitals to the Fjords
May 10 – 22, 2013
Jim & I did this trip with Go Ahead Vacations. It was a very nice overview of the Scandinavian countries. We stayed in Copenhagen, Denmark; Flam, Norway (in the Fjords region); Oslo, Norway; Stockholm, Sweden; and Helsinki, Finland. We went by overnight ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo, by coach from Oslo to the Fjords, and by coach again from the Fjords back to Oslo, flew from Oslo to Stockholm, and by ferry again from Stockholm to Helsinki. (The map below is copied from the Go Ahead website). Thomas was our great tour director.
Copenhagen Denmark: Originally a Viking fishing village founded in the 10th century, Copenhagen became the capital of Denmark in the beginning of the 15th century. Today it is the most populous city of Denmark with bridges and tunnels connecting the parts of the city together and its cityscape is characterized by waterfronts and promenades.
Christiansborg Palace: The seat of the Danish Parliament, the Danish Prime Minister’s Office and the Danish Supreme Court.
Nyhavn: The seventeenth century waterfront, with its colorful buildings. Hans Christian Andersen lived and wrote his first stories here in the Nyhavn area.
Harbor Boat Cruise: It was a nice way to leisurely see Copenhagen. 1st photo below: One of the oldest buildings in Copenhagen is the Old Stock Exchange, built by King Christian IV (1577-1648). It remained in use until 1974. 2nd photo below: Cruising through the Nyhavn area which was established in 1670. It is filled with glamorous old sailboats, trendy cafes and jazz clubs.
1st photo below: Cruising through a residential area of Copenhagen. 2nd photo below: The Copenhagen Opera House is one of the most modern in the world, and one of the most expensive ever built. Completed in 2005, it was a $400 million gift to the nation from an oil-shipping magnate.
1st photo below: “Far out in the ocean, where the water is as blue as a cornflower, as clear as crystal, and very, very deep…..there lived a young mermaid.” So begins one of Hans Christian Andersen’s (1805-1875) best-known stories. 2nd photo below: Cruising through Christianshavn which is a lively, primarily residential area located across the harbor from the old town of Nyhavn.
1st photo below: Another view of the Christianshavn area. Look closely at the very center of the photo and you can see the spire of the church which is featured in the following photo. 2nd photo below: Our Savior’s Church, dates back to 1696 and features a unique spiral spire with an outdoor staircase winding up to its top.
Jim & I used public transportation, but the most fun was on the water taxi.
Amalienborg Palace & Square: Queen Margrethe II and her husband live in a mansion on the square. Frederik’s Church (center of 1st photo) also known as the Marble Church, built in 1740 has the largest dome in Scandinavia and the 4th largest in Europe. We watched the changing of the guards. The guards change with royal fanfare at noon only when the queen is in residence.
Jim & I did our own little side trip to Roskilde, Denmark by train. It turned out to be a delightful afternoon. The lady at the train station sold us 24 hour tickets, which could be used for Roskilde and also for any public transportation in Copenhagen. So we made good use of the tickets for the next 24 hours. Foremost, we wanted to get out of the big city and we knew Roskilde was a small town with a beautiful old town center, and also home of the Viking Ship Museum.
Viking Ship Museum: The museum displays five different Viking ships which were discovered in the Roskilde fjord and painstakingly excavated, preserved, and pieced back together beginning in the 1960’s. These vessels were sunk a thousand years ago to block an easy channel into this harbor (leaving open only the most challenging approach—virtually impossible for anyone but a local to navigate).
Roskilde is a nice little town with a pedestrian street running down the center of the city. It dates back to the 980’s, has a lovely old town square and the Roskilde Cathedral which was built in 1170. It was the largest and most important town in Denmark in 1268. The food in Copenhagen was extremely expensive, as was everything else. We loved the fact that we ate in Roskilde for a lesser price and had a delicious meal.
To take complete advantage of our 24 hour public transportation ticket we headed out early the next morning to see more sights around Copenhagen. I must tell you that the one thing in this city that could inflect great bodily harm to us was the hundreds of bicycles that were coming at us in every direction. Well, we survived unscathed!
We went by overnight ferry from Copenhagen, Denmark to Oslo, Norway. This was a real treat and we enjoyed it very much. The ferry was very nice and included most of the amenities of any cruise line with the exception that it carried automobiles in the bottom. We had a nice cabin, a delicious buffet dinner and breakfast, watched the entertainment and could have shopped and gambled if we’d desired. We set sail about 4:30 in the afternoon and arrived in Oslo around 9:00 the next morning.
Norway: With a population of about 5 million, it is the second least densely populated country in Europe. It shares a long border with Sweden. The capital city of Norway is Oslo. Norway’s extensive coastline, facing the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea, is home to its famous fjords. Geologically, a fjord is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created in a valley carved by glacial activity. The coasts of Norway, Iceland, and Greenland have many fjords.
After arriving in Oslo by ferry we went by coach to the Fjord area of Norway. It was a beautiful drive with scenic beauty all along the way. It was interesting seeing the countryside, the farms, and the mountainous areas that were still covered with snow.
It was fun spotting a Lamborghini tractor. We sure don’t have that brand in Kansas.
Borgund Stave Church: It dates from about 1180 with later additions and restorations. Its walls are formed by vertical wooden boards, or staves, hence the name “stave church”.
Borgund has tiered, overhanging roofs, topped with a tower. On the gables of the roof, there are four carved dragon heads, swooping from the carved roof ridge crests, recalling the carved dragon heads found on Norse ships.
The ceiling of the stave church is held up with scissor beams crossing each other to form an X shape with a narrow top span and a broader bottom span.
Located next to the Stave Church, is the currently used Lutheran Church.
Proceeding on towards Flam, Norway: We did a first….rode through the longest road tunnel in the world. It’s a little over 15 miles long and took us a good 22 minutes to drive it.
We arrived in the lovely village of Flam, Norway in the late afternoon. But since it didn’t get dark until around 10:30 p.m. we had plenty of daylight. We loved the little town and Hotel Fretheim in Flam. Our group of 28 had several meals together, but this was the best at this hotel. The hotel also provided a great sitting area which overlooked the town and the amazing landscape.
The next morning we embarked on a cruise to explore the fjords. The breathtaking natural beauty and tranquil scenery of the region was awesome. It was misty and cool, but we didn’t let that interfere with the pleasure of the day.
The village of Flam is home of the Flam Railway which goes between Flam and Myrdal and is one of the steepest railroad tracks in the world. In the afternoon we did a scenic journey on the Flam Railway, taking in breathtaking views of the fjords, mountains, countless waterfalls, and the charming area.
Thus ends our favorite part of the trip and that was seeing the Fjords of Norway.
Viking Ship Museum, Oslo, Norway: We saw two finely crafted, majestic oak Viking ships dating from the 9th & 10th centuries. This ship, the Oseberg, from A.D. 834 (1179 years old), with it’s ornate carving and impressive rudder, was likely a royal pleasure craft.
The Gokstad ship, from A.D. 950, was a practical working boat, capable of sailing the high seas. The ships survived so well because they were buried in clay as part of a gravesite.
Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo, Norway: in 1947 Heyerdahl and five crewmates constructed the Kon-Tiki raft out of balsa wood. They set sail from Peru on the tiny craft, surviving for 101 days on fish, coconuts, and sweet potatoes. About 4,300 miles later they arrived in Polynesia. The point was to show that early South Americans could have settled Polynesia. The Kon-Tiki story became a best-selling book.
Vigelandsparken: The famous park is filled with 212 bronze and granite sculptures and locals enjoying outdoor life in the nice park area. Gustav Vigeland made a whole park full of naked sculptures. He also designed the architectural setting and the layout of the grounds.
Norway’s National Day: May 17 is Norway’s Constitution Day and is celebrated with children’s parades and festivities. A distinctive characteristic that contributes to making this a unique day is the beautiful national costumes that hundreds of people were wearing. It was a fun time seeing all the festivities and gazing at the awesome national costumes!
We flew from Oslo, Norway to Stockholm, Sweden. I was looking forward to seeing Sweden, because my great grandfather immigrated from Sweden to America. It was nice to see the homeland of my ancestors. I now understand the love my Daddy had of carving and painting ships….it was in his blood.
Stockholm, Sweden: Sweden’s capital city spreads out over 14 islands in Lake Mälaren and looks out proudly to the Baltic Sea to the east. Her grand public buildings, palaces, rich cultural history and museums tell her 700 year-old history.
We visited Stockholm’s architecturally unique City Hall. It was built in 1923 and is still a functioning city hall. The blue hall is well known as the dining hall used for the banquet held after the annual Nobel Prize award ceremony. Above the Blue Hall lies the Golden Hall, named after the decorative mosaics made of more than 18 million tiles. The last picture of this group is a Swedish Dali Horse with Marilyn, the Swede standing beside it.
Vasa Museum: The glamorous but unseaworthy warship Vasa—top heavy with an extra cannon deck—sank 20 minutes into her 1628 maiden voyage when a breeze caught the sails and blew her over. After 333 years at the bottom of Stockholm’s harbor, she was rediscovered and then raised in 1961. It is considered the best-preserved ship of its age anywhere. Painstakingly restored, 95% of the wood is original. It was fascinating to see all the unique craving that was on this old, old ship.
Stockholm’s Old Town (Gamla Stan): Until 1600’s, all of Stockholm fit on Gamla Stan. We strolled down it’s winding, medieval streets and also got to see the changing of the guards at the Royal Palace which is part of the Old Town.
Uppsala, Sweden: Considered the birthplace of Sweden. 1st photo – Gamla Uppsala Church dates from the 12th century. 2nd photo – The Gothic Uppsala Cathedral is around 800 years old and is one of Scandinavia’s largest and most historic.
Photos from inside Uppsala Cathedral: There is a beautifully carved, gold-slathered Baroque pulpit. At the far end of the church is a woman peering toward the grave in the apse. This is a eerily lifelike statue from 2005, called Mary, which captures Jesus’ mother later in life, wearing a scarf and timeless garb. I literally thought this was a actual person! The chapel she’s looking at once housed a shrine to her, but for more than 300 years after the Reformation, images of Mary were downplayed in this church.
Uppsala University: Is a research university and is the oldest university in Sweden, founded in 1477.
Drottningholm Palace: After a one hour boat ride we arrived at the queen’s 17th century summer castle known as Drottningholm Palace. It has been called “Sweden’s Versailles.” The current Swedish royal family have used Drottningholm as their primary residence since 1981. (No photos were allowed inside.)
We did another overnight ferry ride from Stockholm, Sweden to Helsinki, Finland. This cruise was just as enjoyable as the previous one. We left Stockholm around 5 pm and arrived in Helsinki the next morning. We spent a nice evening of eating, strolling and watching good entertainment.
Helsinki, Finland: This was our last destination of the Scandinavian trip. (Jim & I had been to Helsinki in 2002 after doing a Russian River Cruise.) Helsinki is the world’s northernmost metro area of over one million people. The city is spread across a number of bays and peninsulas and over a number of islands.
We did a city tour by coach. The Helsinki Cathedral, finished in 1852 and located above market square is probably the most predominant building of the city. The Sibelius Monument contains 600 stainless-steel pipes is in honor of Finland’s greatest composer, Jean Sibelius.
Jim & I went bought a public transit day ticket and had unlimited travel. We took advantage of this and went by city bus (#24) to Seurasaari Open-Air Folk Museum. It is located on a island on the edge of town and has a collection of 100 historic buildings from all over Finland. The traditional Finnish way of life is displayed in the cottages, farmsteads and manors of the past four centuries that have been relocated here. This was our favorite venture in Helsinki.
Seurasaari Open-Air Folk Museum: We got of the city bus and entered the island on a footbridge. This granary dates from the 17th century. Its understructure prevents mice from getting in the granary and helps to ventilate the bottom in order to keep the grain dry. We saw many of these exact structures as we traveled the countryside of the Scandinavian countries.
Antti Farmstead: It was brought from western Finland and was built around 1820. Houses with enclosed farmyards were built since the Middle Ages in western Finland where the open-field division of land was followed. The villages were grouped on riversides and waterfronts. The last photo shows the water-well and how the bucket was lowered into the well.
Pertinotsa Farm: Was built 1850-1884 and exemplifies the type of northern Russian house in which dwelling rooms and cowsheds are to be found under the same roof. The main upstairs living room, with its adjoining guest quarters, was the center of daily family activities. Storerooms are located underneath. At the other end of the building, a second story hay loft is situated above ground floor cow stalls. This windmill was built in 1894 and remained in use in the west of Finland until the 1940’s.
The Karuna Church: This is one of my favorite things that we saw in Scandinavia. The inside of the church is absolutely unique! The Karuna Church is the oldest building in the Museum. It was built in 1685-86 and brought to the Museum in 1912. The pulpit dates from the 1600′s. The church is decorated by 11 oil paintings. Christ and the Apostles are pictured on the railing of the organ gallery. My favorite thing in the church were the carved arms on the wall with the hand holding a candle.
Note the beautiful carved ship hanging from the ceiling and the pulpit dating from the 1600’s.
In summary: We have always wanted to go to Scandinavia and particularly Sweden since I am of Swedish descent. It was a great trip! We knew it would be expensive, but let me tell you it is by far the most expensive area that we have ever toured, and we have been to 72 countries thus far. But….keep on traveling, and happy travels.