We have returned from our Scandinavian adventures! It was wonderful, and dark, and snowy, and very hygge. I will tell you all about it!
Allow me to start by reassuring you that I am not writing from the poor house. You may recall from my pre-trip post that I had been told that Scandinavia is RIDICULOUSLY expensive. It was definitely expensive, but it was survivable. One day for lunch we ate at a train station Burger King (classy) and got double cheese burgers for $3. Not a bargain, but not highway robbery. Most casual places were going to be $10 a person, and at sit down places we stuck to the cheaper side of the menu and wound up paying around $15 a person.
So the food wasn't too pricey, and most of it was delicious. Our first meal abroad was in Sweden, where we had a lovely salmon lunch to celebrate Thanksgiving. In Bergen at the fish market we had the most delicious fish soup imaginable. I never even imagined fish soup to be any good, but this was a cream base seasoned with nordic magic with perfectly cooked chunks of fish floating around in there. Divine. We had the delicious seasonal favorite, glogg. In Oslo we had meatballs with gravy which were delicious, and mushy peas, which were disgusting. In Copenhagen we had open faced sandwiches, which are called smorrebrod. They were delicious, but mine was roast beef and horseradish, and horseradish is only good in moderation. This sandwich had a mountain of horseradish which was a little painful to eat but gave me the clearest sinuses I have ever possessed.
Now that you have learned about my sinuses, let me tell you about the actual trip. We arrived in Copenhagen in an Ikea-inspired airport at 11:00 on Thanksgiving morning, and immediately took the train to Malmo, Sweden. Malmo was sunny and kind of quiet, and I immediately discovered my potential downfall, which was beautiful little design stores with household goods. Scandinavia is basically little design stores as far as the eye can see. Thankfully on this trip I was forced to carry everything I possessed on my back, and the exchange rate is terrible, or I would be writing this from the poor house. It was fun to browse. While in Malmo we wandered around, ate that salmon Thanksgiving lunch, and visited a church built in the 1300s.
That night we returned to Copenhagen and went to hunt down our AirBnB, which was an adorable little apartment. We walked out of the city center, EXHAUSTED, jet-legged, and bleary, and that’s when Andy confessed that he had forgotten to write down the code to get into the building. I almost died. Our phones didn’t work without wifi, so we were going to have to find an open coffee shop and get wifi and look it up. Writing that now, it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but at the time it was more than I could possibly manage. I did manage to keep my thoughts to myself, which was good because I was having very dark thoughts about Andy. I thought, “HOW COULD HE DO THIS TO ME? Why doesn’t he plan (obsessively) like I do? Why can’t he be more like me?” And then they turned to, “I think our love is dead. I guess we’ve been married for almost two years, and the honeymoon had to end sometime, but I didn’t expect all remains of love to be extinguished at the same time. Well, we’ve had a good run.”
As I contemplated my future life in a loveless marriage, right when we found the apartment someone came out to walk their dog and we slipped right in. We climbed the four flights of stairs, got into the apartment, literally collapsed, and went to bed at 6 PM. I felt much better about my marriage the next morning.
The next day the sun rose a little before nine. While we were there the sun would rise from 8:50-9:30, and set at 3:30-4:10. It actually wasn’t that bad. It was sunny most days we were there, and that helped. And with the jet lag and all the walking and touring we were doing, being at home early never seemed like a bad idea.
We went to a lot of palaces in Copenhagen. For a long time they had an absolute monarchy there, and they still have a (much less absolute) monarchy today. We learned in one of the palaces that they no longer wear the crown jewels or sit on thrones, and really if you’re going to scale it back that far, what is the point of being a monarch? Especially when they have a totally wicked throne made out of NARWHAL TUSKS at their disposal. Come on. It was disappointing to learn that they have fallen so far. But they do still get to live in gorgeous palace, and they do still have a royal yacht, so that’s good as far as it goes, but the people of Denmark basically host rich celebrities who do no actual royal activities. It’s strange. As Mike says in The Philadelphia Story: “The prettiest sight in this fine, pretty world is the privileged class enjoying its privileges.” The Royal family needs to get on it!
We took a canal tour which was beautiful but freezing. It was the coldest I felt on the whole trip, but it was neat to see the city from the water. It’s a gorgeous old city that did not suffer a lot of bombing during WWII, so the buildings are old and beautiful. That night we went to Tivoli Gardens, and it was all lit up for Christmas, but we were too cold to stay for very long.
We took a night ferry to Oslo, and as I said it was really a giant cruise ship. We had a cabin with two bunks which made me feel very ship shape. We got into Oslo early on Sunday morning (well, 9 AM, but the sun was just coming up). We went to an English-speaking Anglican church, which was nice, and they were celebrating Christingle, so we did that. That afternoon we went to the Akershus fortress, which is a medieval fortress on the fjord that also has a castle that has been updated dozens of times over the years. They also have a Norwegian resistance museum, about the resistance efforts during WWII. It was very interesting.
The castle itself was very interesting but kind of creepy. We quickly learned that November in Oslo is most definitely the off season, so we frequently had museums almost entirely to ourselves. We were wandering around this dimly lit, very empty medieval castle. The next day at the Norwegian Folk Museum we went through an apartment building where each apartment was decorated in different eras. It was very cool, but also a little spooky, especially because they had music playing in one apartment. You’re all alone in this empty building and all of a sudden this music starts playing….I was glad to get back outside to see the old houses and Stave church and a horse.
Also in Oslo we went to the Holmenkollen ski jump and an accompanying ski museum. We went on a ski jump simulator, which was good at mimicking the rush down the hill but hadn’t really captured the flying through the air aspect. My toes still tingled regardless. The views from the top of the jump were gorgeous! Also in Oslo we went to the National Gallery, walked around on the roof of the Opera House, and went and saw Viking ships that have been dug out of burial mounds. Awesome.
Probably my favorite part of the trip was the six-hour train trip from Oslo to Bergen. It was gorgeous scenery the whole way, and then halfway through we got on a different line to go to the town of Flam. That was unbelievable. It was snowing softly, and you are the only people out there (you and literally the six other people on this three car train. Like I said, off-season). We went through the mountains down to the town of Flam on the fjord. It was a little foggy so it was hard to see the fjord in all of its majesty, but we got the general idea.
On the rest of our train trip to Bergen we were passing through these gorgeous wintry landscapes occasionally dotted by houses with the lights slowly coming on. Windows in Norway were lovely. Many had paper Christmas stars lit up in them, or little candelabras, and lots of plants. There was so much hygge happening it was insane. I loved the Christmas stars so much I bought one. If you want to watch a very creepy video about Christmas stars or get your own you can do so here.
Speaking of hygge, Scandinavia is full of it. My favorite demonstration of this was the abundance of blankets. Restaurants would have outdoor seating with heat lamps and blanket at every chair. It was so nice. Even when we went to Tivoli we got food at a little stand and they had a table with blankets. We also went to an amazing coffee shop in Sweden that was an old house and they had tons of small rooms upstairs. By the door they just had a basket full of blankets. Absolute genius.
We got into Bergen at 6 PM, but because it had been dark so long it felt like 11. I was shocked to see so many people out and about and then I was like, oh yeah. Bergen was lovely--it’s a town on a fjord. The street we stayed on was beautiful and historic. Here’s a picture of it that I didn’t take.
We stayed in a little apartment that had two balconies (one only accessible by window) and lots of nooks and crannies. Bergen was a wonderful place--the only sad thing was that we were there for one day and it rained and it rained all day long. It was rain with wild wind, so our umbrellas popped inside out Mary Poppins style many times and I felt disgraced.
One of things I was very excited about was to take the funicular up the mountain for breathtaking views. We took the funicular up, but there was only the thickest possible fog. We went back down and consoled ourselves with delicious fish soup and the buying of a Christmas star, and the eating of skillingsbolle, which is a pastry that is basically a cinnamon roll. All that consolation was good, because the cloudy skies also meant we couldn’t see the northern lights, which we were hoping to do.
The next day we left early to catch our flight to London. In London, we didn’t have the correct boarding pass to get on our next flight, so we had to wait 45 minutes in the border crossing line, go get a pass at the gate, and go back through security. It was not my favorite part of the trip.
And then we flew for 12 more hours and then we were home! It was a wonderful trip. I'm very glad that I have an adventurous husband who gets me to go on semi-spontaneous vacations. Who knows where we'll go next?
***If you are traveling somewhere soon, you should definitely check out Airbnb! It was very affordable, and it was so cool to stay in local apartments. The hosts were very friendly, and the privacy and amenities are wonderful. If you use this link, you'll get $20 off your first stay! Let us know if you have any questions!