Bergen, Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen… in a hurry

I will start by saying sorry that this is so long. That is what happens when I take too long in between posts. Okay… so I admit I have been slacking off in the posting department. We have been on the move pretty fast and frankly I could have used the bus and train time to write a post… but I didn’t… sorry. I am writing this post on the bus from Copenhagen to Hamburg. It might seem confusing how we got to here but I will enlighten you. The last post I wrote was a wind up to our Iceland trip. Now I have an update on our time in Bergen, Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen.

We flew to Bergen, Norway on June 3, 2019. Our plan was to take a few days kind of slowly  and work out our plan for the rest of Scandinavia. We had booked a car for a week from Bergen with the plan to drive around the fjordlands. However, we made a call on the fly. We found a last minute cruise that goes from Hamburg, Germany up the west coast of Norway through the fjordlands. I think the selling feature on this cruise is that it goes to Svalbard. Nic has not been to the Arctic Ocean… and now she will. It is two weeks long and goes to Molde, Tromsø, Hellesylt/Geiranger, Stavanger, Honningsvag and Longyearbyen (Svalbard). It is on the MSC Preziosa and you can follow us on cruisemapper.com: https://www.cruisemapper.com/?imo=9595321. We depart Hamburg tomorrow (June 17th) and our cruise is two weeks long. Full price was 5000 Euros… we paid 1000 Euros (including all taxes and fees). We found it on seascanner.com which I assume is related to skyscanner.com.

Our Cruise Route

So, Bergen was spent mostly planning what to do next… the cruise. It is summer now and finding places at a reasonable price in Scandinavia is getting more challenging. In the end, we booked mostly on AirBnB and often a little out of the city centre. Our plan became Bergen to Oslo, Oslo to Stockholm, Stockholm to Copenhagen, Copenhagen to Hamburg… all between June 4 and June 17. After the cruise, we have to get to Helsinki, Finland for another excursion to St. Petersburg, Russia for 71 hours and 59 minutes (that is a tale for a different post). After SPB, we are heading to Estonia and then Latvia. We are fully booked for accommodations right up until July 15th in Riga… after that who knows?

Bergen was rainy… but from what we have heard there are few days a year when it does not rain. It is the starting point in Norway for those who are going to explore the fjordlands by car or by boat. It is surround by seven mountains. One day we did the hike up Fløyen. It is a winding climb up steep gravel and cobblestone roads and paths. At the top, and along the way, we were rewarded with fantastic panoramas of the whole city and the fjord leading into Bergen. It takes about an hour to get up, plus close to an hour at top enjoying, and maybe about 45 minutes coming down. Of course, for those who are not up to the hike, there is a funicular that takes about five minutes and costs 65 NOK (about $9 CAD) one way or 120 NOK (about $17 CAD) return. BTW, NOK is the abbreviation for the Norwegian Krona which at the time is about 6.5 NOK to $1 CAD. Needless to say, we did not take the funicular either way.

A panorama from atop Floyen
The North Pole is not far away

The other very cool thing we did in Bergen was we saw Elton John live in concert. This is one of his stops on his final world concert tour. The only way I could get tickets was to buy VIP tickets. It is not as exciting as it sounds; really, being a VIP in this case meant we got a whole bunch of Elton John swag that we are not going to carry around the world for a year. I gave some of it away during the concert to people we were talking with. We arrived about two hours before the concert and stood for the whole time until the end of the three hour concert. All for the bargain basement price of about double what the basic ticket cost … we paid about $355 CAD per ticket… or rather I did as Nic had no inclination to pay that for Elton John… or anyone for that matter. It was a cool concert for sure and I am glad we did it. {Ed Sheeran in Riga, Latvia in July is much more reasonably priced 😉 }.

Good-bye Yellow Brick Road

We took the train from Bergen to Oslo. The 7.5 hour train ride may be Europe’s most spectacular train journey. The route takes you up and over the mountains, through fjords, and some of the most amazing vistas of the Norwegian cross country path. I won’t write too much about it but will share a few of our best photos that tell the story much better than I ever could… they say a picture is worth a thousand words… that saves me some writing.

A lake at the top of the mountain pass.
There was still snow in June at the top of the mountain pass.

I suppose we spent a lot of time in Bergen booking travel and accommodations for the next six weeks and not as much time seeing the city. However, by the time we got to Oslo we were back to our busy days of seeing the sights. We started on our first of two days by doing a free walking tour (I am going to do a separate post about these). That gave us a good sense of what we wanted to see. We wandered through streets and saw buildings that over the last 800 years have been the different city halls. Oslo was the original name of the city but in the 1600s, King Christian renamed it Christinia as a tribute to himself (very humble). It was renamed Oslo in 1925 when Norway gained its independence.

The Royal Palace
King Christian threw his glove down to declare where the new city would be built. This commemorates that.

The next day, we paid for a 24 hour metro pass which allowed us to explore greater areas. It also helped us escape the rain for periods of time. The pass can be used on the ferries as well that go around to the different islands in the fjord. We spent an hour waiting for the ferries because we were standing in the wrong spot. Only when we gave up did we find the right ferry… ugh. We went to Hovedøya and wandered around for about an hour. Then we took the ferry to the other islands on the route but did not get off.

Sporting her new Norwegian fleece… next to the Norwegian flag. Very patriotic.
Hovedøya

From here, we took public transportation to Frogner Park. This park is a former estate and the grounds have been adorned with interesting statues. I am not sure what to say about them but they do start interesting conversations. See below.

What is your guess at the sculpture’s message?
Try to look closely at the tower. Hmmmm?

Next, we went to Holmenkollen which is the location of a training facility for the Norwegian ski jump team. There is a 140 m ski jump slope which really makes me think I could NEVER do that. The train up to Holmenkollen is a steep climb and the views of Oslo are pretty amazing. Unfortunately, it was raining so much we did not get the full experience. Oh well, I guess if you are going to travel here you had better be prepared for the rain.

Norway is synonymous with skiing.
That is one big mother.

I probably could not finish with Oslo without mentioning the lunches we had. On the first day, we had an amazing lunch at an Indian restaurant. It was a buffet with lots of curries and tandoori and was an unbelievable price. It was 99 NOK for the buffet each. I figured that was about $16 CAD for a great buffet. You can put it in perspective though when I tell you that I ordered a coke and it was 39 NOK (about $6 CAD). We tried to go back the next day but missed it by about a half hour. So we ended up eating at a Scottish pub. Oops… very expensive. We ordered a burger, fish and chips, and two beers… drum roll please…. It was almost $100 CAD. There is no doubt about it, Norway is crazy expensive. I remember how we reacted when we visited Bernie and Minoo in Geneva… we had another one of those moments ;-). Be prepared for the costs if you visit. On the cruise, we will be eating buffet mostly so we are prepared for the costs. I am not sure how you afford this Tess and Morten? Salaries are high I suppose.

Remember that the exchange rate is 6.5 NOK to $1 CAD. 192 NOK is $29.50 CAD for fish and chips.

We took a bus from Oslo to Stockholm for some Swedish meatballs. We were fully prepared for even more expensive than Oslo. We were pleasantly surprised though. There are ways to do Stockholm without breaking the bank. Firstly, where we stayed was not very central. We had a 72 hour metro pass. There was a large grocery store near our place that had some unbelievable prices. I think the prices are somewhat similar to those in the NWT, Canada. If you are from southern Canada you are likely to think it is expensive, but northerners probably think they are normal. We bought some food so that we did not have to eat out much. We did eat out more than we were expecting though. More about that below.

The narrowest alleyway
Dancing Queen

We did two free walking tours in Stockholm: one of the old city (Gamla Stan) and one of the more modern city. The tour of Gamla Stan taught us more of the history of Stockholm and showed us the parliament buildings and royal palace. We caught the changing of the guard but Nic could not see much of it because of the crowds. I videoed it so she could see it.

What do you notice about our tour guide?
Telling us where the term “Stockholm syndrome” comes from.
Changing of the Guard

The second tour really opened our eyes to how many companies are Swedish: IKEA, H&M, Spotify, Helly Hansen, Fjallraven, Electrolux, Skype, Thule, Husqvarna, Volvo, and more. Some other things that can be credited to Swedes… Candy Crush,  dynamite, the zipper, the adjustable wrench, the pacemaker, Absolut Vodka, ultrasound, and the Nobel Prize. I suppose I need to include Greta Garbo and ABBA. We figured it would not be a complete experience if we did not see the biggest (which turns out to be the second biggest) IKEA in the world. Any idea where the biggest one in  the world is?

Swedish for “comes with extra pieces”

I said I would say more about eating out. One of our guides told us that restaurants that serve locals often provide a reasonably priced lunch menu that includes a traditional main dish, salad bar, bread, a drink, dessert, and coffee/tea. He recommended we go to Bla Dorren (the Blue Door). For 107 SEK (about $16 CAD) we got it all. We went both days because it was such a great deal and great food.  One day we had a traditional potato pancake with lingonberries plus so much thick bacon I felt my arteries clogging while I ate. It was such a filling lunch we really only needed a small dinner. On the second day, Nic had a chicken breast and I had calves liver. Again, both meals were spectacular. Each day, it included a drink and we choose a light beer. Here, a light beer means about half the alcohol content. We had planned to have Swedish meatballs at IKEA but could not. How sad!

Potato Pancake and Bacon

Our AirBnB host, David, was very social with us. We talked about everything from world travels to everything Sweden. I was very intrigued by their electoral process which is quite different from ours. I will have to read more about it. It is always nice to get a local perspective.

Lastly, we took a train from Stockholm to Copenhagen. We had booked with FlixBus but they cancelled the bus two days before we left and rebooked us on one that was twice as long and getting in at about midnight. We said no way and booked a train. It was more expensive but Nic loves the train so a win for her. We arrived in Kobenhavn at about 1:30 pm. We walked almost 3 km with our packs on to get to our place. We had to stop a few times as it was quite warm. I won’t do that again. I felt sick that night. I sometimes feel sick when I overdue it in the heat and don’t drink enough water (remember the Pitons, Lora and Craig?).

There is a lot of experience in those backpacks.

We had trouble finding our place. The description was not matching what we were seeing. It turns out that the address on AirBnB was incorrect and we were off by a few hundred metres. Once we got the right address it all made sense. I crashed for a while and slept off my sick feelings… or so I thought. We went to a movie that was close by. I felt sick through the whole thing. When we got home from the movie, I crashed again and was fine by morning. BTW, we saw Rocket Man… I am not really a huge EJ fan but it seemed appropriate.

Guess what we did on our first morning in Copenhagen? You guessed it, a free walking tour. We did the grand city tour which took about 2.5 hours. The stories were repeatedly about how the city burned down. Huge sections of the city have burned down multiple times and so few of the buildings date back further than the 1800s. Again, we saw the royal palace, parliament, the royal residences, canals and harbours. We walked about 23,000 steps that day. It was a beautiful day and we knew that the next day was going to be rainy. We made the best of it.

Nyhavn in English is New Harbour
Commemorating their linkage to the Crusades
Changing of the guard.
Always learning.

As promised, it was rainy the next day. We had a few things we wanted to see so we headed out in the rain. Firstly, we wanted to see the Little Mermaid. It was just as promised, small and crowded by tourists. Hans Christen Anderson wrote the Little Mermaid and other children’s stories that Disney turned into popular movies. However, his stories were very different. In his little mermaid, at the end, the prince leaves her for another woman. She has to decide whether to kill him and be a mermaid forever or to go into the sea and die right away. A bit unlike the Disney version wouldn’t you say?

The Little Mermaid

Secondly, we wanted to visit Christiania. Christiania is a section of Copenhagen that started as a social experiment in which hippies took over a former military base and set up a commune. They built their own community free from rules and laws. It is known as Freetown. Within its walls, people openly sell hash and marijuana from booths on “Pusher” Street. There are art galleries and restaurants within Christiania. There are some simple rules for people who visit this commune, primarily don’t take pictures of the residents or on Pusher St. It is a very different feeling and we did not stay long. That said I am glad we at least experienced it.

The other side of the sign says “You are now entering the EU”

The only other thing we talked about doing this day was to experience some of the local cuisine. We tried some the day before at the buffet. The Dalle Valle was a buffet that cost 79 DKK (about $16 CAD). The beer we ordered and shared cost about the same as the buffet. However, we had read about the greatest burger in Copenhagen. It was at a place called Gasoline Grill. They make only one thing… cheeseburgers. You can get the combo but it is with a milkshake or with lemonade. We shared the cheeseburger… it was 75 Danish Kronas or $15 CAD. It was a good burger but it is hard to justify the cost… in my mind anyway.

Want a burger?

We also wanted to try some really Danish pastries. I am not sure that what we think of as a Danish is truly an authentic Danish Danish (repeat that ten times fast). We stopped at Lagerkage Huset which is a chain that sells pastries, coffee, and more. We tried two, one with marzipan and rhubarb; the other was chocolate and almonds. Both were quite delicious but chocolate won for me. Nic might agree.

Danish danishes in Denmark

The next time I will need to try smørrebrød, we did not try it this time. It is like an open face sandwich on rye bread typically with herring and other colourful toppings. I expect I am not selling it. The last highlight that I want to share is the culture of drinking in public. We noticed that on Friday afternoon people brought their own beer and wine out and just sat in public drinking and socializing. I did not see anyone getting drunk, but it was more like co-workers, friends, and family would go for a drink… it just happened to be at the harbour, in a park, etc. When in Rome… we bought a six pack and sat in a park drinking and chatting. A very different vibe.

These were about $1.40 CAD per can at a grocery store.
Drinking in public leads to… just kidding… I love the perspective photos.

Before we knew it, hundreds of roller bladers showed up at the park. As it turns out, every three weeks they gather to go for a two hour skate through the streets. Police close down streets in front and behind them. It is for fun… not a race or a competition. Thus, the drinking before they started was not a problem.

Roller skaters and Roller bladers unite!

Like I mentioned before, I was writing this on the bus from Copenhagen to Hamburg. I did not get it done on the bus. We are in Hamburg now. Tomorrow morning is a free walking tour and then in the afternoon we will board our cruise ship. Sorry for the long post. That is what happens when I don’t write often enough. I have thoughts on a couple of short hints and advice posts… if I get around to it. Otherwise, the next you will hear from me is likely after the cruise. Auf Wiedersehen.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

1 comment