My parents and I took a trip to Scandinavia this summer. We visited Sweden, Denmark, and Norway with a tour group. The trip was a lot of fun. We saw some beautiful scenery in Norway, learned about Scandinavian history and saw a lot of art.
You can see the rest of the photos in the gallery.
We started in Stockholm. We arrived a day before the tour started so that we could acclimate and see Drottningholm, the Nobel museum, and Millesgården. The most impressive thing in Stockholm was probably the Vasa museum. The Vasa was a massive warship built to the King’s specifications which sunk in the harbor on its maiden voyage in 1628. The ship was raised and preserved in the 60’s and 70’s.
The Stockholm city hall was also very interesting. Like a cathedral to democracy and government. This is where the Nobel banquet is held and there is a room decorated with mosaics made up of 18 million mostly gold leafed tiles. On our way to Denmark we spent a night in Kalmar and saw the castle there.
In Copenhagen we stayed on Nyhavn (new harbor) with its packed row of colorful buildings. We visited the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek art museum and Christiania – a hippie enclave and self-proclaimed autonomous city. I also climbed the spire at the Our Saviors Church. It was impressive because the stairway is on the outside of the spire and gets narrower and narrower as you reach the top.
In Roskilde we visited a Viking Ship museum where we learned about the techniques they used to build ships. The museum is currently building ships with the same techniques that were used in the Viking era. We also visited the cathedral there which is the first Gothic cathedral made of brick and is interesting because each chapel was built in the style popular at the time, leading to chapels in a wide variety of architectural styles.
We spent two days on the island of Aero. The tour guide called this a “vacation from your vacation” because the island has just a few small towns and is a bit sleepy. It was pleasant and I took a bike ride around the town.
We took a ferry/cruise from Copenhagen to Oslo and on the way back through Copenhagen we went to the SMK art museum and saw the Little Mermaid statue.
We visited the impressive Oslo city hall with the tour group. We didn’t get to stay long, but we saw the wood carvings and murals. We went to the National Gallery and saw a nice collection of Munch including the “Scream”. We also went to the Munch museum where we saw a wider variety of his work and also a second version of several of the paintings we saw at the national gallery.
One of the nicest things that we saw on the whole tour was Frogner park and all the Vigeland sculptures. The city provided Vigeland a workshop and house and he worked for 20 years designing the park and making sculptures for it. They are all untitled nudes depicting the lives of everyday people.
We also visited the Viking ship, Kon-Tiki and Fram museums. The Fram museum holds the Fram arctic ship which was designed to be frozen into the arctic ice and drift toward the north pole. The science behind the ice drift plan wasn’t correct, so they didn’t end up at the north pole, but the ship and crew survived locked in the ice for three years.
We went to a somewhat informal concert at the new $4.5 billion Oslo Opera house. The concert was nice and the opera house is modern and designed for people to be able to walk around and on it and enjoy the exterior space.
After Oslo, we headed north into the mountains. On the way we stopped at an “open air museum” where buildings from around the country have been relocated and preserved. This isn’t our first open air museum, but it is always interesting to see how difficult and unchanging people’s lives were for hundreds of years prior to the industrial revolution. We also stopped at a Stave Church in Lom and spent the night at Elveseter hotel.
We took a very scenic drive and cruise down from the mountains and along the Sognefjord to Bergen. In the mountains, we drove along a river of bright blue glacier water and the cruise included the Nærøyfjord which is only 1600ft wide and surrounded by mountains that rise very steeply to 3000 feet above the water.
Our tour ended in Bergen. Bergen was a major Hanseatic town and we toured the old town and the Hanseatic offices. This was particularity interesting to me because of the board game Hansa Teutonica. We also spent some time in the KODE art museum and went up the funicular for a nice scenic overlook.
Rick Steves’ Tour
We were on a Rick Steves’ tour with 25 people. It was smaller than our tour group in England and the people were happier. We also had better guides and food. The hotels were in good locations. From the description and warnings about physical activity, I expected the tour to be more strenuous and demanding than it was. They gave us quite a bit of free time to see things on our own and provided a general transportation and museum pass in two of the cities.
So overall I was pretty happy with the Rick Steves’ tour experience. Having a good tour leader and happy travel companions makes a big difference. I couldn’t justify the cost of the tour if I were traveling by myself, but it was nice having someone else dealing with transportation and hotels. And several of the guided tours provided information that is very hard to find when you are on your own.
Note: I’m back-dating this post to a couple days after we got back. I waited quite a while hoping to get photos from other tour members.