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Published: June 25th 2014
Well, school is out for summer! I am glad to have a few weeks to relish the beauty of summer in Scandinavia before a grand tour of the US that starts on Sunday.
A former co-teacher from Denver arrived the weekend before my school ended. As it was her first visit to Scandinavia, we decided to maximize her two weeks and check out a few destinations to give her a taste of the region.
We took advantage of the timing of this event called Distortion. Not sure really if it falls under the category of a festival or what, but during the week, the party takes over certain streets in Copenhagen for an evening. Jenny and I stopped in on, well really danced the night away at, the final night of the event. It was great fun and a unique experience from the rest of our mellow adventure.
The day after school let out, we set off north. A four hour train ride to Stockholm passed quickly. We lugged our bags through the small streets of the old town taking in the
general beauty of the city in the sun, before we boarded our overnight ferry to Helsinki! The view of the passing islands in Stockholm’s archipelago lasted for hours. Since the sun set after 11, we were able to enjoy the scenery well into the night.
The location of our Air BnB proved an ideal five minute walk from the ferry terminal. While our hosts were kind and the space perfectly adequate, this did not top my experiences with Air BnB. Jenny and I kept coming up with questions about culture, customs, or current events that we would have liked to ask a local, but our hosts were not around to answer them. Just the luck of the draw, I guess!
Since Jenny’s visit was near midsummer, the longest day of the year, there were many activities happening. Helsinki hosted an event that we understood translated to something like, We Are the Festival. We stumbled upon various acts and art instillation as we covered the city. My only complaint for the Helsinki, is that bikes are prohibitively expensive to rent! This meant that we took in the
city on foot and perhaps therefore saw more details, but we would have liked to cover more ground. I guess another time I’d bite the bullet and rent a bike, or plan a day with a tram pass.
Helsinki does not have the charming buildings of Stockholm’s old town, but it has its own beauty. Parks, greenways, pedestrian streets, and bike lanes lead through various neighborhoods. As we were there on the weekend, we were able to see a Saturday buzz with people taking in the markets, eating ice cream in the park, and enjoying the festival. The clothing that women wore stood out to me, as there were many patterns, colors, and over-sized fits running around town and taking up shop windows. Perhaps the Finnish designer Marimekko has left a mark this way?
Of our sights in Helsinki, the Rock Church and The Silent Chapel, which occupies a corner of a bustling town square, ended up highlights for me. The Rock Church is literally composed of rock; it would be something special to hear a concert there. The chapel is made of wood and is
curved in sort of an egg shape. Sitting in the silence with the natural beauty of the wood was soothing. I admit the need for it in the relatively calm city of Helsinki was not great, for me, but it was a lovely spot.
This trip with Jenny appeared to be one of boats-a boat tour in Copenhagen, ferry twice between Denmark and Sweden, the overnight ferry, and again, a ferry out to the island of Suomenlinna. The island was once a military fort. Finland’s history of occupation, Sweden then Russia, has left a story that fills up the museums on the island. Beyond the museums, the island offered lovely picnic spots and views of the many sailboats taking advantage of the weather.
We found the Finns to be approachable and helpful. They were very quick with a smile and a laugh. As we sipped our morning coffees in a local café, we couldn’t help but note the tables of locals enjoying a morning beer! We just scratched the surface of Finland, and I hope to come back to explore more of the country and learn
more about its culture.
Back in Sweden, our train to Helsingborg departed in the late evening, so we left our bags at the station and took on a day of sightseeing in Stockholm. Of course, we started with a boat tour! We opted for the historical tour, which offered some fun facts and new information, to us, about Sweden’s development as a nation. I particularly enjoyed seeing the swimming site from the Olympics, so unassuming compared with today’s Olympic structures!
Armed with a map, we headed off to find a restaurant called Kajsas Fisk. I had read that it had the BEST fish soup in Stockholm. We went downstairs and ended up in a food court or fine food market. Part of me felt transported to Seattle’s Pike Place, perhaps it was the gorgeous fish! Indeed, the soup and shrimp salad did not disappoint. We were grateful to get out of the cold and warm up, as there was a chill in the air! I dare not say unseasonable, because perhaps that is what late spring is in Stockholm!
Thankfully, Copenhagen was sunny and warm, so we spent her final day climbing up the Church of Our Saviour for a birds eye view, picnicking in the park, and enjoying the people watching and community in Christiania with Mads and his sister. Parting was easier as I will see Jenny soon, but it was great fun traveling about again and covering new ground in this Nordic region.
Swedish midsummer took place on the 20th
. A kind Swedish friend invited me to join in her festivities. When I arrived, we all decorated, well, what would we call it, a Maypole?, with flowers. Once that was done, there was a lot of singing and dancing around it. Though I do not know what was being sung, it was a joyful start to the fun. Dinner consisted of potatoes, salad, cheese and bread, radishes, and many types of pickled herring- I tried them all!
And, it turned out I was VERY happy my plate was loaded with all these bits of herring, because schnapps turned out to be the next activity! After a song was sung, heartily and with much goofing around, a
shot of flavored vodka was raised with a cheer, and then down the hatch! This was promptly followed by a bite of herring. Though my companions at the table wanted to make sure that I tried each schnapps, there were many flavors and some homemade!, they did allow me to fill my own glass, which meant it was far from full. The sun seemed to never set lately, and the party was a great way to celebrate all the energy and good that has come with that.
Now that work and the festivities have wrapped up, I am still soaking up the light and enjoying relaxed time with friends. This meant a calm weekend at Mads’ family’s summerhouse, which allowed me to see the preparations for the Danish version of midsummer, Saint Hans, where they light enormous bonfires. And another friend took me on a little car trip around my region of Sweden to visit some local artisans, a potter and weaver, to take in some local Swedish crafts.
As I pack for my flight to the US, I cannot help but wonder how I will
feel in the rush of New York City. It will be great fun to explore the city again and observe my reactions to being there and home! I cannot wait to see family and friends!
Wishing everyone a happy and healthy summer!
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