Saturday, March 19, 2016

SCANDINAVIA - Afterthoughts

Loved every minute of our trip to Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.  But here are a few thoughts on what I would do differently as well as what was just right.

On the path to The Little Mermaid - Copenhagen

When I began planning this trip it was a very busy and stressful time with work and my church calling (organizing a women's conference).  So, I used a travel agent to book flights and help me with a few things.  I let him talk me into taking flights between Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslo.  We have always preferred a combination of trains and cars.  The flights were definitely less expensive, but the added stress of airplane travel and such wasn't worth it.  We would have preferred taking the scenic route that trains and cars afford. Even if it took a bit longer or cost a bit more.  Should have listened to my gut on this.  Lesson learned.

Copenhagen Harbor

We also needed one more night in Stockholm to get a better feel for that city.  Two nights just not enough.  I like to pack a lot into touring a big city but I also like at least a half day for wandering and observing--no time in Stockholm for those pleasures.


Norway requires more time on the fjords--pictures don't do it justice.  We met a darling and intrepid couple from Los Angeles, Marjorie and Dave.  They said they once made the same mistake taking flights in between closely connected cities/countries when they knew they preferred the more scenic route, too.  This trip, they spent more time traveling by ferry, car, train and loved it.  And they went deeper into the fjords.  Ferries are abundant and you can hop off and on staying in various villages and hiking as you go.  We met a few families with small children and teenagers who were doing that and loved it.  They unplugged from phones and tablets enjoying each other and the spectacular countryside.

Cute Marjorie and Dave

And, always, always book a Norway in a Nutshell tour. I have been to Norway twice and have booked this tour both times.  You can customize this tour to suit your needs and time constraints.  It is a brilliant plan and is an effortless way to tour the beauty of the fjords and its villages.

Norwegian countryside

We relied greatly on ground transportation to and from hotels and airports and only took two taxis.  The subway/train system in Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslo is superb.  From what we experienced, there were escalators and elevators galore and no station had only stairs for entry and exit.  Stairs are miserable when you are dealing with luggage.  The trains we were on just sailed right into a clean station with an escalator just steps away.  Heaven.

There was one time we absolutely should have taken a taxi and that was from our Copenhagen train station to our hotel.  Instead dragged our four-wheeled luggage over serious cobblestone streets THE ENTIRE WAY--we felt (and looked) like idiots and I may have used a curse word or two (or at least thought them).

We packed just right for these cooler weather countries.  Layers work so well for traveling, don't they?  My new found love is the Barbour Summer Liddesdale Gilet.  I wore it every single day over long-sleeved shirts and sometimes underneath a thin unlined Eileen Fisher raincoat, plus a scarf.  Worked beautifully.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

NORWAY 2015 - A Piece of Heaven

I read once that when planning a trip to the Scandinavia countries, visit Norway last because everything pales in comparison.  I would agree.

This was my second trip to Norway--land of my people.  Should have done some genealogy research but did not.  That just means I will return, right?

We overnighted in Oslo and then caught the early morning train that goes to Bergen.  Last time I did the reverse all in one day.  This time we stayed overnight in Flam which was heaven.  A vacation from our vacation.

The Norway in a Nutshell tour is a series of tightly scheduled trains, busses, and boats that takes you from Bergen to Oslo or Oslo to Bergen.  You can make it a one day trip or stay overnight at various stops.

There is no tour director--just hop on and hop off depending upon your ticket.  It is easy peasy.  Except, when you book make sure you don't just book the trip--you need a confirmation with assigned seats on the trains/bus.  When I went to pick up the tickets at the train station, the traveler next to me had booked his trip through a travel agent but his agent didn't take care of the confirmation with assigned seats and all the trains were sold out.  I felt so bad for him.  I booked mine online through a Norwegian tour company and had no problem.

We didn't want to fuss with our luggage so I used a porter service to pick up our bags in Oslo and transport them to our Bergen hotel for us.  We each took one small bag for our overnight in Flam. Best decision!

This is Flam.  We arrived, checked into the Fretheim hotel and had lunch at the Bakkastova Cafe--I highly recommend.  And it was warm enough to sit outside.

                   Very peaceful and quiet after the tour boats and cruise ships depart.

               We had plenty of time to tour around on bikes and to take a hike above Flam.

Felt like a Midsummer Night's Dream with these fun little artistic pieces scattered along the sides of the hills on our hiking path.


                We rode bikes alongside the river to see this pretty church from the 1600's.

We took the ferry out of Flam and spent a few hours traveling along the fjords and stopping occasionally to drop off passengers at small villages such as the one above.  

                                                           Cloudy skies but no rain.

We arrived in Bergen and after checking in to our hotel walked over to take the funicular and look at the layout of the city.

              The above view is looking out west and the view below is to the east.  Around 10:00 pm.

We spent 24 hours in Bergen.  Took a walking tour, shopped, went to the museum, and ate delicious fresh fish.  Rained most of the time we were there which is usually the case for Bergen.  But when you dress appropriately it really isn't a big deal.

We lucked out and attended the Karen Bit Vejle psaligraphy exhibit at the Bergen Museum.  What's psaligraphy, you ask?  The art of drawing or painting with scissors.  You probably already knew that.  

                         That gorgeous artwork is hand-cut by the artist out of one piece of paper.
I would like to return to Norway and spend more time along the fjords stopping off at villages, hiking, and staying a few more nights--one night on the fjords was not enough!