A few months ago when I booked the flights for this trip, my best friend from college commented on how she had always wanted to go to Scandinavia. “Come along!” I told her. So she did!
I knew we’d need to be clear on expectations from the beginning. Our friends were taking a one-week trip and of course wanted to spend a little extra and do it up nice, while Chris and I would be in the midst of a ten-week trip, where we needed to budget carefully in order to afford being on the road so long. So before we all booked flights and hotels, I let Nicole know that we’d likely be doing our trip a little differently than hers. I encouraged her to get whatever hotels they wanted, then send the info to me, and we’d look for something nearby in our budget range. Similarly, if they were into super gourmet meals and pricey activities, we’d likely not do all of that with them. We’d definitely meet up each day, but not necessarily spend all day, every day together.
Nicole and her husband Mark arrived in Stockholm the day before us, so I figured they could take the day to get over their jet lag. We arrived on a flight from Lithuania around noon and got settled in to our “boatel”, the Rygersfjord, and then met Nicole and Mark on Djurgarden at the Vasa ship museum. We toured the museum together and then took the ferry to Gamla Stan to walk for a bit. We had dinner in the old quarter at a fantastic restaurant called Magnus Ladulas, where we were able to try some delicious reindeer meat, and a delicious dinner of Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, pickled cucumbers, and lingonberries. Mmmm, so good and way better than Ikea’s. Afterwards we had a glass of wine on the top of our boat, watching the sunset at 10:30.
The next morning we met Mark and Nicole at their hotel for a fabulous breakfast, and then we went on a walking tour of Gamla Stan, visiting such sites as the smallest statue (10 cm), the narrowest alley (90 cm), and learning all about the history and culture of Stockholm. We visited the National Library, went by the Nobel Museum, and Storkyrkan, the cathedral. Another great dinner at the same restaurant (it was really good!), followed by ice cream on Belgian waffles, and then back to our boat for some more sundowners. Obviously, travel for all of us is just as much about the food and drinks as it is the history and the culture!
On our last day in Stockholm, we all visited the Nordiska Museum and the Historical Museum. Both were really good. We had an early dinner in Ostermalm at Zink Grill. Before we all left the next day, I had time to go in search of a few key scenes from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy in our district of Sodermalm.
Nicole and Mark took a flight, while Chris and I took a high speed train, to Copenhagen. Upon arriving at 7:30, we met at their very swanky hotel (the Hotel Alexandra) for drinks, and then wound up at at a Croatian restaurant called Dubrovnik’s for dinner. No complaints about the food!
On Sunday we took a rather lengthy, but super informative, three hour walking tour that showed us the main bits of Copenhagen. Palaces, museums, statues, squares, Tivoli, etc. Afterwards we found the Little Mermaid statue of our own, entered the Marble Church, and climbed the Round Tower and looked at a solar flare using the telescope in the 400 year old observatory. Chris and I ate an early dinner in Nyhavn, and walked home via Christiana.
Today, our last full day, we met Nicole and Mark for a huge breakfast at their hotel, and then while Mark visited bookstores in town, Nicole and Chris and I took the train to Elsinore, home of the Kronborg castle and the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Being the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare this year, they were performing scenes from the play in various rooms around the castle. Afterward, Chris and I visited the Royal Danish Library, which had an excellent exhibition of their most treasured items, including a 7th century manuscript, original Hans Christian Andersen writings, drawings by Matisse, Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa, and many more. It was a wonderful exhibit and I’m glad we got the chance to stop in (plus it was air conditioned, always a favorite for me). We all had dinner at Halifax, and enjoyed one more stroll around the city looking for ice cream.
And so our trip was a success for all! The four of us had a wonderful time together, explored some fun new culture, and each had the kind of vacation we were hoping to have, all with a few up-front conversations about our expectations. Yay for adulting!
And now we are off to Krakow to finish up our Baltic leg of the trip!