We could have spent many more days in Sweden’s capital. Because there was much more to see, and because Stockholmers are just such very nice people.
Tip when you visit Sweden, and especially Stockholm… Learn to spot pedestrian crossings and don’t hesitate when time comes to walk from one side to the other. This is something that felt a little dare devilish at first, but even if there aren’t any stop signs or street lights, cars and busses will stop if you are about to cross the street. They will. So even if you are used (like we were) to wait until you’re sure that the vehicule will let you go, forget about it, and just walk. You’ll save drivers time if you don’t wait until they come to a full stop. They will stop… I promise.
Ok, so… Last day, and our first stop was a must. I hadn’t realized how uncomfortable with heights David was, before we got to enter Globe City.
Globe City is the sum of many stadiums that hold multiple sports events, concerts and shows… And most certainly, the Globe is the most impressive of them from the outside.
Sky View is a sightseeing activity that is totally worth the little Metro ride outside the center of Stockholm. The 20 minutes ride slowly takes you to the top of the Globe in a little glass ball.
At the top of the Ericsson Globe, you get a 360 view of the Stockholm area, perched at 85 meters in the air.
We skipped my usual sandwiches to have lunch in a local fast food chain, Max. Not that either of us is big on hamburgers and the like, but we thought we should try it since it is Swedish.
After being denied the Hop On Hop Off boat the day before (thank you very much!) we decided to take one of the many other tours on Stockholm’s canals… The sail offers a very different view of the city and its subburbs. And the audio guide, in several languages, provides with interesting informations… A very enjoyable time on the waters!
After our cruise it was time to get back “home” and get ready for our move the next morning. But not before we visited Sergels Torg one last time…
Waking at sunrise, I was worried that we might get a second day of rain, but the skies seemed pretty clear. It could always change, but we were optimistic, and I knew that always paid off in the end.
After a quick breakfast, we headed for the Metro.
After seeing Montréal’s Metro, it is incredible for me to see how clean and gaffiti-free Denmark and Sweden’s wagons are. How do they do it?? Even the oldest trains are totally tag-free! Here, I am pretty sure you can find at least one name hastily written or carved after the very first ride of a new coach.
The Nordic Museum was founded by Artur Hazelius (who also founded the open air museum Skansen – keep that name in mind). The huuuuuuuuuge building housing the exhibitions was designed by Isak Gustaf Clason. Originally, it should have been four times the size of the actual site, which is a bit mind blowing.
When we first saw the museum, from outside, we thought it was a previous royal castle used to present exhibitions. But Hazelius’ dream was to exhibit all of Scandinavia’s history and culture in one site… I was almost glad he had to limit himself to Sweden for budget reasons. Otherwise, we probably would have spent our whole Stockholm time there! LOL
If you want to learn anything about Sweden’s culture, the Nordic Museum is the place to go. From Swedish furniture design to ways to set the table and welcome guests… From the history of fabric to the Sami culture… From the celebrated holidays and traditions, to Swedes’ clothing through the last decades… You name it, they have it! And the free audio guide is a great complement to take a rest from reading the signs along your endless walk through the different levels of the place.
At this point, got hungry. I knew we had sandwiches in David’s backpack, and I knew how delicious they looked, since I had made them… and here’s what hunger inspired me, photography-wise;
That large pot at the end was intended to be filled with beer. Now, something tells me that Swedes had nothing to envy to Danes, in the partying department at that time!
Gröna Lund was next.
The Swedish Tivoli park is at an enjoyable walking distance from the Nordic Museum, especially on a nice day. We just stopped for a moment in front of the Biologiska Museet (Biology… Ok, you guessed!) and Abba Museum to catch this, but it meant extra entry fees, we kept walking, and didn’t visit them.
Now, here’s a traveling tip you should never forget… Like we did. Always check the opening hours of the attractions you expect to visit. Never assume! The Internets were invented for that, and you can thank Google later!
Obviously, we had skipped this important step, probably too excited about the blue skies! And unfortunately realized that Gröna Lund was closed for the day, despite the lovely weather…
And here’s tip #2 (Isn’t this an informative blog?!?) of the day; When traveling, expect that unexpected things will happen (like amusement parks closed when you wanted to visit them) and be ready to improvise! Changing plans is part of being on vacation, and you often get nicely surprised, when you have no expectations!
So what did we do, you might wonder? We crossed the street and went to Skansen (remember, I had asked you to keep that name in mind!)
Skansen is officially an open air museum. What does that mean? Obviously a happy mix of a park, an amusement park, a zoo, an a walk in the past around houses from what looked (I admit, I didn’t read all the signs) like Viking housings.
I got hooked on a sign announcing Nordic animals. So we followed paths that led up the hill… and although each sign we passed by said we were a few hundred meters away from the said Nordic animals, we just kept walking and walking…
Then, we found animals, just not quite Nordic enough, to my liking!
I even made an unexpected red haired friend! Scandinavian Bob first attacked David, climbing up his leg, but when I got the bag of dried fruit and nuts out of our bag, he jumped on my lap… I became Skansen’s main attraction, and I really wonder on how many Facebook pages I ended up (yes, there was a lot of unauthorised picture taking! lol)
But what about the Nordic animals, right? Yes, we found them. Well… Some of them.
Disappointed? Not really. Especially when we noticed the view…
Of course, that’s when we discovered there was an easier way to get up the hill.
I am tempted to skip the next two activities of the day… First was the Hop On Hop Off boat.
The only problem being that there apparently were some issues between the boat company and the tourism bureau, so we weren’t allowed to board the Voulez-Vous.
So we had to go by bus.
The next stop was the Nobel Museum.
Ok, so for dinner, David had found a fine little restaurant so we could try the mythical Swedish meatballs! (No, really, it doesn’t happen often, but I was really disappointed with the museum… Not even worth ranting about)
Nice, cozy little place, and when we got there, there was only a table for two left! Talk about timing!
The lovely apartment we rented in Stockholm was in the Syndbyberg area, and literally 2 minutes of walk away from the Syndbyberg Centrum Metro Station. Easy!! I thought… Until I saw the Stockholm Rail Network map.
I must say I was very impressed by the number of people working to give information to lost travelers. And every time I had to ask for directions, I got clear and easy instructions, always with a smile. We could learn from the Swedes here, in Montréal, although our Metro network is a lot less intricate!
We got to the apartment in (almost) no time, and after a short show-around, our lovely hosts let us to settle in our temporary home.
It was pouring rain on our first morning in Stockholm. We weren’t surprised, the forecast being clear about rainy weather all week long. It didn’t really matter, since we had planned to go get our Stockholm passes, and have a first tour around the city in one of those big red busses.
We had a quick breakfast, and headed to the tourists’ bureau, dressed to face the shower outside.
The Stockholm Pass is a card that allows you access to more than 60 of the city’s most popular attractions. It also gives you access to Hop On – Hop Off busses that drive you to all major sites, and allow you to get historical information about Stockholm while going along. Note though, that the Hop On – Hop Off boats might not be included as indicated on the website. We were denied access to the little red boats, because apparently there were some issues with the contract between the Tourists’ bureau and boat company. There are other cruises along the canals included, so just ask when buying your card, if you are visiting Stockholm.
We also took 72 hours transportation cards. These give you a convenient access to as many train, metro or bus rides as you need during your stay. Which is especially nice and money-saving, if you don’t live downtown.
We had decided to ride one of the Red Busses, and stop by the Vasa Museum. The busses were supposed to pass by every stop on a twenty (or about) cycle. Probably due to heavy traffic downtown, we had to wait almost an hour. Cold and soaked, we “hopped in”, hoping that the heavy rain would stop while we were visiting our first museum.
Many people were heading straight to the Vasa Museum, so we decided to take a walk around and were tempted by the Vikingaliv Museum. Unfortunately, it wasn’t part of the attractions included with our pass, so we settled for our previous plan.
The Vasa Museum isn’t too impressive from the outside, put aside its size. It just looks like a big brown box in the middle of the trees.
But don’t get fooled. It is absolutely amazing.
The ship built in the 1620s at the request of King Gustav II Adolf sank during its maiden voyage, in Stockholm’s harbour. 333 years later, after much efforts, the ship was brought out of the water, restored and displayed at the Vasa Museum.
Walking around the ship is just breathtaking. It gives the feeling of jumping back in time, and I couldn’t help but wonder how human hands could built such huge, yet detailed vessels… The story around the Vasa is also very interesting, and the many pieces of history displayed around the sailing war-boat are fascinating.
And a couple more details from the ship itself…
It was still raining when we finally left the museum, so we decided to finish the Red Bus tour, thinking it would help us plan the days to come. Those pictures aren’t my best, but they were taken from the bus, with wet windows… The best I could do at that time!
It made me smile to see this Sweden supermarket. Anyone living in Québec knows the major chain “IGA”… Who also uses red signs.
It was the last shot taken on this grey but fun day… Hopefully, day 2 would be less cold and wet!
I had warned David that we’d be sleeping early after our first little walk in Copenhagen. We were in fact in our bunk beds before 6pm, and up again around 5 the next morning.
The weather forecast wasn’t on the optimistic side, and we were ready for several days of pouring rain. And here’s the view we got when we stepped out of the Hawila;
Then, it was time to move to Malmö, Sweden. But first, a short ride on the Copenhagen Metro…
Malmö is just across the Øresund bridge, and a very short ride from Kastrup’s Airport. I was eager to see Sweden, but I knew I was stepping out of my comfy Danish slippers. I wouldn’t say I could get along effortlessly in the countryside, but my Danish is good enough to get around, ask for directions and order a meal without getting a surprise dinner!
In Sweden, my confidence took a good drop.
Especially when I saw an alien spaceship while entering Malmö!
But the rest of the city seemed pretty UFO-less…
As you can see, Sunday early mornings are very quiet in Malmö. Most probably because of the Saturday night partying… Theory that seemed to be proven right by the following sight…
Left over drinks on window sides, or simply on the sidewalk, is also something very common in Denmark. Sometimes, you can even find unopened bottles, just left behind when the party moved on…
While walking around, we fund the King’s Park (Kungsparken).
By then, we needed to fuel up and nibble on a little something, so we stopped in a little cozy café, The Expresso House, where we also got a chance to fill our water bottles and charge up the camera and our cell phones.
We wanted to see something internationally known, in Malmö, and went hunting for the knotted gun. I had seen the sculpture in the past, and I couldn’t wait to see the non-violence icone. Like many other attractions, I was surprised to see that it was a lot smaller in size than I had imagined it… But still!
Note that the weather was equally horrible on the Swedish side of the bridge! Another thing that looked familiar, after leaving Denmark, was the numerous bicycles…
One thing I discovered, that is completely different in Sweden and Denmark, is the access to train traveling. Traveling by train (tog) in Denmark is a piece of cake. Once you’ve mastered the use of the ticket booths, you just have to buy a ticket from A to B, and you take the next ride from A to B, hoping to have a nice place by the window. In Sweden, we had to take asigned places at a counter, and I soon realized that it wasn’t a good idea to buy them last minute…
Since we were moving to Stockholm, we spent the last couple of hours around the train station.
After a many hours long ride, we finally arrived in Stockholm.
I am becoming a regular client of the purple plane company, and I must say that I recommend the airline to anyone traveling to Scandinavia from North America. Especially if you are on a budget, and are ready to fly simply. The staff is always friendly, smilling and helpful, and the flights have all been smooth and on time… I haven’t seen the sun shine on Iceland so far, but I am not giving up. I know someday, I’ll catch the yellow ball off guard!
First sights of the Copenhagen area. It was the first time I could spot the Øresund bridge from the air. The famous bridge is the link between Copenhagen (Denmark, of course) and Malmö (Sweden).
Right after leaving Kastrup’s airport, we headed to our first “home”. The Hawila, a beautiful sailing boat, hosts people all year long, when it is not sailing. You can get a bunk bed for a very fair price, and although you have to be ready to chit chat with other guests coming from all around the world, it is quite an experience, and for people who aren’t familiar with Copenhagen, finding the location of the boat is a piece of cake, just a few minutes away from the airport by Metro. It is right next to Den Blå Planet, Copenhagen’s aquarium (We’ll get to that, just a little bit later).
We were just off the plane, and had our 6 time zones jetlag hitting us in the jaw, so I don’t happen to have an actual picture of the Hawila today, but you can read everything about it, and the young people who work on the Hawila project here.
I did take a picture of the Metro station’s entry, though. No, that is not a ramp for wheelchairs on the left. Danes being crazy (in a good sense) about cycling, there are tracks like that everywhere around the city, to allow people to take their bikes up and down the stairs easily….
Art can be found everywhere in Copenhagen, and Ai Weiwei has barricated these windows with migrants’ life vests, as a reminder of the migrant crisis taking place on Europe’s shores…
Everybody knows Nyhavn, one of the most iconic locations in the Capital. And over the canal, people attach locks to the bridge. I have put one back in May 2016, and I was eager to see if they had left it there, after 16 months. And it was!! It is the small green (well, it used to be a flashy green color, now it looks more yellowish) one on the left…
Nyhavn… I told you it would ring a bell!
Across from Nyhavn is the Papirøen project. Papirøen, litterally the paper island, is a street food happening that will unfortunately come to an end this Winter.
Next, a stop to Amalienborg Castle, the Royal Familie’s residence in Copenhagen… But on the way to see it, we took a few minutes to visit the Marble Church. Don’t mind the strange orange fellow, he might show his nose every now and then during the trip.
There will be pictures of Amalienborg Castle later… But here are a few pictures of the majestic fountain right next to it. The Marble Church, the palace and the fountain are aligned with the Opera, on the other shore… Again, photos to come later (blame the jetlag!)
Gefion’s fountain is one of my favorite spots in Copenhagen. The gift from the Carlsberg family can be found near Kastellet, and is well worth the detour. But that’s just my opinion…
Of course, we had to go pay our respects to Copenhagen’s effigy. The Little Mermaid is… Small. She is. But hey! It isthe Little Mermaid. Don’t mind the few tourists cuddling her, she is, after all, the most popular mermaid in town!
No visit to Denmark is complete without a hot dog. Danish hot dogs are just fabulous! Topped with remoulade, pickles and dried onions, they are an absolute must. You’ll find stands all around the city, and it is a sin to leave without tasting at least one!
Ok, I’m not a fan of posting pictures of myself, but this one is special. It is at Amalienborg Palace, and I was just telling David how close the Royal family was to its people. In fact, there was no sign asking not to get near the Castle, and I said “hey! Take a picture of me, touching the Queen’s house!!”
What we can’t see on the picture, is the Royal Guard waiting for the picture to be taken, before he shouted a strong “Lady, step away from the wall!!!!”
Yeah, don’t touch the Castle when you come to Copenhagen. It brings out the guards’ grumpy side. At least, I didn’t get arrested.
Danes are so understanding… I think it was obvious I was just excited to take this shot.
I am getting ready to post some of the souvenirs gathered during our two week vacation in Vikingland. I am going through tons of pictures and flyers, and memorabilia, sorting what is of most interest, and what isn’t so much…
I thought I could give you a little sneak peek before I get to the real posts…
So here are our two weeks, in a picture-a-day sum up:
I hope you’ll enjoy the trip down our memory lane…
Good morning, that is, coming from the other side of the bedsheet hanging between Anne’s bedroom and the living room, for the night.
And day 12 was on its way! I didn’t know much about Odense, aside from the fact that it was Hans Christian Andersen’s home town, Denmark’s 3rd largest city and one that had to be on my itinirary (Lucas’ advice)… Anne told me a little more over a hot bowl of oatmeal and I quickly got prepared for another exciting day.
My host had to go to work, but she insisted on walking me to the the river. From there, I couldn’t miss downtown Odense, and she assured me it was a great walk to take. What she didn’t mention, as we left her apartment, was that she also wanted to show me huuuuuuuuge lilac trees on our way to the river. And anyone who knows me a little knows I lovelilac! I honestly don’t know how I managed to pull myself away from the trees, but I eventually did, and walked all the way to HC Andersen Haven (park) with all of its strickingly colorful, newly bloomed flowers, and people sitting here and there, enjoying the lovely morning.
Just over the bridge, I arrived to Odense’s Domkirke (Cathedral) where the day’s service took place outdoor. What surprised me, was that the celebrant was a woman. She stood, in her long black robe, and her white collar, and adressed the many people sitting in the grass behind the church.
I took a long walk downtown before looking for a café, where I was supposed to meet with Søren. As you might remember, he had been a great help, finding a last minute stay in Odense, even if he couldn’t host me himself. I really wanted to see him!
Søren showed up, and invited me home to have tea and have a chat. He lived in the cutest house (ok, I’d say that about a lot of houses in Denmark, and I still will when I go back, no doubt about that) and we sat in his little backyard, to sip on mint tea and discuss my trip and his many travels. Søren is an accountant that travels many times a year and hosts couch surfers from around the globe when he is back to Denmark… And I understand his good ratings online are so impressive! He is one charming, interesting and entertaining person to spend some time with!
But all good things having to end, I soon had to leave him to his evening plans, but not before he walked me back to the river where I had decided to take a stroll all the way to the zoo.
In Odense, the zoo has been built along the river, so you can have a look at some of the animals without paying to get in. It is a good walk from downtown, but it is totally worth the time, especially when you are on a budget!
Then it was time to quickly go back “home” so I just hoped not to get lost along the way…
That house… It is a house. It was not part of the zoo, and I just thought it was awesome having two “pet” lamas!!
Anne welcomed me back to her apartment as if we were old friends now, and I helped cooking dinner, a homemade potato-turnip potage with rye bread croutons and grilled kale (I think)… Exactly what I needed after my long walk…
Anne couldn’t believe how far I had walked… and quite frankly, looking at the map, I surprised myself too! I very well deserved the treat that my host had prepared as a surprise…
Here’s another fun thing I discovered just today, and wish I had known about back in May. I sure would have stopped by to check it out.
Back in 1944, a Dane (Duh!), Sir Søren Poulsen, discovered a rock resembling Jutland while dewatering the meadows surrounding his childhood home at Klejtrup Lake. He probably had a very wandering mind like mine, because it inspired him into creating his own “little” world, all made of man made islands.
It took Mr Poulsen 25 years… And here is the result!
The park is open to visits, and it will be visited by me, next time I set foot in Denmark! That’s for sure!
I don’t have pictures of day 11’s evening, but I hope you won’t be too disappointed… I usually would have jumped straight to day 12, but my first encounter with Anne is worth mentionning, at least to me 🙂
So, where were we?
After walking the streets of the oldest Danish city, came time to ride the train between Ribe and Odense. I still remember the excitment I felt, knowing I was about to get to Fyn Island, where Pippa lives! Even if time was going by way too fast (I was already halfway through my journey), I couldn’t wait to meet with my dear friend! But before that, I had a two day stop to spend in Hans Christian Andersen‘s home town.
Just off the train, and eager to meet with the nice lady offering me shelter for the two nights to come, I had a small argument with the citybus driver. I guess my backpack was not big enough to give the impression I was a tourist… He treated me like a local who should have known all about directions. Then again, I couldn’t complain… He did treat me like a local, which is how I had intended to live my trip in Vikingland!
Right from the doorstep, I felt like coming home to a cousin’s house, or something very close to it, when I met Anne. Her smile was bright and she totally surprised me with a warm hug, as if we were old friends who hadn’t seen each other in years! (Danes are not big with hugging… Maybe with close friends and family, but I didn’t experience much hugging on my way, hihihi)
We entered her small appartment, and I truly understood the meaning of hygge. Hygge is big in Denmark, and I’ll have to write a post about it, because otherwise, I’ll get lost in this one, and lose you along the way! Let’s just say that the closest English synonym to hygge would be cosy.
Anne had an open spaced appartment, with a living room, a small bedroom you had to walk through to get to the kitchen and finally the bathroom in the back. I don’t know many North Americans who would choose to live in a small flat like hers, but I would have moved in anytime.
Anne’s home was so alive, with the grand children’s drawings hanging on the walls, her shelves loaded with books and the plants resting on the window sides… She slept on a mattress on the floor, and didn’t own a couch, so I had a foldable mattress on the living room’s floor. And the usual duvet…
Did I talk about Danish duvets yet? I’d have to re-read myself, but everywhere I had slept from day 1 to 11, my days always ended under a cloud-like duvet, pairing with my fatigue du jour to guarantee a perfect night of sleep. You know the expression “sleeping like a baby”? Well, I am pretty sure that when babies have a great night, they think “I slept like a Dane!” (yeah, they think that, they can’t say it… they’re babies!!)
Anne did everything to make me feel at home. Conversation was easy and natural with her from the start. She prepared some tea, and we sat together to learn a little about each other. She told me about her couchsurfing hosting experience, and a little about Odense. I explained the how and whys of my journey around Denmark, and we exchanged traveling memories while sipping on our tea. We had a few good laughs, and soon had to call it a night. We hadn’t shared as much time chatting as we both would have wished for, because it was already pretty late, but I knew we’d catch up the next day.
As I was drifting into another night of sound sleep, I thought that I was for sure experiencing the essence of Denmark. Being happy with what I had, and keeping things simple! Rolled in my duvet, I couldn’t have cared less about Morpheus’ arms, unless he had been a Scandinavian God, which is not the case…
Waiting for the city bus that was about to take me back downtown to catch my train to Ribe, my phone rang… One of the potential hosts I had contacted the day before had a couch to offer in Odense!
Jubi! (Danish for “Yay!”)
The voice on the other end was warm and friendly, and I felt that the nice lady was at least as excited to welcome me, as I was to come visit her… We arranged to meet that evening, and I texted Søren to tell him I had a bed for my two nights in town, and that I’d call the next day to say hi.
I hopped on the train for a short ride that got me to Ribe, a city I didn’t know much about. I didn’t care… Ib had said that it was worth seeing, and I was sure to have fun, no matter what I’d find on my path.
And I wasn’t disappointed, as soon as I got off the coach. Right there, across the street, was the Viking Museum! Hey!! Vikings… I like them Vikings! My first stop was pretty obvious… Museet Ribes Vikinger!
The two exhibitions (About Ribe’s medieval age and the Christian Vikings) were very interesting, even if they clearly didn’t fit the image we normally have of Vikings. After all the conqueror and bloody fighter depictions I had in the past, it was a bit weird to imagine Vikings setting up farms, and trading stuff…
As you can see on one of the pictures, Ribe is recognized to be Denmark’s oldest city (Danmarks aldste by) and it is pretty incredible to know it celebrated its 1300th anniversary in 2010, knowing that Montréal is presently getting ready for its 375th anniversary 😉
The only heavy rain episode I experienced in Denmark (I know, I was clearly blessed) happened while I was at the museum, while I was snacking in the “restaurant” area. I was tempted by the souvenir boutique, but any item meant more weight on my shoulders, and I promised myself I’d come back some day, to pack up on Viking stuff!
On my way out, I noticed the fire department was celebrating some event… (Danish) hot dog selling, fire trucks watching, and tours around town… It was over when I came back at the end of the day… I wish I had stopped to ask a few questions, but at least, I caught a few pictures!
May 15th and 16th meant Pinsedag (Pentecost) celebration in Denmark. Because of that, a lot of Ribe’s stores were closed and pedestrians were not very present in town while I walked around… I must say, it was quite a treat, at least to take pictures!
Here’s a walk around town…
Like many of European countries, a lot of Danish cities have a Domkirke (cathedral), but Ribe’s is definately worth a visit. It is the oldest Christian church in Denmark, founded during the Viking’s age, under permission of the pagan King Horik I. Ribe’s cathedral is the best preserved Romanesque building in Denmark, but over the years, many architectural styles have been added. It was awarded 2 Michelin stars (I didn’t even know churches could get Michelin stars!)
The Commoner’s Tower was built in the years 1300, and stands 52 meters tall. For 4$ (20 Kroner) you can walk your way to the top of the tower and have access to an exhibition on the second floor hall along the cathedral. I highly recommend it. 4$ VERY well spent, if just for the view from the top of the tower… But get ready to work those legs!! And if you really want to get a good sweat, try carrying a 25 pounds backpack!
After visiting the cathedral, I stopped by the stand (picture in the “walk around” section) to get a hot dog… Rød pølse (red sausage) version… with a bottle of Cocio. I had heard somewhere that it was one of THE musts I had to try, and I wasn’t disapointed. I was distracted by the bright red color of my sausage, though. My brain kept asking me “are you sure that’s not plastic??” bite after bite… Another good reason to walk a whole lot day after day; I didn’t feel the least bit guilty about my hot dog + chocolate milk “snack”…