Travelling is about bonding. It makes me appreciate the shades of grey and spot the rainbows in an otherwise black-and-white world. I let travel, its stories, and the planning utterly consume me. To me, travelling is an itch; the more I scratch, the more intense it gets. As a family of three, we pick our destinations almost a year in advance. We seek to absorb new cultures, meet the natives, and revel in the bounty that nature has to offer. This year was all about the Nordic adventure!
After almost 12 exhaustive hours of travel, we reached our apartment in Gamla Stan and it was like walking right into a home decor magazine. Swedish style is anything but mundane! The next few days entailed exploring the old town on foot, on the winding cobblestone pathways soaking in the marvelous architecture of Swedish buildings in Stortorget, the main square; navigating through the narrowest street the Martin Trotzigs, the Cathedral, Royal Palace, and braving the unexpected change in weather by having cosy coffees in roadside cafés where we were handed blankets as a greeting.
Exploring the Vasa Museum with its preserved ancient sunken battleship, was like a walk through history. We began to understand the delightful concept of FIKA – several cups of coffee, a few cinnamon rolls with a generous smattering of ‘me-time’ to unwind; doing a Mama-Mia a la Meryl Streep in the ABBA museum; stalking peacocks in Skansen, and the superfluous dinner cruise to Vaxholm. This is how we wrapped up the Swedish chapter and the first four days of our tour.
On the fifth day, we travelled from Stockholm to Tallinn, Estonia. We traversed through this fascinating European town beginning with a steep climb to the observation deck of the ancient church, medieval streetscapes, the Hanseatic merchant’s houses now turned into hotels, and the various viewpoints to take in the panoramic views of the city’s red-roofed houses. The most noteworthy part about Tallinn from my nine-year-old’s perspective was the sea-plane harbour, which houses a submarine and has flight simulators.
After a short ferry to Helsinki from Tallinn, the delayed check-in, and rain were not enough to dampen our spirits. We simply donned our rain ponchos, brandished our umbrellas, and ventured out to further satiate our wanderlust. The highlights were the two contrasting cathedrals, the church in the rocks, and the stacks of gigantic strawberries.
We then travelled to Rovaniemi in Lapland. Although best visited in winter, this was an absolute must-do on our list. Most of the activities are unavailable after March, but the long faces and disappointment didn’t last long; as if by divine intervention, it snowed on our very first day in Rovaniemi, and from then on we experienced nothing but magic! The glee on my son’s face when he met Santa, the exhilaration at crossing the Arctic line, and feeding the reindeer were amongst the most priceless moments of our travel chronicles.
With the main purpose of our visit under our belts, the magic retained and belief in Santa preserved, we proceeded to Norway with a spring in our step. Oslo being a quintessential city, we took the hop-on-hop-off to get a sense of the city and spent the day picnicking at Vineland Park, marvelling at the Viking ships in the Viking Ship Museum, and the ship used in one of the first polar expeditions in the Polar Museum. The most memorable was the “Norway in a nutshell” journey, where we boarded the morning train to Myrdal via Finse, followed by the scenic Flåm railway outing, the boat from Flåm to Gudvangen, there on the bus manoeuvring steep hairpin bends towards Voss, and finally the train to Bergen. We regret not having stayed at least one night at eachof these stops. These are the kind of offbeat, non-touristy locations which significantly make up our travel DNA.
Bergen is the essence of Norway with its whitewashed timber cottages, the funicular to the top of the mountain, and the expansive views you never tire of. The VilVite Bergen Science Center, Bryggen, the long walks along the wharf, and the cruise to Mostraummen are amongst our favourite memories of Bergen. Exploring Gamle Stavanger, having our lunch in the same perfect spot every day amidst blooming flowers, swans in the lake and cranes swooping down to snatch our lunch, colourful graffitis, the cruise to Lysefjord, Sverd I fjell were some great memories from Stavanger.
We then went to Aarhus, in the Danish territory. The sojourn in and around Aarhus consisted mainly of a drive through the Jutland region, sand sculptures in Sondervig, sandy beaches of Hvide Sande, staying the night in Vieleand waking up to the sunrise at 4 am, bunnies hopping right outside our cottage, a quick trip to Legoland in Billund, and a visit to Odense, the birthplace of the prolific author Hans Christian Anderson.
Finally, the most remarkable of all destinations would be Copenhagen. Although the homesickness had finally taken root, so had the realisation that the holiday was coming to an end. Naturally we wanted to squeeze in as much as we could in the last leg of our vacay. From the very informative city walking tour and our amusing tour guide, having samosas at this restaurant while listening to Jagjit’s ghazals, the fabulous stores, multiple scary rides in Tivoli Gardens, a day trip to Dyrehaven, the freetown of Christiania, and the cosy vibes of the city made us fallin in love with Copenhagen forever. The Danes’high aesthetic quotient, warm-heartedness, and love for candles ensured we had a hyggelig time while in Copenhagen.
To sum it up – endless hours of sun, short nights, a mild spattering of rain, epic expanses of wilderness, the dramatic fjords, Santa Clause, Finnish saunas, having chaat almost every day in Indian restaurants, being ill prepared for the weather, carrying the wrong currency, quaint timber towns, marvelous architecture, and gracious people fittingly encapsulate our Nordic adventure!
- Pooja Sugla