Tag Archives: Scandinavian Travels 2016

Roman sculptures in Kungliga Slottet, the royal palace in Stockholm, Sweden. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Scandinavian Travels 2016: Sweden, Part 2

Time sped by quickly while I was in Sweden. There is much to do and see in such a beautiful country. I was at the end of another adventure and I wanted to stay longer, yet it was time to pack up and head home.

I had to deal with a few inconveniences. I received an e-mail stating that on the day of my departure, De Gaulle Airport was going on strike. My flight was changed to a different airline and a different country, and I received a new ticket. While I was in Latvia, I noticed I was booked for an overnight ferry from Estonia to Finland and a hotel in Finland, both on the same night! Fortunately it was changed, and I did not have to spend a night on a park bench. These logistics were all the more difficult to deal with because for some reason, cell phones were not working well in that country. Nevertheless, the weather cooperated, and the people throughout my travels were helpful and friendly.

There were still a few places I wanted to see before heading home. One was the city hall in Stockholm where the Nobel Banquet is held. The Nobel Peace Prize, however, is awarded in Norway, because at the time when this was established, Sweden and Norway were under one monarchy. Then there is the Kungliga Slottet (the royal palace). It is such a vast place that it is divided into 5 different tours. One tour is of the interior apartments, and another focuses on the sculpture museum, which mostly has Roman sculptures. The royal vault holds the crown jewels, and another vault is deep under the castle.  Archeological digs have found where previous castles burned, and ancient history remains at this site.

Eden Park, Stockholm, Sweden. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Eden Park, Stockholm, Sweden. Photo by Madelyn Given.

I used the Hop On-Hop Off travel system in the city to go by boat, bus, or tram from place to place and island to island. My hotel was across from Eden Park, and at one end was the large Stockholm Public Library. I went in one day just to enjoy the grand architecture of the period in which it was built.

Often I would take a bus one way and walk back to the hotel before dinner. I walked through the narrow cobblestone streets of Nottmalm, Old Town, bustling with tourists. People were out with their families as it was summer and school was not in session.

On my last night, I packed up, wrote a while in my journal, and prepared for an early morning departure. When my transfer picked me up for the ride to the international airport, only the night desk manager was in the lobby, and there were no signs of people out and about. It was a secured ride and my driver mentioned he had transported Justin Bieber a few days ago.

Soon I was on my journey home, with many happy memories of this great experience in the Scandinavian and Baltic countries.

(posted March 7, 2017)

Vasa Ship Carvings, at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Scandinavian Travels 2016: Sweden

Since childhood, I had dreamed of visiting the Scandinavian countries. I had hiked throughout Norway, visited a former exchange student and his family in Denmark, and toured with a small international group in Finland, and now I was headed to Sweden. The daylight is long in this part of the world, and it was beautiful summer weather. I took an overnight ferry from Helsinki, Finland to Stockholm, Sweden.

After a few hours of sleep in my cabin, I headed for the deck to view spectacular scenery as we sailed along the coast of Sweden on the Baltic Sea. We sailed slowly, very close to shore. I saw islands, many of them with no inhabitants, and there were only granite rock and evergreen trees on some of the more protected ones. There were white houses, lighthouses, and an occasional fishing village. The ferry trip was a great way to enter Sweden for the first time.

We sailed into Stockholm, a bustling port, by late morning. I went to my hotel to drop my bags and then to a bank exchange for Swedish kroners. Sweden is a member of the European Union but opted to keep their own currency.

Stockholm is a city made up of islands. A good way to see the city is on the Hop On-Hop Off system. It includes buses, trams, and boats. It is well organized, easy to use, and runs daily, with long hours.

My young granddaughters had visited Europe the previous summer, and their recommendation spurred me on to my first destination. One of their most favorite “likes” was the ABBA Museum in Stockholm. I boarded a harbor boat and in only a few minutes was docked a block from the ABBA Museum. The Museum is modern, lively, and encourages participation, such as in the recording booths to try out your own voice.

It all began for the group of four: Freda, Björn, Benny, and Agnetha in 1974 when they won the Euro Vision Song Contest with their song, “Waterloo.” They created “Dancing Queen” and “Ma Ma Mia,” and in 10 short years made music history along with Miche, their producer. At that time, there was nothing in the world like winning the Euro Vision Song Contest. I could see why my granddaughter chose a Halloween costume that year as one of the ABBA girls.

Madelyn Given poses as one of the famous ABBA group!

The famous ABBA group…or wait, is that Madelyn hiding there?

After the ABBA Museum, I went to the Vasa Museum. On August 10, 1628, Vasa set sail on her maiden voyage, but sadly she sank and never left the outer harbor. It was one of the grandest, most splendidly decorated ships with carved figures to ever set sail. In 1961, after 333 years under the sea, the Vasa was salvaged. It is 98 percent original and one of the only ships in the world that has been found intact from this era. The museum building was constructed around the ship.

I toured a few other islands that day, becoming familiar with the city of Stockholm. The weather was sunny and warm, and Stockholm is a safe city for walking. Wherever I went, whether in city parks or different parts of the city, places were clean, filled with friendly people and interesting architecture, and there were lots of cafes to stop and take a break. I was enjoying Sweden.

(posted February 21, 2017)

Madelyn Given at the Sibelius Sculpture, made in honor of the famous Finnish composer, in Sibelius Park in Finland.

Scandinavian Travels 2016: Finland

After my travels to the Baltic States and Poland, I was excited to continue my journey to another Scandinavian country, Finland. I took a ferry from Tallinn, Estonia to Helsinki, Finland. The Baltic Sea is not deep, and yet it is a busy port crossing. It was a short day trip on a nine-story ferry.

One of the first things noticed after landing in Finland is that life is much more expensive here. The standard of living is good and very modern. They are proud of being coffee drinkers and the 600,000 people of Helsinki and 5 ½ million in Finland are also proud of their connection with Nokia. They do not seem concerned with Russia as a neighbor.

I stayed at a centrally located hotel near the grand central train terminal; my hotel was within walking distance of museums, restaurants, and trendy shopping centers.

Kamppi Chapel, Helsinki, Finland. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Kamppi Chapel, Helsinki, Finland.

From my hotel room, I could look down on a large unusual structure with no windows, trim, signage, or doors. It was round with a flat top, like a giant canister, except it was larger at the top than at the bottom. It was like the curiosity that got the cat; I needed to know what this was. I went down and walked outside the plaza surrounding the structure, but saw no signs, nor any sign of people near it. I finally came inside the hotel and asked at the desk. It is the Kamppi Chapel—with the entrance inside a passageway to an underground mall nearby. It is a place for meeting people and appreciating peace and quiet in the center of Helsinki. This simplistic chapel is 11.5 meters tall and made of three types of wood: the lightest colored wood is on the outside, coated with a special type of wax as a sealer and preservative. Inside there are a few wooden benches to sit. No services are performed here and no religious symbols are displayed.

I took a ferry to Suomdinna, an island fortress off Helsinki. Finland was once part of Sweden and this fortress was the largest in the entire Swedish realm. After the 1808-1809 war, it was controlled by Russia for 110 years. It is now a recreation area with parks, museum, and shops, with 850 remaining inhabitants still living there.

I toured Helsinki, going to the marketplace, the Art Nuevo section of the city, and the great and quite plain Lutheran Cathedral with 44 large wide steps up from the plaza. It was worth seeing Sibelius Park and the monument there, which is a stainless steel sculpture erected in honor of the Finnish composer, Sibelius.

The old Olympic Park still is in use for ice skating and track. Hockey is the number one sport for both men and women.

From my hotel, I took lots of short walks to nearby parks, to the Church on the Rock carved into bedrock, and to the Amos Anderson Museum. I was given a small book to solve the mystery at this museum, which is the mansion townhouse of the famous owner, Amos Anderson. There are five floors, and there are benches to sit and read throughout the entire building.  As I passed a numbered piece of art, I would study it to find a clue to help me solve the mystery, and at the end, the mystery was solved.

Each evening, our little group gathered for dinner. The last night was a farewell celebration, and then all would head their separate ways: back to Ireland, South Africa, Australia, Canada, India, and Malaysia. I would sail on an overnight ferry to Sweden.

(posted February 7, 2016)