We will spend 5 nights in Copenhagen, 7 nights in Stockholm, 2 nights in Oslo, 5 nights on the Sognefjord, 3 nights in Bergen, 1 night Hagesund and 1 night in Stavanger. We will travel by train and then rent a car in Norway.
  • Day0

    Trip planning

    May 27, 2018 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    We are very much looking forward to our trip to Scandinavia this summer. After several years of travelling to Europe, last year we opted for a North American road trip holiday to Montana and Wyoming. We had a great time but it didn't fulfill the wanderlust of going to Europe. This year I have changed my travel planning. I am relying totally on Air BnB to book our accommodation. In previous years I had used VRBO. Our bookings were always good through VRBO but I had troubles paying. Many of the places required me to send Bank Drafts or go through paypal which I found to be a hassle. Air BnB was much more convenient to book through their websites. I am unsure whether it was any cheaper. As always I was planning well in advance for the trip and I managed to have booked many of the places last September which provided me a very good selection of accommodations to pick. The other change this year with the trip is that I decided to travel via train for our first two legs of the trip from Copenhagen to Stockholm and from Stockholm to Oslo. These are very sizeable distances and would have taken several hours to have driven. I decided that it would have just been to exhausting and unpleasurable. On previous trips when I looked into train travel but it was considerably more expensive then car travel for a whole family. For the past couple of months I have been daily checking the Swedish Rail site for when the tickets would go on sale hoping that if I could buy the tickets on the first day they went on sale that maybe I could get a wee discount. When they did go on sale I was totally shocked by the cost. I have heard horror stories about the cost of travelling in Scandinavia but I never suspected the cost of the tickets. For our family to travel from Copenhagen to Stockholm it will cost us $77 CDN for all five of us. For our second trip from Stockholm to Oslo it will cost $144 CDN for the whole family again. How can this be so? Obviously the tickets must be highly subsidized by the state. After Oslo we will be renting a car for twelve days to allow us to travel to the very spectacular Sognefjord which one could get to by train but it would logistically be much more difficult. In previous years I have always been on the lookout for a nice monastery for two of my colleagues to retire to but unfortunately I have learned that Scandinavia did away with it's monasteries during the reformation. My apologies to Mark and Ross for letting you down on this. Last year Ross did get his genealogy tested through Ancestory.com and learned that he had Scandinavian blood so I will be happy to assist him with any genealogy research. I have included some of our photos from our trip last year in order to test out the site.Read more

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  • Day3

    Bicycles, bicycles, bicycles

    July 1, 2018 in Denmark ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    We arrived safe and sound in Copenhagen yesterday. Those transatlantic flights really take a lot out of a person. I think I faired a little better this year as I was able to sleep a little bit. We took the LRT and walked to our apartment in Fredericksburg where we were met by the owner Henrik who would appear to live here when he is not renting it out. He is a retired architect who is doing this as a side hustle. We kept awake as long as possible even doing an after supper Zombie walk. Andrew gave in about 7 and went to sleep waking up at midnight while the rest of us persisted until 8:30. Being a Saturday night the street in front of our house was quite noisy but I slept until 4:30. Madeline and Chris slept until 8.

    So far if there is one thing that defines Copenhagen I would have to say the bicycle. I always knew the Danes were active bicycle commuters but I was absolutely stunned by the scale of things. The city is incredibly well set up with bicycle lanes everywhere. There are an incredible number of cyclists using the system. Everyone looks so fit and healthy on the bikes. On Saturday night everyone was elegantly dressed heading out on the town all on their bikes. They also like to use cargo bikes which you see people transporting their children, their girlfriends and their dogs. We were so motivated that today Sunday, we rented bikes and cycled around to see the sites. Highlight were Christiana a commune started by squatters on an unused military base in the 70s. It was hippy marijuana ville. Chris was told off for picking some bud growing up in what he thought was a public garden.Lots of tourists and gaunt looking men sitting around smoking and drinking Carlsberg beer at 10 in the morning. I am sure they were waiting to break the bud out. After an hour everyone decided the place was too seedy and we left.

    We biked north through the harbour district to Amalienborg castle home of the royal family. The harbour was over run in tourists. We caught a little of the changing of the guard before biking north for lunch at St. Albans Anglican Church. A little bit of England here in Denmark. The little mermaid was just beyond St. Albans. We just had to follow the tour buses. The statue was prettier than I thought it would be. We headed south to Rosenberg castle. I thought everyone should experience one Scandinavian castle. It was filled with Royal family junk and the Royal jewels. We have been getting our friend Russell to buy us a souvenir for our trips from a garage sale in Edmonton these last couple years so we thought we would have him keep his eye out for some Scandinavian Crown Jewels for us this year. He was quite successful finding us beer steins from Germany.

    Everyone was running out of steam so we biked back and returned the bikes at the rental shop and headed down to the harbour away from the tourists to swim in a 50 metre harbour pool with the locals. There was a 2 metre diving board which kept the little ones busy.

    I figured we must have biked about 15 k and swam .5 km. And walked for about an hour. It was the Copenhagen triathlon.
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  • Day4

    Vikings, vikings, vikings

    July 2, 2018 in Denmark ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Today we travelled a little out of Copenhagen to Roskilde which until 1450 was the home of the Royal family. It is today better known as the home of the Viking ship museum. In 1969 they found the wrecks of five Viking vessels from 1100 which had purposely been sunk in a fjord close to Roskilde to block it from potential attackers. Although the wrecks which consisted of planks of wood mounted on metal frames of between 30-70% completeness weren't that exciting, they gave a very good tour in English explaining all about the history of the boats and of the Viking era. They had also established a Viking ship building shop where they had recreated all of the ships using original techniques. These ships were fully functional and they allowed one to get on them although we didn't go for a sail. They had also been building replicas of other ancient ships so there were a lot of ships. The boys and I had a go with axes to shave down a 1/8 size split log. There were also opportunities to make jewellery, a little boat, practise basket weaving and make rope. All of the trades workers were very friendly and engaging. We were exhausted after a few hours so we decided to take a miss on the Roskilde cathedral where many of the Royalty from Denmark are buried. We took the train back to Copenhagen and I realized the cost of the round trip 16k on the train was $80 which is more than the cost of our one way trip to Stockholm. How can that be?Read more

  • Day5

    Bog people, French horns, meteors

    July 3, 2018 in Sweden ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    We visited the Danish national museum. We started with a one hour tour called "We are the Danes" that explained how Denmark starting in the depression in the 20s had slowly became more socialistic. The bicycle represented part of this idea as everyone would be equal with a bicycle. I found that somewhat interesting as in addition to seeing a lot of bicycles in Copenhagen I also think that I saw more Tesla cars then I have ever seen. Denmark had historically controlled all of Scandinavia but had gradually lost territory through poorly planned wars such that by the 19 century they were a very small country. They developed a philosophy of looking inwards rather then looking outwards. We also learned had Danes love their home and the coziness and comfort that their home gives them. They call it Hygge.They also are very private about their homes and will never invite close friends into their houses. The Danes are ahead of us by 10-15 years on maternity leave, same sex marriages but not yet marijuana legalization. Chris, Cheryl and myself enjoyed the tour, Madeline and Andrew less. We went and had lunch in a courtyard beside this big rock which looked a little unusual. We realized later that it was a giant meteor from Greenland. It was huge. After lunch it was onto the fun stuff. I told everyone that they had an hour and a half to see whatever they wanted. The museum has a huge collection of Bog people, that is bodies buried between 2000-3000 BC in bogs in oak logs allowing the body and possessions to be preserved. The clothing and shoes were perfectly intact and not that different from our clothing although it was all woven. The bodies were less preserved.There was a bog girl who was dressed in a miniskirt and "crop" top. It was the type of provocative clothing you wouldn't want your daughter wearing. Times don't change. They had a wonderful collection of lur horns from 1000 BC. The lur horns were the precursor of the French horn. My colleague Ross who collects antique French horns will have to get a Lur horn. Lots of ornate jewelry from prehistoric times. There was also lots on the Danish colonies of US Virgin Islands, Gamba,Greenland and one in India. All lost to the US, Britain or independence. By then our time was up and we headed off to swim in another canal pool as it has been quite warm in Copenhagen. This had a 75 metre pool and a five metre diving tower which my kids made me go off.Read more

  • Day6

    Bicycling and art galleries

    July 4, 2018 in Sweden ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    For our last day in Denmark we decided that we wanted to do some more bicycling and to combine this with some art galleries. I had mistakenly bought a museum pass at the Rosenburg castle which I was misled to thinking included the National museum. It included the National gallery and the Davis gallery. We rented bikes from a different bike shop around the corner from where we were staying. Uptown bikes. As Chris said afterwards it seemed a little shady. I felt I was doing some sort of drug deal. I guess they weren't use to cash transaction. I just would not have liked leaving my credit card number with them. We cycled the long way to the National Gallery. Everyone had an hour to immerse themselves in art. I made a beeline for the Danish collection and thoroughly enjoyed the paintings by artists that were unknown to me. Cheryl and Madeline concentrated on the modern art and I don't know what Chis and Andrew did although I kept meeting up with them. We ate lunch in the foyer of the gallery before heading off to cool our feet in the pool out front. I am not sure whether this constituted a traditional visit to a gallery but every seemed happy. Our next stop on our bikes just a few blocks away behind the Rosenburg Castle was the Davis collection. Davis was a wealthy lawyer/ business man who collected art with an interest in Islamic antiquities. On his death in the 1960s he had left his house and collection to be used to establish an art gallery. The main collection consisted of Islamic antiquities dating back to 700 AD divided by region. They had a page from one of the earliest Korans in 700AD which had been erased and written over again. Lots of calligraphy in stone and wood. Ornate jewelry. There was a glass appearing container which had been carved out of a crystal. Obviously Islam punched much higher culturally then Western Europe during the dark ages. I think it was probably one of the most pleasant galleries that I have seen in ages. After 45 minutes though we had to leave as this was all the time we had allotted. We finished the day with a swim in the first canal pool we had gone to and then returned the bikes to the money laundering bike shop. As it was our last night in Copenhagen we started packing up for our departure the next day for Stockholm .Read more

  • Day7

    Slow train to Stockholm

    July 5, 2018 in Sweden ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    I think the great thing about traveling with children specifically teenagers is that you can learn so much from them. Despite having so little worldly experience they seem to know how to conduct oneself when travelling. The first lesson I have learned from my son Christopher is that there is no need to show up for a train or plane departure in advance to give oneself any buffer room and doing so only indicates that you have a serious neurosis. Perhaps an anxiety disorder NOS. The second thing that I have learned from Chris is that one should never ever ask anyone for help even people working at information booths. One can learn all from the internet specifically YouTube videos. Being the accepting person that he was of my anxiety neurosis he allowed us to get to the train station 50 minutes early and he tolerated me talking to the information people. We learned that our train across the border into Sweden to Lund where we would catch our high speed train to Stockholm had been cancelled. My heart had a sinking feeling when I heard this. As we were in good time we could take another train and still make our connection which we did in Lund. At the Swedish border there was some pretty intense security with passport checks and ticket checks. I think the era of open borders in Europe may be coming to an end. The high speed train was glorious. I sat beside Cheryl and the children sat in other seats. The trip took about 4.5 hours which beat the 7-8 hour drive had we rented a car. All for $80 for all of us. When we made it to Stockholm we had a 10 minute walk to the subway line where we paid $20 to go three stops which was maybe 2 km. The enigma of Scandinavia. Oh it wasn't a slow train to Stockholm, it was a very fast train. A slow train to Stockholm just had a nice ring to it.

    When we got to our BNB accommodation in Stockholm Cheryl and I left the children to play one of our favourite games. It is called find the obscure ingredients for a recipe. This game is best played when you are a little tired and hungry . It is a timed event where the competitor, typically myself is expected to find obscure ingredients that the judge usually Cheryl wants me to find. I cannot be caught by the judge asking anyone for help or else I gain time penalties. At no time during the game must I say " Couldn't we make something simpler for supper or I will immediately forfeit the game and the penalty will be that I will have to make supper. The game went pretty well for me although I had some problems finding chicken broth. The best I could find were Oxo cubes. I also gained some penalty points as Cheryl caught me trying to explain what it was to a shelf stocker. I will have to improve my communication skills for our next game.

    We have been in Stockholm for less then a few hours. Maybe I was brainwashed by the Danes but I think that people really did look happier and healthier in Denmark. The Swedes well they appear more like us North Americans, a little frumpy and not as happy .
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  • Day9

    Drottingham palace, Marieford

    July 7, 2018 in Sweden ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    We picked up our rental car from a rental car agency which was only 1.6 k from the house. When we showed up they told us that they had no cars. After I told them we had travelled all the way from Canada and that we would take any car we mysteriously got a Kia Niro. We went back to the apartment picked up the children and headed off to Drottingham palace. It was supposed to have been a 12 minute drive but despite having a GPS we got terribly off course and ended up driving through a tunnel under central Stockholm. It took us about 50 minutes. Drottingham palace is the home of Sweden's King. It is known as the Versailles of the north which is probably a stretch. It is unique to Europe as it is one of the only royal palaces one can tour. I guess the Swedish king must be short of cash and needs a side hustle. It is probably only a matter of time before he opens up an Airbnb. We checked out the palace gift shop and wandered around the grounds. Interestingly we bumped into an old colleague of mine, Mr Toilet paper holder man. Initially I didn't recognize him, a common problem that befalls pathologists not being able to recognize tumours out of context. He told me he needed a break from all the crap he has to put up with at work. The most impressive thing we saw in the gardens was this collection of Geraniums. There must have been 60 different species many of which I had never seen or heard of before

    Drottningholm castle is on Lake Malaren, a huge lake just west of Stockholm. We decided to drive to Mariefred home of Gripsholm castle. Mariefred was a very pleasant lakeside summer resort town with a beautiful brick castle and grounds. We went for a swim in the lake just down the lake from the castle before touring the castle grounds and gift shop. There were some beautiful Rune stones in the gardens dating back to 1100. Rune stones were memorials that Vikings made to memorialize lost family members often with poems.

    All in all a very full day.
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  • Day9

    Boda Borg, carpool karaoke, Oxelosund

    July 7, 2018 in Sweden ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C

    Today we drove to a town south of Stockholm about 100 k away known as Oxelosund. Oxelosund is home to Boda Borg a quest centre which our friends the Kleins raved about after their trip to Sweden a few years ago. The trip was fun as we got to see some of the rural areas around Stockholm. The boys got their devices hooked up to the car computer via Bluetooth. I don't know how they can figure this out but they can. We had a good run of carpool karaoke all the way to Oxelosund. James Cordon would have been proud of us. I wanted to get a video but Chris wouldn't let me.The joy but frustration of living with teenagers.

    We made it to Boda Borg before ten and signed up for the full day and the lunch. Boda Borg is a quest centre. To complete the task you need a team of 3-5 . You can't do it by one's self .You enter rooms and either have to perform physical tasks as a group, solve puzzles, press light sequences in a specific order before being allowed to proceed to the next room. Basic instructions were provided in English on the doors which after about an hour my children realized would be helpful to read before starting.Rooms have themes like escape from prison, Safari adventure or Ninja warrior. There was a lot of crawling on knees through small spaces. I felt at times that I was in a McDonald's play area. By lunch I was exhausted and Cheryl had a massive headache but the kids were having a blast. After a traditional Swedish lunch of make your own Tacos the kids were back at it. Cheryl and I took a long time over the Tacos in order to savour the food in such a romantic setting. Or maybe it was because we needed a rest. I headed out for another round with the kids while Cheryl had a drug induced nap on the couch. By 2 I was absolutely spent and feeling my entire age. The kids didn't want to go but fortunately Cheryl had an exit strategy. A Cold War military installation just outside of town. My children seem to love anything military. They must get it from their mother who also has a penchant for military museums. Did I ever tell you that her Grandfather was at Vimy ridge. The opportunity to visit a Cold War series of batteries dug into the bedrock in the 60s was just too much to resist. The installation consisted of these three huge guns and radar facilities controlled by central bunkers built into bedrock to a depth of 30 metres. It felt very 60ish something you would expected out an early James Bond movie. We had our very own personal tour from a local high school student whose English was just okay. The tour normally takes an hour but we were so interested that it took us 1.5 hours. In addition to the large guns, they had lots of other military paraphernalia including guns, rockets, drones etc. We were in our glory. After the tour we got back in the car, drove to a grocery store for supplies and did some more carpool karaoke. On the way back to Stockholm everyone tried to console me for my poor showing at Boda Borg by telling me that as a tall adult that the place wasn't designed for me and that I was probably one of the older players at the facility. I also think that our friends the Kleins are a little younger and obviously a little fitter then we are.
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  • Day10

    Volvos, volvos, volvos

    July 8, 2018 in Sweden ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Today was our last day with our car. We decided to drive to the ancient town of Sigturna on the northeast arm of Lake Malvern. Sigturna was a pretty little town on the lake. The only trace of the Vikings however was the Rune stones that had been organized around town on a little walk. We ate our lunch by the lake which was filled with Lilly pads and then decided to head to the University town of Uppsala. Uppsala is a university town. We visited the Cathedral with the longest nave in Scandinavia. It was of Gothic design build in 1453. It was a very impressive building and even the kids tolerated visiting it. After the church we headed off to the house of Carl Linnaeus, Uppsula's most famous son which is quite the claim given that scientists from Uppsula's university have won a total of 8 Nobel prizes. Carl Linnaeus was a physician and botanist who developed the formal naming system for plants and animals between 1743 and 1778. Think genus and species. He is quite big here having had his picture on the 100 kronor note. I thought of my colleagues Mark who maybe had he been born in another time would have been a great botanist. The museum and garden were quite beautiful. They had an audio tour where one would walk from room to room in the house and click on a light to hear information about the room and about Carl's accomplishments. The children stayed amused for 45 minutes and maybe even learnt something. Our last visit was to Gamla Uppsala. This consisted of nine large viking burial mounds from 500 AD. They were pretty large. We walked around them and visited the gift shop. No one wanted to go into the museum. We enquired at the museum about a swimming location and learned that the town of Uppsula's maintained a swimming spot on a river with bathrooms, a beach and a dock. It was quite busy. Madeline and I ended up chatting with some graduate students from the university doing Phds in molecular biology. It wasn't the spot that I would have thought that I would have had such a scientific discussion. It was kind of fun to think that we were swimming where Vikings once swam. We returned to Stockholm and after supper we returned our car to the Avis car rental with no cars and dropped the keys off.

    Having spent the last three days driving around in Sweden, it is tough not to notice that there are an incredible number of Volvos here. There are Volvos everywhere. I think about 50% of the cars are Volvos. Seeing all of these old Volvos has been a little nostalgic. We told someone that we met that Volvos were considered prestigious cars in Canada and they really thought that was funny. Whether it is Volvos or Skodas or BMWs, the Swedes love their station wagons. We also notice that they don't drive minivans or trucks. I think we only saw 4-5 personal trucks while driving around. We wondered what would all of the doctors drive to work at the Royal Alex if they didn't drive Volvos. Teslas ? The one car that we came across that piqued my curiosity was a 1981 Toyota Cirdan. It looked a lot like a Camry. We talked to the elderly owner who told us she was the original owner. It was 37 years old. By comparison my Toyota Odessey is only 15 years old. I am unsure It will make it another 20 years. For Ross there were a fair number of BMWs here but not many vintage ones. Maybe you could get a better price for your Beamer if you shipped it to Sweden.
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