Summer Vacation 2015: Finishing in Scandinavia

After we left Rome, we flew back to Scandinavia. We weren’t due to fly out of Copenhagen for a few more days, so we took the opportunity to explore Norway a little.

We flew into Bergen, which is the second largest city in Norway. It’s set on a peninsula on the west coast with both a bay and a fjord, so there’s a lot of water. In addition, the city is surrounded by mountains.

We landed in the afternoon, took a cab into town, found our accommodations and dropped off our stuff, and then set off to explore a bit.

Our explorations led us through a lovely city that is nearly 1,000 years old and has Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It was rainy and chilly, but we made the most of our afternoon.

The next morning, we hopped on a train to Oslo, which is about 300 miles (465 km) southeast of Bergen. Over the course of the next seven hours, we saw fjords, lakes, rivers, mountains, valleys, snow, green meadows, flowers, and more.

It’s really a shame that Norway is just so awful, right?

We got to Oslo on that Friday evening.

Here’s a random piece of trivia: You cannot buy beer in a grocery store in Oslo after 8 p.m. Even on a Friday night. Want to know how we know this? Because we were ordering pizza for take out and picking up a few supplies- but not beer! — at the grocery store at 9 p.m.

The next day, Saturday, we woke up with some ideas for how we were going to spend our partial day in Oslo. As I’ll explain in a moment, these plans just have a way of changing.

Gingy in front of a poster in the Munch Museum gift shop.

First off, we went to the Munch Museum, where we saw a terrific exhibit on the parallels between the works of Munch and Van Gogh. At the end of the exhibit, we saw one version of The Scream. I say “one version” because Munch created four — two in paint, one in pastel and crayon, and one as a lithograph. If you click on the Wikipedia link above and scroll down, the version we saw was the crayon version on the far left.

After we left the Munch Museum, our plan was to go to the National Gallery and see more Munch, but then we found out that the Oslo Pride Parade was about to start, so we shifted gears and found a good viewing spot on the parade route.

That was our first pride parade and it was SO. MUCH. FUN. So much so that after the end of the parade passed us, we started walking along, slightly faster than the parade was moving, and we eventually saw most of it again a second time.

From there, we wandered to the waterfront of Oslofjord, where we walked by the Opera House.

And from there, our day changed radically. We needed to get back to Copenhagen for our flight home in 36 hours. Pete had found out about an interesting ferry/cruise ship that leaves Oslo in the afternoon and docks in Copenhagen the next morning. Given the cost of transportation to fly back to Denmark, plus the exorbitant cost of hotels in Scandinavia, the boat option made a lot of sense for us.

The bays where cars would drive on for the trip across the water.

We boarded the ship mid-afternoon and spent our time exploring. It was smaller than a cruise ship and, while not as lavish as one, was also therefore not Vegas-esque tacky, as my experience has shown them to be. The decor was simple and classic, with beautiful wood throughout.

Our cabin was tiny, but perfectly fit out with four bunks, a wee desk/nightstand, a miniscule closet, and a surprisingly good-sized bathroom. Really, what more did we need for such a short time?

We docked in Copenhagen the next morning with our final 24 hours in Scandinavia before us. We had discussed staying in the city and exploring it a bit further, but instead hopped on a commuter train and went across the water to Sweden, which was a trip of less than half an hour.

We got off in Malmö, which is truly one of the most charming towns we’ve seen.

After a pleasant evening in Sweden, we got up early the next morning, walked the half mile back to the train station, rode 20 minutes back to Copenhagen, and got off at the airport. From there, we were in return mode — check in, security, waiting at the gate, and boarding.

We flew to Manchester, England for our connecting flight and encountered some of the least efficient airport customs procedures we’ve ever dealt with anywhere in the world,which is saying a lot. We flew back to the U.S., landing in Philly, which is where we had flown out. I know I swore we’d never do that again, but the airfare was too good to let a little Philly hold us back. This time, we had driven up, so we didn’t have to worry about a connecting flight.

I’m going to have to write a post about this in the future, but what really saved our bacon when we landed in Philly last month was Global Entry. We breezed through passport control, bypassed the baggage claim area (we never check bags now), and then got through customs quickly too — the whole process was well under 20 minutes.

Within another 30 minutes, we were back at our car and heading south to Virginia. Normally, this would be a five (or more) hour journey, but even with stops, it took only a little over four. We got back to town at 9:30 p.m., made a 10 minute stop at the grocery store (the list was already stored on my phone), and pulled into Jenworld at 10:00. And, as I’ve mentioned already, the next day started a new adventure.

So that’s the story of our summer vacation. Over the course of two weeks, we were in seven countries (including the Holy See, but excluding the U.S.), used five currencies (excluding the American dollar), and created countless memories. It was marvelous.

And now I’m ready to grab my passport and go again.

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8 Responses to Summer Vacation 2015: Finishing in Scandinavia

  1. jenn says:

    These are some familiar looking sights… i have several of the same ahots on my camera. Malmö was one of our favorites, too. We loved the central town square. I am definitely looking into Global Entry!

  2. erin says:

    Your travel posts just might be my favorites from among all the topics you write about here. Love that you guys took the opportunity to go to Sweden since it was right there and you had a day. Your girls’ passports must have so many stamps in them! Plus all of the memories you guys are making - so awesome!

    Is there a specific souvenir you guys pick up every place you travel? (For instance, my mom used to collect spoons from her travels. I have a friend who keeps a little money from every country he visits. I usually get a Christmas ornament.)

    Also, since you don’t check bags, how often do you have to do laundry on a trip like this? Did you use an Italian laundromat?

    One more question: Did you all have a favorite part of the trip or place you visited during this vacation?

    • Jen says:

      Erin, thank you! I always worry that I’m boring people.

      No, we’re not shoppers. I used to collect postcards, but now I don’t even do that. More often than not, we come home with pretty much nothing new, other than a stack of receipts and other pieces of paper we picked up along the way. Oh, and chocolate. We almost always bring chocolate back. Occasionally, the girls will see something they want, but not often. In Venice, they bought $10 t-shirts from a street vendor. In Bali, we got sarongs. On this last trip, Ellie picked up something small in Copenhagen and Grace didn’t get anything at all.

      As for laundry, it depends on a variety of factors, like how long we’re gone, what the temperature is where we are, and the laundry facilities are themselves. For this trip, we did a load on the houseboat in Copenhagen and air dried everything on the railing. In Italy, we did a load almost every day because the washers are much smaller and hold less. No dryer, so we had to do a little laundry every day and hang it up to dry, so as to stay on top of the situation and not let it get out of control (in other words, no clean underwear). When we left Italy, we needed for everything to be clean because we knew we wouldn’t be doing laundry on the last leg — again, because we’d have no way to quickly dry things in a cool, damp environment.

      As for favorites, we all loved Copenhagen — the girls especially loved Tivoli Gardens and eating flodebollen. Pompeii was amazing. In Rome, the Pantheon was a favorite, but the girls really didn’t care for the Vatican Museums or St. Peters. Given the crowds we were dealing with, I have to agree that day was not among our best. In Norway, we all loved the Oslo Pride Parade. It was so awesome.

  3. bdaiss says:

    Why doesn’t the US have more opera houses? They always seem to win at architectural design. Also: I filled out all our passport documentation. I really need to get it sent in before fall gets here. My hope is to go some place that requires it next year (even if that is just Canada or Mexico).

  4. Pamela says:

    We found the same thing in England going through customs. It’s easily over an hour waiting every time we’ve been somewhere and come back to England.

  5. Smalltown Me says:

    I love your travel posts and I’m always a little jealous. I’m not good at planning things.

    Norway has been so popular this summer! Jenn was there at the opera house on the same day, according to facebook, as a couple of my local friends. Funny, I’m half Norwegian and haven’t been to the motherland, but I’ve been to Sweden and Denmark. Go figure.

  6. My mother had been to nearly all of those places. Despite living in Germany for 3 years, we have been to only a tiny fraction of them. (I blame being pregnant/nursing on lack of travel… well, and work. Darn work!)
    If I ever travel overseas again, I will definitely be gleaning information from you on how to do it the right way!

  7. You have me lusting after Scandinavia now. Damn it, woman. My bucket list grows each time you post.

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