Scandinavia Day Six: Gamle Stan

We awoke at a leisurely pace this morning.  We had reservations on the afternoon train to Oslo, so our morning was relatively open.  We discussed our options over frøkost and all agreed we wanted to return to Gamla stan (The Old Town) to explore the ancient part of the city more thoroughly.  This time, however, we opted to use city transportation rather than to walk.

A street performer who caught our attention as the kids recently learned to play a simple song in this same way.  They each put a few kroner in his case to show their appreciation of his musical skills.  


Until 1980, this old part of Stockholm was officially Staden mellan broarna (The Town between the Bridges). Gamla stan consists primarily of the island Stadsholmen.  The town dates back to the 13th century, and consists of medieval alleyways, cobbled streets, and archaic architecture. As I mentioned previously, North German architecture has had a strong influence in the Old Town’s construction and iconic buildings surround the square Stortorget
A medieval waste pipe, called a trumba.
 Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, less than a metre wide, is the narrowest alley in the city.

After a delightful lunch at a quaint little Italian restaurant, we made our way back to the hotel to get our things and proceed on by taxi to the train station.  We boarded promptly and enjoyed the scenic tour through the Swedish countryside en route to Norway.  We arrived late in the evening so immediately found a taxi and proceeded to our hotel, checking in shortly before midnight.  While this would normally feel a little unnerving so late, the northern latitude afforded us plenty of light and discounting how we felt phyically (it had been a long day, after all) it felt like it was only 7 or 8 in the evening.  

Scandinavia Day Five: The Vasa and Skansen

We again enjoyed a delightful buffet for frøkost.  Upon asking for assistance of the receptionist, we proceeded to 7-11 (which are as common as Starbucks) where we purchased tickets for public transportation.  Though we were versed on the New York subway – navigating one in a foreign language added to the difficulty and we had a few moments of stress.

Fortunately, the people were very helpful and everyone speaks English.  With the help of a policeman, we made our way out of T-Centralen subway station to a local tram or trolley.  We made it in short time to our destination – Djurgården, though one stop farther than necessary so we backed tracked on foot.

We spent the morning at the Vasa Museum, a glamorous but unseaworthy warship – top-heavy with an extra cannon deck, she sank 20 minutes into her maiden voyage when a breeze caught her sails and blew her over.  After over 300 years at the bottom of Stockholm’s harbor, she rose again from the deep with the help of marine archaeologists.

We were all impressed with the Vasa – particularly in the 500 wooden statues draping the ship and once painted in bright colors.  We wandered through the various exhibits, took a guided tour in English, watched a video (focused on efforts to raise her) and thereafter the kids took part in a couple of crafts fro Barne – painting with a feather and ink (Buddy) and metal stamping (MeiLi).

After the Vasa, we walked back to where we’d originally gotten off the tram for lunch.  We selected a charming, open-air café where we enjoyed a salad and sandwiches.  Just as we were finishing, MeiLi realized that she had forgotten her purse at the Vasa … a habit that is quickly becoming an undesirable holiday tradition (she’s done it twice before).

Upon recovering MeiLi’s purse, we walked across the street to Skansen. Founded in 1891, it is Europe’s original open-air, living history museum.  The park encompasses more than 150 historic buildings (homes, churches, shops and schoolhouses) transplanted from all corners of Sweden.  Another part of the park is a zoo – with an emphasis on Scandinavian animals.

While observing the bears, we almost lost Buddy – giving us quite the scare!  He’d gone one way and us the other … we didn’t realize it until we’d walked some distance.  As he’d been walking in the opposite direction, it took us a good 5-10 minutes to find him.  He was in tears, of course, and as a result made a more concerned effort to hold my hand when it was busy and crowded.

My favorite part of Skansen was the living history.  Unfortunately, as it is still early in the season, many of the buildings were not open and there were few interpreters dressed in period attire.  I was most intrigued, however, by the Oktorp farmhouse.  I’d hoped to interact some with the interpreter (one of only two I saw today) but Buddy twice touched the artifacts and I thereby no longer felt comfortable.

The Sami camp was also fascinating. When we first arrived, there was a crowd of people surrounding the tent or tepee.  No one was really talking but several were laughing uncomfortably after they had peaked inside.  They would then jab one another and encourage their family member or friend to go in as well.  Finally they departed and it was our turn.  When I peaked in, I discovered the reason for their discomfort.  There was an interpreter dressed in Sami clothing inside the tent with a nice warm fire.

We were invited into the house and unlike the previous crowd, took him up on his kind offer.  We sat upon reindeer hides atop thin sticks that had been piled upon the ground for bedding.  It was surprisingly comfortable.  I very much enjoyed our brief visit.  As nomadic people, the Sami followed the reindeer herds.  They’d build multiple tent like structures throughout the reindeer’s range and live in them temporarily.  He informed us that it takes about 1-2 weeks to build one but that it will last for many years.  Today, Sami people live in modern housing and use the tent only on occasion when tagging reindeer.

I asked DH to take a photo of us – meaning I wanted him to take a picture of the kids and I inside the tent with the ‘Sami man’ as we came to refer to him.  DH took a few pictures and I assumed that all was well.  It wasn’t until I returned home that I realized the Sami man was not in the photos, with the exception of his lower legs.  I was very bummed.  As a former interpreter … I loved the dialogue we had exchanged.  Unfortunately, my memory will have to suffice.

Scandinavia Day Four: Copenhagen to Stockholm by Train

On our way down for breakfast at 6:30, we asked the receptionist for assistance deciphering our train tickets and reservations.  He indicated we should be there at 7 despite a departure time of 8:37.  We thereby returned quickly to our room for our luggage and had to forgo the breakfast buffet by which we had become so entranced.  We hurried to the train station and upon activating our Euro-Rail passes learned we were in fact quite early .. we learned our lesson and vowed not to make the same mistake again.   As an added penalty, we were forced to eat breakfast at McDonalds … and not surprisingly, they did not have a breakfast menu.  We thereby ate 1957 Burgers.  Hmmm

We made it to the correct platform (Spår) with the kind assistance of a DSB employee, Nicolai.  We were very thankful for his guidance as just minutes before we were to depart, they changed the platform … I’m not sure we would have been aware.  He was very friendly and even allowed the kids to wear his cap, though he wouldn’t allow me to take his photograph.  Sorry ladies …  

The train ride through the Swedish countryside was delightful – enabling us to take in so much. We arrived in Stockholm in the early afternoon and we promptly took a taxi to our hotel – Courtyard Marriott @ Fridhelmsplan.  Soon after we were settled in our room – a little smaller than our room in Copenhagen but meticulously clean, in fact it was a new hotel – we walked quite a distance along the water (Riddarfjärden) to Gamle Stan, Stockholm’s old town.

This historic island is charming, photogenic and full of antique shops and cafes.  Until the 1600s, all of Stockholm fit on Gamle Stan.  In time, German culture influenced art, architecture and even the language, turning Old Norse into modern Swedish.

We walked through the quaint narrow streets, made a few small purchases and coincidentally stumbled upon something taking place at the Royal Palace that may have been the changing of the guard, though the tourist literature indicated that this was to take place at an earlier time of the day, so we are not certain.

We opted to eat dinner here as well and selected Trotzig – a very nice, fine dining atmosphere.  Finally!  A meal worth the kroner!!

Scandinavia Day Three: Hans Christian Andersen and Tivoli

Not yet adjusted to the 9 hour time difference we all awoke early and had to wait just over an hour before we could go downstairs for frøkost (our breakfast buffet – an elaborate assortment of cheeses, breads and pastries, sliced meats, pickled herring, fresh fruit, waffles, pancakes, sausages, bacon and eggs.  We took our time to assure we had eaten our fill – in hopes of avoiding the need for lunch a few hours later.

At 9:00 a.m., we boarded a tour boat to take in the sites of the city of Copenhagen via the canal.  From the boat, we saw the infamous Little Mermaid sculpture as well as numerous buildings of distinctive architecture.  The canal tour also took us through Christianshavn.

We completed one circuit and then disembarked at Nyhavn, walking the remaining distance to Amalienborg to see the Queen’s palace.  As she was not presently in residence, the Danish flag was not flown.  We opted to not take part in the guided tour nor stay to see the changing of the guard.  Instead, we made our way back through Størget – stopping at the Lego store, of course.  We also managed to stumble upon the Hans Christian Andersen statue .. delight as I had wanted to see it and for some reason was under the impression that it was some distance from the main tourist area.

We then crossed the street and entered Tivoli – the inspiration, I understand, for Disneyland.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the kids more delighted and engaged in the rides – they had so much fun; finishing a ride and running back to the queue to go again … and again.

As evening lingered on, we opted to get some dinner.  This resulted in a bit of discussion – but we ended up choosing _______ .  The service was poor and the food was mediocre.  After two disappointing meals, I became adamant about making better choices.

Scandinavia Day Two: Arriving in Copenhagen & the Storget

We landed in Amsterdam on time, but it took forever to taxi to the gate and unload the plane.  We thereby only had 25 minutes to make our connection.  We literally ran through the airport and went through customs & security so fast I can’t recall a single detail.  In fact, I’m not sure we went through customs actually – perhaps that was the next airport.  Anyway …

We arrived at our next gate and the attendant informed us that though we were speedy and made it on time, there was no way the same could be said of our luggage. We thereby arrived at our hotel – Marriott Copenhagen – via taxi a short time later sans luggage.  Quite ironic,  I think, for this was the first time I didn’t actually pack provisions and clothing for the first day in my carry-on.

Upon settling in – quick quick when don’t have anything to unpack – we opted to stroll along the pedestrian street, Størget.  We took in a number of shops (buying a few postcards) .. least of which was the Lego store, requiring repeat visits during our stay in Copenhagen (as it turned out).

We soon found ourselves more hungry than we had anticipated and thereby opted for a more American style dinner and dined at Streckers – it was convenient and inexpensive in comparison to the others in our vicinity. MeiLi chose tomato soup while the rest of us ordered burgers.  We were quite disappointed in the faire .. a las .. we finally returned to our room and did our best to adjust to the time difference.

The Oregon Dunes

A few months ago, our Geography Terms Tour term was Dunes.  Having grown up on the Oregon Coast, it was assured that our focus would be on the Oregon Dunes.  We explored the topic of dune succession and hoped that very soon, we would have the opportunity to visit the dunes ourselves.

The opportunity presented itself this past weekend when we traveled home to visit family.  Patrick contacted a friend of his and set everything up for a personalized tour of the dunes from the comfort of his retrofitted VW bus.  How cool is that?!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get many photos en route to the beach from Rob’s home.  The terrain just didn’t facilitate good picture quality.

“This trip was so entirely fun!  This one spot we went on a very steep hill.  It freaked me out! Rob didn’t have enough power to get up the hill so we had to roll back down.  Then we tried again.  This time we got up.  Then he turned around and drove down the steep hill.  It was fun but felt like we were going to crash!  Along the way, we went through the forest, across the foredune and deflation plain.  There were lots of puddles. Then we got to the beach where we stretched our legs and I looked for shells.” 
~ MeiLi