Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Trains and Boats and Planes

Have I mentioned that I've fallen in love with Scandinavia?

Our Scandinavian odyssey began with 2 nights in Copenhagen. As we are wont to do, a and I landed, checked in and then went for one of our mega walks. It didn't get off to a promising start when we got to our hotel, 3 stars, nestling between the strip club ("Beautiful Girls!* Totally Nude!") and the fetish clothing shops (leather straps, anyone?). We got up to the top floor to find a very poky room with a 4'6" bed thrust in a corner. Discovering the duvet was only 4' was just the icing on the cake...

Anyway, we set out from our hotel near Tivoli Gardens and walked to the Little Mermaid. A doesn't like her much, thinks she's a bit disappointing, but I loved her.

That evening we went to Tivoli Gardens, and although we didn't go on any rides (A was blessing his high blood pressure, believe me) I loved that too. I know it's cheesy, but it's magical cheese...

The next day we explored several museums (free on Wednesdays) and started to chill out, reading and also enjoying a spot of geocaching at Marmokirken (the Marble church), not at all what I expected to find in Denmark!

The next day we took a train to Gothenburg, across the Öresund bridge, which I hadn't realised rises out of tunnel, so on the way back into Denmark, must look as if it just dives into the sea. Our first look around Gothenburg wasn't very inspiring, it was reminiscent of the Fish Quay in North Shields, but the next day, the sun came out and I was captivated. We had a tourist card which gave us entrance to loads of museums, places of interest and access to canal trips, so we started by setting out for the Art Museum. Outside is a huge statue of Poseidon by Carl Milles. Apparently when it was first planned, it had an enormous manh00d, but the local burghers protested, so he altered the design. He is holding a large fish in his hand, a rather mean looking thing.
However, if you stand to one side, it becomes apparent that Milles had the last laugh...

We also took a trip around the canal. A doesn't do boats, so I was very impressed. However, it wasn't until we were underway that the guide explained that to get out of the canal onto the river Gotha, we needed to go under a low bridge.

A very low bridge.

So low, in fact that we had to get on the floor of the boat.

Luckily to get back in, we only had to duck down and put our heads onto our knees....

I'm not a big fan of fish but I do like salmon, so whilst in Gothenburg I tried some, served with a crayfish sauce.

I was startled to find this beast on my dinner though. I tried to deal with it, but succeeded only in yanking its head off and exposing its guts, so I gave in gracefully and wrapped it in a napkin.

I also tried pickled herring for breakfast, which is gorgeous.

No, really.

After two nights in Gothenburg, it was a first class express train to Stockholm, which after the calmness of Gothenburg took us rather by surprise. It was HEAVING, mainly with passengers off of the cruise ships. Gamla Stan, the oldest part which everyone says you should visit was just horrible on that Saturday afternoon, so we avoided it for a while. On the Sunday we set out to Djurgården on the ferry, and tripped our way about the Nordica folk museum, which included some fantastic temporary displays of ordinary people's collections. You know the type of things people collect... penguin objects, Abba memorabilia, matchboxes, opera glasses, the labels out of people's clothing... I kid you not, this woman is crazy for collecting them, collects them from everyone she knows and keeps them in a photo album. The best one, however, was the collection of historical and foreign mousetraps. I mean, how do you start collecting mousetraps?

Then we went to the Vasa museum, where superlatives fail me. It is the biggest wooden ship I have ever seen and it is about 90% intact. Stunning. Read more about how it sunk after 1300m of its maiden voyage, lay for over 300 years in the water and then was raised and floated into dry dock here. Stunning, truly stunning.

We then went onto Skansen, an open air museum a little like Beamish, that had original buildings from all over Sweden that have been moved and reconstructed to show what life was like. In addition, there are native animals in the park too, and we saw bears, lynx, wolves and elk. Of course, my camera battery died at this point, so I have no pictures of the elk, which were huge. I want to go back to Skansen - we were there at the end of the summer season, so many of the living history exhibits were shut up. You could spend a day there, easily.

The next day we went on another canal trip, then explored Gamla Stan without the hoards. We also did another spot of geocaching and again, just sat, read, chilled (in both senses, as the lovely weather was replaced that day by a cutting wind) We didn't go into the Royal Palace, but we did take a photo of one of the soldiers guarding it...

The next day, it was back to Copenhagen, by plane this time, where we spent all of our Danish coins having fun on the sideshows at Tivoli Gardens. We won so much tat it was unbelievable, but in true Scandinavian style, the tat is about a hundred times better that I'd find in Thame Fair!

And of course, I couldn't come home without some souvenirs...

The three pairs of Fabel came from Deisy Design just down from Poseion on Avenyn in Gothenburg, a lovely shop, with lovely staff. Fabel is Norwegian and was selling at 26SEK (£2) for 50g - cheaper than Opal or Regia. I had a real problem choosing and could have bought more, save for the concern that I would have no room left in the rucksack for Stockholm and Copenhagen.

The three balls of Strompegarn Jacquard (26.5 DKK, about £2.65 for 50g) were from Strikkeboden near the Catherdral in Copenhagen. It was a recommendation from SKE, and I was looking for some wool silk mix by Marianne Isager, but they had none. The shop was very busy and I was conscious of A kicking his heels outside the shops, so I grabbed this, enough for two pairs, one for Dad, one for me and called it a day. However, it had the largest selection of Noro I've ever seen and a gorgeous Nordic style sweater in the window in natural colours. Grrr..

And where is the yarn from Stockholm, I hear you cry? Well, I found a lovely shop on Gamla Stan and a great stall at the world bazaar at Skansen, both selling lots of gorgeous coloured laceweight yarn in 100% wool, but I didn't get any. The colours were brilliant, but the yarn was obviously from raggedy-arsed sheep, since I could have used it to scrub pans. It did not pass the cheek test, but since they knit and wear shawls as extra layers for warmth, not a fine wrap over a strappy dress, it's not really a surprise.

So, if you like warm but not scorching weather, friendly people, lovely cities and expensive vittals, Scandinavia is for you.

I can't wait to go back...

* This always makes me smile, a bit like "We serve good food" - you'd hardly advertise the fact that your food is off, would you?

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