‘I’m not going in again yet I know I should have to get through the Looking-glass again- back into the old room- and there’d be an end to all of my adventures.!’
Alice Through the Looking Glass
I find that in some cities, I keep ending back in the same place. Sometimes it is intentional, yet other times, I head out in an opposite direction, yet inexplicably end up back in the same place. That was true in both Sweden and Norway.
My first few days in Sweden were spent with my dear friends Roland and Michelle. I met Roland in Antarctica and his wife, Michelle, in Munich at Oktoberfest. It was a fantastic respite from solitary travel and spending time with them and their amazing friends in Malmo was lovely. If you are going to Sweden, don’t skip Malmo- it is just across the water from Copenhagen and a lovely and extremely welcoming city to all people. I was able to engage in intelligent conversation about the world (usually people just talk to me about #45) and participate in fika, a delightful tradition of sitting and enjoying coffee with friends.
After my mini break, I hopped on the train to Stockholm. I stayed in the Old Town area of Gamla Stan and was super excited about my accommodations. I had booked a room on a yacht. It sounds super fancy, but honestly, it was one of the cheaper places to stay in Stockholm. This yacht was once owned by Barbara Hutton, an heiress married to Cary Grant and owner of the Woolworth Department Store chain. I played the role of Jack, as my cabin was on the lowest deck with all of the other bargain seekers. My favorite part of each day was heading up to the dining room to have breakfast with the other guests. It felt just as it should. I did a quick walk to orient myself that evening and found the beautiful park on Djurgården and a grocery store for my peanut butter and fruit.
The weather in Stockholm was crisp and clear, my favorite kind of weather, so I was able to get in a good twenty five walking miles while I was there. I started out the day walking around Gamla Stan. Here I found the tiniest statue, called Little Boy Who Looks at the Moon. People leave him candy and coins and, in the winter, provide him with hats and scarves. That was super cute. I also found the narrowest street, 35 inches (90 cm) wide, and was appropriated underwhelmed. I giggled as I realized Stockholm was the exact opposite of Dubai. Rather than the biggest, first, tallest, etc, the pride themselves on the littlest. A bit Alice if you ask me- drink me, eat me!
Having no set agenda, I started wondering about town. I ended up back on the island of Djurgården. There are a bunch of museums on this island, like the Nordic Museum and the Abba Museum. I chose the Vasa Museum for no particular reason and with no knowledge of its content. Turns out it was a museum dedicated to a shipwreck. The Vasa was badly designed and sunk 1300 meters from her departure point. She was found and brought from the ocean floor 333 years later. I had no idea a museum about a sunken ship could be so cool. I learned that sailors had to bring their own spoons and food to last them until the ship hit international waters. This was part of the really good, free audio guide that included a guy burping when discussing the food section.
The next day in Stockholm took me, you guessed it, back to the island of Djurgården, a walk I now title “The Walk of A Million Strollers.” The highlight of this walk was a set of benches. One read “EU” and the other “No EU.” Why can’t we all get along! I was headed to the outdoor museum of Skansen, again having no idea what to expect. After a somewhat difficult challenge of finding the entrance (I went right when I should have stayed straight and ending up walking the whole of the park before I found the way in!) I discovered it was the Swedish version of Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. It was a bunch of buildings brought from all over Sweden to show life throughout the ages. There were farms, schoolhouses, churches and more. And being winter in Sweden, it was somewhat desolate. My favorite part of Skansen was the zoo (no surprise there). They had lynx which I don’t see often. I spent a good 45 minutes hanging out with them. They also had otters who entertained me for another 45 minutes with their sport of ice wrestling. I had arrived near opening, figuring I would stay for a bit and then move on to the aquarium and other museums. Nope, I closed down Skansen and ended my day there.
And so my time in Sweden came to a close. I had my last breakfast on my fancy yacht and headed to the train station for my trip to Oslo. I sure was going to miss going back to my island, Djurgården. I might have been better off to pitch a tent and camp there- or sneak into one of the windmills!
My first day in Oslo was supposed to be a day off but it was free admission day at the National Gallery and I really wanted to see Edvard Munch’s painting, “Scream.” I tried to really absorb it, but my eyes kept going to the painting at my left. Turns out I much prefer his “White Night.”. This museum is quite interesting. It was broken into eras where they had a few of the very famous artists, such as Manet, Renoir or Picasso, to represent the style. Then, they had a room of Norwegian artists’s paintings from the same era and style. What I determined was, Norwegians, with the notable exception of Munch, made really good explorers.
After the museum, I started walking and ended up at the Oslo Opera House, a very unique and I believe, beautiful building on the waterfront. Here, I found the best deal in Oslo, a $25 ticket to Carmen. I grabbed the ticket and headed home to change. Fortunately, Scandinavians are pretty relaxed people so my denim dress and leggings worked just fine. I headed BACK to the Opera House and settled in for a very interesting interpretation and R rated version of Carmen. It was set in modern times and each act opened with a drunk bullfighter yelling about something or other. The notable exception was the third act which opened with a naked man doing interpretive dance. That would not happen in America, at least not without 837 warnings to parents!
Day Two in Oslo started in Vigelandsparken, an outdoor sculpture museum. It was an absolutely gorgeous day so I couldn’t wait to get outside. The artist’s style wasn’t for me but a park is always a good thing. My highlight was the children’s school on the edge of the park. It was recess and the kids were sledding on the hills around their school. I was so jealous and contemplated possibilities for my joining them. In the end, I decided it best I not insert myself.
After the park, I visited Aker Brygge and Akershus Castle. The Brygge turned out to be a shopping mall but the Castle was kind of cool. I found that Oslo loves to drop sculptures all over the city and the Castle had some very cool ones throughout the fortress grounds. I kept walking from there, wanting to see the cruise ship that was parked in port. And what do you know, I ended up back at the Opera House. The building is built with a slant so that you may climb to the roof. It was snow covered and many of us were doing slip sliding dances but it was fun to climb. I found the view OF the Opera House is far better than the view FROM the Opera House. Oslo isn’t know for its architecture and it was clear from here. Perhaps that is why they have so many sculptures around- they choose that format for beauty. After descending the building, I walked around to the back where you can look into the sewing shop and prop department. I looked like a kid in a candy store, staring at all of the sewing machines and fabric. I am also pretty certain the seamstresses did not appreciated my face pressed against the window, drooling.
I had decided I desperately needed a day off, so my last day in Oslo was that day. Except, I woke up to find my phone not charging. So, off I went in search of an electronics store. And I found one…..by the Opera House. Despite my best intentions, I had ended up back there again.
Off to Prague I go…..