Gorgeous blondes, sunny midsummer days that lasted through midnight, and lots of scrumptious bakery confections highlighted my eight days in Scandinavia. Smoked fish, reindeer balls, and an inflatable boat ride racing through the damp rainy fjords were the more challenging aspects. Spending the time with my husband and our friends, made the adventures laughable, original, and worthy of some stellar memories.
The trip began in Bergen, Norway, the gateway to the Fjords. Many Norwegians view Bergen as a more beautiful and happening city than Oslo, it’s more famous cousin. Rain pelted down as I explored the local fish market (caviar in a squeeze tube), shopped for a down jacket to go underneath my raincoat, and learned about the curbside recycling program for all residents. (The trash is whisked away from streetside bins into underground tubes to be recycled.) My second day was spent in a borrowed neon yellow-sleaved uni-sex suit aboard a “R.I.B.” (rigid inflatable boat) that cruised through the rainy fjords at 40 mph. My destination was a small restaurant at the base of a mountain. To my surprise, I was served reindeer balls. (I came to find out that these were ground-up reindeer meat, not testicles. I would describe the taste as a combination of beef, liver, and pinesol.) After lunch, we traveled by car through the winding mountain passes and cascading waterfalls as we soaked up the serenity of the Norwegian fjords at a slightly slower pace. I was looking forward to dinner.
One short flight later, my next stop was Copenhagen, Denmark. During my time with the Danes, I drove to North Zealand, a popular holiday destination. Known for both it’s pristine beaches and deep woodlands, it’s a little bit of nature outside of the bustle of Copenhagen. I stopped into Kronborg Castle, (Hamlet’s Castle) built in 1574-85, to get my Shakespeare on. And I buzzed by the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art to get a little inspiration. The clothesline of underwear was unusual, and the sculpture was cool. I dared to enter Christiania, the part of Copenhagen where “anything goes” including buying and selling narcotics. When Scott suggested we walk down a particular alley to view the architecture of the old army barracks (where the Christiania locals live), we were shot some serious looks. We got the feeling that we were not wanted in that particular part of the hood, so we did a quick about-face. The best meal of our trip was also devoured in Copenhagen at the 5th ranked restaurant in the world, Geranium. Course after deliciously artistic course was brought to our table, which was followed by a personal tour of the kitchen and wine cellar. What an evening to remember!
Our final city was Stockholm, Sweden, home to Abba and the interactive Abba Museum. I explored a wooden sunken ship at the Vasa Museum (so much intricate carving!) and took in wartime heartwrenching photos by James Nachtwey at Fotografiska, a multi-floor museum dedicated to cutting edge photography. I had dinner above an opera house at Operakallaren, which featured 17 different serving carts, i.e. champagne cart, cheese cart, liquor cart, prosciutto cart, and multiple courses. I think I almost needed to be rolled home in my our cart afterward. My favorite part of Stockholm was a little known fact about the design of the city. Swedish architects strive to “have a little something beautiful to look at” through every window. This accounts for the abundance of trees, parks, flower boxes, and charming details that make the city so lovely.
Scandinavian cuisine was far removed from my everyday California diet. The fish is often smoked or salted, the salads (lettuce) are few and far between, and there is an abundance of potatoes, peas, carrots, turnips, and onions. The entree of choice can be reindeer, elk, bear, or (thank God) salmon. Foods are often spiced with juniper, fennel, allspice, and cardamom, with a helping of fresh lingonberry on top. Sour cream and mayonnaise is used in abundance, and pickled herring seems to be on every menu in town. I did take one bite of the famous herring, and let’s just say it won’t become a staple in my kitchen.
Scandinavian culture in midsummer revolves around the archipelago, the waterways and fjords. Folks gather outside to soak up the sun, socialize, and enjoy an active lifestyle. Our guide explained that the dark winter months are when people look inward and become more creative. The sun brought on more energy for me at night and I found it hard to decide to go to bed when it was still light outside. Yet, after a while, I could feel the lack of enough sleep catching up with me. I can’t imagine being there when it’s dark and cold most of the time. I think I’ll leave that trip for another traveler.