Our time with the Viel clan was quickly coming to an end, extended slightly by hopping on the same flight as Jas & Marc from Prague to Stockholm. We parted ways in the trendy Arlanda airport, leaving them to wait for their flight back to LAX while we jumped on a bus to downtown Stockholm.
We enjoyed the next few days staying with our friends Gustavo and Kristine, getting a taste of “normal” Swedish life. This included learning about fika, the tasty Swedish obsession with coffee and pastries, which capped off a road trip around the beautiful archipelago to Vaxholm. The other obsession I shared with Gustavo was with MTB. Thankfully, he was able to borrow a bike and take me on several rides through the forest next to their apt in Sickla – in a word, amazing. We got really lucky with the weather, which remained unseasonably clear and crisp, the rain thankfully waiting for us. The days were short and most of our riding was done at night with lights, navigating our way through the dense trees, stopping only as we poked out to gaze over the numerous lakes and see the sky ablaze.
Next up, we headed a bit north to the university town of Uppsala to visit Jessica and Martin and their cute new baby, Cleo. Again, we got to learn about “normal” Swedish life, including their generous benefits, maternity leave, of course more fika while celebrating Cinnamon Bun Day (that’s a real thing – Oct 4), and finally the shockingly enjoyable leap from a steaming wood-burning sauna into a freezing lake. The Swedes really know how to enjoy themselves, even (especially?) when it’s freezing outside.
Continuing on to Norway, we tried to prepare ourselves for one of the most expensive countries in the world. A quick one-night stopover in Oslo after a 6-hour train ride from Stockholm gave us just enough time to check out some of the fancy waterfront apartment buildings and to climb all over the unique Opera House. We followed the next day with an even longer but breathtaking train ride west across the mountains to Bergen, on the shore of the North Sea. The main reason for heading there was to explore the spectacular fjords, which we did via hikes above the city and the popular Norway in a Nutshell tour.
From there, our original plan was to take a ferry/cruise from Bergen down to Copenhagen, enjoying more of the scenic coastline along the way. However, once we found out that it would take us 24+ hours, we decided to fly instead. Unfortunately, the weather had been getting progressively colder and we finally ran into some rain upon arrival. We spent the next few days exploring the city as weather permitted, consistently following the locals and ducking into trendy cafes.
We actually enjoyed Scandinavia much more than we expected. The scenery is beautiful and there is a homey, comfortable feel that is very inviting (thanks in large part to our friends). It’s no surprise that they are consistently ranked among the happiest countries in the world. Still, the time had finally come – Lisan had decided to head back to LA to focus on her job search. After one final excellent brunch, she boarded a train for the airport, leaving me with one more night in Copenhagen before my flight to Sarajevo. Being an expensive city, I ended up back in a hostel dorm room, which turned out OK and, thankfully, it was the only time. After traveling together for 11 months, that was the first of many adjustments I’d have to make to traveling solo.
Unfortunately, we had an issue with the SD card and lost almost all of the pics from Scandinavia so the photo album does’t really show off how amazing the region really is.