Saturday, August 9, 2014

Touring Scandinavia, Sampling The Sights

Myah Guild /
The view of the fjord across from the Oslo opera house.

By Myah Guild
Senior Reporter
Youth Journalism International


“Pristine, but pricey”
3 stars
OSLO, Norway - The first stop on my month-long trip around Europe was Oslo, capital city of Norway, the country famed for its mythology and rich history. On the way in, there was beautiful green scenery and cottages on rolling hills, just as I expected.
The city, however, was quite different. Very clean, tidy and modern, but without the hallmark Norwegian feel I was hoping for. In other words, you could really have been anywhere.
That said, there was no shortage of attractions. From the opera house, an abstract building, you can get great views of the city and the fjord. From the town center, you can walk up to the royal palace and sit in its peaceful gardens, away from the business of the main streets.
With regards to food, brace yourself! It is very expensive in Oslo. A pizza, in one restaurant, was £18 (about 23 and $31) so be careful. Some of the places sold snacks for a reasonable price.
My friend and I, as young travelers, chose the safe option and bought food from the supermarket. This is a very good tip because you can save yourself a meal and a drink on the train.
Myah Guild /
Inside the Viking museum is a boat like those used as burial caskets.

Myah Guild /
Viking artifacts: An axe and shoes displayed in the Viking museum.
On a lighter note, we spent the second – and last – day of our visit taking a boat over the fjord to see the Viking ship museum. They have a number of free museums in Oslo. This one was about £5 for a student entry.
Myah Guild /
A house in Bygdøy
In the museum they displayed the ships and information about the farmer who came across them buried on a farm in the early 1900s. They were used as burial caskets.  Artifacts, such as shoes and combs, were in cabinets beside them. It was amazing to see how well-preserved the items were.
After that, we walked around the suburb we were in, Bygdøy, which was obviously one of the wealthier parts. The houses were like ranches: all different with some designed traditionally, with different features like shutters and picket fences, while others had more of a modern look.
Myah Guild /
Parliament building in Oslo
Then we went back over (the boats run regularly) and had a look around the town hall, the fountains and the main central area. We stayed in a hostel just 10 minutes from the main station, or 2 minutes by tram. No-one checked tickets, so the rides on the trams were free for most people.
For anyone worried about accommodation, hostels are much better than they sound. Most are meant for travelers, with hot showers, clean sheets, towels, and laundry facilities.
Our next stop was Stockholm, so we left early the next morning. Oslo was a firm 3 out of 5, with beautiful scenery and attractions, but the city itself was lacking in many emblems of the history for which the country is so famous.


Myah Guild /
One of the floating hotels in Stockholm


“Modern, yet still completely unique”
4 stars
STOCKHOLM, Sweden - This was the first day we used our inter-railing passes. The train was very comfortable and easy to find in Oslo Central Station. We reserved seats, which cost about £5, or about $8 each which was well worth it because the train filled up fast.
The conductors simply check your passes and reservations and ask you to fill the details in as you go. Most are very helpful if you want details of connecting trains as well.
Another bonus is that journeys like Oslo to Stockholm, which took five hours, gives inter-railers the chance to sleep and relax on the train allowing more time to explore when you arrive at your destination.
Myah Guild /
A fountain showing the Norse 
god Thor slaying The Midgard Snake.
This is exactly what we did. We arrived at about 1 p.m., found our hostel over the river in the older and “hippier” area of Södermalm, and headed straight out to explore.
We came across a shopping street, Söderledstunneln, near the connection to the Gamla Stan (Old Town) with pubs, restaurants, shops, and a brilliant view of the Ericsson Dome, which is the largest spherical building in the world.

Myah Guild /
A main shopping street in Gamla Stan.
Then we grabbed dinner from a supermarket: a salad and a very cheap beer (their restrictions aren’t as harsh, as it ended up being about £1/€1.26/$1.68).  From there we followed a tip picked up from the last hostel and found Skinnarviksparken, a nearby park.
We then ended up back down the shopping streets, passing the fountain ‘Tor and Midgardssnake’ showing the Norse god Thor slaying The Midgard Snake. A show and a lawn bowling tournament were taking place next to the fountain, which was entertaining.
On the second day we took more advice from the locals and went swimming at a nearby spot. The park near the water was filled with people (swimming is obviously a popular pastime here), and the barrier meant the place was safe for everyone.
Myah Guild /
View of Gamla Stan from Skinnarviksparken.
After that, we explored Gamla Stan, seeing their royal palace, complete with wall fountains, and having a look through their narrow streets and various souvenir shops. It’s still quite expensive, but your money seems to go further here.
We had dinner in one of the restaurants along narrow streets, and then we discovered all the floating hotels along the harbour. They have a brilliant view across the lake of the old town which is architecturally stunning.
The whole place is very modern, yet still very traditional and, ultimately, Swedish. I will definitely return.


Myah Guild /
The Round Tower and Köbmagergade, a major shopping street in Copenhagen.


 “A little lacklustre, but still scenic”
3 stars
COPENHAGEN, Denmark - From Stockholm, we took another early train to Copenhagen, home of legendary fairy-tale author Hans Christian Andersen.
I had thought about the small stretch of water between the two countries but, after finding out a train went between the two cities, I just accepted we would be able to go between the two without any surprises.
Our surprise was a lovely one – a ferry.
Myah Guild /
Arriving in Denmark.
They managed to fit the whole train onto the boat; we all went up to the top deck and enjoyed a half hour ride across the water in the sun.
We were lucky to arrive in the middle of the annual jazz festival, so we found a venue close by and ate some street food – a mixture of meat, vegetables and béarnaise sauce (eggs, vinegar and herbs.) Very tasty.
The next day we had a look around, and went past the theme park Tivoli and the main square where street performances were taking place.
Myah Guild /
The famous fairytale theme park, Tivoli.
From there we went to the history museum but then found it was closed on a Monday. So we went to Plan B and wandered around, looking at Christiansborg Palace which houses the Danish Parliament, the Prime Minister’s office, and the Supreme Court.
We had a look at the buildings around it as well before remembering our mission to seek out a Danish pastry.
Myah Guild /
The Dragon Fountain in the
main square.
So, after much walking, we came across a park in the middle of the city, with a really nice café in the center. After finding a nearby bakery, we sat in the park with our pastries. One of the best things about these cities was the fact there was always a park to sit and relax.
From there, we saw crowds going in one direction. Assuming they were all going somewhere interesting, we followed them. We ended up on Köbmagergade, a main street with shops and side streets and The Round Tower, an astronomical lookout built by Christian IV in 1642.
Myah Guild /
One of the mini-lakes with a view of the
From there we headed back, via the square, passing the stunning Dragon Fountain on the way back.
Despite the rainy weather, we were able to get a lot of things done. Copenhagen was, again, expensive and, like Oslo, did not quite have the unique edge as the places we visited in Stockholm. Weather will always change your view of a place and impact what you can do there.
 It’s a firm three for Copenhagen because, while I won’t be hurrying back, it was still a beautiful and very historic city. 

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