On Our Way
Things were falling into place. I had the currencies I needed to travel from Belgium to Norway.
German marks, Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian krona. We had our maps, the paper kind.
This was 1982. No internet, no GPS, no euro.
We still did things the old way.
As money went in Europe at this time, Belgium was an expensive country to live in.
But Belgium was surpassed by Norway in the expensive category! Big time!
They overdid it in Norway when it comes to the costs to live there.
Why was Belgium so expensive? Border to border fully lit highways. Transport trucks, driving after dark, would be inclined to drive through Belgium, as opposed to other routes.
A good idea, and brings in revenue; but expensive. Could these lights be seen from outer space?
It’s a 10-hour drive from Antwerp to Copenhagen.
There’s Germany in between and surely there are things to see along the way. That’s why we did this: to see things; to broaden our knowledge.
To get away. I wanted to see everything.
Germany is beautiful, the highways are excellent and in most places, there are no speed limits on the autobahn.
It’s nice to make up some time on the German highways.
So while we ‘made some time’, we hated every minute of it. It’s a lot of homes, farmland, and malls whizzing by.
We like to smell the flowers and meet people.
We left the highway for the byway.
We stopped to eat at a picnic table by the road. Yes, I made sandwiches for the trip. One gets tired of convenience foods and the plastic they come in. Be careful, you might eat the packaging without realizing it.
We had wine and ate apples. The sun was shining and there were no sounds except for the birds and a light breeze.
This was a relaxing ride so far. Tomorrow we would be in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Denmark the Beautiful
As small countries go, Denmark is near the top of the list. Yes, we have Monaco, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Iceland, and Finland for competition.
Denmark is SMALL and without Greenland, is slightly more than twice the size of Massachusetts.
No location in Denmark is further from the coast than 32mi.
Greenland is 2200 mi from Denmark, but that doesn’t stop them from being friends.
Greenland is part of the realm of Denmark!
There is only one highway going north/south through the country; because it’s long and narrow, not a round country.
You can see the Baltic Sea to the east and the North Sea to the west.
The Oresund Bridge connects Denmark to Sweden and there are about 1419 islands in Denmark.
But only 443 are named and only 78 are inhabited.
Look at all that empty real estate!
It was June, and although we were experiencing mild spring weather in Belgium, this was the time for the major snowmelt in Scandinavia.
And we were in for a treat!
There is not much space in Denmark. It’s tight, and since this was spring thaw, there were waterfalls everywhere!
It’s hard to drive with all this distraction. Our heads were swiveling and the roads were quick and winding.
Watch the road! The scenery was so different from everywhere else we’d been.
I wondered why the Vikings settled here. They were depicted as fierce, and in ancient times, they HAD to be fierce and strong to settle this land. Who else would do it?
You felt insignificant in the middle of this sprawling sea. They call it Jutland.
The Little Mermaid is a national monument and sits on a rock by the waterside in Copenhagen. She fell in love with a prince and is still waiting for him.
Since 1913! Give-it-up.
In Copenhagen, I was looking at the map – the paper kind – and was approached by a young man. I was startled, on the defensive.
He smiled and said that he wanted to help me with my directions.
I felt foolish as we were not used to such open, genuine, peaceful, encounters with strangers. He was ‘the friendly Dane’.
In Denmark, the natives are hospitable!
Sweden Is Delightful
Enter into Sweden. The Swedes are different. They are refined, tall, and white-blond. They are soft-spoken and polite; they have a touch of arrogance, but we didn’t mind.
They have a strict attitude toward their country and culture. They are proud to be Swedes. And just as friendly as the Danes.
Imagine a country of 8.3 million people, developed this far north.
No real estate is left in the world and Sweden is no exception. But it is somewhat isolated from….everything.
It costs more to provide food, fuel, and homes. It was getting more expensive as we went north……Pricey!
Our destination was Oslo as we had friends living there. Pop 4.086 million. This was the land of the midnight sun and stunning northern lights.
How far north is it? The city of Tromso, a population of 71,500 is 217mi NORTH of the Arctic Circle. And it’s a top tourist destination.
Why do so many people live NORTH of the Arctic Circle?
In 1947 a Norseman named Heyerdahl, sailed the Kon-Tiki from Peru to Polynesia, just to prove that a reed vessel could sail the high seas.
Later, in 1970, Heyerdahl sailed the Ra from Safi, Morocco to Barbados.
This reed ship was made by the Aymara Indians of Lake Titicaca. They are the only people left who still make reed vessels.
This proved that parts of the west could indeed have been settled by Africans who sailed across the Atlantic in a reed boat.
A Grass Boat on The High Seas?
Why would someone want to be in a grass boat on the Atlantic? Ask Heyerdahl. He’s a Norseman, a man on a mission….. A true descendant of the Vikings – still exploring.
Just one more thing: Norway overdid it with owning a talented and innovative society.
For a country this size, such a diversity of achievements and inventions, is unmatched.
In Oslo, the Vigeland Sculpture Park is a must! It consists of more than 200 bronze sculptures, depicting every stage in life. Birth, growing up – a child throwing a tantrum, adolescence, and old age.
All the statues are naked! Yes, take a selfie!
We settled in at our friend’s home, the Reids, and enjoyed some quiet time. They had lived in many different countries in their lives; they said, “it’s cold in Norway”.
I think that was a poignant description of their winter.
They lived outside the city and on a treed lot. During the day, I saw people walking along a path, past their back fence, with towels.
Where were they going?
Apparently, there was a little lake at the end of that path and people were going swimming! It was June in Norway! It was still COLD.
We were wearing heavy sweaters and these people were swimming in a lake? They were Viking descendants, for sure.
They Overdid It With The Scenery!
Getting back to the exchange from the Belgian franc to the Krona. Yes, Norway was way more expensive!
So they tried to make up for that with the scenery. They overdid it in Norway.
If we were agog in Denmark and Sweden, that was an introduction to Norway.
Driving was a major discipline just to keep your eyes on the road.
We were not ready for this visual overload.
The Fjords were on every bend on the road, and there were MANY. Water gushed out of the rock face and seemed to come toward us – like 3D.
We reared up and went on to the next one.
We are just an audience for nature, and we are so insignificant.
We had been to many places, but nothing compared to this.
Where Art Thou Helsinki
From a vantage point north of Oslo, we could see Finland in the far distance. I always wanted to visit Helsinki. Maybe it was the name.
Time was pressing a bit so we said, “next time we’ll visit Finland”.
Never say that – there is never a next time.
Going back home, we experienced the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’.
We had been traveling all day and I was ready for bed. I am not an ‘up-all-night-person’ so I assumed we would stop to sleep.
But, didn’t I want to stay awake all night? Because the daylight was still good?
No, I did not.
When we did find a bed and breakfast, the proprietor was playing checkers with a friend. It was 11:30 pm. and if you are used to very short days the rest of the year, it is a nice change to stay up late.
But he didn’t want business at this time of night!
This was Denmark, home of the friendly Danes. Where was that friendly, nice-guy now?
I am like a child when it comes to sleep – I need lots of it; he took pity on us and we were invited in.
I was getting cranky.
That was our last night in Denmark and I hated to leave this unusual land.
It Was a Good Whim…..
This whole trip, which we did on a whim, will remain in my mind as truly remarkable.
The land of the midnight sun is still there and I suggest you visit it before it’s too late for you!