I get it. Trip reports are of little interest. Travel is a large experience that is mostly internal and cumbersome to communicate. I find the process of review and reflection, of selection and summary adds personal value to my trips. For a short visual view/photos try this link. (YouTube Slideshow)
This was one of our longer trips. SAM had visited the Scandinavian countries, I had not. We were on a guided tour with 38 other seniors from Canada, Australia, and the USA. Our tour director was a knowledgeable and resourceful Brit with over 30-years experience. We traveled through six countries covering over 2500 miles on bus, train, plane, and boat with miles of walking, staring and laughter in between.
Time of year was late July through early August. This was fortunate – shirt sleeve with occasional sweaters and two times with hooded heavy weather gear (provided.) I had a chance to experience the region’s long days and to see that at 2 AM it was just like early morning light outside . The hotels have very heavy window curtains. Back in the US, the Democratic national convention was a third-tier BBC story on the local TV. Everywhere people were laughing and shaking their heads about Trump.
Scandinavia is an easy and pleasant region to visit. In aggregate, the cities were very clean and friendly. English is widely spoken; good food, exciting landscapes with steep angles, vast forests, deep cold waters and plentiful wildlife.
We also visited Tallinn, Estonia – a day trip via a two hour ferry ride from Helsinki, Finland – a gem of a historic European city I’d never heard of in the Balkans.
Getting to North Cape, Norway (71°10′) the northernmost point in Europe was a long distance but well worth the views of the tundra. It was a unique opportunity to encounter Laplanders and their way of life above the Arctic Circle. The endless forests of pine and birch grow shorter and finally give way to moss-covered rock, scrub bushes and streams connecting icy lakes. Reindeer are plentiful and seem quite tame. The culture of the inhabitants in Lapland is nourished but being squeezed by development and technology. We visited sled-dog and reindeer farms and I had a taste of reindeer heart.
The Vikings. Alas Hagar, some of what I pictured and understood is myth. The time of the Vikings (roughly 800-1050 CE) was one of naval exploration and exploitation. Then they learned written language and joined the European populations. Gradually they evolved into a more peaceful and commercially successful society.
The cleanliness and social structure in modern Scandinavia was quite attractive. Today Scandinavians are both wealthy and heavily taxed. Taxes are used mostly to enrich the lives and futures of their citizens (education, health care and social services) and to maintain their infrastructure. For me, a compelling model. Lemmings were not seen, but I have dealt with them and the big myth elsewhere. Trolls were everywhere, but mostly as refrigerator magnets.
Russia (the parts that were shown to us) seems to me to be very concerned with, and proud of, their royalist czarist era. There are lots of rules and numbers. Uniforms were a bit overdone and entrepreneurial energies (hands out) were frequently seen. The old capital of St. Petersburg and home of Catherine the Great is bursting with palaces and cathedrals so lavishly rich and ornate they could have spurred a revolution.
On our two-hour canal boat tour around Saint Petersburg, a young man ran alongside our boat. At each crossing bridge he stopped above us waving with great enthusiasm. He never stopped. Gradually word spread and he attracted a following among our group in spite of the tour’s distractions of a music show, food and vodka shots. At the end of our ride our runner collected quite a few tips as we disembarked. He turned out to be a 13-year-old boy. Wonderful spirit.
We met and enjoyed the company of folks from around the world. I especially enjoyed the humor of our Aussies. They tolerated my Crocodile Dundee knife jokes and taught me a few new words like “mozzies.”
When one of them good-naturedly dubbed me a “cheeky bugger” my heart was glad.
“So it goes…” (K. Vonnegut)