Life is acting strange this year. Just when I was thinking of Jordan earlier this year, an invite for a FAM to Jordan came out of the blue. Similar such instances happened through the year. Last week when I was still traveling in Ladakh on assignment, I don’t know why I was dreaming of Europe. An invite from Scandinavian Tourism Board came my way within few days. Just after I landed in Delhi from Leh, I spent a lovely evening interacting with representatives from different tourism related entities from Scandinavia.
I had always been attracted towards the Scandinavian region which comprises of 3 countries Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Exciting destinations like
Iceland, Faroe Island and Finland are next door. This unique region in Europe lies north of Baltic Sea. Despite its huge size the density is low here. Mr. Mohit, the Indian representative, took us through a presentation of what to see/do/eat/ in the Scadinavian region, smile never escaping his lips. My curiosity in Scandinavia piqued during my Hotel management days, when we were taught how to cook Scandinavian cuisine. Since that time, which is more than a decade, I had wanted to see Scandinavia. Fjords, Northern Lights, Midnight Sun, Royal History, Nordic Cuisine, Cutting-edge Design, Sustainable Living, UNESCO World Heritage sites, Sami culture and the Vikings etc make it an exciting destination.
The venue at the Imperial Hotel was perfect for the High Tea event as it facilitated in peace, the one on one interaction with the many representatives. They educated me about the company they represented. As they spoke about the wonders of Scandinavia, I was imagining in my mind the wild landscapes, food, wildlife, people and the urban spaces.
The smallest of the 3 Scandinavian nations, it is also known as the ‘happiest nation in the world’ .Denmark is a flatland known for its great beaches, a Viking heritage, Royal palaces (with a history of 1000 years) etc. It’s capital Copenhagen is great for those who love shopping, museums, public gardens, trendy cafes, nightlife. The famous Mermaid statue is also in Copenhagen. Legoland in Denmark is world’s first LEGO theme park. It is also the Europe’s largest. It’s a relaxed paced city best explored by paddle or pedal. A biker’s paradise, there are designated lanes and bridges only for bicycle enthusiasts.
Aarhus, the port town is the best place for Nordic inspired cuisine. The cuisine has strong ties with nature. There are a large number of Indian restaurants in Scandinavia, including many vegetarian and vegan options. The historic town of Roskilde, houses the Viking Ship museum (11th century vessels, anyone?) Though small in size, Denmark
still has much to offer. The ferry service from Denmark to Norway sounds particularly exciting. Connecting the two capitals, Copenhagen and Oslo respectively, the cruise offers comfortable stay, live music, exciting restaurants and bars to choose from, a casino, wellness spa and tax free shopping. Not to forget the views one sees en route. What’s not to love? I think it’s a pretty cool idea to see two capitals in a short span of time.
The brochures tell me that you have to see the Norway’s fjords to believe it. The Nature fan that I am, such destinations attracts me the most. Though I love urban spaces equally, but somehow nature always excites me more. Sparsely populated, Norway hides many miracles under its sleeves. Northern Lights, midnight Sun, fjords, Arctic island etc are one of them. Oslo, the capital city has something for everyone. Cities like Bergen (Gateway to fjords, also the rainiest city in Europe), Alesund (Art Nouveau Centre), Stavanger (Medieval Churches, Iron Age homes, Stone Age caves) make Norway a destination par excellence.
As I mentioned earlier, in the ‘Land of Midnight Sun’ the sun never sets here in summers, which is between late May and late July. So, you still have lot of time for planning! Tromso is the best place for seeing the famous Aurora Borealis, popularly called, Northern Lights. In recent years, Indians have shown great interest in this unique phenomenon. Many Indians have travelled or are planning to travel to Norway, especially to catch Northern Lights in action. I am told that a train ride from Oslo to Bergen is amongst one of the top five picturesque train journeys in the world.
Credit for above picture – Göran Assner/imagebank.sweden.se
Sweden is the largest country of Scandinavia in terms of population and area. I am a big fan of grabbing the window seat of trains and watch the landscape change. I was excited to learn that Sweden Railways offer many of such opportunities. It’s a great way to see Sweden’s virgin countryside, lakes, cities, mountains, the works. The destinations which these high speed trains run to are extraordinary – Lapland (The midnight Sun & Northern Lights), Jamtland (Action & Relaxation), Dalarna ( Festivities & Tradition), Stockholm (Capital city with lots of history), Smaland (fairy tales & handicrafts) , Gotenborg (coast and culture). During the presentation, a very interesting museum Vasa Museet impressed me. The Vasa ship which sank in Stockholm in 1628 was salvaged after rotting for 333 years in deep sea. It has now been restored and preserved and is world’s only preserved 17th century ship.
Picture above credit – Tina Stafrén/imagebank.sweden.se
The ABBA museum is another iconic place.It is dedicated to the world’s most iconic music band where you can dress up as pop stars and sing and dance. Also called the Venice of the North, many bill Stockholm as one of the most beautiful cities of the world! With a history dating back to 8th century, the city has preserved many old buildings, palaces and medieval structures.
I am mighty impressed with the idea of seeing the Scandinavian countries. It seems like a perfect place to go holidaying with family, friends or even solo. It is also a fab destination for the honeymooners. The outdoor enthusiast that I am, the many walking trails, hikes, biking options, cruising opportunities and natural wonders make it an exciting destination for me. I googled the map and realized that Scandinavia is really closer than I had thought.
Credit for picture above – Tomas Utsi/imagebank.sweden.se
Its easy access and connectivity across all the capitals of Scandinavia – Oslo, Stockholm & Copenhagen makes it simple for the Indian traveller to discover all the three countries together. International airlines like Emirates, Qatar and Turkish Airlines offer direct connectivity from their hubs. And let me tell you the time difference in summers is only three and half hours. Scandinavia seems even closer when you find almost everyone speaking fluent English, even though it’s not their first language. I was happy to know that these days many Indians are showing interest in visiting these 3 countries. I think, its time that Indians consider Scandinavia as their preferred choice for holidaying in Europe; beyond the tried and tested, run of the mill destinations. I can’t wait to be there and already have a mental itinerary I am dreaming of!
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The cool bunch of people I interacted with at Imperial, New Delhi. (Credit – Scandinavia Tourism)
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