Northern Europe, with its cold lakes, steep mountains and insane natural features is a feast to the traveler who has seen it all. One wouldn’t easily expect the beauty that seemingly changes with every season.
Scandinavia is one of a kind. Harsh climate conditions leave these northern countries buried in snow most of the year. The fjords and mountain ranges – especially those in Norway – isolate region from region. Contact between towns is scarce and sometimes limited by one ferry service. Massive countries that feel like small islands. In summer – from the end of May until August – darkness barely falls, and, high above the Arctic Circle, the sun never disappears. Something most of us have never seen in our lives.
In June this year we decided to celebrate a big birthday (a 60th) with a Scandinavian trip. In the truest sense of friluftsliv (open-air life), a Scandinavian philosophy for connecting with nature, we took our motorbikes from the UK all the way to Oslo, where our adventure began.
We began our trip in Oslo, where we realised that summer in Scandinavia is quite tricky and we might feel the inclemencies of mother nature over our shoulders, literally. Things I noticed immediately: how shy and polite people were. The Opera by Snøhetta (2008) and the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art by Renzo Piano (2012) were architectural highlights I enjoyed.
We arrived to Bergen at 10 pm and the sun was still bouncing gently on the horizon, painting the sky with lemony streaks and tangerine swirls. When would the sun set in this country we thought to ourselves. Back from dinner at 11.30 pm there was still a faint trace of light. That night on the menu we saw minke whale for the first time. The cafés around Bryggen were delightful.
We soon realised that snow in summer is possible. And likely. Fearing every slight ascend, as altitude brought colder temperatures, we reached the highest point in Trollstigen were we were greeted by heavy snow. On the way up this amazing curvy road we spotted a sports car and a man covered in fake blood – the new James Bond movie was being filmed apparently! The scenery from the top of this mountain was insane, one of the most beautiful panoramas I’ve seen in my life. The downside? We were so cold and soaked that left our clothes too close by the fire… and my helmet got eventually melted. I can still smell the glue if I close my eyes.
We arrived to Alesund earlier in the evening of that day. We were behind schedule as heavy rain (and snow) was making our journey to the Arctic Circle difficult and slow. So arriving a bit earlier than dinner time left some space for a long hot shower, a nap and relaxed planning. We decided to switch our route to the very north, to the east, as Sweden promised better weather for the following days and we were pretty much fed up of not feeling our hands.
Crossing the frontier from Norway to Sweden was our salvation journey, if only we had known the altitude and the climate up there (a mountain ski resort was definitely a bad sign). When we arrived to customs our glasses were cloudy, our gloves soaked and our phones were dead because of the low temperatures. Summer meant nothing up there. Luckily as we approached the Swedish inland, the snow disappeared and we even saw some sun. It was raining when we arrived to Sundsvall but at least it wasn’t snowing!
This delightful little university city was a pleasant ride. A day when the sun was shining high in the sky, the scenery was very green and the light breeze comfortable. It was the first day we were hot inside our motorbike gear. Uppsala, one of the oldest cities in Sweden, has an intense history that is reflective of Sweden as a whole. It was very interesting to walk the streets and learn more about its past. My favourite part of the city was the cathedral, so magnificent.
Stockholm had to be my favourite part of the trip. I am an incurable architect. I am happy when I build buildings, research buildings and visit buildings. Therefore, buildings were the highlight of my trip (although I savoured the landscapes very much too). The charm of this city couldn’t be absorbed properly in the little time we had, but I did my best. Stockholm is a young and lively city, with pretty little streets and islands everywhere you look. The architecture over there is rich and historical, though you also have the modern and fresh. An atypical point of our daily explorations was the Vasa Museum, which was surprisingly good. We did a lot and hope to return soon.
I hope you enjoyed these locations scattered around Scandinavia! Have you visited some of these places too? Let me know in the comments.
Some of these locations can be found in the map below:
Cheers from the bike gang!