Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Karen’s Travel Blog of Scandinavia and its Fjords!

In October 2005, my parents and I joined an Insight Vacation Tour of Spectacular Scandinavia and its Fjords.

P.S. Please note that some of the images in this blog are from, and other websites as per the references provided. However, all other images are copyrighted © 2005, Karen Toh Guek Bee, and can be viewed at my Webshots Community Album. You can also read my other Travel Blogs here.

Travel Blog References
· Contents compiled and written by Karen Toh Guek Bee.
· Wikipedia

Photography Images:
· Copyright © 2005, Karen Toh Guek Bee,
· Courtesy of,


We started our tour in Copenhagen, Denmark – the capital and largest city in Denmark. Denmark is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. The current Monarch is Queen Margrethe II, is the mother of Crown Prince Frederik, who married Mary Elizabeth from Hobart, Tasmania, Australia in a modern royal fairy tale romance.

Our first outing was to the famous Tivoli Gardens, one of the oldest amusement park and pleasure gardens in Europe. Tivoli at night is very picturesque, with glittering lights reflecting on the lake.

The following morning, we visited Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid, that can be found gazing across the Copenhagen harbor. The other picturesque spot near the harbor was the Nyhavn Quayside. This area is now a popular tourist attraction with the colorful Dutch-style canal, lined with cafes, bars and restaurants.

Next, we visited the birthplace and museum of the famous children’s fairy tales author - Hans Christian Andersen in Odense. Among his best-known stories are The Snow Queen, The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina, The Little Match Girl, The Ugly Duckling and The Red Shoes.

Soon we were crossing the Baltic Sea to Göteborg, Sweden, heading towards Stockholm.


Stockholm is the Sweden’s capital and largest city, comprising of an old city and a new one. Dubbed the “Venice of the North", due to the archipelago or cluster of islands that make up a unique Stockholm.

I became interested in Sweden after learning a bit of its history. This history lesson starts of with Napoleon Bonaparte, who was at one time engaged to Désirée Clary, who later met and married the French general Marshal Jean Baptiste Bernadotte.

As Napoleon I of France was Emperor of the French, and ruled, directly or indirectly, over much of Continental Europe through a network of client kingdoms headed by his brothers (see Napoleonic Empire), the Swedish parliament saw it practical to elect a king whom Napoleon could accept. On August 21, 1810, the Riksdag elected Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, Marshal of France, as heir apparent to the Swedish throne.

In 1813 a French Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (in the Napoleonic wars) was adopted by the Sweden King Gustav. The Royal House of Bernadotte is today still the current royal house in Sweden.

Okay, back to tips on visiting Sweden.

If you are visiting Stockholm, you must visit Stockholm’s old city - Gamla Stan which means “old town”,. The old city dates back to the 13th Century is charming with its narrow alleyways and cobbled streets, and archaic buildings, making Gamla Stan a very interesting place to explore. Take the time to visit the Royal Palace and watch the changing of the guards.

If you are interested in ships, one of the places you must visit is the Vasa Museum, which has a display of the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged. The 64-gun warship Vasa that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. Read the history of The Vasa here.

I found Stockholm to be a very nice city to visit. You don’t need to join a tour to get there, but it is advisable to join their local tours, and maybe a bit of island hopping. If you are interested in visiting Stockholm, here is a useful website.

On our way through Sweden, we stopped at Uppsala Cathedral, which dates back to the late 13th century and at a height of 118.7m it is the largest church building in Scandinavia.

5km north of Uppsala lies Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala), a medieval village of Uppsala with three huge burial mounds of pre-Christian monarchs and a 12th-century church.

Our next stop was Falun, a city in Dalarna, central Sweden. Falun is known for its old mine, known as the Great Copper Mountain, and its surroundings, which were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The most common souvenir from Falun and the Dalarna province is the Dala Horse, a symbol of Sweden. This small wooden horse has been carved since the 17th century.


On the 8th day of our tour, we crossed Sweden’s border into Norway, heading for Lillehammer. Lillehammer is located at the northern end of Norway’s largest lake, Lake Mjxsa, and is considered to be Norway's oldest winter sport destination. It hosted the Winter Olympics in 1994.

It offers a wide variety of winter sports like Bob sledding & Luge, Dog and Horse sleigh rides, Ice-fishing, alpine skiing and more. Although I wasn’t there in the Winter, I can imagine that winter in Lillehammer must have been like a winter wonderland.

One more thing, if you are Lillehammer, you must visit the Sandiv Collection at Miahaugen, which ranks as the largest open-air museum in Europe. Visitors will have an insight of how the people of Gudbrandsdalen Valley lived 300 years ago, as it displays traditional houses, churches, tools and demonstrate the lifestyle then.

As we travelled further North towards Geirangerfjord, the forest & foliage started to look different from Sweden’s. The pictures that I took, took a dramatic feel, with the dark clouds hanging, and the sun peeking teasingly from a distance.

Geirangerfjord is a fjord, located in the southernmost part of Norway, is a branch of Storfjord. This fjord is one of the most visited tourist sites, especially when cruise ships dock in its deep waters.

The scenery is reminded me of New Zealand’s Milford Sound, yet as we spent days within the Fjords of Norway, we realized that it covered a far wider area, and were spectacularly beautiful, with it’s deep, narrow and long fjords. Exploring the Norwegian Fjords would require plenty of time and money!

Bergen was our second last stop of our tour. The city in the county of Hordaland is located in the center of Western Norway. Bergen’s old quayside, Byggen is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites.

(Picture: courtesy of Wikipedia)

On the way to Oslo, we crossed the HardangerFjord Plateau, one of northern Europe’s biggest mountain plateau and Norway’s largest national park. The Hardangerfjord is the third largest fjord in the world and the second largest in Norway.

Our tour ended in Oslo, the capital and the largest city in Norway. The city centre of Oslo is situated at the end of the Oslofjord from where the city sprawls out both to the north and to the south on both sides of the fjord giving the city area more or less the shape of a "U".

(Picture: Courtesy of Visit Oslo)
When one thinks of Scandinavia, Vikings come to mind as well. The term Viking Age is used to denominate the period from about 800 til 1050 AD in Scandinavia. “A viking in that period meant somebody who travelled overseas for trade or warfare, but later the word has been used about all the inhabitants of Scandinavia in that period. The vikings built fast and highly seaworthy ships and were competent sailors, way ahead of their time. They sailed their longships south to the Mediterranean countries and west to Scotland and Ireland. Cities such as Dublin and Limerick were founded by vikings.” (Reference: Visit Oslo)