Taking Stock(holm) of Sweden

The last leg of our whirlwind tour of Scandinavia brought us to Stockholm. With roughly 10 million people, Sweden has about twice the population of either Norway or Denmark. It’s about the same population as Portugal, even though Portugal is quite a bit smaller in terms of land mass. Sweden is roughly twice the physical size of Great Britain, or just slightly larger than the state of California. Sweden is the fifth largest country in Europe, but has one of the lowest population densities. More than half of Sweden is covered by forest. The rest must be covered in Swedes I suppose.

These are our first views of Sweden from the air. In April, Stockholm averages 10.5 celsius (51°) for the high and 2.7 celsius (37°) for the low, so while it’s not unusual to see snow there, even the coldest months (January and February) have an average high just above freezing, so it’s not like you’re experiencing the same weather as the North Pole, which is just north of Krakow I think. Because, y’know, they’re Polish. I hate that I had to add that.

Once again we are warmly greeted by a Scandinavian city with a nice welcome sign. We weren’t sure what to make of Stockholm having nitless possibilities, however. Does that mean they have rampant head lice and being nitless is just a possibility? Whatever is going on, I think it has to do with all the hats. And I can’t even begin to understand “mitless connectivity.” I think it means they don’t need mitts indoors when they’re working on their computers? I guess when you have a cold country you promote what you can.

It’s obvious from just this picture that Swedish hat hair makes for a beautiful home for nits and the subsequent lice. If I were a nit, I’d happily spend the rest of my days just lounging around in that mop. I guess I am a nitwit sometimes sure, but never just a nit.

We put on our big boy and girl panties and used public transportation to get into Stockholm. Then we Google Mapped our walk to the hotel address. We were more than a little shocked to see the state of the hotel. No wonder they advertised great views!

Just kiddin’. That was right next door to our hotel though. They were actively tearing it down as we walked by; we kept a lookout in case a big chunk of concrete came raining down on our heads. The above is the view from our hotel room. We never did see the Northern Lights on this trip, but this deep red sky was pretty impressive in its own right. Sailors were delighted that evening!

Here we are ready to explore the city. That hat is from Christiania, the commune in Copenhagen, Denmark. The three dots represent the three “i’s” in Christiania. Combine that with our four-eyed faces, there are eleven eyes in this picture!

One of the things we like to do in some cities is start our visit with a ride on the Hop On Hop Off bus, or its equivalent. That way we get to see the whole city in one shot, and we can pick out the things we want to come back and see later, or of course just hop off right then and there (I don’t think you have to hop, at least, we’ve never been yelled at for being hopless).

In the case of Stockholm, because it consists of about 30,000 (!) islands and has 57 bridges and 96 beaches, I guess the fact that they have a Hop On Hop Off boat should be no big surprise. What we were surprised about is that the boat tour is only about an hour long, and pretty much everywhere it went (one big circle) it wouldn’t have been all that far for us to walk, so it wasn’t as necessary as we thought. Still, it allowed us to take all those pictures of Stockholm from the water.

As with many European cities, bikes are a big thing here. That is, until there is a massive pileup and all the riders scatter to the wind, as obviously happened in this place. I didn’t see any blood, though, so I think most of them made it out alive.

Who knew that bridges wore nylons?

Eh? What’s that? Oh. I guess they’re pylons not nylons. Nevermind. However, at the minimum, I’m willing to bet this is the first time you’ve ever seen pylons under a Swedish bridge, am I right? Don’t tell me BaldSasquatch.com doesn’t improve your life!

Anyway, I just thought it looked kinda cool, so there you have it.

I hid from Carolyn during our walk next to the Nordstrom River, which must be famous for its nice shopping. Eh? What’s that? It’s not Nordstroms? It’s Norrström? Oh. Well, anyway, Norrström is one of the shortest rivers in Europe, and one of the very few whose name rhymes with a department store while at the same time having an “ö” in its name, even if we have no idea what the dots do. We’re all about exclusivity here at BaldSasquatch.

Time for a snack break! Actually, this is a picture of one of our normal meals-on-the-road. Certainly we go to restaurants, but the truth is, much of the reason we were able to retire early is that we save our pennies by not eating out a lot. And that carries through to our travels. Obviously food is an important component of getting to know any culture, and we eat our share, but we don’t make it the focal point of our visit. Note that we do have some Swedish sweets there in the mix. The Swedes seem to be cuckoo for licorice. The way they offer it is very, very yummy.

In addition, one can learn a lot by going to foreign grocery stores. For some reason I enjoy visiting grocery stores almost everywhere we go. And that’s where you can find some interesting and different foodstuffs. In this case, I saw a display of these toothpaste-looking tubes but with pictures of meat on them. I figured it was possibly very meaty toothpaste, or meat glue, or just something really disgusting. So I bought one. It was actually pretty good, you just squeeze out all that protein goodness on a cracker or a shoe and you’re ready to roll! Besides, who can resist a name like SkinkOst? I just hope it really wasn’t meat glue.

The name of this statue is A Man Adjusting His Glasses While Holding a Newspaper and There’s Nothing Else To It So Take Your Need For Artistic Symbolism Elsewhere You Capitalist Pig! At least I think that’s what the plaque said.


This alley shocked me because there’s not nearly enough room to walk side-by-side with my honeybun while holding hands. So what good is it? They ought to just fill it up with SkinkOst, which I’m sure will harden to a bricklike state, and be done with this skinny-alleyed nonsense.

We’ll close this portion of our Stockholm Syndrome- er, tour, with an assortment of Doors of the Day. For those of you who haven’t followed this blog closely for seven years (I mean, who hasn’t?), Carolyn loves doors. So during our first visit to Europe, I finished every day’s blog post with a Door of the Day photo. Now I just take pictures of them when I hear her squealing in delight, and post them randomly. Anyway, there were quite a few in Stockholm, so I put them all together in one gallery, other than the above shot of one with big knockers.

And we’ll finish with this last one below, which was funny because it locked out all the has-beens. We figured we qualified, but still, we couldn’t find the key. Maybe we’re not has-beens after all!

It Was Oslo Week in Norway

There’s something to be said about timing. We ended up traveling to Oslo during Easter weekend. As you might imagine, the Scandinavians make a pretty big deal out of Easter because it signifies the coming of spring, which means the return of the sun! The sun! The sun!

“Ooh Mommy, it burns it burns!” “Gunnar! Where’d you put the SPF 3,000?”

We saw more than a few Scandinavians just sitting on a bench with their face toward the sun and a small smile on their reddening lips. In January and December, Oslo only gets 6-7 hours of daylight. In June it’s almost 19 hours. I’m not sure how flat-earthers explain that. Of course, I don’t know how flat-earthers explain anything.

There’s also something to be said about expectations. We took an overnight ferry from Denmark to Oslo. We were excited to see the fjords, and we were told that a ferry boat would provide the exact same views as a tour boat out of Oslo. So when we woke up on the ship in the morning, we were excited to go to the viewing decks and see the magnificent fjords. This above is what we saw.

I mean, there was nothing wrong with that, but this is kinda what we expected.

And this is what we got.

Yep, expectations vs. reality.

Oh, well, we saw some fjords. We just didn’t realize the grandiose ones were on the other side of the country. On the other hand, we expected it to be cold… and it was. Expectations met! Actually, it wasn’t arctic cold. Upon our arrival, there was just a little bit of snow lazily drifting down. The temperature hovered around freezing but then warmed a little above that for the bulk of our short visit to Oslo. So, the weather was better than expectations. Score!

After we left the ferry, we realized we could make the fifteen minute walk to our hotel, even through the howling blizzard. (Well, I mean, everything is relative, right?) Sharing the bay with the dock where we arrived was a magnificent opera house. (What is it with magnificent opera houses anyway?) In the middle picture, you can see floating saunas with the opera house in the background. Scandinavians love their saunas. The idea is that you roast yourself alive, and then jump into freezing cold water in order to, what, I guess shrink up everything the heat of the sauna made saggy? Needless to say, we didn’t partake. We’re fine with our sags.

I’m not sure what that floating thing is. Maybe it’s leftover construction material from the magnificent opera house? Or a futuristic Chinese junk?

This is the view from our hotel room. I like it when societies make things look interesting or pretty instead of just functional.

It had been a while since we’d seen snow. Notice the only people in the photo of this Easter-stricken city is a group of statues. It was actually kinda nice, because we could wander the downtown streets without worrying about being hit by a car. Or seeing one. It was deader than the height of Covid on Christmas day. I kept an eye out for zombies in case we were actually in an apocalypse but missed the news. Especially since, you know, Norwegian zombies are the worst.

So this is one of the more “interesting” buildings we saw in Oslo. But it’s not all that interesting, and therein lies our Oslovian theme.

It’s a stock exchange building and was constructed in 1828. It is recognized as Norway’s first monumental building. We also noticed it was yellow. You’d get a pretty good idea that a tour was a little short on excitement if the tour guide stopped in front of a building, commented that it was yellow, and then said nothing else and moved on. So here we are.

I wanted so badly to try some reindeer meat. I’ve never had reindeer meat, and you know Santa has to be fat for some reason. In addition to this sign featuring reindeer casserole, we saw signs for reindeer burgers, reindeer Swedish meatballs, and…

… of course a plate of Rudolph. His guts look like noodles. Actually, this is just a picture from the internet, we never saw portions of Rudolph being advertised. Anyway, as luck would have it, in both Oslo and Stockholm, I was never able to coordinate our meals with being near a reindeer meat provider. Next time I’m in Scandinavia, Comet and Blitzen better watch out!

One of the main tourist sites in Oslo is Akershus Fortress. It’s a medieval castle and fortress, constructed somewhere around the late 1290s. It was representative of Oslo in terms of the idea that compared to most other castles we’ve seen, it was just kinda brown and boring and not that much to it. It wasn’t terrible, it was just… a little blah, just like the rest of Oslo.

If you’re blown away by all that scenery, have I got a city for you! I don’t really mean to pick on Oslo, but as you can see… it’s just a city. It’s really hard to say how much the lack of people added to the blasé nature of the place, but given that there were really no sites we were dying to see from any of the guides we read, I think it’s safe to say that Oslo is just kind of an unexciting city. Nothing wrong with that, though, it’s certainly better than Bakhmut!

Besides, I never said this would be an everyplace-we-go-is-amazing blog. However, I will add that we had perhaps the best breakfast buffet I’ve ever been to at the Clarion in Oslo. Maybe Norwegians put all their energy into buffets, I dunno.

Like so many European cities, the bus and train stations are huge, clean, modern, efficient, and good-looking. Even though we’re suburbanites and are kinda lousy at navigating mass transit, even we could figure out how to buy tickets back and forth from the airport.

On top of all that, the toilets in the airport are a perfect little room for one, complete with your own sink. Compare this to a typical line of urinals, or in America, a row of toilet stalls with doors that start halfway up on walls you can peek over. I’ll take a private European restroom any day, thanks.

They even have special farting facilities for the disabled!

As we rode the train to the airport and then took off from Oslo, we realized that we hadn’t really given Norway a fair shake. Like most countries, the country is far more than its biggest city(ies), and Norway certainly offers a ton of impressive and amazing scenery. Just not in Oslo.

After our return to Portugal, we had dinner with some friends who invited us to go on a cruise of Norway in January. The ship meanders up the entire coastline all the way into the Arctic Circle. The cruise company even guarantee a viewing of the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) or you get another cruise for free. So that’ll be a future blog entry, and makes me feel better about our little taste of Norway. While a cruise of the Norwegian coastline was never on our “A” bucket list, seeing the northern lights definitely is, so we’re very much excited for that!

But as far as this particular trip goes, next up is a flight to Stockholm, Sweden, where we complete the Nordic Trifecta! (Sorry Helsinki!)

Copenhagen: The land of Vikings, the World’s Oldest Operating Amusement Park, and a commune in the middle of the city

Our tour of Denmark continued with a visit to a Viking museum, the world’s oldest operating amusement park, a successful commune, ‎⁨an old graveyard, Frederiksborg Castle⁩, ⁨a drive across Denmark, a visit to the town of Frederikshavn⁩, some World War II artifacts, and then a ferry to Norway! Woof! That’s a lot, we better get started!

First up are the Vikings, because I don’t want to make them mad and get stabbed by one of the horns on their helmets. Which was actually never a thing, by the way; that depiction was simply made up during the 1800s. A thousand years from now, I wonder what weird ideas they’ll have about our current civilization. Maybe that a rapist was once elected the President of the United States in the 21st century? Oh right, like they’d ever believe that.

These are the genuine article: actual Viking ships that were pulled out of the water, or perhaps discovered in the basement of some Viking ship hoarder. The museum also built Viking ship reconstructions, so you can sail into the waters just like the Vikings did a thousand years ago. Speaking of which, another Viking myth is that they burned their dead while sending them off into the water on boats. It makes for a good movie scene, but you can rest easy: if you die on the water they won’t burn your corpse out there. They’ll probably just dump you in the ocean so you can feed the fishes. Recycling is big in Denmark.

But truly, it was very cool to see actual Viking ships. For whatever reason, Vikings have an outsized footprint in historical lore, even though a whole bunch of their legend consists of made-up stuff. So it was interesting to learn more about them and see their actual handiwork. I do have to hand it to them: sailing the seas in one of those relatively small ships all the way to England, Iceland, Greenland, and even on to North America is not for the faint of heart!

This is the way the ship would’ve looked once they installed all the tires.

This is an old Viking chimney that’s still operating today! Just kidding. This is actually a regular old smokestack, connected to a plant that burns garbage for fuel. It’s a great example of the Danish placing value in aesthetics by taking a mundane or even ugly object and turning it into art. I think that’s awesome!

Of course, not every sign or object is pretty. Here’s our friend Per (who may not be pretty, but he’s sure handsome!) standing next to a rather cluttered sign forbidding him to fart in Christiania. Unlike the Norwegians and Finns, the Danes hate farting.

But what is Christiania, you ask? It’s actually a fascinating story. The short version is that Freetown Christiania, as it is also known, is essentially a squatter commune in the middle of Copenhagen. It sprung up in 1971 on a military base, and it remains there to this day, a more or less independent little slice of Copenhagen. No cars are allowed, they make their own rules by vote, and cannabis is openly sold. While the latter is not a big deal in the U.S. anymore with about half the states having legalized it, in Denmark cannabis is still illegal. So the Christianit (that’s what the residents are called) post guards around the edge of the commune, and if it ever happens that the Danish police conduct a raid, by the time they get to the Stalls o’ Cannabis, all the sellers and inventory are long gone.

I don’t have a ton of pictures of Christiania because the best place for pictures is where they sell the cannabis (also known as “Pusher Street”), but if you’re caught taking pictures anywhere near there, your phone or camera will most likely end up being smashed to bits, and possibly your face as well. They take the no-photographs prohibition very seriously, and since it’s “their town” they can pretty much do what they want or make sure you don’t do what they don’t want. Or maybe they want you to not do what you aren’t doing when you do it after you’re not doing the other thing they don’t want you to do. I might’ve written that after sampling some of their cannabis.

Anyway, as you look at these pictures, understand that they’re in a location that might otherwise be filled with a multitude of buildings housing condos worth millions apiece. The structures in Christiania range from very basic shacks to sophisticated buildings, and everything in between. All the residents and workers were very pleasant to interact with (I suppose other than the guys who would rip your face off for taking a photo, but I decided not to engage with them for obvious reasons). Christiania is the fourth largest tourist attraction in Denmark, (hopefully it’s ahead of the Little Mermaid), and they sell food, art, and tourist trinkets in addition to the cannabis, so there’s some incentive for treating visitors well, at least the ones who aren’t taking photographs.

The whole thing is of course fairly controversial, because Christiania is sitting on 19 acres of land in the middle of Copenhagen that is worth millions, and yet only has about 1,000 residents. Some Danes want to bulldoze the whole damn thing, others want to leave them alone. In the meantime, it’s an interesting place; perhaps one of the world’s most successful implementations of an actual, functioning, long-term commune.

Up next on our “boys day out” (Carolyn and Pia stayed home to paint their nails, watch chick flicks, eat pizza, and make fun of me and Per) was a visit to the world’s oldest operating amusement park. It opened in 1583, which is 83 years after Portugal discovered and claimed Brazil, 37 years before the pilgrims sailed to America, and slightly before my birthday.

I only took this picture because I got a kick out of both of those words: Motorcykel Parkering. That might be a good name for an actor. Either that, or the sign maker ordered the sign at the same time he was sampling the cannabis in Christiania. Unless it’s in Danish… hmm… I hadn’t thought of that.

While I was excited to see the world’s oldest operating amusement park, I didn’t think it through much further than that, where I might have realized that it’s not very feasible to have any rides from 1583 still operating. At least none I’d get on. They did have this little area showing off some old time stuff like that car, and there’s an interesting history Per regaled me with (the details of which might’ve been lost in either a cannabis or old-brain haze… it must be the latter because I didn’t actually sample any cannabis). The rest of the park is just like any good old-fashioned amusement park.

…. including this “exotic” American Diner with all that crazy American food. I think I gained two kilos just by looking at the menu.

They do have a wooden roller coaster that’s been operating since 1932. The world’s oldest operating roller coaster is in Lakemont Park, Altoona, Pennsylvania, USA, and was opened in 1902. Copenhagen also has a more famous amusement park called Tivoli Gardens, which is so famous I’ve heard the name… but don’t know a thing more about it. Except they also have a very old wooden roller coaster, the Rutschebanen, which opened in 1914. Plus they charge admission just to get in so I preferred Bakken.

Next up is Frederiksborg Castle⁩. It was built as a royal residence for King Christian IV of Denmark-Norway in the early 17th century. Per is making sure we don’t see any naughty bits. But read on if you want to see some other ones.

Frederiksborg Castle is the largest Renaissance complex in the Nordic region. It is quite impressive.

They also designed a Door of the Day especially for Carolyn.

We didn’t really violate our no-more-cathedrals policy here because this chapel is part of the whole complex and you stumble across this view as you wander through the palace. It is kind of a cool looking one in any case.

Speaking of chapels and boobs (okay, maybe I was just thinking about the latter), at the entry to the palace, we were greeted by this unusual sign of a lady playing with two beige balloons while in a bathtub. When Per told me that they had a show going on, I pictured some sort of burlesque performance on a stage. I thought that was a little strange for a palace/museum, but then I remembered we were in Europe, where exposing your breasts doesn’t get you arrested and thrown in solitary confinement for a month.

To which this model gives us her opinion about that. Turns out it was actually an exhibition featuring a photographer who takes very candid and uncensored shots, especially of people with all sorts of body shapes and sizes. Since people never do measure up to the “Hollywood ideal,” it’s a good message to send… everybody’s beautiful! I stopped taking pictures after this one because I didn’t want to look like a typical American male creeper.

Anyone who might be offended by a picture of two of God’s Baby Bottles is probably also very pro-gun, so a picture of this boy with a rifle ought make everything even, no? Of course, he looks like a forty-year-old in a child’s body, but he is armed with sword and gun so I don’t think I’d make fun of him or his dress to his face.

We stopped for lunch and I noticed a couple of things to take pictures of. This house features a sod roof. Which I think means if you don’t like it, you can sod off. I dunno if you have to haul a lawn mower up to the roof to keep it looking trim or not. Also, the nearby dog pooping planter confused me… is that an instruction for a dog to actually poop in the planter, or is that the general vicinity in which poop is expected, or does someone just find the silhouette of a dog pooping pleasurable? It’s gotta be one of those three choices, and I don’t understand any of ’em!

‎⁨We visited Assistens Cemetery⁩, ⁨which is the burial ground for two of Denmark’s most famous citizens: Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard. It was a different cemetery than I’ve ever seen before: very spread out and with some unusual headstones, including that oblong headstone which may be for a famous Danish porn star. I also got a kick out of the one where Professor Holton has a nice big gravestone, but his wife’s just kinda leans against it like an afterthought. Die first if you want the best headstone!

Per and Pia drove us all the way across Denmark (which takes about 4-1/2 hours) to reach Frederikshavn⁩, where we were scheduled to get on a ferry for Oslo. The bridge pictured here is a big deal: half of Denmark’s population used to rely on ferries to get to Copenhagen. The Great Belt Fixed Link opened for traffic in 1998 and changed all that. The system includes a tunnel and two different bridges. The bridge’s 254-meter tall pylons are Denmark’s highest structures, and the 1664 meters between the pylons make it the fifth longest free-spanning bridge in the world.

Once we were in Frederikshavn⁩, we were able to visit our host’s adorable little grandson. We were honored to visit their daughter’s house and meet the little guy; he’s definitely a cutie.

The town was the site of German occupation during the war, where it could harass enemy shipping and control access to Germany from the North Sea. Today, as with everything we saw in Denmark, it was clean, safe, well-kept, and beautiful.

Before we leave you to set sail for Oslo, we offer up a couple of signs that might amuse our English-speaking readers. I wasn’t completely sure what to spill out of Carolyn, so I just asked her to throw up. Better than a middle fart!

This was the very long walk we had to take to get from the parking lot to the ferry for Oslo. Not a walk for the faint of soles!