I didn’t think after returning to the United States last night I’d be able to work up the energy to write. As I’m one of those unlucky people who can never sleep on planes or buses, my return trip left me with only about two hours of rest in the previous 36 hours before finally collapsing last night.
But now that I am back, I can finally reflect on some of the top experiences from my trip to Scandinavia. For ten days, I wandered through the beautiful and the mundane in Oslo, Norway, and Copenhagen, Denmark, in search of authentic experiences. Yet, as you’ll read below, even distinctly “American” experiences—namely *cough* fast food *cough*— are marked with Scandinavian flavor.
Below are just a few of the aspects that made this trip a truly memorable experience.
As someone who largely follows a vegetarian diet, I found it very difficult to stay the course in Scandinavia. One of the biggest temptations were the hot dogs and sausages.
Without a better way to describe it, pølsevogn (hot dog stands in Danish) are literally everywhere in Copenhagen. And, while in the U.S. we typically use ketchup, mustard, and relish, the Danes enjoy rémoulade, a French mayonnaise-based condiment, with sliced pickles, roasted and raw onions, and a particular kind of bitter mustard. In all, I probably averaged one per day both in Oslo and Norway. If you visit, make sure to get them from the stands—at an average of 35 krones in both cities, it comes up to just a little bit more than $3 USD.
While staying with a friend in Oslo, I was also invited to a traditional farmer’s dinner of potetball, meaning literally “potato ball”. As it was described to me, one boils ham bones for a few hours, blends potatoes, onions, and spices in a food processor, then makes balls out of the mix and places the balls, ham, carrots, and some other vegetables into the water. What comes out is a delicious and hearty meal eaten traditionally by peasants. With a glass of tjukkmjølk (a yogurt-like substance literally translated to “thick milk”) I wasn’t hungry until late the next day.
Strangely enough, I recommend trying American fast food in Scandinavia. My personal favorite was McDonald’s because, due to national regulations, the ingredients largely have to come from local sources. What would usually be a greasy sponge of a burger in the U.S. is a rich beefy patty on what seemingly tastes like fresh-baked bread.
As is to be expected, architecture in Scandinavia in many cases was nothing short of breathtaking. With a long history of monarchs prone to exorbitant shows of power and wealth, the palaces show a level of expressive design you can’t typically see in the States.
(DISCLAIMER) I am not much of a photographer, as you can see.
While in Copenhagen, I stayed at Generator Hostel, a great and inexpensive way to stay in the city. The great part about it is that I met other solo travelers, all of whom had one thing in common—they were open to making new friends and experiencing the city together. Even if you consider yourself an introvert, it’s very hard to not find common ground with people from all over the world when you’re experiencing a new place together. From this adventure, I now have couches all over the world to crash on for future travels. Definitely worth every penny spent.
In all, I can’t stress how inspiring this experience has been. While walking past the Tivoli Garden gate, a musical idea came to mind. Listening to one stranger tell me stories about his world travels has convinced me there is more to see than I could in a lifetime.
I also learned on a deeper level just how similar we all are in the world. Cracking jokes and sharing stories with people from other parts of the world are great ways to understand just how little the differences between us matter. I can’t wait to find out if this applies in Asia, Africa, and other more exotic parts of the world.
Have you been to Scandinavia, and have experiences to share? Leave a comment, and a link if you’ve written about it! Cheers, or skål as the Danish say!