Scandinavian Travels + Germany Part 1

Trip Start Aug 23, 2012
Trip End Sep 16, 2012

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Where I stayed
Ssnkt. Olaff
What I did
Torsby Ski Tunnel

Flag of Sweden  , Dalarna,
Saturday, August 25, 2012

Day 1Thursday 23 August 2012
Chicago to Copenhagen Denmark to Oslo Norway

                     We began our 24 day vacation with traveling by car to Chicago O'Hare Airport, which was uneventful.  There was only one traffic tie up and that was not bad for rush hour.  We stopped at our usual place, Steak 'n Shake, in Michigan City Indiana for a light dinner.  After leaving our car at Blue Sky Parking , it was on to wait for our 10:05  PM departure on SAS (Scandinavian Airlines). Our travel agent had assured us we would have the exit row seats, but alas we're told they were unavailable.  I put on my sad face in the boarding area and was able to secure the bulkhead seats. This arrangement worked rather well since there were four seats across and one was being used by a young woman with her sweet six month old baby boy.  She was traveling back to Denmark to celebrate her grandmother's 80th birthday and introduce the baby to all the family and friends.  We were happy to be "grandparents" for the trip.  The other seat remained vacant as room was left for a bassinet hanging on the bulkhead.
Eight hours later we arrived in wonderful Copenhagen.  The taxi driver drove us in his Mercedes to the DFDS Port, for an overnight cruise to Oslo.  Upon  check-in, I was informed our accommodations a were unavailable and we would have to take the upgrade to deluxe.  After I spent a few seconds despairing and shedding no tears, I gratefully accepted the change.  This afforded us special seating and meals for both dinner & breakfast and in addition, our key allowed us into the commodore's lounge for drinks, snacks, computer access and comfortable seats to watch the world pass  by us. 
In our room I had been unable to use wi-fi for my gmail.   By using the computer in the commodore's lounge, I was able to sign in and it worked when we returned to our room.  ONE small problem . . . when I signed on the next time, I was using a Danish keyboard.  That would not have been a problem, except my iPad anticipates the spelling of words and automatically makes corrections.   It did not take kindly to my English spelling, plus it always capitalized the word "the."  This went on for a week and made it extremely difficult to write.   It also made for some very funny wording.  Just ask anyone who received an e-mail from me.
Day 3 Saturday August 25, 2012 
Olso Norway to Lima Sweden

 Arrived in Oslo and took a taxi to Avis to pick up a car for travel to Lima Sweden to visit my longtime friend, Margaret Berglund-Flygar and her husband, Robert.  Driving out of Oslo went well until "Mariah," our GPS, decided it did not like the route we planned  We were somewhat surprised when the road we were taking ended up underground for a couple of miles under Oslo. Following the Google maps would have been preferred over Mariah, as we soon learned, but too late to correct, that it was best to program shorter distances, as she took us off on side roads, which may have been shorter in distance, but far from shorter in the length of time.  Although we saw some interesting countryside, including logging roads, it took an additional one and a half hours to arrive 30 Sodgen Haden.
Margaret and Robert live in a  log cabin they built thirty years ago along the  Vasterdalenven River.  Although not large in size, their home is very well designed,  utilizes all the space and is a very welcoming.  Although they have an apartment in Gåvle, north of Stockholm, they prefer to spend the majority of the year closer to nature.  They are both avid cross country skiers and Robert has won numerous awards in the sport.  Robert is also a hunter and has bagged 50 moose in his 70 years of moose hunting, which is done not as individuals, but as hunting clubs.  His club has 20 people  in it and each one is required to pass a yearly test demonstrating competency in hunting to receive the certificate.  The government decides each year how many moose the club is allowed to shoot.  At the end of the season the meat is divided equally among the participants.  This year the total number is 8 moose for 20 hunters.  Margaret and Robert sometimes sell their portion or they would eat no other meat for the next year.   Margaret prepared a lovely Swedish dinner and we departed for the Sankt Olaf  Hotel in  Malung, about thirty minutes south.  We left early so as to be able to watch for moose along the road.  Not something one would want to encounter at any time of the day.   . . .  and no, we did not eat any moose. Perhaps next time we visit.  
Day 4 Sunday August 26, 2012
Touring the Lima countryside and a concert
After a tasteful  smorgasbord or buffet breakfast at the hotel, we returned to the Flygar home. They drove us around the rural area.  A red wooden bridge was constructed in a different manner than we were accustomed to seeing.  Although Sweden was not involved in WWII, Norway was very close to this area and there was always the threat the Germans would invade this northern portion of Sweden.  At one point with two hills, a flatbed railroad car with HUGE stones encased in cement was lined up to go down one hill and block the road from German tanks.  To ensure the tanks could not go around the blockade, more of the huge rocks were spaced strategically to hinder them from proceeding. The Germans never came and the flatcar remains, now under a shelter, as a memory of what could have occurred so many years ago.  Europeans view the war differently than those of us in the States, as they lived it close at hand, whereas we viewed it from afar.

A sandwich cake/loaf, like we had never seen or eaten, was almost too pretty to eat, was served for lunch.  I could not help but take a photo of it.  It tasted as good as it looked and it would have been easy to have "pigged out" on it.  The dessert was a jelly roll but with a creamed filling. Yummy for the tummy.  I usually do not describe food, but this trip had food experiences that were off the chart.
Following lunch, Margaret and Robert took us down the road to the Lima Kyrka, Dalarna.  They had arranged for Zara Hekhu, a Swedish master violinist, to give us a private concert in their church.  She wore her native Swedish attire, as did her two daughters, Signe age 12 and Agnes

 age 9, who played along with her on the first selection.  All but one piece were old Swedish folk songs she described first so we could understand the music.  She finished up with "Fairest Lord Jesus."  The entire concert was such a special gift from Margaret and Robert to Bob and me and we will always store in a special place in our minds and hearts.
We were their guests for dinner at a lovely county restaurant on the River Vasterdalenven, which flows South to Stockholm.  The river was once used to transport lumber to the mills, until the big companies came in and replaced the individual lumberjacks. 

Day  5 Monday August 27, 2012
Lima Sweden to Oslo Norway
After breakfast in the hotel, we said our goodbyes to Margaret and Robert.  We hope now that Robert has met us, he will consider traveling to the USA to see the sights and us.  Our lack of understanding the Swedish language and his of the English language, did not prevent us from enjoying each others company.  His great sense of humor came through, despite the language barrier.

 It was suggested we make a stop in Torsby to see the ski tunnel, which is where avid cross country skiers can practice all year around.  It was a jacketless day outside, but those in the tunnel were bundled up for skiing.  

There were so many beautiful views on our return trip, but will just bore you with a few for the present time.
We came across a WWII monument, which I found rather interesting, since it is something people in the USA do not hopefully will never have a reason to display.  I feel compelled to share it, if you will please bear with me.  "Here the Germans met a Norwegian company under the command of Captain Magnus Wangerud from Grue. 15 Norwegian soldiers fell, and many were wounded two civilians were killed and 11 houses burnt. The German losses were great."  The other stone listed the casualties and their home of record. It was dated 17 April 1940. 
Returning to Oslo was not as simple as leaving it two days earlier on a quiet Saturday.  All the construction and temporary roads and bridges caused  Mariah to be unable to keep up with all the changes and we were driving by the seat of our pants.  Apparently God had his hand on the wheel, because as we were totally confused and took a random exit, looked to the  right and there was the Thon Opera Hotel.   We unloaded the car, hoping as we left it in a no parking zone, it would be there when we returned from our room.  It was then off to locate Avis, which was considerably easier the first time in a taxi.   After numerous wrong turns , including a dead end, we appealed to a police officer, who told us to go to the next corner, turn left and Avis was half a block down on the left.  I do believe God had his hand on the wheel once again.  The fifteen minute walk returning to the hotel was refreshing after driving down unfamiliar, cobblestone and one way streets.

Hotel Thon Opera, was just across the street from the Oslo Opera Ballet and the hotel had a musical decor, including our sheets.

This is the first of several travel blogs about our experiences in the Scandinavian Countries, plus Germany.  The next blog will only be about Oslo.  

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