Pandemic Travels From My Sofa: Scandinavia

If 2020 had gone according to plan I’d have posted about our four-day break in the lovely city of Ghent in March and we’d be enjoying ourselves in Northern Italy right now. So strange are the times we’re living in that I’m just relieved that everyone I know is safe rather than disappointed but I can’t help missing the joys of travel so I’ve decided to revisit a few holidays, throwing in links to books I’ve reviewed, some from countries I’ve visited, others I‘d like to visit. If you fancy a change of scene, you’re welcome to join me. This time we’re off to Scandinavia beginning with Sweden.

If memory serves me right, and it often doesn’t these days, our Swedish road trip was in 2004 or thereabouts, beginning with a flight to Copenhagen. We started off in Skåne having crossed the bridge which would become so famliar to us from Saturday nights watching Saga Noren solving cimes in her own inimitable way. It’s a lovely area but what I most remember is our wonderfully eccentric B&B landlady, often to be found in her kitchen with one of her parrots on her head. She also had two gorgeous dogs who liked to sprawl in the sun. From there we headed to Gothenburg, a very pleasant city Feskekorka (Gothenburg) memorable for its fish restaurants one of which is housed in Feskekôrka, a smart modern market whose Swedish name translates as the fish church telling you all you need to know about the importance of fish to the town. The rest of the holiday was spent touring the Bohuslän archipelago with its pretty coastal villages, one famous for its inhabitants wearing their dressing gowns around town, before heading south. Our last stop was Malmö, slick and modern in comparison to picturesque Ystad, a stone’s throw away and home to Inspector Waliander, where I remember having tea in a lovely book-lined café before heading back to Copenhagen and home.

Swedish travels from my sofa: Astrid and Veronika, Wilful Disregard, In Every Moment We Are Alive, A Summer with Kim Novak

Louisiana (Copenhagen) Apart from briefly passing through on our way to Sweden, we’ve visited Denmark twice, each time a winter break in Copenhagen, both of which included a visit to the wonderful Louisiana, a beautifully designed modern gallery, crammed with all manner of treats. Given that both trips were in February, there wasn’t much chance of exploring the sculpture park which makes me want to add a summer trip to our travel list. Much of the rest of our time was spent hanging out in cafes and strolling around the much-gentrified harbour area, although I do remember a trip to a gallery exhibiting exquisite Persian miniatures and a visit to Christiana, a large commune established in 1971. Despite the city’s best efforts to shut it down, Christiana’s residents finally managed to gain a legal foothold in 2012. Cover image

Danish travels from my sofa: Often I Am Happy, This Should Be Written in the Present Tense, Mirror, Shoulder, Signal,

I fell in love with the laid-back elegance of Helsinki while taking advantage of a free hotel room courtesy of a conference H attended in 2006. It was August, a lovely time to explore the city where, oddly enough, I saw my first red squirrel in the botanical gardens. I remember spending a great deal of time in Alvar Aalto’s beautifully designed bookshop, opened in 1969, which on that visit was fantastically well-stocked but sadly depleted nine years later when we revisited the city at the end of our trip around the Baltics. We enjoyed it just as much the second time around, marvelling at the Friday night cavalcade of vintage American cars on our last evening’s walk and wondering if it was a regular event.

Cover image Finnish travels from my sofa: Letters From Klara, The Winter War, The Summer House

I’ve yet to go to Norway, although I hope I will some day. The gorgeous scenery shots in the Scandi crime TV series Twin and Wisting have whetted my appetite and I’ve long fancied a few nights in Bergen. I have visited it from my sofa, though, thanks to several memorable novels set there: Love, The Waiter, Ashes in My Mouth, Sand in My Shoes, The Sunlit Night, Echoes of the City

Remembering holidays may be as close as I get to having one in 2020 but if that’s the worst thing that happens during this strange year we’re living through I’ll count myself lucky.

Any vicarious travels you’d like to share?

22 thoughts on “Pandemic Travels From My Sofa: Scandinavia”

  1. Thank you. I really enjoyed that. I haven’t been to any of the Nordic countries and you’ve encouraged me to add them to my list … when we can all travel again!

  2. What a fun tour through memories, photos and books! I’ve tagged along to C’s conferences several times now, making trips to Belgium and Italy fairly inexpensive. We’ve not made it to Scandinavia but want to. For several years we’ve toyed with the idea of going to Sweden by train, with stops in Germany and Denmark. We have a friend we could stay with in Gothenburg. I’ve read a few of your topical book selections, but there are plenty more to discover!

    1. That sounds like a lovely trip, Rebecca. I had one other short break courtesy of conference expenses which was in Lisbon. I enjoyed the February sun while H worked!

  3. Your travels sound wonderful, and at least you have your memories of a wonderful trip. I wish I had travelled more before I was so badly hit with RA. I spent a few hours in Ghent two years ago when I was on a short coach holiday to Belgium. It’s a lovely place. I would love to visit Scandanavia, when I visited Iceland I felt pulled towards that region. Though I must admit cold doesn’t really suit me so much now.

    1. I’m very lucky to have those memories, I know. Belgian cities are beautiful aren’t they. I hope to go to Ghent, probably next year now and Iceland is very tempting. Summer is lovely in Scandinavia should you ever feel up to going.

  4. Yes, a lovely idea to revisit memories of what sounds like a most enjoyable trip. I suspect we are going to have to be content with travelling vicariously via books and online resources for the foreseeable future, not that I mind very much given the downsides of air travel! I would definitely recommend Norway once it becomes possible to travel safely again – I think you’d find Oslo very interesting, particularly the art galleries and culture.

  5. I’m currently reading The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting which is set in Norway at the time when it was part of Sweden, a fact I didn’t know before. I’ve visited Bergen -just for a day as a stop on a cruise – and think you would live it. It did rain a lot though!

    1. It’s the rain that’s put me off to some degree, Cathy. I live in the West Country and already have enought of that! I think I have a copy of The Bell. I’ll look it out.

  6. As you know Susan, I love travel too so this was a great post. I should’ve been in the south of France last week and your post has prompted me to look at photos of previous visits and take enjoyment from remembering our trips.
    I’ve been to Copenhagen and Gothenburg too so I really enjoyed this memory jog of unique places like Christiana. I hope you do get to Norway soon as Oslo is a fabulous city!

    1. Thanks, Helen. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Looking at old holiday photos is a lovely way to ease the disappointment. Cross fingers we’ll both be able to travel again (relatively) soon.

  7. Luciano Duarte

    Beautiful 🙂

    Your text remembered me that unfortunately I haven’t been to any of the Nordic countries.

  8. buriedinprint

    My first Here-and-Elsewhere post this year was around Copenhagen, Denmark. When I was first planning my reading and putting in library requests in December, I temporarily got muddled about various books on my TBR and requested a couple from other Scandi authors. This would make for pretty awesome extended travelling on the page, I’d say! I’ve had a look for the Finnish TV series you’ve recommended, but no luck so far. On that score, I am, however, finishing the Danish show, Borgen, this month, which has been terrific.

    1. It certainly would! I think they were Norwegian series, both broadcast on BBC 4. I loved Borgen. Who’d have thought that a whole episode about the machinations of transport policy would have been so riveting.

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