Smooth as silk in Scandinavia

BERGEN'S OLF+D WHARF: The old city of Bryggen in Bergen, Norway, has been a place of trade for a thousand years.
THE GOOD LIFE: Geoff and Raewyn Meade enjoying Thai Silk Class.
GRAND ARCHITECTURE: Our vantage point at the Wiener Musikverein Goldener Saal in Vienna, Austria.
UNIQUE EXPERIENCES:
‘Pulling Down the Walls’ memorable moments in our history, Sandskulptur festival in Hundested, Denmark.
Descending into the crater of Thrihnukagigur volcano in Iceland.
SWEDISH ROYAL PALACE: Raewyn at the Drottningholm Palace in Stockholm, Sweden.

WHEN my good mate Richard Ludlow asked my wife Raewyn and I if we would like to consider a trip to Scandinavia to stay at his son’s house in Copenhagen and use it as a base for travel to Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the rest of Denmark, we decided it was enticing.

I had been to Scandinavia 40 years ago and had some good memories of the place.

Adding Iceland to the mix and some new places in Scandinavia as well as a nostalgic trip to Vienna pointed to a grand adventure.

Then along came David Borrie of Elliott World Travellers offering us a special on Thai Airways travelling Silk Class return direct to Copenhagen with a stopover in Bangkok.

In one clean sweep, he had freed us of the two things we hated most about travel, crowded long-haul flights and long waits in crowded airport lounges.

Silk class definitely lived up to its billing.

When we got to Copenhagen, we found another travel agent like David and booked flights and accommodation in Reykjavik (Iceland), Bergen (Norway), Stockholm (Sweden) and Vienna (Austria).

Our remaining time in Denmark was spent in a hired car covering day trips out of Copenhagen.

In all places, we did the hop on hop off buses to orient ourselves, and the thing that struck us most about the commentaries is that all of these countries (many of a similar population size to New Zealand) were proud of their fair tax regimes and the resulting equitable living conditions of their people.

The negative statistics that we encounter frequently in New Zealand (and unfortunately highlighted in Tairawhiti) are the reverse. Something to ponder?

In Iceland, I was looking forward to an adventure scuba diving in the Pingvellir National Park between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Unfortunately, I didn’t do my homework and did not have the required dry suit experience and medical certificate that would help me to survive in the three-degree water. Two men younger than me had suffered fatal heart attacks recently so the health and safety requirements for me made it prohibitive.

Thrihnukagigur volcano

So we decided to drop 120 metres into the dormant Thrihnukagigur volcano instead.

Thrihnukagigur last erupted 4000 years ago and the resulting grandeur of the crater gave us a “truly mind-blowing experience” as the Lonely Planet put it.

We also did the Golden Circle which, to be fair, was similar to New Zealand's geothermal and glacial scenery.

What was different was the kilometres of laval landscape that left 80 percent of the land mass uninhabitable.

I had spent time in Kiribati on the equator earlier in the year. Using Mr Google, you will see the graphic impact of climate change on this island nation, which I was able to witness first-hand.

Coming to Iceland in a short space of time after that trip also gave me an insight into the negative impact of climate change there as well.

Moving on to Bergen in Norway, we were greeted by torrential rain on the second day and a comment that we could expect “a lot of rain”, which had only recently occurred for 84 days in a row.

Yay! What a prospect. However, the next days were fine so we embarked on what became a highlight for most of the trip: walking in pedestrian-only areas in Norway, as well as in Sweden, Denmark and Vienna.

Highlights in Bergen were the old town of Bryggen, the fish market, a ferry trip into the Fjords, the journey up the funicular and its resulting panoramic views, and the Ice bar.

We learned quickly how to avoid the masses that came in on the cruise boats that are having an impact on world-wide tourism and the ability of towns and their infrastructure to cope.

Raewyn and I love boats so Stockholm, built on a number of islands, afforded us both the pedestrian-only walks and the time on the Steamboat Drottningholm, travelling out to a palace of the same name, heavily influenced by the famous palace of Versailles. Drottningholm is the private residence of the Swedish Royal family.

Then it was on to Vienna and Schonbrunn, another palace influenced by Versailles.

Our hotel was another highlight. It was the hotel Wandl embedded in the historical centre of Vienna and had remained in the same family except for a period in World War 2 when it was commandeered by the Nazis for the Gestapo.

It was grand and perfectly situated to our pedestrian-only walks. Other highlights were a Mozart and Strauss concert in the Wiener Musikverein Goldener Saal and the Lippizza horses at the Spanish Riding School. No wonder my brother, an architecture lecturer at Brighton University, took regular class visits to this city of such architectural variety.

We left much of the Viking culture experience for our return to Denmark and embarked on travels by rental car to Kronborg Castle of Hamlet fame and the Hundested Sandskulptur festival. At Roskilde museum there was a living museum that included boats under construction and boats you could sail in on the fjords, as well as the remains of five Viking vessels resurrected from the fjords.

Finally, it was back to Thai Airways and Silk class for a pleasant ride home.

WHEN my good mate Richard Ludlow asked my wife Raewyn and I if we would like to consider a trip to Scandinavia to stay at his son’s house in Copenhagen and use it as a base for travel to Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the rest of Denmark, we decided it was enticing.

I had been to Scandinavia 40 years ago and had some good memories of the place.

Adding Iceland to the mix and some new places in Scandinavia as well as a nostalgic trip to Vienna pointed to a grand adventure.

Then along came David Borrie of Elliott World Travellers offering us a special on Thai Airways travelling Silk Class return direct to Copenhagen with a stopover in Bangkok.

In one clean sweep, he had freed us of the two things we hated most about travel, crowded long-haul flights and long waits in crowded airport lounges.

Silk class definitely lived up to its billing.

When we got to Copenhagen, we found another travel agent like David and booked flights and accommodation in Reykjavik (Iceland), Bergen (Norway), Stockholm (Sweden) and Vienna (Austria).

Our remaining time in Denmark was spent in a hired car covering day trips out of Copenhagen.

In all places, we did the hop on hop off buses to orient ourselves, and the thing that struck us most about the commentaries is that all of these countries (many of a similar population size to New Zealand) were proud of their fair tax regimes and the resulting equitable living conditions of their people.

The negative statistics that we encounter frequently in New Zealand (and unfortunately highlighted in Tairawhiti) are the reverse. Something to ponder?

In Iceland, I was looking forward to an adventure scuba diving in the Pingvellir National Park between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Unfortunately, I didn’t do my homework and did not have the required dry suit experience and medical certificate that would help me to survive in the three-degree water. Two men younger than me had suffered fatal heart attacks recently so the health and safety requirements for me made it prohibitive.

Thrihnukagigur volcano

So we decided to drop 120 metres into the dormant Thrihnukagigur volcano instead.

Thrihnukagigur last erupted 4000 years ago and the resulting grandeur of the crater gave us a “truly mind-blowing experience” as the Lonely Planet put it.

We also did the Golden Circle which, to be fair, was similar to New Zealand's geothermal and glacial scenery.

What was different was the kilometres of laval landscape that left 80 percent of the land mass uninhabitable.

I had spent time in Kiribati on the equator earlier in the year. Using Mr Google, you will see the graphic impact of climate change on this island nation, which I was able to witness first-hand.

Coming to Iceland in a short space of time after that trip also gave me an insight into the negative impact of climate change there as well.

Moving on to Bergen in Norway, we were greeted by torrential rain on the second day and a comment that we could expect “a lot of rain”, which had only recently occurred for 84 days in a row.

Yay! What a prospect. However, the next days were fine so we embarked on what became a highlight for most of the trip: walking in pedestrian-only areas in Norway, as well as in Sweden, Denmark and Vienna.

Highlights in Bergen were the old town of Bryggen, the fish market, a ferry trip into the Fjords, the journey up the funicular and its resulting panoramic views, and the Ice bar.

We learned quickly how to avoid the masses that came in on the cruise boats that are having an impact on world-wide tourism and the ability of towns and their infrastructure to cope.

Raewyn and I love boats so Stockholm, built on a number of islands, afforded us both the pedestrian-only walks and the time on the Steamboat Drottningholm, travelling out to a palace of the same name, heavily influenced by the famous palace of Versailles. Drottningholm is the private residence of the Swedish Royal family.

Then it was on to Vienna and Schonbrunn, another palace influenced by Versailles.

Our hotel was another highlight. It was the hotel Wandl embedded in the historical centre of Vienna and had remained in the same family except for a period in World War 2 when it was commandeered by the Nazis for the Gestapo.

It was grand and perfectly situated to our pedestrian-only walks. Other highlights were a Mozart and Strauss concert in the Wiener Musikverein Goldener Saal and the Lippizza horses at the Spanish Riding School. No wonder my brother, an architecture lecturer at Brighton University, took regular class visits to this city of such architectural variety.

We left much of the Viking culture experience for our return to Denmark and embarked on travels by rental car to Kronborg Castle of Hamlet fame and the Hundested Sandskulptur festival. At Roskilde museum there was a living museum that included boats under construction and boats you could sail in on the fjords, as well as the remains of five Viking vessels resurrected from the fjords.

Finally, it was back to Thai Airways and Silk class for a pleasant ride home.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    Do you think the benefits of forestry to the region outweigh its negative impacts?
    See also: