Travelling to Scandinavia and spending a month adventuring through the Arctic Circle with David was one of the highlights of my life, and it always will be. We had the best time on husky sleds, spending the night in a glass igloo beneath the Aurora and riding in the back of a reindeer sled. However, there are some things I wish I knew before travelling to Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland (oh, and Iceland).
It’s not THAT expensive
Both David and I completely over estimated how much spending money we’d need in Scandinavia. We didn’t lose much on the conversion back to Australian dollars but it would have been nice to know that we didn’t need as much as we took. It probably helped that we opted for grocery shopping to cover most of our breakfasts and lunches and some dinners.
It’s very dark in winter (like, very dark)
You might have thought you’d experienced a typical European winter when you were in the UK, Germany or even Switzerland, but you’ve never experienced a winter quite like a Scandinavian one. Their winters are cold, dark and if you’re there for too long, they’re also a little depressing. Of course for us, these were all part of the experience of travelling inside the Arctic Circle and trudging through snow (more on that later). It was the darkness, however, that made it more exhausting to travel around and see everything we wanted to see. Nothing is more dangerous than trying to wander through a medieval fort in the middle of the night when it’s actually only 3pm!
There’s ice under that snow
Just when you thought you’d mastered walking in the snow without falling over, you slip and bruise your tailbone for the rest of the holiday*. I used to think this one was unique to me, but on meeting other travellers and talking to friends who’ve lived through European winters, I’ve realised I’m not alone. The snow on the streets of Bergen, Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki might look nice and fluffy, but before you step out onto the footpath, check for ice. This fooled us a couple of times and it is hard to tell, even the locals struggle and fall over some times. The best thing to do is invest in a good pair of boots and maybe some spikes.
*Allow me to paint the picture: David and I are standing in front of the Nobel Peace Prize Museum as fellow tourists take a picture of us. All of a sudden, there’s a little shake that becomes a wobble and ends in a complete crash to the ice. I ended up with a bruised tailbone for almost five weeks and David ends up with a funny story he can tell over and over again.
Prepare to eat a lot of fish
When you hear about Scandinavian food, you often hear about the weirdest things on their culinary scene like Iceland’s sheep head and smelly cured and pickled herring. Unfortunately, the pickled herring is actually something you’ll come across quite often. It’s a breakfast staple up here! If, like me, you don’t like seafood you’ll struggle through. Of course it wasn’t all that bad. There were a lot of meatballs in Sweden, reindeer and Moose all over the Arctic Circle, lamb meat soup in Iceland and of course, hot dogs. Hot dogs everywhere.
Stock up on the chocolate
I have long been an advocate of Australia’s Cadbury chocolate, both milk and dark. Nothing has ever come close to some good ol’ Dairy Milk or a chunk of Old Gold. That is until Karl Fazer entered my life. This is a chocolate that makes my mouth water at the sound of the name. To this day, nothing tops the creaminess and melt-in-the-mouth-iness (that’s now a word) to this milk chocolate. If I had known how difficult it was to get in Australia and how delicious it was, I would have filled my suitcase, possibly even purchased another and paid for the excess baggage if it meant having more of that delicious chocolate with me. Luckily I had the chance to do that a year later on a stopover in Copenhagen where I picked up a couple of large chocolate blocks on sales at the airport!
Scandinavia is an incredible part of the world. Each country is so different and the people are some of the friendliest I have ever met.
What do you wish you knew before travelling? Let me know in the comments below!