Scandinavian stories

In July, while I was a bit bored, I did what I usually do when I’m bored: surfing to my favorite space on the internet. I’m sure you all guessed what I meant, namely websites with cheap flight offers. Thanks to Wizz Air and Ryanair I was able to take the challenge of visiting three Scandinavian capitals in three months. Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo.

I was very lucky. Flights were cheap and for Stockholm and Oslo I didn’t even have to take days off. I left the office on Friday, went straight to the airport and got to spend the night at my destination. Sunday night, I was back on Polish soil. Also I was able to find a good couchsurf-host in every city and nice people to hang out with. Despite the fact that I traveled by myself, I was never really alone.

Of course every city had its own characteristics and different spots, yet some things were the same everywhere. First of all everything was expensive, especially if you’re used to Polish prices. Subway tickets in Stockholm and Oslo cost the same as my lunch in Poland. Going out to bars and getting drunk was impossible because of extremely high beer prices. A friend of mine who lives in Norway often comes to Poland. Here in Poland he goes out for a good diner, has a lot of drinks, buys shots for friends and goes back to his hostel by taxi. The budget he needs for such a night out is the same as the one for a simple bar night with a few beers in Oslo. So crazy party nights were unfortunately off-budget for someone with a Polish salary.

Another similarity is that all Scandinavian countries are like the fairyland in the stories you heard as a little child. There is a king living in a castle who rules over a country with lots of forests and lakes. The king is popular and good to his subjects who are all happy blond people. When I once had a discussion with a Norwegian friend where I asked it there were republicans in Norway who opposed the monarchy, she had a hard time understanding the question. It looked like she was wondering why anyone would want to do that. Perfect societies like that without strong disagreements seem a bit scary to me. Yet no Scandinavian will ever agree with you that their countries are perfect. They will tell you about the dangerous neighborhood in Copenhagen, which honestly looks like a nice area compared to certain parts of Brussels or Paris, and the refugee crisis in Sweden, which as far as I could see was handled with a lot of solidarity, and many other things. The one thing I would add to that is of course the weather. Summers are really nice, but in winter you just want to kill yourselves. Which is what a lot of people unfortunately also do, given the huge numbers of depressions and suicides in Scandinavia.

Stockholm and Oslo were nice and pretty, but my favorite capital was definitely Copenhagen. It is the biggest city in Scandinavia, Oslo and Stockholm are just province towns compared to it. Because it’s so big, it also has a bigger diversity. On the East side of the center you’ll find fancy Christianshavn, where the canals and the hippie community in Christiana Freetown remind you of Amsterdam. On the West side you’ll find Norrebro, which is a the more popular, ethnic and less expensive part of the city that reminds you of Brooklyn in New York. Personally, I could appreciate both. Last but not least, Denmark has a beer and bar culture just like Germany or Belgium. No explanation is needed why I think that’s a good thing.

It’s funny how life gets you to places. Scandinavia was never high on my bucket-list, but I’m very happy that the cheap flight tickets convinced me to go there anyway. I got to discover a cultural area of Europe which was previously unknown to me. I’m far from done with it since I haven’t seen much of the best that Scandinavia has to offer: nature. There are still good and cheap flight opportunities to explore to the West Coast of Norway, where all the amazing views and the fjords are. Plans for 2016 are in the pipeline.

Scandinavia, we will meet again for sure!