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SCANDINAVIA: what NOT to miss

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May 22nd, 2003, 02:29 PM
  #1
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SCANDINAVIA: what NOT to miss

My husband and I are going to Scandinavian countries end of June.We'll go with a group tour, visiting the capitals and fjord area in Norway. The tour co. provides some sightseeing and meals, but we have plenty of free time to explore on our own. Please help us "to fill in the blanks" with places of interest, interesting restaurants, unique shopping etc. We're in our 70s, and not very vigorous or adventurous (safe to omit hiking trips !).We enjoy travel & good food.This is our first trip to these areas.I'll try to make it as short as poss., but please be patient.
Here's a general outline of our itinerary with the tour co.:
Helsinki - city tour (Market & Senate Sq., the 'Rock' church).
Copenhagen - Christiansborg Palace, Nyhavn. Optional : Kronborg Castle & Gillelje.
Oslo- city tour (Karl Johans Gate, Slottet, Royal Palace, Vigeland)...
Oslo to Bergen : Norway in the Nutshell.
Bergen - Bryggen harbor, fish mkt.,Hakonshallen cerem. site.
Stockholm - city tour incl.Vasa Museum. Optional to Sigtuna & Uppsala.
I've done some research here, but nt. much on Scandinavia! Fodor has the best site with experienced travelers, and we hope some of you will take time to advise us. Many, many thanks ! I'm sorry it came out SO long...
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May 22nd, 2003, 02:48 PM
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bJenny I am in Copenhagen now and will tell you it is quite expensive. Nyhavn is a very small area and you can take a nice cruise from there. The streets are cobblestoned and can be rought walking. I am with my Dad who is your age. In Copenhagen there are many nice areas to walk around. There is a botanic garden etc.
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May 22nd, 2003, 03:03 PM
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That is a pretty impressive itinerary.I would say that the one thing which would make the greatest impression on you in addition to this would be a day trip to Tallinn from Helsinki. There's a fair amount of info on this forum on this if you search
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May 22nd, 2003, 06:34 PM
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Can anyone recommend some good guidebooks for this trip ?
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May 22nd, 2003, 06:54 PM
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Jenny - IMHO, the DK Eyewitness Guidebooks are about the best-very detailed. Easily purchased at any bookstore or via Amazon, B&N, etc. Your itinerary is quite impressive-ENJOY!! You will LOVE the Norway in a Nutshell tour!
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May 22nd, 2003, 07:55 PM
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I toured Scandinavia for 2 weeks last June and really enjoyed it. It was easy to do more because the sun set at 11:00pm, it was dusk for 5 hours and the sun came back up at 4:00am.

Helsinki ? try to take a ferry to Suomolina, it's an island a bit off the main harbor. A couple of small but interesting military museums and a WWII sub to tour. Lots of little places to stop for a beer or coffee and pretty views. Ride tram line 1, it makes a loop around the city and you can see lots without ever getting off. You go past the old Olympic grounds too.

Oslo ? See the screaming art deco city hall. It is one of the finest examples I've toured. The old fort is near the city hall it has an excellent WWII resistance museum. Take a ferry over to Bygdoy peninsula and see the Kontika, the Fram and the other boating museum. Take the little tourist tram over to the settlers village. It has a spectacular stave church along with a lot of other 100+ year old buildings. Take the time to go out to the Munch museum, not far by subway from the city center. Van Gogh had mental problems and painted pretty pictures. Munch painted the darker side of life through impressionism. The main ?Scream? is in the city art museum, but the Munch museum as a few trial runs of it. It also has ?The Sick Room? and ?The Murderer.? He did paint pretty things too, but I find the odd twist to impressionism fascinating.

Stockholm - Park off Gamla Stan is Barbra Woolworth's yacht that is now a hotel. Have a drink, wander through and marvel at the photos and what a fabulous birthday gift she received. See the changing of the guard at the royal palace. Have a drink at the ice bar in the Nordic Sea hotel near the main train station.
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May 22nd, 2003, 07:56 PM
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Oops, my dashes and quotes are coming out question marks. There's really no question, I had a great time.
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May 23rd, 2003, 06:31 AM
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Helsinki: The small island indytravel is referring to is called Suomenlinna. You can get there from the Market Square (Kauppatori). I'm afraid the WW2 sub is not here anymore. And the tram that goes around the city is in fact 3B.

This site is good for more information:
http://www.hel.fi/tourism/html/engli...lit/index.html
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May 23rd, 2003, 12:12 PM
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Thank you all for good solid advice.Another question : should we exchange (some) money BEFORE we go ?We are planning to use credit card(s), but small cafes may not take 'plastic', also for trams, tips etc.
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May 23rd, 2003, 12:32 PM
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jenny,
in copenhagen, i would consider seeing tivoli, too- and take a stroll down ströget.

you won't need to exchange some mone beforehand- if you have a bank card sporting the "Maestro"- symbol, you will find lots of tellers which you can easily make use of- you will likely even get a more favorable exchange rate!
have fun
hsv
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May 23rd, 2003, 07:25 PM
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On the credit cards--this may be problem with my bank here, but I ran into some trouble with credit card transactions in Norway being processed as cash advances (!) and was then charged enormous amounts of interest on what I'd thought were card purchases. Most places you can use cards--in my experience perhaps even in more places than in the US. But I'd also suggest using cash machines there (check with your back for fees) if in doubt. Just my two cents worth! Enjoy your trip!
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May 25th, 2003, 04:54 AM
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"Oslo- city tour (Karl Johans Gate, Slottet, Royal Palace, Vigeland)..."

Karl Johansgate will be a big waste of time, as with the royal palace. Vigeland is worth seeing, as with the sites at Bygdøy and the Munch Museum and Botannical Gardens. Holmenkollen is also interesting if you're into skisport.
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Jul 11th, 2003, 08:04 AM
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Jenny:

From your description sounds like you went on a Grand Circle tour. We also are in our 70s and just celebrated our 50th anniversary. This is our ninth overseas trip. Our Scandinavian tour coming up July 29 is the same itinerary. I read your various postings. So if you are back, any tips to pass along? I would appreciate hearing more.
Bill Longman, Springfield, MO
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Jul 17th, 2003, 07:37 AM
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Yes, we took the Scandinavian Odyssey tour with Grand Circle. We liked the itinerary, giving us enough free time and other options. In hindsight we'd say that 3 weeks seemed a long time with visits to 5 countries (we also took a post-trip to Tallinn, Estonia) and through 9 security controls, etc. My husband does not want to see another airport for a long time , and I do not want to pack and re-pack for a very long time !!!But generally speaking, we had a great time. Bill, I'm sure you'll like the trip. We took some extra time off, not taking all offered tours, because I cannot keep up with constant comings and goings. So we tried to pace ourselves. Also we have been in Helsinki and Stockholm before, so we skipped the 'official' tours and went exploring at our own slow pace. Our main goal was to see Norway and it lived up to our expectations - and more ! I'll try to give you a few pointers, without getting to all the details. You have your GCT itinerary, also a guidebook would be handy. I bought Rick Steve's Scandinavia 2003, mainly because it covered all of Scand. countries in one volume, and it gave some good additional info.
All hotels on that tour are at good locations, some a little off city center, but definately do-able ! I feel that if I could do it (amazing myself ) then anyone without any severe disabilities can do it, too.
In Helsinki we had dinner one night at Lappi Restaurant: www.lappires.com
It is walking distance - fr. hotel go to the right of the construction "hole" towards the city center and turn R on Annankatu (street). You'll know what I mean by the "hole" when you're there !We also took tram 3T that makes a circle tour of Helsinki, but I did not think it added anything special. Do something else !
Copenhaven : we really liked the home-hosted dinner. Hotel is on a canal with the promenade to Amalienborg Castle (you'll see it on the city tour, too) and a lovely park : Amaliehaven. It is a peaceful and restful place to take a stroll and rest on a bench. We also took a boatride around the city from Nyhavn. The Nyhavn is called 'the longest bar in the world", and it is fun to sit outside and peoplewatch, but actually inside there's plenty of tables and we had a good and pleasant dinner at Cap Horn (sp.?).
Oslo : Vigelund sculpture Park is a treat and will touch your heart. Norway in a Nutshell is a wonderful trip, but it made a very long day . We think the overnight should be after the fjord ride at Stalheim Hotel, or nearby. The bustrip to Bergen went through gorgeous scenery, but I was fighting to keep my eyes open....
Bergen : simply beautiful. We lucked out and had FOUR brilliant days filled with blue skies and sunshine !!! Hotel is a block (plus)from Fish Mkt. Good places to eat right along the Bryggen (Wharf). Strawberries were plentiful at the market and other great 'incredible edibles'. We love seafood, so all of this was a great treat.Be sure to go up to Mount Floyen. The views are terrific(espec. on clear days !). We took another fjord tour on "White Lady" for 4 hrs, and could have skipped that.
We got home this past Monday and I am still battling jet lag ! If you have any questions, please ask. I'll check this site. We also had a great tour director (Craig), but you probbly will not get him within the timeframe available. Have a great trip !
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Jul 18th, 2003, 12:46 PM
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Jenny: I'd like to ask a few questions specifically about GCT tour but don't think it appropriate to do so here. What is your email.
Bill & Lee Longman
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Jul 20th, 2003, 01:36 PM
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Ozarksbill : any questions you have will have to be posted here. I use my e-mail for personal use only.

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Jul 21st, 2003, 07:20 AM
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Well, OK, Jenny...didn't expect you would consider email a threat of being too "personal!" Thanks for the description you posted earlier.

So my questions on the Forum: Did you obtain Euros for Finland and Kroners for other countries ahead of time (JFK maybe?) and about how much do you need per country? How did the considerable daylight hours affect your sleep, i.e., would eye shades be a help? Which GCT optional tours did you opt out of...we are planning to take them all? What do you mean by "we think the overnight should be after the fjord ride at Stalheim Hotel" (doesn't compute with schedule)? Yes, those home hosted meals are always popular...as we found on our GCT tours in Italy and Greece. Yes, we have guidebooks incl. Steves' Scandinavia...would appreciate any other tips. THANKS!
Bill & Lee in Missouri
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Jul 21st, 2003, 07:34 AM
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At several places in Denmark, we were told there would be an extra 4% fee or so if we used credit cards instead of cash. We gave up trying to use credit cards for small establishments. Credit cards will work fine at train stations and attractions, though.

All the places you are going sound great. I'd recommend a cruise of the harbor by boat in both Copenhagen and Oslo (probably the other cities too - I just haven't been to those).
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Jul 21st, 2003, 08:59 AM
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We did not get any money exchanged before the trip, but used credit cards and ATM everywhere. Usually we got to a ATM soon upon arrival and changed enough to take care of small expenditures, maybe couple of hundred krones. We used credit cards whenever possible. You pay for each transaction at ATM, so it is better to take one larger sum than lots of small ones, but the charge was not that much.
WillTravel is right : in Denmark they do charge extra % for using a foreign (non-danish) credit card, but not in other countries. In Norway the stay was longer and one day we took out another 1000 krona at ATM.
The hotel rooms have room-darkening heavy drapes, so the long daylight hours posed no problem with sleep.
We did not take part of all Discovery and shopping tours, as it was important to save my energy, and it was too much walking.Some mornings we just wanted to sleep later. One optional we did not take but heard good reports was "Old and New Norway"(something like that) in Bergen. You sign up for optionals as the time gets closer.
I meant the "Norway in a Nutshell" day was very long , ending at the Bergen hotel with a late dinner there. I wish the day would have ended before going all the way to Bergen .
It is an interesting trip, but rather action-packed . Try to pack light! You'll be doing a lot of re-packing and going through airports ! It is an expensive trip, relatively speaking. Norway is the most expensive. Also has the most beautiful scenery.

Enjoy !

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Jul 21st, 2003, 09:20 AM
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I wanted to add that we found it very helpful to have a "cheat sheet" for each country's currency to compare prices.Go to www.oanda.com and scroll to Travelers on left, click on FXCheat Sheet and go on from there to get the cheat sheets to print out and tuck in your pocket.
You can tell at a glance what that sweater -or dinner- will cost you with cash or cr. card !
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