A while back I purchased a Eurail pass and traveled through Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland and had a great time. Scandinavia is a unique place, lying north it can be brutally cold in the winter and actually quite decent in the summer. I’ll cover each country briefly but first, the Eurail Pass.
The pass I bought gave me the option to get on any train, day or night for any destination in Europe and Scandinavia. The trains are clean, the staff friendly, there’s a food or a restaurant car, bathrooms, and even sleeper cars. Keep in mind that the availability of these cars depend on the length of the trip for each train, but since I was on my way north, the train I was on had all of these options. The Eurail pass is a great deal in my opinion and with the outstanding public transportation in Europe, you can literally get just about anywhere without a car. All you have to do is grab a train schedule, select your destination and your off. The car you’re sitting in has an identifier which indicates it’s destination so every time the train stops, just be sure you’re in your car and everything will turn out great. I met some interesting people on the train and I strongly suggest you try a pass if you’re in Europe.
On to my trip then. The train made it’s way north from Kaiserslautern, Germany up into Copenhagen, Denmark where our train then made it’s way to Sweden, Malmo I believe. We then made our way up the coast and eventually stopped in Oslo, Norway for a bit. While I waited for the train to depart I decided to take a walk around Oslo and get a feel for Norway. I came out of the train station and it didn’t take long to see a McDonald’s as I’ve learned this restaurant is ubiquitous. Yes, I have to admit I stopped in as on occasion I like to compare how American food tastes when prepared in another country. It was actually quite similar to what you’d expect in the states but I learned rather quickly, quite expensive. The cost of living in Scandinavia is quite high so be warned when you travel there. Not to dissuade anyone because the whole area is beautiful and full of activities but the fact is, things are just more expensive. I didn’t spend a great deal of time in Oslo, but the people are friendly and for whatever reason everyone seemed a bit taller than normal.
My departure time was quickly approaching, so I made my way back to the train station, hopped on my car and on up the coast I went. For some reason the train stopped in Hell, Norway and I got off out of curiosity, unsure of why we were there. I wasn’t paying attention and the train left without me, but the attendant indicated that if I waited a bit, another would be by shortly. So, having nothing better to do, I looked around the area, got my passport stamped in Hell and was soon back on another train. As I recall the train slowed down and stopped a few times on the way north as trains do, probably to let another pass through a junction point or get on the rail ahead of us. I’m not sure but at one point we stopped for over an hour which was fine by me as I was enjoying the view and taking pictures. The stops were not an issue as the countryside is beautiful and the other travelers were friendly.
The train finally made it as far as the rail went and the tracks ended in Narvik, Norway. We arrived at night but it was the summer solstice so the sun was still up. If you’ve never experienced a solstice or at least continual sunlight, you should as it is odd not knowing when to sleep. Oddly enough, with the sun up I didn’t feel I needed as much sleep as normal so I was able to maximize my sightseeing. Here is a funny side story. Right at the end of the tracks or rather within walking distance was a hotel. I walked in and I guess I don’t need to tell you I was a bit disheveled having been on the train for some time. I asked for a room and the clerk retorted in sort of a condescending manner what the cost was for a room. I quickly responded, ‘Oh, that’s right, I traveled all the way from the United States and ran out of money outside this hotel. Needless to say, I didn’t stay but made my way up a small hill where I could see an overlook. It was a tourist attraction and I spent several hours hanging out, enjoying the oddity of continuous sunlight and meeting other tourists.
The train eventually signaled for departure, I made my way back down the hill, hopped on and began my journey to Helsinki, FInland. The trip was fabulous and the landscape amazing. Traveling by train is so fun, the clickety, clack of the track, the landscapes, low stress of sitting in a comfortable seat and watching the countryside roll by. It was several hours ride (well, quite a bit more if you want the truth) and eventually we arrived at the train station in Helsinki. I figured I’d stay a day and made my way to a camp site on the Gulf of Finland and stayed the night. I met some other campers and had a great time. Helsinki is a very clean and organized city and I enjoyed the brief time I spent visiting but one thing still sticks in my mind … that’s the beeping from the street crossing signals. There is seemingly one on every corner (4 at each intersection) and two are beeping at any one time. Other than that, I loved Helsinki and Finland in general.
Oh, something I learned while in Scandinavia is that you can camp just about anywhere for one night (or at least that’s what I was told) and I did exactly that. I wasn’t bothered so I assume it’s true. Well, I had to make my way back to the train station and it turns out we had to get on a cruise ship to make our way across the Gulf of Finland, part of the Baltic Sea and ultimately Stockholm, Sweden.
It was an overnight trip and the ship was huge, multi-deck thing with shopping, restaurants, sleeping berths, basically a small city. I had never been on anything like this and the sheer size was impressive. I ended up spending the whole night awake, talking with the Finns and Swedes who were friendly and we all had a great time.
Oslo is a fun city and I spent a day wandering around and talking with whoever would speak to me. The Swedes I found to be generally friendly and helpful and I had a great time visiting the place. As soon as I came out of the train station in Stockholm, it didn’t take long for me to see .. Yes, you guessed it, a McDonald’s. I stopped in for a bite to compare what I remember from the west and it was pretty much the same. After a short visit to Stockholm, it was back on the train.
The rest of the journey was basically a straight shot home to Kaiserslautern, Germany with me enjoying the scenery and resting. I have to say if I ever have the opportunity to return to Scandinavia, I definitely will. I suggest you do the same.