Hartford couple took tour of Scandinavia

Barb and Jim Sherwood of Hartford went on a two-week tour to Scandinavia last May. They flew across the Appalachian Mountains to get to JFK Airport in New York.

Those mountains are the site of the Appalachian Trail, a footpath that runs from Georgia to Maine. I have read that these mountains extended beyond our borders to Newfoundland and under what is now the Atlantic Ocean to the Scottish Highlands and the Scandinavian mountains of Norway and Sweden.

Geologists tell us that two land masses, North America and Europe, separated millions of years ago to form the Atlantic Ocean basin. They have found the same fossils and minerals on both sides of the Atlantic, indicating that they were at one time a continuous mountain range.

So in a manner of thinking, the Sherwoods followed that same trail to Scandinavia.

Their WYSU radio-sponsored tour began in scenic Bergen, Norway, on the coast, the birthplace of Edvard Grieg, composer and pianist. They took a funicular up the mountain overlooking Bergen Harbor to visit his home.

Grieg, playwright Henrik Ibsen, and violinist and composer Ole Bull have been called the “lions of Norwegian culture,” and Bergen was their home. The Sherwoods said Bergen was their favorite city on the trip.

From Bergen, the tour group took a popular day trip called “Norway in a Nutshell.” Traveling by train, bus and boat, they wound through mountains punctuated with glacial- runoff waterfalls and threaded with trails for cross-country skiers.

The highlight was the cruise through part of the Sognefjord, Norway’s longest (120 miles) and deepest (one mile) fjord.

The following day, the group was sightseeing in Oslo, Norway, where they saw Vigeland Sculpture Park and the ancient, majestic oak longships amazingly preserved at the Viking Ship Museum.

From Oslo to Copenhagen, Denmark, was an overnight ferry ride. Jim said, “They call it a ferry. There were cars in the lower decks, but it is as big as a cruise ship.” He said he had the best sleep of the whole trip that night, thanks to the gentle motion of the ship.

In Copenhagen’s Kronberg Castle, legendary home of Hamlet, they learned that he lived many years before that castle was built. The iconic “Little Mermaid” statue in the harbor was surprisingly small.

Although they had been warned to watch out for pickpockets in Copenhagen, they saw none. What they did see were hundreds of bicycles in all the streets, the major form of city transportation.

The group flew to Stockholm, Sweden. Stockholm’s modern 1923 city hall, the site of the annual Nobel Prize banquet, was a contrast to the “old town” district of cobblestone streets where they spent most of their time, as in every city. That may be why they saw no handicapped facilities. They also commented that they saw no obese people in Scandinavia.

Another overnight cruise took the Sherwoods to Helsinki, Finland. Barb said her favorite way of travel on the tour was the ferry rides, and leaving Stockholm, they had an especially lovely one through the archipelago in the Baltic Sea.

In Helsinki, a modern church blasted out of solid granite with a copper-and-glass dome contrasted with the ancient wooden “stave” church that Jim loved in Norway and the traditional medieval church in Copenhagen.

The Sherwoods opted for a ferry trip to Estonia, the most tech-savvy country in Europe. Wi-Fi is provided universally through its electric system. However, despite beautiful old Lutheran churches, only 14 percent of the people attend church.

They noted historic Russian influences in the culture and architecture of the capital, Tallin, and learned that wolves still roam the forests beyond.

Scandinavia is providing refuge for Syrians who are trudging long trails from their homeland. The Sherwoods found it welcoming as well.

Contact Thomas at bthomass123@gmail.com.