The Short Version of the Itinerary
The #AdventurePartnerForLife and I flew out on a Wednesday evening and arrived in Copenhagen Thursday morning. We had the remainder of Thursday, and all of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to tackle two capital cities before flying back out midday Monday. We ultimately arrived back in Baltimore around 5 p.m. the same day. (Click on either map below to enlarge.)
Our flight route…
- Baltimore, Maryland
- Keflavik, Iceland
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- And back again!
Our train route…
- Copenhagen Central Station
- Copenhagen Airport
- Malmo Central Station
- Stockholm Central Station
- Direct train back to Copenhagen Airport
- And a Metro back to downtown
3/2/16: Countries 36 & 37, Here I Come!
Left work early to pack and head out. A chronic planner, this is probably the latest I’ve ever left my packing, but it’s only a long weekend, so I keep telling myself I can live without whatever I forget. (Forgot my selfie stick, by the way.) We accidentally got off the long-term parking bus way too early and ended up having to walk most of the length of the airport. Total amateur mistake.
We’re flying WOW Air for the first time. $350 roundtrip to Copenhagen, but they charge for every extra to keep the flight costs down. Hell, still works for me. Our flight was cancelled and rebooked for the same price with an extra free day several weeks ago and we found that our seat reservations (and possibly the correct pre-paid baggage fee) weren’t transferred with the rebook. Customer service was great despite this and we received seats with extra leg room and the correct baggage check for no additional cost. This is truly a stark contrast to many American airlines, where you stand in line for an hour and argue with the help desk just to get another flight out six hours after a cancellation. If you’re lucky, you can talk them into a sad little $7 meal voucher. Jeff and I flew Air France once and received a 100% refund for both our tickets when our flight was delayed four hours. It was like $1400 total at the time. Um… yeah. I’ll wait four hours for a grand and a half.
The BWI international terminal is small, quick, and easy and quite possibly had the happiest TSA staff known to man. I didn’t know happy TSA employees actually existed. They chatted with me about being from the UK. I’m not obviously, but it’s my passport birthplace and people just assume. I let them, because it happens all the time and no one but my trusty readers here really care to hear my life story; it’s TSA. Strip, remove all contents from your bags, and move your shit down the line already. The body scanner guy commented on my fluorescent pink Under Armour socks. (They’re for breast cancer awareness, okay? I got them for Christmas.) It’s true—I have officially abandoned any motivation to look publicly presentable on flight days. Jeff likes to say I falsely advertised, and now that we’re married (and have been for over six years), the true me is surfacing. To his credit, I look like a complete douchebag today and people might be surprised to learn I’m a professional designer since I, in no way, shape or form, am anywhere close to appearing visually pleasing. Picture this: olive green LuluLemons, fluorescent pinks socks with Adidas sandals, a blue and gray plaid boarding coat, and a red Kelty backpack. Yep, socks and sandals. Easy on/off through security and on flights. It’s pretty atrocious, but… oh, well. I’m all about comfort. No, seriously.
Had to share a table with some random strangers at the one restaurant in the terminal (it was packed). Nice enough. They were headed to Paris as a family and the mom was clearly so excited to be going. We gave her some lesser known sight ideas. She seemed genuinely interested and even approached us later in the waiting area for more specifics.
We had a connection in Keflavik. Iceland is such an easy flight, folks. It’s direct from the DC Metro area and is only five hours. It’s great. The wind was kicking up, though, and we had several turbulence announcements. The pilot once announced that we’d be experiencing turbulence for the next 40-50 minutes, which is pretty long. The woman next to me was gripping the armrest and even had one arm over her own headrest, holding on. The pilot eventually gave up and dropped to a lower altitude at some point. Surprisingly, I didn’t sleep the whole way. I’m usually pretty narcoleptic on flights and in cars.
We landed around midnight our time and the flight staff gave us a “bless bless,” or goodbye in Icelandic, as we disembarked. It was 4 or 5 a.m. in Iceland: Jeff’s 38th birthday. We had a brief conversation about how neither one of us can remember how old we are anymore. I always have to think about it for a moment now and then I realize I just turned 36 and am officially on the downslope of my thirties. Does this happen to anyone else?
I just love Iceland, by the way. And I love the airport there. (Yes. Awesome airports do exist.) One of the first things we witness is someone walking through the airport with a beer. And we saw a lot more of those, too. It’s 4:30 in the morning. A bunch of stores and restaurants were open already, they have outdoor smoking sections, they have unlimited free Wi-fi (that actually works). It does smell like sulfur outside, though, since it’s right next to the Blue Lagoon. We had a couple hour layover before we moved on to our next flight. Overall, a very pleasant layover experience.
Took a shuttle to our plane where the bus driver ran a stop sign and almost destroyed an airport taxi. Sort of amusing when the whole bus gasped. Got to our seats, which were surely made for midgets. No extra leg room this time. I’m of a pretty small stature and these seats were not easy to maneuver in. Poor Jeff sat spread eagle the whole flight. It was only a couple hours, fortunately, and Jeff actually managed to sleep for most of it (which never happens). We flew off as the sun was coming up and the moon was still out, watching the Icelandic coastline fade into clouds.
3/3/16: Acquainting Ourselves with Copenhagen
We landed in Copenhagen and took a chance on the Metro. Took us a few minutes to figure out the machine, but we managed. Fortunately, there’s only one line running from the airport, and the airport is at one end of it. Very little to screw up there. Of note on the Metro… everyone is really tall here, and we saw what can only be described as a Viking woman standing next to us. I felt much shorter than I already do every day. Also, they allow dogs on the Metro. A dog jumped on the line with his owner next to us and even seemed to know which stop to get off at; he went and stood in front of the door patiently at his stop. Oh, one thing we did screw up—we left the Metro and realized we never scanned our tickets anywhere. Oh well. We did pay for them.
When we disembarked, we noted the sheer number of bikes in Copenhagen. There’s basically a sea of them parked at various locations downtown. One even had a GPS system attached to it. They have bike lanes throughout downtown, and Jeff and I kept finding we were inadvertently walking in them instead of in the pedestrian paths. This became evident when you suddenly have a stream of twenty bicyclists flying on either side of you at high speeds. There’s no way you’re getting out of the lane to the ped path when this starts, so you just stand in one place, praying for life, like a deer in headlights, until they pass. I’m sure we’re Copenhagen’s version of DC tourists, stopping at the top of the subway escalator to figure out which exit they’re taking.
We walked in the wrong direction for a couple blocks and then corrected ourselves. We actually even discovered our hotel street accidentally. We’ll be staying in the Nyhavn neighborhood, which is basically quintessential Denmark—colorful buildings lining canals. Unfortunately, our hotel was at the far end of one of the canals, so we had to hoof it all the way down to the pier. It seemed like the perfect location when I was booking it. At least we had a chance to check out all the restaurants on the strip. We were able to check in early and received a free upgrade. Little did we know, we were really just being upgraded from the world’s tiniest room to the world’s second tiniest room.
Decided to run out for lunch, where we wandered upon a random baby bundled up in a stroller and left outside one of the shop or restaurant entrances. Seemed strange enough, but Jeff and I saw the same thing in Iceland. I’ve read articles about Scandinavian mothers doing this. They put their babies outside for their daily naps because they say the fresh air keeps babies healthy during the winter months. Went back to the hotel for a quick nap and then out again to wander around Nyhavn for a couple hours and catch dinner. Fell asleep to Teen Mom 2. (My cousin would love this.) Sadly, there is never a shortage of MTV on our trips; it’s usually one of the few English-speaking channels we come across.
Tomorrow, we head off to Stockholm. Didn’t do too much in Copenhagen just yet, but we have a full tour day scheduled on Sunday.
3/4/16: Stockholm Nightlife with Swedish Natives
We woke up early and grabbed some breakfast. Packed up to head to the train station. We took a taxi to the station, but what we didn’t know was that we had to change trains at the airport Metro and go through passport control; it would’ve been cheaper for us to just Metro from the hotel to the airport. And the Metro was in walking distance of our hotel. We also ended up paying a fortune for train tickets, but apparently prices had spiked the day of and they were the only tickets left, so… we just did it. YOLO. (Plus, I love the train.)
Passport control was easy, though they don’t always have it. It was recently instituted as a result of the migrant crisis on Sweden’s side. Surprisingly, we have yet to see any refugees. I just assumed we would because, second to Germany, Sweden seems to be the final destination for many of the incoming refugees.
Our train was really nice. Clean. Chargers in the seats. We rode over the Oresund Strait, the body of water dividing Denmark and Sweden. Looked a little chilly. We changed trains again in Malmö, Sweden and were finally able to relax for the longer stretch of our journey to Stockholm. The Swedish landscape was interesting to me. I’m not certain what I pictured it to be, maybe more pastoral in the south, but it was actually super rocky, with lots of trees, and snow inland. Malmö and Stockholm, on the coastal areas, were snow-free.
When we arrived in Stockholm, I was surprised to find the train station was really clean, high-end even. I’d read recent articles that said gangs had caused a sudden increase in crime there and that, at the end of January, there was a neo-Nazi riot at the station protesting immigration. The police were apparently unable to control it. But none of this was evident to us at all.
We found a taxi line and jumped in a cab. It seemed to have all the appropriate stickers I’d read about. For those of you who might be new to my journal entries, it’s important to know that taxi drivers are my arch nemeses. Everywhere. Even at home in DC, though I’m much more familiar with their games on my home turf and am much more confident in calling them out on their bullshit. I’m powerless and at their mercy in foreign countries and, at least once every trip, some lucky, dishonest cab driver gets to take me for more of my hard-earned money than he deserves. This being said, after a few minutes of driving, it started becoming apparent to us that we seemed to be doing an awful lot of switchbacks. Jeff pulled up his GPS. Yep, we were actively getting ripped off. Paid an obscene amount to be done with the situation. (We shan’t discuss specifics, lest I get all worked up all over again.) Later learned that many Swedish cabs are privatized and charge what they want; it’s not actually illegal, and they’re registered. You’re better off picking one up from certain, reputable companies. Every. Single. Time. I swear. I read so much about taxis in whatever country I’m visiting before I go, and I always get ripped off at least once. Probably more than that and I just don’t know it. Arch nemeses, cabs.
On the upside, our hotel was great. Located in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan, or Old Town, it sat right on the water and had fantastic views of the city. Tall, slender colorful buildings stack up the hills off the waterfronts; just beautiful. The hotel had a great restaurant and bar below. We dropped our stuff off, booked train tickets for the next day through the front desk, and decided to have a couple drinks. We’d made some Swedish friends on our trip to Iceland and they’d since moved to Stockholm. We made plans ahead of time to meet up and have a big night out and they were meeting us at our hotel.
They arrived, and it was so great to see them. They’d said that they had just thought of us the other week, wondering when we were going to make our way to Scandinavia and, sure enough, we’d contacted them on Facebook to meet up shortly after. We had a drink or two at the hotel bar (Jeff and I had actually had a couple prior to their arrival) and then headed out to our next location. It was pretty neat walking through Gamla Stan at night—cobblestoned streets and churches and statues that you just suddenly arrive at in the middle of random alleyways and super tall rowhomes. Our friends gave us a little background on the sights as we passed by them. Our second stop was this really neat tiny cellar bar. It was so small. It was all stone and the ceilings were incredibly low. You could barely fit in the bathroom. We may have had another three drinks there.
It’s always great to meet or catch up with folks on your travels. Getting the local tour from native Swedes in Stockholm was a special treat, and one of the highlights of our trip. I love talking American politics with non-Americans, hearing their perspectives, and learning all about their own government systems. We learned, among other things, that while Sweden’s healthcare system is the country’s pride and joy, the country actually pulls funds from the program when in recession and, lately, it had been taking a hit. We also learned that Sweden has a multi-party Riksdag, or Parliament, and one of the current parties is actually neo-Nazi, having received 13% of votes in the last election. Also, the Swedish royal baby had just been baptized the other day, and that royalty really isn’t very involved in things there. Our friends spoke a lot about Swedish government safety nets and noted they would never have to worry about being homeless, or worry when getting sick, or any of the typical concerns working class America faces. We talked a lot about Donald Trump! They were so surprised such a candidate was even being considered in the United States and were even concerned for the rest of the world, which we emphasized coincides with a lot of Americans’ fears as well.
After the cellar, we stopped by a bunch of different places, but we only stayed at two others. One was Tiffany’s with Tiffany lamps everywhere. To get there, we basically hiked to a whole ‘nother part of Stockholm across the water. The other place… I have no idea what the name was. I remember what it looked like, where we sat, and where the restroom was, what the restroom looked like… but, overall, things were getting a little hazy at that point. Walked back to our hotel around 2 a.m. and said our goodbyes. Talked about getting together the next day for a little sightseeing before we hopped on the train back to Copenhagen. All in all, a great night out.
Today’s featured photo: The colorful buildings on the canals of Nyhavn are quintessential Copenhagen.
© 2016 Jordan Campbell. All rights reserved.