(Second of two articles)
As the Deutschland churned its way westward across the Baltic toward Scandinavia, a local adage came to mind:
“If you want to succeed with a new product, get the Swedes to manufacture it, the Danes to market it, and the Finns to design it.”
Norway should be added for its negotiating skills in such troubled areas as Afghanistan, the Balkans, Guatemala and the Middle East. Iceland, smallest of the five Scandinavian countries, qualifies as the planet’s oldest democracy, dating back to 930 AD.
For three months each year, the area north of the Arctic Circle experiences neither sunrise or sunset. While Scandinavians spend much of their time living in the dark, their educational levels are among the highest in the world. Illiteracy is virtually extinct.
Stockholm, with a population of 1.5 million, is the largest of the Scandinavian cities and the capital of California-size Sweden. Linked by 14 islands and 50 bridges, it’s considered by many to be the world’s most beautiful city. It may also be the most expensive.
Stockholm’s stores stress quality rather than low prices. The only discount we discovered was the Stockholm Card, which costs $22 and entitles you to use the subway system and trains plus grants admission to some 70 attractions. The underground is the site of the world’s largest art gallery. It is 173 miles long with exhibits at some 100 stations.
Gamla Stan (Old Town) is the birthplace of Stockholm, dating back to the 13th century. The Vasa Ship Museum is one of the city’s most popular attractions. For a panoramic view of the surroundings, go to the Kaknastornet TV tower.
The most popular family name in Sweden is Johansson. The most famous is Ingemar Johansson, world heavyweight champion in 1959-60, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame earlier this year. Now 70, he divides his time between the island of Dalaro off Stockholm and the Spanish isle of Mallorca.
While Sweden, like the other Scandinavian nations, is relatively crime-free, its most famous murder remains unsolved. In 1986, Olaf Palme, the 59-year-old prime minister, and his wife were returning home unescorted from a Stockholm movie theater when a man, described as tall and dark with a limp, sneaked up behind them, and shot and killed Palme.
All tours of Stockholm include a stop at the waterfront landmark City Hall. Here on each Dec. 10, the King of Sweden presents the Nobel Prize and a hefty cash payment to those judged to have most benefitted mankind in four categories: physics, chemistry, literature and physiology or medicine. A fifth award, for peace is made simultaneously in Oslo, the Norwegian capital.
Dec. 10 is significant because it is the date of Alfred Nobel’s death in 1986. Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, was born in Stockholm. He left more than $9 million to found the prizes.
This year, former President Jimmy Carter will receive the Nobel Peace Prize and $1 million, which he’ll give to Carter Center, the private peace foundation he founded 20 years ago.
The same menu served at the Nobel gala in Stockholm can be purchased by the public a day later at a City Hall restaurant for $100, wine included.
Like Sweden, Finland is a land of mountains, lakes and forests. Helsinki, the Finnish capital, is one-third the size of Stockholm. It’s one of the world’s first planned communities, with almost every major structure an architectural achievement.
Tour highlights include Senate Square, where there is a statue of Czar Alexander II; the unique Sibelius Monument; the grand 1920s rail station designed by Eliih Saarinen; and Olympic Stadium, site of the 1952 summer games.
It’s worth noting that the poet Lonnrit compiled a Finnish dictionary that included parts of “Kalevala,” the national poem later imitated by Longfellow in “Hiawatha.”
At Copenhagen, we “jumped ship” to spend an extra day in the Danish capital. This is the city of Hans Christian Andersen, Soren Kierkegaard (“father of existentialism”) and Victor Borge.
Our tour began at Amalienborg Palace, home of the Danish royal family since 1794, and included the ornate town hall and the train station. Sandwiched in between was resplendent Tivoli Gardens, the nearly 60-year-old amusement park that is the city’s star attraction. It has an impressive array of restaurants, rides and stage productions amid 20 acres of shade trees and colorful flowers.
“The Little Mermaid” is the life-size waterfront statue inspired by Andersen’s famous fairy tale. Unveiled in 1913, it has on several occasions been vandalized. However, this presents no major problem. The original mold is carefully guarded so missing parts can easily be recast.
“Something is rotten in Denmark” is a famous line uttered by Marcellus in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” We found nothing here to confirm it.
Certainly the shore excursions were a highlight of our journey. Offered at a 50 percent discount, a special package gave Deutschland passengers tours totaling 35 hours in eight ports with English-speaking guides for only $104 per person.
Upon leaving our ship and its elegant decor and superb cuisine, we moved our luggage to the Sophie Amalie Hotel. It is named for a German duke’s daughter who, at 15, married King Frederick III in 1643. It’s a well-maintained facility, realistically priced in an otherwise expensive city. It’s little more than a block from trendy Nyhavn and its numerous sidewalk cafes.
From Copenhagen, we flew Lufthansa to Munich and boarded another Lufthansa nonstop flight to San Francisco, where we had parked our car at the El Rancho Inn for 14 days. We took the shuttle bus to the inn, stayed overnight, had a breakfast snack the next morning, and reclaimed our car. You can do the same for only $165.
Bob Richelson lives in Penn Valley.
If you are going
For more information, call
Peter Deilmann Cruises 800-348-8287
Scandinavian Tourist Boards 212-885-9700
Lufthansa Airlines 800-645-3880
Best Western El Ranch Inn 800-826-5500
Sophie Amalie Hotel 800-223-5652.
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