Just got back from six weeks in Scandinavia and nearby countries, including Russia. Elaine and I flew to Rovaniemi in northern Finland, after changing in Helsinki. 24 hours after leaving Sydney we were on the Arctic Circle.
After a day there, looking at reindeer farms and some modern architecture, we joined a Cosmos bus tour to North Cape at the top of Europe, in Norway. Passed through the Sami (Lapplanders) country, where reindeers graze by the road side. Elks too, although we didnt see one. Too foggy to see a thing from the Cape (foggy 9 days out of 10 they said) but the visitor’s centre was good- had huge photo panoramas of what we couldn’t see outside. Thousands of tourists go to North Cape every summer and never see a thing!
The nearby town, Honnisvag, was out of the fog and was a busy fishing port, very scenic, and interesting to see the many large boats in the harbour. It is ice free all year, despite being so far north, due to the Gulf Current. We went from there on a large ferry/cruise boat to Hammerfest, through the islands and fiords along the Norwegian coast, then rejoined the bus southward to Alta, through many tunnels and along steep fiords. Alta had a large new museum of pre history, based on extensive open air rock art visible on the site, left by early hunter gatherers from 6000BC.
Some of the tunnels are long, over 8km in one case. Met one touring cyclist, but not sure if he went through the tunnels. They would be scary on a bike, particularly the ones that went uphill.
After several days along the fiords we came to Narvik, of WW2 fame, (Germans occupied it, were driven out after a fierce naval battle, then reoccupied it and destroyed it when they finally left) and then Trondheim. Trondheim was first settled by the Vikings, then became capital of Norway, with a cathedral, university, and some old Hanseatic merchant buildings on a canal which flows into a wide fiord. A nice sized city with good public transport, a huge new hospital and quite a few cyclists.
Then we left the coast and went through some forrested (learned the difference between spruce, pine and birch) and agricultural areas, arriving in Uppsala, near Stockholm. This looked like heaven, canals, parks, gardens, and many bicycle paths and pedestrian areas. Bicycles seemed to be the main form of transport. I reckon I could fit in there quite easily.
On we went though, to Stockholm. Much bigger and busier but very beautiful, on a waterway surrounded by hills and parks, a little like Sydney Harbour in parts. Many cyclists but also quite a bit of traffic to cope with.
From here we took another ferry (huge) back to Helsinki, overnight, to complete a big circle through Finland, Norway and Sweden.
Next part of the trip was to be two weeks in Denmark.