Tag Archives: Scandinavia

Iceland’s Ring Road

Last August, Alex and I visited a place that was on both of our bucket lists: Iceland.

Most travelers coming to Iceland visit Reykjavík, the capital. It’s not surprising, since nearly 2/3 of Iceland’s population lives there. But the rest of the country offers some of the most jaw-dropping sights in the entire world. We covered as much of the country as we could, driving around Iceland on Route 1, also known as the “Ring Road”. It was easily one of the most beautiful drives we’ve taken.

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We rented a car for the journey at Keflavík Airport. Although we paid for a “mini”-sized car, we were lucky to be upgraded for free to a standard sized vehicle, a Skoda Octavia.

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Some of the best sights along the Ring Road included:

Black Beaches: In Vík 

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Glaciers: Including Vatnajökull National Park and Jökulsárlón lagoon (pictured)

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Wildlife: Including puffins, wild horses, seals, whales, and sheep

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Waterfalls: Including Gulfoss, Seljalandsfoss (pictured), Skogafoss, and Godafoss

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Geothermal Sites (Hot Springs/Geysers, etc.): Including Geysir and Mývatn

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Picturesque Villages: Including Húsavík (pictured) and Akureyri

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Stunning Landscapes: Around every corner

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The entire trip is 1,300 km, and can be driven either clockwise or counter-clockwise from Reykjavík (we went counter-clockwise). We drove the Ring Road in 6 days; although, the absolute minimum number of days it would take to complete the trip is 5, and ideally we’d recommend doing it in 7 or 8 days. Trust us, you won’t regret taking the extra time to enjoy the journey!

Our #1 suggestion for this road trip is to book your accommodations in advance. Iceland is very sparsely populated, and places do get fully booked, especially in the Summer. Accommodations along the route include motels, dormitories, farm stays, camping sites, and apartment/cabin rentals.

We were lucky enough to stay overnight at an ocean-side farm. It was one of our favorite experiences on the trip and we’d highly recommend it!

farmstay

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(Copenhagen) Denmark in a Day

Ok, this post is a little misleading…I can’t tell you how to visit Denmark in only one day, and quite frankly, I don’t know that you would want to cram everything this beautiful country has to offer into a single day trip. That being said, there are those rare opportunities to travel through a country, but when you are also limited on time. This happened for me, when I went to visit my friend in Sweden. I flew in and out through Copenhagen, and took the opportunity to explore many of the “must-sees” of the city in only one day. We also spent a second day at Tivoli Gardens, but that will be saved for another post!

My friend and I came into Copenhagen, Denmark on a short train ride from Sweden. We arrived at the gorgeous Central Station:DSC03748 DSC03753

Our hotel was only three blocks away from the station, so we dropped off our bags and went on our way for the day. We walked past Central Station again and made our way past nearby Tivoli Gardens. For those of you who don’t know (including myself at the time), Tivoli is a very famous and popular amusement park and “pleasure garden”. That’s what wikipedia chooses to call it, at least. I would just call it beautiful landscaping, but tomato-tomahto I guess. The entrance is marked by a huge gate:

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We made our way to City Hall Square, which marks the entrance of Strøget, the largest pedestrian-only shopping area in Europe. City Hall Square is literally what it claims to be, and is usually the host to many events and celebrations throughout the year. On the day we visited, it was Turkish Heritage Day and the square was filled with Turkish music, food, dancing, etc…it was fabulous!

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We made our way to Strøget, where neither of us had money to do much shopping. We had a lot of fun just strolling through, however.

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It was here that I noticed that most of the people around me were speaking Russian! I heard some Danish, some English, but the overwhelming number of people around us were speaking Russian…I’m not sure why that is, but it was very noticable. In fact, I later realized that we were the only tourists in our small hotel who did not speak Russian! Anyway, back to Strøget, while we didn’t do a lot of shopping, we did have a chance to stop at many of the cafes in the area:

DSC03766Cool Food StandDSC03769Drinking Tuborg (A Danish Beer)

DSC03895Danish Bakery Food

DSC03897It’s an Italian Ice named after me! Actually, it’s the Danish word for “Strawberries”

We took a detour away from Strøget to browse the city area some more…ok, I lied, we got lost trying to find the metro station; Nonetheless, we came upon some really neat old buildings on our way. I’d highly recommend getting lost in this city if you have an hour or so:



DSC03772St. Peter’s- Medieval Church

DSC03777Rundetårn- 17th Century Observatory

DSC03782Copenhagen University Buildings

DSC03781National Cathedral of Denmark

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Copenhagen University

In case you haven’t noticed yet, Copenhagen has fascinating architecture. I honestly wanted to take a picture of every building we saw. It doesn’t fit any particular “style”, but that’s what makes it so interesting. There is everything from medieval to modern and it’s all blended together.

Eventually we found our way to the Metro and headed out to see the famous “Little Mermaid” statue in Østerbro. In Denmark, she’s called “Den Lille Havfrue”, which is what you will see on all of the tourist trinkets and souvenirs. She is a pretty lengthy walk to get to, but the scenery around is well worth the trip. As we got off at the metro stop Østerport Station, we made our way past the Kastellet, which is a star shaped fortress. From the outside, we thought we were walking past a really beautiful park:

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Once we got around to the front, we realized that this was a fort:

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Immediately to the right of the fortress is picturesque St. Alban’s church:

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And immediately along the footpath next to the church is Gefion Fountain:

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FINALLY, we made it to “Den Lille Havfrue”…Disney and H.C. Andersen lovers rejoice! This is a statue that sits on top of a rock overlooking the harbor. It is also an iconic symbol of Copenhagen. People complain that the statue is somewhat disappointing because it is smaller than they expected. And this is certainly no statue of liberty. But who ever said it was? I actually really enjoyed visiting this statue because not only is it sitting right on the shore, but you can walk right up to it. No ropes, no fences…it sits there as part of the scenery as if it wasn’t a huge tourist attraction:

DSC03840To give you some perspective on size…

At this point in the afternoon, we were totally spent from the heat (yes, Denmark gets really humid!) and the shin splints we’d acquired from all of the excessive walking we had done this week. From the metro station, we took ourselves straight back to Central Station and passed out as soon as we reached our hotel.

DSC03841Cooling off with a refreshing Coca-Cola

DSC03847Walking back to the metro

DSC03851Waiting for the metro to come

**I should mention, by the way, that the metro system is very easy to navigate. While the stops are in Danish, the metro itself is a very organized system and the maps are easy to read. It’s color coded like the London Underground, and has larger “connection” stops between the different lines. Japanese tourists who don’t know the alphabet were still able to find their way around, so you have no excuse to feel helpless here. The one “complaint” that I do have about the metro, however, is that the stops are very scattered. This means that you will most likely have to walk quite a ways to get to your destination. For us, the farthest we had to walk from one stop was about a mile each way.

Lund, Sweden: Hotels and Train Stations

My good friend JJ moved to Lund last summer and I had the opportunity to go with her in June and visit. This was my first trip to Sweden, and we  flew into Copenhagen, Denmark, which is only a short train ride away from Lund.

It was really easy to get there by public transportation. The train station is actually in the airport and can take you directly into Sweden, stopping at Lund Central Station. As you can see below, most people either walk or take their bike throughout the town. The station also has a Pressbyrån, which is a convenience store that can be found on nearly every corner in Sweden. They sell magazines, newspapers, and of course, hot dogs. We stopped in here for sodas constantly.

For half of my trip, we stayed at a hostel, which was actually a converted sleeper train. It was really neat, actually! The hostel was literally a walk across the bridge from the train station, so it was an incredibly convenient place to stay.

The interior of the train has a dining cart, a central area for wifi use, shared bathrooms (you do have to pay for shower water), and TINY rooms with a bunk for two that are approximately 6 feet long by 3 feet wide. This was a really cool train and everyone was great, but I wouldn’t recommend staying here for long periods of time if you are claustrophobic. Unfortunately, I got really claustrophobic by Day 3, and stayed elsewhere for the rest of the trip, but the experience was definitely once in a lifetime and I would highly recommend trying it out, especially if you’re on a budget or just want a unique experience.

I stayed at the Grand Hotel in Lund for the last part of my stay. I loved this hotel. It’s about a two blocks away from the train station and is the biggest and most luxurious hotel in town. I actually stayed here by myself and was given a room on the top floor of the hotel. This meant that I had to take the elevator and then go up an extra flight of stairs with my luggage. I loved my little room and it was updated, but there is no air conditioning. This is fairly common in Europe, but being on the top floor with a lot of incoming light left me well overheated.  Nonetheless, room service was nice enough to open my windows for me and let some breeze inside the room.