Let me tell you story about a girl and a boy in Scandinavia. This little tale starts on a Thursday morning, with said girl running out of her management class at ETH Zürich to catch the next train out to Basel. Wait a minute; didn’t this girl already visit Basel? Well yes, she did and now she’s back. To tell you to never travel from your non-home airport! As much as she loved budget airlines and their ability to get people from Point A to B, these airlines could expand their operating airport range. Out of all the Swiss airports, it is most expensive to fly out of Zürich. Thus, the hectic journey to, quite literally, France was necessary to catch a cheaper flight to Copenhagen, Denmark!
With her love/hate relationship for the Basel Airport aside, this trip to Northern Europe was finally unfolding. She had planned out a checkered schedule split between Copenhagen and Lund for the weekend. And all alone! (I’ll be writing more about solo trips in another post, but this was definitely a learning experience). Once passing through security at a speed in which she had never witnessed, the girl waited at the Easy Jet gates for over an hour because the Swiss are just that efficient in checking patrons into the airport. A word of caution for budget airlines, pack light and be wary of fine print. She luckily had one personal item that could be hidden under her large winter jacket. However, double-check the criteria before arriving at the gate to avoid unwanted fees.
Aside from this travel logistic, the rest of the trip was relatively simple in terms of transportation. To get the figures out of the way, you can travel to Scandinavian countries on a budget of €400. Mind you, this girl had some gracious friends for housing and went during low tourist season. This figure includes transportation, accommodations, entertainment, and food.
Once landing in Copenhagen, her famished body screamed for sustenance. Little did this girl know that she’d have to take another connecting train to cross an oceanic strait to get to Sweden. That was the final destination to meet with said boy. And so with a little Swiss chocolate in her system, the girl set out again to travel to new lands. It was a rainy day in Denmark and the train ride across the waters was eerie. All you could see were the steel pillars of the bridge and the vast abyss into unknown territories.
Luckily, the girl had purchased international data! So the lands were not as unknown as she originally thought. Handy with Google Maps, the girl was able to trace her ride across the ocean and onto Swedish lands. The girl was also able to contact the boy to make sure she didn’t exit from the wrong train station. A little background on Lund, Sweden is then needed in this instance. A city in the Skåne County, Lund is a southern Swedish university town dominated by tech companies. Although Old Town looks like any other European old town, large industrial buildings populated the outskirts, with large brand names glowing on the horizon. More on the university and its significance later.
And so the story of a girl and a boy continues at the Lund train station. Having been separated for months, the girl spotted the boy from a far. Similar to seeing the Red Sea part for the first time. Slow motion running and warm embraces ensued. Pleasantries exchanged and shawarma purchased, the boy and the girl happily strolled through Lund towards the dormitories. Typical college life at its finest. Having caught up over a couple of vodka shots, the girl had a chance to see real Swedish people for the first time. Final thoughts, the girl definitely thought one of the roommates was the cutest button of a Nordic she ever laid eyes on. And in all seriousness, they are all so tall! And fit! And absolutely the nicest people!
Having left the boy to his own devices, the two made their bed and prepared for a busy day ahead. In a very uncharacteristically fashion, the girl had not planned a single day of this weekend trip. Luckily, the boy was on exchange in Lund and offered to help a poor soul out. In the morning, the two set out to explore the university, museums, and old friends of this quaint city. Lund University is a place of dreams. Consistently ranked as one of the top institution for engineering, the boy was completing his second term abroad. He also secured an international position in Sweden, which just adds to his laundry list of success. Hearing about all of the formals and traditions reminded the girl of all the Victorian novels she had read over the years. With little acts of debauchery as a symbol of coming of age, the idea of the boy in a tailcoat left her in giggles. However, the rich history behind the four walls only adds to the prestige of the school. Especially the contrast between the oldest library and modern campus, Lund University lives up to its name.
Having had enough of walking in insensible shoes and cheeks blushed by the harsh winds; the girl suggested a quick indoor activity. Museums are always a safe bet. The Lund University Historical Museum is free for students! After several unnecessary photo ops throughout the grounds, the boy suggested a quick stop at Kulturen. This open-air museum was laid out like a little village. Several buildings housed a different theme and the map provided a good overview of which path to follow. Exploring the two blocks took longer than expected because the boy couldn’t keep his tongue in his mouth for photos and the girl couldn’t stop sitting in children’s props throughout the tour. Definitely a sight to behold.
One of the funniest experiences in Lund was the most random meet up with an old friend. Several summers ago, the girl completed an internship in China, where she met a lovely Swedish girl with aspirations of becoming a doctor. Little did she know that the two would cross paths again. That evening, the girl and the doctor finally caught up. It was just like old times, but instead of sharing over dumplings, it was over fresh fish cooked in homey Swedish goodness. For recommendations, the girl would definitely spend another pretty penny (or have the boy pay for a fancy dinner) at Mat & Destillat. Even when exploring Old Town and listening to fables about the strange statues of the tallest cathedral, the girl and the doctor promised for more adventures when the time arises. The girl also couldn’t believe that the doctor was such a candy fiend! The sheer range of options in those Swedish stores could put someone into a food coma.
With goodbyes said and done, the boy and the girl returned to the dormitories to finally consume the copious amount of monk(?) beers they had bought that afternoon. The brands were similar to IPAs and the flavour followed suit. And with every alcoholic drink, there is always an opportunity for “deep talks”. The girl can never again un-hear the words spoken that night. Take the bad with the good or however the saying goes.
Finally able to sleep in, the boy promised the girl to show her a good time in Copenhagen. The day was drastically different than the initial landing. During that train ride, the ocean was vast with glistening waves. The sun can make the greatest difference during your travels. Once arriving back on Danish soil, the girl quickly made her way down to her hostel, which she had booked 24 hours in advance. Staying at the Generator would also be a theme during this exchange. Facilities checked out and walking tour secured, the two set off again to see the sights of Copenhagen. This would be the girl’s first walking tour and impressions from this experience were crucial for future activities. Along the cobblestone roads, her autumn boots clicked with each step. Similar to other city tours, the guide passed by interesting monuments and buildings to explain the tumultuous Danish past. From conquering Vikings to biking Danes, each corner was filled with history.
The walking tour ended in Freetown Christiania, a rather unique district in Copenhagen. Let’s just say that this autonomous borough, anywhere in Canada, and Amsterdam have some green things in common. The girl had enjoyed the castles and habour along the way more than the questionable fragrance of the quarters. She also wandered through Paper Island, a street food community housed in shipping freights! Although the boy suggested some yummy Korean BBQ, the girl was adamant to visit the infamous Little Mermaid statue. To give warning, the monument is ranked among the most disappointing tourist attraction in the world. Not to give it away, you have to go see it for yourself and sigh in disbelief.
After travelling further out, the sun began to set on the flat Denmark horizon. With little change in the boy’s and the girl’s pocket, due to nonconsensual tipping after a FREE(?) walking tour, the two trekked back into town for some Japanese ramen. It was hilarious to eat Asian food in an European country, but home food was required to fend off the cold. And with the last spoonful of broth, the girl bid the boy farewell. The two promised to meet up again in Canada! (The girl would also like to take this chance to say that she owes the boy some Danish and Swedish krone/krona).
And that concludes the story between a girl and a boy. If you might have guessed, the characters were based on real people. Thank you so much Edrick for hosting this lost child! You already know you were my best exchange friend ever!
The interlude was necessary because writing in third person was messing with my brain. Back to the adventure, I spent another full day in Copenhagen since my flight back to Zürich was later on Sunday night. In all honesty, I really didn’t plan for this trip and decided to attend the second half of the walking tour the following morning. It was a different guide, but they told similar stories. Destination-wise, my favourite spot was Christiansborg Palace. There is always a line to go up the centre tower, but the view is worth it. Denmark is known as the happiest place on earth and, quite frankly, I agree. The city has a slight Scandinavian charm, with rooftops colouring the landscape. You can also visit the National Museum of Denmark, housed in the heart of the city. On a cold winter day, or any windy day in general, strolling through the three pristine floors transports you back to simpler times. The rich musings only added to the Danish charm.
I also passed by Nyhavn again for another famous shot. If you’re not too fond of marijuana, I’d suggest visiting Copenhagen instead. The pastel houses are comparable to Amsterdam and the waterways are narrow enough for a perfectly framed photo. Avoid the restaurants along the harbour to save yourself some time and money. Europe has no shortage of romantic café meetings along a riverbank. There was no time to slow down since I had miscalculated my time before a flight and rushed back to the hostel to pick up my bags. My only regret was not grabbing a case of Carlsberg before leaving Danish grounds.
To avoid ending on a negative note, I’ll save my horrendous airport story for another day. However, I’m going to offer one word of advice. Always give yourself enough cushion time when it comes to travel. Don’t find yourself stranded in a small train station in the middle of the night and Ubering home hours before your Monday morning class.
And with that, I am promising now that I’ll return to the Scandinavian region in a heartbeat. In my current status, the final exam schedule has just been released and I am trying to plan out a trip to Stockholm for Christmas. Wish me luck!