Volunteer travel diaries:
7 Wonderful Weeks – Scandinavia, The Baltics, Poland, Austria and Strasbourg, France.
Our first stop was Frankfurt followed by Hamburg, which we used as rest and relaxation points with some sightseeing after the long flight. These two cities are very eclectic with notable levels of high migration from the recent refugee situation.
We travelled by train from Germany to Denmark, where the train boarded directly onto the ferry that took us across into Copenhagen. The crossing was absolutely beautiful on a calm sunny day.
Enjoying the ferry ride across the harbour to Copenhagen.
The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Copenhagen lived up to expectations with the beautiful Tivoli gardens best visited in the evening. The beautiful Nyhavn district has a plethora of seafood restaurants, and of course no trip would be complete without a visit to the Little Mermaid (and little she is), and of course, the palace where Queen Mary and family live.
Next, we flew to Bergen, Norway, visiting the UNESCO listed area of Brygge and took a trip up Mt Floyen, which we tackled by foot as by this stage I was needing to balance calories from all the lovely tortes, cakes and pastries with the odd libation! The 3km uphill hike was a challenge so we resorted to using the Funicular on the way down.
Then it was off to Oslo by train doing our own version of Oslo in a Nutshell as the train journey wends it ways across the most beautiful vista and terrain of Fjords and snow peaked mountains. Absolutely breath taking!
Oslo stands out as one of my favourite Scandi cities! I loved its vibrancy and beautiful boulevards with stunning displays of flowers. We visited many of the islands by local ferry, followed by visit to the Viking Museum and the amazing Vigeland Sculpture Park which is noted as the largest in the world.
Travelling by train to Oslo.
Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo.
Stockholm here we come! Our accommodation here was in a privately-owned unit. A quirky little unit, seven floors up and nestled deep in the national park with the most amazing views. Yet, we were only two train stops from the city centre of Stockholm. Of course, no trip to Stockholm is without a visit to the Abba Museum.
Our quirky accommodation in Stockholm.
The Abba Museum in Stockholm.
We took the Viking Ferry across to Finland, a beautiful crossing traversing some of the most beautiful islands in Sweden. We found Helsinki somewhat less vibrant than the other cities.
We then took the ferry across the Baltic visiting Tallinn, in Estonia, and using their very comfortable and modern inter-city buses to travel to Riga in Latvia, followed by Vilnius in Lithuania. All three cities are rebuilding and shedding some of their darker images, from the German and Soviet eras, whilst retaining history that is pertinent for the younger generation. They each have a thriving old town precinct rich in history. My favourite is Riga.
Poland was our next stop, visiting Warsaw followed by Wroclaw. Their old cities are the highlights, followed by their museums depicting the struggles of war to gain their independence. Wroclaw was exciting in another sense, in that I was treated to a surprise reunion with some previous work colleagues, one even flying in from Cyprus. Thinking I was only meeting my friend, Ula, for a quick coffee turned out to be three days of full on entertainment and frivolity. Four females! My husband did not know what hit him – I think he is still recovering.
Street statues in Wroclaw, Poland.
Reunion in Wroclaw.
Next it was onto the sedate cultural city of Vienna in Austria. Wow what a city! We could not get enough of all that was on offer including a musical recital in the oldest Cathedral!
Strasbourg in France was our last city, one I have always wanted to visit, and it did not disappoint. It is the oldest UNESCO listed cit. It is home to Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg with amazing architecture and stained glass. A boat ride along the Ill River took us past many famous landmarks including the Scales of Justice building. A court that considers many major crimes of atrocity.
On the last day we took a trip to the town of Colmar, off the beaten track, that was suggested to us by some young Mexican guys who shared a train compartment with us. They were en route to Oktoberfest in Munich, and we initially thought they were leading us astray. However, we are so glad we took their advice. What a gem! We believe Colmar is the best kept secret of an old town.
Phew! We made it, and all done independently. The weather was superb throughout, sunny and only two days of rain. Now we are slowly settling back in at home and enjoying time with our family whom we missed immensely.