Episode 6 - Scandinavia Lacks Stop Signs

Half update coming at ya! Playing catch up with a trip to Scandinavia!

3 Things I am Grateful for:

1) stop signs

2) snow tires

3) google translate

3 Things I am learning:

1) Two girls we traveled with, Julie & Rebecca, taught me about the Irish superstition of Magpies, which, according to tradition, can determine your luck depending on the number that you spot. They pulled out the rhyme that they grew up on (that I just googled): “One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret never to be told. Eight for a wish, Nine for a kiss, Ten for a bird you must not miss”. In order to shake off bad luck, people will wave or salute at the bird in acknowledgment. Julie was raised on, “Not today, Mr. Magpie!” when confronted with bad luck.

2) I have become well acquainted with cattle guards recently after learning they existed until only last week. #suburbskid

3) Fat Tuesday in Ireland is called Pancake Tuesday. Fat Tuesday in Sweden is “Fettisdagen” and you eat buns or “semla”, which is a fluffy almond-cream-filled pastry.

Saturday evening, Emily and Kayla (two girls from JCU) & Julie and Rebecca (Kayla’s irish roommates) and I traveled to Gothenburg, Sweden on $12 plane tickets. This was the first country I’ve visited where English is not the official language- and the combination of what my swedish roommate Matilda has described as the “most beautiful country” and the complete unknown of what to expect made Sweden very attractive.

Julie, Rebecca, Kayla, Emily & I 

deep into our hunt for dinner

We landed fairly late in Gothenburg and arrived at our hostel around 10:30, in desperate need of food. Scandinavia is known for being a rather expensive area so we struggled to find both a) a spot that was open & b) didn't break the bank. After we attempted about 5 or 6 different spots, we landed at a Peruvian restaurant called the Magic Flamingo. I ordered a salmon toastada (salmon, jalapeno, pineapple, and guac) and Kayla and I split a starter of avocado & crab and croquettes (fried avocado, crab, fried cheese and chorizo). I fully believe we were in the only place in the world where the salmon is the cheapest item on the menu. The food was so fresh & filling and was such a great introduction to the seafood of Sweden.

We chose to rent a car for the 3-hour drive from Gothenburg, Sweden to Oslo, Norway. What started as a joke turned out to be the best way to see as much of the west coast of the country. Kayla mapped out the best spots along the way and we packed the compact car for a taste of a good old American road trip, something our Irish friends marveled at.

Our first stop was to a town called Marstrand, an island known primarily for its fishing. We left the car behind and took a ferry across from the mainland. Something we learned rather quickly is that no one ventures outside during the winter, so we had primarily free reign of traveling through the city.

We were able to walk up to Carlstens Fästning, a stone fortress that was originally used to house the Swedish Navy and protect against Norweigan forces. It was valued because the port around the island rarely freezes and the island could house many a ship or boat.

The fortress gave us some beautiful views of the town, 

as we could see every house that lay along the coastline.

Me representing one of 6 people not hiding inside in the city (feat the scarf I knitted!) with the houses behind me.

It was a very picturesque spot and only our first spot, which made us super excited for all that was to come. From Marstrand, we traveled further north to Nordens Ark, a zoo that sits along a mountainous coastal region, and Smögen, another fishing spot. Smögen was my favorite spot, situated on rocks of pink granite with a coast that boasts of huge waves and beautiful homes.

The landscape reminded me of that of the Badlands as the town was built around the jagged and impressive land formations. We were able to climb up all of the granite peaks and valleys to seek out the different views of each vantage point. If this area was in any other spot than Sweden, I am sure it would be sanctioned as a national park. It does operate as a resort in the summer, but we remained the only ones exploring the area once again. It was such an unassuming spot, acting as a casually magnificent gem. I climbed further up the coastline to see the water crash into the rock formations. I fell in love with the jaw-droppingly beautiful views and wanted to live in that moment forever.

After Smögen we stopped at a few pullovers along the coast, each eliciting a shared, synchronized gasp as we turned each corner of the mountains. There was one bridge that caused our whole car to erupt with a "WOOAAHHH" as we crossed. The country did not cease to amaze us as we traveled.

We stopped in Fjällbacka, a Swedish port that provided us with food, a good hike, and the most beautiful sunset. We ate in a restaurant on the water called Kroken, meaning the hook, and explored a park called Kungsklyftan. The park featured two boulders that were situated between a canyon in the mountains and allowed for climbing up the mountain for a full view of the town. We timed the hike perfectly as we were able to sit and watch the sunset from the top.

We drove further up the coast until we crossed the border into Oslo, Norway. Norway does NOT operate with stop signs. Fun fact.

Oslo presented us with the opportunity to take a boat tour of the Fjords, which definitely tops the list of "things I never thought I'd do" as we road through the crashes of waves over ice on board a mid-sized sailboat. A picturesque, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The ride gave us a full history of Oslo and pointed out different aspects of the places we passed. We learned that the colorful homes that sit on the water are actually regulated to be certain colors and are nearly impossible to purchase, as they stay in families for generations.

After we reached shore once again, we ventured around the sites of Oslo. We saw the building where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded, the fortress that Disney based the castle from Frozen off of, and the Royal Palace of Norway. At the palace, we were able to watch a changing of the guards and a preparation for the president of Ghana to come. 

We drove back to Sweden to catch our plane the following day, but not before stopping in an Ikea. We grabbed some Mardi Gras breakfast as the snow began to blanket the country. Both Sweden and Norway were a dream and I feel so grateful for experiencing them.

Irish phrase of the week:

"Bí ag faire amach do draíocht" = Watch out for Magpies.

With love from Galway,


I'll leave you with Ikea in Sweden. The penultimate stop.