Eskapada sa Northern Europe

May 17 - Jun 1, 2012

by Norman Bituin







B. Scandinavia

(Part 3 of 3)


5. Oslo, Norway



Oslo is the capital, most populous city and the economic and governmental centre of Norway. Founded around 1048 by King Harald III, the city was elevated to a bishopric in 1070 and became the capital around 1300. After being destroyed by a fire in 1624, the city was renamed Christiania in honor of King Christian. Oslo is the hub of Norwegian trade, banking, industry and shipping. In 2009, Oslo was ranked as the world's most expensive city. Reader's Digest ranked Oslo as number two on a list of the world's greenest, most liveable cities. Norway is a unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. It has the fourth-highest per capita income in the world.


We took Rail Europe from Stockholm to Oslo, a 6-hour ride


Passing through the small town of Katrineholm...






... and, from the train window, scenes of the Norwegian countryside.



A couple of Kobe fans at Oslo Central Station






Walking the streets of downtown Oslo



Behind the tram is the Oslo Cathedral




We met three Filipino au pairs - Herma, a nursing grad from Tacloban, Cleo from Iloilo, and Joy from GenSan - near the cathedral. They work for young couples with grade school kids, who provide them their own furnished apartments while they help them at their homes for 2-3 hours on weekdays only. According to them, the program is designed for young people under 30 to be able to expand their horizon. A requisite is for them to learn the language so they attend daily classes. As far as earnings, they make about four times what a call center employee makes in the Philippines, tax free. They say they are treated very well, even invited at times during weekend family celebrations and on vacations locally and out of the country. They walked us around the city and took our pictures.


National Theatre and Gallery


The Stortinget, or Parliament, is the supreme unicameral legislature of Norway


The Grand Hotel


The Royal Palace was completed in 1849 and is the residence of the Norwegian monarchs, King Harald V and Queen Sonja



The King's Guard protects the Royal Family 24 hours a day. Changing of the Guard is every day at 1:30p.




Oslo City Hall


Nobel Peace Center, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded every December, with the equivalent of US $1.4 million.

Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Barack Obama are some of the Peace Prize awardees.



Franklin D. Roosevelt statue overlooks the harbor. FDR praised the Norwegian Resistance against the Nazis.



We treated our new Pinay friends and "tour guides" to drinks and dinner at TGIF






Again, taking the very convenient and practical "hop on, hop off" sightseeing bus



The Vigeland Sculpture Arrangement, commonly referred to as the Vigeland Park, inside the 45 hectare Frogner Park, covers 80 acres and features 212 bronze and granite sculptures all designed by Gustav Vigeland. It took Vigeland a great deal of time to establish the monument from 1906 to 1947. The park is the world's largest sculpture park made by a single artist and the most popular tourist attraction of Norway, with between 1 and 2 million visitors each year. It is open to the public at all times and there are no entrance fees.



58 of the park's sculptures reside along the Bridge. All are clad in bronze and contribute to the Human Condition theme of the park.












The Main Gate, made of wrought iron by Vigeland


"The Monolith"

At the highest point in the park lies the park's most popular attraction, "The Monolith". Construction of the massive monument began in 1924 when Gustav Vigeland himself modeled it out of clay. then cast in plaster. Transferring of the figures in a single granite rock began in 1929 and took 3 stone carvers 14 years to accomplish.  The Monolith towers 14.12 meters (46.32 ft) high and is composed of 121 human figures rising towards the sky. The principal theme is the cycle of life, in which Man is depicted in a variety of typical human situations and relationships. This is meant to represent man’s desire to become closer with the spiritual and divine. It portrays a feeling of togetherness as the human figures embrace one another as they are carried toward salvation.


For better detail, and perhaps appreciation, of this towering sculpture, I took the actual size of the photo (18 mp, 5 MB), snipped it in 4 pieces, and put it back together in the image below. Also note that the figures shown are only on one side, as the statue is circular.


Gustav Vigeland's "The Monolith"


Another shot of "The Monolith" from a distance













The Fountain


Frogner Park is a well known picnic area, popular in the summer for games and relaxation



The Viking Museum










Akershus Fortress is a medieval castle that was built to protect Oslo. The first construction on the castle started around the late 1290s by King Haakon V. It was first used in battle in 1308 against Swedish forces. It has also been used as a prison. Akershus Fortress is still a military area, but is open to the public. Norwegian Royalty have been buried in the Royal Mausoleum in the castle.











Walking back around the Royal Palace Garden on holiday Pentecostal Monday







The Evangelical Lutheran Oslo Cathedral is the main church for the Oslo bishopric. The present building dates from 1694-1697.






This makeshift memorial in front of the Oslo Cathedral is in honor and remembrance of the victims of the July 22, 2011 massacre and attacks against the government and the civilian population by a Norwegian right-wing extremist who killed 77 people and injured hundreds in a car bomb explosion and shooting in a youth league summer camp.



This was our second sea crossing - the North Sea, and the Norwegian fjord, from Oslo to Copenhagen. (The first was on the Baltic Sea from Helsinki to Stockholm). Like the first crossing, the ferry departs at 5p and arrives the following morning at 9:30a.





Pulling out of the Oslo harbor


Sunset at the North Sea


Passing the night listening to the piano man and the band








6. Copenhagen, Denmark



Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark and its most populous city. Copenhagen's founding has traditionally been dated to Bishop Absalon's construction of a castle in 1167 and in 1254 it received its charter as a city. During 1658–59 it withstood a siege by the Swedes under Charles X and successfully repelled a major assault. During World War II, Copenhagen was occupied by German troops along with the rest of the country from 1940-1945. The Kingdom of Denmark is a constitutional monarchy organized in the form of a parliamentary democracy. Denmark ranks as having the world's highest level of income equality and has the world's seventh highest per capita income. It has frequently ranked as the happiest and least corrupt country in the world.



Cloudy skies and overcast in Copenhagen



Our B&B, Cabinn Scandinavia, is a block from the Forum train station in a residential area



The Little Mermaid is a statue of a mermaid based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. The

unimposing, and often vandalized, statue with a height of 4 ft. was commissioned in 1909 by the Carlsbergs.

(The painted graffiti says "What's so special about me?")


The modern 14-story Opera House was completed in 2004



Amalienborg is the winter home of the Danish royal family. It consists of four identical classicizing palace façades with rococo interiors around an octagonal courtyard. In the centre of the square is a monumental equestrian statue of Amalienborg's founder, King Frederick V. Palace construction started in 1750 and was completed in 1760. The Changing of the Royal Guard happens everyday at noon.



Portrait of the Danish Royal Family headed by Queen Margrethe II, the daughter of King Frederick IX






  Frederick's Church, and popularly known as The Marble Church, is located just west of Amalienborg Palace.

The church was designed in 1740 and finally opened in 1894. It has the largest church dome in Scandinavia.




Nyhavn is the colorful 17th century waterfront, canal and entertainment district










Rosenborg Slot is a renaissance castle constructed in 1606 and used by Danish regents as a royal residence until around 1710


The coronation chair of the absolutist kings and the throne of the queens






The Crown Jewels and the Danish Crown Regalia


The 12 Rosenborg tapestries depict King Christian V's

 victories in the Scanian War from 1675-1679












Rosenborg Castle and Garden from the rear


People taking an early morning walk along the river bank



Copenhagen is world famous for its biking culture and now officially the first Bike City in the World


Tivoli Gardens (or simply Tivoli) is a famous amusement park and pleasure garden in Copenhagen. The park opened

 in 1843 and is the second oldest amusement park and the second most popular seasonal theme park in the world.














Christiania, also known as Freetown Christiania, is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood of about 850 residents covering 34 hectares from an abandoned military barracks in 1971. Christiania is one of the greatest tourist attractions in Copenhagen, and abroad it is a well-known for the progressive and liberated Danish lifestyle. Many homeless and jobless young people, street people and vagabonds, all find a sanctuary here. Its cannabis trade was tolerated by authorities until 2004. Christiania has become home to several ventures such as carpenters, blacksmiths, a bike shop, as well as several cafés, restaurants, jazz, blues and night clubs, galleries and a 24/7 bakery.



Reminiscent of the 60's US hippie counterculture





There is no photography allowed in the commune center. Not aware of this, when I took a picture of

the marijuana sign at a store a guard approached me and asked me to delete the frame from my camera.




Radhuspladsen, or City Hall Square, is in the center of Copenhagen adjoining the busy shopping district


Looks like a street in America with 7 Eleven, Burger King and McDonald's






May 31 - this is the final day of our journey before flying back home





And so our "Eskapada sa Northern Europe" ends.

Cheers to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen!!


From hotel, a short walk to the Forum station on the subway line that ends at Copenhagen International

(Operated remotely, the driverless train runs 24 hours a day)


How sweet it is - back in the USA!!




As we "mature" (okay, grow old!), I think of the words of Horace, especially when I get the opportunity to wander out and explore a bit. "Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero" ("Seize the day, putting as little trust as possible in the future"). The window is definitely getting smaller, not bigger. But no matter the adventure and the excitement in foreign travel, to me it is always a warm and reassuring feeling to return to our adopted home in America. I say to the immigration officer when I check in with my US passport - "It's nice to be back". The officer understands and smiles.


I have made a cost summary of our trip to Russia and Scandinavia. If this will help, maybe compare a self tour to a guided tour for instance (price-wise, considerably less), let me know and I will attach an addendum. 




A Comparison: Guided Tour vs. Self Tour


This guided tour from AAA (land only) costs $2,409 per person x 2 persons = $4,818.

Plus airfare $1,825 and Russian visa $560 = $7,203 for 2 cities in Russia for 7days/6 nights..




Our self tour costs $5,085 for 2 cities in Russia, 4 cities in 4 countries in Scandinavia for 15 days/14 nights.


Eskapada sa Northern Europe: May 17 - Jun 1, 2012 Airfare, Visa, Hotel,
 Train, Ferry
  Date & Time Depart   Date & Time Arrive Hotel (#nights, stars*, B=Brkfast) Cost Subtotal
Air Canada 786 5/17 Th 11:35a Los Angeles   5/17 Th 7:09p Toronto      
Air Canada 882 5/17 Th 8:55p Toronto   5/18 Fr 10:35a Copenhagen      
Scandinavian Airlines 8701 5/18 Fr 12:25p Copenhagen   5/18 Fr 4:50p Moscow   (858 x 2) = 1,716 + 107 insurance 1,825
  5/18 Fr     5/20 Su MOSCOW Pokrov Dvor Hotel (3, 2*, B) 133 x 3 415
Russian visa 280 x 2 560
Russian Railways #152A
(Express - Sapsan)
5/21 Mo 6:45a Moscow   5/21 Mo 10:30a St. Petersburg   140 x 2 280
  5/21 Mo     5/22 Tu ST. PETERSBURG Maribelle Mini Hotel (2, 2*, B) 119 x 2 239
Russian Railways #151M
(Express - Allegro)
5/23We 6:40a St. Petersburg   5/23 We 9:26a Helsinki   143 x 2 286
  5/23 We     5/23 We HELSINKI Hotel Finn (1 , 2*) 131 x 1 131
Tallink Silja
Direct Ferries Ref# DFP5286064
Tallink Silja Ref# D2010627
Tallink Ticket# 5945
5/24 Th 5p Helsinki   5/25 Fr 9:30a Stockholm Overnight ferry
2-berth ensuite cabin
  5/25 Fr     5/27 Sa STOCKHOLM Nordic Sea Hotel (2, 4*, B) (167 x 2) + 20 tax 379
Rail Europe #51 5/27 Su, 8:25a Stockholm    5/27 Su 2:36p Oslo   73 + 18 shipping 91
  5/27 Su     5/28 Mo OSLO Rica Travel Hotel (2, 3*, B ) 145 x 2 290
DFDS Seaways
Direct Ferries Ref# DFP5286141
DFDS Seaways Ref# D2010627
5/29 Tu 4:45p Oslo   5/30 We 9:30a Copenhagen Overnight ferry
2-berth ensuite cabin
  5/30 We     5/31 Th COPENHAGEN CABINN Scandinavia Hotel  (2, 2*, B) (96 x 2)  + 24 tax 240
                  ** TOTAL 5,085
United Airlines 123 6/01 Fr 9:05a Copenhagen   6/01 Fr 12p Newark      
United Airlines 17 6/01 Fr 1:25p Newark   6/01 Fr 4:14p Los Angeles   Cost Summary  
              Airfare 1,825
              Visa 560
              Hotel 1,694
              Train  657
              Ferry 349
                  ** TOTAL 5,085




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