By Helen Grenillo-Weaver, green belt
THE NEXT THREE DAYS . . .
It was another bright and early day the next morning with everyone still working out as hard as they could! The day of the Midsummer Festival had arrived. We went to the Skansen Musuem to experience one of the most important holidays in Scandinavia (only 2nd to Christmas)! It was still early in the day when we got there, so we broke off into groups to explore the vast area on our own until it was time to meet up and witness the raising of the Maypole. The zoo here was one of the coolest ones I have ever seen. Every animal had ample space and comfort. Most of the animals were natives to Scandinavia, so it was the perfect place for tourists to go and see a little bit more of what makes up the country. After getting a good look at all the cute animals and more fantastic city views, we made our way over to the food and flower crown crafting.
As you can imagine, the days are often short, dark, and cold most of the year in the Scandanavian countries. As a result, celebrating the coming of Summer has become a huge deal. The maypole looks like a giant cross covered in greenery and flowers. Most Swedes weave a flower crown, so of course many of us part of CTI did so as well! When the maypole was raised, most people circled around it, linked hands, and danced around it to traditional music of the holiday. There was a lot of laughter amongst everyone from tourists trying to figure out what was going on to the Swedes trying their best to show us the ropes. It was a great way to interact with the locals and to educate ourselves on the different culture.
It may sound crazy, but we were almost having TOO much fun to the point where we were exhausted and ready to re-charge. Almost. We continued to keep up the pace! However, the bus wasn't planned to pick us up from Skansen for another few hours even though we were ready to go find food and explore new areas. Our hero, Almar, flew in and saved the day as always! He set us up with a ferry for all 78 of us to ride back to the main part of town! Needless to say, Almar is the best. It ended up being a much more thrilling ride home than the original plan! When we got off the ferry, we were dropped off right in the heart of old town to do some souvenir shopping. Old town is what we were looking for all along with all the cool shops, less traffic, and freedom to hang out right in the middle of Stockholm. We split off into small groups to eat dinner, relax, and talk about the holiday we just got to celebrate for the first time!
The Sweden part of our journey came to an end and it was time for the trek to Norway! The bus ride was long, but as always, the scenery was spectacular enough for it to be worth it. Once in Oslo, we had some time to look around all the shops and get a glimpse into their way of life. It turns out Norway has a fascination with trolls since we were able to find them on almost every block of the city! Be sure to look at all the cool, handcrafted statues in the pictures we all took.
The next day, we took a guided bus tour through Oslo. Our lovely guide showed us important landmarks and told stories about the city. We got to see the Norway Olympic Ski Jump from 1952, once we got further out of the city. It was a site to behold! It's hard to imagine even professionals jumping off of this, but we were told that when Norwegian kids learn to ski they jump off it too! In the summer when there is no snow, there is a zip line starting at the top and travels far past the jump into the woods below.
The next stop on the bus tour was The Vigeland Park. A whole park is dedicated to one artist's work, Gustav Vigeland. The statues were assembled in a circle and as you went around the people aged from infant to elderly. I think it helped our group in general get a glimpse into a different culture's mindset, which is ultimately one of our group's goals to broaden our education.
Later that day, we all learned how to navigate a Norwegian train station in order for us to move onwards to Bergen! The train ride was a long one, but the seats were comfortable, we were able to walk over to a café wagon and as always, the scenery did not disappoint. We didn't get to Bergen until the sun was setting at about 11:30 p.m. We had a busy site seeing tour the next day, so we all went to bed as soon as we got to the hotel.