Scandinavia: Magical & Equitable
Scandinavia owes me nothing. I decided to take the trip for an opportunity to bask in God’s seemingly untouched glory and to be reminded that I am just a small entity in the vastness of it. I captured a flight deal to Iceland & Sweden for a mere $350. Reluctant at first because I didn’t see Iceland & Sweden as a tourist destination that was for me. I decided to tell my fears to shut-up & continue this unpredictable journey. I also just could not pass up that flight deal. One week before I started back work, I needed the alone time to unwind & put my mind at ease, as I always experience a high-level of anxiety right before the school year starts. The original plan was to take a day trip to Copenhagen. Upon research though, I realized I couldn’t take on Denmark in just 1 day so I am already planning my trip back to Scandinavia to experience the parts that I left untouched.
Prior to arriving I booked all my excursions for Iceland & decided to wing the rest of the trip. I also secured lodging which I thought was well in advance but because the tourism infrastructure in Scandinavia is still very young, there were not many AirBnBs available & the hotels were way to pricey for my budget. I chuckled at the option of booking a tent Airbnb in the wilderness for $75/night. I opted for a hostel, instead. Now while I love hostels every now and again for the experience of meeting others, I do value my privacy which I so needed on this trip so a hostel just wasn’t my first choice this time around but I was thankful I found some type of affordable lodging and it all worked out.
I flew from Detroit to New York then New York to Iceland via IcelandAir. IcelandAir allows up to a 7-day stopover in Iceland, completely free of charge! Jumped on that opportunity quick. Besides not having in-air dining, I thoroughly enjoyed my in-flight experience on Icelandair & already plan to fly with them again when I go back to Scandinavia. They also have no bag fees which is why I happily decided to not do carry-on only for this trip so I had room to take some treasures back with me. I landed in Iceland & it wasn’t a hassle to get my bags & such. There was just so many people to maneuver through though because of the transient nature of the airport. Eventually made it through & caught the Flybus to Reykjavik which is almost 45 mins away from Keflavik, the airport. I got to my hostel & checked into my 16-bed dorm around 2pm. I was exhausted by then so I pretty much took a nap & relaxed the day away. I really wasn’t pressed on being a tourist for the first day as I like to always just unwind the first day & just take it all in.
The second day it was time to explore Reykjavik a bit. I took a free walking tour & visited a couple attractions including Harpa, The Phallogical Museum & Hallgrimskirkja. I think most of Reykjavik’s beauty can be discovered by just getting lost in the city. You will find gems that most people don’t talk about it. This day was exhausting for me though. Not physically but financially. This is the day I realized how expensive Reykjavik truly is & made a strategic plan for my meals over the next few days as I wasn’t about to go broke in Iceland.
Day three came, And it was time for my first excursion: The Blue Lagoon. I feel like I went during a perfect time, 2 pm. It was also a beautiful day out. Not cold at all. Although I think the experience would have been more memorable had it been below 0 weather. The Lagoon was breathtaking though. Serene & Dreamlike. I opted out paying $100 for the premium entry which included a robe & a aloe mud mask. I would have splurged on an in-water massage though but they were booked by the time I got there. A blessing that ended up being because come to find out, in-water massages don’t seem all that comfortable or relaxing. I sampled my unlimited silica mud masks & basked in the sedateness. At the Lagoon, I bumped into a Puerto Rican from DC, Louie! He was an amazing individual & after the amazing conversations we had, he bought me a drink & the amazing conversations continued. Honestly, I am forever grateful for the amazing individuals I meet when I travel, a primary reason I do it. I must have been at the lagoon for 6 hours before I called it a night. My skin was pale & after being in there so long, you start to feel a little dehydrated. The sleep I had that night was unparalleled though.
The next day brought the next excursion: Southern Iceland. I recommend everyone doing this tour while they are in Iceland. You get to see a lot in one day which is so worth it. I got on the bus that day & guess who I saw, Louie! We had no idea we both were doing that tour on the same exact day, what are the odds? God clearly wasn’t ready for us to separate yet. We got to see the Glaciers, Waterfalls, Black Sand beaches & Volcanos. I also splurged on a meal at a nice Café on the beach. This tour really made me really appreciate the immensity of Iceland’s beauty.
The next morning, bright & early it was time for me to fly to Stockholm, the capital of Scandinavia. Got to the airport early as I assumed the lines would be long & guess what? They were! Got to my gate just in time. Got to Stockholm pretty quickly. Got off my flight, picked up my luggage & caught the Flygbussarna bus to my hostel. Pretty quick trip. My hostel was very centrally located & I even shared a room with 3 other Italian men who had been there for a few days & gave me some tips on places to go. My first stop there was the Icebar. The world’s first permanent bar made completely of ice! It was an experience to say you’ve been there but once you take your selfies, get your overpriced drink & dabble with the few ice sculptures they have, it’s pretty much time to go. A no more than 45-minute experience. That was that so I then just decided to wing it & get lost in Stockholm as I appreciate the architecture & wanted to talk to locals about the equality that everybody raves about there. Spent most of my time on Gamla Stan but there are so many islands, each with its own culture; I wish I could experience them all.
The coffee houses in Stockholm are always packed with people from all over. You also can’t leave Stockholm without having Fika (coffee & pastry). I talked to a few people & discovered that women are entitled to up to 18 months paid maternity leave, while men are entitled to 90 days which cannot be transferred to the woman. In addition, women are entitled to some 400+ days of leave, until the child is 12, which they can take off to spend more time with them (this is different to sick leave to care for them!!) In same sex relationships, both parents are entitled to paid leave. You’ll also notice an abundance of unisex toilets so everyone can feel comfortable going to the bathroom. Not only that, but gay rights have already been addressed too and everyone is accepted, no matter what their sexual preference or identity. Talk about Progressive! But what about the Black People? My People! Well, skin color matters in every country. Sweden is not exempt which goes back to my theory that there is not a single place in this world that White Supremacy hasn’t laid hands on. I didn’t experience any blatant racism myself but the microaggressions were constant & were so subtle, I almost missed them. So Sweden I appreciate you but you still have some work to do.
On day two I decided to have some fun. Went to the Vasa Museum which I originally thought I wouldn’t enjoy but it was very interesting. Followed by The ABBA Museum which is nice if you are a fan of them. I was not but still interesting to learn about Stockholm’s music culture. Then spent the rest of the day at Grona Lund, an amusement park right in the heart of Stockholm. Very expensive but I enjoyed being a big kid for the day. The next day was Sunday & I decided to visit The Royal Palace to see the changing of the guards’ ceremony. It was very crowded & hard to see but it was one of the best changing of the guards’ ceremonies I have seen as I witnessed them in a couple other countries. The architecture of the Palace was also a sight to see. Went on a boat tour after that & spent my last supper at a really nice restaurant near my hostel. Winged it & have no regrets. Thank You Scandinavia.