A Spring In Scandinavia

After a rough second half of 2018, I needed something, anything, to stop myself from spiraling and obsessing over the constant thoughts in my head. I needed a project to throw myself into: something I could plan down to the minute detail, something I could be very proud of, something nothing or no one could take away from me.

This project ended up being our annual Spring trip: a road trip through Sweden and Denmark.

In a way, all our previous travels were a precursor to this one. Ahmad loved driving through Crete so much that he wanted to do it on all our trips going forward, if possible. Our mini-Euro trip through the Netherlands, Belgium, and France proved that we could combine countries in one trip with ease. And I was further emboldened when I planned a trip for my parents to Vienna and Prague down to the last detail and they said they’d never seek the services of a travel agency ever again.

Arrival to T Centralen in Stockholm

I’d always wanted to visit Copenhagen- and the very first conversation I had with Ahmad way back in 2013 is proof to that. I was enchanted by the city that inspired so many beloved fairytales and also managed to be the epicenter of all things cool and new-including food. But I kept putting off our visit because it was either too far, too cold, too expensive until we discovered MEA offered direct flights from Beirut to the Danish capital. The city hadn’t gotten any cheaper, but a week there wouldn’t heavily break the bank-especially if this were to be our last trip before we had a baby.

In December, as I set about making plans for Denmark aided by too many Netflix shows on their food scene, I stumbled upon a funny thing. Just two and a half hours, across the border in Sweden, lay a museum dedicated to IKEA, at the site of the very first store in a town called Almhult. Us being the fans that we are, I first joked about going. Jokes quickly gave way to actually seeing if we could visit it on a day trip. I couldn’t see myself being so close and not visiting-especially that these opportunities do not come around every day.

The desk of IKEA’S founder

That led me to immerse myself further in research. And I became fascinated by Sweden. I’d never imagined it as a place we’d visit but Malmo was a mere half hour away via the Orresund Bridge. And Gothenburg, the second city, was too intriguing to miss out on, especially with all its offerings to New Nordic cuisine.

And the capital Stockholm? It doesn’t get mentioned as frequently as other European capitals but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have anything for visitors. Architecture, check. Royal palace, check. Plenty of parks, plenty of checks. And museums ranging from the historical to the whimsical (yes there’s one dedicated to ABBA), well there’s no shortage of those. The more I read up, the more underrated I found it to be. And it would be the starting point of our great trip.

The Vasa Museum in Stockholm is a must see. This is a giant ship of which 99 percent was recovered and retained. No photos can do it justice.

One city in a week turned into eight in two. We’d stay in four hotels, rent two cars, and drive countless kilometers to a distinct soundtrack in the Scandinavian spring-which is more like a Beirut winter but with blooming flowers and less rain.

Route plan

This trip was meant to be in search of great fika and a break from everything going on at home. Whatever happened after Scandinavia would be its own chapter. While we were there, my whole focus would be on reading maps, navigating public transport, doing as many walking tours as we could, and making new discoveries- all which happily came true. Real life would be put on hold.

Fika in the botanical garden of Gothenburg

For months ahead of the trip, all I could think about was gazing out of the passenger window to take in the landscape while ABBA and Ace of Base played on the radio. There’d be no honking or manic driving on the impeccable highways. Just us and our thoughts, guided by the GPS to our next destination- though sometimes it wasn’t the most accurate (here’s looking at you Boras!).

Dream come true. By the lake in Jonkoping, with Swedish snacks in hand

Not even the bankruptcy of Germania (on which we’d booked our flight to Stockholm) or finding out I was pregnant two weeks before our travel date could deter us from making the most out of every day we spent there.

I don’t think there’s anything I would have done differently. We spent exactly the right amount in every place to get the feel of it and do what we needed to do. Having done our research ahead of time also allowed us to allocate our money properly. Because we saved on public transport and museum admissions, we were able to rent cars in both Sweden and Denmark- to make the trek out to the Lego House! My dream of indulging in New Nordic cusinie, however, had to be set aside thanks to morning sickness. But I did have some of the best cake and coffee I’ve ever tried, so I wouldn’t consider myself at a loss.

It was the only trip we’d take together in 2019 and the last one before Raneem’s arrival, but the memories we made were enough to fill us up for a while. Scandinavia is truly something in the spring-and I’m elated we got to experience it.