Scandinavia and Russia are places which have given me a handful of memorable experiences shared with my son, Ej. Just last year in May, we travelled across Europe and began our trip to the world’s happiest nation, Denmark. It was a trip to celebrate my birthday and was very timely for us to have some adventures and bonding time together.
Copenhagen was indeed a happy city. A metropolis filled with ethnicity and vibrancy captured our appreciation. Everything around us was easy on the eyes. Our first stop was Copenhagen Pride Square where we walked around the colorful plaza. Each corner we saw reflected the Danish philosophy in art and designs. The buildings and shops showed quintessential progressiveness and modernity. I pondered to myself and thought that I could live here. Café Sari was our stop for lunch. We both had fettuccini and it was unbelievably good. While walking around, we took some time to hunt for some Moodboard Manila items.
We went on with our day and visited the Little Mermaid Statue sitting on a rock by the waterside of Langlinie promenade. The bronze statue is photographed by thousands of visitors; making it one of the most popular sculptures in the world. Of course, Ej and I didn’t let the day end without snapping a photo with her.
The bronze and granite sculpture was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale
To end our Day, we swung by Nyhvan Port for some souvenirs. The colorful façade welcomed us with resounding shades of blue, red, and yellow. The first day was full of activities and the sites were beyond words to describe.
Day 2 kicked off at Frederiksborg Slotshave in Hillerød. This palatial castle built as a royal residence is the largest Renaissance structure in Scandinavia. Its Baroque style garden was one of kind and is well maintained. We went back to the plaza once more for some home accessories shopping for Moodboard Manila. Right after that, we skidded off to the actual castle that Shakespeare set Hamlet in – Kronborg. A UNESCO world heritage site located at the strait connecting Norway and Sweden, Kronborg Castle has played a key role in the history in Northern Europe. It’s been burned to the ground and rebuilt since, but always maintained its vital position at the head of the Øresund Sound. We strolled around the courtyard and explored the structures with tall ramparts and angular bastions.
We boarded the Crown Seaways and moved to Norway the following day. Two hours and a half later plus breakfast with a lovely view, we alighted at Oslo Harbor. A view of the Oslo Opera House welcomed us which left us in awe of its structure.
Our day started with a trip to the Viking Ship Museum where we saw the exceptional woodwork of Oseberg Ship – the world’s best-preserved Gokstad Ship, and the first excavated Tune Ship. After that, we moved to Vigeland Sculpture Park where the sculptor Gustav Vigeland worked on the sculptures for almost 20 years. Each abstract work represented the mundane and the common travails of a human being.
We ended our day at Karl Johan when I met up with one of my great friends, Yan, and my godson Kean. Finally, after a long time, we saw each other and I was able to meet her adorable son. We bonded the whole afternoon by the Oslo Habor where we went off to Sweden.
From its scenic beauty to its edible bounty, Sweden made me swoon for its cityscape. We started our day after arrival in Saltsjökvarn ferry terminal by proceeding to our hotel- Elite Hotel Marina Tower. The lounge area had an overlooking view of the inlet to Stockholm. We dined at Boule & Bersa for lunch and we had an awesome meal by the canal. Next stop was the banquet hall called Stockholm City Hall. This Golden Hall is a major tourist attraction and this was where we saw the Golden Room with Mälardrottning. On to the next art attraction, we went to Nobel Museum. This museum was built to circulate information on the Nobel Prize, Nobel Laureates, and the life of the Alfred Nobel. Next was the maritime Vasa Museum where we saw a 17th century old, fully intact ship. The 64-gun warship, Vasa, was built during the Swedish “Great Power Period, was sank in 1628, and was then recovered in 1961 . We ended the day at Sally’s Bar and a stroll around the old city.
The Nobel Museum is home to various information about the Nobel Prize
The Vasa Museum displays the only intact 17th century ship
The following day, we took a side trip to the Royal Palace before we boarded the Silja Line Symphony Cruise en route to Helsinki, Finland for 16 hours. We had the chance to see Saturday Night Fever while on board. It was quite entertaining and was able to give us quite a few laughs. The night was still young so we walked around the ship to kill time before hitting the sack. Talking and just bonding with my son was definitely worth each second. I was glad we had a chance to do so. The next morning, we were at the South Harbor of Finland already. The fresh view of forests and morning dew welcomed us. Our first stop was the Helsinki Olympic Stadium. We then moved to Sibelius Monument where a stunning view of woods and trees greeted us. There we saw the organ sculpture of a Finnish artist named Eila Hiltunen.
We moved on to Lutheran Rock Church of Helsinki also known as Tempelliaukion Church after our tour around the park. This dome was popular as a venue for concerts and is a major tourist attraction. Its interiors were made of rock and the roof was put together using copper. Next was the Helsinki Cathedral. So much for being zealous on my birthday! Yes, I was celebrating my birthday with my son in a special and holy place in Finland. To take a break, we ate at Ravintola Sasso with my good friend Darwin whom I haven’t seen for a while. We then spent our afternoon at the Local Arts and Crafts Open-Air Market to grab some fresh fruits. Just across the cathedral, we wandered around Helsinki Senate Square. Before we ended the day, we grabbed a bite at Karl Fazer Café for a caffeine fix and some sweets. We swung by Aarikka for some home accessories shopping for Moodboard Manila where I bought some eclectic items that were made of wooden balls. My favorite one is the sheep with colorful beads as its sheepskin.
In the morning, we took an early train ride to St. Petersburg, Russia from the central railway station. There was something about this city that lingered in me; probably, its colorful modern side or the city’s underground art scene. Firsts things first, we took the time to visit the largest basilica- St. Isaac Cathedral. Hopped on to the next cathedral, we visited St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral that served as the navy shrine. We then moved to monument of Catherine the Great. The statue was surrounded by delicately carved figures. When we finally went to the Sokos Palace Hotel, I was surprised that we had the whole suite to ourselves. Thank you to one of my best friends, Annie, for the overwhelming gift and making my birthday one of the best yet!
For our second day in St. Petersburg, we included the Czar’s Winter Palace in our must see sites. Visiting one of the important rooms, Palace’s Grand Church, was one of the grandest palaces we have ever been to. Aside from its useful, digital tourist guide, we enjoyed walking around the garden with its splendid fountains and queue of trees. To see more grandiose palaces, we hopped on the next one. We visited the impressive Catherine’s Palace. The palace is a superb manifestation of the 18th century with its Baroque style and grand interior design. With hues of gold, white, and blue, everything we saw around the palace was just so elegant and splendid. Not to mention, walking on the red carpet made us feel like dukes as well. We enjoyed this tour so much and of course, taking each other’s photos and goofing around.
For our last day in St. Petersburg, Ej and I spent our day visiting Winter Canal and museums. My love for art was cultivated even more now that I was exposed to different masterpieces in Hermitage Museum. The museum exhibited collections that are neoclassical, impressionist, Russian art, post-impressionist, and the likes of the magnum opus.
Using the Russian trains, we were now headed to Moscow. The four-hour ride was like a breeze. I guess that’s just how excited we were in arriving at our last leg of the trip. Our first stop was the Red Square. This architectural marvel has brought so much inspiration that we couldn’t help but to snap photos of its structure. We took a quick break from touring around and ate at Bocca di Bacco. We went along the latter part of the day and visited Gum Mall for some shopping.
The Kremlin is a complex located at the heart of Moscow and is Russia’s seat of power. This onion-domed structure had the top spot as tourist’s choice. I was like a fortress in the city. We also saw the historical buildings Ivan and the Great Tower and Spasskaya Tower with the Kremlin star on top.
Ending our trip at a marvelous country truly gave us a JUANDERFUL experience. From the Scandinavian countries to the gorgeous and colorful establishments of Russia, this was just an amazing trip and birthday celebration all at the same.