Scandinavian Extravaganza | Simran Makhija and Sidharth Makhija

I had not even heard about this region called Scandinavia until my dad announced one day that we were going there for our summer holidays. At first I thought it would be just a small city with a very low population…. something like a forest, but how wrong the impressions were ! My brother Sidharth and I quickly did some research and discovered that the countries that come under Scandinavia are Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. We further found out about the places we were going to visit during our vacation and discovered that they were Oslo in Norway, Copenhagen in Denmark, Visby and Stockholm in Sweden, Helsinki in Finland, Kiel in Germany and also adding to the excitement was the icing on the cake one more place – St. Petersburg in Russia. These cities claimed to be immensely beautiful filled with greenery, with lots of castles, palaces, theatres, museums and parks. We were thrilled !

We left for our trip to the extravagant Scandinavia on the 13th of May. Our flight was at 2:30 in the morning and we left our house at 11:45pm to catch the flight from Mumbai to Frankfurt which was a 7hr journey to be precise. Personally I hate flying but this flight was acceptable as we were flying by Lufthansa. We reached Frankfurt and had to wait for two and a half hours to catch our next flight to Oslo. Oslo was not a very big city though it is the capital of Norway and the most expensive city in Europe as far as we were concerned. People travel around in trams and on bicycles everywhere There were many shops in the city and my mother and I visited many of them but only window-shopped. We stayed at a 3 star hotel called Anker Hotel Best Western.

Oslo

It was a very nice and a cozy hotel. We just relaxed that evening and decided to sightsee early next morning. We set out on foot exploring the city. We went to the Nobel Peace Museum which was next to the harbour which was filled with tiny sail boats.

Nobel Peace Museum

The pavements were lined with tulips which looked majestic and which had an exquisite fragrance. We also saw the Royal Palace, the City Hall and other beautiful buildings. The next day we bought tram tickets and went to the Highest point in Oslo which was freezing cold and had a beautiful restaurant which had a den-like appearance. We also went to the Ski park which had a Ski Simulator which made us feel like we were skiing. In the afternoon we made our way to the Vigeland Sculpture Park which had a few hundred different sculptures of men and women. The park was very open and we felt so cold even though we were wearing three sweaters.

Oslo Royal Palace

Oslo City Hall

Vigeland Sculpture Park

Our next destination was Copenhagen which had very pleasant weather. We were staying at a hotel that overlooked one of the canals that line the city. It was a beautiful sight and was very scenic and we even had wonderful rooms with two queen sized beds. We had reached Copenhagen in the morning and left to sightsee quickly as we were going to be there for only a day though we were going to come back after the cruise we were booked on. We went to the City Centre Square, saw the beautiful buildings around and then started strolling along Strotgett Street which boasts to be the longest shopping street with loads of shops which were filled with people. There was lovely weather and we truly enjoyed the city.

Stroget Main Shopping Street

Next was the most awaited part of our holiday – the cruise. It was an MSC Cruise ship called Opera. It was very big and beautiful. The first day on the cruise was free as we reached in the afternoon and had 2hrs before sailing. We decided to explore the cruise ship and found that there was a golf course and a table-tennis table on which we decided to and did play everyday. As the ship left the cruise terminal at Copenhagen, we left behind the most beautiful shoreline of Copenhagen. Every day on the cruise we saw a different aspect of nature as we sailed up north so close to the north pole. The sun set only after 10.30 p.m. and at dinner in the formal sit-down restaurant, we had a spectacular view of the sunset every evening form the window at our table.

MSC Cruises' MSC Opera

On the second day on the cruise we arrived at Visby on the west coast of Gotland – is one of the most popular destinations for summer tourism in Sweden. It is also a remarkable combination of idyllic, hundred-year-old small town and a big medieval town. It is a typical Hanseatic town with a ring-wall, has a well preserved street grid, and buildings from the Middle Ages . Medieval church ruins and warehouses blend with the low houses of wood and stone from later periods. The places of sightseeing were St. Nicolai Church Ruins, Trappagatan, Gotland’s Fornsal The Art Museum, The Natural Museum, The Powder Tower and The Sea Wall. After we returned back to the ship we relaxed and in the evening went for a show called Sexy and Chic in the theatre of the ship performed by the entertainment team on the ship. There was also the Mr. Pizza contest which was extremely fun to watch.

Visby on the west coast of Gotland

Stockholm was next – it is called the city of 14 islands and is an exotic city. The harbour area is just beautiful and we had a bird’s eye view from a vantage point located up a hill. It is a vivacious tourist destination. The sightseeing places in Stockholm are the City Hall, the Vasa Museum, the Royal Palace and the Drottingham Palace which was beautiful.

 

Stockholm City Hall

Vasa Museum

Royal Palace of Drottningholm

Coincidently on this day the President of Greece was visiting Stockholm and we had an additional treat of seeing the fancy parade in his honour. Back on the ship there was the Grease party organized by the Entertainment Team of the cruise ship where the audience had to elect the cruise’s John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. It was very funny as many old couples had taken part and had to act young just like John Travolta and Olivia Newton John and tap their feet to the tunes of the super hit movie Grease.

On the fourth day on the cruise we docked at Helsinki which was founded by King Gustavus Vasa of Sweden. It is the capital of Finland and is filled with islands. I felt it was the best place we had visited so far with perfect weather. Helsinki has ample experience of hosting major political conferences. The places that one must visit in Helsinki are the Old Church, Soulmenlinna and Porvoo. The Old Church is the oldest existing church in Helsinki. It was designed by Carl Ludwig Engel and was consecrated on 17 December 1826. It holds about 1200 persons.

 

Old Church by Carl Ludwing Engel

Suomenlinna

Porvoo

We also visited the Rock Church, made out of natural rock and heard an impromptu recital by a group of high school children.

 

Rock Church

We came back on the cruise ship to once again visit the ship theatre and saw a presentation called Illusion which was all about magic. Then after our dinner there was the Opera Circus where we had to play five games and we could win loads of MSC Opera souvenirs in just a matter of 10 minutes. What made this night all the more exciting was the fact that Manchester United were playing the final match v/s Chelsea, therefore everyone were in high spirits and the gigantic screen that had been set up had a large audience, cheering for both teams.

St Petersburg was awaiting us next. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is often referred to as the Venice of the North or the Paris of the East, but its beauty is really a brand of its own. From the White Nights festival during the mysterious summer twilight to top theatre and ballet productions and concerts on magical winter evenings, the city offers a vibrant cultural life that is second to none. This is a country which was once ruled by a Tsar and Tsarina normally referred to as the king and queen. St Petersburg was ruled by women for 71 years. One can also find a whole lot of souvenirs for cheap prices and can even bargain with the shop owners.

Stockholm was next – it is called the city of 14 islands and is an exotic city. The harbour area is just beautiful and we had a bird’s eye view from a vantage point located up a hill. It is a vivacious tourist destination. The sightseeing places in Stockholm are the City Hall, the Vasa Museum, the Royal Palace and the Drottingham Palace which was beautiful. Coincidently on this day the President of Greece was visiting Stockholm and we had an additional treat of seeing the fancy parade in his honour. Back on the ship there was the Grease party organized by the Entertainment Team of the cruise ship where the audience had to elect the cruise’s John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.

 

Skyline St. Petersburg

It was very funny as many old couples had taken part and had to act young just like John Travolta and Olivia Newton John and tap their feet to the tunes of the super hit movie Grease.On the fourth day on the cruise we docked at Helsinki which was founded by King Gustavus Vasa of Sweden. It is the capital of Finland and is filled with islands. I felt it was the best place we had visited so far with perfect weather. Helsinki has ample experience of hosting major political conferences. The places that one must visit in Helsinki are the Old Church, Soulmenlinna and Porvoo. The Old Church is the oldest existing church in Helsinki. It was designed by Carl Ludwig Engel and was consecrated on 17 December 1826.

It holds about 1200 persons. We also visited the Rock Church, made out of natural rock and heard an impromptu recital by a group of high school children. We came back on the cruise ship to once again visit the ship theatre and saw a presentation called Illusion which was all about magic. Then after our dinner there was the Opera Circus where we had to play five games and we could win loads of MSC Opera souvenirs in just a matter of 10 minutes. What made this night all the more exciting was the fact that Manchester United were playing the final match v/s Chelsea, therefore everyone were in high spirits and the gigantic screen that had been set up had a large audience, cheering for both teams. St Petersburg was awaiting us next. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is often referred to as the Venice of the North or the Paris of the East, but its beauty is really a brand of its own.

From the White Nights festival during the mysterious summer twilight to top theatre and ballet productions and concerts on magical winter evenings, the city offers a vibrant cultural life that is second to none. This is a country which was once ruled by a Tsar and Tsarina normally referred to as the king and queen. St Petersburg was ruled by women for 71 years. One can also find a whole lot of souvenirs for cheap prices and can even bargain with the shop owners. The places of tourist attractions in St. Petersburg are the Peter and Paul Fortress, the St Isaac’s Cathedral ,the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood and Nevsky Prospect.

 

The Peter and Paul Fortress- Arial View

St. Isaacs cathedral

The Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood

Walking on Nevsky Prospect

 

We enjoyed all the sights thoroughly and also visited a lovely souvenir shop where we could pick up some unique Russian souvenirs. This evening the show that awaited us back on the ship was the classical concert and after that we enjoyed a round of karaoke.

The whole of day six was spent on the ship as it sailed the high sea and we played table tennis, mini golf and saw the finale of the shows in the theatre. The show which was put up for us was the circus in which all the previous dancers of all the shows we had seen were dancing for us for the last time. Then the Entertainment Team came on stage and did a small performance on stage which was followed by a tearful Adieu. Each person in the audience gave them a standing ovation for all their effort and hard work they had put in to make this cruise an unforgettable experience. However the best highlight was still awaited and at dinner the crew surprised us when they dimmed the lights and the waiters marched in with flambe dessert which was called Baked Alaska. The setting in the room that night looked stunning and after that we clicked pictures with the personal waiters appointed for each table. The name of our waiter was Juniarta and his assistant waiter was Julius.

 

Simran and Sidharth & The Baked Alaska Flambé

Tonight was also the election of Mr Opera, a spoof competition once again organized by the entertainment team. After that was the talent show in which I took part and also won a certificate and medal.

 

The last day of the cruise had arrived and each person was wishing for it to never end but that remained a dream as we set out to explore Kiel, the last stop. This is a city in northern Germany, capital of the Schleswig-Holstein Bundesland. Located near the Baltic sea the city was the country’s long time naval base until the installations were dismantled after the Second World War. It is also famous for sailing events. Every year the Kieler Woche is held, a series of sailing regattas with a cultural framework.

 

Kiel

 

All in all this cruise was truly like a dream come true. This cruise was not only international because of the passengers but also because of the crew members, the waiters and the Entertainment team who were all from different parts of the world. I loved my experience on this cruise and hope to come back here next year too. It was a magical experience and I will miss every moment of this cruise.The last day of our holiday was spent back at Copenhagen when, after docking we checked into our hotel, visited the world famous Little Mermaid and then spent the rest of the evening at Tivoli Gardens which was an amusement park with lovely rides including large roller coasters.

 

Little Mermaid

 

We also sat on rides where they were flinging us around from one place to another and that was so scary because we felt as if we were going to fall off any moment and break our heads but that was not going to happen since we were safely harnessed. It was just like the Disney theme park and all of us had lots of fun.

The next morning it was sadly time to go back home and we caught our flight to Frankfurt and from there flew onwards back to Mumbai. This was the best holiday we have ever had and look forward to many more such experiences. We spent a lot of time together and had heaps of fun. Scandinavia was truly lovely !

Simran & Sidharth Makhija are twins in Standard 8 and studying at Greenlawns High School (Warden Road), Mumbai.

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