I was very lucky to spend two weeks this month exploring Reykjavik, Lom, Bergen, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. My family has Scandinavian roots, so I was eager to explore places that were new to me and familiar to my ancestors. We spent about 48 hours in each place, so while it was not a relaxing trip, it certainly was inspiring.
Reykjavik // ICELAND
We booked our trip through Icelandair, which meant we got to plan a stopover in Reyjkavik along the way. The geography of this place is incredible and I only wish we could have had more time to explore. We were able to drive the scenic route toHraunfossar, a unique set of waterfalls that seemingly start from nowhere; they actually start from a lava field almost a kilometer away, and the sight is remarkable.
We visited some smaller bars and cafes in downtown Reykjavik and stumbled upon a small flea market where I was able to find a gorgeous Icelandic wool sweater and purchase it directly from the woman who hand-knit it. I am so happy I got to bring home a piece of local craftsmanship.
Lom // NORWAY
Lom (and surrounding areas) was, without a doubt, the place that held the most meaning for me. This is where my great-great-grandparents farmed, and where my great-grandmother Ragnhild (who later changed her name to Rose and is half of this store's namesake) was born. We spent an entire day searching for the exact farm, using my grandmother's hand-written maps and journal from her trip 30 years ago as a guide. This area was truly breathtaking. My grandmother wondered more than once how her mother could have ever left this "fairyland", and now that I've seen it myself, I wonder the same thing.
Bergen // NORWAY
Something I loved about Bergen was the old town feel (we were very close toBryggen) juxtaposed with a seemingly young community. The street art was inspiring, the shops were modern and well curated, and the architecture of the city was amazing. We met with a friend of mine who lives there now, and she had complained about how difficult parking was, commenting, "this city wasn't made for cars!" She was absolutely correct.
Stockholm // SWEDEN
We spent a lot of our time in Stockholm exploring Södermalm, where I would venture to guess there were an equal amount of secondhand and vintage shops as new boutiques. I loved how inspirational all the secondhand shops were - every single one had a point of view and, while you could certainly spend hours searching through each one, you didn't have to treasure hunt. It made secondhand just as appealing as new, which can be a barrier for a lot of shoppers.
Copenhagen // DENMARK
Our last stop was my favorite city of the trip. Our Airbnb was in Nørrebro, and I fell in love with the neighborhood. Around the corner was a community garden built in the spirit of permaculture. One block down was a strip of independent cafes and shops, most of which were dedicated to sustainability. There was a truck parked on the corner that sold Jarritos sodas (with booze for an extra 50 DKK).
The city is known for its biking, and nearly every street has what's basically a mini-street for bikes, separate from cars and pedestrians. Everyone obeys the traffic laws, and everyone is aware of their surroundings, whether they are on foot or on wheels.
Copenhagen also had my favorite dinner of the trip at Rub & Stub, a nonprofit restaurant that changes its menu daily based on the surplus food that gets donated each day. It's the first of its kind in the Europe, and the meal was delicious.
I loved seeing and experiencing these new places, but I also love what this trip taught me. It taught me to document family history, because it's important to know where you came from and not easy to find out from scratch. It taught me to take some time to absorb, appreciate, and protect my surroundings. It taught me to think about things differently, like how food can be obtained and served, or how a shop can be put together.
It also reminded me that there is so much to be found wherever you go, and inspired me to spend more time exploring my own backyard.