Archive for the ‘Holiday Event Travel’ Category

Lillehammer’s Legacy - and New Look

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

529px-holmenkollen_ski_jump

There has been much discussion in the news over the U.S. vs Madrid bid for the 2016 Olympics and it has inspired us here at the Nordic Company to reflect on what we think was a shining moment for Norway and one of the most exciting times in Scandinavian travel for us: in 1994,when the Winter Olympics came to Lillehammer.

Norway was made for the Winter Olympics. Their cold climate and constant snow coupled with their rough-and-rugged population that prids themselves on physical fitness is precisely what has allowed them to nab 280 medals at the Winter Olympics - more than any other nation. In fact, Norway is just one of three nations to have won more medals at the Winter Olympics than at the Summer Olympics.

At the heart of their Olympic pride lies the Holmenkollen Ski Jump.  Opened in 1892, the Holmenkollen remains the second oldest ski jump in the world. It became the focal point of the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, rising 60 meters above ground and 417 meters above sea level. It is now also one of Norway’s best known tourist destinations. From the top, visitors are afforded a spectacular panaromic view of the city of Oslo and its glittering Oslofjord. Below, the Holmenkollen Ski Museum (opened in 1923 and still the oldest ski musuem in the world) offers a comprehensive history of the area and an interactive video game that allows you to see and feel what ski jumpers do when they put themselves over the edge. It’s crazy!

But don’t let the ski jump take you away from the town either. What makes Lillehammer so unique is that it remains the host of the last Winter Olympics to date that has been held in a small town. Norway beat out Alaska and Sweden for the bid and Lillehammer has since flourished into a charming, but quaint tourist haven with good shopping and delicious cafes.

If you ask the locals what they think were the highlights from the 1994 Olympics, aside from Norway’s many medals, they usually tell you two things: “When Tanya Harding’s ex-husband hired a man to take out Nancy Kerrigan in the knee” and “when on the day of the opening ceremony, art thieves stole the famous Edvard Munch painting from the National Museum in Oslo.” And next, they will tell you about the construction taking place at Holmenkollen right now, set for an improved ski jump to open in 2012 for the FIS Nordic World Ski Championship.

This last bit has become a particular obsession of mine. The architecture company has been kind enough to post a webcam of the construction process on their website - which you can check out here, but be careful, because witnessing the building of a legacy - well, like most things in Scandinavia, it’s addicting.

The Book Towns of Norway

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

fjaerland-book

Book town tourism is fast becoming one of the more popular forms of off-beat travel and Norway is one Scandinavian country that stands to benefit from it. Book shops attract a certain kind of eccentric - the literature lovers, the world-curious, historians, and people just passing by. They also give rise to cities that might not be as well-known at first glance, but are worth checking out. The concept of book towns as a form of tourism was partially developed by Richard Booth of Hay-on-Wye in Wales, UK.  Established as a book hub in 1962, Hay-on-Wye attracts approximately 300,000 visitors each year and is frequently dubbed the “book capital of the world.” Booth later went on to create the International Organization of Book Towns - of which both Tvedestrand, Norway and Fjaerland, Norway are proud members of.

Fjaerland’s reputation as a book town is not something you have to read between the lines to know about either. We send clients here every year as a scenic stop along their journey through the Sognefjord. What makes Fjaerland special is that you’re not wandering into just any old standard book shop,  (see above photo for an example); the locals have converted barns, stables, and even old boathouses into storage space and display cases for beautiful antique books. Their town boasts 12 shops total and over 250,000 books.

And if you grow tired of sifting through the shelves and reading off the fine print, you can always check out the endless array of cafes and arts and crafts shops. If you want to stretch your legs even furhter, you’re not far from the mighty Jostedalbreen glacier and two National Parks. There, you can hike to your heart’s content and stop at a scenic point where you can relax and do a little reading from your new book (that you picked up at a local book shop!)  Fjaerland was also host to the International Book Town Festival in 2006.

If one book town is not enough, we’ll send you to Tvedestrand on the southern coast of Norway where you can weave your way through the “book triangle” - the area of Tvedestrand where most of the book shops are located. Tvedestrand is a coastal town that offers an elegent old quarter of white wooden houses, a welcoming harbor and a wealth of water acitivites to try. In addition to book hunting, you can also check out Lyngor, a town that sits between four islands off the coast, as was once ranked the “best kept village in Europe” or partake in diving, sailing, swimming, or fishing.

If a book town tour sounds like your thing, you should book today. :) Over 250,000 fairytales await your discovery!

Midsummer is Coming!

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

spaceballbaal-bilde

The Nordic Company’s (and likely all of Scandinavia’s) favorite time of year is fast approaching! If you’re going to be in Scandinavia for late June, specifically June 23rd, you’d better be ready to participate in bonfires, folk songs, and dancing around the maypole. Midsummer is the longest and brightest day of the year and Scandinavians have a lot to celebrate since they’ve spent the past few months shrouded in darkness.

Sweden remains the best known for it’s midsummer festivities. The bonfires are big, the maypole is always visible even if it may appear to be too old-school to dance around it, and the normally reserved Swedes are, quite frankly, kind of crazy!  Swedes get the day before midsummer off (known as Midsummer’s Eve) so this helps them to start their weekend. Usually, family and friends head to their countryside cottages to celebrate. The bonfires pop up in accordance with the pagan tradition that fires ensure fertile soil and ward off any witches. Another popular belief has young girls picking seven different types of flower’s on midsummer’s eve. They then put the flowers under their pillows and this helps them to dream of their future love. Because misummer is such an old tradition, there is lots of folklore surrounding the events, but in general, it is a holiday to have fun, be with family, and celebrate the arrival of summer.

The Nordic Company recommends heading to the countryside for midsummer because you will find the cities to be deserted of locals. Many of our scenic hotels offer special midsummer celebrations. Sitting up in the early hours of the morning, watching the first rays of midsummer sunlight peak between the fjords is one of those moments you’ll never forget!

Why Roskilde Rocks

Monday, May 18th, 2009

eksplosionslandsbyen_-_bernd_linnemann

What do Bob Marley, the Talking Heads, U2, Metallica, and Radiohead all have in common? Aside from being some of the biggest names in music, they also have taken the stage at the largest musical festival in Northern Europe, Roskilde. Since 1971 when two high school students decided to organize a concert series, Roskilde, Denmark has proven itself to be on the cutting edge of obscure beats, contemporary stars, and total legends. Last year at Roskilde 2008, Neil Young even declared it to be the “best rock show ever.”

Yet, the best part about Roskilde doesn’t actually have to do with the music. Since its fruition, the festival has been a non-profit event with many humanitarian and environmental components. Last year’s “Fair Phone-Fair Future” encouraged concert-goers to purchase sustainable phones made with fair trade practices and the proceeds from the concert went to a wide variety of charities. The concert is very friendly to international travelers and if you haven’t yet bought your tickets, don’t fret. Sunday tickets are for sale at the entrance July 6 at 8am, regardless of if the festival is sold out or not. Otherwise, you can buy tickets online at the Rothskilde website. For U.S. citizens, they are approximately $180.

This year’s festival runs from July 2 - July 5 and features Coldplay, Nine Inch Nails, Kanye West, Gaslight Anthem, M.Ward, and…well, you better just check out the line-up here. As always, the Nordic Company is eager to assist you in your hotel, transportation, and concert needs. 41 days and counting!

Norway’s New Star Power

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

alexander-rybak

As if we need to give you another reason to travel to spectacular Norway…but seriously, take a look Alexander Rybak’s adorable face and listen to that voice! Last night, the violinist, singer, composer, and actor who calls Norway home, stole the hearts of Europe on the musical talent show, Eurovision, with his song “Fairytale.” Rybak is already a well known star in his hometown of Akershus and the winner of many awards across Norway. His success on Eurovision has now cast him in an international spotlight.

Rybak secured his win with 387 votes, a record number in Eurovision’s 53-year history and he even beat out a fellow Scandinavian from Iceland, who took third place. Alexander Rybak’s “Fairytale” can only add to the allure of Norway. It’s not hard to believe such a beautiful voice can come from a land marked by rich countryside, majestic fjords, and stunning glaciers and Rybak’s fame is sure to attract more travelers.

Akershus is located just outside of Oslo and if Rybak is hanging around Norway, you may or may not see him performing at one of the many elegant concert halls in Oslo and the upcoming summer music festivals. To tap into the Olso music scene, we suggest checking out the following: Oslo Konserthus, Bla - a very popular music bar, Valle Hovin outdoor concert venue, the Oslo Summer Festival, Oslo Jazz Festival, and the Oslo Chamber Music Festival.

May marks the start of the Scandinavian festival season

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

kulturfestival

Tomorrow marks the beginning of May and there is a lot to be excited about in Scandinavia. In the office, May means the summer travel blitz is officially underway; we are taking calls, designing itineraries, and sending off our clients on their much anticipated tours. In Scandinavia, May always offers a wealth of art and outdoor activities that allow you maximize your vacation stay. For example, we recommend starting in Stavanger, Norway for Stavanger’s International Jazz Festival that spans May 6 – 10. The Nordic Company has sent many clients to this festival over the years and they can’t say enough about a jazz scene juxtaposed by fjord scenery! Next, make your way to Copenhagen for their annual Architecture and Design Days, May 16-18.

For fascinating art and arguably equally fascinating political climate, catch an Icelandair flight to Reykjavik for the Reykjavik Arts Festival, May 15 – May 31. Iceland is increasingly breaking into the international scene in terms of art and music and this is the perfect chance to see where they get their muse from. Finish back in Denmark to make your trip come full circle by taking a spin at the Aalborg Carnival in late May. The Aalborg Carnival is the largest carnival in Northern Europe and probably the only time you’ll find a whimsical event that rivals the fame of Tivoli!