4 Ways to Experience an Authentic Scandinavian Summer
Having grown up in Finland, the thought of summer is instinctively connected to the mental image of a summer cottage by a lake or a river. Up until maybe 15 years ago, everyone's summer cottage was usually totally off grid, which meant that summer holidays and weekends were spent swimming (usually stark naked), fishing, rowing a boat in the cool waters near the cottage...
Living away from one's home country usually results in a stark realisation of how different (yet also similar!) people are around the world. The memories and traditions that define someone as a Scandinavian are different to those of other countries and regions. However, there are some ways that a non-Scandinavian can experience aspects of an authentic Scandinavian summer while visiting the region.
Having grown up in Finland, the thought of summer is instinctively connected to the mental image of a summer cottage by a lake or a river. Up until maybe 15 years ago, everyone's summer cottage was usually totally off grid, which meant that summer holidays and weekends were spent swimming (usually stark naked), fishing, rowing a boat in the cool waters near the cottage, roaming the forests and countryside nearby, having saunas, and reading in a quiet corner somewhere, preferably in a hammock. As a grown up in our modern-day technology-infused world, the memories are filled with nostalgia and perhaps a dose awe. Not having a phone or a fridge or a shower (the river or lake did the job) never bothered any of us - young or old - and now the imagery seems rather blissful. So simple and close to nature.
Luckily not that much has been added to the summer cottages of my childhood. Many now have electricity and, with it, fridges and ways to charge our precious electronics - should we want to. But the instinctive yearning to retreat from our busy lives and recharge ourselves through the simple rhythms of cottage life remains… And it is a Scandinavian tradition that is sure to endure! And what is even better, it is accessible to visitors as well! Indeed, for a taste of the cottage life and the chance to unplug and enjoy a Wifi free existence, see for example our 5-day tour 'Private Island Retreat in Sweden'.
Another nostalgia infused (yet still a current and relevant) aspect of a Scandinavian summer is catching a ferry to the archipelagos for some fresh air and sparkling waters. There is something strangely different about being out at sea, with the sun above and the endless horizon ahead, in comparison to the life at a summer cottage (although countless colourful cottages are dotted along the seashore as well). The forest-covered lakeside cottage has a reflective, almost inward feel to it whereas taking in the vastness of the sea and the archipelago somehow has an outward, exciting, even joyous feeling connected to it. It is the warm, salty wind on a smiling, sun-kissed face. And the perfect ending to a day like that is a fresh seafood meal near the harbour!
Lucky for our travellers, you can try it and judge for yourself, for example through our 3 day tour 'Stockholm Archipelago'.
Having parents who loved to socialise and many towns to call home in my 20 or so years in Finland, summers are also full of memories of the hours spent driving through the countryside to visit family and friends. The strange beauty of a northern summer is that driving can be done at all hours of the day and night, because it hardly ever gets dark - this is more true the further north you go. A late evening - hours long - drive through green fields and forests along quiet, near-empty roads seems perfectly normal, even peaceful and desirable. And depending on the direction you are going - north, south, east or west - each time the scenery and landscape are completely different. I truly believe that it is through the window of a car or a train that most countries truly reveal themselves to you.
Especially for first timers, here are a few examples of where to head to on your own summer driving adventure in Scandinavia:
- Journey through Lapland - self drive (8 days)
- Green Forests & Blue Lakes - self drive in Finland (9-day premium tour to Eastern Finland)
- From the Sea to the Lakes - self drive in Finland (10-day premium tour to Western Finland)
- Oslo to Gothenburg - self drive coastal route (6 days)
- Gothenburg to Stockholm - short self drive (5 days)
- Bergen to Trondheim - self drive tour (6 days)
- Copenhagen return - self drive tour (6 days)
Although some Scandinavian music festivals have become fairly international events and going to one is usually a fairly crowded affair, many still provide a glimpse to the local culture in interesting, even unparalleled ways. As a young adult in Finland, music festivals were certainly a non-negotiable part of every summer. Although options are endless over the three official summer months, a few specifically family-friendly / mature audience options include the Flow Festival in Helsinki, Finland (August 9-11, 2019) and the Førde Traditional and World Music Festival in Førde, Norway (July 3-7, 2019). And the good news are that we can help to organise everything!
Credits: Alexander Hall/imagebank.sweden.se, Vilhelm Stokstad/imagebank.sweden.se