Hard to believe we have already been away a month, and have another 4 weeks’ travelling to go before we get back to the Land of Oz.
We’re spending tonight in Riga, Latvia which is a stopover on our Air Baltic flight to St Petersburg. All Air Baltic flights hub through Riga, so we picked the flight with the longest time between landing here and taking off for St Petersburg to give us a chance to explore another central European city. We’re staying in a hotel in Old Riga. Greg has already been out for a walk to check out the local sights by night. We’ll do more walking and exploring tomorrow.
Before I get distracted by more sights and experiences, I thought I’d write down few observations about our travels in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. It was all great, and I would love to re-visit any or all of these countries in the future We found all the ‘locals’ we talked to wherever we went to be universally friendly, helpful and nearly everyone speaks excellent English. Prices of most things in Sweden, Denmark and Finland were around the same as at home, with the exception of fuel which cost more everywhere. In Norway, everything was expensive. We had read about it before we left, and I think I was secretly hoping it wouldn’t be as bad as people claimed …. but it was. Everything just cost a lot of money. Getting a $165 parking fine didn’t help much either. We were very glad that we were able to spend most of our time in Norway camping and self-catering.
The economies of all 4 countries seem to be in good shape, with little or no foreign debt, limited exposure to the GFC, and Finland and Norway have both covered their future age pension commitments … I’m not sure about Sweden and Denmark.
People in Scandinvian countries seem have children earlier than they do at home. We saw lots of young parents out and about with babies and toddlers. Good, secure, well-paid work, generous parenting payments and parenting leave probably go a long way to bringing the average age down – this is just our observations, I haven’t gone hunting around for any statistics.
Summer is short. Very short. When we left Stockholm 4 weeks ago, everything was green and lush. Yesterday we went to Uppsala for the day and lots of the fields are now golden with grain crops, flowers have started going to seed and some of the trees have started turning yellow. Berries, currants and chanterelle mushrooms are the hot seasonal sellers in markets everywhere at the moment. In Finland there were also lots of peas in their pods, but I looked for them in Stockholm and didn’t find any. Must be a Finnish thing.
And I have to mention one last thing, even thought it’s not really relevant to anything else much, I just want to remember it – at the apartment complex we stayed at in Helsinki, the area around the car park and near the 4-storey building had been landscaped with white- and red currant bushes which all had almost-ripe fruit on them. I don’t know if anyone picked them to eat or preserve, but every time I walked past one, I would pick a handful to eat!