Chapter 23: Scandinavious

Copenhagen, Stockholm, and headed to Tromso. A real viking journey.

Hello from Norway, and welcome to Backpackin'! If you want to join 800 others reading about this weird trip around the world, add your email below: 

You can check out my other articles and follow me on Twitter too!

Side note before I begin: I’ve been checking on our progress for acquiring the Constitution all week. Initial target was $20 million, we have raised over $40 million at this point lol. Constitution is basically ours.

Thoughts on Viking Land

My last four days have been less lively than most of my trip (frankly this was a much-needed break from a borderline 80 day bender), so I wanted to talk a bit about Scandinavia, at least from what I’ve seen in Copenhagen and Stockholm, in general.


I’m about to say a lot because Scandinavia throat punched the pandemic, and I love it.

Here’s the motto in the Great North:

Scandinavia (especially Sweden) said, “Screw lockdowns. We trust our people.” Has the Swedish laissez faire system led to increased cases, hospitalizations, or deaths?


In fact, data from Johns Hopkins University shows that Sweden has one of the lowest infection rates in the world despite never locking down. Maybe locking down your country (or state) despite there being no data to support the effectiveness of lockdowns isn’t a great idea. Idk.

*Puts on tinfoil hat*

In my opinion, governments don’t really know what to do when COVID flares up. But they feel like they have to do something. And lockdowns are something. And they sound like they should work, because if you don’t let people meet up, then COVID can’t spread.

Except they don’t work. Because countries that have implemented multiple lockdowns are still getting wrecked, while Sweden is chillin’. So maybe we shouldn’t make policy decisions that cause business closures and contribute to increased depression, considering they don’t actually help relieve the issue that they are intended to relieve.

But governments would rather do the wrong something than the wrong nothing. Lockdowns at that wrong something.

I didn’t wear a mask on my flight here. I didn’t have to wear a mask while working out at the gym (which was one of the more ridiculous things that I’ve seen required in some places).

I certainly didn’t have to put on a mask for three seconds to walk through a door just to take it off and mingle with hundreds of people inside a small building, even though we all know that COVID can only infect you within 5 feet of doorways.

Anyways, I’m off my soap box about stupid COVID rules. Skål (cheers) to you, Sweden. Keep living life. If you’re tired of dumb rules, check out Stockholm.


It’s cold in Copenhagen and Stockholm, but not unbearably so. A warm jacket, a beanie, and a scarf are plenty to keep out the chills. However, it gets dark early. Like 3:45 PM, sun is down. I’ve never understood why we move time back an hour while it’s already getting darker naturally, but whatever.

Apparently Scandinavia is poppin’ in the summer though. It makes sense, there are tons of lakes, rivers, and seas around the area. Probably going to make a return trip next year. Lmk if you’re interested 🤝

The People

  • Very kind

  • Great English

  • Freaking huge

Scandinavians are the nicest people that I’ve met in Europe. This is pretty ironic, because for 400 years the Vikings wreaked havoc on the rest of the continent. A bunch of heathens from the North were terrorizing the poor Christians. While not necessarily the most extroverted (probably a side effect of living in the dark, cold north all the time), everyone that I have talked to up here has been both helpful and happy to converse with an American. Whether I’m in a plane, train, hostel, or bar, I’ve been able to casually chat with anyone.

The English up here is impeccable as well. Outside of England itself (and honestly Scandinavian English is easier to understand than British English in my opinion), Scandinavia is head and shoulders above the rest of Europe English-wise. They start learning it early, and English is everywhere. It’s also one of the only regions where movies are shown in English instead of dubbed languages.

Everyone is tall af. I worked out at a local gym in Stockholm, and I felt like a shrimp around some of those people. That Viking blood is real.

Oh, and petty crime basically doesn’t exist. Like people leave their laptops at their seats in the airport bar when they go to the restroom, and stuff like that. Just a solid group of folks here.

The Cities

Copenhagen was a Winter Wonderland with bicycles. Christmas lights everywhere, Christmas markets scattered throughout town, more bikes than cars, and beautiful canals that split the city into sections. Add in Christiania and you just have a super cool place.

Stockholm was cool as well, I just wish I was either three months earlier or three weeks later. I missed the Christmas markets by a week, while summers up north are supposed to be fantastic. Ah well.

On to the recap.


Sunday, November 14th

Groggy morning this Sunday. I woke up at 8:30, said there’s no way I’m waking up at 8:30, and went back to sleep til like 11. After getting up, I wandered through the Christmas village on the way Tyler’s hotel, and we set off to find a COVID test center. He has to test negative to fly back to the States. If he’s positive, he has to stay in Europe.

Man, wouldn’t that be just awful?

We grabbed some tacos from the meat packing district, then headed downtown to the COVID test center. The line moved quick, and we headed to the National Museum of Denmark afterwards.

This museum is really, really cool. It had a ton of thousand year old Scandinavian relics, articles about life in Denmark eons ago, and interactive Viking exhibits. The Vikings are one of the world’s most fascinating cultures. In a Christianity-dominated Europe, the Vikings didn’t have time for Christ’s compassion. Their gods compelled them to pillage and conquer, and they did just that. They terrorized the rest of the continent for 300 years. That’s longer than the lifespan of the US so far.

Imagine an army of roid-raging Canadians just destroying our cities every few years for centuries. That’s what Europe dealt with.

Post-museum, we grabbed the best burger I’ve ever had from a local restaurant. We headed back to the hotel to chill for a while, when Tyler said, “Look up the Copenhagen Casino. We should go do something tonight.”

Well I love casinos, so I obliged. Turns out it was right across the river. from Tyler’s hotel. We walked over, got $100 in chips, and sat down at the poker table. Some other players joined, and five minutes later the game began.

Two hours later, I walked away with $500 and Tyler had about $230. Unfortunately, I couldn’t cash out in dollars. Going to have to hit a currency exchange tomorrow.

Thanks for funding the trip, you degenerate Danes. The Sunday night poker crowd needs to read up on “sunk cost fallacy” before going all in with a pair of Queens when there’s a straight in play, but I’ll take it.

We headed back to the hotel, where I’m writing what you’re currently reading (oooo so meta, right?). I’m just crashing in Tyler’s room tonight. It’s late af, and the walk back to my hostel is pretty long. Off to Stockholm tomorrow.

Monday, November 15th

We were up early. Tyler had a 9 AM flight, and I had to go back to my hostel to check out. We hit the hotel restaurant for a fat breakfast buffet, said our goodbyes, and parted ways. Shout out to Tyler for flying to Europe for literally five days. a true OG.

I checked out from the hostel at 8:15 and made it to the station for a 9 AM train.

I switched trains at a small Swedish town right across the bay from Denmark (you can see that Copenhagen is really close to Sweden), and exchanged my cash before hopping on a high speed train to Stockholm.

I arrived around 3:30, and it was basically dark. Time change + high latitude doesn’t leave a lot of sunlight during the day.

The hostel where I stayed was fantastic. It had a freaking sauna and free coffee. Can’t beat that with a stick. I dropped my stuff off, chatted with a French guy in my room for a bit, then went out to explore the Old Town part of the city.

Stockholm really isn’t all that big. I covered most of the cool/historic buildings in a few hours, so I posted up in a cafe to write some (this was a big writing week for me).

I got back to the hostel, watched I Am Legend with a bunch of the other hostel-dwellers, and got my happy-ass in bed.

Tuesday, November 16th

Got a good night’s sleep for the first time in forever, and I didn’t wake up til like 10. I hung around the hostel for a while before going to meet up with Linnea. Linnea played basketball at Mercer, and she actually came on my senior formal as my friend Trey’s date.

Anyways, I had told her I would be in Stockholm so we met at a brunch place at 12ish. Most of Europe doesn’t have brewed coffee; you have to order an americano. Sweden is all in on the brewed coffee train. Another point for Sweden. I got a full English (full Swedish?) and like a liter of coffee.

Linnea is playing basketball for a club in Sweden now while finishing grad school, so it was cool catching up on all the random life stuff from graduation to now. We grabbed some scooters, and she took me around to see the rest of the city.

She told me that I picked the worst possible time to visit Stockholm, because it was cold and dark, but still too early for the Christmas markets. Very unfortunate. But I will definitely be returning in the spring/summer. Apparently Scandinavia is sick when it’s warm.

After our tour of the city she left to go to practice, and I went shopping. I’m going to Tromso, Norway in a couple of days. Tromso is in the Arctic Circle. Because of this, Tromso is really cold. I needed to buy some gloves.

After securing my new garmets, I went looking for a local gym.

I found a spot 10 minutes from the hostel with a free 1 day trial, and $10 day pass after that. Seemed reasonable. When I walked in, I noticed two things:

  1. Everyone in the gym was massive. Every girl in there could have kicked my ass

  2. I had to take my shoes off when I walked in. Most indoor spaces (classrooms, homes, hotels, gyms) require you to take off your shoes. These people are really, really tidy.

I got a solid pump with some Vikings before heading to meet up with Mercer alum #2.

Mackenzie Pfaff was another Mercer grad living in Stockholm. Linnea is actually from Sweden, but Mackenzie is a native Georgian who moved to Sweden to be an Au pair. We grabbed some tacos and went to a local bar for a while to catch up.

We walked around town for a bit afterwards (I think I walked by some stuff three times today lol), before I headed home at like 11.

It was cool getting the Swedish experience from two perspectives: a Swedish girl who went to school in the US, and a US girl who moved to Sweden after graduation.

Wednesday, November 17th

Woke up at 9 and headed straight to a coffeeshop for some fika (Swedish term for coffee and a pastry. I got a cinnamon roll). Then I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. And this was the final product:

I tweeted a link to the article, and 24 hours later I had generated 100,000 impressions on Twitter, 3,000 views on Substack, and 130 new subscribers. The internet is incredible.

I went back to the Viking gym that afternoon before showering and heading to Linnea’s basketball game. I haven’t been to a live sports event since a Braves’ game last summer, so professional Swedish women’s basketball was a welcome change up. Unfortunately, I did a terrible job of navigating my way through the train station to get there.

Fortunately, they won and Linnea scored five points.

Her mom (also a super tall lady) gave us a ride back to the city center, and we grabbed dinner and drinks at a local bar. We swung by my hostel after so I could drop off my bag and change clothes, and I told her about this annoying dude in my room who would never stop talking (a fitting punishment for me, a person who also never stops talking).

We walk in my room, and the guy is in there. And then he wouldn’t stop talking to Linnea. The problem is, his accent was so strong that we couldn’t really understand him lol. Oh well.

We went to a bar down the road to meet up with her friend Victoria, a girl who played soccer at ETSU. (SoCon was repping hard in Stockholm last night). We hung out for a couple of hours, I took my first hotshot (Swedish specialty), and Victoria got the bartender to play Wagon Wheel (because when you go to school in Johnson City, you have to know every word to Wagon Wheel). We parted ways at 2ish. I had a 9 AM flight the next day.

Anyways, on to Tromso. I’ll post some pics with reindeer and dog sleds next week.


See below for the previous and next chapter: