As Published For Interlake Publishing // April 25th 2019
On March 23, twenty-four of Stonewall’s high school students left for the capitals of Scandinavia. Described from students as an adventure of a lifetime, the group was submerged in different cultures, languages, surrounded by local people, and told the history of the cities they explored. The countries they visited include Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Estonia.
The group is a part of Stonewall’s Community Travel Group. Organized each year by Monica Conger-Morrison and Randy Gabel, from Stonewall Collegiate. Conger-Morrison and Gabel set off every year with a different group, teaching the value of learning outside of the classroom.
The tour of Scandinavia began in the city Oslo, home of mystical trolls and of historic Vikings. The City of Oslo has been the capital of Norway since 1814, and sits on the country’s southern coast. The city is known for not only its history, but also its progress with the environment. Oslo’s approach to protecting its natural areas and increasing its usage in clean energy are just two of the many reasons why the city won the European Green Capital Award for 2019. After two days, the travel group then boarded an overnight cruise ferry to the city of Copenhagen.
“I’ve never been on any boats like that before. The different points of view from the water were breath taking and definitely picture worthy.” said Trinity Rutledge, a grade 11 student of Stonewall Collegiate.
The next 3 days of the trip were spent in Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark. This city was one of the personal favourites for many of the travelers.
Courtlaind Armstrong, a grade 12 student from the Collegiate, stated “If I had to describe the city of Copenhagen in three words, I would say bikes, bikes and more bikes”.
While arriving to Copenhagen the traveler were greeted by a local tour guide. The tour guide shared the country’s history, myths as well as the legends. One of the stories the guide shared was about the popular story known worldwide as “The Little Mermaid”. To most of the group’s surprise this story originated from Denmark, but with a much more dark twist in the end. As well as walking around the city, the group participated in a boat tour which took them through the canals of the city. The group also climbed a 17th century Round Tower, which is currently Europe’s oldest functioning observatory. They also explored the Kronborg Castle, a 16th century Danish castle known worldwide as the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Elsinore.
“It was like you were literally repeating history.” stated Todd Holmes, a grade 11 student from the Collegiate. “I got many different feelings throughout the tour, especially when we were down in the tunnels. Ghosts were everywhere.”
After visiting The City of Copenhagen, the group took an eight hour bus ride into Sweden’s capital city Stockholm through the country side.
The legend that was shared with the group on how the colourful city of Stockholm got its name was that when the city was first being built, Vikings threw logs into the water and then built the city on the floating wood. Stockholm when broken up and translated from Swedish, means log island. Stock, coming from the old Swedish word Stokker, which means log or pole in English and Holm, translating to island or islet. This is because the city of Stockholm is situated on fourteen islands, this is why the locals also call Stockholm, “Venice of the North”.
On the way to Stockholm the group stopped in Gränna, a small town that is known for its Polkagrisars, a type of Swedish candy that resembles the classic red-and-white candy cane. The group had the option of watching the manufacturing process of the candy, and time to explore the cobble stone streets. This local candy was a popular souvenir that the group took home to give to their family and friends.
They participated in a thrilling ghost walk and strolled through five centuries of Swedish history in the world’s oldest outdoor museum, called Skansen. The group also visited the ABBA Museum, as well as went to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa Museum is one of Scandinavia’s most visited museums, inside is the remains of an old warship that capsized locally and sank in 1628. Today Vasa is the world’s largest and most well kept 17th century ship.
Next on the list for the group was Helsinki, the capital city of Finland. The group spent 2 days exploring the city; which included the excursion to the medieval city Tallinn, in the country of Estonia. The travelers spent their last day relaxing in Helsinki at the Allas Sea Pool. The travelers who were exceptionally brave jumped into the sea after getting out of the sauna, mimicking the locals.
Stonewall’s Community Travel Group had an exceptional personalized learning experience over the Spring Break. Each day was led with expert local guides leading the group on sightseeing tours, sharing information on history, art, and architecture; and they toured across the countries in several different ways. This included 2 over night cruise ferry ships, canal tours, bus tours, and walking through the streets.
“My favourite thing about the trip was visiting all of the historical sites and getting to learn about each city’s history. Almost every city had a historic fire at some point in time.” said by Graeme Perrie, a grade 10 student.
Both Conger-Morrison and Gabel believe that there is so much history and culture to learn in the world, and agree that one of the best ways to learn is to travel.
“It’s really nice to see that (the students) are seeing and understanding the value of this.” said by Gabel while walking with a group of students in Finland.
Carlen MacFarlane, a grade 10 student from Stonewall Collegiate stated, “I think one thing that a lot of us on the trip realized and got to experience was the amazing amount of multiculturalism! Pretty much everywhere in Europe, most people can speak many different languages. I think almost everyone on the trip had a moment where they realized how cool it is that these people can speak two, three or even four languages! It really inspired me to learn another language”.
Conger-Morrison and Gabel have already organized the tour for 2020 to Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii, and are currently planning the 2021 trip to Japan. Both Conger-Morrison and Gabel would like to encourage other youths from the community who are interested in traveling, to contact them at Stonewalltravelgroup@gmail.com to add their name to the contact list of interested travellers. Here future meetings, dates, and other information will be shared.