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Destination guide – Tromsø, Norway

After four very enjoyable months in Stockholm, I decided to see a little more of Scandinavia and headed off to Tromsø, a little more than 200 miles North of the Arctic Circle.

Considering the distances involved, I decided to park my car at Oslo Airport and take an SAS flight to Tromsø, where I spent three nights.

Tromsø is a unique and truly breathtaking city, combining snow capped mountains, crystal clear fjords and the somewhat surreal phenomenon of the midnight sun.

My first experience of Tromsø was a stroll around the pretty harbour and across the bridge to the Arctic Cathedral.

The real highlight of the day was a ride up to the Storsteinen mountain ledge of the Fjellheisen cable car.

The cable car makes the 421m ascent in just four minutes and the breathtaking views are simply not to be missed.

The following day, I decided to take things a little easier and stroll along some if the beautiful fjordside paths out to Tromsø Folkeparken and the Southern Beach.

As it was amazingly 27°C on the day of my visit, the beach was too crowded for me to get any photographs, but suffice to say it is a unique experience, with views across the fjord to the snow capped mountains beyond.

The only regret I have about my visit to Tromsø was not managing to take the midnight RIB (rigid inflatable boat) cruise. These run for three hours from 10pm to 1am when the midnight sun shines on Tromsø. After two very full days and with an early start on the third day, my heart was willing but my body was not.

Flight review – SAS Oslo – Tromsø

As my tour of Scandinavia continued to the Arctic North, I decided to leave my car at Oslo Airport and fly to Tromsø, rather than take a three day drive each way.

There were several options for this route, including Norwegian and Widerøe. However it turned out that the best deal was on the direct afternoon flight with SAS.

The flight was quite expensive for a domestic one-way at €226 for the most basic hand luggage only ticket.

I, however, chose to upgrade to the SAS Plus fare at €270, including checked luggage and access to the SAS Domestic Lounge at Oslo Airport.

This proved to be a good choice, as the American Express lounge to which I would normally have access was located after customs controls and therefore not accessible to domestic passengers. It also allowed me to check in my small rollaboard rather than fighting for overhead bin space.

The lounge was pretty basic in terms of its food offerings, but offered wine and both draught and canned beer and provided a comfortable place to sit while waiting for boarding, so it suited me fine.

The on board experience was not up to the standards of even intra-European Business Class, in that middle seats were not kept free and refreshments were limited to a snack and drink. However, given the short length of this flight and the small premium that I paid, I was perfectly happy with it.

Overall, this was a nice, easy little flight and “upgrading” was worth it in my very specific case.

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Destination guide – Stockholm, Sweden

Sweden has been the poster child of freedom throughout the covid panic, the only country in the developed world never to have had a lockdown or a mask mandate.

For this reason, I made Stockholm my temporary home for a total of 8 months out of the last two years.

Here is an introduction to the beautiful capital city of the country that kept its head while all around them were losing theirs.


From a multitude of museums, many of which are very inexpensive or even free to visit, to picturesque parks and gardens, relaxing waterside walks and a lively nightlife, Stockholm truly has something for everyone.


First of all, Stockholm is not a city for drivers. The high cost of fuel and the eye-watering parking prices (if you can even find a place to park) convinced even a dedicated petrol head like me to ditch my wheels.

Furthermore, the public transport system is one of the most efficient I have come across anywhere in the world. You will very rarely need to wait more than 5 or 10 minutes for a bus, tram or metro train. Fares are very reasonable at 39SEK (£3 or $4) for a single ticket. Passes are also available, ranging from 165SEK (£13 or $16) for 24 hours to 970 SEK (£78 or $95) for 30 days.

Personally, I feel that the best way to see Stockholm is from the water. Options include the Oceanbus amphibious vehicle and the many boat tours, both of which are fun choices. My recommendation, however, is the commuter ferries which criss-cross the city and are included in the excellent value public transport passes.






New mask free destinations

Further to my previously published guide to mask free destinations , a number of countries have joined the freeface bandwagon and abandoned the face covering dogma of the covid years.

Costa Rica 🇨🇷

The tropical paradise of Costa Rica is now fully unrestricted. There is no vaccination or test required for entry and tourists are no longer forced to buy overpriced health insurance to cover quarantine expenses.

Furthermore, mask wearing is now entirely optional in all settings.

Latvia 🇱🇻

Latvia has now joined its Baltic neighbour in abolishing the mask mandate for public transport, meaning that all everyday settings are now mask free.

Austria 🇦🇹

Following months of dragging its feet, Austria has suspended the mask mandate for shops and public transport, meaning that there are now no mask requirements in everyday life.

This, however, comes with a few caveats.

FFP2 masks (bird beaks) are still required in medical settings, which barring incidents most tourists will not need to access.

The Austrian government has backtracked a number of times on promised relaxations of the mask mandate and has explicitly stated that the present relaxation is only for a period of three months. Therefore, I have to advise treating this announcement with a modicum of scepticism. However, as I stated in my Lake Constance review, the new freeface culture has been almost universally embraced. I am therefore hopeful that the mask mandate will not be politically expedient to reimpose later.

Italy 🇮🇹

I was unsure whether to include Italy in this list, as the mandate is still officially in force, but is very widely expected to lapse on June 15.

After this date, the mask mandate for public transport and all businesses will expire, meaning tourists can go about their daily lives unmuzzled.

Italy is perhaps the most surprising addition to this list, as it has been an avid bastion of mask zealotry for the last two years.

I very much hope I don’t have to publish a retraction of this section after a hurried U-turn in the next 48 hours.

EDIT: In the few days since this article was published, the Italian government has backtracked and extended the mask mandate for public transport until September 30.

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Trip review – Lake Constance

Lake Constance, nestled between Germany, Austria and Switzerland, encapsulates the contrast between the rugged landscape of the Alps and the gentle serenity of the lake waters. It is truly area of stunning natural beauty and I consider myself privileged to have lived there for nine years.

However, over the last two years, the region has been subject to some of the most brutal covid restrictions in Europe, leading me to spend much of that time away from home. Those restrictions ended in Switzerland several weeks ago and on June 1, Austria finally let go of one of the last hangovers of the covid panic, the mask mandate for public transport and everyday shopping.

I decided to fly down from my temporary base in Stockholm to see how fully this new found freedom was being embraced. I was pleasantly surprised.

My trip started with a flight to Zürich on Swiss, which no longer forces passengers to wear a mask. The airport in Zürich was also mask free, as was the 80-minute train journey to my home in Bregenz, Austria.

During my visit, I checked out the situation in all three countries bordering the lake, beginning with a walk along the Austrian shoreline, from Bregenz to Lochau.

This section is one of the more picturesque walks in the region and hugs the shoreline for several kilometres.

Lake Constance at Bregenz

The rigours of the last two years seemed a lifetime away.

My next stop was the Swiss lakeside town of Rorschach, an easy 35 minute train journey away. The journey was entirely mask free and there were no formalities required to enter Switzerland.

Rorschach was exactly as I remembered it from the pre-covid days.

I then headed off to visit my former workplace in Lindau, Germany. This is a relaxing one-hour cruise on one of the famous Lake Constance ships, which ply many routes around the lake to ports in all three countries.

Lindau was as charming as ever, with the rigours of the last two years seemingly forgotten.

Technically, the Bavarian mask mandate still applies to the first five minutes or so of the train journey back to Austria, but I observed only around 50% compliance and zero enforcement by the Austrian train crew.

On my last day of the trip, with one of the infamous Lake Constance thunderstorms rolling in, I headed off on the excellent new Swiss InterCity train to spend the day in Zürich before my flight back to Stockholm.

Overall, this was a successful and enjoyable trip. Switzerland has been restriction free for several weeks now and has returned entirely to pre-covid normality. Austria has now returned to every day normality and Germany seems not to be far behind.

However, it remains to be seen how long the new found freedom in this region will last.

Switzerland has generally been the least restricted of the three countries throughout the pandemic, and I am now reasonably confident that they, at least, have finally emerged from the panic and will not slip back into the restrictions.

Austria and Germany, however, have been somewhat stricter throughout and witnessing first hand how fully the restrictions were accepted and even embraced on a societal level was unsettling, to say the least. With that said, there seems, at least currently, little appetite in the general populations for a return to those restrictions. I remain optimistic, at least for the summer months.

In conclusion, I would highly recommend a visit to this stunning region, to which no written account can do full justice. Unfortunately, I did not have time on this short trip to enjoy the many other delightful areas of the lakeside, such as the pretty sailing town of Langenargen, the castle and wine region around Meersburg and the eponymous historical town of Konstanz. Hopefully I can cover those areas later in the summer.

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