A Travellerspoint blog

August 2013

Sweden

Despite the complaint of the taxi driver last night, we called for a taxi to the airport. Really, it's not that far to the subway, but the thought of lugging all that luggage to it, through it, and back up was a bit daunting. Plus, since we were really close to the airport and there were 3 of us, it wasn't really that expensive anyway. For a young, single traveler, I still recommend the subway, but for us, it wasn't the right choice. At the airport, I said goodbye to my parents, checked my luggage, got my tickets, and then headed off to Malmo by train. The train crosses this incredible bridge, but of course you can't really get a good view of the bridge from the train itself. Upon arrival in Malmo, I locked my carry-on bag in the lockers at the train station. Unfortunately, the lockers don't accept cash or a credit card without a PIN. Since I never use my credit cards as debit cards, so I have no clue what the PINs they sent me are, so I had to use my debit card for just a few bucks. I hope the international fees aren't super-high. From there, I attempted to find the visitors' center that everybody said was just across the street, but couldn't. Later, I found out that they were sending me across the wrong street. In any case, I played the "stupid tourist" card- I ducked into the nearest hotel and asked the front desk for a map. Now that I was oriented, I took some time to look at the really cool architecture in the area and on my way to Malmo castle. I'm not well-versed in the architectural terms, but I can say that the buildings looked pretty interesting. On the way to the castle, I passed through a park with a lot of really neat statues as well as the "Linneaus Gardens." In honor of all he did for plant classification, they have a large garden area with tons of different species. Again, I'm not well-versed in botany, but the gardens were pretty. I have to admit though, I generally expect more bright colors in gardens, while these must have had a large variety of species of green-only plants.

Malmo castle is a museum that contains several different sections and displays, some actually about the castle, and some pretty irrelevant, but still interesting, including an aquarium. One of the more interesting displays was the collection of old school posters. There was a wide variety of posters showing scientific processes, historical events, and some whose educational purpose I couldn't determine. The other thing that makes the castle worth the visit is the museum restaurant- I'm not kidding. For a very reasonable price, I got a salad bar, entree and drink, all of which were good, real, Swedish food. I'm not used to museum cafes having real food (as defined as made from scratch on-site, not some prepackaged item they just reheat), good food (as defined both in flavor, quality, and presentation), or particularly local food. I have to say that I was impressed with my one Swedish meal. After lunch, I headed to the other museums that were included in the ticket to the castle museum. One was closed for a private function, but the science and technology museum was open. This is a very well-done museum. When you first walk in, you can see lots of movement and activity as they have tons of motorized displays running. They have a large display on transportation, and many of the items are actually running or moving. The large submarine they have parked outside isn't moving, but you can crawl through it to see what it would have been like to live on a real submarine. (The answer is not for the claustrophobic or tall.) In addition to the real sub, they have real planes and real control tower equipment that you can touch and see. Downstairs, they have a ton of old cars and some futuristic cars as well.The upstairs area was a hands-on experiment area that was pretty similar to every other science museum- bernoulli blowers, mirror tricks, etc. That was the least exciting part of the museum, but it was still ok.

Since there didn't seem to be too much else to do in Malmo, I walked around the downtown a bit to kill time before I headed back to the airport. By complete coincidence, I ran across an "American Store." This store basically carries all the foods that are popular in the US that are hard-to-come-by elsewhere (as well as some things not popular in the states). Due to Malmo festival, they were all out of mac-n-cheese, but they had Catalina dressing, marshmallow fluff, proper Doritos, and tons of other very typical foods. I was kind of sad that I had already checked my checked luggage because it meant that I couldn't bring anything liquid/gel back. So, I went back to the train station, retrieved my carry-on, and headed back to Copenhagen airport to end the trip.

Malmo central area

Malmo central area


Old-style architecture

Old-style architecture


Statue in park

Statue in park


park

park


Linneus Gardens

Linneus Gardens


Malmo tower

Malmo tower


Bridge to Malmo castle

Bridge to Malmo castle


Inside Malmo Castle

Inside Malmo Castle


Educational posters

Educational posters


planes trains and automobiles

planes trains and automobiles

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

Bergen Museums

Since each of us had different desires for the morning, I started out at the kids' science museum on my own.

OMG this is a fabulous museum!!! I have been to lots of science museums and this one is possibly the best (sorry Exploratorium). In addition to all of the standard science museum hands-on displays, there were lots that I had never seen before. Plus, they give you a card so that anything you "create," you can access from home on your computer with a passcode. I made a cute little stop-motion "movie" at one of the stations, and would be able to see it from home. I rode a bicycle that went in a vertical circle that gave me the feeling of swinging over the bar on swings, and I think that I could have accessed the video of that online. I tried to hit as many exhibits as possible, but since I had to meet my parents at a set time, I had to leave. If you have kids, you should bring them here when you have a whole day. There's at least a full day's worth of stuff to do, and pulling any kid away from all of the fun would be impossible. If you don't have kids, but just like science, this is also a very cool museum to visit. I highly recommend allowing as much time as possible for it, as you won't want to leave.

I pulled myself away in order to go to the Natural History Museum. It was nice, but not half as cool as the kids science one. Also, one of the floors was pretty much all taxidermy, which is not exactly my cup of tea. Admission to the Natural History Museum also comes with admission to the Cultural History Museum. This was interesting. One of the most fun displays there was an "archeologists' puzzle." They had a couple of broken potteries and a roll of tape and instructions to "put them back together." I love puzzles, but I never stopped to think how hard they could be if you had most, but not all, of the pieces to 2 different, but similarly-colored, puzzles and had to put them together with no map or idea of what they would be in the end. It's more challenging than you might think.

Since dad hadn't seen the Bryggen area yet, we went there and to the Bergenhus area nearby for a bit until it was time to head to the airport. In front of one of the hotels, there is an airport bus that leaves several times per hour and is super-convenient a well as MUCH cheaper than a taxi would be.

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum


Bryggen Museum

Bryggen Museum


Bergenhus

Bergenhus


Kids' science museum

Kids' science museum

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Bergen

Early this morning, my mom and I got up to check out town while my dad slept in. The first place we headed was the fish market. You know you got up early when the fish market is still setting up when you arrive. The fish market was actually not that different than fish markets anywhere else except that maybe it had some products that other places wouldn't. For example, there were moose sausages and lots of roe, but those were really aimed at the tourists.

Just a little further down from the fish market is Old Bryggen, a UNESCO world heritage sight. The homes here are large-timber homes built so long ago that a lot of them are pretty crooked. Furthermore, the alleyways in between them are made of wooden planks. And we wonder why cities like this burnt so easily! Fortunately, these survived all of the other fires that burnt down nearby areas. At one end of the old part of town, one of the old buildings is now the Hanseatic Museum, which we visited. It was fun to walk around the old building and really feel how dark and cramped these old places were. What made it extra-cramped though were all of the tourists. None of the rooms are large enough to hold any decent-sized tour group, yet all of the tour guides attempted. The back of each tour group ended up in the hall, blocking the way through for anybody else. There is actually a second half to the museum that is across the old part of town. At this second half, I learned that my mother is an excellent stilt-walker. If she ever wanted to join the circus, she totally could.

Also at this end of old Bryggen are a bunch of very cool art galleries. We stopped in a few on our way back to the hotel to "pick up" dad. From the hotel, we grabbed lunch at a Chinese restaurant we found on our way to the Leprosy Museum. Yes, I did just say the Leprosy Museum. Bergen used to have a leper's colony here that was home to a lot of leprosy research. Today, there are no lepers living there, and it has been turned into a grotesque museum. Some of the museum consists of exhibits and displays showing how the lepers lived. But several of the rooms where patients formerly lived contained medical curiosities and information. If you can, get a "guided" tour. The tour guide lady told us all about the crazy things that some of the doctors did that harmed or saved patients. It was pretty interesting to hear about what went on back then.

The last major tourist attraction of the day was a ride up the funicular. At the top, there are several hiking trails, one of which led to a pretty little lake. Also, there is a super-crowded souvenir shop that sold very tasty ice cream. It was a nice treat to have while enjoying the incredible view of the city.

We had dinner at the restaurant next door to the hotel because it was close and there was a discount, and then we walked the city a bit. Happily, we stumbled onto Deli Delucca, a little take-away deli with a chocolate dessert that was very rich, although not super-sweet.

Hanseatic Museum

Hanseatic Museum


Leprosy Museum

Leprosy Museum


Bergen Museum

Bergen Museum


View from top

View from top


Bryggen

Bryggen


Fish Market

Fish Market

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Not the hike I expected

Again, we had a good hotel breakfast, but it couldn't compare to Thon in Oslo. I can say that I'm eating plenty of cheese though. After breakfast, I went for a long walk around the "lake" area. The scenery was beautiful, but there wasn't much to see beyond that. Also, having been to Flam and Gudvangen yesterday, this didn't seem quite so spectacular. It's like hearing Pavarotti one night, and then going to the concert of an award-winning singer the next. It's great, but not as great. Then, my parents and I went for a walk to Bordalsgjelet. It's not a super-long walk, but it takes you up to a gorge area with a few small waterfalls. It's cute and it has a different charm than the stuff we saw yesterday, so it was a nice hike. The next activity also began with a hike. We went to see the Folk Museum, which is up the hill from town. First, you walk (uphill) up several streets, always with nice little arrows telling you where to go. Then, they direct you up some stairs, and then up some hill. At this point, you're sweating and thinking that you must be almost there. Then, you see the first little gate that you have to go in, and you think you're there. Then, you go up some more hill. Possibly, you realize you're not as "almost there" as you think, and you take a breather on one of the many benches they have situated on the side of the path. Also, you take some pictures as you have an incredible view of the city and the lake area. Then, you continue on. Eventually, you see what you know must be the museum, and again, you think you're almost there. Not quite. By the time you are actually at the museum, you are thinking to yourself, "this better be the best museum in the world." It's not, but it is fun.

We started in the outdoor portion. They have a series of houses and other buildings built in various styles from various time periods in history. You can go inside and climb around most of them, and most have (English) descriptions of what they are. You can climb into a loft and see how they slept. You can walk into a barn and pretend that you're a cow. You can see an old kitchen, complete with a big black cooking pot. Next, we saw the inside part of the museum. We saw displays (not in English, and they were out of English translation packets) on all sorts of aspects of Nordic life. There was an old school room, complete with antique maps an inkwells. There was room on Norwegian traditional dress, including woolen long johns. They recreated a woodworker's shop area with tons of tools. My favorite part was seeing the painted trunks and Nordic designs. While I fully recognize that 1-Kirsten (American Girl) was from Sweden instead of Norway (different, although they were combined at many points in history) and that 2-the books are historical fiction with literary license, I still think a lot of the items in the museum (especially the trunks) reminded me of items she had. That definitely helped me connect with the objects in the museum on another level. Coming down from the museum did not take as long as getting up to it. We still had plenty of time to grab a snack at the train station cafe before we had to get our baggage and get ready for the train.

We thought that we were beating the system. All of the Norway in a Nutshell mob takes the train that leaves after 7. In order to avoid the huge crown with tons of luggage, and also because there wasn't much more to do in Voss (since we weren't parasailing, kayaking, boating, or doing the other adventurous things they offer), we decided to get a earlier train. The guy at the ticket counter said that we didn't even have to get a new ticket, we just had to get on the train and go. However, there was a still a huge crowd getting on the train. The one nice thing is that they didn't all have a lot of luggage the way the Norway in a Nutshell crew does. At first, we got onto the first car that was available- the one my mom called the "cattle car." It was just a big, empty car with no seats, no "furniture,"no bars, no nothing.We grabbed seats on the floor and made ourselves comfortable. Later, the conductor came around and told us that there were lots of seats in the back. By "lots of" he meant a few, but not enough for everybody who was in the 'cattle car." We took some of the seats and enjoyed the view of the Norwegian fjords. Again, we had amazing views that words just can't describe. I didn't have a window seat, so I don't have pictures, but just imagine some that are similar to the area between Flam and Gudvangen. Then, get on plane and just come here and see them.

Ultimately, my suggestion is that you MUST come do Norway in a Nutshell. There is a reason that some of the areas are UNESCO protected areas and there is a reason it is one of the top 5 rail rides in the world. I recommend starting at either end, but stopping in Flam for at least 1, if not 2 nights. If you're into parasailing and other such activities, you might also stop in Voss. Otherwise, it's not necessary. While the Voss tourism board does a great job of advertising their hikes and the Flam tourist board does not, Flam has better hikes. I would have loved to have had a full day to hike to Myrdal and slowly see all of the scenery we saw on the train ride. I would have loved to have had time to hike beyond the waterfall. The hikes in Voss were nice, but not necessarily worth a whole day.

parasailer over Voss

parasailer over Voss


Voss view

Voss view


Voss museum

Voss museum

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Norway in a Nutshell 2

I woke up early, and was glad I did. Because it's summer here, I had plenty of light to hike by. I headed out of town towards the waterfall. The trail picks up from the road and sends you through a little gate and then up some fields into the woods. The gate is there to keep the sheep in. There are sheep. At one point during the climb, one of them was standing in the pathway, blocking it as if he didn't want me to proceed. Honestly, I don't really know much about sheep. For all I know, they're heavy and aggressive, or not. So, I just kind of waited for him. Fortunately, the bell from another sheep started ringing, and eventually the sheep I was staring down left, so I'd say that I won that stand-off. The trail itself is mostly mud-covered rocks, but it is an easy trail until near the top. Then, there were a couple of places where I had to use my hands. Otherwise, it wasn't necessary to have a walking stick or use hands on the trail at all. The end of the trail (or at least the end I took) puts you on a little ledge right across from the waterfall. You're above the bottom of it and have a great view, but you aren't directly in it. It did look like there was another trail that continued on, maybe to the top, but I didn't really think I had time to explore that. A couple of notes on safety. First, the path doesn't have a lot of intersections, and when it does, it is very well-marked. You don't really run the risk of getting lost. Secondly, this is a relatively safe area. While I know that no places is 100% safe, you're not exactly likely to get attacked by a person, although I can't speak for the sheep. Really, the only risk you run is of falling, because it was very slippery in some places. I would generally suggest trying to go with a second person for safety, as if you go early, it might be a long time before somebody comes to help you if you fall or have a problem. I went early, and I didn't see another hiker until I was all the was back at the bottom. Because of that risk, I was walking (up and down) extra slowly and carefully. My pocket first-aid kit has bandaids, but not a portable ambulance. I think that it ultimately took me about an hour to get from the hotel to the waterfall, and about another 20 minutes or so to get back down from the waterfall. After a rain, it might take you more. On a dry day with friends so you just move along (and don't wait for a sheep to move), it would definitely take you less.

Breakfast at the hotel was another buffet with a wide selection, although not as wide as the Thon. I was still very happy with the choices. Afterwards, we went to catch our bus to the White Caves, but the driver said something about that being cancelled and that we should check the tour office. Sure enough, there had been a traffic accident in the tunnel between Flam and the caves, and nobody could get through. Unfortunately, they hadn't emailed us, hadn't rebooked us on another tour, and all the other tours were full already. A new cruise ship had come in earlier and all of the passengers had plenty of time to grab up the final tour spots before we even knew we needed them. So, we didn't do the White Caves tour, we walked the fjordside instead. We took the path to Aurland, which is pretty flat and easy. It's also gorgeous and made me wish that we had another day in Flam. Finally, before we left, I stopped at the Flam Railway Museum. It was cute and somewhat interesting, but only took a few minutes to go through, so it was good that it was free. But, we still had to leave. The next portion of the "Norway in a Nutshell" package is the boat ride from Flam to Gudvangen. Most people go straight from the Myrdal-Flam train to the boat, so we were scrambling for spots on the boat. They had a pile of plastic deck chairs that people were unstacking and placing wherever they found room, but there weren't enough deck chairs for everyone, and many people didn't have a place to sit outside. (There was a seating area inside, but the weather was gorgeous, so nobody was in there at first.) We also had to wait for them to load up the cars, as this ferry doesn't just take people. It will even take a bus! The boat took us through incredible scenery over to Gudvangen. Again, there is no real way to capture how incredible the scenery was, but I'll try. First, imagine the Grand Canyon, but make the rocks grey instead of red. Now, coat it in epitome-of-forest-green evergreen forests. Scatter a ton of clean, beautiful waterfalls everywhere, and they all flow into a river flowing through the bottom. Every once in a while, throw in a cluster of a couple of well-kept, quaint houses and call it a village. That's what this area looks like. It's just incredible. Some people can look at this type of gorgeous scenery forever, but at some point, the rest of us get sensory overload, or we just get accustomed to the beauty. Each incredible waterfall starts looking like the last incredible waterfall. Two hours is about as much as most people can appreciate, so it's good that's' about how long the boat ride was. At Gudvangen, they first unloaded the cars that were blocking the luggage, and then they allowed the stream of people to flood out into the bus area. It was chaos! Everybody was trying to get their luggage on a bus, and there was nobody there to help, so people were being very inefficient about it. Way too many people tried for the first bus, but some people saw that, and soon, there were way too many people at all of the buses. Ultimately, all of the buses were crowded and full, and I think they even had to call another bus for a last few people. The bus ride is another example of incredible scenery though. We saw more amazing waterfalls, more gorgeous gorges, and we went on a street that puts Lombard street to shame. It had an 18% grade and 13 extremely tight switchbacks. I don't know how the bus drivers did it, but the got us safely to the bottom. From there, we still had more gorgeousness before we got to Voss. The bus driver explained to us that Voss is an extreme sport capital and that every year, thousands of people descend on Voss to participate in all sorts of parasailing, kayaking, mountain biking, and other competitions. Voss has something like 15,000 residents, which makes it uch larger than Flam (500). It has multiple restaurants, multiple hotels, lots of shopping, a church, a few museums, and is more of a city and not a quaint pastoral village. If we had booked a hotel on our own, we may have ended up needing a taxi or something to get there. Fortunately, the hotel they give you through Norway in a Nutshell is the hotel that is located right at the train station. It is a historic hotel, and is very ornately decorated, although you can tell it's old. We weren't staying in that part though. We had a "cabin apartment" that is actually right across a little street from the main part of the hotel. The cabin apartments are right on the lake, so the little deck has a great view. However, they are just old, and not historic. I wasn't upset with them, but it wasn't quite the elegance of the other areas. Also, it is unfortunate that there is a lot of construction going on in Voss, so the views aren't as nice as they could be. This isn't just by our hotel, but all over town. We went to the little Italian restaurant in town for dinner, and it was excellent. I highly recommend it as the food just really hit the spot.

Road with tight switchbacks

Road with tight switchbacks


Gorgeous view

Gorgeous view


View on road with switchbacks

View on road with switchbacks


Beginning of trail to waterfall

Beginning of trail to waterfall


Sheep in my path

Sheep in my path


View on hike

View on hike


Waterfall

Waterfall


View of Flam

View of Flam


walk near Flam

walk near Flam


view from boat

view from boat


waterfalls

waterfalls

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Norway Comments (0)