The Spirit of the Moment

I’m thrilled to share that VirtualWayfarer just passed 1,000,000 views on YouTube (I’m so incredibly humbled and flattered – you are all amazing!). To celebrate, I decided to dive into my video archives, sort through the footage I’ve accrued over the past six years, pull out some favorite shots and to create a travel tribute video exploring and embracing snippets from some of the incredible adventures I’ve had over the past few years.  The result is just under 15 minutes of some of my favorite HD footage and spans 19 countries.

To go with the footage I pulled up a chair, sat down, and attempted to explore the lessons I’ve learned from travel.  The result is a heartfelt exploration of life, travel, and the magic of the road.  In it, I attempt to share some of the more significant lessons I’ve learned from travel, offer some advice, and aspire to convey the sense of ever-increasing wonder I have at the richness of the world at large.

It’s a smudge long, but the feedback has been that the combination of the footage and some of the ideas expressed in the monologue make it well worth the watch.  I hope you’ll take the time to give it a watch and then to share some of your own revelations or grand adventures. At the end of the day, travel and the opportunity to embrace the spirit of the moment is a wondrous thing.

Thank you all so, so, much for continuing to read (and watch!) VirtualWayfarer, offer your feedback, share your special moments, questions, and passion with me. I’m profoundly humbled and flattered by the messages you share with me and that you find my stories, photography, and video interesting.

Some have asked about the quality differences given clips were filmed over 6+ years – footage was shot on a mixture of devices. The earliest footage was filmed on an old Flip HD 720p handheld cam. Other footage was taken on a Vixia HF200. More recent footage was taken on a Canon 600D and a Canon 6D.  Video didn’t load properly?  View it here.

7 Super Shots Photo Game

I recently had the pleasure of contributing a photo to the launch of Hostel Booker’s fun travel photo game which showcased 7 exciting travel photos across 7 categories from 7 different travel bloggers. Now, it’s time for me to dive into my archives and to pull out 7 photos before nominating 5 of my fellow bloggers!  Please enjoy, and let me know which is your personal favorite?

A photo that…takes my breath away


Plitvice Lakes Croatia

Located about halfway between Croatia’s Capital, Zagreb and the coastal town of Split is Plitvice Lakes National Park. I had the opportunity to visit the day before first snowfall and quickly fell in love. A UNESCO world heritage site, the area is easily one of Europe’s most beautiful national parks. While the main waterfall featured above was impressive, the 6-8 hour hike along the river as a whole was filled with incredible beauty.

A photo that…makes me laugh or smile


Penguin Island in the Beagle Channel - Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

I find penguins hilarious.  They’re odd, inquisitive, horribly awkward on land and generally fairly adorable.  Which is why  I can’t help but grin and chuckle every time I see this photo from a small island in the Beagle Channel in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.  Located just a few hundred miles north of Antarctica and in the world’s most southern continental region, Tierra del Fuego is a fascinating land full of amazing wonders and highly entertaining inhabitants.

A photo that…makes me dream


A Dog Resting Atop Sharkstooth

Taken in the summer of 2011 this shot is from the back side of Shark’s Tooth Pass in southwestern Colorado deep within the San Juan Mountain Range. Every time I see this photo i’m reminded to dream of new adventures, of new accomplishments, and to close my eyes and remember the wonderful adventures already experienced.

A photo that…makes me think


Cherry Blossoms & the Tidal Basin - Washington D.C.

The FDR monument in Washington, DC is one of my favorite monuments in the world. It is powerful, compelling and offers amazing quotes based in great wisdom. I snapped this shot of a random woman in front of one of the quotes during a visit in April 2011.  It always causes me to pause and ask myself – what have I done to help those who need it today?

A photo that…makes my mouth water

Outdoor Market in Dublin - Food

Outdoor markets are one of the things I love most about traveling outside of the US. During a recent visit to Dublin I swung by a wonderful little market square located just outside the heart of Temple Bar. Once I stumbled upon this booth I couldn’t help by sample several of the wildly different offerings – each of which had a strong, delightful taste the memory of which makes my mouth water to this day.

A photo that…tells a story

Warehouse Row in the Old Harbor - Bergen, Norway

One of the things I love about travel is the opportunity to stumble upon delightful moments that capture the imagination and tie into our inner self. It can be a reminder of our childhood curiosity, simple delight in every-day things, or a sense of wonder at things we would otherwise be blind to. During a trip to Bergen, Norway I was lucky enough to have my camera out during one of these moments as a young boy wandered away from his parents to boldly march up to a doorway that had piqued his curiosity. For me, this shot embodies my perpetual re-connection with my inner child while on the road.

A photo that…I am most proud of (aka my worthy of National Geographic shot)

Hiking Perito Moreno Glacier - Patagonia, Argentina

There’s something about this photo that just moves me. It is of a random photographer in-front of the Perito Moreno Glacier in the Patagonia region of Argentina after an all-day glacier trek. Despite being snowed and rained upon for most of the trek the clouds lifted and the rains paused long enough for me to capture this special moment. In particular I like how it conveys that sense of wonder that strikes from time to time – causing even the most committed photographer to lower their camera, pause, and take in the wonderful beauty that surrounds them.

Join the Game

1. Choose 7 of your own photos, one for each of the following categories:

  • A photo that…takes my breath away
  • A photo that…makes me laugh or smile
  • A photo that…makes me dream
  • A photo that…makes me think
  • A photo that…makes my mouth water
  • A photo that…tells a story
  • A photo that…I am most proud of (aka my worthy of National Geographic shot)

2. Write a short description for each image.
3. Write somewhere in your blog post: ‘I am taking part in HostelBookers 7 Super Shots‘.
4. Tell us you have participated and tweet the hashtag #7SuperShots
5. Nominate 5 other bloggers by including a link to their blog in your post.
We will be retweeting and sharing the best posts from participating bloggers.


I would love to see the fantastic photos the following bloggers come up with, so to each of the following I nominate YOU to post your own 7 Super Shots.

Head on over and see the 7 Super Shots guidelines post which features a number of fantastic photos.

Goodbye Norway, Hello Denmark!

The Round Tower - Copenhagen, Denmark

Excited for the next leg of my adventure I woke up with a spring to my step. It was cold and rainy, but given my mood, I found it more invigorating than anything.  I’d picked up a cheap youth ticket for 693 NOK (about $110 at the time) via the regional budget airline Wideroe.   While I had initially hoped to make the trip from Bergen to Copenhagen by train, what ended up being a two hour flight would have taken me closer to 15 hours by train and cost about the same (possibly more).

A Lazy Traveler - Bergen, Norway

From the hostel I made the 5 minute walk to the bus stop for the airport express and found a marginally dry bench.  Once there I leveraged years of experience, and settled in for one of the things I’m famous for – a quick cat nap. From there it was a quick bus ride to the airport, during which I had a delightful conversation with an older Canadian couple, before catching my flight.

Street Scene - Copenhagen, Denmark

The trip from the airport to my hostel was easy. A straight forward metro ride to a major stop, and then a quick walk to a funky hotel/hostel. I wasn’t thrilled about the place, it was a hotel which had converted its 3 story basement into a hostel.  Despite its general lack of character, and inflated price, it did offer decent facilities and a prime location.  I tossed my bag on my bed and set out – it was time to explore the city and rustle up some food.

Jazz Festival - Copenhagen, Denmark

The first thing I noticed about Copenhagen was the people. The Danish have repeatedly been ranked as some of the happiest people in the world. It’s hard to describe but there’s an energy throughout the city which truly reflects their ranking.  They’re just down right friendly, happy and active.  I’m sure it didn’t hurt that a massive, city wide jazz festival was also going on, which meant that there was stages set up in all of the small squares and musicians everywhere.

Draft Horses - Copenhagen, Denmark

In addition to being an extremely friendly city, Copenhagen (København) is also a spectacularly beautiful one.  The architecture is a delightful mix of international styles, the streets are clean, well groomed/repaired and the city itself a mixture of streets and parks crisscrossed by the occasional canal.

Main Drag  - Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen also boasts a fantastic amount of foot traffic. Something which while initially surprising started to make more sense once I learned more about the culture.  As it turns out the Danish government imposes a 180% tax on the purchase of new vehicles.  As you can imagine, that goes a long ways towards encouraging pedestrian traffic and the use of public transport.  The locals also are prestigious bikers. The only other city I’ve ever seen that came anywhere close was Amsterdam, and though it’s a close tossup I’m tempted to say that Copenhagen may be the bicycle capital of Europe. Everyone has one, and there are bike parking areas every block which consist of literally hundreds of bikes lined up in rows.  Some are chained to something, most are not.

Bicycles Downtown - Copenhagen, Denmark

As I wandered through the city streets I couldn’t help but be impressed.  Granted, the size of Copenhagen makes biking/walking a feasible option, but can you imagine if the US tried something similar?  A 10% sales tax is grounds for excessive complaining, let alone 180%! There would be riots.  Yet the Danes take it in stride and are happier, healthier, and better off for it.  No doubt there’s an important lesson to be learned there.

Old Skyline - Copenhagen, Denmark

I mentioned that the city was a beautiful mixture of architectural styles.  The eclectic roof line int eh photo above highlights this slightly.   You definitely get a feel fairly quickly for Copenhagen’s rich history.  A few minutes walking around the old city leaves one with a solid insight into the centuries of wealth, power, architectural and intellectual might that define Copenhagen.

Candy and Scale - Copenhagen, Denmark

As I wound my way down the main market street I couldn’t help but feel my mouth water.  Every block or so there was another food stand offering delicious looking wares.  From dried apricots to Danish hotdog stands.  With a chuckle I quickly realized that in Denmark the go-to street food isn’t kebabs, it’s hotdogs.  But not just any hotdogs…

Lunch - Copenhagen, Denmark

…Danish hot dogs.  Though there were a variety of options one of the most appealing (and healthy…obviously) were the bacon wrapped hotdogs served with sweet ketchup and a bucket full of mustard all washed down with a good ol’ cocacola.  Other options included big brats served up with pickled relish-like cucumber and sprinkled with dehydrated/breaded onions.

Street Music - Copenhagen, Denmark

I picked up one…or perhaps two? Hotdogs and made my way towards a small stage set up in the middle of the square.  Once within sight of the stage I found an empty set of cobblestones and settled in to enjoy my snack, people watch, and enjoy the sound of live music bouncing off the ancient cobblestone streets and multi-colored walls of ancient storefronts.

The Old Harbor - Copenhagen, Denmark

From there it was time to explore a bit further before heading back to the hostel.  I was in desperate need of a nap, and had made plans to connect with a friend I’d made during my Central America trip earlier in the year. I was eager to catch up, and to get a local’s insights into the city. It promised to be a good evening.

On a final note here are two quick bits of information I found fascinating.  The city of Copenhagen, despite being a capital city and home to several of the largest shipping companies in the world, sports an inner harbor that is so clean, you can swim in it (and people do regularly).

Remember how I mentioned that the city was incredibly bike friendly? An estimated 36% of locals commute to work by bike.  Amazing!

Bergen, A Scenic Seafood Picnic and Local Fjords

The Old Warehouse District - Bergen, Norway

Still a bit giddy (silly but true) after the previous day’s spectacular adventure on the Flam Railway and through the Nærøyfjord I opted to spend my final day in Bergen and the nearby fjords. After a relatively late start Anna and I once again set out together to aimlessly wander the city.  As usual the first stop was back down along the harbor and the warehouse district, but that didn’t last long. We were eager to get into parts of the city we’d yet to explore.

Comedy and Tragedy - Bergen, Norway

The first stop was just off of the central square. Up a green boulevard and around a few statues we found the city’s opera house/theater. A fun building with a series of beautifully cast and carved figures. Some, like the flowing bronze in the image above, captured the classic imagery of theater. While others had a more unique/Scandinavian feel.

National Theater - Bergen, Norway

The building was decorated with a series of masks which took on the shape and appearance of animals, but done in an art-deco sort of powerful, but rudimentary form. The lamp posts each had extra metalwork which wrapped around them showcasing viking ships and marauders.  The whole venue had an air of character to it, which made me wish that I had time to catch a show.

A Cathedral - Bergen, Norway

From the theater we wound our way through back streets and quiet alleyways before eventually marching up a large flight of stairs. The stairs dumped us out in front of one of Bergen’s main cathedrals. A large, beautiful building that showcased a beautiful wooden roof, set with subtle but elegant wooden highlights and fine artwork.

Cathedral - Bergen, Norway

As we wound our way through the city we could not help but enjoy the skyline. Norwegian cities offer an interesting mixture of styles and a beautiful combination of greenery and ancient architecture.

An Old Lamp Post - Bergen, Norway

From the Cathedral we wound our way down the other side of the hill and over towards what we later found out was the local University.  There we paused briefly for a quick snack before winding back down towards the main lake – a large man-made rectangle which rests right in the heart of Bergen just off the central square.

Odd Art - Bergen, Norway

The  square featured a series of interesting sculptures. However, the one that I found most interesting was a large aluminum (or stainless steel) cube which looked as though its surface was cast out of water caught in the midst of a rainstorm.  It was odd, stood out, and ordinarily would have clashed with its setting.  For whatever reason though, perhaps the nature of the northern weather, it seemed to fit and in an odd way reflected and captured the region’s moody weather.

Child With Balloon - Bergen, Norway

The day was a gorgeous one.  Flowers in bloom, a few clouds in the sky, a slight northern crispness to the air, and the warmth of the sun all set to the backdrop of rich blue skies. As we wandered through the city’s streets and parks, I paused briefly and chuckled. I can’t fathom where the balloon came from, but the little girl pictured above was at play in the park with her younger brother, both with floating balloons in tow.  For some reason, set against the gazebo and blooming flowers they seemed to embody the spirit of late spring and early summer.  In truth, they embodied life, youthful energy and the essence of positive spirit.

Sunken Pink Boat - Bergen, Norway

From the park it was back to the harbor where Anna and I had decided we’d pick up some local seafood for lunch, then hop on the local fjord cruise which left twice a day, lasted 3 or so hours, and was fairly affordable. To our surprise there was a fair amount of commotion in the harbor.  Somehow, the cute pink fishing ship I’d observed and commented on the previous day had sprung a leak.  As the ship sat, partially submerged and resting on the harbor floor a large barge was brought in with a sizable winch.  The plan appeared to involve divers in dry-suits, the barge, and a large cargo winch.  From the general approach the locals were taking it must have been a somewhat common occurrence.

Seafood Lunch - Bergen, Norway

Hungry, Anna and I decided to splurge a bit and both went on a small buying spree, planning to pool what we picked up in a two-person potluck once we got on the boat.  The region is famous for its seafood, especially for its smoked salmon, fresh arctic shrimp and dare I say it – whale.  Anna went for the healthy route and picked up a carton of fresh strawberries and raspberries. It’s worth noting that I was surprised how many small fruit stands were selling strawberries and cherries in Stavanger and Bergen. They were everywhere, dirt cheap, and absolutely fantastic.  They were fresh, sweet, and a deep rich color with a strong strawberry scent.  The type of strawberries you only find in the US at local farmers markets.

Seafood Lunch - Bergen, Norway

In addition to the strawberries and raspberries, Anna picked up a lightly seasoned piece of smoked salmon and freshly cooked combo plate which had a few skewers of shrimp and a piece of whale meat.  I opted for a pound of fresh crawfish, cup of fresh cherries and a more heavily spiced/slightly dryer piece of Salmon.

Local Foods - Bergen, Norway

The meal was absolutely spectacular.  The salmon was delicious – well spiced, perfectly smoked and a great mixture of flavors. Mine was more like traditional smoked salmon while Anna’s rode the middle and was far closer to lox. The crawfish and shrimp were both extremely flavorful while the strawberries and raspberries were perfectly ripened and some of the most flavorful I’ve had in a long, long time.  I have no doubt I’ll take some flack for it, but I also opted to try whale.  While opposed to their hunting, curiosity and hunger for new culinary experiences won out.   It sounds silly, but i was quite surprised by the taste.  I was expecting something fishy, which given that whale is a mammal is a bit daft.  Instead the flavor was extremely gamy and almost had a liverish taste to it.  The liver taste was more pronounced in the smoked version I tried, while the thinly cut BBQ’d piece was fairly good, but nothing special.  Truth be told it was like a gamy carne asada.

Fjords Near Bergen, Norway

The cruise left Bergen Harbor and wound its way out towards the main bay/fjord. There we passed near a series of beautiful suspension bridges and motored past a number of sailboats out enjoying the nice weather.

Fjords Near Bergen, Norway

About an hour or so into the trip we started to leave the more densely populated coastline behind.  It was replaced by small lighthouses, boathouses, and the occasional home and small village.

Fjord Tour Near Bergen, Norway

The whole area is incredibly picturesque.  From the architecture, to the rich mixture of colors used on their buildings the small towns each have their own unique character. All set against a rich green backdrop.

Fjord Tour Near Bergen, Norway

The coast/fjord is also home to a series of small waterfalls and impressive cliffs.  However, in comparison to my previous day’s adventure, most seemed fairly small and plain.  Which is not to say that they were not gorgeous and incredibly beautiful.  Rather, the cruise from Bergen gave me the opportunity to enjoy architecture and human’s footprint set against a majestic backdrop.

Fjord Tour Near Bergen, Norway

Eventually the day wound to a close as we slowly completed our long loop and headed back towards Bergen.  Just in time, I might add, as the weather had slowly begun to change.  The clouds had thickened and spread and the temperature slowly dropped.  As a fresh sprinkle cleared the dust from the air, I took one final, deep breath, enjoyed the beauty of the fjords and prepared for my last night in Bergen.  The following day promised grand adventures and my first taste of Denmark.

Norway’s Pristine Fjords, Waterfalls and Mountains

Train Station - Flam Railway, Norway

While the city of Bergen is a significant draw with its rich history, beautiful architecture and delicious seafood the real reason people head to the region is the fjords.  The western coast of Norway is an incredible mix of breathtaking valleys, lush forests, awe inspiring waterfalls and astounding fjords which have rightly earned their reputation as some of the most spectacular countryside in the world.

Transferring to the Flam Railway - Myrdal, Norway

From Bergen the most popular destination is the Flam Railway which is an old narrow track railway which cuts its way through a series of tunnels and winds through a stunning valley while inching past awe inspiring waterfalls before connecting with a ferry and the Aurlandsfjorde.  From there travelers have the option of a long cruise through the fjords back to Bergen or a shorter but far more impressive ferry ride to the Nærøyfjord (UNESCO World Heritage Site) where they transfer to a bus.  The bus ride offers an incredibly scenic view of the fjord, which strongly resembles the world famous views of Yosemite, before connecting with a train back to Bergen.

Kjosfoss Waterfall - Flam Railway, Norway

If you research the Flam railway and surrounding fjords you will inevitably be directed back to one of the Norway in a Nutshell tours.  Though I was initially fairly resistant to the tour, I eventually realized that it’s almost impossible to avoid utilizing it and that it’s less “tour” and more “ticket package”.  There are no guides or set time lines.  Rather, it gives you a ticket bundle and suggested route which unifies the mixture of trains, ferries and buses necessary to properly explore the region. While somewhat pricey, the ticket is truly worth it. For those of you traveling with a Eurail pass, keep in mind that the Flam Railway is a private rail line and thus not covered. Your pass does, however, provide a significant discount on your Norway in a Nutshell ticket – so make sure to use it!

Small Waterfall - Flam Railway, Norway

My introduction to the northern fjords began on a slightly intimidating note. The sky was overcast and threatened periodic mists and light rain showers.  I opened the door, looked out and shrugged. My window of opportunity was limited and cloudy weather in the morning is common place in coastal regions. There was nothing to be done about it.

Waterfall & Flam Valley - Flam Railway, Norway

The day before I’d befriended one of my hostel mates – Anna – a Russian-Israeli-American who was traveling along a similar route. We met up, looked over our maps of Bergen and then set off.  After a bit of playful teasing and a wrong turn or two we eventually found the central train station.  Before long we’d picked up our Nutshell tickets, a scone for the road, and boarded our train.  The directions informed us that we’d catch the train for some 2-2.5 hours to the rail transfer station at Myrdal. A tiny city which is more waystation than anything and summons visions of the Lord of the Rings.

Train Station - Flam Railway, Norway

From Myrdal we transferred to the Flåmsbana Railway. A privately owned railway which is world renowned for its scenery and steep incline.  Though relatively short at 20km the single track line took a long time to build. Started in 1923 it wasn’t opened until 1947.  The line has 11 stations and offers a series of incredible views.  One of the most significant stops is a 5 minute break at the Kjosfoss waterfall where ethereal music plays over the roar of the falls and a  lone dancer can be seen among the mists overlooking the falls.  The railway drops some 664 meters or 2,178 feet from the Myrdal transfer station down to the city of Flam.

View from the Ferry - Aurlandsfjorden, Norway

The trip down to Flåm was gorgeous.  As we dodged in and out of small tunnels we were greeted with views of a variety of stunning waterfalls, amazing valleys, and picturesque rivers with crystal clear emerald green water winding through small hamlets and lush green fields.

A Classic Nordic Roof - Flam, Norway

The city of Flam is a small way-station, largely designed to service tourists and the support staff that live in the nearby valley.  Home to the rail/port station, a small market, several cafes, a traditional pub and mini-theater the 45 minutes we had was about perfect to explore, pick up a snack for the ferry, grab a coffee and hide out from the light rain.  As our 45 minutes in Flam came to an end, the weather decided to cooperate.  The rain stopped and the clouds began to break all the while letting a ray or two of brilliant sunlight illuminate the fjord’s brilliant green water.

View of the Fjord - Aurlandsfjorden, Norway

Surrounded by incredible mountains, each sporting a waterfall and with most vanishing up into the mists we shoved off and left Flam port in our wake.  Anna and I quickly found a fairly empty area of the ferry on the lower deck near the ship’s stern.  The ship sheltered us from the chill northern air while offering a picturesque view of the fjord and ship’s wake.

View of the Fjord - Aurlandsfjorden, Norway

As you wind through the fjords you can’t help but feel small.  The scale and scope of them is incredible.  Massive, rugged and wild they seem to be locked in a perpetual war with the sky – a battle so fierce, so intense that it exists outside our plane of understanding. The only indicator: the heavy mists which serve as a purgatory caught between earth, water and air.  As the two battle in a churning, twisting, boiling mess one cannot help but feel like the waterfalls streaming down the cliffs are silver trails of blood seeping from wounded Titans locked in conflict.

Aurland - Aurlandsfjorden, Norway

As we wound through the fjord we paused briefly at a number of small villages. From what I could gather these mostly service local power stations and infrastructure, much of which utilizes hydro electric power.

View of the Fjord - Aurlandsfjorden, Norway

The first half of our ferry ride wound through the massive Aurlandsfjorden which threats its way gradually towards the sea.  For an insight into the sheer size of the fjord, note the small cruise ship in the middle of the photo above.

Classic Tourist - Aurlandsfjorden, Norway

Though Anna and I spent the majority of our time watching the awe inspiring natural scenery drift by, we also made sure to pause and enjoy some of the more entertaining moments occurring around us.   One thing I’ve learned over the years is that there are few groups as odd and peculiarly entertaining as tourists. A huge cultural mish-mash we’re always good for a quick laugh, funny photo, or interesting pose.

View of the Fjord and Undredal - Aurlandsfjorden, Norway

As the afternoon continued, the sun slowly began to break the cloud’s hold over us.  Before long a group of friendly seagulls set out from one of the local towns and decided to keep us company.  Their aerial acrobatics, set against the fjord, small village, and snow capped peaks was a delight to watch.

View of the Fjord - Nærøyfjord, Norway

Despite the time of year – it was early July – many of the mountain peaks still had a thin layer of snow.   Though we were thousands of feet below, the crisp air served as a perpetual reminder that we were in a part of the world which almost never truly experiences summer.

View of the Fjord - Nærøyfjord, Norway

As we neared the 2/3rds mark, we split off from the main fjord and began to trace our way into the UNESCO World Heritage Nærøyfjord.  As the walls narrowed I could not help but notice how much more spectacular the fjord’s size, rich greens, and beautiful grays looked in closer quarters.

View of the Fjord - Nærøyfjord, Norway

I’ve always been a sucker for water.  Rivers, waterfalls, even the ocean.  They hold a special place in my heart.  I suppose it comes as no surprise then, that waterfalls captivate me.  It is also probably why I find myself drawn to places with majestic falls. Scotland with its highland falls forever sits as one of my favorite places on earth.  Similarly the falls of the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia stand out as one of my favorite places in Central Europe.  After winding my way through the fjords, I’m thrilled to add Norway to that list. I can only hope I have the opportunity in the near future to seek out new Norwegian fjords, valleys and canyons each home to their own plethora of falls – both mighty and miniature.

View of the Fjord - Nærøyfjord, Norway

The fjords offer an interesting contrast. On the one hand they look and feel wild and rugged. On the other it is obvious that centuries of human habitation have shaped them.

View of the Fjord - Nærøyfjord, Norway

Small farms, fields and even churches can be found sandwiched between the water and the cliffs along small sloping deltas. Many of which look to have been carved out initially by waterfalls, and later silted in as the water transported newly harvested gravel down towards the water’s edge.

View of the Fjord - Nærøyfjord, Norway

In other places the falls seem to emerge from the cliffs, fall majestically for hundreds of feet, and then return once more into the cliffs only to re-emerge once again hundreds of feet below.

View of the Fjord - Nærøyfjord, Norway

Eventually we reached the harbor at the end of the Nærøyfjord. There we were greeted by a parking lot and lodge with food, restrooms and gifts.  As Anna and I checked our itinerary we were greeted by two options.  A nearly immediate bus, or an hour and a half gap until the next bus.  The decision was simple.

The Fjord, Waterfalls and a Thistle - Nærøyfjord, Norway

As we pulled into the harbor, we’d spotted two small red dots (people) at the base of one of the nearby waterfalls.  Eager to get close to one of the falls, we opted for the later bus and set out back down the fjord.

Wild Strawberries - Nærøyfjord, Norway

Before long we’d identified a tiny path that looked largely abandoned.  As we strolled along it towards the falls, I spotted wild strawberries a little ways off the path.  Always one to try wild berries in foreign countries, we quickly paused, picked one and tried it.  They were absolutely delicious.  Hungry from our ferry ride, we relaxed for a few minutes and dined on wild strawberries, enjoying their crisp fresh flavor and relishing the sheer majesty of the setting.

A Waterfall Up Close - Nærøyfjord, Norway

With red stained palms we continued along our way and eventually reached the waterfall.  It was stunning.  The roar of the water rumbled below our feet, the humid scent of fresh water beat into a mist filled our nostrils and a gentle breeze blew down the fjord.

A Waterfall Up Close - Nærøyfjord, Norway

I’ve mentioned the size and scope of the fjords repeatedly. But note the image above. If you look closely, you’ll see me standing at the foot of the falls. The experience was humbling and made that much more powerful by the lack of any improvements. The falls were wild, natural and completely exposed.

The Waterfall - Nærøyfjord, Norway

As we sat enjoying the falls, the light broke through just long enough to catch the falling sheets of water. The dark color of the rocks, combined with the rich greens of the moss and fern covered cliff face only added to the beauty of the falls.

A Waterfall Through the Mists - Nærøyfjord, Norway

Eventually, the wind blew a light drizzle our way.  Heads ducked under our hoods we made our way back along the path towards the visitors center and our waiting bus.  I couldn’t let out a sigh, thinking the adventure was largely over. Little did I know, two more wonders still waited.

View Towards the Fjord - Stalheim, Norway

We boarded our bus, stripped off our drenched outer layers and settled in for the ride back to the train station. Only, to our surprise we passed the main tunnel (one of the longest in the world) and began to wind up the valley. The sound of the bus in low gear, groaning as it climbed and climbed piqued my interest as I lazily sat gazing out the bus window, enjoying being warm for the first time in hours. Then we turned a corner and I saw it. A spectacular view back down the valley from thousands of feet above the valley floor. It was mesmerizing.

Incredible Waterfall - Fjords, Norway

…and then after the briefest of pauses and a brief level stretch the front of the bus tipped forward. The bus jumped slightly as the driver changed gears, and then we began to wind downward. Only, it wasn’t a slow gradual descent. Instead it was one of the famous zig-zag switchbacks Norway is famous for. With an insanely steep grade, we wound down the switchbacks with baited breath.

Incredible Waterfall - Fjords, Norway

Barely more than two bus lengths a leg, the switchbacks left us all with an adrenaline rush. Some stood and looked out over the side, others made small whimpering noises and lowered their eyes in an effort to avoid the apparent insanity of it all. Then, in that heightened state we paused briefly in the middle of one of the middle switchbacks. There, to our left was one of the most spectacular waterfalls I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t the largest, or the most powerful – but framed as it was by lush green vegetation and viewed as it was from a bus window in the midst of one of the most harrowing switchbacks I’ve ever experienced, it was absolutely astounding.

It was with that final image in my mind that our trip through the fjords wound to a close. We made our way through one of the worlds longest tunnels, transferred back onto the train to Bergen, and eventually made it back to Bergen in time for a late dinner as the sun moved towards twilight.

If you ever have the opportunity to do it, the Norway in a Nutshell fjord tour is an absolute must. It truly is the experience of a lifetime.

A Taste of Scandinavia’s Natural Beauty – HD Video Tour

Youtube not working? View it on Vimeo.

The above footage was shot in late June and early July 2010 during my trip to Norway and Denmark. While the majority of the footage is from the western coast of Norway, I’ve also included clips filmed in Copenhagen and Oslo.

While the footage is from a variety of locations and intermixed, several of the major/re-occuring areas are the point at Preikestolen which is commonly known as Preacher’s Pulpit, footage shot along the Flam Railway and the Nærøyfjord which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Have a question?  Enjoyed the video? Please feel free to leave a comment here, on the video, share it with friends or give it the ol’ thumbs up!  Footage was shot on a Canon Vixia HF200.


A Burgeoning Love for Bergen and Norway’s West Coast

Overlooking the City - Bergen, Norway

The ancient seaside city of Bergen is one of Norway’s best known destinations.  Situated in the heart of Norway’s spectacular fjord country the city offers a rich history, pristine location, spectacular seafood, and perfect starting point for those interested in a breathtaking voyage down one of the region’s nearby fjords.  The city which dates back to approximately 1050 AD is Norway’s 2nd largest city with about 260,000 citizens and a total regional population of around 380,000. The city is readily reachable by air from most or Northern Europe, train through a rail line that connects it to Oslo, and bus/ferry which connects it to Trondheim in the north and Stavanger in the South.

Summer in Norway - Flowers in Bloom - Bergen, Norway

My experience with the city started as nearly all introductions do.  Curiosity, enthusiasm, and a bit of anxiousness over the unknown.  As I disembarked from the ferry from Stavanger into a gentle mist of light rain I immediately noted a general approximation of my location in the small map in my Lonely Planet guide book before setting off through the city’s densely crowded harbor area.

The Old Harbor - Bergen, Norway

I’d booked several nights in the hostel after an extensive search for budget accommodation in the area.  Unfortunately, despite its popularity as a destination Norway has a fairly poor hostel network which is heavily dominated by Hosteling International (HI) hostels. Regular readers of the site may recall that while I’ve had positive experiences with HI Hostels in the US, I have a very low opinion of them in Europe and tend to view them as out of date, dirty, and poorly serviced.  As a result I’d opted for the privately run despite a limited number of reviews on the profile and extremely mixed reviews. Luckily, what I found was completely different than what the reviews had portrayed.  The hostel was clean, fantastically located, comparatively affordable and modern with ample bathrooms/showers, clean rooms, a kitchen and decent common area.  My only real complaint was that they enforced a lockout which is a huge pet peeve.

Pink Boat in the Old Harbor - Bergen, Norway

Relieved that my accommodation not only met but beat my expectations I set out to explore.  The city of Bergen is every bit as active as it is picturesque – at least during the summer months.  Nestled between two large hills the city has a number of large open squares, a park with a large fountain and statuary and a beautiful old harbor lined by old warehouses and a fish market.

Fish Market - Bergen, Norway

My obsession with the ocean goes back to well before I could walk.  A cornerstone of my childhood was the month+ every year my family and I spent on the Sea of Cortez outside of Puerto Penasco in Mexico.  As a result I’ve always harbored a love for the ocean and seafood.  As one might imagine outdoor fish markets are one of my favorite destinations.

Fish Market - Bergen, Norway

Overflowing with fresh fish, live crabs, lobster and shrimp all accompanied by a wealth of pre-cooked and smoked seafood the Bergen fish market is a mecca for tourists and locals alike. While the prices may be somewhat higher than seafood prices in the super markets, the experience is quite an adventure.  The seafood is fresh and a great mixture between northern fish, deep water species like Monkfish and of course all of the usuals from arctic shrimp to dungeness crab.

Fish Market - Bergen, Norway

A lazy stroll through the tightly packed tents is an absolute delight.  The area is all open air which cuts down on the smell, and the combination of fresh seafood and ready-to-eat dishes encourages the vendors to maintain clean cooking conditions.

Knife Balancing in the Fish Market - Bergen, Norway

As if the wide assortment of browns, oranges and reds wasn’t sufficient to keep the curious passerby entertained the workers are also eager to put on a bit of a show. While most were not overly dangerous, I stumbled on one individual who had a pension for balancing a razor sharp fillet knife on the bridge of his nose.  Not half bad right?

The Old Harbor - Bergen, Norway

Located a quick hop and a skip from the fish market is the old warehouse row. A must for anyone visiting the region, the old shops have been restored and painted beautiful to create a picturesque waterfront.  Add to that, they’re one of Norway’s most famous UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Warehouse Row in the Old Harbor - Bergen, Norway

The buildings which have served a wide variety of uses over the years predominantly date back to the 1700s when most of the water front was re-built after a large portion of the city burned to the ground.  Given the close construction, wooden materials, and forms of heating available throughout the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries it’s no surprise that Bergen has a long history of catastrophic fires.  In many ways I found it absolutely amazing that the city still exists after reading excerpts from its history.

Warehouse Row in the Old Harbor - Bergen, Norway

Though snugly interconnected in front most of the warehouses have small alleyways that cut between them.  These alleys are lined by leaning ancient wooden walls that show the cuts, scars, and old nails from hundreds of years of constant use and near constant re-purposing.  Many also show the signs of ancient wooden doorways or windows that have since been boarded over.  The roof-line is also a cluster of enclosed windows, doorways, and loft entry points which hang over the street and would have helped workers lift large bundles up and into the buildings.  Many are also connected by 2nd and 3rd story walkways as well which give the whole thing a disorganized, charming appearance, even if it is slightly claustrophobic.

Warehouse Row in the Old Harbor - Bergen, Norway

As I explored the buildings immediately behind the warehouses I paused briefly to snap the above image.  It’s hands down one of my favorite shots from the trip.  The young lad pictured was exploring the area and decided to march off determinedly, leaving his parents behind as he explored the area.  I couldn’t have asked for a better contrast between young and old.

That’s it for now.  Stay tuned for more from my time in Bergen including live music, squares, cathedrals, and even a trip into the bowls of an ancient coastal fortress.

Bergen Bound – A Ferry, Fjords and Fresh Adventure

Random Town - Stavanger to Bergen Ferry, Norway

There’s a sensation that every traveler is intimately familiar with.  It’s that lump in your throat, that nagging dull roar in the back of your mind and the slight quickening of breath as stale adrenaline oozes out your pores.  It’s the sensation of uncertainty…of adventure yet to be decided.  Will I make my ferry? Do I know where I’m going?  What if this Bus doesn’t come? Will my hostel booking still be good?  It’s that rush of adventure that lets you know that you’re pushing yourself, that you’re exploring new things and that you’ve taken yet another fundamental step outside of your comfort zone.


As I sat reading my book in the crisp morning air at a bus stop in front of the Stavanger University Hospital I couldn’t help but nervously check my wristwatch.  Despite the book, I still managed to squirm perched as I was sandwiched between two backpacks and clinging somewhat precariously to the side of the narrow bus bench.  The bus was late which wasn’t an issue-if-I’d made the right guess on where my ferry was leaving from.  If I’d gotten it wrong though?  It was going to be a rough run down and around the old harbor and then up the coast to the industrial district.  What would I do if I missed it?  Bah.  I had to be guessing right, it only made sense that the ferry would leave from the main Tide terminal…right?

All Aboard! - Stavanger, Norway

Luckily, the bus eventually surfaced and spirited me down towards the city center.  From there a brief half-walk half-sprint got me to the dock with plenty of time to confirm that I had indeed guessed right.  Relieved I tracked down the ferry, then settled in – I was early. As I waited I chatted with a Dane who was somewhat lost and trying to figure out where to catch the ferry to Preikestolen. I offered up advice based on what I’d learned a day or two before before walking through a light sprinkle to the local SPAR minimarket where I picked up a healthy breakfast: A hotdog wrapped in bacon washed down with a Pepsi. Perfect food for 8:30 in the morning! Right?

Random Town - Stavanger to Bergen Ferry, Norway

The ferry was relatively small – a fast, jet powered boat that blasted across the water’s surface.  It had all of the usual amenities; a snack bar, several rooms full of comfortable chairs, flat-screen TVs on the walls and a wealth of windows.  The ferry ride was scheduled to last about 4 hours and would take me up through the inner fjords along Norway’s rugged western coast before dropping me off at Bergen. I’d planned it as much as a sightseeing tour as a necessary mode of transport.

Random Town - Stavanger to Bergen Ferry, Norway

The ferry was about 1/5th full leaving plenty of space to stretch out, though I’ll admit I spent most of the time wandering from deck to deck, reading or chatting in mixed English/Spanish with a group of Spanish travelers.  To my disappointment the weather wasn’t in the mood to cooperate and while the water was fairly smooth the air was cold, windy, slightly rainy and at times doused in fog.  It made it nearly impossible to stand outside unless you spent your time clustered with the smokers hiding in the bubble of calm air carved out at the stern of the boat by the ship’s cabin.

Random Town - Stavanger to Bergen Ferry, Norway

The ferry made a number of stops along the way offering an exciting view of some of Norway’s smaller communities. Some of the towns seemed mid-sized while others were little more than seaside villages.  All had a distinctly picturesque feel to them.  Luckily, as the trip progressed we gradually broke free of the fog, rain and wind which gave me the chance to see a bit more of the countryside.

Eventually we were informed that we’d be transferring to another high speed ferry – why? Who knows.  Perhaps it was a regular part of the trip, or perhaps something had come up.  Either way, it was nothing a few questions, friendly locals, and minute or two of absolute confusion couldn’t fix.  I wasn’t in the mood to complain, after all it added to the sense of adventure.

The Old Harbor - Bergen, Norway

As mid-afternoon approached we reached our final destination:  The city of Bergen which serves as a picturesque gateway to the fjords.  Able to service large cruise ships and home to a UNESCO heritage site the city has an undeniable charm and delightful beauty to it.  As I stepped off the ferry and scratched my head trying to orient myself I instantly felt a smile spread across my face.  This city had a fun energy to it and undeniable beauty.  It was time to find my hostel, and then to begin exploring.  New adventures and beauties waited.  I could feel the tug as another chapter demanded to be written.