Me and Bergen (1 of 1)

ScandiRAYvia #28: Beautiful Bergen


The final stop on my ScandiRAYvia was Bergen, Norway’s second city.  It’s on the southwest coast of the country, and it’s a gorgeous city with a rich history.  And one of the prettiest MacDonald’s you’ll ever see.

I stayed in the local Scandic hotel, and it was my least favorite of all of the hotels on my trip.  It wasn’t offensive or terrible, or anything, just very business-like.  It was also quite large, run with Nordic efficiency and consequently felt a bit like staying in a very comfortable bee hive.

The room I was in also had the single most obnoxious piece of decor I’ve ever experienced in a hotel room.   Check out this American bald eagle image.

Ghastly.  Just GHASTLY.

Ghastly. Just GHASTLY.

The best part:  IT WAS BACKLIT.  It was like having a Coors ad over my bed.  Eeeeek.

But on to Bergen.  This was the coldest I’d been on the trip while at sea level.  It was about 40 degrees there.  In July.  Imagine February.

By this time, I was getting a bit homesick.  But I was still glad I included Bergen on my itinerary.  I think it’s a very underrated tourist destination, and I wished I had had more time to explore it.

There’s a funicular that takes you high above the city for some great views.  I never met a funicular that didn’t like; I’ve taken them in Naples, Paris, Switzerland, LA (Angel’s Flight!)  and any other place I can find them.  My only regret was that I didn’t have a sunny day with blue skies for my vista photo:

Bergen Vista (1 of 1)

But it’s gorgeous!  Here’s some snaps I got while wandering around the city:

Bergen Emo (1 of 1)


Bergen Deco (1 of 1)

I’m always a sucker for Deco.




Okay, so I'm a bit addicted to using my wide angle lens on corners.

Okay, so I’m a bit addicted to using my wide angle lens on corners.


Ridiculously attractive McDonald's.

Ridiculously attractive McDonald’s.

Bergen is famous for its Fish Market.

Colorful Bergen Houses (1 of 1)


Bergen Fishmarket (1 of 1)


Next:  In the Hall of Edvard Grieg!



Fjordgull (1 of 1)

ScandiRAYvia #27: Cruising the Sognefjord


The day after my arrival in Flam, I boarded a small cruise ship which took us on a three hour journey through two branches of the massive Sognefjord.  We were never in the widest portion of the fjord (fjooey!) but the scenery was spectacular nonetheless!

Fjord Promontory (1 of 1)

Fjord Village (1 of 1)

Another Fjord Village (1 of 1)

Heavier and later than usual snowfall in the mountains created dozens of falls like this:

Little Green Fall (1 of 1)

Smoke over the hotel (1 of 1)


Does this valley remind you of another place?  It sure does me!

Does this valley remind you of another place? It sure does me!


My Ansel Adams shot.

My Ansel Adams shot.


Fjordfarm (1 of 1)

Lots of these little farms along the fjord. Imagine February.





Back on dry land, I went into a little Esso station in the village and saw this ad.  This guy works out at my gym!  I had fun telling him about seeing his print ad the next time I saw him at Crunch.

Sorry for the crappy quality of this phone picture.  But this handsome guy works out at my gym!

Sorry for the crappy quality of this phone picture. But this handsome guy works out at my gym!

Up next:  Bergen, the final port of call for ScandiRAYvia!


ScandiRAYvia #26: At the Foot of the Sognefjord


At the end of my long rail journey on July 5, I ended up in the beautiful little village of Flåm.  It sits at the foot of a branch of the Songefjord.

Now, technically, I’d been on a fjord for days.  The Norwegian capital of Oslo is at the foot of a large, wide fjord:

oslo fjord map

And while it’s beautiful, it’s not really what you think of when you think fjord.


No more pining necessary.

No more pining necessary.

This is the view looking north from Flåm.

As I stood there, I reflected on my ScandiRAYvia adventure, and how I’d been seeing places I’d dreamed of seeing for most of my life.  At that moment, the majesty of this spot and my awareness of my great good fortune to have the opportunity to see it simply overwhelmed me.  I stood there and cried, like…. like someone standing there crying.

Travel is so important to me, and it’s such a privilege.  It’s a privilege of health.  It’s a privilege of money.  It’s a privilege of time.  It’s a privilege of luck.  And I have all four of those in spades.

Health?  Yeah, I have Type-2 Diabetes.  But I’m beating it back!  Yeah, I had a double bypass thirteen years ago.  But it saved my life!  Yeah, I have severe sleep apnea.  But it’s 100% successfully treated with the C-PAP.  Etc.  Despite these realities, I’m healthy enough to traipse around Scandinavia.  I’m 56 and I have carried my own (heavy!) bags the whole trip.  Hiked probably an average of ten miles a day.  Climbed things like this:


And this:


My health and strength have not abandoned me, damn it.  Who knows how long I’ll have it?   Need to use it while I can!

My financial future is a complete mess:  I have virtually no retirement, no nest egg.  I basically cannot afford to get old.  BUT right now I’m working and was able to pay for this magical journey.

So yeah, I’m lucky.  Lucky to have been able to make this dream of mine come true.

And so yeah, I cried.

Here's my hotel in Flam.

Here’s my hotel in Flam.



These sweet cottages are vacation rentals.


Next:  Cruising the Sognefjord!




ScandiRAYvia #25: Weird No Photos Edition, Sort Of


On July 7, I took the train ride I’d been so looking forward to.  The train ride that was one of the main reasons I created my ScandiRAYvia adventure.

The first the segment of the journey took me out of the urban bustle of Oslo and into the Norwegian countryside.  The scenery was gorgeous northern farm with endless postcard-ready red barns.

Then we began climbing.

And climbing!

Eventually we made our way to the town of Myrdal, where we changed trains and began our steep descent on the legendary Flamsbana.

The Flamsbana is one of the steepest train journeys in the world that runs on normal tracks.  It was gorgeous and a bit hair-raising.

Unfortunately, it was a terrible day for taking photos.  Try taking good pictures from a moving train.  Every now and then they’d stop at a particularly nice view to let us take photos, but the crush of the crowd really kept that from being a viable option.

So what was arguably the most beautiful day of my trip is the one I have no good visual recording of.  Sorry about that.

But trust me, it was FABulous.

However, at the end of the day, we arrived in beautiful Flåm, the tiny village at the bottom of the mountains and at the foot of a large branch of the Sognefjord, the largest fjord in Norway.

To compensate for the lack of photos for this beautiful rail journey, here’s two more shots from Oslo:

Groovy condo on the waterfront in Oslo.

Groovy condo on the waterfront in Oslo.

Where they decide who gets the Nobel Peace Prize. I think I'm nominated this year.

Where they decide who gets the Nobel Peace Prize. I think I’m nominated this year.


Next:  The Fjords, for realz!!



ScandiRAYvia #24: One Last Day in Oslo


I really enjoyed Oslo.  I could picture myself spending lots of time here.  It was easy to be comfortable in such a well-put-together city.

Of course, I’d have to be rich to spend much time here.

I realize I haven’t shown you the Oslo City Hall yet.  I love how severe it is:

The Oslo City Hall does NOT want to hear about any of your nonsense.

The Oslo City Hall does NOT want to hear about any of your nonsense.

Getting around the city was a snap, with the subways, buses, and trolleys.

I Do have to give a thumbs down to the TGI Fridays in the city center.  Despite having a charming hostess from San Diego, the service was ridiculously slow.  I was there on a Monday afternoon, hardly a rush time, and after waiting for a cheese quesadilla for an hour I gave up and left.

Straight Outta San Diego

Straight Outta San Diego


On my last day in the city I took everyone’s advice and did a quick tour of the remarkable Vigeland Sculpture Park.  This is a huge park dedicated to the unusual work of a single artist:  Gustav Vigeland.  I got lots of pictures on my visit, which was briefer than I wished because it was really starting to rain.

In  a perfect world I’d spend hours in this park with the camera, preferably RIGHT after it opens, so I wouldn’t have so many other gawkers to contend with.

But check out the strange and beautiful work of Gustav Vigeland!











Munch Sign (1 of 1)

ScandiRAYvia #23: We All Scream


Had a Munch-themed day.  He’s the most famous artist from Norway, and the Munch museum is a lovely place.  Currently they have a fascinating exhibit comparing Munch with Van Gogh.

Why pair these two artists?  Well, it seems that in 2008 the curators of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam polled visitors about which Van Gogh paintings they were sorry were not on exhibit there in Amsterdam.  The winners were “Starry Night” (of course), the self-portraits…. and “The Scream.”

Yeah.  “The Scream.”

This gave them an idea.  If the public confused Van Gogh and Munch already, why not do an exhibit exploring their relationship?

It turns out there’s actually a lot to think about when comparing Munch and Van Gogh.  Even though Edvard Munch was ten years younger than his Dutch colleague, they both entered the art world the same year.  Van Gogh was a huge influence on Munch.

I had a great time at the exhibit, and was happy to see (one of) the original “Scream”s, as well as one of my favorite Van Gogh’s, “The Potato Eaters.”

The Scream (1 of 1)

Afterwards I took the streetcar to the Ekeberg Slope, a large wooded park that contains, among many other things, the spot depicted in Munch’s “The Scream.”  While at that spot working on my stupid Scream photo, I fell into a terrific extended conversation with a mountain biker.

He made an interesting observation about Americans.  “You are a much more mobile people than we are,” he said.  “In Norway, if the main business of a town closes, the people who worked there just stay put and go on public assistance.  In America they’d be much more likely to move somewhere else to look for work.”  I wonder if he’s right?

There were some lovely views from this high park.  This group of new office buildings are referred to as “The Bar Code.”



And here’s a family enjoying the view.




And this gorgeous couple adding to the view:

Love at the Oslo Fjord

Love at the Oslo Fjord

I also had a great time taking a Segway tour of Oslo.  I had two tourguides, who for some reason were both named Andy.  “Our boss is also named Andy,” they admitted.  Some things are best left unexplained.

The Andys

The Andys

The only hitch to this particular Segway tour was when I fell.  My hands slipped off of the controls when I hit a bump and the device went forward and I fell straight back.  My foot was black and blue for nearly a month.  Worse, I might have jostled something in my spine, as a week later I began having nerve pain in the extremeties.  My doc and I are currently investigating.  The symptoms are gradually getting better, which I think is a combination of natural healing and the fact that I’ve been lifting weights for the last five weeks; surely getting a little stronger would help this sort of injury.

By the way, I saw this image on a wall in a hall in a mall in Oslo.  Does it remind anyone of a video game from last year?

Remind You of Any Video Game- (1 of 1)



ScandiRAYvia #22: Oslo Intro


My journey to Oslo didn’t bode well.  It was my first unpleasant train journey of the trip.  The train was extremely crowded and had, let’s just say, a compromised air conditioning system.  I was very glad to get off the train in Norway’s capital.  But I next made a mess of a very long walk to my hotel and was pretty grumpy by the time I got there.

The hotel, however, was fabulous.  Called The Thief after the traditional name of the island it sits on at the end of the Oslo Fjord, it’s Norway’s only 6-Star Hotel, and boy does it look and feel it.  My room was beautiful with more of that high-tech lighting I first experienced at Upper House in Goteborg.

Here’s some nice example of Norwegian design in a museum complex next door to my hotel:

Oslo Waterfront Design (1 of 1)

It was getting late in the day and I was tired from the train trip, but I freshened up and trundled out for a nice Saturday evening stroll through an extremely trendy, new area of the city.  It’s built on the bones of the old shipyard.  It’s right on the fjord and lined with overpriced restaurants filled with extremely attractive people.

Like this guy who was waiting for his date.

Hunk Waiting 2 (1 of 1)

Not that I’m a creepy stalker or anything, but hey, I did have the nice camera around my neck just waiting to be used, right?

Hunk Waiting 1 (1 of 1)


As I cast my gaze on the populace, I couldn’t help wondering if the socialist government of Norway provided free gym memberships to all of the men.  It certainly appeared to be so.  This is not a complaint.

I spent some time in the city enjoying its wonderful bookstores, which usually featured a great selection of books in English.  As my sole souvenir of the trip, I picked up a beautiful copy of Bill Bryson’s One Summer:  America 1927.


Terrific bookstore!

Terrific bookstore!

And while I was on my bookstore safari I met these adorable lions, who were using the poles in front of the building they were guarding as scratching posts.



Scandinavia seems to be a good place to be an opera house.  Here’s Oslo’s:


I like an opera house the public is invited to walk all over.  Fun fact:  The construction of the site came in under schedule and under budget, so they took the extra money and time and hired an artist to create this interesting free-standing (floating) sculpture nearby in the fjord with leftover materials:



In Oslo I went to my third of three movie theaters on the trip.  I have to say I was not impressed with them as a group.  Not one of them had a big screen, and the rows felt cramped compared to the nicer American theaters.  However, you’ve got to love the name of this cinema in Oslo:

I mean, what ELSE would you call a movie theater in this part of the world?

I mean, what ELSE would you call a movie theater in this part of the world?

Next up:  Munch screams and Segways tumble!


ScandiRAYvia #21: Go Go Goteborg!


Today’s post is sort of a snapshot album of my time in Goteborg.

I climbed this series of staircases to check out an old fort.

I climbed this series of staircases to check out an old fort.

And here it is!  Great views from up here.

And here it is! Great views from up here.

If you look closely this photograph, you’ll see a bit of smoke coming out of one of the chimneys.  This sight is always the cause of great celebration in Goteborg, as it signals the fact that the church fathers have settled on their new Sexiest Lutheran Minister Alive.

We have a winner!

We have a winner!


Old Vs. New.

Old Vs. New.


I didn’t make it to the movies in Goteborg, but I did enjoy not one but two Mexican restaurants.  Next to one of them was a gelato place run by an Italian guy.  It was the best gelato I’ve had since the last time I was in Italy.




Meteren Maiden

Meteren Maiden


I searched for this guy in 7-Elevens all over Sweden, but I never found him:






logo with new font

ScandiRAYvia #20: An Island Dreamscape


Near Goteborg are two extensive archipelagos, artfully named The North Archipelago and the South Archipelago.  I only had time to check out one of them.  I chose the South, largely because none of its islands allow private motor vehicles.  Impressively, your metro day pass also worked on all of the ferries that scoot around between the islands, so all you need to see them is a bit of time and patience.  In half a day I got to see a small fraction of what the islands had to offer, but that included a wonderful cross-island hike.

Here's the Southern Archipelago.

Here’s the Southern Archipelago.

The islands seem to have a contest that I can really get behind.

Yes, please.

Yes, please.

There were lots of dreamy summer homes on Vargö, the main island I explored.





I shared the island with this very attractive couple and their adorable hounds.



There were lots of picturesque sheep.



Not to mention a picturesque ferryman.

Adorable_Ferryman_is_AdorableI would have loved to have had more time to explore the islands!



Next up:  In and around Goteborg.



ScandiRAYvia #19: Goteborg: Just Me and the Swedes


My third destination was Goteborg, or Gothenburg. It’s Sweden’s Second City.  It’s a beautiful port and I liked it a lot.

Hat_bandFor the first thing, it was my first stop where I had a room booked in a non-Marriott hotel.  I used points for my stays in Stockholm and Copenhagen, and while both of those hotels were fine, Marriott is rarely the fun or sexy or jazzy hotel in any town.  Upper House was all three.  Perched on the top five floors of the tall black glass Gothia Towers, it was definitely swankier than I was used to.  This is not a complaint.

I tried to check in on the first floor and was gently informed that this was the check in for the regular hotel, and would I please take a seat while someone from Upper House came down to fetch me?  I was then escorted to the top floor of the building, handed a drink and placed in a comfy chair while they checked me in.

The room was super high tech with mysteriously automatic lighting throughout and a spectacular northwestern view of the city.

Goteborg itself charmed me immediately as I suspected it would.  It’s a terribly civilized place, and is more of a working modern European city than a tourist mecca like Copenhagen or Stockholm.  I felt like I was the only American tourist in town.

Goteborg has no subway; the ground is too muddy.  But they have a fantastic, extensive trolley system, which I used very successfully.

Nicest looking location for a Burger King that I have ever seen.

Nicest looking location for a Burger King that I have ever seen.






Alien mechs took over Goteborg while I was there.  So inconvenient.

Alien mechs took over Goteborg while I was there. So inconvenient.

One of the only known victims of Zodiac ever found in Western Sweden.

One of the only known victims of Zodiac ever found in Western Sweden.

Work sometimes follows you wherever you go!!

Work sometimes follows you wherever you go!!




Next:  Exploring Goteborg’s islands!