After virtually being awake for 36 hours straight, our day in Oslo afforded us the opportunity to sleep in….all the way to 8:30.

Oslo was split up into two parts. The first half was a guided tour, which brought us to the Vigeland Sculpture Park, the famous Oslo ski jump Holmenkollbakken and the Viking Ship Museum. The second half allowed us to walk around the city and eat lunch on our own.


Our tour guide Gerda was an older Norwegian woman with a moderate accent. She did a good job of narrating the various neighborhoods and buildings we passed as we made our way from place to place along the tour. We saw the Nobel Peace Center, which happens to the be the only Nobel Prize they award in Oslo (the rest are in Stockholm). Many of the buildings on the way to the sculpture park were associated with the government or were appropriated as living for foreign governments. One of the most unusual sights for an American is to see where Prime Minister Erna Solberg lives, which is merely another house among many.


The Vigeland Sculpture Park was a stunning bit of artistic escape inside the larger Frogner Park. Gustav Vigeland was a progressive sculptor who came to prominence during the turn of the 20th century. His work, which leans heavily on a variety of nudes, was shocking for Norwegians at the park’s inception. We spent about forty-five minutes on a guided tour of the park, with opportunities to split away from the group for additional photography.

Next, our tour bus climbed the mountain to Holmenkollbakken. This was a nice rest from walking through the park and allowed us to get some fantastic views out into the Fjord where Oslo sits. This next stop was relatively brief, but interesting. The sheer size of the ski jump was overwhelming and it was very neat to visit such a renowned sports venue. Across the way was a stave church, which was also a treat.


Our final tour stop was the Viking Ship museum. This small, but packed venue had three viking ships, one of which was preserved almost entirely intact. There were walk-ups at the corners of these sections so you could get a better look at the ships’ decks and get a sense for how they would have operated. Accompanying these main attractions were several display cases filled with artifacts recovered from both viking expeditions and life at home. As someone with a healthy historical curiosity, exposure to less highlighted cultures captures my interest much more than revisiting the same western European, Roman-centric areas.

About the time the tour bus dropped us back at the ship, we were ready for lunch. We opted to forgo seeking out traditional Norwegian fare, especially from our limited radius away from the touristy port area. Instead, we found Nydalen Bryggeri og Spiseri, a microbrewery and American style brewpub that not only peddled its own wares, but also boasted an extensive beer list with tons of American craft brews. We opted to try some Norwegian beers and I ordered their cheeseburger, which was on point to what you’d find at a similar restaurant here at home.  While we were sitting outside at lunch, we witnessed the dispersing of a large crowd gathered for Name Day celebrations, which is their secular alternative to traditional baptism ceremonies.


Our last stop of the day was to walk down Aker Brygge, a waterfront promenade of shops and restaurants. There was a TGI Fridays, which was supremely upsetting, McDonald’s is obviously ubiquitous around the world, but some things just look out of place abroad. There were some clowns walking around this area with painted smiles and real scowls who were aggressively trying to sell balloon animals to frightened children. One was even smoking. Despite this strangeness, the promenade offered some more great views of both the Fjord and the cruise ship and it was a nice way to end the day in Norway.

After dinner, we ventured to the ship’s stern and watched the Fjord disappear behind us as the sun set at 9:18. There is something profoundly uplifting about sunlight that never ends. Over the two weeks at sea, I quickly became accustomed to seeing the sun well into the evening and now that I’m back I miss it dearly.

Next Stop: Aarhus.



God dag, everyone.

After a two week hiatus, I return to talk about a very long and very enjoyable trip abroad. I’ve never considered myself particularly narrow-minded or uncultured, but I will say from the start that visiting each of these countries could not be substituted by merely reading about them. Each has unique character and an omnipresent distinction from my status quo.

First up: Copenhagen.

Our flight was scheduled to depart at 5:40pm, but mechanical issues delayed us by an hour. The SAS flight was comfortable and we were fed reasonably well. As it was an overnight flight that landed at 8am, I intended to sleep for 5 hours and power through the day before we made it to the ship, but I’m lucky if I got three and it wasn’t all in one go.

I’ll admit to a certain degree of intimidation and anxiety visiting a foreign country with no safety net besides the ubiquitous understanding of English that became a theme of the trip. Some signs were bilingual, others were only in Danish. The most stressful part of this first day was when we tried to store our bags at luggage lockers using a system entirely in the latter. It took 7 failed attempts to get it right.

The Danish rail brought us to the interior of the city, just a short walk from Tivoli Gardens. Our Hop On, Hop Off tour left from there and allowed us to sightsee. We obligatorily visited the Little Mermaid statue, then did a nice walk around Kastellet, which is a natural terrain star fortress nearby. We noticed a lot of joggers running the outline of the star.

As a side note: everyone in Denmark is tall, fit and attractive. This is a fact. As a visitor, people may seem slightly standoffish, which is characteristic of their social fabric. Once you tear down walls, it becomes much easier.

We had Smorrebrod for lunch, which is a Danish open sandwich. I had Danish meatballs with sweet and sour red cabbage on dark, dense rye bread. Delicious. Our server left two types of lard on the table to spread directly on the bread, which was different and added to the experience.

After lunch we saw a bit more of the city then decided we were getting tired and needed to make it to the ship. We retrieved our bags and grabbed a cab out to Oceankaj. The trip cost about 60 Kroner less than we budgeted, making it a success.

It’s hard to form a concrete opinion of a city with seven hours and no sleep, but Copenhagen was mostly what it promised. Cyclists were out in force and it was fascinating to see how efficiently both the bike lanes and the mass transit operated. I would definitely like more time to spend among the locals and enjoy daily life and nightlife. And I’d love to ride my bike around the beautifully crafted paths that should exist in every city in the United States.

Next stop: Oslo.


Two years ago, I became obsessed with seeing the Northern Lights. Even though particularly active solar evenings have produced an aurora as far south as Albany in recent years, I’ve missed every opportunity to glimpse the display. A trip to Iceland seemed like a relatively inexpensive bet. Reykjavik sits at 64 degrees latitude on the southern end of the country. A few days in the world’s northernmost capital would satisfy my desire for shiny lights and a small taste of Nordic culture.

My tour of Northern Europe over the next two weeks will not involve Iceland or the Northern Lights, but sometimes great ideas are birthed from other great ideas. Iceland led to Iceland and Norway (a fjord tour), which led to submitting completely to a Baltic Sea cruise that hits most of the key port cities. I’ll be on Princess Cruise Line’s Regal Princess, a brand new ship that debuted just last year.

The itinerary for the trip is as follows:

  • May 2 – Copenhagen
  • May 3 – Oslo
  • May 4 – Aarhus
  • May 5 – Berlin
  • May 6 – At Sea
  • May 7 – Tallinn
  • May 8 – St. Petersburg
  • May 9 – St. Petersburg
  • May 10 – Helsinki
  • May 11 – Stockholm
  • May 12 – At Sea
  • May 13 – Back to Copenhagen

I’m hoping to keep a trip log and post my experiences from Europe. Stay tuned.