Tired of cruises? Try an expedition aboard the MS Roald Amundsen
If your image of a cruise ship is a floating monstrosity the size of a city block, full of casinos, colorful iced drinks with bendy straws, and overblown attractions like waterslides or ziplines, housing thousands of drunk travelers on their way someplace tropical—in other words, if you’re the kind of savvy traveler who scoffs at the idea of cruises—it’s time to take another look at Hurtigruten.
Are people nuts to love the high north? I go to (almost) the end of the earth to find out
Emily C. Skaftun The Norwegian American
“Why are you going to Svalbard?” was the most frequent question I got when talking about my summer travel plans. In the way of many adventurers, I had no very compelling answer to the question. Because it’s there!
I have a friend in Longyearbyen now (Elizabeth Bourne, whose name you may recognize from this paper), who was willing to let me crash in her spare room and eager to show me around the place that she loves to a suspicious degree. Mutual friends tasked me with determining whether Elizabeth was entirely insane.
Take a Christmas Markets tour to find seasonal spirit
Emily C. Skaftun The Norwegian American
Nobody does Christmas like Europe. I learned that just a couple weeks ago while taking a badly timed—but magical—tour of “Christmas Markets of Europe.” A number of companies offer these kinds of tours, with varying itineraries through northern Europe and even Scandinavia, but the one I took, offered by Trafalgar, started in Vienna, Austria, and finished up in Lucerne, Switzerland, by way of Salzburg, Austria; Munich and Oberammergau, Germany; Innsbruck, Austria; and Lichtenstein. In the end I chose this one because it was a good value, while also seeming the most classically “Christmassy.” I mean, what’s more Christmassy than the Alps?
(Technically, I suppose the Middle East is more Christmassy, but that’s a whole ’nother article.)
You’ve heard of Gustav Vigeland. One of Norway’s most famous artists, he’s the one behind the intriguing, bizarre sculptures in Oslo’s Frogner Park. The sculpture park is an absolute must-see on any visit to Norway’s capital, no matter how brief or, in my opinion, how many times you’ve been there before.
But you may not be aware of the other artistic Vigeland: Emanuel, Gustav’s younger brother. His mausoleum, tucked away in a residential neighborhood in Oslo’s northwest suburbs, is one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Continue reading “A tale of two Vigelands”→
From fancy glass to rugged stone, this Irish city has a long and surprisingly Nordic history
If the name of Waterford, Ireland, brings anything to mind, it’s most likely to evoke the high-end crystal that bears the name.
But an old Norse history lurks in the name Waterford, or Vadrarfjordr (Veðrafjǫrðr), which probably means “windy fjord,” or, as a plaque in the city proclaims, “haven from the windy sea.” Waterford is the only Irish city to retain its Viking place name. Continue reading “A Viking tour of Waterford, Ireland”→
High in the Norwegian mountains is a legendary theatrical experience worth the journey
The curtain cannot rise because there is no curtain, no proscenium arch, nothing but grass and a beach flanked by two shaggy hillocks between us and Lake Gålåvatnet. We are gathered here in the Norwegian wilds outside Vinstra to go on a journey with a character called Peer Gynt. Continue reading “Peer Gynt at Gålå mixes fantasy with reality”→
You can see more than you think on a short trip to Norway’s capital—even while smelling the roses
With so much to see in a fascinating place like Oslo, you may think it best to budget a week or more in Norway’s capital city. I can’t argue with that thinking, of course, but the reality of traveling is that we can usually not spend as much time anywhere as we’d like (except for airports. We spend far too much time in those).
The first time I visited Oslo it was for one day, an afterthought squeezed in between uncooperative train and flight schedules. The second time I hoped would be more leisurely, but I ended up with just over two days! Still, one can see a lot in a short visit if properly armed and motivated. Continue reading “Two ways to rush through Oslo”→
I knew right away when I stepped off the plane that I’d made a mistake. Skirts and tank tops had no place in my luggage for this trip to Oslo and the Gudbrandsdalen valley in August.
I thought I had planned so carefully. The weather forecast showed some rain for my trip, but temperatures in the 60s—not my preferred beach weather, but not so dissimilar from the old school “summer” Seattle had been experiencing. I packed the sort of clothes I’d been wearing. I very carefully prepared a special clothing plan for an outdoor event in the mountains: long underwear, a wool sweater to be acquired in Norway, and waterproof outer layers. It’s the mountains, yes, but it’s still summer, I thought. How cold could it be? Continue reading “Ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlig klær?”→
Lately a thing has been going around social media: a map of the U.S. called “States I’ve Visited.” Visited states turn a vibrant pink, bragging to all Facebook friends how well traveled one is. It’s a digital, national version of a gift we recommended last Christmas, a map of the world you can scratch off to show where you’ve been.
I think these things are fun, and I’ve even given the physical versions to a couple of people as gifts. But I must confess I have a hard time filling them out for myself. My hesitation comes from an uncertainty about what it means to have been to a place. Continue reading “Have we been there yet?”→
Ancient yet modern, safe yet violent, Israel is a land of contradictions
Since returning from a hastily planned trip to Israel this summer, everyone’s been asking me how it was. Did I have fun? And I don’t entirely know how to answer. Many of the experiences one has in Israel can’t be filed neatly under the heading of “fun,” but it is definitely a trip worth taking.