Europe Trip 2015 – Day 40 – Bergen, Norway to Los Angeles, California

My trip has finally come to an end. After roughly five and a half weeks of traveling around Europe, I’ve officially returned to the states. My last travel day was a bit hectic–I ended up being awake for around 25 hours before I finally had a chance to sleep on solid ground. But it’s a small price to pay for the opportunity I had to expand my borders, and experience a glimpse of life outside of North America.

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Europe Trip 2015 – Day 39 – Bergen, Norway

My last full day on this trip was fairly mild. It was a day of wandering, and intentionally getting lost in Bergen. There’s not a lot to do in the city that doesn’t involve spending far too much money, but you can’t put a price on simply enjoying the physical beauty of a place.

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Houses at Bryggen, the old wharf area of Bergen.

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Random alleyways in a residential part of the town.

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Looking up at Fløyen.

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Europe Trip 2015 – Day 38 – Flåm, Norway

The West Norwegian Fjords are said to have some of the most beautiful scenery on earth. While I’d already seen Nærøyfjord and Auralandsfjord by ferry, I wanted to get closer to the action, and double-back on the route. The best way to do this is with a FjordSafari tour, which takes approximately two hours, and departs round-trip from Flåm.

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The weather turned out to be fantastic at the start of the day, with blue skies marbled with picturesque clouds.

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Cruise ship in the harbor at Flåm.

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Despite the potential tourism dollars that cruise ships may bring, there exists a strong anti-cruise-ship mentality in Flåm, due in part to the pollution that these ships bring to the narrow and isolated fjords.

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Goats perched along one of the walls of the fjords.

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Snow high up on a ridge.

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A wider view of one of the walls of the fjord. Snow melt from high above finds narrow channels down the wall, forming narrow waterfalls.

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More of the postcard-perfect scenery of the fjords.

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Looking out from Gudavangen, the turnaround point for the tour.

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A waterfall blows off course in the wind.

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Fjord selfie, decked out in the gear that FjordSafari provides to help fight the cold!

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Inside the train on the Flåm railway, which leads up the fjord to meet up with the main rail line in Myrdal.

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Flåm church, built in the year 1670.

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Snow and structures, as seen from the train.

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Because it is primarily a tourist train, the Flåm Railway stops at the main waterfall along its route for folks to get out and take photos for a short break.

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More snowy scenes from along the main rail line back to Bergen.

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Returning to the Bergen train station at the end of the day.

Europe Trip 2015 – Day 37 – Flåm, Norway

Norway is famous for its fjords, characterized by long inlets from the sea with steep, mountainous walls. One of the easiest ways to see the fjords is to book a “Norway in a Nutshell” tour, which is essentially a group of tickets for various means of public transit to/from Bergen/Oslo (or round trip to one of the two), by way of Voss, Flåm, and a few other small towns. You can do the entire trip in a day, but it’s often recommended to spend at least one night in one of the stops. We ended up staying in Flåm, booking a night at a beautiful hostel located alongside pastures and farms.

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The start of the trip, at the Bergen train station. The railroad between Bergen and Oslo is known as one of the most scenic in the world.

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Views along the first leg of the journey, by rail from Bergen to Voss.

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A tractor not far from Voss.

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A bus takes you from Voss to Gudavagen, along often windy roads that seem impossible for a bus to traverse.

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Once you’re in Gudavagen, you board a two hour ferry that takes you to Flåm.

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Glimpse of life in one of the towns along the fjord.

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Once in Flåm, we checked into our hostel. This is the view from the window. It was absolutely gorgeous.

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A road near the hostel, which leads to a waterfall.

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The area is full of pastures with adorable sheep.

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Sign marking the way toward the waterfall.

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View from the top of the hike, looking back towards where the hostel is located.

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Tree, with the waterfall in the background.

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Small tiny flowers along the way.

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More sheep, heading back to the hostel.

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Europe Trip 2015 – Day 36 – Bergen, Norway

Day two of good luck in Bergen, with another day of sun on the forecast. In order to one-up the hike we’d done the day before, we decided to hike to the top of Ulriken (coined “death mountain” by Rebecca and Daniel, which should have been a sign of what was in-store). The peak is the highest of the mountains that surrounds Bergen, and is home to a concrete TV antenna tower, along with a restaurant and trails at the top. Similar to our hike from the day before, a cable-car is available to take people to the top of the peak. But hiking is more fun, right?

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Looking towards the TV antenna from the bottom of the trailhead. There are many paths that lead up to the top, but we chose the most direct.

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A paraglider, who launched from the top of the peak.

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Once you get past the treeline, it’s easy to see the line of hikers scrambling up the rocks to the top. While a handrail is installed, it’s only useful in a few places.

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A look across at snowy peaks.

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Back towards Bergen, with a steady stream of hikers taking advantage of the sunny day. Believe it or not, it’s much more vertical than it looks.

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One of the towers that holds up the lines for the cable car.

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Trails at the top of the peak.

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Selfie of the four of us!

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View from the top.

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Norwegian flag flying at the top.

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At the base of the TV antenna.

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Heading back down after spending a bit of time at the top.

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Flowers along the path.

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More paragliders. I wish I could have seen them launch from the top!

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Back below the treeline.

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A friendly cat decided to pay us a visit near the end of the hike. She seemed well cared-for, so we figured her home was nearby.

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Pigeon coops near the start of the trail.

Europe Trip 2015 – Day 35 – Bergen, Norway

Fløyen is one of the most popular tourist sights in Bergen. It’s one of the mountain peaks that surrounds the town, and is home to a couple buildings that house a restaurant, snack shop, giftshop, etc. Some people take the Fløibanen funicular up the mountain, which is probably an attraction unto itself. But we’re cheap, and arguably need exercise, so we decided to hike up to the top.

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The start of the hike to the top.

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Snow is still visible on the tops of the mountains that surround Bergen. Even though it’s May, spring is just now finally gaining speed.

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Moss is everywhere, a testament to the abundant rainfall that Bergen receives. Luck was on our side though, since it ended up being sunny all day.

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Hikers rest and enjoy the view en route to the top.

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View from the top of Fløyen, looking towards Bergen.

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Small fire in the distance.

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Looking down at the city center.

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A really cool handrail at the top of Fløyen. Not sure what the song is.

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Europe Trip 2015 – Day 34 – Reykjavik, Iceland to Bergen, Norway

From the moment I left Reykjavik, I already missed it. It’s such a tiny city on a relatively small island, but it has so much character, and so many amazing people pass through it on their grand adventures. Nonetheless, I was excited to get to Norway, my last stop on this trip around Europe. I’m staying with a friend in Bergen on the west coast, surrounded by fjords and beautiful scenery. Though Norway is an expensive country (and makes Iceland look cheap by comparison), its beauty (almost) makes up for it.

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Heading towards the airport, leaving Reykjavik.

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One last view of the coast of Iceland, where the lava fields meet the water near Keflavik.

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Norwegian flags flying in Bergen, Norway.

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More flags flying near Bryggen in Bergen, the historic center of the city.

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The famous row of crooked colorful houses in Bryggen.

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Looking through an alleyway between the old structures.

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Statue in a city square.

Europe Trip 2015 – Day 33 – Sólheimajökull Glacier, Iceland

My last big day trip was one I’d been looking forward to since I booked this trip. I knew that I wanted to see the South Coast of Iceland, because I have ancestors from the region. But I also wasn’t interested in the standard South Coast trip packages, because they seemed to spend a lot of time at random museums. I ended up booking an intensely cool 3-hour-long glacier hike on the Sólheimajökull Glacier, with stops at the Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls on the way back.

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One of the large glacial-fed rivers that the ring road crosses over, heading towards the glacier.

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A flat floodplain, which carries waters from the Eyjafjallajökull glacier to the sea.

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Farms along the base of a coastal mountain ridge.

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Another floodplain, this one closer to the glacier I’d be hiking on.

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At the start of the glacier hike. We readied ourselves with harnesses, crampons, and an ice axe at a staging area roughly 900m from the base of the glacier. When the staging area was built, the glacier went right up to the edge of the parking lot.

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Beginning the hike up the glacier. The dark areas you see on the white ice is black dirt, gravel, and ash.

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An anchor in the wall of the ice, held in place with an ice screw. Our guide setup ropes to help our group reach an ice cave.

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Inside the ice cave.

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Selfie on a glacier.

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Ice axes are cool.

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Heading farther up the glacier, towards devices placed in the ice that measure the distance the glacier has moved, and the amount it has melted every year.

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An opening in the ice. The dripping waters most likely lead to a small tunnel under the ice, which leads to the small lagoon at the glacier’s base.

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Snow had started by this point, but it only added to the atmosphere of the moment.

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Looking back down the glacier towards the ocean. The staging area is just behind the grey ridge in the center of the photograph, to give an idea of distance traveled.

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Our guide pointing out a crack in the ice.

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Looking down one of the crevasses.

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There were multiple groups of hikers on the glacier at the same time. Some were just hikes, others involved small amounts of ice climbing.

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Our guide demonstrating basic ice climbing technique.

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Heading back towards Reykjavik, a stop at the famous Skógafoss waterfall.

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Looking across the coastal plane.

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Seljalandsfoss, the second waterfall we stopped at. This waterfall is noteworthy because you can walk behind it.

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View from behind Seljalandsfoss.