A Taste of Bruges!

Zeebrugge is the new port for the city of Brugge, or as we say in English Bruges.  Zeebrugge literally means Brugge on Sea.  After arriving in the port of Zeebrugge, Belgium I headed off to the city center of Brugge. When arriving to the city center a proud heritage is immediately evident! With the sights of beautiful medieval architecture in the historical old town, smells of Flemish cooking and the taste of Belgium chocolate, Brugge is a city that activates all the senses.

Brugge - Designerella

Brugge - Designerella

Brugge - Designerella

As you enter this historical old town, the beautiful medieval atmosphere is immediately evident. Cobblestone streets twist around centuries-old buildings. Other medieval buildings hover over the canals that were the transportation highways in centuries past.

Brugge - Designerella

Brugge - Designerella

I took a walk through the picturesque city into the classic market square surrounded by its merchant guild houses. The market square is dominated by the icon of Brugge, the 13th century Belfry Tower. Another nearby square holds the old town hall (Stadhuis) and the Gothic-Style Basilica of the Holy Blood. The town hall was built in 1376 and the Basilica contains a relic of the Holy Blood that was brought here after the second Crusade.

Brugge - Designerella

Brugge - Designerella

As you walk through the cobblestone streets you can feel the energy locals and tourists exploring this hidden gem of Europe. Along the streets you can see people sipping the fantastic Belgium beer, admiring the delicate white lace, and, of course, drooling over the chocolate displays. One cannot help but be drawn by the smell the chocolate from the chocolate shops that appear to be on every corner. The fresh chocolate in Brugge is unbelievable!

Brugge - Designerella

Brugge - Designerella

Brugge - Designerella

Brugge - Designerella

Amsterdam – “Venice of the North”

Amsterdam - Designerella

Amsterdam is often called the “Venice of the North”  due to the canals that dominate the heart of the city.  Over 150 canals surround the city center, and well over 1,000 bridges provide people easy access to both sides of the canal. Unlike the canals in Venice, these canals were the result of much civic planning. Most of the construction was completed in the 1600s, that is why many consider Amsterdam a living museum of the seventeenth century.

Amsterdam - Designerella

Amsterdam - Designerella

Amsterdam - Designerella

Amsterdam - Designerella

Most of the city has very narrow lanes that are not car friendly. Many use bikes as their primary means of transportation. As one walks through the streets they will hear the constant ringing of bike bells from approaching cyclists. The bikers and walkers give the city an incredible energy and numerous tourist, like myself, are just caught up in the normal hustle and bustle of this major international city.

Amsterdam - Designerella

Amsterdam - Designerella

Amsterdam - Designerella

Amsterdam - Designerella

Amsterdam - Designerella

Amsterdam - Designerella

Troll says “Goodbye and Good luck!”

Trolls have a long history in Scandinavia. The first trolls were depicted as scary giants or beings with magical powers. However over the years trolls have been transformed into a more happy, playful and whimsical being of various statures. When I first visited Norway the trolls greeted me with this great personality. Now, unfortunately, it is time for me to bid adjø (a Norwegian goodbye) to them and Norway. But I know my troll friends will be there to welcome me back upon my return!

Bergen, Norway - Designerella

Olden – Briksdal Glacier

After spending so much time in fjord country, I thought it was time to visit one of many glaciers that carved this magnificent landscape. My sights turned outside of Olden to Briksdal Glacier, located in Jostedalsbreen National Park, which is part of the largest glacier on the European mainland. This well-visited tourist attraction flows over 4,000 feet into the Briksdal Valley. The climb up to the glacier revealed views of a beautiful landscape and, of course, numerous waterfalls.

Olden, Norway - Designerella

Olden, Norway - Designerella

Olden, Norway - Designerella

Time for some science:)  A glacier is “a mass of snow and ice, mainly on land, and which, or has been, in motion”.  Glaciers are becoming more widely studied by scientists to understand the effects of climate change. One measure that scientists use to categorize glaciers is reaction time. Due to its steepness, the Birksdal Glacier has a reaction time of 3 to 4 years.

Olden, Norway - Designerella

Olden, Norway - Designerella

Olden, Norway - Designerella

Why is the ice blue? As in everything else, our eyes respond from the light reflected from the object. Because of the shape and composition of the ice crystals within the glacier, only the blue wavelengths within the light spectrum are reflected. This gives the glacier its blue tint.

OK, enough science! There is just enough room to show one last picture from my amazing journey to Briksdal Glacier.

Olden, Norway - Designerella

Flåm – “Little place between steep mountains”

Flåm, Norway - Designerella

All aboard! Today’s adventure involved riding on the Flåmsbana railway which twists and turns over, around and through the Norwegian mountains outside of Flåm. When built, the railway served as an important communications link. However the steep incline and breathtaking vistas have made it a must-do attraction for tourists. It is remarkable the effort that went into laying this track. There are 20 tunnels–18 of which were dug manually–along the 20.2 kilometer track. The train leaves Flåm at sea level and reaches the highest station of Myrdal over a half-mile above!

Flåm, Norway - Designerella

Flåm, Norway - Designerella

The Sognefjord is the longest fjord in Norway and the second longest in the world. Flåm is an excellent location to begin exploring the steep mountainsides, deep valleys and roaring waterfalls in this region. The name Flåm actually means “little place between steep mountains.”  I cannot think of a more appropriate name.

Flåm, Norway - Designerella

Flåm, Norway - Designerella

The Flåmsbana line allows riders to see the sheer drop of the Rjoande Waterfall and impressive peaks such as Vibmesnosi Mountain. Each time the train bends around the mountain, new waterfalls come into view.

Flåm, Norway - Designerella

The Vatnahalsen Hotel is located near the end of the Flåmsbana train line. A short break was taken to taste their homemade waffles with some hot tea and coffee. The place combines the great food with the most amazing views.

Flåm, Norway - Designerella

Flåm, Norway - Designerella

The breath taking vistas around Flåm are images I will cherish forever.

Flåm, Norway - Designerella

Flåm, Norway - Designerella

Back in Stavanger

Hei (Norwegian greeting) from Stavanger, Norway!  Today explored a bit more of the city of Stavanger.  The charm of towns like Stavanger come from the unique character of the city. After visiting several cities along the western Norwegian coast, I found each has its own unique character that make them different from neighboring communities.

Stavanger, Norway - Designerella

Stavanger, Norway - Designerella

Stavanger, Norway -- Designerella

What makes cities on the Norwegian coast great is that both shops and cafés spill out into the narrow, pedestrian-friendly streets. It creates a space were tourists and locals alike want to be. In this great environment you will never know what the language at the next table over will be.

Stavanger, Norway - Designerella

Bergen, Norway

Bergen, Norway - Designerella

Approaching Bergen from sea gave an amazing perspective because the city grew of its magnificent harbor. The city has now grown to the second largest city in Norway after the modern capital of Oslo. Bergen itself served as the capital of Norway for most of the 1200s. Like many powerful cities like Rome, Istanbul, Jerusalem and Barcelona, Bergen is claimed to be built on seven hills. However the hills of Bergen are what I would consider mountains.

The colorful buildings that line the wharf now serve as a tourist attraction with great restaurants and shops. The history behind the colors is that the cod fishermen painted the buildings in bright colors so they could be seen from the sea on rainy days (it rains nearly 89 inches a year!). It was the cod fishermen, who dried their catch, that gave this remarkable town its remarkable character.

Bergen, Norway - Designerella

Bergen, Norway - Designerella

Bergen, Norway - Designerella

Bergen, Norway - Designerella

Bergen, Norway - Designerella

Bergen, Norway - Designerella

Atop one of the hills of Bergen is Johanneskirken or St. John’s Church. The 200 foot tall church resides on the top of the hill above Torgallmenningen. The church is the tallest building in Bergen and being atop the hill provides it an even more dominating presence.

St. John's Church - Johanneskirken in Bergen, Norway - Designerella

Last summer while traveling in Italy I fell in love with the fresh markets. Being so close to the sea I knew there must be an amazing fish market in Bergen not far from the harbor. Without much trouble I was able find the most amazing fish market right on the water. The fish market drew numerous locals seeking the freshest food and tourist wandering the stalls in awe.

Fish Market in Bergen, Norway - Designerella

Fish Market in Bergen, Norway - Designerella

Fish Market in Bergen, Norway - Designerella

If it is in the North Sea or the fjords you can find it in the Bergen fish market. They have everything and anything you can imagine–even North Sea Caviar!

North Sea Caviar (fish market) in Berlin, Norway - Designerella

Due to the high energy, rich history, amazing foods and colorful harbor district, Bergen is my favorite city on this Norwegian voyage.  With that I say farvel (Norwegian for farewell) to the magnificent country of Norway!

Bergen, Norway - Designerella

Olden, Norway

Olden, Norway - Designerella

The beauty of the Norwegian fjords is found in the tall, steep cliffs falling into the calm waters. The small town of Olden is typical of the many small towns and villages dotting the fjords. Farms are placed on any remotely flat region region along the shores. When I was hiking around Olden, I found a strong sense of peace. The views I captures are just a small glimpse of this most amazing place.

Olden, Norway - Designerella

Olden, Norway - Designerella

The water is amazingly calm today, so it is hard to imagine the large amount of ice and water that were needed to carve out this valley. The carving of the landscape done by the glaciers is amazing. One can actually visit the Briksdal Glacier which is just 15 miles from the town of Olden.

Olden, Norway - Designerella

Åndalsnes, Norway

Åndalsnes is another town on the western coast of Norway, this one located in the county of Møre og Romsdal.  On this day the heavy fog covered the tops of the hills and spilled into the town. The town of Åndalsnes has had a strong connection to England which has shaped the town including its architecture. And of course this is Norway, so trolls are in the hills. Here are some snapshots from Åndalsnes, Norway.

Andaisnes, Norway - Designerella

Andaisnes, Norway - Designerella

Andaisnes, Norway - Designerella

Tromsø, Norway

I am still north of the Arctic Circle with a visit to the charmful city of Tromsø.  In the streets leading from the port, one will find much action in the streets. The city has set aside many streets that are pedestrian only, that makes it quite nice to walk down the streets without having to worry about cars. This allows people from all ages to safely stroll along the streets.

Tromso, Norway - Designerella

Tromso, Norway - Designerella

Tromso, Norway - Designerella

Tromso, Norway - Designerella

Every city in Norway seems to have these motorized mini trains on the streets. They provide sightseeing tours of the city. I also noticed many little bakeries that sell wonderful little pastries. The smell of warm baked goods permeates into the street enticing you inside. I am still not sure who is wanting the ice cream. I need to find some hot chocolate!

Tromso, Norway - Designerella

Tromso, Norway - Designerella

Tromso, Norway - Designerella