city

THE IMPORTANCE OF EXPERIENCES

Each of us is the result of our own experiences and this is even more true for traveller who go around the world to know populations, cultures and traditions very different from those in which they were born.
Traveling with eyes, mind and heart opened, we could learn and get better.
In this case, however, I speak of experiences because visiting a lot of places around the world, we have also several parameters of comparison.

 

Earth map with place visited on my travels Matteo cosmorevas.tk

 

Visiting one place before another influences our perception of beauty and wonder.
You should perhaps see the most beautiful places after other trips but this is not always possible.
We cannot say that one place is more amazing that another without having seen it…

Another parameter of comparison (for me and many others, maybe not for everyone) is the amount you spend.
I talked with some people who went to Machu Picchu on their honeymoon.
This is a decisive factor: is different if you have a fully paid trip or have to pay as little as possible and what you considered “the correct price”.

BEAUTIFUL BUT…

This anticipation was necessary to understand why for me is difficult to talk about Machu Picchu, the place that left me with the most deep sense of disappointment.

Maybe I should think in an objective way, imagining that I went to Machu Picchu for free and without having seen other wonders of the world (official or considered by myself), but the web is full of similar stories.
I only tell what I saw and the emotions I felt. Neither right nor wrong but real and sincere.

My previous experiences have a great influence on the following considerations.
Peru was not the first trip I have made and having seen before the Mayan cities (Palenque and Yaxchilan), the Aztec city of Teotihuacan and the Temples of Angkor, make me disappointed in front of Machu Picchu.

Beautiful but… I’ve been to… here instead…

 

statues and sign Welcome to Machu Picchu - village of Aguas Calientes - Peru

 

Another factor that makes me totally negative about the Machu Picchu’s site (in this case not about the site itself but to its surroundings) is the absurd and crazy amount that one have to pay.
Many times I asked myself if I did something wrong but I could have saved a bit of money only with a huge physical effort (possible but I also had to consider that this was the final part of my one-month trip in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and Peru, with a temperature change of 70°C and an altitude difference of about 6,000 meters).

I’ll explain all the details soon but I anticipate that going to Machu Picchu costs about USD 450..

Nice but… here I paid… there instead…

 

HISTORY

Machu Picchu, in native Quechua language Machu Pikchu, “old mountain”, is the 3,082 meters high mountain where the Incas built the city.
Over the years, the name was also associated with the archaeological site.
World Heritage Site and one of the seven wonders of the modern world, is universally known for its scenic location, embedded between the peaks of the Urubamba River valley.

 

Peru - landscape of Machu Picchu from the archaeological site

 

The city, or perhaps only the summer residence of the emperor and the Inca nobility, should have been built around the year 1440 and inhabited until the Spanish conquest in 1532 by a permanent population of about 300 people, with a peak of 1,000 when the emperor went.
It was never abandoned or forgotten, but occasionally inhabited by a few indigenous who used the agricultural terraces and the complex water channels.

On July 24, 1911 the american Hiram Bingham arrived at the top of the mountain and was impressed by what he saw.

 

Peru - landscape from the top of Machu Picchu Mountain

 

Realizing at once the historical importance of those ruins, he carried out international excavations and publications, with the support of the Peruvian government, Yale University and National Geographic.

In a few years Machu Picchu became the main tourist destination in Peru.

 

HOW TO GET

Cusco

The first stop is to arrive in the city of Cusco.
There are at least two ways, depending on the departure and the time available.
The airport of Cusco is connected to the capital Lima with numerous daily flights and the prices are very low. It may be the best solution if you have limited days and arrive in Lima with international flights (from Europe or, usually, from Mexico City, Santiago de Chile, Bogota or Buenos Aires).

Otherwise you can get to Cusco by bus. I recommend this if you are coming from the south (for example Nasca or Arequipa) or from Bolivia (better if after a day stop in Puno to see the tourist floating villages on Lake Titicaca).
The best quality/price solution should be the Cruz del Sur company.

 

Peru - bus Cruz del Sur

 

I used it for some trips and the buses are very clean and immaculate.
The seats on the 1st floor (semi-cama), even if the seats are lowered a little less, they still allow you to sleep peacefully.
Thinking about the comfort of reclining the seat 170°, I chose the ticket for the upper floor. But, like everything else, respect is always needed.
It’s nice stay almost like in a bed, but it means that the person behind will not be able to move because the front seat will rest on his/her knees.
I spent an entire 13-hour journey fighting with the “enemy” of the seat in front of me: he would slam the seat on my knees to tilt it to the maximum and I stopped him with punches and kicks in the backrest and headrest.
Imagine how relaxing this trip was…

 

From Cusco to Aguas Calientes

Once in Cusco you have to find a way to get to Aguas Calientes, the small village that seems to have been created only to take all money of those who go to Machu Picchu.

To make it simple, there are 4 solutions:

1. Gipsy Trip: from the square of Cusco leave the colectivos (shared vans, classic means of transport throughout South America) to Hidroelectrica. The cost of this trip is about USD 10.
From Hidroelectica you walk for about 30 km until the village of Aguas Calientes.

 

Peru - Sacred Inca Valley seen from the train Perurail Cusco Ollantaytambo Aguas Calientes Machu Picchu

 

2. Perurail train: the easiest but obviously also the most expensive solution is the direct connection, crossing the landscapes of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
The trains have large panoramic windows, comfortable seats and include a free snack and drink.
A few months before departure I thought it was impossible that the train ticket cost USD 180 (round trip) and I decided to wait and found a better solution in Cusco.
Instead there the price had gone up around USD 300.

 

Peru - Perurail train to Machu Picchu at Ollantaytambo station

 

3. Middle way: I didn’t want to pay it USD 300 but I was also too tired to think of doing 60 km with my backpack, so I chose the classic “middle way”.
I took a colectivos from Cusco to the intermediate railway station of Ollantaytambo, and from there the Perurail train to Aguas Calientes. I booked a last minute ticket for about USD 110 one way.

4. Inca Trail: considered one of the most beautiful treks in the world, it usually takes 4 or 5 days.
Tickets are limited to 500 people, of which about 300 are local guides (required).
The old 43 km long mountain trail links the Inca archaeological sites of Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Winay Wayna and Machu Picchu.
Prices range from USD 650 to USD 1,500 depending on the duration and comfort required.

 

Peru - cosmorevas Inca Trail Machu Picchu map

 

SITE ENTRANCE TICKET

The Government of Peru often varies the conditions and times of access (it has tried to impose stricter time slots and shorter stay times). Per quanto io cerchi di tenere sempre queste informazioni aggiornate, è meglio fare le verifiche al momento opportuno.

The official website to buy tickets directly is www.machupicchu.gob.pe.
Choose with the most attention the date and time of entry because access is very fiscal and punctual.
Theoretically the stay at the site is not infinite but the times are limited in according to the ticket bought. No one will look to throw you out, but if you are at fault (but do it anyway) avoid to attract the attention of the guardians for incorrect or forbidden behaviour acts. Per esempio, pur se li ritengo For example, even if I consider them absurd and shameful, it’s forbidden to enter with backpacks or bags larger than 40x35x20 cm, bring food or drinks that have not been purchased on the site and have trekking sticks, umbrellas, camera tripods or smartphone holders.

There are 3 types of ticket:
– Machu Picchu: 2.300 places per day, entrance limited to the Inca city, cost about USD 60..
Places are limited to 800 accesses from 6am to 9am, 600 from 9am to 12, 360 from 12am to 1pm and 540 from 1pm to 2pm.
Theoretically you can stay in the site 4 hours from the moment of entry but there are not checks about it.

– Machu Picchu + Mountain: 400 places per day, including a visit to the Inca city and trekking on Machu Picchu Mountain, cost about USD 80 (discounts for children, students and citizens of Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador).
There are 3 times available: 100 places to enter Machu Picchu from 06am and start trekking on the Mountain from 07am to 08am, 100 places to enter the Mountain at the same time but in the city only after the trekking, and the last 200 tickets to enter Machu Picchu from 08am and the Mountain from 09am to 10am
You could stay on the site for a maximum of 8 hours, while the return from the Mountain must take place before 1pm.
I chose to book this ticket as “the middle way”: entering only the archaeological site seemed reductive to me, the Inca Trail was instead excessive and this mountain is higher than Huayna Picchu and therefore more panoramic.

The climb to Machu Picchu Mountain was very hard and tiring.
I had read that it takes 2-4 hours to reach the top and go down.
I tell that after more than 2 hours of climb on the steep path, among irregular dirt tracks and narrow steps, in the middle of the jungle and with the fauna represented mainly by mosquitoes and gnats, I decided to stop and come down.
This is also because, beyond the physical and mental effort, climbing the mountain was very boring.
As you climb the landscape is always the same, only seen from a greater height. I would have climbed to the top to see a totally different landscape, but to see the same I’ve not found a good reason.
It is obviously a subjective thought but, while relaxing on the stairs, I talked with other “climbers” and nobody found a motivation to climb to the top.
We all started off excited but, who first and who later, we gave up, evaluating the excessive effort compared to the achievable result.

 

Peru - stairs to Machu Picchu Mountain

 

– Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu: 400 places per day, including a visit to the Inca city and trekking on the Machu Picchu Mountain, cost about USD 80.
There are 3 times available: 100 places to enter Machu Picchu from 06am and start the trek from 07am to 08am, 100 places to enter the same time in Huayna Picchu but in the city only after the trek, and last 200 tickets to enter Machu Picchu from 08am and Huayna Picchu from 10am to 11am.
You could stay a total of 6 hours but the excursion to Huayna Picchu takes about 3 hours.

Huayna Picchu is the “young mountain”, 2693 meters high, famous for appearing behind the archaeological site in classic panoramic photos.
The ascent takes place on a narrow, steep, zigzag path, with sections where the stairs are directly carved into the rock.
This trek is not recommended for those who suffer from vertigo because its precipices and access is only allowed to +12 years.
You should reach the top in about 1 hour, but I haven’t climbed it so cannot confirm this information.

 

Peru - landscape of Huayna Picchu Mountain and the Andes Mountain from Machu Picchu Mountain

 

THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE

Let’s take a closer look at the archaeological site of Machu Picchu.
The royal Inca city of Machu Picchu is located in the Andes Mountains, between the prominent peaks of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, on a high mountain ridge with steep precipices as far as the Urubamba River and near the springs of the Amazon River. It’s also located in a highly seismic region, constantly affected by strong earthquakes and subject to heavy rainfall throughout the year.

Despite this, the city is still intact, demonstrating the high technical and scientific knowledge of the Inca civilization, which hadn’t written language and didn’t know the wheel or the iron.

The complex is divided into two large areas: the urban area and the agricultural area, separated by large squares.
The site is, however, largely to be deciphered, the names and functions of the structures are hypothetical and still under investigation.

Peru - landscape of Machu Picchu Square and Huayna Picchu Mountain with Andes Mountain

The urban area

Houses were built here and civil and religious activities were also done.
The Temple of the Sun is one of the best examples of organic Inca architecture and the only circular building in Machu Picchu.
In the lower part there are symbols and steps, inside a sculpture and niches used for ceremonial purposes related to the cult of the dead.
In the upper part, a large sculpted rock served as an altar while the windows were used for observing astronomical events.
For a Sardinian it’s immediate to associate it, both in shape and use, with a nuraghe.

Under the Temple of the Sun, almost hidden, there is a natural stone cave known as the royal tomb because some scientists suppose that it was the mausoleum of the Inca emperor Pachacutec.

 

Peru - Machu Picchu - Temple of the Sun

 

The capanna del custode is one of the few renovated buildings.
Its high thatched roof is the most accepted hypothesis of how the original roofs of the houses were.

 

 

Peru - caretaker's hut Machu Picchu

 

The agricultural area

The secret of its longevity is the drainage system.
The urban area has 129 canals that prevent landslides and erosion, canalising all the water to the agricultural area of the city and to the spring area, providing a perennial spring of water.
Here the foundations of the agricultural terraces have been built with stone retaining walls, a thick layer of surface soil and, deep down, larger stones, gravel and chiselled stone shavings.

 

Peru - agricultural terraces Machu Picchu

 

This perfect engineering work ensured the necessary drainage to prevent rainwater stagnation and erosion of the hills.
There was no irrigation system on the terraces because the Incas considered rain to be sufficient for this purpose.

 

Peru - Machu Picchu - into the city

 

EXPENSES SUMMARY

In this computation I prefer to omit the costs, too variable and subjective, to arrive from any place in the world to the city of Cusco. So I focus on how to reach Machu Picchu from Cusco.

Cusco: the city certainly deserves a few days dedicated but, beyond that, it’s better to sleep here after visiting the archaeological site. You could still stay in Aguas Calientes but, as said, there the costs are much higher while in Cusco you can find a bed for USD 5.

Train: the price varies depending on the travel period, the booking date (I booked the last day in Cusco because I didn’t think that the prices seen online were real) and the departure station.
In general you have to pay about USD 150 from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and USD 100 from the intermediate station of Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes.
So USD 300 or USD 200 round trip.

 

Peru - Ollantaytambo Station

 

Colectivos: the alternative to the train is to use the colectivos (vans with which you share the trip with other people) to reach the town of Hidroelectrica in about 7 hours and from there continue on foot along the railway tracks for almost 15 kilometres until you reach Aguas Calientes.
The colectivos can also be used for the Cusco – Ollantaytambo route.
In both cases the amount is around USD 5 or 10.

Aguas Calientes: you must sleep here at least one night and it’s difficult to find accommodation for less than USD 20.
Everything (souvenirs, drinks or simple empanadas) is at least three times more expensive than what you would pay in Cusco. So get organized in advance so as not to leave crazy amounts at the market or in a restaurant.

 

Peru - city of Aguas Calientes base to go to Machu Picchu

 

Bus: access to the site at 06am implies a wake-up call well before the sunrise, in order to be at the bus stop at least at 03.30am An excessive delay means having to queue for kilometres which, just seeing it, could make you burst into a desperate neurotic cry.
Buses leave from Aguas Calientes from 05.30am to 3.30pm and come back until 5.45pm.
The cost of the ticket is about USD 20 round trip.
The alternative is of course a 10 km walk. I have heard that it takes at least 2 hours, also considering that the climb is long and the buses have no regard to run raising dirt and dust.

 

Peru - Machu Picchu - Aguas Calientes bus queue

 

Access ticket: as I explained before (and waiting for updates) the price ranges from about USD 60 to USD 80.

Guide: when I went, the guide was optional. Now it would seem obligatory at a cost of USD 75.
However, it seems that you can still access the site without paying this additional fee.

To recapitulate, we can therefore consider 4 price ranges:

1. Gipsy experience : USD 100 ( + about 80 km on foot)
colectivos Cusco – Hidroelectrica + 30 km walk to Aguas Calientes + walk up to Machu Picchu + entrance to the site + return in the same way.

2. Expensive comfort: USD 450
night in Cusco + colectivos Cusco – Ollantaytambo + train Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes + night in Aguas Calientes + bus to Machu Picchu + entrance to the site + return in the same way + various expenses.

3. Inca Trail: from USD 650 to USD 1.500
according to the durability and comfort required.

4. Business class: ∞
as someone said, “to infinity and beyond”.

 

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

Is it worth going to Machu Picchu?
Yes, of course! Despite all the negative notes I mentioned, it’s a place to see.
Machu Picchu is still a historic place, one of those destinations that represents a point of arrival.
What makes it unique is the place itself, a city built on top of a mountain, surrounded by the Peruvian Andes mountain.
Its beauty can be elevated by the mystical and mysterious atmosphere that creates clouds, fog and sun.
It’s probably a destination more for tourists than for travellers, but it’s a place where each of us, once in our lives, should go.

 

Peru - landscape from Machu Picchu Mountain

 

 

 

Peru - light in Machu Picchu

NORTHERN LIGHTS, MIDNIGHT SUN AND ARCTIC EXPEDITIONS

Tromsø, considered the Arctic capital, is located about 350 km north of the Arctic Circle, at 69°40′ north latitude, in the heart of the wild between majestic mountains and beautiful fjords.

In the north of Norway there is complete darkness during the polar night season.
Here from 23 November to 18 January, the sun never rises but is at most 3 degrees below the horizon, enough to ensure the presence of light.

Being right under the oval of the Northern Lights, it is the area with the highest probability of seeing this magical phenomenon from the end of August to the end of April, generally between 6pm and midnight..
If the sky is clear, you might see the Northern Lights right above the city, but to increase your chances you should go away from the lights of the city centre.

 

Norway - Tromso - Sami

 

Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Tromsø has a milder coastal climate than other destinations at the same latitude.
The average winter temperature is about -4°C, but if you’re looking for the Northern Lights, remember that the temperature could be from -20°C to +5°C, so always stay in layers.

On the contrary, from May 19 to July 26, the sun never sets. With the phenomenon of the midnight sun you can enjoy full daylight doing any activity 24 hours a day.

Tromsø is also a strategic point to reach North Cape, Svalbard Islands, Lofoten Islands or Sweden and Finland.
Thanks to its location beyond the Arctic Circle, it is considered the gateway to the North Pole and has been the starting point for many Arctic expeditions.

 

Norway - Tromso - Polaria Museum

 

WHAT TO SEE

ARCTIC CATHEDRAL

One of Tromsø’s best-known buildings, the modern architecture of the Arctic Cathedral, featuring 11 aluminium-clad concrete panels on each side of the roof, is reminiscent of an iceberg or a Sami tent and has often been compared to the famous Sydney Opera House.
It takes about 25 minutes to get there from the city centre on foot or you can take bus 20, 24, 26 or 28.

The main entrance is surrounded by a large window with a pronounced cross.

 

Norway - Tromso - Arctic Cathedral

 

STORSTEINEN MOUNTAIN

A 15-minute walk from the Arctic Cathedral, on fine days you can take the Fjellheisen cable car to the top of the Storsteinen mountain. From here you have a wonderful view of the city (if low clouds don’t prevent the view).
Otherwise you can reach the top by climbing the 1,200 stone steps of the Sherpa Staircase.

 

Norway . Tromso - Mount Storsteinen

 

TROMSØ BRIDGE

A peculiarity of Tromsø is that it is located on Tromsøya Island, connected to the mainland by an arched bridge.
You can also walk to the Cathedral and see Tromsø from a different perspective.

 

Norway - Tromso

 

DOMKIRKE

The northernmost Protestant cathedral in the world is located in the quiet main street of Tromsø but I could only see it from the outside.
The opening hours are very variable and uncertain but it’s still a beautiful building of neo-gothic architecture, the only cathedral in Norway made entirely of wood.

 

Norway - Tromso - Domkirke - Protestant Cathedral

 

PERSPEKTIVET MUSEUM

I don’t know how long each photographic exhibition lasts, but the museum is free so you can “risk” visiting this neoclassical 1838 building.
Satisfaction or disappointment will still be subjective.
I saw unpublished photos that were very interesting for me.
On the ground floor the photos made you imagine the cities/villages and life in the Palestinian Territories before the war of 1948.

 

Norway - Tromso - Perspektivet Museum - Palestinian Territories

 

Upstairs, instead, the different faiths of “homo religiosus” are shown.
Other photos show the history of Tromsø, from the construction of the bridge to the airport.

TROMSØMUSEUM

This is a multidisciplinary museum with first part dedicated to animals living in the Tromsø area and in the Arctic and about the climate change they are fighting.
The upper floor first shows us the damage that man is creating with his waste, then explains the phenomenon of the Northern Lights.
The museum closes with the interesting history and culture of the Sami people.

 

Norway - Tromso - Sami culture

 

POLARIA

I don’t think you should consider this museum as an aquarium just because there are three seals, starfish, sponges and other Arctic fauna and flora.
Before you go in, think about the panels outside that explain life in the Arctic and its importance. This museum is in fact the gateway to understanding Svalbard Islands and what is happening with climate change.
Understanding the damage plastic does is essential for all of us.

 

Norway - Tromso - Polaria Museum

 

MS POLSTJERNAN

Housed inside a glass construction, it is the ship used to kill (or, as it was said at the time, “bring home”) at least 100,000 seals. You can walk on its decks, full of objects of the time, hunting tools, numerous photos, videos and objects related to polar expeditions.

Thinking about what this boat has seen, however, almost makes you see the blood of the seals on deck.
It was not very pleasant for me.

The entrance ticket is included in that of the adjacent Polaria museum.

 

Norway - Tromso - Polstjerna

 

THE POLAR MUSEUM

It would be better if this was called “the Polar Hunting Museum“.
I expected a different museum instead is the exaltation of hunters (especially seals and bears) and the description of hunting carried out over the centuries in the polar territories.
There are many, too many, stuffed animals. Looking into their eyes I wonder the sense of their presence in the museum, rather than in their natural habitat.

 

Norway - Tromso - seal

 

The multilingual guides delivered free of charge at the entrance explain every object in the rooms (traps, weapons, writings, photos, drawings, reconstructions of scenes and hunting methods).
I have nothing against hunting when it is a necessity to survive, but here we really see almost ostentation and exhibitionism of man’s blind force against animals.

ANIMALS

The whale watching season varies from year to year depending on the presence of herring in the fjords.
It usually runs from November to the end of January and there are several companies at the port that make special excursions.
Some of them also allow you to go into the water with whales, although this experience, given the weather, is not guaranteed.

If you are interested, I suggest you to go to Tonga Islands, where I swam with whales in Nuku’alofa.

 

Tonga - swimming with whales

 

Huskies are some of the most popular animals to meet in Tromsø and with them you could sled or walk in the woods.

Another animal you’ll probably see is the reindeer. They often walk freely along the road or you can get to know the Sami people, with whom you can feed reindeer or have them tow you on a sleigh.

 

Norway - reindeer

 

HOW TO MOVE

PLANE

There are 3 connections between the city center and the airport:
– the express bus takes about 15 minutes, with several stops near the hotels and in strategic points of the city.
– the city bus lines 24, 40 and 42.
– taxis

SHIP

Hurtigruten leaves Tromsø every day.

The port is located about 4 km from the city centre.
You can easily reach it on foot or by city buses 30 and 42.

 

Hurigruten - Nordkapp

 

DISTRICT BUSES

District buses offer some excursions around Tromsø municipality and depart from Prostneset, the city’s main bus station, which is located next to the Tourist Information Office.

Bus 420 Tromsø – Hella – Brensholmen – Sommarøy:
Short excursion from Tromsø around the southern part of the island of Kvaløya.

Bus 425 Tromsø – Ersfjordbotn:
Fantastic views of the fjords and steep mountains.

Bus 450 Tromsø – Tønsvik – Oldervik:
Reach hiking trails and see fantastic views of the sea and the Lyngen Alps.

 

Norway - Tromso

 

CONTINUE THE TRIP

NORTHERN NORWAY

You could travel from Tromsø to Alta by bus and from there, after at least one night’s rest, take another bus to Kirkenes or Honningsvåg, from where you then reach Nordkapp – North Cape or Knivskjellodden.

Hurtigruten departs daily from Tromsø with a 17-hour journey to Honningsvåg.

Another option is to fly from Tromsø to Honningsvåg with stopover in Hammerfest.

 

Norway - Nordkapp - from afar

 

SVALBARD ISLANDS

The only way to get to Svalbard is by plane and there are daily flights from Tromsø to Longyearbyen.
In high season, from March to August, the number of flights increases.

Remember that Svalbard is outside the Schengen area so you need passport.

 

Svalbard Islands - Pyramida - polar bear

TO THE SOUTH OF NORWAY

If you want to get excited traveling south, you have to travel by ship.
With the Hurtigruten you could reach Lofoten Islands, Bodø, Trondheim or Bergen.

There is a daily bus connection from Tromsø to Fauske. From here you can continue south by train to Trondheim, Oslo, Bergen and other destinations.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Kayaking on the river Nidelva

 

SWEDEN

There are several direct flights from Tromsø to Stockholm.

The Länstrafiken Norrbotten bus goes from Tromsø to Narvik, from where it continues to Björkliden, Abisko and Kiruna in Sweden.
Or from Narvik you could continue by train to Boden, Luleå, Haparanda and Stockholm.

 

Norway - Tromso

 

BODØ: A STRATEGIC CITY

Bodø (pronounced Bùda) is a small but strategical city.
It is in fact the first port north of the Arctic Circle, the starting point to reach the Lofoten Islands, the northern terminus of the Norwegian railway and gateway to the Arctic lands.

 

Norway - Bodo - Hurtigruten

 

The current center is a mix of wooden houses, brick houses, blocks up to 10 floors high, quite luxurious hotels with large windows.
There are few attractions in Bodø but the surrounding landscape is certainly fascinating: the largest city in Nordland is surrounded by the rugged Børvasstindan mountains, Bodømarka forest and lots of small islands.

 

Norway - Bodo - mountains

 

Just 75 minutes by plane from Oslo, you could see the Northern Lights from September to March and from 30 May to 12 July the midnight sun.

The city was founded in 1816 and around 1860 it became an important centre for herring fishing.
During the Second World War it was practically razed to the ground by bombing on 27 May 1940 and later rebuilt in a sober but functional architectural style, a classic post-war example.

 

Norway - Bodo - World War II

 

During the Cold War, Bodø military airport was considered strategic by NATO because it was from there that attacks against the Soviet Union would start.
In May 1960, during a period of very high tension, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down on Soviet territory on its way from Pakistan to Bodø airport.
Norway didn’t officially allow foreign troops to park or use military installations on Norwegian territory, and this illegal behaviour, in violation of the agreements, led to a worsening of relations between Norway and the Soviet Union.

 

Norway - Bodo - Cold War

 

WHAT TO SEE

DOMKIRKE

The peculiarity of this church, made almost entirely of wood, is certainly its shape of an upside down ship.
Inside there are interesting photos that tell its history, from its construction to the bombardments of the Second World War that practically razed the entire city to the ground.
Rebuilt in 1956, it is one of the few Norwegian churches where you could enter for free.

 

Norway - Bodo - Domkirke

 

NORDLANDMUSSET

Not far from Domkirke, there is the Nordland Museum.
Bodø is a little city so is impossible not to come here and discover the history of this city, which went from the bombings of World War II to its strategic position in the Cold War.

There are also exhibitions about Sami and Viking cultures.

 

Norway - Bodo - center

 

BODØ TOURIST INFORMATION

Given the few things to do in Bodø, I looked for a few excursions to the Tourist Centre but unfortunately it was a bust, given its uselessness and the listlessness of the staff.
No useful information is given and therefore it could be a library where you browse maps and brochures.

The excursions on visitbodo.com are presented and also the eventual reservation must be made directly from this website, with payment in advance by credit or debit card.

SALTSTRAUMEN

400 million cubic meters of water flow in about 6 hours through a 3 kilometer long and 150 meter wide strait between the Salten Fjord and the Skjerstad Fjord, and the maelstrom can reach speeds uo 20 knots..
This phenomenon creates the worlds strongest tidal current and you see characteristic whirlpools up to 10 meters in diameter and 5 metres deep.

I booked the excursion on visitbodo.com but the NOK 495 (just over € 50.00) seemed too expensive.
The bus takes the independent travellers in front of the library and then heads to the port to pick up the passengers of the Hurtigruten ship (who have chosen to participate in the excursion, paying about double).
It do a quick tour of Bodø and then goes to Saltstraumen where arrives in about 45 minutes.
You have about 15 minutes to go down to the shore, take photos and see the current and the whirlpools that form.
Or you could choose another type of tour, challenging the current on board a zodiac.
The time is enough but still shamefully little in relation to the price of the excursion.
Arrival at the port of Bodø is scheduled for around 14.50, in time for the departure of the Hurtigruten ship to the Lofoten Islands.

 

Norway - Bodo - Saltstraumen

 

HOW TO GET

PLANE

Bodø Airport is located 1.5 kilometres south-west from the city centre.

SAS, Norwegian and Widerøe are the main airlines connecting the city to Oslo, Trondheim, Tromsø, Bergen, Narvik, Svolvær and others.

TRAIN

Bodø Station is the terminus of the Nordlandsbanen and was opened by King Olav V on 7 June 1962.
From Bodø, a day and night train goes to Trondheim.

 

Norway - Bodo - houses Saltstraumen

 

SHIP

Hurtigruten docks here twice a day: at 01.30 when heading south and at 12.30 when heading north.
I chose to arrive here by plane from Trondheim and then continue the trip by ship to Honningsvag (the best port to reach Nordkapp – North Cape (and the real North Cape, Knivskjellodden) with stops at Lofoten Islands and Tromso.

 

Norway - Bodo - arrival Hurtigruten

WHERE TO SLEEP

THON HOTEL NORDLYS

By booking well in advance, I found a great price for this hotel very closed to the port, 20 minutes from the Hurtigruten ship boarding and within walking distance from the airport.

The reception staff is kind and professional but I have to write a honorable comment deserves the extraordinary breakfast, wonderful and very rich thanks to the chefs who cook on sight and at least 4 waitresses always in the room to arrange everything and available to guests..

It was one of the best breakfasts ever, with a huge assortment of sweet, salty, salmon, drinks and fruit.
And a spectacular chocolate fountain that invites you to dive in.

 

 

Continue your trip to south (Trondheim or Oslo) or to north (Lofoten Islands, Tromso, Nordkapp – North Cape, Knivskjellodden or Svalbard Islands)

 

 

HISTORY OF THE CITY

Although Trondheim does not have a troubled history like the Irish Derry/Londonderry, it has also changed its name several times.

The Viking King Olav I of Norway founded the city in 997, calling it Kaupangen (“market”).
In his conquest, he beheaded some of his rivals, including Count Håkon with his son Erlend and the servant Kark.
Olav I had their heads impaled at the entrance of the fjord, so that all who entered the city should, in honour of the king, stop to insult and curse his enemies.
The city of Kaupangen then changed its name to Nidaros (“mouth of enemies”).

 

Norway - Trondheim - Kaupangen

 

In 1030 King Olav Haraldsson was martyred and later named Saint.
The town became a place of pilgrimage from all over northern Europe.

At the end of 1800 Norway fell under the rule of Denmark, which called the city Trondhjem.
With independence in 1905, the central government decided to change the name back to Nidaros. And so it happened in January 1930, although the population declared its opposition in a referendum in 1928 (17,163 votes against the name change and 1,508 in favour).
The non-respect of that vote, led to great protests and riots in the streets, so after a few months the Norwegian parliament chose the name Trondheim.

For a short period during the Second World War, the Nazis gave it the “Germanized” name Drontheim.

In reference to the name, sports fans associate Trondheim to the Rosenborg, the most norwegian team titled and with numerous participations to the various European Cups, founded on May 19, 1917 just in the homonymous district of the city.
The blackwhite play their home games at the Lerkendal Stadion.

Norway - Trondheim - Rosenborg Stadium

 

Its relationship with fire has always been tragic: in 1219 it suffered the first fire and a few years later, in 1295, a large part of the city was reduced to ashes.

 

Norway - Trondheim - landscape from the fortress

 

At the end of the Middle Ages population growth slowed down and in 1531 there was another phase of decline.
Archbishop Olaf Engelbrektsson tried to stop the Danish influence in Norway and in response Danish troops set fire to the archbishop’s palace, the cathedral and much of the city.

The same happened in 1681, with the so-called Hornemans fire, which once again devastated the city almost completely.

King Christian V entrusted the Luxembourger Johan Caspar de Cicignon the task of rebuilding Trondheim with a new urban plan that would prevent such destruction in the event of future fires.
The city was then designed with large squares, wide and straight streets, but despite this, many serious fires occurred during the 18th and 19th centuries.

 

Norway - Trondheim - city rebuilt by Johan Caspar de Cicignon

 

Trondheim is still called the city of wooden houses, because of the large number of them.

Today Trondheim is Norway’s third largest city, with about 205,000 inhabitants and over 30,000 students. Many of them attend the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the largest in the kingdom and which contributes to making the old capital the undisputed technology centre of the country.

 

Norway - Trondheim - wooden houses

 

WHAT TO SEE
NIDAROSDOMEN – NIDAROS CATHEDRAL

The tomb of St. Olav, the Viking king who brought Christianity to Norway, immediately became a pilgrimage destination for Christians from Scandinavia, Great Britain, Russia, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.
The work to build the Cathedral above the tomb started in 1070 and was completed around 1300.
Still today the city is reached by thousands of pilgrims, so that Trondheim can be considered the Catholic landmark of northern Europe, as are Rome to the south, Jerusalem to the east and Santiago de Compostela to the west.

 

 

Norway - Trondheim - Nidaros Cathedral

 

After being damaged several times by fire and left without maintenance in the Middle Ages, the cathedral was in poor condition, largely in ruins.
Great restoration work started in 1869 and today the cathedral is practically in its original splendour.
A legend tell that when Nidaros Cathedral is completely finished, a landslide will devastate the city and the cathedral will sink into the fjord.
Restoring a cathedral of this size is a never-ending work, but the cathedral will probably never be completed in such a way as to avert any danger.

Nidarosdomen is a è un richly decorated Gothic masterpiece.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Nidaros Cathedral

 

I understand the importance of a guided tour to discover the history of the Cathedral and all its secrets but I refuse to pay to enter a church.
For me it is shameful to demand 80 NOK (about € 10,00) for the entrance, without possible to take photos.
Anyway, I entered two minutes before the beginning of a mass but I’m not allowed to take photos.
The darkness inside kept me from seeing much.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Nidaros Cathedral

 

VITENSENTERET

Since 1988 the Science Centre encourages curiosity and creativity with exciting activities, experiments and interactive installations.
The Vitensenteret, open daily, is one of the 10 regional science centres in Norway and is located in the historic centre of Trondheim.

Children will have fun in what looks like games, but also adults could have the same fun, thinking that if this were present in every school, learning would be better and easier.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Vitensenteret - Science Centre - Café Wall Illusion

 

In fact, there are no results and theoretical explanations of scientific studies here, but you have to personally experiment and play with technology, physics, mechanics, anatomy, electricity, chemistry, geology, mathematics, meterology, informatic and much more.
If a child knows science by playing, it’s easier to continue his/her studies at the University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Vitensenteret - Science Centre - Vater Hevert

 

Also beautiful is the 3D planetarium where you see videos about the Northern Lights and an exciting travel through the universe, between galaxies and constellations.
Very interesting are also the videos about the underwater adventures in the coral reef and the stories made by the penguin James from the South Pole and the bear Vladimir from the North Pole.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Vitensenteret - Science Centre - Tornado button

 

KRISTIANSTEN FORTRESS

The fire of 1681 and the subsequent urban reorganization entrusted to Johan Caspar de Cicignon, led to the construction of the Kristiansten Fortress on the hill east of the city.
One of his tasks was also to protect Trondheim from foreign attacks, as happened when the Swedish army besieged the city in 1718.
The Kristiansten Fortress resisted thanks to the Norwegian army and the population, who also came from the surrounding countryside to defend Trondheim.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Fortress Kristiansten

 

During the German occupation of Norway in the Second World War, 1,500 German soldiers arrived in the city at dawn on April 9, 1940 and in 4 hours they occupied it without finding resistance.
The Nazis immediately understood the potential of the fortress and settled there, using it as a court and place where about 30 Norwegian patriots and an unknown number of people of other nationalities were executed.
At the end of the war, the fortress was always the official place of execution of traitors and war criminals.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Fortress Kristiansten

 

On the occasion of Trondheim’s 100th anniversary in 1997 Kristiansten was extensively renewed.
In 2001 the Norwegian Parliament decided to end its military use and use it for royal and civil purposes.
It’s considered a museum area and a popular destination for hikers and travellers.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Fortress Kristiansten

 

It takes about 15 minutes to go up from the Old Town Bridge, but the effort will be rewarded by the beautiful landascape.
It’s also very close to the Singsaker Sommerhotell, where I recommend sleeping if you visit the city in summer.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Old Town Bridge

 

SEA TOURS

Of course you could see the city from another angle.
There are several agencies that organize daily boat tours in the fjord with multilingual guides.
For a truly unique tour, you can board a ship almost identical to the Viking drakkars of over 1,000 years ago, built using precisely those techniques, handed down through generations.

Or, if you like it, you could push your kayak along the calm waters of the Nidelva River.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Kayaking on the river Nidelva

 

GRAKALLBANEN TRAM

Gråkallbanen is the world’s northernmost tram line, running among the forest from the city centre to the recreation area of Bymarka. The route is scenic and very pleasant.
On special occasions, or often when there are cruise ships, the old historic tram is put into operation.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Grakallbanen Tramway

 

Norway - Trondheim - Grakallbanen tram stops

HOW TO GET

PLANE

Trondheim Værnes Airport welcomes domestic and international flights.
SAS and Norwegian have direct flights to/from Oslo which take about one hour.

There are two possible connections between the city and the airport:
The Flybussen bus, which stops just outside the arrivals, makes several stops in the city (so ask which one is closest to your hostel/hotel/b&b)..
The train instead connects Trondheim Central Station to the station inside the airport.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Nidelva River

SHIP

Trondheim is obviously one of the ports where the Hurtigruten stop daily, and then continues to south and north.
Traveling by boat is a good choice if you have time, otherwise you can take the plane to Oslo or Bodø.

 

Hurtigruten - Nordkapp ship

 

WHERE TO EAT

Trondheim is a city where you can enjoy great eating experiences in charming cafes, delicious restaurants and microbreweries.
Small and large game, lamb, shellfish, salmon and other seafood and berries are all specialities of the Trondheim region.
Prices are obviously balanced with the very high standard of living and can be unapproachable for many foreigners.

BONDENS MARKED

Arriving here was almost a mirage. In a very expensive Norway, you could eat in peace and quiet by wandering around the various stalls. You find everything: meat, fish, vegetables, desserts, drink. The prices of possible purchases are still very good.
I have only to thank St. Olav because I don’t know how many times I have walked among the stalls eating everything and more.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Bondens Marked

 

RAVNKLOA

At the lower end of Munkegata, there is the Fish Market.
Really it’s not a market but a large fish shop. In the various tables outside you could eat various traditional dishes, obviously made with the freshest fish and shellfish from the fjord.

Norway - Trondheim - Ravnkloa Fish Market

 

WHERE TO SLEEP

SINGSAKER SOMMERHOTELL

One of the largest inhabited wooden buildings in Scandinavia, during the school season is the city’s university campus but in the summer becomes a hotel, since the 1950s.
The Singsaker Sommerhotell has 103 rooms with 1-4 beds and dorms for 10-12 people (only negative note, the 2 dorms are in the basement and being underground is not very pleasant). The reception is open 24h/24h, breakfast, wifi and parking are included in the price.

 

Norway - Trondheim - Singsaker Sommerhotell

 

TRONDHEIM VÆRNES AIRPORT

I never give up anything in my travels. But to do everything I want, I have found my compromise by spending as little as possible to sleep.
Besides preferring hostels in shared dormitories instead of hotels (unless absurd offers or special conveniences), I often choose to travel at night to save time and spend the night on the bus (or train, or boat) or to take the last or first flight of the day.
And this is to sleep at the airport. Mine is really a choice: I like sleeping in airport.

I couldn’t believe my eyes at Trondheim Værnes Airport.
Not so much because of the comfortable sofas with electric sockets nearby, not so much because the luggage was delivered in an area open to everyone… but because the shops inside the airport were “open/closed” all night long.
No cameras and no security.
And the thing that amazed me even more is that, at the morning opening, I asked why they left everything so “closed/open” but they didn’t understand what I meant.
“There’s no one there, it means the store is closed. Who comes in if the store’s closed?”

 

Norway - Trondheim - Airport

 

CONCLUSIONS

Trondheim was a beautiful discovery, a largely pedestrian city where you can walk quietly through cobbled streets and historic bridges, with many wooden houses and no skyscrapers, a culinary tradition influenced by both the land and the waters of the fjord, a lively and attractive atmosphere thanks to the largest university in Norway.

But of course with prices aligned to Norwegian living standards (and therefore salaries).
Here in fact I had the first hard contact with this reality and the costs can be really prohibitive.

Luckily, St. Olav helped me…

 

Norway - Trondheim - fjord

 

Norway - Trondheim - Munkholmen

 

 

Continue the trip to Oslo or to north with the Hurtigruten.

 

 

 

 

In recent years I have tried to give priority to demanding travels on a physical level, thinking that getting older will be more difficult to make certain experiences.
That’s why I had imagined going toScandinavia in the future.
Instead some coincidence changed my plans and I decided to go to Norway before.
I never visit a country without going through its capital. And Oslo was the first destination of my long trip.

I had always associated Norway with snow, cold and northern lights. But of course there’s much more.
Norwegians have great maritime traditions, from Vikings to Arctic explorations. And not only that…

Is it possible a low cost trip to Norway? Maybe… but it’s very difficult.
Obviously the personal standards are different but you could take some precautions.
In Oslo for example Oslo Pass is essential.
The cost is high (about € 40.00 for 24 hours, € 60.00 for 48 hours, € 75.00 for 72 hours) but it includes access to all museums, attractions and public transport, as well as discounts in some restaurants.
Admission tickets to the various museums are expensive and if you visit the major attractions, you would spend more than the cost of the Oslo Pass.

 

Norway - Oslo - City Hall

 

OSLO VISITOR CENTRE

Seldom has an Information Centre really helped me, but that doesn’t apply in Oslo.
As soon as you arrive, you should just start at the Oslo Visitor Centre, inside the train station.
Some young people welcome you to answer every quick question.
For more detailed information or to buy tickets and subscriptions you have to take the number and wait in line. Sometimes you have to wait a long time so you could read the various tourist brochures, rich in details and available in many languages.

NOBELS FREDSSENTER – NOBEL PEACE PRIZE PALACE

Alfred Nobel became rich thanks to the 355 patents filed following his experiments about explosives (he invented also dynamite).
When his older brother died in an explosion during an experiment, some French newspapers believed that Alfred, “the merchant of death who made his fortune by finding a way to kill as many people as possible”, had died.
Shocked by these words, he decided to devote his immense fortune and the interests subsequently accrued by his investment funds to create a series of Nobel Prizes for those who, during the previous year, contributed the most to serve humanity.

The award money, currently close to 9 million NOK (about € 870,000.00), is divided into five equal parts: to the person who made the most important discovery or invention in the field of physics, chemical, physiology/medicine, who produced the literary work most idealistic and to the person who has done the most for the fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of armies and for the training and increase of peace congresses.

Of course, the nationality of the candidates should not be taken into account in the awarding of prizes.
Nobel Prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine and literature are commonly considered to be the most prestigious in these fields.
The Nobel Peace Prize, especially lately, is often accompanied by controversy over the political evaluations that motivate it.

 

Norway - Oslo - Nobel Peace Center

 

The Oslo Card convinced me to go in but unfortunately the initial scepticism was reinforced minute after minute.
There are temporary exhibitions on the ground floor. There are temporary exhibitions on the ground floor. I found a photographic exhibition about changes in generational values but I don’t understand what consumerism, sex and cosmetic surgery have to do with the Nobel Peace Prize.

Upstairs, on the other hand, it is one-way politics that is the master, a clear demonstration of how unfortunately the Nobel Peace Prize has become almost the nobel for exporters of peace and democracy.

This disappointment does not make me buy souvenir in the large shop or in the bar inside.

KON-TIKI MUSEUM

My high school math and physics teacher used to tell us that “we are all ignorant“. There are those who take offence and those who understand that this is only the truth because we can’t know everything.
Ignorance, i.e. ignoring something, must in fact push our curiosity towards knowledge.
I had never heard of the Kon-Tiki and when I entered the museum that hosts it I was speechless.

 

Norway - Oslo - Kon Tiki - museum

 

Do you know the name of Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl? We all should know him.

Certain of his studies, he wanted to show that some ancient populations were capable of transoceanic travels.
He was sure that the Polynesian islands had been colonized in pre-Columbian era by the peoples of South America and not by the West.
This is because winds and currents in the Pacific generally run from east to west and also because in Polynesia there are animals and plants common in South America.

How could he prove this? In the only possible way: doing it!

 

Norway - Oslo - Kon Tiki - museum

 

Thor Heyerdahl, hydrophobic with minimal swimming ability and no experience as a sailor, built the Kon-Tiki with prehistoric materials, methods and technologies.
The balsa wood raft sailed from the port of Callao, Peru, on April 28, 1947 and reached the atoll of Raroia, now French Polynesia, on August 7.
Thor Heyerdahl, Erik Hesselberg, Bengt Danielsson, Knut Haugland, Torstein Raaby and Herman Watzinger succeeded in the incredible feat of covering about 4,500 nautical miles (about 8,000 km) in 101 days on this raft, the legendary Kon-Tiki.

 

Norway - Oslo - Kon Tiki - photo from museum

 

In 1955 Heyerdahl organized a scientific expedition to Easter Island.
When he arrived on the island only the heads of the famous moai were visible, but thanks to his excavations it was possible to unearth the statues in their entirety.

 

Norway - Oslo - Thor Heyerdahl and the buried moai of Easter Island

 

Norway - Oslo - Thor Heyerdahl digs Easter Island moai

Various experiments were also carried out on carving, transporting and positioning the moai.
With the help of only 5 people, with rudimentary techniques and tools, he managed in three days to carve an entire twelve-ton statue in volcanic tuff.
It took 18 men equipped with ropes, a wooden sledge and a special base of stones to hoist and “walk” a thirty-ton moai, demostrating how feasible and easy it was.

 

Norway - Oslo - Thor Heyerdahl and the Easter Island moai

 

On the island he also discovered representations of reed boats with master mast and sail and was convinced that the ancient Mediterranean civilizations sailed in the Atlantic Ocean and reached Central and South America.
Again, he could only prove it by doing the same kind of trip.

In 1969, in front of the Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt, Heyerdahl built the papyrus boat, inspired by ancient Egyptian ships, and named it Ra in honor of the Sun God.

 

Norway - Oslo - Ra construction in front of the Pyramid of Cheops

He sailed from Safi, Morocco, but after almost 5,000 km travelled in 8 weeks, and only 160 km from the arrival, he was forced to ask for help and finish the expedition.
Due to some design errors and a broken rudder, the reeds let in a lot of water and Heyerdahl feared that the Ra would sink with all the crew on board.

Ten months later the Norwegian adventurer launched the smaller but stronger Ra II with the help of four Aymaras natives from the Bolivian area of Lake Titicaca who are used to sail with similar boats (you can still visit the floating islands on Lake Titicaca, both in Bolivia and Peru).

 

Norway - Oslo - Kon Tiki - museum

 

On May 17, 1970, he sailed from Morocco, traveled about 4,000 miles of ocean in 57 days, and finally reached Barbados.

The crew was composed by Thor Heyerdahl, Carlo Mauri (italy), Jurij A. Senkevich (Russia), Santiago Genoves (Mexico), Norman Baker (Usa), Kei Ohara (Japan) and Madani Ait Ouhanni (Morocco).

VIKINGSKIPSHUSET – VIKING SHIP MUSEUM

The Viking Ship Museum houses four Viking ship buried in the Oslo Fjord area: found between 1852 and 1904 in Oseberg, Gokstad, Tune and Borre.
Three of the ships contained graves that have survived to this day: the ship Oseberg should date back to the year 820 AD, the ship Gokstad just before before 900 AD and the ship Tune about 910 AD.
From the ship in Borre’s tomb (900 AD) today only iron nails remain.

The three ships had been at sea for several years before being pulled ashore and used as funeral ships. The dead were placed in chambers built on board the ships.
They were buried with generous supplies of food and drink, various animals, and a large number of objects.

The Oseberg was used as a women’s funeral ship, while Gokstad and Tune were reserved for men.

 

Norway - Oslo - Viking ship

 

The Gokstad ship had been in use for some years before a local commander was buried there with his many gifts: beds, boats, a tent, a sledge, dogs, horses and peacocks.
This ship is built of oak and measures 24 meters long and 5 metres wide. It’s the largest of the three, with space for 32 rowers.
The oar-holes could be closed with wooden covers when the ship was sailing.
The Gokstad reached a speed of more than twelve knots and could sail to Iceland.

Most of the items were well preserved because the ships had been buried in damp soil and covered with clay and grass, but since no jewels and weapons were found, they were supposedly looted.

Seeing Viking ships is exciting and unmissable during a trip to Oslo.

FRAM MUSEUM

This museum too, close to the one described above, is definitely worth an accurate visit.

The ship Fram was the first ship built in Norway specifically for polar research. It was used in three important expeditions: from Fridtjof Nansen drifting on the Arctic Ocean from 1893 to 1896, from Otto Sverdrup in the Arctic archipelago west of Greenland (1898-1902) and from Roald Amundsen in Antarctica for his expedition to the South Pole (1910-1912).
This means that the ship occupies a unique position in the history of exploration, having been able to reach both the North Pole and South Pole.

 


The Fram is really impressive and it’s easy to imagine yourself inside it when virtual images of big sea and glaciers navigation are projected on the sides.

Here you have a first approach about studies on the conquest of the North Pole. For many years the Arctic currents and winds between Greenland and Siberia have been analyzed, but all attempts to reach the North Pole through the Arctic ice failed.
That’s why it was necessary to design what would become thestrongest wooden ship ever built.

 

Norway - Oslo - Fram Museum

 

Its structure, 40 meters long and 11 meters wide, was designed so that it would not directly face the pressure of the Arctic pack, but to take advantage of the movement of the ice, climb above the pack and thus be transported adrift to the North Pole (or at least very close).
It also needed to be comfortable for the crew, who would have to spend several years on board.

The ship was built thanks to the economic support of Norway and many private citizens who were proud to contribute to its success.

 

CONCLUSIONS

Oslo amazed me and taught me many things I’d never heard of.
Because traveling for me is also discovering, learning, coming home better than when I left.
The first approach with Norway was definitely positive. Its capital city given me the adventure of his ancestors and a great sense of peace.
Not so much, as said, about the current value of the Nobel Prize, but for a general respect for nature (the cleanliness of the city is total and I had never seen so many electric and hybrid vehicles) and for people (sometimes bikes and cars stop so far from the pedestrian crossings that you don’t even realize they’re thinking about you).
I know that these topics may seem trivial for people who live in Norway or in other similar countries, but I think it’s incredible and unexpected for most of the tourists and travelers who come here.

Oslo was only the first stop of my trip to Norway, click here to discover the continuous

 

Norway - Oslo - Opera House - Operahuset

 

 

On January 1, 1994, the streets of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, symbolic city of Chiapas and the ancient capital of the southernmost state of Mexico, were invaded by the EZLN and that revolutionary air is still felt everywhere.
The Zapatista Army of National Liberation showed up to the world that day and if you like a direct contact with them you have to come to San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

Since decades, also for this reason, the city has become a base for travelers from all over the world, who share their cultures with the descendants of the Original Peoples of Chiapas: Maya, Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Chol.
Here, besides Spanish, millennial languages ​​are still spoken.

Life goes slowly in the cobbled streets of San Cristóbal and slowly you have to know it.

In my travels I like to discover cities using a paper map, often taken in hostel.
When I go back to my room, I highlight the streets where I walked to go to others streets and see as much as possible.
I use some landmarks, places that I consider strategic for various reasons.
In San Cristóbal I have identified two of them: the Cathedral and the market..

 

Catedral and Plaza 31 de marzo

This area has become my base in San Cristóbal.
When I arrived here, I realized I was really in Chiapas.
The cathedral is in colonial-style, very different from the classic Catholic churches I’m used to see.
Unfortunately, is currently impossible to access inside because the restoration of the damage caused by the 2016 earthquake continues.
Unfortunately this isn’t an absolute novelty: started in 1528, it was finished only in 1815 due to various natural disasters.
In 1816 and 1847 it suffered other damages with consequent restorations.

Mexico-San-Cristobal-de-las-Casas

 

Mexico - San Cristóbal de Las Casas - Cathedral

 

The Cathedral Square is often full of local inhabitants, travelers, stalls and indigenous people of the city and neighboring villages, dressed in their traditional clothes.

Children play, but more often they wander the city trying to sell bracelets or other handicrafts.
And precisely in this context I experienced one of those episodes that teach that traveling opens the mind, give the true values ​​of life, helps to grow and be better.

 

Mexico - San Cristóbal de Las Casas

One hot Chiapanec afternoon, I was sitting having lunch on one of those tables in the shade, watching life slowly pass in front of me.
One of the many children who fill the streets of San Cristóbal approaches me to sell me a bracelet made by him.
I smile and tell him that if he wants I can offer lunch. He doesn’t wait I repeat it, he sits down and orders a sandwich and a coke.
After a while another child arrives and he sees one of his contemporary, at that moment luckier. He looks at him with healthy boyish envy and seems to savor that sandwich and refresh himself with coke.
I also invite him to sit down with us but he refuses because his mother is sitting on a bench nearby and doesn’t want to betray her.
I tell him that if you want, I’m glad that she comes.
The boy runs to her and they go back to the table together. Hunger probably made her put aside all hesitation.
I order steaks for everyone, as big as they may have never eaten in their life.
Se tries, but doesn’t know how to use cutlery.
I immediately avoid getting embarrassed and we eat all four with our hands, with humility, with respect.
The children also speak Spanish, the lady only indigenous language.
We speak, children translate. And where words stop, we understand each other with looks and smiles.
Then everyone goes their own way.
With full stomachs and fuller hearts.

Mexico-San-Cristobal-de-las-Casas

 

San Cristóbal for me are cobbled streets full of people, the perfume of chiapanec coffee, the cultures that coexist and that also merge in food, the colorful houses like traditional clothes, the hot morning sun and the cold that become pungent at night because here, however, we are at 7.200 ft above sea level.

 

Mexico - San Cristobal de las Casas

 

Iglesia del Cerrito (o San Cristobalito)

On the Cerro San Cristóbal hill, there is the Iglesia del Cerrito.
Reachable by a particular zigzag staircase, it allows you to see the city landscape.

 

Mexico - San Cristóbal de Las Casas - Iglesia del Cerrito

 

Mexico-San-Cristobal-de-las-Casas

 

On the other side there is the Cerro de Guadalupe, with the church crowded especially on December 12, the day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

 

Templo de Santo Domingo

Built in the 17th century in the Chiapanec Baroque style, the temple and ex convent of Santo Domingo surprises and impresses with its pink facade.

 

Mexico-San-Cristobal-de-las-Casas-Templo-de-Santo-Domingo

 

Near there is the city market, a meeting point for colectivos.
Cars, minivans or more or less equipped camion (as in the photo below), connect San Cristóbal with neighboring cities and towns. They are the perfect transport way for small-medium range travel.
Depending on the destination, they will leave when the vehicle is full or they will load people on the way.
The price changes depending on the distance but will always be cheap and convenient.

 

Mexico - San Cristobal de las Casas

 

At the market you can find everything at very cheap prices, from food to clothes or crafts to take home.
You could negotiate the price but you always have to think if few pesos saved change your life..
Those few extra pesos can instead allow someone to feed their family.

Because Chiapas is wonderful, but it’s also the poorest Mexican State.

 

Mexico-San-Cristobal-de-las-Casas

Ny-Ålesund is the city of scientists on the Svalbard Islands.

About 30 of them live here in winter and 130 in summer.
A bit like all Svalbard, it is an international territory, a fundamental scientific base especially for geologists and meteorologists.
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Barentsburg (in Russian language Баренцбург) in winter is reachable by snowmobile, in summer is the first stop of the Hurtigruten expeditions but you could visit it also with a daily tour from Longyearbyen. It’s the only surviving Soviet-era mining settlement on the Svalbard Islands and has an important geopolitical value.

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After the polar expedition with the Hurtigruten, up to overcome the 80th parallel north, I chose the excursion from Longyearbyen to Pyramiden and the Nordenskiöldbree glacier, as the last chanse to see animals, absent in the previous days.
And incredibly it was the perfect choice.

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Gate 20 is on the lower level of Tromso airport and walking in the gray corridors seems to have already come out of clean and tidy Norway.
The passage to customs for passport control marks the exit from the Schengen area and leads to the waiting room.

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DERRY/LONDONDERRY:
TELL ME THE NAME OF YOUR CITY AND I’LL KNOW WHO YOU ARE

To understand this part of Ireland it is necessary not to stop in Belfast.
Visit Derry is essential to understand the historical, ideological and cultural divisions that separate the inhabitants

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RYANAIR: PLANES FOR NOMADS TRAVELERS

It’s now impossible to pay flights € 0,01 but I will continue to defend the irish Ryanair, which has revolutionized the way of travel, allowing millions of people to get on a plane with a few euros.
I still have the idea that it is just a connection between two city.

It doesn’t matter in which seat I have to sit, it doesn’t matter if there are more sales announcements on the plane than on ebay, it doesn’t matter if I have to challenge the physics to prepare the backpack, it doesn’t matter if I have to fill my pockets with what doesn’t fit in hand luggage, it doesn’t matter if the sweatshirt doesn’t fit and I have to tie it to my waist …

I only care, for example, to reach Belfast and return to Cagliari for only € 30,00.

Belfast-irish-flag

HOW TO GET

George Best Belfast City Airport, dedicated in 2006 to one of its most famous citizens, is located adjacent to the port, just 5 km from the city center. Its flights mainly connect the island to the United Kingdom, with some seasonal flights to Barcelona, Amsterdam or Brussels.

Belfast International Airport has connections with all of Europe, Cuba and United States.
To reach the Europa Buscentre central station it takes about 40 minutes with the Express Bus 300.
Tickets can be bought in the information desk inside the airport (excellent service, with maps and information on everything the Irish island offers, free and multilanguage) or directly on board (but it could be the exact amount, driver does not always have the rest).
The cost is £ 8 one way, £ 11 including return.
No prohibition for those who want to spend the night into the airport. But the place is not very friendly: uncomfortable chairs, lights on and staff skeaking all night while cleaning.

MOVING IN IRELAND

Experience and safety are always required to drive a car. Here obviously drive in anglosaxon way and I prefer not to risk a frontal car crash.

Using public transport is easy and cheap.
There is a day pass to take every public transport and travel throughout Northern Ireland. It’s called iLink Zone4 and costs 17 £.
You have to ask for it specifically, not always at the station benches they offer, preferring to sell the most expensive single tickets.

There are direct connections between Belfast and Derry airports with airporter.co.uk mini buses.
In this case the rates are £ 20 for a single person trip (£ 30 with return), £ 15 and £ 25 if you are traveling with more than 2 people, £ 10 and £ 15 for passengers under 16 years.

 

WHAT TO SEE

Much of Belfast’s history is focused to the war that divides Irish nationalist Catholics and Protestant British unionists from over 800 years.

The streets of the city have seen over 1,500 deaths and hate doesn’t close into a coffin, but from there it comes out with greater power.

Murals represent the history and culture of Ireland and show the clear and visible division between the respective neighborhoods. And the same is true for different colors of sidewalks and light poles (tricolor greenwhiteorange in Irish area, redwhiteblue in English area) and an always tense and wary atmosphere.

There are many walking or taxi tours but I always prefer to walk around in search of something different from the classic visions.

Belfast-sky-streaks-aircraft

Irish, Catholic, Nationalist, Republican area

The murals fill the streets around Falls Road.

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Belfast-irish-murales

Belfast-falls-road-

Belfast-Bobby-Sands-murales

Beyond the images of friends and relatives who lost their lives and supported the IRA, there are independentist links (dedications to the Basque Country e Catalonia), leftists (Palestina, Cuba and those who came from all over the world to support this cause.

Belfast-Catalunya-murales

Belfast-Fidel-Castro-murales

Belfast-Nelson-Mandela-murales

Belfast-Ocalan-murales

Belfast-soldier-out-murales

Belfast-climate change-murales

 

English, Protestant, unionist, loyalist zone

Near the central station, a large mural indicates the arrival in Sandy Row. Here in 1866 the Linfield FC was founded, a team where there are only Protestant players, even if not officially.
A pub with stained glass windows often damaged is the home of Glasgow Rangers Fans, Scottish team supported in the city for its bond with the Protestants.

 

Belfast-sandy-row- king-william-orange-murales

Belfast-george-the-best

 

The Unionist population lives mainly in the Shankill Road area. During the war, the “Shankill Butchers” group became very famous.

Belfast-welcome-to-the-shankill-road

Belfast-shankill-protestant-boys-flute-band

Belfast-loyalist-murales

On July 12, the “Glorious Twelfth” for Protestants, is still celebrated by invoking the death of Catholics, like that day in 1690 when the Protestant King William III of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II in the Battle of the River Boyne, sanctioning the predominance of English and Scottish Protestant settlers on Irish Catholic nationalists.
The parade is always a symbol of clashes and injuries between the two factions.

The murals here have constant references to the English sovereigns, to friends and relatives killed and in favor of the UDA and UVF paramilitary groups, greater responsible for deaths of Catholics.

Belfast-quis-separabit-murales

Belfast-uvf-england-murales

Belfast-uk-murales

Belfast-uym-murales

Belfast-resilient-murales

Belfast-bayardo-murales

Belfast-box-mail

Belfast-genocide-murales

Belfast-queen-murales

The Peace Wall

If the colors of murals, sidewalks and poles represent the different communities, nothing is clearer than the high partition wall, still indispensable that gates are closed every day from 8pm to 6am, physically separating the two enemies communities.

Belfast-the-wall-no-peace

Belfast-thewall-no-peace

Belfast is really divided into two opposite parts constantly at war. Only the almost constant rain makes you see the colors of a peace far from being reached.

Belfast-rainbow-wall-no-peace

Titanic

Beyond that, Belfast was the world center specializing in shipbuilding. From the Harland and Wolff Shipyard also came out Titanic. Visiting the museum is therefore not to be missed even if perhaps I came out a little disappointed.

Belfast-river

Belfast-titanic-museum

The museum is inside a structure that reminds me of the Guggenheim in Bilbo/Bilbao.
I thought to find a faithful reconstruction of the ship instead everything is centered on its construction (beautiful the route in the train to understand the working conditions) and on its only journey, started from Belfast and finished undersea.

Outside the museum there is the Nomadic Ship, the Titanic’s younger sister and the last ship of the White Star company.
The cumulative ticket costs £ 18.50 and it is certainly worth entering the empty corridors to imagine yourself in that fatal 15 April 1912.

 

Nearby there is also the SSE Arena Belfast.
The flags in the wind and the scarves around the fans pushed me to see an ice hockey match for the first time, the IIHF final which saw the Belfast Giants defeat on penalties.

CONTINUE THE TRIP

Using the daily ticket pass iLink Zone4, is possibile (and also necessary) to dedicate a few days to the city of Derry and The Giant’s Causeway, a place so out of the ordinary to lend itself to the many legends that surround it.

In the footsteps of Gengis Khan

The Transmongolian train runs in green grasslands until the first ger appear from the windows and you arrive at the Ulaan Baatar station.

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