solo trip

[1Month2Wander] Stop 6: A Wintery Mix of Coast and Forest in Bergen by Amanda Liew

The Norway in a Nutshell fjords tour took me from Oslo to Bergen, so I stayed in Bergen for two nights. Let me tell you, this city is so insanely quaint. With the cute old-timey houses, wharfs, and cobblestone roads, there were certain parts of the city that reminded me so much of Northeast coastal towns like Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Aside from the city itself, I was lucky to have met an awesome Australian couple on my tour the day before, Cameron and Felicity, and we decided to spend the day exploring together!

It was beyond chilly out, but we went up the funicular to Mount Floyen and surely had more fun than anybody else up there. Hilariously, at the information center we asked a guide what else there was to do at the top of Mount Floyen besides see the view of the city and he said “Oh there’s a lot! There’s a lot of hiking…and a lot of people hike…” Even though it had just snowed (or rather, because it had just snowed!), we decided to actually hike portions of it and ended up seeing such a magical wintery forest.

In fact, there were moments where the magic of the forest started making us see little Norwegian trolls…oh wait, that was real. Turns out the Norwegians are legit OBSESSED with trolls, and there are dozens of troll statues hidden throughout the land! We couldn’t stop laughing at how bizarre the little creatures were, and mightily impressed with how far the troll statues seemed to extend.

We also took the time to explore Bryggen which I feel obliged to mention is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but I’m also realizing that pretty much everything is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so that’s starting to lose some meaning to me. Be a little bit more exclusive, would you, UNESCO?! Keep the cool table for the cool kids! Of course, Bryggen would still totally make the cut for the cool kids table in my book, because it was secretly cool. If you walk past the front street, you initially think “Aw, what a cute little row of houses…I guess they’re just really well preserved!” and might be tempted to walk away after a few pictures. But wait! There are actually some unlabeled passages that lead to a labyrinth of overlapping shops, cafes, and museums. We weren’t planning on spending too much time in Bryggen, but kept getting sucked into one cool store after the other. There was even a three story Christmas store!

But really, America needs to take a pointer or ten from the way Europeans do Christmas. While we didn’t go to a Christmas market in Bergen (don’t worry, I’m still hitting the upper-teens in other cities!), we did go to a Gingerbread Exhibit. Based off of the sketchy building it was in, I had some pretty low expectations for what to expect, but dang, Bergen LOVES its gingerbread. A large section of the exhibit was a recreation of Bergen itself with scaled mountains and funicular trains. Other parts were random yet wildly fun like a Quidditch field, Death Star, and Frozen castles. What’s even sweeter is that many of the gingerbread houses are made by schools and students, so it’s really a community effort!

Also, my post on Bergen can’t go without a mention of Det Lille Kaffekompaniet, an incredible coffee shop my friend Kathryn recommended. It’s right by the funicular station, so we actually went for breakfast (latte + a slice of delicious carrot cake for me) and post-forest warm-up (mint mocha, my favorite!). As a note, the Norwegians seem to love to sleep in so it didn’t actually open until 10am – my type of people!

Yet another huge thank you to Kathryn for sending over such wonderful recommendations for Oslo, the fjords trip, and Bergen! Also a load of hugs over to my new friends Cameron and Felicity for sharing such a fun day with me and being hospitable enough to welcome me into their home (aka hotel room) to warm up, provide me with a cup-of-soup dinner (backpackers know how to save money!) and even lend me a nail clipper because the travel struggle has been too real. Forest explorations and troll discoveries were so much more fun with you two, and I can’t wait until our next travel reunion!

If you're planning your own trip...


  • I stayed at the Bergen YMCA Hostel & actually would not recommend it. Surprising, right? The facilities were decent, but the shower was just absolutely infuriating. It required you to press a button every 9 seconds to keep the water on. I get that they want to conserve water & save money, but at least give us 30 seconds! 


  • Bergen is extremely walkable & we didn't need to take any public transportation or cabs during our time there!
  • I took the Flybussen from central Bergen to the airport for about 90.0 Kr. I left very early in the morning & I think they run on a different express schedule at that point, so I actually had to run from my original stop to another stop to catch the bus. One of those things where I made it on the bus & never quite figured out what I did wrong or right! Besides that, an easy trip though. 


  • Det Lille Kaffekompaniet, the cafe, for delicious coffees & cakes!


[1Month2Wander] STOP 5: Fjords and Snowcapped Mountains In Flam by Amanda Liew

On one hand, I’m tempted to not even write a blog post for my Norwegian fjords tour and just let the photos speak for themselves, but on the other hand, I can’t help but absolutely gush at how out of this world the experience was. A thousand thanks to my wonderful friend Kathryn whose photos essentially convinced me to do Norway to begin with. At one point I was considering just taking a train straight from Oslo to Bergen, but I’m so happy I decided to do Norway in a Nutshell instead! During the entire journey, I was able to see vast snowy landscapes, rushing icy waterfalls, and of course, fjords fjords and more fjords. Not just any fjord, my friends, oh no, we got to pass through Sognefjord, Norway’s longest and largest fjord! We even went through it’s narrowest part, which is only 980 feet across. The trip was just so breathtakingly beautiful and it was one of those moments where I kept thinking, “I can’t believe I’m really here. I can’t believe. I’m really. HERE." Even though I've continued on to other cities full of beautiful sights, I think this experience ranks #1 in terms of awe-inspiring. It was so unbelievable to see the multiple waterfalls cascading down the mountains throughout our trip, and the picture above might be one of my all-time favorites.

Now, to let the pictures speak for themselves!

Details for those of you planning on doing the trip yourself:

Norway in a Nutshell is essentially a perfectly scheduled trip from Oslo to Bergen with a variety of trains, buses, and boats in between that provide maximum scenery. Since it’s not actually a tour, there are quite a few blog posts out there that provide advice on how to do-it-yourself, but I didn’t have the time to handle all of the bookings myself and decided the convenience and peace-of-mind was worth the extra cost. After finishing the trip, I can tell you without a doubt that paying the steep price for Norway in a Nutshell was well worth it.

The Just Wanderlust blog (JW) was particularly useful for reading more details about the trip, so I recommend checking this post out. The following is a mixture of her seating advice & my post-trip opinions since I went at a different time!

Oslo to Myrdal Train (4 hours): We left at 8am, and I was running on so little sleep that I really wished I could have kept my eyes open longer – even this part of the trip was absolutely stunning. I lucked out because it had just snowed, so the scenery was a gorgeous white infinity. This portion of the trip gives you an exact train & seat assignment, but since I was traveling off-season, I was able to move over to the left-hand side to get some better pictures as recommended by JW. The train itself was very comfortable and each seat had an electrical outlet!

Myrdal to Flam Train (50 minutes): It’s an adorable old green train and while I loved the boat ride, I think this was actually my favorite because of the incredible waterfall that the train takes a pitstop at. Our first train was running with a delay, but since the majority of the passengers are from Norway in a Nutshell, our second train waited for us. JW had recommended getting a seat in the front or back of the car since the windows can be opened for better pictures. I’ll add on to that & mention that the very front of the train has a section you can stand in (between the conductor and the seating area of the first car), and you might as well go to those windows for photos!

Break in Flam: As a few blogs recommended, I bought groceries for lunch the night before in Oslo since I didn’t want to pay the steep prices for the Flam restaurants. The town itself is quite small, and I was a little too hungry and tired at this point to explore so I found a table in the information center to eat at.

Flam to Gundvagen Boat Ride (2 hours): The most anticipated part of the trip! An incredible ride through the fjords themselves. I believe JW went during peak-season, and I’m assuming her seat recommendation is due to the boat being quite crowded. For my trip, however, we were able to walk and sit pretty freely since there weren’t too many people onboard. I found that the 2nd level front was the best spot for photos – the 3rd level front unfortunately has too much boating equipment so you can only get side shots. One issue we did run into, though, was fading daylight! Doing this trip in early December meant that the sun set around 4pm, which was halfway through the boat trip (note that the schedule may change day-to-day. I wish we didn’t have the break in Flam so we could have gotten more daylight for the boat!).

Gundvagen to Voss Bus Ride (45 minutes) / Voss to Bergen Train Ride (1 hour): Sadly we did these both totally in the dark so we didn’t actually see any of the sights out the window. However, I already knew the majority of the sights were in the first section, so I wasn’t too concerned.

General Thoughts:

·      If you’re doing the trip in the winter and have the same issues with daylight, you could consider doing this trip backwards from Bergen to Oslo

·      Bring food! It will save money and you can eat at your own pace during the non-incredible portions of the trip

·      There are quite a few blogs that suggested splitting up the trip into 2-3 days, but if you’re going in the winter, like me, I don’t think this makes as much sense. I think there’s quite a bit of nature and hiking to do in Flam during the spring / summer, but I thought one day was perfect for me.

·      Consider going in the winter…AND the spring! I was so blown away by this trip and what a winter wonderland it was. However, I am 100% planning on coming back in the spring or summer because I’m sure it’s completely different. Both are such unique visions, but definitely don’t rule out the winter! I was actually quite annoyed that none of the gift shops sold any winter scenery postcards since I thought the snowy capped mountains were just so incredible.

·      Follow the herd and make friends! Chances are, there are quite a few people who are doing the whole trip, and you’ll be spending the next 12 hours together so you might as well make friends.

[1Month2Wander] Stop 4: Architecture By Night in OSLO by Amanda Liew

To be totally honest with you, I hadn’t even heard about Oslo until a few months ago when my friend Sam went on a trip there and couldn't stop talking about the incredible architecture of the Opera House. When I first did a rough-sketch of my route two weeks ago, I considered adding Norway in, but thought maybe it made more sense to save money and spend more time in cheaper countries. Then, coincidentally, my friend Kathryn took a Norwegian vacation while I was in London, and her pictures of the fjords just sealed the deal for me. As my friend Megan wisely advised me, it’s important to find the right balance between planning your trip too tightly & knowing where your breaking point is. I’ve realized that the sweet spot for me is 1.5 locations – I need to have the next city’s transportation & accommodations booked, and then at least the 2nd city’s transportation booked since that determines the previous city’s length of stay. So while in Copenhagen, I booked my tickets to Oslo! Unfortunately at this point, I was still a rookie traveler (oh how I’ve gained so much wisdom in just a week..) and yet again idiotically booked a mid-day-daylight-sucking flight. While this gave me more time in Stockholm, I think mornings are essentially a waste because very few things are open before 9am besides coffee shops. Nevertheless, I had about 20 hours in Oslo to make the most of it!

I felt like this was the first night I started getting more into the groove of the freedom that comes with solo traveling. I set out with rough destinations in mind, but then took the liberty to stop in a random Christmas market for an hour because the Norwegians are way more generous in terms of free samples and who doesn’t love free samples? I was delighted to discover one of my new favorite treats: Kransekake, an egg white & almond flour cookie that has a macaron-like flavor but is firm yet chewy in consistency! I bought a bag because I couldn’t justify taking more than one sample and knew I would regret it otherwise.

Side Note: Interestingly enough, I also stumbled across a UNICEF stand at the Christmas market that was raising funds for the Syrian refugee crisis. I shared with them about the spontaneous fundraiser for UNICEF that I decided to throw before I left the States and they were elated to hear how many people had joined in! For those of you that don’t know, I felt called to move beyond liking Facebook statuses into actually doing something about it: I decided that if I could find 50 friends to donate $20 or more to UNICEF, I would donate $1000 myself. Thus far, we have about 35 people who have already donated, and I would truly truly truly appreciate if you considered being one of the last 15! Shoot me a message with a screenshot of your receipt to let me know you’re in!

For dinner, I did some research beforehand for some cheaper eats in Oslo since I heard prices can be exorbitant. I found some recommendations by a travel blogger, The Fluffy Mojito, and picked Fiskeriet because of their famed fish & chips. I did, in fact, receive an incredible dish that was superbly fried on the outside yet flaky on the inside. Even better, though, was finding such wonderful company during my meal with one of the girls who worked there, Christine! We had such a great chat about our own travel experiences, our backgrounds, and places we still wanted to go. She recommended that at some point I try and squeeze in an extra visit to Passau, Germany and hilariously said "I thought I was in a fairytale...and I live in Norway which most people consider a fairytale!" Christine, I hope that you are reading this - thanks so much for the great conversation! It's been so strange to eat meals by myself, but having a new friendly face to share a conversation with makes things so much more interesting.

Speaking of being alone, I had my first experience of being supremely weirded out. I had heard great things about the Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park and saw that it didn't close until 9pm or so. I spent 45 minutes walking out of the way to go see it thinking it would be a small cluster of sculptures that could be done in 20-30 minutes. Instead, I realized it was an extremely vast park grounds with sculptures scattered around...and barely any people. The weather was particularly misty in Oslo as well, so factor in poor lighting, fog, and sculptures that were all in weird human form, and I noped noped noped my way out of there. There was a part of me that was frustrated because I just wasted an hour and a half of walking, and barely went in, but it just seemed like a prime scene for a casual Wednesday night murder and I didn't quite have that on my bucket list. On my way back I was trying to think what the situation would be like were I traveling with others. To be honest, it was so empty that I don't think I would have gone in even if I was traveling with another girl friend. In fact, I'd probably hope she suggested we turn around so I didn't have to admit I was creeped out. Would it have been different were I traveling with a guy friend? Possibly. But the minute he expressed being creeped out, I would have bolted too! Alas, sometimes you just have to skip out on the fun to make a wiser decision, but just remember those wise decisions lead to even more fun! Hooray for no murder!

If you're planning your own trip...


  • Anker Hostel - my first non-recommendation! Or rather a semi-recommendation, because it seems like hostels are sparse in Oslo in general. I found the place to be rather drab and sterile, unfortunately. The interaction with the staff was rather transactional & they weren't particularly helpful. There weren't enough outlets in the room & the WiFi barely worked outside of the lobby.


  • From the airport, I took the local NSB train which was cheaper (although a little slower and less frequent) than the express train
  • The front desk person at the hostel said everything was walkable in Oslo, but I wonder whether it would have made more sense to get a transportation pass of some sort. Distances weren't impossible for most things, but I had to walk over 45 minutes to get to the sculpture park. It wasn't as compact as I expected!

[1Month2Wander] Stop 3: Skirting Around Stockholm by Amanda Liew

One of the biggest differences about my #1Month2Wander is how unplanned my itinerary has been! In all my previous travels, I have taken the time before hand to write out a detailed itinerary from city to city and attractions I want to see. With this entire trip being planned so impulsively, though, I suddenly found that everything I needed to do in New York City by the end of the year, I now had to do in one week. There was just no way I would be able to spend hours planning out my route, booking hostels, etc. I opted to buy a one way ticket to London & eventually a flight from Dublin to San Diego for Christmas, and that was essentially it. Patrick’s desire to go to Copenhagen changed my first weekend's plans, and then as I was browsing flights in Stephen’s flat, I found a ticket to Stockholm with Ryanair for $10 in the middle of a Tuesday. Boom. Done. That alone determined I would be staying one extra day in Copenhagen beyond Patrick & then rerouting my travels towards Stockholm. What a world that we live in where I can pay just $10 and get transported to another country on a flying hunk of metal!

As cheap as the flight was, though, I definitely realized some downsides to this option later on – for one thing, daylight is literally fleeting in December. The sun rises around 8:00am and sets by 3:30pm, meaning the “myth of the 1 hour flight” (which I was already aware of from my semester studying abroad) took out a solid chunk of daylight to explore the city. Unfortunately as I planned things further & tried to prevent my following cities from running into the same problem, it meant that at max I could only spend 24 hours in Oslo!

So what do you do when life hands you yellow lemons? See that the grass is greener with Hannah Greene, of course! Hannah is a senior at UPenn who is in my sorority, Chi Omega, and when she saw I was planning on visiting Stockholm she reminded me of her own semester abroad (chronicled in her blog here) and sent over some recommendations! When I told her about my daylight dilemma, she literally responded back with a full itinerary with screenshots of my walking routes in case I didn’t have WiFi. I kid you not. This girl goes ALL OUT and I love it! It was both so unexpected (because who would expect something this generous?!) yet so expected (because lets be real, us Penn Chi O girls know how to run the world and get. sh*t. done.). But all in all it was so incredibly helpful to fully maximize my Stockholm experience. So after arriving in the evening at my hostel, I ran off to go get a hot cocoa from Chokladkoppen, walked around the old cobblestone roads on the island of Gamla Stan, and headed to Kungstradgarden (the King’s Garden) for Christmas lights and to check out the ice skating rink. Hilariously, there were a couple of boys playing American football while skating which seems both ridiculously fun and ridiculously dangerous.

For dinner, at Hannah’s strong urging of course, I decided that despite the price, I was going to treat myself to a meal of authentic Swedish meatballs at Prinsen. I am happy to report that it might have been the best decision of my life. I will dream about these meatballs for the rest of my life, you guys. You know that moment when you bite into something truly well-made and delicious, and this extra special taste bud in your mouth that you forgot about gets activated? It just jumps out and goes “Oh my god! I’ve been hiding for so long, but now I have life again!” Yeah, that’s what happened on my first bite. I normally get food fatigue halfway into my meal, and instead I kept nibbling on my lingonberries. Even when I was contemplating whether I was too full to eat more, I held onto my fork so that the waiter wouldn’t try to take away my plate. That’s commitment to food, my friends.

Pleasantly satisfied with my current state of life and concluding that the meatballs alone were worth the trip to Stockholm, I ventured off to Fotografiska at around 9:30pm because amazingly it stays open until 11:00pm nearly every night. This was particularly useful considering all other museums closed at 5:00pm or 6:00pm, not to mention extremely exciting considering I’m sort of kind of interested in photography…

The museum was incredible! There was such a clear distinction between how other museums display photographs and how a photography-specific museum displays photographs. Most museums are brightly lit and display a collage of photographs together on one wall – visually it does’t quite invite you in to truly view the photograph. Fotografiska, on the other hand, had dim environmental lighting with strong lighting that enhanced rather than altered the colors. One of the main exhibits was of Martin Schoeller’s work, with enormous prints of public figures. There was such a hyperrealism to the photographs, such a different way of viewing these people that you see plastered on media each and every day. It was also interesting to see how his rarely unaltered style put all of his subjects on the same leveled playing field, providing an objective view of each person. Getting down from my lofty high horse, though, can we talk about the fact that Taylor Swift's photo is right next to Obama's? That's literally the first thing you see when you walk into the entire museum. Props, girl. Props.

Finally, in the morning I woke up at the crack of dawn to grab a Swedish cinnamon roll (kanelbulle) at Fabrique bakery, took a quick run through the food market Ostermalms Saluhall right when it opened, and then walked across the bridge to the island of Djurgarden to see the boats and architecture! If I had more time, I would definitely have tried to go to Skansen (open-air museum & zoo) or the Vasa Museum (enormous Viking ship museum) since I heard both are incredible. Alas, I suppose I’ll have to come back again!

Many many many thanks to the incredible Hannah Greene for maximizing my spectacular Swedish experience under such tight time constraints!!



  • I stayed at Skanstulls Vandrarhem Hostel (might just be listed as Skanstulls Hostel on some websites) and quite liked it! I stayed in a 4-bed mixed room, but since it is off-season there was only one other guy in my room. The room had individual locks & lockers, enough outlets, and a light by each bed which is pretty crucial. The bathrooms were clean and spacious with plenty of toilets, showers, hooks, flat surfaces, etc. They also had a really cutely decorated communal kitchen & dining area with free coffee / tea / pasta. Location was great as well – it was close to the T and in the hip newer neighborhood of SoFo. The only two things I didn’t like was 1) the front desk hours of 8am-8pm really limited my ability to check-in late and check-out early, and 2) you had to pay to rent sheets which I find quite annoying. Ultimately, though, I’d definitely come back again! 


  • Be very careful with which airport you are flying in and out of! When I bought my $10 ticket, I didn’t realize there were 3 & that I would be flying into Skavsta which is about an hour and a half outside of Stockholm. This, again, took away from my daylight! I took the Flygbussarna (fancy coach airport buses, easily bookable online and when you get ther!) to T-Centralen, the central station. On my way out of Stockholm, I again took the Flygbussarna, but this time to the Arlanda airport which is much closer.
  • In the city itself, the public transit system is pretty great! I bought a 24 hour pass and used the subway multiple times & even jumped on a tram at the last minute when I read some signs & realized it was going towards my destination. It probably helps that I have multiple years of East Coast public transit under my belt, but I still think others would have an easy time navigating the area!
  • One thing interesting to note, is that Swedish taxicabs aren’t fare-regulated! I wasn’t planning on taking a cab to begin with, but just in case you are, heads up!


  • Prinsen – all you need in life, really. It’s a more upscale restaurant, but I didn’t get any judgment from the waiters for being in my cardigan, t-shirt & jeans.
  • Candy – Hannah made a great recommendation to stop in the Presbyran since Swedish candy doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup. The watermelon tubes (?? I don’t know my candy terminology) were definitely my favorite! However, I couldn’t tell the difference visually between some tasty licorice and some horribly disgusting sour-prune-flavored black candy, so…be careful with that one. 

Can't believe I've done 3 blog posts thus far! Onward and onward!