We choose Fussen as a home base town (less than 10 minutes drive to both castles) as the closest and convenient place. The main attraction is still Neuschwanstein castle. We went to Hohenschwangau Castle so that we could at least see one castle (Unfortunately Neuschwanstein castle closed on 12/24 and 12/25) during this trip. Hohenschwangau Castle is the birth place of King Ludwig II. All of the furniture and fixtures are original.
Walk up to the Hohenschwangau Castle
Climb to reach the castle’s entrance – on a very long ring road.
The childhood home of King Ludwig
You can visit the castle of Hohenschwangau on a guided tour and learn of all the history of King Ludwig and his family. The 30-minutes English guided tours give a good glimpse of King Ludwig’s life. You will explore rooms on two levels with the King and the Queen’s bedrooms, the Tasso room, the Oriental room, etc. and one of the most impressive rooms is the Banquet Hall. The castle is still in quite good condition. It was lived in for many years by the young Ludwig II as this was the home of his father, King Maximillian II and used as a summer and hunting residence.
That’s Neuschwanstein Castle!
I didn’t realize that these castles were so close together. It’s totally worth it to take the tours of both castles in the same day. The castle is beautiful in winter with great views of Neuschwanstein Castle.
Horse drawn carriage
Since it was so cold, we decided to get on a horse drawn carriage on the way back to the ticket center (for just 2€ each person).
The Fairytale Castle – Neuschwanstein Castle
We found a great photo spot for Neuschwanstein Castle. Both of the Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disney Land are modeled after Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle. Even thought we didn’t get to visit this time, we were very happy to see it. It was so pretty with the snow!
Füssen to Innsbruck
The drive from Füssen to Innsbruck (via B179) was so pretty. We stopped by Restaurant Zugspitzblick in Biberwier real quick for some photos.
The drive to Hallstatt is very scenic and passed some lake viewpoints just like these in Sound of the Music. We were on a trip from Vienna and had about 2 hours to wander around.
Hallstatt Old Town
People often said that Hallstatt is Austria’s most beautiful lake town. It is truly spectacular with the beautiful mountains surrounding it. Hallstatt serves as a relaxing break between Vienna and Salzburg. Just browsing here for a few hours and you will fall in love!
After lunch we marched straight to the spot for the “Classic Village Viewpoint”.
The area is absolutely packed with tourists. If you want to enjoy the tranquility that Hallstatt is famous for, it’s better to arrive before 10am or stay there the night and leave in the morning. Most of the tourists on day trips leave by 5pm. Also, Hallstatt is mostly closed during winter but cafes and souvenir shops were still opened.
This is the postcard picture!
View of the lake
What a joy to see the snow dusting the wooden houses up the slope and the mountains surrounding the lake.
Central Square Marktplatz
This is a beautiful Austrian central square with fountain and the buildings are closely grouped and display the typical Austrian architecture. The old town by itself can be toured on foot in within one hour. Just walking the little village streets is amazing. The views are spectacular. If you every want to see Hallstatt in snow, plan your trip near and after Christmas. We are very happy with the snow on the rooftop, roadside and basically every horizontal. That blanket of white everywhere just adds a little touch to the quaint little town.
Waterfall channeled through the town
Mountain water rushing between the buildings creates a spectacular view!
Let me start off by saying I am not an experienced hiker. Also I don’t exercise regularly (kinda out of shape). I don’t know the technical ins and outs of hiking. All I know was I had always wanted to hike Mount Fuji but never got around to it. Climbing Mount Fuji was one of the hardest, yet most rewarding experiences I have had in my life. I was glad I did it, pushed myself to the limit and felt more alive. 🙂
Official Climbing Mount Fuji Season:
Yoshida Trail: July 1 to September 10, 2017
Two Day Climbing Mount Fuji Equipment List: Backpack, sunglasses, gloves, sun hat, warm hat, thermal underwear, waterproof trousers, warm fleece jacket, waterproof jacket with an attached hood, hiking boots, wool socks, gaiters, head lamps, hiking Stick, etc.
Fuji Subaru 5th station 富士山五合目
Altitude: 2305 meters
There were tons of people in the Subaru 5th station. We took Yoshida trail (吉田). There are 4 main trails leading up to the summit of Mt. Fuji. If you are a more experienced climber and prefer it to be less-crowded, consider taking other paths such as Fujinomiya (富士宮), Subashiri (須走口) and Gotemba (御殿場駅) trails.
Even if you have no intention climbing Mount Fuji, you can spend some time in the Fuji Five Lakes area. It is a really nice resort area. Lake Yamanaka, Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Saiko, Lake Shoji, Lake Motosu.
Yoshida trail – Started climbing Mount Fuji! Departed at 11:17am.
Mt. Fuji 6th Station 富士山六合目
Arrived at 12:18pm. Altitude: 2390 meters
Mostly pebbles and red soil trail. The walk from 6th – 7th Station was wide enough to fit the crowd, to pass others and climb at your own pace.
Mt. Fuji 7th Station 富士山七合目
Arrived at 2:04pm. Departed at 2:40pm. Altitude: 2700 meters
My level of commitment increased as we approached station 7. There was no turning back you just had to move forward. Station 7 was almost all giant rocks where you need to use some arm works like rock climbing but still manageable. Getting difficult!
Toilets cost 200 yen entrance fee. Like most places in Japan the toilets worked and were clean, although no fancy high-tech toilets.
Mt. Fuji 8th Station 富士山八合目
Arrived at 6:08pm. Departed at 6:18pm. Altitude: 3250 meters
This was where weather changes drastically, I added three layers of top and wore snow hat here.
The sun had almost set and the clouds had completely enveloped the world below.
Mt. Fuji 8th Station Tomoe Kan 富士山八合目トモエ館
Arrived at 8:25pm. Altitude: 3400 meters
By the time we reached our mountain hut, it was already dark. We checked in and were given bags to put our shoes in. Ate curry rice for dinner and got ready for bed. There were not much water to brush teeth or wash hands. The hut had no private bed, just a sleeping area with a pillow, sleeping bag and a hook to hang your bag above your head. I didn’t know if I’d be able to sleep (turned out I slept for about an hour).
Sunrise from 8th Station Tomoe Kan 富士山本八合目トモエ館
A sunrise with clouds was so beautiful. Watching it from Mt Fuji was magic. The view made it worth all of the effort!
Departed at 5:50am.
After hiking for not too long this morning, my chest was instantly a little tight due to the altitude. I was having more trouble breathing. We tried to walk slowly and took multiple stops and it helped.
Mt. Fuji 8.5th Station 富士山八合五勺
Arrived at 6:17am. Departed at 6:22am. Altitude: 3450 meters
Mt. Fuji 9th Station 富士山九合目
Arrived at 7:15am. Depart at 7:20am. Altitude: 3600 meters
Top of Mt. Fuji 富士山山頂
Arrived at 8:10am. Departed at 9:25am. Altitude: 3756 meters
Finally, after our legs had started to give out from the long ascent, we approached the summit. Unfortunately the post office and restroom were not opened yet…
Back Down | Mt. Fuji 8th Station – 5th Station 富士山八合目 – 五合目
Arrived at 11:20am. Departed at noon. The hard part was just beginning! The climb down took us almost 6 hours since we took a lot of short and long breaks. There were tons of volcanic rocks everywhere causing you to slip and slide down the hill. At some points, I lost patience and tried to run down like other people did and sprained my ankle. Tendon strength took about 3 months longer to build up. My tendon was still relatively weak to support myself and the weight I was carrying. The hike down sucked. I just wanted it to be over. Also no place to purchase water after the 8th Station. I was hydrated for too long. Afterwards we were absolutely exhausted.
Lessons Learned from climbing Mount Fuji: Always takes your time (slow down especially when hiking down hill), be patient. It takes time to get strong. It takes patience to keep with it until you get there. Don’t give up, take a break whenever you need it. When I sprained my ankle I was ready to call an ambulance but it seemed to be a lot of trouble to get one. Afterwards we managed to walked down slowly. Trust yourself, you can do it!
Checked in Hotel Konanso Yamanashi
After we arrived Ryokan I was vomiting and couldn’t keep anything down. It was still hard to believe that we had actually climbed it. Glad we made it back safely! Climbing Mount Fuji was on my bucket list and I was glad I did it. Every step was worth it. This is something you’ll never forget in your life!
3 of us had the 4 course menu and 2 had the 6 course. We got to try everything. I also did a non-alcohol drink pairing and it was great. The restaurant uses fire as its key ingredient. Cook in old Scandinavian ways, giving flavor to meat and fish through fire and smoke.
Reindeer heart taco
Reindeer heart taco
Cold smoked mackerel, kohlrabi and pine
Oysters (served complimentary)
Bread / Dried deer, vendace roe and charcoal cream
Juniper baked turbot, white asparagus and bottarga
hay-flamed dairy cow, wood-fired oven baked cabbage and salsify
Birch fired pork, turnip and lovage
Wood fired oven baked almond cake, rhubarb and herbs
It’s a must see in Stockholm! Even if you have little interest in ships, this is definitely worth seeing. The Vasa is the most well preserved 17 century warship in the world. More than 98 percent of the ship is original, and it is decorated with hundreds of carved sculptures. Vasa never made it out of Stockholm harbor. It sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. Nearly 400 years later, it is magnificently displayed to light your imagination.
The museum is well designed to allow visitors to experience the ship at different levels. To maximize the visit, do a guided tour (about 30 minutes) and also watch the movie in the auditorium. It will bring you even closer to the whole story.
Stockholm Food Festival
The food festival occurs during the first week of June (1 – 6 June 2017) in the King’s Garden Park. Many of Stockholm’s local restaurants serves food during the festival and cover everything from traditional dishes to international cuisines around the world.
After visiting the food festival at King’s Garden Park, we took a stroll along Standvagen. It was also on the way to the Vasa Museum. This seemed to the center for cruises, buses and water taxis. From here you will get a European city feel. Beautiful view of fine architecture on one side and the seaside on the other.
2017 ASICS Stockholm Marathon
The course is regarded as one of the world’s most scenic marathon routes. Runners pass buildings such as the Royal Palace, the Royal Opera, the City Hall and the Houses of Parliament.
Stockholm Old Town
This was our 2nd time to visited the old town, strolling down the various cobblestone streets and alleys is a must. Lots of nice souvenirs shops and cafes around. If you have time you might as well explore the Noble Academia Museum. Changing of the guard is also well worth seeing in the royal palace.
This was our second visit. The menu is an a la carte, offer small plate selections. We each ordered 1 at a time and swapped so we got to try more. In total we ordered 6 dishes. We left feeling satiated but not overly so.
We flew from the States and committed 2 days out of our 10 days in Scandinavia for this experience. We had 6 months of anticipation after the initial booking to begin our journey. This was my second visit to Fäviken. With very scenic drive through the countryside, we arrived Fäviken around 5pm.
Östersund airport to Fäviken
In June the weather here was still cold. It was snowing for about 5 minutes after we arrived. You can’t tell! The sky looks so blue!
Complimentary drinks & reindeer sausage while you relax in sauna before dinner
Pig’s head, dipped in sourdough & deep fried, gooseberry, tarragon salt
At dinner time all guest gathered outside and inside the restaurants lower level to start the dinner at 7pm. Didn’t get to see chef Nilsson at the door this time. We were seated downstairs to share a big table (8 people total) where the appetizers and the rest of the dinner was served.
flaxseed and vinegar crisps
All ingredients came from this region of Sweden or Norway. The scallop is the dish chef Nilsson is most famous for. It had been cooked in its own shell without any seasoning over burning juniper branches. The texture of the scallop was so good not to mention its delicate sweetness.
The food came with exciting flavors and big contrasts in modern presentations meeting traditional ingredients. I felt it was like the future of food steeped in the past.
What was him making?
duck egg drink
The box of snus marks the end of the meal
From a bone marrow brulée, a savory meat pie (so good!!!) , a box of candy, to duck egg liqueur and homemade snus. These will be an experience I will not forget!
Tipi & Fire & Cigar
Outside, there is a tipi complete with a bonfire burning inside. At the end of dinner, you are offered cigars that you can smoke in a fire lit tipi. It was my first time to smoke cigar inside a Tipi. What a special night!
It was 11:48pm! June, the month of endless days
Good morning! Time for breakfast 🙂
Happily arrived our breakfast table
People said this was a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip, and we were lucky enough to experience it twice! I would have loved to have done it all over again, will have to wait for another season for different ingredients.
Bryggen means “wharf” in Norwegian. It was where Bergen was founded nearly 1000 years ago. Bryggen was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The original buildings were destroyed by fire in 1702. It was then built and rebuilt over the centuries
The wharf buildings have been converted to shops but kept their character. It was definitely very touristy.
Take your time to go through the alley, stop at some of the shops or maybe get a drink.
Bryggen is charming and picturesque!
Bergen’s best sausages” since 1946. Yes, do as the Norwegians do – have a reindeer sausage?!
Extra-long reindeer sausage with lingonberry, mustard and fried onions.
Tasted like pork!
Fjellskal Fisketorget (Fish Market)
The fist market has a very wide variety of fish and other seafood to eat in or take out. Just strolling through is a treat!
Many decisions to make…
Fjellskål Fisketorget AS
The seafood was fresh and plentiful. We were there around 2pm and it was hectic and busy with lots of tourists.
Marinated with garlic and chili oil
Spiced and pan fried Tuna / Fresh scallops
Kitchen & Table Bergen
We stayed at the Clarion Hotel and decided to “eat in” since the Kitchen & Table is the house restaurant also we are fans of Marcus Samuelsson. We had a big lunch so decided to order a bunch of appetizers.
We made this short detour to see the Borgund Stave Church before heading to Flam. This was a very well preserved stave church (medieval wooden Christian church) built around 12th century. The Borgund Stave Church is the oldest and the most authentic stave church in Norway.
Built like upside-down Viking ship. It was once burned down and archaeologists dug it up and put the parts back together.
We did a round trip from Flam to Myrdal. Every tourism website told people to go to Flam and take the train to Myrdal when staying in Norway so we did! The train journey took about an hour in each direction and included tons of impressive views of the valley and waterfalls.
Brief stop at Kjosfossen waterfall for breath taking view of waterfalls. We had the opportunity to get off the train and spend some time at the foot of this amazing waterfall. While looking up, some music began and then a woman dressed in red appeared dancing, further up next to the top of the waterfall. It was such a great surprise!
We chose the right hand side which had the more scenic views and for the return journey the waterfall was on the other side.
From the windows the scenery was breathtaking! Lots of little farms dotted about along the way.
After a great trip on the Flam railway the hotel was just a few steps away. Flam was a small town, everything was central to square where the station and marina were located.
We had the buffet dinner. There were plenty of local seafood and even had Mink whale meat.
The breakfast buffet was large and of excellent quality with many local ingredients.
We had an amazing and unforgettable road trip throughout Norway. This was definitely the place to fall in love with the country. In this trip we have visited 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Borgund Stave Church, Bryggen, and Geirangerfjord). We drove from Ålesund to Trollstigen and then to Geirangerfjord in a day. The scenery was outstanding and I was so pleased to have experienced it. We literally stopped every 10 meters taking amazing photos!
Aksla Utsiktspunkt in Ålesund
The view from the top of Aksla mountain is fantastic! You can see the harbor, the city, and surrounding islands. We drove up to the top. If you have time, it’s 418 steps up.
Trollstigen (the “Troll Ladder”)
This is one of Norway’s National Tourist Roads. The road twists through 11 hairpin bends as it climbs up to 858 meters above sea level. The road is closed in the winter and opens in late May or June. Definitely a must-see while in Norway!
The view of the waterfalls from the zigzag road are spectacular.
The visitor center is well done. The cement walkways is very modernistic provide you with easy access to lookout points with incredible views.
When I saw pictures of the Trollstigen viewing platform, I knew this place would be a great part of our Scandinavian road trip. The views from up high offering an amazing view point on the opposite cliff road. Jaw dropping views everywhere!
UNESCO Heritage Geirangerfjord
It was one of the two fjords that are UNESCO World Heritage Natural Sites. We took a 1.5 hour ferry around the fjord (May to Sept. only). While it was still cold during May, we tried as much as we could to stay outside on the deck so we could fully appreciate the fjord.
You can take a ferry along the fjord and enjoy the massive landscape towering on either side. Ferry took about an hour and half.
The view of the fjords is definitely breathtaking. Highlight for most is the “Seven sisters Waterfall”.
Driving to Olden
We saw Glacier!
Bunnpris, Olden (Airbnb)
We stayed in an modern apartment with a breathtaking view over the river. The location from the front was not so attractive as it was part of a supermarket shopping complex. But it was right at a glacial river with awesome views of the mountains!
We took the Hurtigruten boat from Trondheim to Ålesund. The staff were thoroughly professional and friendly. The scenery was beautiful (if the weather is good) but there was not much to do on board. I would recommend this cruise as a good short experience.
There are several lounges with comfortable seats and nice view.
The cabin (inside cabin with window) is clean and comfortable; there is a bathroom with shower and toilet.
We enjoyed great food and quite stunning views of fjords and mountains. The staff are accommodating: if you have special dietary requirements they will go out of their way to help you.