Close your eyes, take a deep breath and think of the Black Forest. What comes to your mind? Is it the southwest of Germany, a region of fairytale towns, surrounded by forests, lakes, and mountains with a tart flavor? Although the literal meaning would lead us to an inhospitable Forest in a secluded place, the truth is that we have it is a wooded region with a barbarity of firs, ferns and other species, a dark green color mossy type. It is so dark, that it looks black, and hence the name.

The Black Forest is one of the most attractive destinations in Germany, especially for people who want to be in direct contact with nature or who travel with children. To say that we came back in love is little. As the days go by, we gradually become enchanted of its charming villages, the intense green of its forests of towering trees or those huge lakes where the mountains and impressive valleys are reflected as if it were a mirror.

If you fit all the pieces of the puzzle, some landscapes are drawn that seem to be taken from the pages of the most beloved stories but without witches or stepmothers. During our trip by car through Germany, we spent several days in the beautiful Black Forest, a tourist region in the south-west of the country. More than a region, the Black Forest (Schwarzwald in German) is actually the popular name with which it has been historically known as a wooded area.

The name of our new destiny goes back to the time of the Roman Empire in what they called the Black Forest. They baptized it that way, impressed by the density of its forests and the darkness of its roads. It was part of the boundaries of the feared barbarians with whom they battled to exhaustion.

The impenetrability and darkness of an excessive population of fir trees were characteristics that defined a border too complicated to access. Although they did, since in some places there is a trace of their passage. This vast forest area is a huge mountainous massif located in southwestern Germany, more specifically in the State of Baden-Würtemberg.

It starts at the same point where the borders of 3 countries like Germany, Switzerland, and France coincide (perhaps the Swiss city of Basel is its beginning), and climbs 160 kilometers to the north (Karlsruhe).

In this post, we leave you some suggestions about places to see in the Black Forest so that you can explore it on your own.


My trip to Germany had two parts. The first was to enjoy cities such as Nuremberg or Ulm and the second in the southern Black Forest. It was a three-day getaway away from fumes, traffic jams, hurries and beeps breathing fresh air and knowing a different culture. Together with my friend, I prepared an itinerary during a series of holidays in which half of the world plans to take a break before Christmas.

With all of that, we should only entrust ourselves to luck and let ourselves be carried away by a few days of the road through unimaginable places. The best way to visit the Black Forest is through a road trip. You already know that we do not like driving too much, but to move around the Black Forest, the best thing is the rental car. We hired the car for the next 3 days.

It was like a summer flirt so it's nice to rent a car! It gives us a lot of freedom of movement, allows us to stop where and when we wanted and enjoy calmly the spectacular landscapes that we see there. The roads in Germany are excellent. Everything is well marked, and there is not much traffic. Driving through the valleys and the winding roads was a real treat for the eyes.

Many times the heart and the head asks us to stop to enjoy some dreamy panoramic views. We sigh with our eyes lost in the horizon of a thick forest that seems to have no end. From here you can read a chronicle-summary of what happened during the trip. Sit for a while, get on the flight with us and come for a virtual tour of a region bathed in the suggestive fog in which time is only measured by the hypnotic ticking of cuckoo clocks. Willkommen!

The beginnings are always difficult, and more so when one depends on the seriousness and responsibility of the airlines. A delay in the flight made us fear until the last moment to arrive or not to get the car we had rented as the office closes at eleven o'clock at night. Finally, they waited for us (charging us 30 euros) although with a surprise.

They had given us an automatic car when we had requested in advance and in writing to give us a "manual" one. Unfortunately, according to the people of the company they did not have more cars, so the saleswoman left with a smile and left us there a little stunned.

It may seem easy to drive an automatic car, but when you are used to driving a manual car for almost a decade, it is not so simple. The gear shift had different letters and numbers from top to bottom that we had to interpret. Obviously, there was no clutch, because that is the particularity of manual cars.

So in the cold and lonely parking of the airport, we did tests in the BMW that they had given us to be able to get out of there with security and to move us by highway to Freiburg. Little by little I was getting cozy with the car and understanding how it worked. Although the most complicated thing was to get rid of the manias to which one is accustomed.

After a few laps around the airport, we decided to leave and look for the exit to the German A5 motorway. We crossed the border and well past one o'clock in the morning, with a light rain, we had covered the 60 kilometers that separate Freiburg from Basel.

We found our hotel immediately as it stands visible in the same Train Station. We left the BMW in an underground parking lot and quickly accessed our clean and modern room to sleep as soon as possible, as we had an intense day. The key was to take advantage of the daylight hours, more rare than usual during the winter season. The morning began after eight o'clock and it was dark at around four-thirty.



Freiburg

An eclectic and squeaky cell phone alarm put us on our feet minutes before eight o'clock in the morning. There was already some light, corresponding to an incipient dawn that could hardly be seen by the clouds that covered the sky of Freiburg. At least it does not rain. Outside it was not too cold, especially to be in the month of December. We dedicate the whole morning of Easter Sunday to visit Freiburg im Breisgau.

With a guide in hand and the camera ready to take the images that were necessary, we started our trek into the interior of Freiburg. It is a university city with a lot of life and a historical center more than attractive. As is usual in the German cities, the most interesting in terms of visits is the Altstadt (old town). The best thing to enjoy this city is to walk and walk until we come to the Cathedral.

It seems to be taken from a medieval story, and the buildings around it. The Old Town is a succession of houses rehabilitated and cured to the detail. It is the same with the commercial premises and the mosaics of its cobblestones. In Freiburg, the most remarkable historical center is marked by Münsterplatz, which is how it is known as the Cathedral Square.

During the week the farmers market delights locals and visitors around the Cathedral Square. Freiburg stands out for its cobbled streets, its location at the edge of the Black Forest, its relaxed and young atmosphere, its commitment to the environment and its quality of life. From there the city opens up in charming narrow streets whose unblemished buildings do not seem to have witnessed a cruel struggle that never understood beautiful things.

To go to that point from the station we take the Eisenbahnstrasse, which we follow straight on. Without moving direction we agreed to what seemed the beginning of the old quarter. It is the previous street to the Town Hall Square (Rathausplatz), decorated with meticulous Christmas effects that adorned it to the highest levels.

This place has two really beautiful councils (the old and the new). The New (Neues Rathaus) is smaller and red. The old man is perhaps the most striking and the one who gives the Plaza great character. In the same, a Christmas market attracted the attention of numerous passers who were left wrapped by the proximity of magical dates.

After this place, we continue our way and cross what is undoubtedly the main artery of the city. There are not only in shops but also in wires since almost all the tram lines pass through there. I am referring to the Kaiser-Joseph-Strasse, always populated with citizens going from one side to the other. La Martinstor (Tower of San Martín) is one of the emblems of the city. We leave it to the right, but not before letting us be photographed by friendly Germans.

There are a few details of Freiburg that should be taken into account because they are simple to visualize. The first has to do with the existence of runnels in many of the pedestrian streets. They are called Bächle. Their original function was to transport non-potable water, taking advantage of the fresh springs of the surrounding mountains.

Nowadays they are the memory of past times and for many tourists, especially in the summer, they serve to wet the ground and tired feet. It is something very curious because it is a system that I had only seen before in some villages of the Comarca de la Vera in Extremadura. That it is preserved in a city is something truly admirable.

The other detail has to do with the cleanliness of the streets. It is difficult to find a paper on the floor or a graffiti on the wall of a house, which surely will have a splendid color (among the many existing shades).

And another of the easy things to find are small golden plates on the ground that lead us to remember that there lived people who were deported to the Nazi Extermination Camps in a bygone era but far from forgotten. Practically in all, you can read a terrifying name: Auschwitz. In those moments when I read these plaques, my visit came to my mind months before to this place near Krakow. Here it is still possible to breathe fear, suffering and also the most inhuman hatred and evil.

After crossing some colorful and ornate streets we finally found ourselves face to face with the majestic Cathedral surrounded by an animated Market Square (Marktplatz). Here fruits, vegetables, sausages and various riches of the excellent jungle cuisine were sold. The Münster, which is what is called the Cathedral, with reddish walls rises a little over 100 meters pointing to the highest point of the German sky.

The porch guesses the beauty of a building whose interior houses treasures converted into stained glass windows capable of turning light into a labyrinth of colors. One of the most interesting things that can be done there is to climb the steps of the bell tower and get a beautiful 360 ° panorama of the city. It is amazing the proximity of the forest and the mountain that reminded us vividly that we were in the leafy Black Forest.

Architecturally nothing escaped our view. Although above all stand out the Towers that once formed part of the walled enclosure that surrounded Freiburg. The aforementioned Martinstor and the Schwabentor is a long door from the 13th century that led us to imagine the splendid Middle Ages. Looking towards the train station we could distinguish our hotel. Looking beyond we had the opportunity to appreciate the French Vosges. It was very little the distance that separated us from the Gallic country, in what is a region of great cultural richness: the Alsace. Another route worth preparing someday (Wow, there are so many).

But in the Münsterplatz besides the Cathedral and the multiple stalls stand out some properly restored buildings. For example, the one that at the time had the function of "granary" and distinguished by its stepped façade. More spectacular to my liking is the "Baroque house" built by Christian Wentzinger in 1761. It today houses a museum of municipal history. It is clearly visible by its color that seems to have been obtained from the clay, in addition to some beautiful sculptures on its front.

From this baroque house, there is an alley that for very little exceeds a meter in width. We took the same to go to the Augustinerplatz, where they were restoring the Museum of Medieval Art. Freiburg seems like a fairy tale, and more so when you find the channel that characterizes the Fishermen's Quarter. Going up beyond this channel we reach the Schwabentor, which as I mentioned before is one of the most representative Doors/Towers of the city.

The other is the Martinstor, further south, in the Kaiser-Joseph Strasse. Very close to the first, there is a wooded mound that serves as a park in whose interior stands a small fortress of French origin (Schlossberg). We have nice views of Freiburg climbing the upper part of the Slos Schosberg on foot. We take the opportunity to have lunch in the restaurant with nice views. We made this route in about three and a half hours, and we went to our next stage.

Lonely Planet, in addition to other guides, recommends its ascent if you want to appreciate some wonderful views. We started the job but when half-way we saw that we did not reach the top, we thought more than once if we should continue. We had the answer when we saw a man perfectly equipped to do a mountain walk. Wow, it imposed a little and I think that to reach the top of the watchtower takes much more time than we had planned to invest. Still, at the half height, we can see the whole of a beautiful city surrounded by nature. Enough elements stand out to give a very good grade and my most sincere recommendation to all travelers.

We enter again in Freiburg. It is increasingly lively, mixing in the streets overflowing with youth, happiness and of course good food. It was in the Plaza de la Catedral where we paid homage in terms of food at a great price. The stalls of sausages and hamburgers (the good ones, the traditional ones) are the best option for small pockets and big stomachs. In addition, soft drinks and beers are much larger and cheaper. Wow, that's what bottles are.

We returned to the Kaiser-Joseph Strasse, where there was an impressive traffic jam, as it is the only public transport that passes through there. Infinite shops and franchises known by all took both sides until we reach the San Martín Tower, which crosses at the bottom. Going to the right of it, we accessed the university district. The renovated buildings still have traces of shots and shrapnel suffered in World War II. All you have to do is look at the red walls to notice. Nowadays it is a garden full of life and bicycles in which young people come and go.

After more time walking, observing and photographing, we decided to go to the car to continue our trip. The next objective was to reach Lake Titisee where we would spend the night. It was to the east, thirty kilometers away. But we wanted to reach it by going around it. With a map in one hand and the guide in the other, we agreed to go by another lonely road through the mountain and thus being able to check with our eyes the exciting landscapes that bathe the Black Forest. After all, that's the most interesting thing in the region.

With an exemplary signaling, we began our ascent to the Schauinsland, a mountain of 1284 meters where the clouds played at half height. The normal thing is to climb it in the funicular. But as it was closed, we penetrated in the sinuous and narrow highway from which a Paradise was seen in all rule. Schauinsland is known as "the Mount of Freiburg". The thermometer of the car went down, grade by grade until we were approximately at 0º.

The excessive humidity prevented it from falling much more. But on the contrary, the cold was more harmful, the one that penetrates your bones. We leave the car on the shoulder and walk through the solitary and silent trails dyed ocher of earth and leaves. The fog favored an environment in which getting lost can be easier than you think. In the background, there are the green valleys dotted with farms and old houses. Its chimneys blew smoke from the evergreen bonfires that give something more than warmth.

Despite being a little after one o'clock, the light had already fallen significantly. We could see that we were caressing winter, a dark and cold period that is accentuated as we ascend to higher latitudes. That is why we took the car to not entertain too much, lest it gets dark before reaching the lake.

We continue, therefore, through our meandering valleys and hills, leaving behind unforgettable panoramas in which I would have stopped again and again to take photographs. It is difficult to avoid the click of the camera, with which I try to reflect what my eyes see.

The first area of relative importance was once we crossed the Mountain Pass at Todtnau. It is a Climatic Station of little more than 5000 inhabitants where the first ski club of Germany was founded. Due to the high temperatures for the time in which we were, the lifts and chairlifts, just in front of the town, were standing. It was waiting for better times to attract the many lovers of skiing both in the country and elsewhere in the world.

The town itself apart from silence does not have too many attractions. Perhaps the church with two towers with an onion-shaped dome seems to mix with the lush forest that emerges from them. In the outskirts, the Todtnauer waterfalls, form the best of the natural museums of the area.

We continue along highway 317 in the direction of Lake Titisee. Although before arriving we expected another of those mountainous climbs that take away the hiccups. Mount Feldberg (1419 meters) is the highest point of the Black Forest. There it was not strange to find ourselves with the snow and with a temperature of -3º in which some skied and others made snow with their colorful boards.

The slopes shone whitishly that was made up of pines and firs with an impossible Christmas appearance. It would be one of the two occasions when I saw a total winter landscape. And at the top of my head came that splendid trip to Finland a year before, on whose most arctic borders we enjoyed the snow in a big way.

Not many kilometers away, and after getting lost a couple of times, we finally reach Titisee, whose lake of the same name is one of the busiest destinations in summer periods. It is a very tourist area, where the main attraction is the Lake. It is very difficult to find parking since from early in the morning, there is full of Japanese tourists. Around the Lake, there are many Souvenir shops.

It seemed like the Benidorm of the Black Forest. The vegetation of dark fir trees in this area is absolutely spectacular. So it is a more than appropriate torque to see trees closely. We do a ziplines activity climbing through the trees. Despite the rain, as we had already booked, I did not want to waste the opportunity. It was something I was going to do for the first time and I was very excited. With the inestimable help of my instructor, I could barely complete the first circuit that he said was for children. Of course, I had a great time.

In this "baby" zip line, I just had to sit down and throw myself into the void. I appreciate my life but my honor was at stake so I swallowed and I did! After such a show of courage, what will be the next extreme challenge? It was something that I love and recommend. We go around the lake in Kayak. We spend the rest of the day trekking on one of the hiking trails around the lake. We climb up to the highest natural ski jump in Germany, where jumping competitions are practiced (Hochfirst Schanze)

We stayed in a family hotel with a rural and traditional character, located just 300 meters from the lake. It has a quite quiet and cozy atmosphere, ideal for relaxing a weekend and fleeing from worries. There was not even an hour to go at night. So we left the room as soon as we dropped our luggage. We went straight to the lake, on whose edge the hotels and rental houses shine with the Christmas decorations. There were hardly any tourists. Those little crazy people who think of going there at the dawn of winter.

Titisee, with its 2 kilometers long and 700 meters wide, is the largest natural lake in the Black Forest. Its name remembers Emperor Tito, who passed through there with the Roman Legion two thousand years before. Two millennia later, there was me, who witnessed the closing of lights on the icy waters in which swan and ducks splashed that always give a touch of elegance. Although the cold, the humidity, the wind and the gray of the sky did not help much.

We ate Kebab in a Turkish restaurant near the shore, one of the few that opened at that time. The empty stomachs were grateful for the food, although so did our few current accounts that benefited from this choice. After lunch, we walked around the lake watching the darkness cling to us in the same way as an incipient rain that would not leave us for a second until the next day.

There we took pictures like crazy, and the weather started to get worse. One of the things that you cannot forget in your suitcase is the raincoat. In the south of Germany, the weather is always hotter than in the rest of the country and it rains less. But we must not forget that there is a humid climate.

The downside of being at night so soon in such a lonely place is that it limits the "what to do" quite a bit. Although it did provide us with a tranquility that was good for getting rid of the stress of the city that is with us all year. We had slept a few hours and it was good to have so much time to rest a lot before starting the second stage of the trip. Because the plan, if time did not prevent it too much, promised a lot.



Triberg

The rain had not stopped for a single second throughout the night. The water hit the floor of the terrace and even the window, supported by a wind that made it very difficult for us to leave for eight thirty in the morning. We took it easy and went down to breakfast at the hotel's free buffet, well prepared and charged for energy. A roadmap on the table served to dot our goals for the day we would go north through the wildest heart of the Black Forest. A group of Spaniards sat at the next table and they took with resignation the horrible time that morning. It did not look like they were going to move too much from the hotel.

Even so, I had faith in my usual luck with meteorology. Well, I even managed to have a sunny blue day in London a month before. This could not be missed for anything in the world. And as if my wishes were orders, the rain stopped for the first time in more than 15 hours as soon as we put the suitcases in the car. I could not be more surprised. It was a small truce, a wink that we did not intend to waste. We put the soundtrack that we listen to ad nauseam. And here are our visits of the day with some comments about it:

In the heart of the Black Forest, with 6000 inhabitants Triberg constitutes one of the most important bastions. Triberg is one of the most touristic villages of the Black Forest. As we move along the road, the forests darken and the atmosphere becomes more dramatic. We change context. It stops showing as a story for children, and could well represent the setting of the next mystery thriller. It is famous for having the highest waterfalls in southern Germany. The paths allow us to enjoy wonderful views of forest and water until sunset.

In Triberg there is the Museum of the Black Forest, which perfectly explains the particularities of a region with a lot of tradition and character. The operation of the watches, the typical clothing, the curious Bollen shades, a huge model of the train that runs through many towns in the area, a large collection of minerals obtained in some of the jungle mines. Not bad if you want to learn the culture and the history of the place.

We visit the Black Forest Museum to learn about the culture and tradition in the Black Forest. We see the typical costumes, the way of life in the Black Forest throughout history, as well as the craftsmanship of the cuckoo clocks. In Triberg we also want to see the biggest cuckoo clock in the world. We went running, exhausted. We did not want them to close. We tried to see it in the distance in case the giant cuckoo stood out among the mountains.

In the end, it turns out that it was like another house, in size, but with the operation and mechanism of the cuckoos inside. It's funny, but the inside visit, if you do not have time, is dispensable and you save the 4 euros of the entry fee. From outside and for free you can see the same. What if it is worth arriving shortly before 18.00 to see the little bird go out (leaves every hour) and make CU-CU-CU-CU-CU-CU (6 times). (It leaves every hour singing as many cu-cus as the hour is).

This invention that has several centuries of antiquity is one of the Patrimonies of those who boast the most in these places. The soniquete cu-cu has become an art for which you pay and a lot. But Triberg does not only live on the pendular mechanics of these devices since the passage of the Gutach River offers a natural spectacle worthy of any visit. I refer to his masterful Waterfall, whose seven steps constitute the largest waterfall in the country. Nothing more and nothing less than 163 meters.

To enter to see them you have to pay, although when we were there was not even that possibility. Because during certain periods of the year, aware of the heavy rains and the powerful wind, they close the trails or walking trails. But since we were there we could not leave without more. So we took advantage of a small break in the protection fence and made the way aware that it was something not allowed.

We went following the riverbed down a slope that could be exhausting in its return, especially. With a superlative humidity, we end up arriving at a series of bridges where we can see the foamy and wild waterfall in its very strong pass. We were alone witnessing, listening and feeling (because it splashed water) the Gutach's fury.

No matter how many photos I took, I did not know how to reflect in the best possible way what I was seeing at that moment. And I have to admit that that minimum breach of the rule turned out to be one of the most successful things we could do. That fall of water is not seen anywhere, no doubt.

As I mentioned before, the return was more than hard. The steep slope that led to the car left us really safe. Near the end, it began to rain copiously. Luckily he had respected us down there in the Cascade because otherwise we would have had puffs to the bowels.

After the exuberant Wassefälle (water jump in German) we went to Triberg itself, surrounded by 3 mountains as indicated by its name. We left the car in front of the Town Hall (we have to pay to park) located on the main street (Hauptstrasse). It crosses the town, dividing it into two parts. From here walking we see the attractions of this place, which to a greater or lesser extent are the watch shops.

In one of them, there are more than a thousand devices and it has an enormous one in its façade (although not the biggest one, for that we had to move more). I was looking at models and prices but I did not dare to buy any because to start talking (and being a non-electronic mechanic) you have to overcome 150 euros. There are cheaper ones, it's true, but they do not reach the sole of the shoes of many others that represent phenomenally large houses of the Black Forest. There is a business, and apparently, it pays well.

Here I also taste the famous Black Forest cake in one of the many pastry shops. I do not like sweets that carry too much liquor, but I cannot leave without tasting a piece of cake. Surprisingly, the taste has nothing to do with the appearance. It was incredibly light. Although in Triberg I end up paying more and was much more expensive than in Freiburg or Gengenbach. We left Triberg for our hotel in Freiburg. It was a journey of just over an hour between rain and forests. We were very happy, with the treatment and the recommendations made by the staff in places to visit and restaurants.

Schonach is the rival of the neighbor Triberg for almost everything, but more for the size and grandeur of its Cuckoo Clocks. They boast of having "the greatest" of all. A half-truth because that title has been taken away from another located in Schonachbach, at the exit of Triberg towards Hornberg. The moment we arrived in this town the rain turned into a flood.

On the B33 road, as soon as we leave Triberg there is a narrow detour to another one of those stores that have built a Cuckoo Clock on its facade. It appears in the Guinness Book as "the largest in the world". So it has become a tourist attraction and "business" due to the waves of buses that park in the vicinity to see it and if you can, buy something.

Just when we got to Schiltach, the strong downpour that stopped us from stopping in other towns of interest like Gutach, Haslach or Wolfach stopped. And I think it was a sign of fate that had left us the best of the day for this point. Because Schiltach has all the ingredients that are part of a fairytale town. Each and every one of the houses has wooden frames. It's roofs in peak rise towards the sky as well as the forests upholstered with millions of fir trees among which the fog made a feint to join the party.

This population framed in the valley of the Kinzig River perfectly reflects the stereotypes of a typical village in the Black Forest. There is traditional architecture, silence, pure air, nature in abundance. And of course, there are a few markets with Christmas decorations and good food. It was here, sitting next to the bridge through which the Kinzig River passes, where we decided to eat something. And to top it all, the sky painted the clouds of blue bringing us the long-awaited Sun that had been hidden for a few days.

In addition to each and every one of the traditional houses, we see the Marktplatz (Market Square) located on the slope where the stepped 16th century Town Hall stands and a small fountain.

To walk through Schiltach is to return to the Middle Ages or to the books written by Grimm brothers. Without a doubt a place marked with an x ​​in which is missing by not assist.

At just 15 kilometers north of Schiltach, Alpirsbach is a town of 7000 inhabitants whose origin comes from a convent with almost a thousand years old. The Klosterkirche St. Benedict is one of the most visited of the Black Forest, in spite of their capricious schedules that prevented our visit. According to Lonely Planet, it opens daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from mid-April to November, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from mid-March to mid-April and from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, Saturdays from November until well into March.

We did not adjust to any of these bands. It was a shame because, in addition to the nearby brewery (which makes the Alpirsbacher Klosterbräu), it is the town's only point of interest. The convent is recognizable by its reddish color and the stepped roof tower, whose bells have been ringing for almost a millennium. Its Gothic interior appears in many art books, which focus on both the sacristy of the thirteenth century and the cloister,

Lossburg was the place chosen to leave our belongings and stay at one of the best-recommended hotels. All you have to do is look at its façade covered with wooden trusses to realize that we are in an old house that is more than 400 years old. A luxury in which perhaps its proximity to the main road fails. The reason for his choice came in large part to be close to another of the most important cities in the region: Freudenstadt. Here we went to at night to walk, dine and drink in a traditional Biergarten (brewery).

Otherwise, Lossburg is a transit site that hardly has any attractions. With just over 23,000 inhabitants, Freudenstadt capitalizes on the district of the same name. This city is another of the key points of the Black Forest since the main tourist roads of the region pass through it. Among them, we would use it as a link to go to Baden-Baden.

Freudenstadt was a project of Duke Frederick I of Württemberg, who commissioned his architect Heinrich Schickhardt. He after a study of Rome and especially Bologna, designed a structure of streets in the form of a spider's web. Its splendor did not pass from the beginning of the 16th century, but at least it has kept its heart, which is the Market Square right in the center of the city.

As a curiosity, it must be said that this is the largest in Germany, which is even cut by two roads. On the sides arcades with renaissance imitation arcades, in the center "The House of the city", in the southwest an evangelical church, and in the northeast the Town Hall. Although what impresses most is locating in the center of the Plaza and see how much space there is.

At the time we went we had set up a Christmas market and not a few booths selling hot wine, sausages or typical products of the land. There was special entertainment both there and in the streets. And especially in one of the busiest places in the city, the Turmbräu, a traditional brewery that turns into an improvised disco at night. We could not help but take something there and check the fuss and crowds of the youth who got the beer jars two by two. We took advantage even to have dinner before returning to our hotel in Lossburg, crossing the dark forest where we had to turn on the car's headlights so we could see something.



Schwarzwaldhochstrasse

It was one of the "peak stages" of the trip. A tour that would have a bit of everything and with a purely international color. It is not that it was planned in advance but due to the geographical situation of the place where we were we arrived to touch 3 countries in a single day. Even so, the key point was marked for the morning when we made the journey between Freudenstadt and Baden-Baden. We would continue to get the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse or, so that we all understand, the High Black Forest Road.

This stretch belonging to the B-500 has an approximate length of 65 kilometers between the points just mentioned. It was the first tourist road in Germany. The places that it crosses enjoy a great ideal attraction for those who seek dreamy landscapes and a good dose of nature. The ideal is to take deviations to go to some of the many destinations accessible from the road, although it is the time that determines the final route. Although you know that it is best to enjoy driving through that sea of ​​mountains in which you feel unique, lonely and a little more traveler.

From Freudenstadt, it takes a few kilometers to take the famous road, after passing through Kniebis, a mountain pass with a ski station where we could already account for a notable drop in temperatures that approached -4º. The earth changed its green tones to others increasingly white and the scarce rain hardened to give us a good snowfall. Against a blinding fog made us slow down enough speed and even stop at a service road (there is every kilometer) to play with the snow and witness a beautiful white blanket covering the landscape.

With a little less fog we move forward in a directly proportional way to the descent of the grades. The computer of the car alarmed us of the danger of the ice, reason why it was convenient to be more attentive to the steering wheel if it fits. Only the music from the car competed with the soft and incessant peeling of the snowflakes on the front glass.

Although this one ended when we made the first detour to the left, not too many kilometers from the start of the picturesque Schwarzwaldhochstrasse. We go to another of those places dotted with mystery and the unquestionable passage of time, more than ever reflected in the old Convent of Allerheiligen. Already after 15 minutes by a narrow road descending the mountain, everything had been worth it.

But the best was our solitary passage through the ruins of the 11th century mixed symbiotically with the wild vegetation offering a more than valid image for a horror story. Fog, loneliness, the stones of an old abbey, forest, and the swift passage of the Lierbach River mowing the valley make this a special place that recalls old legends. Walking to a while from there are another one of those Waterfalls that are so lavish in the German Southwest, although to go there we did not have time.

We stepped back and did the same with our vehicle to continue the stretch of the panoramic road that ends in Baden-Baden. The fog did not allow to observe carefully (apart from conveniently photographing) the various natural panoramas on either side of the road. We headed with our BMW to Lake Mummelsee.

Not even Lake Mummelsee itself was visible in its entirety. We had to settle for walking steadily on the snow to skirt its shore. we turn back around the lake, then go up the trail to the lookout tower, which is on top of the mountain. It takes an hour approximately for the 2 km. Once up we have views of those that remove the hiccups of the Black Forest, the Rhine Valley and mountains of Alsace.

We stay for the night in Sasbachwalden. The landscape of the vineyards is amazing. We are very happy to have chosen Germany, as a destination during Easter.

We woke up in Sasbachwalden, very excited with these views. After a breakfast, we took a walk through the town. The Tourist Office provides us with the maps and the route. We walk around the vineyards to have a panoramic view of the town. There are numerous trails of different difficulty levels to travel the mountains and vineyards. The paradise of the All of Goth, without a doubt the wine that we liked the most in the area. We visit the winery following the tracks between the vineyards.

The wooden houses are decorated with flowers in detail. There is a festival of flowers and another of wine, where the whole town is dressed up in gala celebrating the harvest of the Grapes. With two Michelin star restaurants, and a dream setting, Sasbachwalden is without a doubt, a must of the Black Forest trail and the one I liked the most.

We continue on road to Durbach (30 minutes from Sasbachwalden), continuing to Achern and Oberkirch. And we went directly to visit the castle, Schloss Staufenberg since the surroundings are spectacular. We park just before Durbach in "Brandstetter Kapelle" and from there we walk 20 minutes up to the highest part of the castle. The path of vineyards and forest enchants us.

When we arrive at the Schloss Staufenberg, we order some wine and a piece of sweet Tarte flambée, in the same restaurant. Going up and down that curving road surrounded by vineyards is priceless, even though it's raining. It's a breathtaking landscape.

We left for Gengenbach, on a journey of 30 minutes from Durbach. It is a wonderfully picturesque village between mountains and rivers, a small gem in the center of the Black Forest. Besieged and almost destroyed by the wars and fires that devastated in the last century, it was rebuilt and for me, it is another essential.

We walk through its old town to the streets of Höllengasse and Engelgasse, and the historic set of wooden houses, which are the most picturesque. We also visit the Church of Santa María, with its colorful interior paintings and the two watchtowers of the city. It had to be many kilometers ahead, already in a downward direction when the snow and thickets disappeared giving way to the lively countryside that precedes Baden-Baden, our last destination in the Black Forest.

Baden-Baden, of no more than 55,000 inhabitants continues living from its splendid aristocratic past. The well-known "city of spas", which takes advantage of the invaluable properties of its thermal waters, was the seat of summer and the rest of very important and influential people like Tsar Alexander or Queen Victoria of England.

Although the Romans were the first to launch what would be proclaimed "summer capital in Europe" thanks to the construction of thermal baths. The nineteenth century, palpable every inch of the city, attracted the nobility and the wealthier bourgeoisie who settled in luxurious buildings, and mansions. But with them came the shops, and Baden-Baden settled into this new way of ostentatious and unobtrusive life.

In this city, we cannot talk about monuments and "essentials". If you go in search of this, Baden-Baden is not the right place. But it is if you want to enjoy your hectic commercial life or instead look for "relaxing moments" in one of its many Spas. The most classic and famous is close to the charming Marktplatz, just behind the main church (Stiftskirche).

Its name is Friedrich Bach and if its Renaissance exterior façade has a remarkable elegance, you should imagine its interior that seems to be taken from a television ad. There are pools with columns, massage rooms and is very much like in Budapest. But the corner of relaxation that most caught our attention was Las Termas de Caracalla, a much more modern style but at the same time surprising and affordable. We regret one and a thousand times of not having tried their outdoor hot water pool and knowing what it is to take a good bath with the cold outside. For the next one, it does not escape us.

The old town does not even reach far from other German cities. But it is interesting to walk uphill to the New Castle (Neues Schloss), which has been converted into a luxurious hotel. Leopoldplatz is good and perfect for a stroll in the Lichtentaler Allee, parallel to the river.

It was worth finishing our route between the bubbles of spas. The enormous thermal richness of its waters made it a place of refuge for soldiers during the wars, and for the German bourgeoisie. After relaxing in the spa, we plan to try our luck at the casino, one of the most luxurious in Europe.

And to touch a little more glamor with our hands, we take a look at the Casino, which requires entering with a jacket and tie (in the case of men, of course). As you suppose, we did not carry it and we could not enter the Poker Room. Next to it is a beautiful pavilion (Trinkhalle) whose portico rests splendid frescoes that revise the legend and tradition of the city. Inside it is the Tourist Office, as always useful to obtain material or make reservations for hotels/spas.

The last hours of our day are dedicated to strolling in Baden-Baden. We see places and heard stories from our guide, without whom we would never have guessed. We ate at the Christmas fair that was in front of the Casino. Not to vary it is the German sausage. I think that if our visit lasts a few more days we end up with all the business. With all that, we were ready to take the Autopista A-5 and stop at some point before moving to Switzerland.

And so another trip ended in which we learned what we could from an area where you can do one and a thousand circuits. Historic cities, charming villages, snow-capped mountains, closed forests, ideal roads to drive, good food are some of the baits to fall back through the Black Forest and many other sites that are close by. And so our break ended. And so I finish this Black Forest travel guide of our short journey for those who can take advantage of it. We dream to return here because there is much more.

There the verdant forests are bathed at the same time by impetuous rivers, picturesque lakes, and sometimes covered with white snow. But not only does it have an eminently natural character. The Black Forest has retained its centuries-old culture and tradition. It is reflected in the architecture of its cities and towns, in its cuisine and even in the way of seeing the lives of the Germans from this place that bases hundreds of stories that sometimes we have heard as children before sleeping.

So we can mix in a single idea terms such as pure nature, white peaks, wooden houses, skiing, rural accommodation, old customs, haze, cuckoo clocks and baskets full of cherries with which to make a delicious cake. The Black Forest is that and much more.

After having visited it, with a tight schedule to see as much as possible, I can conclude that it can be a top destination for all types of travelers. It is for relax-spa, adventure, children, wine-lovers, gastronomy, and lovers of nature. Well, there is everything for everyone. There is no need to stick around in the car because the distances are rather short. So it is ideal to go with children.

We have found a German land much warmer and more open than in the North of the country. Here prices much cheaper than in its Swiss neighbor. It gives me the desire to continue to know much more in-depth this part of Germany. Who will not like to lose the look in the bed of trees and dark forests that goes to infinity and beyond, among charming villages of wood? And who will not like a three-tiered cake of cream, chocolate and cherry jam?
The first morning in Havana I wake up still dizzy for jet lag. The breakfast is inviting and refreshing. There is guava juice, hot butter and honey sandwich and a steaming omelette that gives me the energy to start the adventure. I arrive in the entrance hall of a building in Calle Concordia. I see a guy of color, more or less my age, with a huge belly and a very long cigarette in his mouth. He wears denim shorts, sneakers, sky blue t-shirt. He is surrounded by dozens of people waiting for him to observe him with admiration and devotion.

In short, the first morning in Havana is really folkloristic. I observe with amazement and curiosity all the people who are there. I think that the cold is the same. I am struck by some altars that I see from the open doors on the street. There are photos, fruits, flowers, candles, cigars, rum and the favorite foods of the Orishas, ​​the Cuban divinities. The santeros practice the prediction of the future and are the earthly voice of the Orishas.

W​hile the babalawos are more powerful oracles, a kind of high priests of the santeria. The santero is a healer, a character to be used to solve everyday problems but also when traditional medicine does not give hope. It is easier now to understand how the Santeria is married with the lifestyle and the Cuban mentality. It is a religion also made of rituals that give an important place to rum and tobacco!

Magic, mystery, superstition, filters of love and death characterize the Santeria, the true religion of Cuba, transported there by African slaves. The Orishas are the deities, to their origin real personalities endowed with "achè" (Power). They are then transformed into an immaterial force that is not perceptible to human beings except when it takes possession of one of them through the ceremony called hacerse el santo.

Among the best known Orishas there are Changò lords of fire and lightning, god of war, and Babalù Ayè, deities of lepers and skin diseases. Then there is Elegguà (lord of the streets), Obatalà (creator of the earth and of the human being) and Yemayà (mother of life). In Cuba, Ochùn is the goddess of love, femininity and the river. She has been identified with the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (patroness of the island) and plays a very important role.

To honor the Orishas, ​​the Cubans have parties with music and dancing and lots of food and drink. The most important day is December 4th when Changò is celebrated. In the booklet of Denise I am passionate about the myth of Ochùn, lady of love and femininity, divinity of the river, symbol of female grace, Changò's lover. He lived in the river and assisted pregnant women and pregnant women. She is represented as a mulatto beautiful, nice, good dancer and always cheerful.

Ochùn loved more than anything else to wear brightly colored robes, to adorn the feathers and to sprinkle the body and hair with fragrant oils. She also cared very much about her collection of bracelets and combs. "None of this is important, compared to the joy of holding a baby in your arms!" He said to himself as he stored his treasures in large baskets. Then he got rid of his colored robes, combs, bracelets and pearls and was content with a sober and peaceful life. So, after some time, he gave birth to a child and then another and another. There was no mother happier than her.

The tour of Havana is intense. The city is beautiful. At Plaza de Armas I discover El Templete. The neoclassical temple was built in 1828 to celebrate the foundation of the city, which according to Cuban historians was founded exactly in that place. Here is the Ceiba, the sacred tree for the santeria where the inhabitants of Havana queue up to give the vuelta a la Ceiba or make three slow anticlockwise turns around the tree while they touch the trunk expressing three wishes.

It is a good luck ritual that should not be renounced. By tradition, whoever performs this ritual the following year, everything will be perfectly fine. If one of the three wishes is fulfilled you must return to Havana within a year to thank and perhaps this is the hardest part for us tourists. In front of the convent of San Francesco there is a bronze statue depicting a beard with a thick beard and long hair, nicknamed "El caballero de Paris". Perhaps because as a young man he had worked in the "Paris" restaurant.

His real name was José María López Lledín, a gentleman from Spain, born at the end of the nineteenth century. He wandered the streets of Havana, accepting money only from acquaintances. El caballero discussed philosophy, religion and politics with the people he met and was a very kind person. They say that he was unjustly imprisoned in the Castillo del Principe and that after this bad experience he began to have mental problems. So it was that after fifty years of wandering he was admitted to the psychiatric hospital in Havana and there, breathing his last breath, he said, "I'm no longer the knight of Paris. These are not times for aristocrats. "
The statue, which depicts him in his typical attitude, is photographed by millions of tourists who touch his beard as a good luck charm. The feeling, although not known, is to be close to a charismatic man and worthy of respect, someone with whom you would like to exchange a chat but now you can touch your hands and beard in a silence that tells everything.

From the plaza I head for the monumental Cemetery Cristóbal Colón, under a really hot sun. The cemetery is a real city with many roads so a guide is needed to know the stories of the dead who live here. For example, there is the tomb of Mrs Amelia Goyri de la Hoz, who died in 1903 at the age of 23 and was buried with the child at her feet. Legend has it that when the tomb was reopened to exhume the body, the child was found in the arms of the mother.

This whole story has made Amelia legendary who has been idolized as a woman of the miracle. The Cubans call her the Milagrosa. They offer her flowers and prayers every day. Her white tomb, with the statue that depicts her with her child in her arms, is now a destination for pilgrimages. It is covered with plates in marble or bronze that thank her for miraculously intervening in desperate cases of pregnant women and babies in danger. The Milagrosa receives flowers and invocations more than the other sacred figures.

The guide then tells of another tomb, this time of a rich man madly in love with his wife who had her build a funeral monument with roses inlaid in black marble and colored glass from which a ray of sunshine enters that falls right on the coffin of the woman. Love wins over everything, says the guide, even on death.

Viñales

Viñales is the place where bananas grow. Viñales is also the town with its colored verandas, almost all accompanied by beautiful rocking chairs. It is an invitation to the sweetest idleness, in this valley that is an ode to slowness, for those arriving from afar, from frenetic rhythms. You can find yourself in this corner of the world where, if you want, you can pretend to have found a time machine somewhere and have planned it for a trip back a century.

Coming from Havana, you also notice that here there seems to be a higher standard of living than the capital. Perhaps because Viñales is the second most visited resort town in Cuba. However, the colors here shine with fresh paint. There are several bars and restaurants of good local cuisine, a cultural center, music and various events.

This town, which is located in the picturesque setting of the National Park of Viñales, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an important center for the cultivation of tobacco and coffee. It is precisely the plantations, with the typical straw huts used to dry the tobacco leaves, to characterize the landscape of Viñales, with the green and imposing limestone mountains in the background, exaggerated in shape, like those that draw the children. Rural Cuba actually begins as soon as you leave Havana. The highway is covered by such a small number of cars that the autopista name seems inappropriate:

In Viñales, in addition to the landscape, I remember especially the golden light of the five, the best moment to walk, when the central square is in full swing and the rocking chairs, on the verandas of the houses, are occupied by little sisters with heads full of braids and big smiles, from grandparents with little sleeps, women who rest after work, mothers with young children. Or tourists, yes, because as we like to imagine having discovered a secret Cuba, only ours, a remote and unexplored corner, the reality is that you walk among many, many other foreigners, who come here for the same reasons, looking for the same things.

This does not mean that Viñales is a charming and still authentic place to relax for a few days. In addition, the colors of the houses, the American cars of the fifties, the men on horseback, the background of the valley and the plantations, are a real invitation to photography. Almost every corner deserves a shot. In the evening, on the main square, they often play live, an entertainment that we like adults, but that was particularly appreciated by our daughter, famous in the family for having started dancing even before she learned to walk and that in Cuba, in this sense, it was decidedly at ease.

When you come to Cuba it is also done for its sea and so, after Viñales, we moved to Cayo Levisa, a paradise with white sand and crystalline sea, which you do not need to describe, because it is the postcard that everyone they know. A place where the only Cubans they meet are those who work for the resort.

Upon returning from Cayo Levisa and before returning to the capital, we decided to spend a few days at the seaside, near a more "normal" beach, also frequented by Cubans. We chose a small resort south of Havana, which has a less postcard-like appearance than Cayo Levisa, but still with a beautiful sea and certainly with more personality.

Rajasthan is home to more than thousand temples, sacred lakes and other curiosities to discover. In this article of our travel blog, we give you all our tips and tricks to live an unforgettable stay in this place in India bordering Pakistan.

Day 1 - Ranakpur Jain Temple

Today we got up early. It takes 6 hours from Udaipur to Pushkar by car. The truth is that I do not want to arrive very late, so the decision to leave soon from the resort is practically necessary. I have already got up thinking that this day will be similar to the one we had in Indonesia last year when we were going from Solo to Malang and it took us a day to arrive.

We have a hearty breakfast on a rooftop in Udaipur before heading to Ranakpur. We are served crepes called pancakes, croissants not bad at all and excellent fresh pineapple juice without water, ice, or sugar. You must know that they add a quantity of aberrant sugar, water or ice in the pressed fruit juice!

It is already 9.00. It's time we had to leave. We start towards Ranakpur to see the largest jain temple in India. The road crosses mountains where greenery abounds. It's like a Japanese landscape, a scene where only the pagodas are missing. We know we are in India when we see a motorcycle carrying two men and four goats. Then further, another man drive his bike with fifty chairs of all colors stacked behind him. At the same time, today is Independence Day in India.

The road is strewn with rivers in which families bathe and wash their clothes. There are monkeys and impossible crossings with buses on mountain side roads no wider than 2.50m. We spent most of the trip between dozing and reading the Rajasthan travel guide, trying to find and learn something that we have not seen yet.

In spite of everything, we arrive at the Ranakpur temple. It was built 50 years back on behalf of a rich opium seller. Here, some figures are 33 m high. There are 24 domes, 84 chapels, 1444 pillars, 20 priests, and only one material of marble. And with all that, we do not feel oppressed by all the sculpted details or the forest of pillars that supports the domes.

I'll even say it's like the palace of King Louie in The Jungle Book but you will find that there is repetition. It's beautiful, it's quiet and as we are barefoot it is almost good. I forgot to tell you that in Udaipur we started to get some sunshine, and that for two days (despite the small morning rain) there is real light and warmth.

We take the road to Pushkar, where we will stay only one night. We have to travel 5 hours ahead by car. We arrive at the Haveli around 5pm. So, after keeping the backpack, we start the visit the city of Pushkar. We eat a couple of sandwiches in the restaurant nearby.

There is no special Pushkar monument, but the atmosphere is very authentic. The truth is that at the moment it is the one that I like most of all we have seen together with Jaisalmer that we saw on the first days. Yes it is true that we have been a bit harassed at first by the flower sellers. We take a long walk through the ghats, barefoot, mixing with the people. The atmosphere is great. It makes me want to stay here for more days.

We do not know why, but we breathe something in the special atmosphere. The sacred lake of Pushkar is a balm for us after the stress we have felt in the rest of the places we have visited so far in Rajasthan. We see, as we have been told, that the city is the best place to buy hippie clothes.

It has many shops and the truth is that it looks good quality. We meet some tourists who are totally integrated with the spirit of Pushkar. At about 7 we go to the Jaipur Ghat to see the sunset and it is the best experience of this day in Pushkar. Anyone certainly deserves to travel the road just to see this.

There we are 1 hour watching how the sky and the city change color slowly. It is a very quiet place and we have an afternoon that is not very hot. So we're enjoying it a lot. I begin to be tired again. So we go to the restaurant, from where we have spectacular views of the ghats, to have a drink. After dinner we go again to rest in our room of the hotel.

Day 2 - Brahma Temple in Pushkar

This morning, we do not get up too late to avoid the peak temperatures. We go to the top of the small hill that is very close to the village and is within walking distance. After a climb of about fifteen minutes on a marked path, we reach the summit where a small Gayatri temple stands. We then enjoy an exceptional panoramic view of Pushkar, the desert and the flower gardens. We are alone, with tourists on the horizon.

After staying for an hour, we start walking. We leave for the 45 minute climb to the Saraswati temple. It is quite tiring especially due to the hot weather. The steps that must be climbed from beginning to end are steep and slippery.

But once at the top, we enjoy a panoramic aerial view of the whole region. It is even more beautiful than at the top of the first hill. The small Saraswati temple built at the top. The temple at the top of the big hill overlooking Pushkar is also a place of pilgrimage.

We wanted, on the afternoon of our second day, to walk to the gardens located near Pushkar. We go to the bridge that spans the canal that flows into the sacred lake. The canal is dry in this season but not the lake! We walk through random paths.

The atmosphere is bucolic. We soon find families of peasants happy and proud to show us their plantations. The children join us soon enough. They are adorable. The children then show us their animals like goats, and cows. The mother milk cow's in front of us.

This excursion is good especially after megacities visited in the previous days. While walking back, we come across the largest and best known Jagatpita Brahma Mandir or Brahma Temple. It is here that Brahma made one of his rare appearances. In front of the grand staircase leading to the temple of Brahma, the stalls offer to keep our shoes in lockers for a few rupees. The surroundings of the temple are very touristy and there are so many souvenir shops.

Galtaji Sun Temple monkey Jaipur

Day 3 - Sun Temple in Jaipur

Today we wake up at 7.30 in the morning. Our destination for the day is the Galtaji Sun Temple in Jaipur. Of course we want to be in another of the most famous cities in India. The journey is about 3 hours. Once on the road we see cows, goats, women, and men cross freely on the highway! There are times when the situation is surreal!

When we passed through villages, everything seems more incredible. In the end we arrived at the hotel in Jaipur at 11 o'clock in the morning. I eat sandwiches at noon! We leave at 3 o'clock in the afternoon to visit the Sun Temple or Monkey Temple.

It reminded me of last year in Bali, when a treacherous monkey stole our sunglasses and we had a hard time getting them back. The site is very quiet, although there are lots of local tourists and pilgrims and above all has a special charm. We gradually climb the 200 meters between the Temples and every step we discover new images that we like more.

After crossing the main access, not too promising, we ascend the hill and immediately we notice the beauty of the place. The pink walls crowned by terraces, are profusely decorated with beautiful vegetal and figurative motifs extracted from Indian mythology and religion.

Slowly, we are getting closer to our destination. As anticipated a groups of primates come to us to pull our trousers. As advised by our guide, we bought a couple of bananas for little more than 30 rupees in a local market to offer them to these sacred descendants of Hanuman, one of the most popular deities of India.

Dozens of pilgrims accompany us on the ascent. They come to present their respects and offerings to the god, but they also venerate a local saint named Galav, who is said to have lived here meditating as a sign of penance for some past sin.

The temple, truly magnificent and built in pink stone, is composed of a series of pavilions where the famous little monkeys roam at ease. Around the complex, there is a sacred spring with waterfalls that precipitate their waters on two large pools of superimposed levels and where the pilgrims perform their purifying baths.

But these pools are not for exclusive use, because the monkeys, real masters and lords of the place, also play to jump into the water performing improbable pirouettes. The locals tell us that these pools never dry out thanks to the prayers of Saint Galav Rishi.

On the way back to the Birla Mandir Temple, we met many peacocks. It is amazing to see how such a spectacular animal mixes with the people in the streets. It took us a while to get to Jaipur just over 15 minutes. We arrive at the temple and after taking off our shoes, we have a good time admiring the marble structure.

Here, as in the Monkey Temple, we meet many tourists, but all locals. Now, it's time for dinner. Although I'm a little hungry, I prefer not to eat in a roadside dhaba. So we go to the hotel to eat a thali with rice, dal baati churma, gatte ki sabzi, laal maans and papad. If everything continues as it is now I will be in top shape to see the Jaipur city tomorrow!

I spent an interesting afternoon at one of the WWE matches in the USA, where I attended one of its various Pay-Per-View events. For those who do not know what I'm talking about, WWE stands for World Wrestling Entertainment. It is nothing but the old WWF (World Wrestling Federation) of Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior.

If all this still does not seem familiar to you, I summarize the concept of wrestling as follows, using the definition of Wikipedia. Professional wrestling, or pro wrestling, is a non-competitive professional sport, where matches are prearranged by the staff. It is also considered an athletic performing art, containing strong elements of catch wrestling, mock combat, and theater.

In other words, the wrestlers take it for granted, but everything is "arranged". Despite everything, it is really fun and spectacular. Returning to my day, the WWE was in Seattle for No Way Out, one of several pay-per-view events. As a kid, I was a big fan of wrestling and after emigrating to the States I started to follow it on TV.

Wrestling, however, has a tendency to become boring, at least for me. After all for how long it is possible to watch people get beaten up before getting bored? Despite everything, I could not miss this chance to see this show live. I'm not here to tell you the details of who won the title of World Heavyweight Champion, who blew or who got injured.

WWE - Sports Entertainment & Cultural Experience

For me, the most interesting thing was watching the fans. And when I talk about fans, I talk about real fans. There are people walking around with a belt on their shoulders (as real wrestlers do), or painting their faces like a favorite wrestler, or who know all the plots and subplots of WWE. And so I saw freaky nerds, compared to which the nerds of the cartoon look like normal people.

And I saw girls 14 or 15 years old crying at the entrance of John Cena or Jeff Hardy to the ring. And I saw middle-aged men, with a few hairs and a lot of belly with their Triple H t-shirt (imagine a t-shirt normally worn by a bodybuilder as it may appear on the guy mentioned above). And I have seen children buy a teddy bear with the cuddly type face and the rest of the muscular body like that of a real wrestler. I also saw forty years of hair pulling when Undertaker (the gravedigger) lost the title against Triple H.

One of the questions I receive most often on my website is where can I find Real America? That question is almost impossible to answer because Real America is everywhere. The American society has thousands of facets. It's just a matter of understanding which of these aspects you are interested in learning more about.

Fans of wrestling represent one of these facets. They are, in their own way, unique and depict a very interesting reality of American society. Maybe they will not be the Real America of the collective imagination, but they are certainly spectacular, just like the champions they adore.

My travel to Norway has been one of the best experiences I have lived and I will never forget. Visiting the wildest Norway had been in my head for many years. It was one of the trips I had dreamed about all my life. I could even say that it became an obsession since I was 15 years old. I saw that documentary of the Norwegian Fjords, which left me speechless.

I did not stop until I got it, and now, I can say that I have fulfilled some of my dreams. My trip to Norway was in the winter. It is the ideal time to see the northern lights. Is it too cold in winter? True, but it is necessary to enjoy landscapes dyed in white and nights with indigo-colored skies. The northern lights need very specific conditions and specifically in Lofoten or Vesteralen, the islands that I visit, have a very special microclimate. The average temperature is around 0 degrees, so they make it the perfect destination for a mini winter vacation.

At last, I was able to visit the Scandinavian country and tour Norway. Was it enough? Of course not. You never have enough time to visit one of the most beautiful countries in the world, sculpted in stone and ice by the Viking gods. But yes, I traveled the 14 days in Norway to the fullest. Therefore, in this Norway Travel Guide, I tell you in more detail, as was my trip through Norway.

Norway is indescribable. There are no words that can express so much beauty together. Norway is synonymous with pure nature. It is synonymous with freedom, distance, darkness and endless sunsets. Norway is life, strength, fjords, valleys, and water (in all its forms), with giant glaciers, mirror lakes, and vertiginous waterfalls.

You can imagine it, you can tell it, you can see photos or videos, even read about this Scandinavian country, but nothing is comparable to being able to feel it. Setting foot in Norway and breathing as deep as you can is obligatory. Before you know it, in a blink of an eye, Norway will take your breath away with its landscapes of vertigo.

Norway is not to be missed. And I did not! Before telling you everything I saw, and what our Norwegian Fjords itinerary was, I would like to tell you more about Norway. Norway is a very big country. So much so, that from end to end, there is about 2300 km, linking by road the towns of Kristiansand (South-West), with Vardo (Northeast). Norway is a very expensive country. The standard of living of the Norwegians and their salaries are very high and everything goes accordingly. In fact, I think it is the most expensive country I have been in so far.

As I only had little time, I started reading different travel blogs, and travelers forums. I find a lot of the necessary information to establish our route plan. The first thing to do when thinking of traveling to Norway is to decide what I want to visit: the south, with its cities and fjords, or the north, with its midnight sun or its northern lights.

I had marked the key points that I wanted to see like Stavanger, Preikestolen, Kjerag or Kjeragbolten, the fjord of light, Lysefjord, the sword monument Sverd I Fjell, Folgefonna Glacier, Odda, Bergen, Flam, Norway's prettiest and narrowest fjord, Naeroyfjord, among others. In any case, I went from Oslo to Trondheim seeing nature, cities, museums and wooden churches, walking through glaciers and navigating fjords.

But the farthest point remained. There where trees do not grow, where the road twists between impossible cliffs and even the sun hide for months in winter. The north of the north was to tread, the polar distance far north of the Arctic Circle. That could only mean an epic journey. A memorable trip in which I did not want anyone by my side. A pilgrimage to the northernmost highway where every kilometer was one more step towards a lunar landscape, so desolate and wild that one can not believe that there is life there.

This is the chronicle of the trip to the North Cape. At the highest latitude that a man can reach driving in continental Europe. The chronicle of more than 5,000 km on impossible roads. The arrival at 71 10' 21". To one of the ends of the world.

In addition to the Norwegian Lonely Planet Guide, and travel blogs, one of the most complete pages I found and that helped us prepare our route plan, was the official website of the Norwegian Tourism Office. After soaking up all this information and fighting with the clock, to give time to see as much as possible of Norway, the travel plan was prepared.

I squeeze my trips to the fullest. There is nothing of loitering in bed and lose a morning at the hotel. I get up early, take the backpack and do not return until dinner time. I always try that. My trips are very balanced, in terms of things to do and see. So I always try to make a mix of nature and city, culture, gastronomy, folklore and fun (night), when the trip allows it.

Norway wallpaper

Day 1 - Oslo

Literally running around the terminal, I arrived in time to take the flight to Oslo-Rygge. I had many alternatives to travel the more than 2,000 km that separate the Rygge airport from the North Cape. But my intention was to feel the country, walk it from end to end and feel how the latitude indicated by my GPS was increasing very little by little. I want to savor every degree, every minute and every second. So I left aside the plane, the train, and other exotic alternatives and opted for the car.

A car would be one of the most faithful travel companions I could ever imagine. It served me as a restaurant, as a hotel, as a dormitory, as a discotheque and a refuge. I planned a tour of the Scandinavian peninsula from south to north and back. They were more than 5,000 kilometers on single lane roads, and more than 1,500 kilometers below freezing temperatures, within the Arctic Circle. But it was achieved.

I leave Oslo, which was not the first goal of my trip. As I would have consumed a few precious hours I needed to drive, so I just land at the tiny airport, take the car and head north. My first destination was the Atlanterhavsvegen or Atlantic Road. Specifically, a section of it, 8 kilometers, between the towns of Molde and Kristiansund, has earned the title of the most beautiful road in the world according to the English newspaper The Guardian. It has been voted the most magnificent Norwegian civil engineering work of the entire 20th century.

The road is long. They are almost 600 kilometers, and almost all by road. Only the first kilometers are the highway. So the trip was scheduled to last 8 hours. It was already 6:30 pm, so I decided to find a hotel on the way, rest, and get there the next day.

The first thing that catches my attention, as it has also happened to me in other European countries, is the order and meticulousness with which Norwegians circulate. People absolutely respect the speed limits, without exceeding at any time even by one kilometer per hour. The road ahead was difficult, so I had to make constant overtaking during the trip. It was dark so I could not see the landscape that I was encountering.

After more than 4 hours of driving, and after the intense day I had lived, I decided to look for a hotel around where I was. It was more than 22 hours, and the task was impossible, at least for a reasonable price and at an adequate distance. I stop, then, in a rest area in the vicinity of Dombas. The night was cold, around 0 degrees, but the sky was clear and the moon did not obstruct the vision of the stars.

I hope to see the northern lights, but that night it did not appear. The back seat of my car became, then, my first hotel in Norway. Next, to where I stop, I see some public restrooms where I am also struck by their cleanliness, and, above all, the absence of writings/graffiti of any kind.

Norway is one of the safest countries in the world. Some statistics place it as the safest in the world, and that reassures. I sleep 8 hours, engine on and doors do not block. I still wake up at night, but with the peace of mind that everything is going well.

Day 2 - Ostersund

And so it is. Encouraged, fresh and happy to see the light of day soon, I set out on the Atlantic road. I drink a watery coffee in a roadside bar, where the only customers, who must have been hunters, look at me curiously. I had that feeling in general throughout Norway. The character of the people, in general, is distant, cold, little given to the smile. The opinion of a Swedish, several days later, confirmed it to me.

I continue the journey through mountains and rivers of transparent waters, in which each curve brought me an even more idyllic image of this country. The dim light of dawn cast the shadow of the mountains on the river, which in turn reflected the trees that grew on its banks. And I was driving non-stop, recreating myself in such beauty. The distance is decreasing, and the GPS gives me two alternatives. I have to take a two-hour detour through a fjord or take a ferry between two towns and shorten an hour and a half.

Of course, I opt for the latter and, while waiting for the ferry, which incessantly covers the way back and forth, I enter a kind of grocery store-cafeteria in which what surprises me most is a fruit slush machine. I choose a watery coffee they have in a thermos and for which they charge 220 Norwegian crowns. After getting off at the next town, the road to the Atlantic highway is not much.

Now I am climbing the twisted bridge I had seen several times in successive videos. The driving is very pleasant. The calm Atlantic Ocean, together with a sun timidly appears among the clouds that illuminate its waters. The mountains that surround the fjord, offers a beautiful image. I walk the road 2 times in each direction, taking pictures and videos. A path nearby enabled to travel the road in parallel, offers me a good point to take some more photos. In addition, it serves as a platform for the many fishermen who (not this day) usually pile up there.

The day was cool, but the temperature allowed for walks. I try to immerse myself in the magnetism and beauty of this corner of the Atlantic. It happens to be the second most visited place in Norway, according to its tourism page. I was lucky to be practically alone, enjoying even more of the moment. It's time to continue my way. It was about 15 o'clock when I write on my GPS the words that I wanted to introduce so much: Nordkapp. The journey was almost 1,900 km across Sweden and part of Finland, so I still had a lot to do. Road and more road, then.

I started the pilgrimage to the North Cape. I drive practically non-stop from Molde to a Swedish city called Ostersund. The road is exhausting, despite the scarcity of traffic. It was about 500 km and I chose this city simply because it was there, on my way. Located in the geographical center of Sweden, on the banks of the 5th largest lake in the country, the Storsjon, it has certainly, nothing interesting. It has not even managed to host any of the winter Olympic games.

It was my first night in Sweden, and I hoped to confirm the myth of Swedish women, famous for being tall, blonde, and beautiful. But instead, the hotel receptionist is a young boy and extraordinarily effeminate. That is, he had an extraordinary pen. Educated, but distant, he gives me the keys and I lay down exhausted.

Day 3 - Lappajarvi

After a tour of this city the next morning, I begin to wonder where the hell the Swedes are that everyone seems to be talking about. I only see short ladies, many of them brunettes and all of them without any charm. The city lacks life, traffic, and movement. The closest thing to something alive are the people who move on the street with skis in the background. Yes, I saw this in Sweden several times. Skiers walk down the street with the skis on and the sticks in hands. A curious image.

Ostersund lacked a soul but had the beauty of the lake on whose banks it stands. If it is necessary to make a summary of the country, I would define it as the country of lakes and pines. I traveled more than half of the country, from south to north, and the landscape was a magical beauty. There were hundreds of crystal clear lakes, immense forests that reached far beyond where our eyes went. There were islands within lakes, beaches lacustrine sand, endless lines between pines. And all with the winter sun as the masterful partner for this picture.

However, my eyes get used to this idyllic image as soon as the twenty-ninth lake appears before me. Lovely landscape, yes, but monotonous. At least to have to drive 1000 km through this country.

My goal that day was to arrive in Finland and find some indicator on the road marking the beginning of the Arctic Circle. However, that day I will always remember it for something I did not expect to find so soon, so suddenly and so amazingly. But everything in its time.

When I was already on the 65th parallel, my impatient glances at the GPS were frustrating. Each meridian degree equals 111 km, but of course, the road zigzags, and my course was slight to the east. So I was afraid to reach the polar circle at night and not be able to take pictures. After almost two hours, I reach 66, and a little later, I see a sign on the road: POLCIRKELN, NAPAPIIRI, ARCTIC CIRCLE, CERCLE POLAIRE, POLARKREIS, next to a silhouette of the province of Norrbotten.

My GPS tells me that I'm on the 66th parallel 33' 11", approximately 31 meters further south of 66º 33' 45", but with the indication, it's worth it. A few meters further south of the sign, a ball of the world and some abandoned buildings that served as a cafeteria and recreation area speak of a time when people stopped at that latitude as a playground. I appreciate that desolation since it impregnates even more magic at the moment. I was entering one of the roughest and most difficult areas of the planet and abandoned buildings were the best welcome.

I keep driving and I see reindeer crossing the road and they force me to stop several times. When it is already dark, I stop in the last town before the border with Finland. Its name makes me smile: Pajala. A pizza, and, a few kilometers later, I approached a bridge that acts as a border between the two countries.

In Finland, it is one hour longer than in Sweden, which is why I call the hotel where I would stay for the night to advise that my arrival time was 10:30 pm instead of 9:30 pm I had planned. The town where I spent the night has the unpronounceable name of Lappajarvi. But, taking a straight line, about 20 kilometers from the town, it unexpectedly happens what I had not imagined.

At about 30 degrees above the horizon, a gray arc begins to form that crosses the entire sky, from side to side. I thought at first that it could be a cloud because it seemed too strange that the sky was so clear. Suddenly, that gray bow begins to expand and make strange movements, swinging from side to side and then I understand everything.

I stop the car, turn off the lights, and the show makes me goosebumps. It was the Aurora Borealis. That bow changes color and begins to turn green. It is an intense green, like neon, that expands and contracts, that spirals and turns white again, and then green, in a dance that lasts 5 minutes, or maybe much less. But at that moment the time had stopped for me.

The silence that surrounded me, the darkness of the road, the fact of being somewhere in the north of the Scandinavian peninsula in the middle of the night, gave it a magic even more special that fits that moment that I can never forget.

The hotel consists of several independent cabins, made of wood, with a sauna next to a lake. The owners explain to me that I must enter it at 80 degrees of temperature, and then even more when I enter a hole made in the surface of the frozen lake. It's the Finnish sauna. The place is idyllic, and the night is perfect. After a day of high solar activity and a clear sky at night, the probability of seeing aurora borealis is much higher. And so it was. I managed to witness two more a short time later.

Whoever reads this blog and has been able to see one, knows what I mean when I say it is the most incredible show I have ever seen or can imagine. Who has not done it, I advise you to leave everything and go north, wherever you are, and enjoy this phenomenon. One will see the planet from then on in another way. There would be a small feeling, understanding how innocent we are to think that we dominate the universe.

Norway wallpaper

Day 4 - Honningsvag

The night was peaceful and I woke up the next day with the clear objective to reach the North Cape. A little over 400 km away separated me from there. The most spectacular part in terms of landscapes was to come. The landscape since leaving the unpronounceable Finnish people is a majestic white. The temperature is -5 degrees and a wind blow that lowers the thermal sensation several degrees more.

I stop at the Norwegian-Finnish border, marked by a fence only opened by the road. Norway does not belong to the European Union, but yes to the European Economic Area and the Schengen agreement. The rules of the European Union do not apply in Norway. So there are some customs offices in case you enter or leave the country with something to declare. This happens in all border crossings between Norway and Finland, but not in Sweden and Norway, where there are only customs posts at the main crossings.

Again in Norwegian territory, I continue, then, my trip. The first kilometers run parallel to the Bievjaveaijohka River, from which absolutely nobody who reads this blog will have heard. It slides between mountains with fewer and fewer trees, between a white and sandy landscape, of an overwhelming beauty. The road meanders. I see frozen lakes, polar villages of houses made of sheet metal, innumerable flags of the Sami people, inhabitants of the Lapland region and water, lots of fresh water that falls from thin and high waterfalls.

After a couple of hours of walking, I finally reach Alta, capital of the Finnmark region. On the banks of the fjord of the same name, I am surprised to be on a lively city, with children playing in the streets, an intense traffic and not too monotonous. It has almost 20,000 inhabitants and its situation, at the bottom of the fjord, softens the temperature so much that it enjoys a climate very similar to that of the south of Norway.

In addition, it has clear skies of clouds most of the year, which makes it one of the best cities from which to see the northern lights. I stop a couple of hours in Hammerfest. I take this opportunity to go down to visit the northern capital, a modern town whose attractions are a church and the Polar Bear Society.

I was not there to stop for a long time there since the end of my journey was near. I wanted to get to the North Cape before it was dark. So I continued the road north in what would be one of the most pleasurable of my whole life.

Once on the village of Olderfjord, which gives its name to the fjord, passes, the road runs parallel to the Barents Sea, that is, to the Arctic Ocean. The beaches follow one another adorned by fishing huts that dock their boats on the same shore. The sun does not stop going down, but it does so in an extraordinarily slow way, as befits those latitudes, casting a dull, dim, gray light.

The road then goes through a lunar landscape, shockingly desolate. There is not a tree, hardly any life, or circulation, for tens of kilometers. Only some birds and lichens, and the music in my car give me company. There are endless lines in front of me in what seemed, and in fact was, the road to the end of the world.

Near the tunnel that connects continental Europe with the island of Mageroya, I go along the ocean without crossing any car. The feeling of loneliness is terrifying and fascinating. Ahead, there is no human settlement beyond some semi-abandoned fishermen's huts. I stop to breathe the icy breeze of the Arctic Ocean, to touch its waters and nature seems to ask me what are you doing here.

I try to put myself in the skin of the first settlers of these lands, in those of those explorers who were incessantly looking for the passage from the north. For a moment, I came to imagine their sense of abandonment, fascination, and humility before these landscapes where nothing seems to survive.

And finally, I reach the North Cape Tunnel, which connects with the island to which I am heading. With 6870 m long and 212 meters below sea level as the minimum level, it was for a time the longest and deepest underwater tunnel in the world. The first 3 kilometers are downhill, on a steep and straight slope that causes the ears to be blocked by pressure. And, in the end, I enter Mageroya.

Literally, Mageroya means "desolate island". And those who baptized this corner were not mistaken in the name. It continues the same landscape that I described before. There is a landscape of tundra, of mountains without trees, vegetation, and life. The calm Barents Sea gives the landscape a picturesque touch like a postcard.

My destination was the hotel in Honningsvag. Under Norwegian law, a population deserves city status when it exceeds 5000 inhabitants. Honningsvag has just under 2500 but was declared a city in 1996, which makes it the northernmost city in Europe, and one of the most boreal in the world. I am the only client of the hotel and one of the few travelers that have visited the island for those dates. And, of course, the only one who has made the journey from Oslo by car. So I earned the name of crazy according to several inhabitants of the island.

There was no time to lose. The light began to get scarce alarmingly fast. So I leave the suitcase in the room. I take the car and I go to the Nordkapp, which separated me the last half hour of the road. I zigzag between mountains, with less and less light, and I fear I will not arrive on time. The winds whip to the point of shaking the car. I take the last detour, and I head toward my end of the journey. As expected, I was the only visitor.

A visitor center, a restaurant and a parking lot are totally empty. I stop the car and go on foot to the ball of the world that stands as a symbol that you are at the end of the world. The wind is strong and freezing. The light is practically non-existent, and the cliff is steep and high. I am alone. Behind me is entire Europe.

In front of me is the north pole. I have arrived and the feeling of satisfaction is only comparable to that of absolute solitude. The sun refuses to set. I find myself beyond the 71st parallel, and its light reaches here at an impossible angle,

The goal is fulfilled. I grab some stones, the most northern in Europe, and I put them in my pocket. And I hear the sound of two people screaming. There were two Latvians who work in Tromso and who have come from there to do the same as me. A little closer, I tell you. They stay in the same hotel as me and they ask me to take some pictures of them. They leave and I continue with my reflections and enjoying the moment until it is time to return, once it gets dark.

The restaurants are closed at that time (approximately 6 pm). So I enter a supermarket and buy a pizza to make in the hotel kitchen. While I eat, I start this blog and take the opportunity to look at the sky, to see if I hope to see some other aurora borealis. But the weather is horrendous, with strong winds, rain, cold and the sky, logically, overcast. I'm going to bed soon.

And then an idea occurs to me. Why not use one of these apps to meet people around to see if by any chance there is someone willing to stay for a drink? After all, I am intrigued by life here, told by locals. Bingo, there is one less than 2 km away, which means it is in Honningsvag. I set up a virtual conversation.

The girl was born in Honningsvag but grew up in Kirkenes, Norwegian town near the border with Russia, where the midnight sun shines for more than two months and the winter darkness also looms for two months. The mental confusion produced by the midnight sun is something that is hard to get used to even if you were born far beyond the Arctic Circle, like him. She cooks typical Norwegian cakes as a hobby.

Trip to Norway through the Arctic, Fjords and Northern Lights

Day 5 - Tromso

I wake up very early and procrastinate in bed looking for information about this place. The hotel reminds me of a movie with its long corridors, its desolation, and its environment. I'm the only customer who takes breakfast at that time. It is a buffet consisting, among other things, of salmon paste in a tube, fish in vinegar, cod and different delights of the ocean.

The cold climate made up for it with a contained passion, an authentic oasis of interior warmth. The end of the European continent united in an impossible latitude. The exterior desolation contrasted with an unleashed fury, stripped of all modesty.

In winter we have discovered this strip of Europe becomes a kaleidoscope of lights from the natural ones of the sun to the artificial ones of the cities. Everywhere there are lights that color the landscape, are reflected in the sea or sparkle in the snow. And we realized it right away, already when the plane approached Tromso. From the top, we can see vast white spaces surrounded by dense yellow lights that run through the fjords.

The light show continues once we arrive in the city. Tromso, which has the highest number of wooden houses (old-style ones) in Norway, looks like a huge carillon of lights reflected in the sea. Many of these houses have been converted into bars or restaurants. And inside we discover a new light, the warm one of the candles that is reflected on the faces of the people, on the wood of the furniture and between the glasses especially of beer as Tromso has the most northern brewery in Europe.

We have dinner in one of the restaurants a few meters from the sea, which turns out to be the best place to eat the reindeer. Despite the initial perplexities, we take courage and discover that the filet has the flavor, but much more tender. And the meal continues munching potatoes and nachos.

Trip to Norway Tromso

Day 6 - Tromso

The awakening in Tromso offers us a new show. In the darkness of the previous evening, in fact, we could not see all the cliffs, the huge blocks of rock that surround the fjords. It is precisely on these imposing masses of stone and snow that we begin to see the first colors of the Norwegian dawn, a long and special spectacle. First the black of the night turns towards the blue, meanwhile, from the bottom, it seems to rise a pink halo. Then the blue becomes blue and in the center appears a yellow stripe.

Because of the particular inclination between the Earth's axis and the solar ecliptic, in fact, in this season the sun is never seen directly. The sun is there but seems to have hidden beyond the horizon. And the only sign of its presence is the colors of the sky.

In front of a landscape so beautiful we cannot do anything but admire in silence, at most take more photos as possible to try to tell the uniqueness once we get home. But suddenly someone hears someone exclaim: Frozen! Focusing on watching the sunrise on the left, we forgot to enjoy the fjords on the right. A landscape that changes at every turn and that, suddenly, opens on a loop of a frozen sea. We are about to reach the destination and the temperature is around -30 degrees.

We meet the Alaskan Husky that will lead our sleds. Already from a distance, we start to hear them barking. They seem aggressive but are just impatient to shoot. So much so that when we approach to caress they become affectionate and playful.

The path in which they lead us with their sleds is characterized above all by silence where there are rivulets, rivers, and small waterfalls in summer. Now everything is covered with snow as if suspended in anticipation of spring. The excursion to Lyngsfjord is also an invitation to learn about the Sami culture.

After the sleigh ride, in fact, we have lunch at the camp where a lavvu has been installed especially for tourists. The lavvu traditionally is the encampment of tents for shepherds, in this case, it is the space where they serve lunch. The ceiling is only in fabric and yet the naturally heated environment with the wood stove manages to remain very hot. And the warmth creates a relaxed and friendly, almost intimate atmosphere. Some take off the cumbersome snow-proof suit, some drink coffee, while some only enjoy the flames.

After the reindeer of the evening before, we now taste the salmon soup. Perhaps for the fire, perhaps for the fabric of the ceiling, we have discovered a new color of Norway. In the lavvu it is all amber.

Trip to Norway

Day 7 - Andenes

The weather varies in a fast and merciless way. So I chose the day for the boat excursion to the Svalbard Islands, according to weather forecasts, a choice that turned out to be perfect. Before leaving I decided to take a hike to the so-called Arctic cathedral, another modern church shaped like a tent with the beautiful stained glass windows. Our boat leaves on time in the direction of the glacier.

In the course of navigation within the fjord to reach our destination, I immediately sight many animals. The wind whips my face, so I stand, high up in the bow of the boat. The views are unique. Under the cliffs covered with guano, the puffins are the masters. They fly, play, chase each other around the boat.

At one point, the guy who was introducing us to life in the Arctic, tell us many interesting facts about these extreme territories, and stops and diverts our attention somewhere in the middle of the fjord. Here it is! The whole boat shakes and the captain changes direction to get closer. We meet the blue whale. We all bow to admire it. The huge blue whale that sailed the seas of the world and that we had seen so close in Sri Lanka on board of the small boat. Now we admire in all its grandeur nothing less than in the Arctic.

Then the seals. Even the seals inhabit the Arctic. I have seen them swim calmly before the glacier. A helicopter flies over us at low altitude, that connects other remote locations of the Svalbard Islands like Longyearbyen. Meanwhile, we approach the glacier. It is impressive in its enormity with its blinding whiteness and a thousand shades of blue that the ice takes on reflecting this limpid sky.

Small icebergs move around us, seals swim, and at one point gets to a creak a bit stronger and a roar with the typical splash. A chunk of ice broke off and crashed into the sea. One scene wonderful from which no one would want to be detached. The sun burns the skin but does not realize it saw the cold and the wind. The crew quickly prepares a barbecue. Right here, in the warm sun, sitting by boat we admire the glacier and enjoy great seafood of the inevitable Norwegian salmon.

But the weather is unforgiving as ever. In less than no time, it is time to leave for Pyramiden. Pyramiden, the town now abandoned, was the scene of the Cold War between Russia and the West. At the port our guide welcomes us. The danger of polar bear here is real and true. It can be anywhere and has a way of hiding everywhere in the midst of these abandoned buildings and if hungry is very very dangerous. At the port, we spot a swimming polar bear.

In a very old bus, we are brought into the town and the type starts to tell stories of an incredible reality that dates back to 1998 when the town was abandoned. In practice, it was a center for the extraction of coal. Over time there occurred a kind of clash of ideologies. Thus we find, in addition to facilities for the extraction of coal, pianos still functioning. People are still engaged in melodies and theaters, with entertainment of all kinds that make it look idyllic in this place.

There is even a swimming pool with heated sea water, the first of the Svalbard Islands and then schools, hospitals, gyms, basketball courts and football grounds! We find the grass in what was called the Champs Elysees of Svalbard. The main buildings, like this, dormitories for those who lived here, had rounded edges to better withstand the incessant wind, strong and long cold winters.

The view from the highest points of Pyramiden is undoubtedly wonderful, right in front of the imposing glacier. But we must never forget that the sunny days are very few. Up there, right at the top, is what it is jokingly called the internet cafe. Yes, even here there is a way to connect to the Internet, in spite of all expectations.

You just have to have the desire to go on foot up there because the mountain front is pyramid-shaped, hence the name of the town, prevent the signal from reaching the city. The only place where the signal arrives is the station up there. In practice, it is a great method to avoid creating dependency by the connection and we arrive through the Champs Elysees, at the 79th parallel.

It is impressive really to think about how relatively little is the distance from here to the North Pole. Of course, just to stay at the hotel you must be armed with a weapon. A small museum with some of the memorabilia that time was, still tells some interesting facts about this place that is so absurd.

It is time to go back. Navigation in the fjord still gives breathtaking views with a shining sun. We admire settlements, shelters, areas used by those who even go up here with kayaks for trips to Svalbard to experience the Arctic. Even animals and a certainty and we return to spot polar bears and see the manatees.

I watch the scenery as the ship approaches the archipelago of Vesteralen. At 10 we land finally at Risoyhamn, from which buses arrive at Andenes at the northern tip of the island, my goal for that day. In the sea, in the distance, I see the profiles of the other islands and the atmosphere a bit from cover to all a sense of timelessness.

Then up here life flows at a pace so different from ours! I arrived at the hostel, where the day before I had booked. After keeping the luggage, I then go around a bit in the village. There's a big red beacon that is its symbol, wooden houses painted red along the harbor, gulls, boats, and more modern buildings but always painted in bright colors.

I make a visit to the Aurora Borealis museum and then I show up at an appointment for the safari to the whales that I had already booked. This was one of the things I really wanted to make this trip. We visit the whale museum with the guides and, we set sail. We must go on the high seas to reach the area of the whales, which they explained to be the sperm whale species but are not true whales.

As the boat goes to the ocean, there are hot drinks on offer and cookies. I make friends with young people who act as our guide. They come from all over Europe. Unfortunately, the sun disappears behind the clouds, pulled by a strong wind and it is getting colder. Between the cold, the whale has been spotted thanks to the sonar boat, but it is underwater and we have to wait for it to emerge to breathe. Finally here! All bow to it and take photos! What a thrill! But after seconds it dives and here appears again, this time even closer and longer, for about 5 minutes.

Now we head home. As we return, we have a dinner of a hot soup and bread. Then I take refuge below deck, where, despite the wet jeans, I can even fall asleep lying on a bench. Upon arrival, it was colder and I was trembling. Fortunately, the hostel is a 2-minute walk. Finally tonight I should be able to rest as I should, in a real bed, for 8 hours straight.

Day 8 - Lappajarvi

As we pass through a narrow strait between two of the Lofoten, which seem like Caribbean beaches with unspoiled nature and breathtaking views, we make a small deviation in the Trollfjord, the narrowest fjord in Norway, where the vessel moves, leaving just a couple of meters on each side. In the afternoon, during the brief stop in Svolvaer, I go down and do a tour, and for the first time see codfish hanging in the sun to dry, that I see anywhere in Lofoten, since cod is their primary production.

Svolvaer is not a particularly attractive place, and the only special feature is a nearby mountain peak that ends with two horns, which in fact is called the goat of Svolvaer. With Ski on the ship, we land finally in Stamsund. At Stamsund we do not have much to see. In fact, the environment is beautiful, where is a series of fishermen's houses, just outside the village, on a small bay.

After crowning the Nordkapp in all its aspects, I headed for the long journey to Oslo. It was Sunday, it was 3 pm and I had 48 hours to drive 2025 km to the airport. After a really complicated journey, with the icy road and some curves where the car is about to leave, I arrived at my first stop. It is the same hotel in Finland where I had slept the night before. Despite looking at the sky for more than an hour, the aurora borealis did not make an appearance.

Day 9 - Ostersund

The family that runs the hotel receives me as one more, and the next morning, I talk to them and sign in their guest book. 54 different nationalities had passed by, he says. They introduce me to the reindeer they have as a pet, who tries to attack me with its horns every time I touch it. He was eating and I did nothing but bother him.

The day passed as expected. I travel more than 1000 km of road on Swedish roads and highways, between lakes and pines again. I had been recommended to eat reindeer, whose meat is tender and tasty, so I look for a restaurant on my way. I enter the city of Umea and enjoy a delicious steak. Certainly, it is delicious.

I was willing to drive until the body could not go any further. I surrender at 10 pm, after more than 12 hours of almost uninterrupted driving, in a roadside hotel in the middle of a Swedish town. I saw the light, saw the word "Hotell" and entered. The owner running an old road hotel, is alone, single and strange, with that cold and scrutinizing look that pretends to be friendly without getting it.

He tells me about the Norwegians was poor in the 70s until they discovered oil and now looks over their shoulder at Sweden. His English is excellent. His eyes light up and when he leaves, I look for holes in the wall and take a shower without closing the curtain, just in case.

Trip to Norway

Day 10: Bergen

We have breakfast at the hotel, the same type of breakfast as at the Oslo hotel. We go to the tourist office (a beautiful building inside) to get a map of Bryggen (the dock area with the old houses). We spent most of the morning hanging around and around the castle. We see there is a contest in the gardens and there are a lot of people making huge figures with wooden slats.

At noon we approach the famous fish market. We ended up logically eating there a hot dish. There is not much tourist yet and we can eat (standing) at some high tables that they have there. There are guys selling raspberry ice cream on the street. We have dessert! In the afternoon, we search for the Floibanen, very close to the fish market.

We ask the ticket seller for a map of the hiking routes we can take when we get to the top. We bought one way tickets, because it costs the same to buy single tickets than one round trip and we are not sure as we may make the return on foot. The views from Floyen are very good. Bergen is vast. We start to walk and do more than 2 hours of hiking. The Norwegians go up and down the slopes.

We come down to Bergen, in the park where the lake is. At 6 o'clock in the afternoon we hear a woman sing ethnic songs on the speakers (I would say Vikings) from the top of some roof. The voice is silent and then from another roof a man sings something different. He shuts up again and another voice starts from another roof.

So up to 4 points, 4 roofs of different buildings draw a square, and us in the middle. They continue like this, singing alternately for several minutes. People look at each other smiling. It's nice. It is part of the OiOi Festival, live.

We did not know, but we found out the next day that it's festival time in Bergen and there are several activities. After dinner we take a walk through the center. There are a lot of people on the street, with parties on boats. It's 12 at night and it's the first time we see nightfall.

Day 11: Stavanger

We make a last visit to the fish market to take something home. We have booked the Bergen-Stavanger trip in the Flaggruten a little over 1 month in advance. At 10 we left. Nobody asks us for the ticket. There are people who buy tickets there inside, in a window. The boat goes very fast. It skirts islets that seem uninhabited. We passed through villages. It's very good.

It makes several stops along the way. In Leirvik they announce that we must change boats to continue to Stavanger. And we do that. We eat on the boat. And it is at the exit of the Flaggruten in Stavanger when a member of the crew goes picking up the tickets bought online.

We took the map and arrived at the hotel, booked directly on the hotel's website. The room is very good! We also have hot milk with coffee and tea bags and complimentary chocolates. We let go of the backpacks and we go to see the city, much quieter than Bergen. We see Gamle Stavanger (the white houses of the old quarter) and other areas. When we get tired of walking we mix in a kind of outdoor party very close to the hotel.

There is a pub. I would not know how to define it, and in front of a garden with a DJ playing music, a girl juggling. It looks more Ibiza than Norway. We entertain ourselves by seeing the beautiful people of the city. We buy dinner from the supermarket, eat and go to sleep.

Day 12 - Preikestolen

We get up very early to go and buy food at the supermarket. We do not know what kind of food we will get at the Preikestolhytta, the shelter where the Preikestolen route begins. We have breakfast and we go to the Fiskepiren dock, just in front of where the Flaggruten left us, to take the ferry (it also takes cars) that will take us to Tau.

It's 8 o'clock in the morning. We know that we can buy the tickets in the same boat, but there is a sign that tells us that we can also buy them in the offices, before going up. So we went into the building and bought a combined round-trip bus ticket. It really is as if we had hired an organized excursion, but without a guide. When we get to Tau there is a bus from the company waiting exclusively for those of us who bought this ticket.

There is also another normal bus waiting for Jorpeland, which I do not know if it goes to the same place. I do not know if it would have been cheaper either. Now it's done. In the bus we are less than 30 people. We arrived at the Preikestolhytta, a hostel with cafeteria, kiosk, toilets and free showers!

The driver of the bus gives us notes with the schedules, so that we have it in mind at the time of the return. They had already given us the schedules also when buying the tickets. We start the road following the indications and the red T.

It's sunny and hot, but the air is cold. We take it easy and in 2 hours we are up there! We cannot believe it! Maybe the secret has been not trying to follow anyone. Most people who have started the tour with us have taken it with a lot of enthusiasm at the beginning. In the midway, which in my opinion is the most complicated part (the area of ​​the big stones), they could not breathe.

We passed by a couple of small lakes. From time to time there is a map that tells us where we are on the route. When we get there up there are four cats. I'm glad I got up early. I cannot describe the sensation. We swell to take pictures. We have been lucky, and the fjord looks pretty good!

We had the intention of eating here upstairs, but we decided that better not, that we will do it in the hostel's snack bars. We see more people coming with us on the bus. A man from Austria, who we had met before, is happy to see us still there, because that's how we will take some pictures of him (he travels alone).

When we start the return we are even happier to have got up early. We see parents with children, dogs, and more tourists. They will not all fit there in the Pulpit Rock! After lunch we approach the hostel. At 3:45 the bus takes us back to Tau to take the boat back to Stavanger. We bought dinner at a supermarket in front of the ferry dock, which closes at 11pm and they also have hot food to take away.
We fall tired in bed.

Day 13 - Hafrsfjord

We take it easy and try to maximize our exit from the hotel. We leave the backpacks in reception throughout the day. I start by walking along the beautiful Lake Breiavatnet to later visit the Stavanger Cathedral built in 1125. It is the only medieval cathedral in Norway that has retained its original appearance and in continuous use.

From here I climbed a hill on Kirkegaten Street to reach the tower of Valbergtarnet that was originally the highest point of the city. From the tower, I go down to the old port warehouses. Today there are 60 of the original 250.

After learning more about Stavanger, we eat at the fish market. It is not a street market, but a closed, tiny place. We bought a bag of the typical boiled prawns, boiled crayfish, fried fish and smoked mackerel. We sat at a table there outside. There are people selling away raspberry ice creams here too! We have dessert again!

In the afternoon we go to see the Sverd i fjell in the Hafrsfjord neighborhood of Madla, a borough in Rogaland. For this we take the bus, in the stop near the park of the lake, very close to the train station and buses. The bus makes many stops (more than we expected) and there is nothing inside the bus that tells us their names. We get off at the Madlaleiren stop (it's written in the stand booth), and right next to it there's a military base or something similar.

We continue walking straight, see the water, and we go towards there. Next we see the swords. It is a beach on the edge of a fjord. People sunbath (today it is very hot). We explored the area. The return bus is taken from the same place but on the opposite sidewalk. Once in Stavanger, we bought food at a supermarket for dinner at night and breakfast the next day. We collect our bags and go to the train station. We bought tickets and a sleeper coach online for the Stavanger-Oslo tour.

It's the first time we're in a sleeper. It's a red train, square, a little old on the outside. Half an hour before they let us go up. A sign on the platform tells us to go to the cafeteria car to validate our tickets. The conductor is sitting there. I give him the printed paper and he hands me a ticket and the keys to the room. The compartment is tiny. We have sheets and nordic soaps too and is better than I expected.

We had dinner right there on the removable table. Someone tries to open our door. We open ourselves to see who he is and a man shows us a key with the same number of room as ours. We tell him that he must have mistaken the car or that he asks the conductor, because his key does not open and ours does.

We leave at 10. Until 12 o'clock at night there is a meeting in the hall. We cannot even get past the people! Then everything is silent, even the speaker that we have inside the room that warns us of the stops. We roll the curtain so that light does not enter. And to the beat of the noise we fell asleep.

Trip to Norway

Day 14 - Oslo

We were already awake because we had put the alarm clock. Before arriving at Oslo Central Station, we are notified by the loudspeaker. We have slept a lot, sometimes, but it has been a smooth journey, without lurches or many stops (or so I think). We arrived in Oslo at 7:26. We had breakfast at the station.

We arrived at the bus station (next door) and kept our backpacks in a locker. We take one last walk through Oslo. We approach the Akershus fortress. We are tempted to take one of the free bikes that are scattered around the center. That's what we saw that people did. But as we do not know where these points are distributed and we do not have much time left, we are left with the desire.

We return to Bussterminalen and see on the screen on which platform our bus will be back to the airport. We look for the round trip ticket that we bought when coming. At 12 the bus leaves. We check in (there is almost no one, the airport is very small). They make us pass our backpacks in the luggage because they consider it special luggage for the fact that it is a backpack. A guard passes them through the scanner and says that everything is fine.

We pass through the normal detector to access the boarding gates. Almost everyone is made to take off their shoes. We eat at a self service right outside our boarding gate. At 2 we got on the plane and took off.

During the flight we take stock of the trip. Everything was great, but we agreed that the best moments were spent in nature. The trip has been full of anecdotes, and experiences. Some have been recorded by the camera, but many others only in our memory.