I haven’t even finished posting on my John Muir Trail trip and it’s time for the Tour de Mont Blanc. I’m now in Chamonix making final preparations for the third big trek. I met up earlier today (Sept. 5) with my friends Tom and Paula, who I’ll be hiking with for a short section of this trip. Tomorrow we hit the trail.
My route for the circuit totals 105 miles that I’m planning to cover in 8 days. One new feature for this hike is a GPS transmitter that will transmit my location hourly (assuming I don’t forget to turn it on). You can follow the action here.
Before arriving in Chamonix, I made a couple of quick sightseeing stops in Stockholm, Sweden and Oslo, Norway. I’ve never been to either Nordic country before and was thoroughly impressed by both capitals. With friendly people, dynamic cultures and beautiful locations, they’re at least as great as you’ve heard.
Stockholm is in southeastern Sweden on Lake Malaren, just west of the Baltic Sea. I had only three days so I could only skim the surface of everything there is to do there. My first stop was the Royal Palace, located in the heart of the city in Gamla Stan. Somewhat boring (for a palace) from the outside, it is massive and contains a number of worthwhile museums and exhibits.
Then I took in the Swedish History Museum. The highlight was a massive exhibit on Viking history. Popular culture has so mythologized Viking culture that it was interesting to see a more grounded version of the society. The stereotypes can’t be too far off, though, because even the real version contains a significant amount of gold and weaponry.
I also made an excursion to Drottningholm Palace, located about 45 minutes outside of town. Drottningholm is billed as the Scandanavian Versailles. I was skeptical going in, but the palace and its gardens were surprisingly worthy of the comparison. It even includes its own versions of the Hall of Mirrors and Marie Antoinette’s Village.
Oslo is a beautiful city set among Norway’s iconic fjords (although I’ve heard other assessments and think I may have benefitted from some exceptionally nice weather). It was incredibly easy to get caught up just admiring the city. The vast waterfront areas, in particular the Radhusplassen and the newly developed Tjuvholmen, were a great place to spend time.
In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, Oslo is an incredibly accessible city. The fact that you can easily walk from one end of the city to another makes life easy on a tourist. Of the many cultural and historical attractions on offer, I visited the Akershus Fortress, the Museum of Cultural History, the Fram Museum (a museum dedicated to Norway’s history of polar exploration), and the Viking Ship Museum.
I found the Viking Ship Museum most interesting. The museum contains three massive ships that were used in Viking burials around the 10th century. The ships were found at various times over the last 150 years and are amazingly well preserved. In addition to the ships, the burials included a huge number of other items intended to see the deceased comfortably into the after life. Everything from clothes and cooking items to weapons, carts, horses and dogs. It was a fascinating look into the upper classes of the Viking world.
That’s it for now. I’ll be working my way around the Tour de Mont Blanc until September 13th. In the meantime, look for Parts 2 and 3 of my John Muir Trail adventure.