Atlanta: The City with the Aquarium

Last year I had the opportunity to go on five work trips. They were pretty fun and they give me a chance to visit random places in North America. I had a bunch of trips lined up in the last few months of 2018 so I had a bit of a break in 2019 since I just got back from my first work trip of the year, a visit to Atlanta.

When I was in high school I went to Atlanta with my family so I’ve been there before. I honestly don’t remember too much from that trip but one thing really stuck with me and made me incredibly hyped to revisit the city: the aquarium.

I’m pretty excited that they’re expanding the aquarium actually.

Now, I love fish and the ocean, so I enjoy going to aquariums when I visit new places. I’ve been to a bunch so far but the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta was the one that always impressed me the most. So this time, I wanted to make sure I revisited it.

So, after work was done on my first day, I went back to the aquarium to check it out.

There was a ton of people there. I didn’t remember there being so many people went I went and visited.. a decade ago. But regardless, the aquarium itself didn’t really change that much. The main exhibits were still there and the only real change I saw was that they added a VR station.

A bunch of people and a new VR station.

But, that was fine with me because the main reason why I love the Georgia Aquarium is due to their shark tank. Most aquariums in the world have the same style of tank where they have some sharks and other fish in there. The Georgia Aquarium is the same but with one big difference.

Whale sharks!

People watching a whale shark.

It’s one of the few tanks in the world that are large enough to hold whale sharks, and man, they are so cool. To be able to see the biggest fish in the world just chilling in the tank in front of you is absolutely wonderful.

I remember just watching the tank for such a long time when I went in high school and this time around it was no less majestic. Such a cool aquarium. Highly recommend everyone to go. The sheer size of the tank and the fish in there is absolutely amazing and I can honestly watch them for hours at a time.

The shark tunnel, featuring manta rays.

One day, I will swim in that tank.

Anyways, aside from the aquarium, I thought Atlanta wasn’t that exciting. They have a bunch of random things like the Coke Museum and CNN, but those are all paid entry stuff and so there’s not a lot of pure sights to check out, if that makes sense.

Considering how I was in Atlanta for work, times didn’t really work out for me to visit the museums or whatever, so unfortunately I didn’t really do too much. Pretty much every day was just wake up, walk through the Centennial Olympic Park to the convention center, eat, then do something random before sleep.

The (fenced) Olympic Rings at the Centennial Olympic Park.

One of those random nights was when I was walking around and randomly bumped into this guy I’ve met before at a couple of conferences. It was pure coincidence but it worked out since we grabbed some food and drinks at the Krog Street Market and then walked around the city a bit on the way back to the hotels.

We stopped by this one bridge that had a pretty good view of the city. Atlanta’s skyline isn’t the most fantastic but the view from the bridge was pretty nice. Plus, apparently the Walking Dead was filmed there, which is kinda neat.

The view from Jackson Street Bridge.

Other than that I didn’t really do too much. I did go out of the downtown core one time to buy some stuff at a Target though, but man, once you leave the core the city gets kinda dark and sketchy.

So a bit of a shorter entry this time, but I really don’t have too much to write about. Honestly I think Atlanta is worth visiting just for the aquarium alone, but I know that not everyone finds them interesting.

I have a bunch of work trips scheduled over the next few months so stay tuned for more posts about American cities!

Oslo: The Quiet Capital

The last stop on my trip to Norway was Oslo, the capital. To be honest, whenever I think of visiting Norway, I think of checking out the natural sights like the fjords and mountains. I don’t particularly associate Norway with large and exciting cities so I didn’t really know what to expect from Oslo.

I made my way to Oslo from Flåm via train and it was a longer ride than I initially expected it to be. Looking outside it honestly felt like half the time you’re just looking out into the tundra. The ground was covered in snow and the skies were covered in clouds so everything was just white. Then, we got closer to Oslo and all of a sudden it felt like we were in civilization again.

I arrived at about 7 pm so it was already night time. My accommodation wasn’t very far from the train station so I figured I’d just walk.

The Oslo Marina at night.

It was about a 15 minute walk and the city felt so dead. Like, there were almost no people on the streets and aside from the random street car rumbling by, there weren’t even that many vehicles on the road.

It was a bit odd since I thought the downtown core of the country’s capital and largest city would be.. busier. It wasn’t even all that late so I was just a bit confused.

I looked it up afterwards and found out that Oslo has a population of about 650,000 people, which is honestly not a lot. I mean, Ottawa has a larger population and I always associate Ottawa with being a small city.

“Hold up lemme divebomb these seagulls real quick.”

I mean, I guess it makes sense. All of Norway has a population of like 5.5 million people so you can’t really expect one city to have millions of people. It just felt weird though since I always compare Canadian cities with other larger European and Asian cities and so I always have this impression that our cities aren’t that big. But here I was in a city that was objectively tinier.

And so the end result was that the city just felt.. quiet. There were a few streets which were a bit more lively but if you even went a street over the amount of people would drop significantly.

I think as a tourist who enjoys walking around and exploring big cities, having a more lively atmosphere is definitely a plus. Although I can see how it might be a pretty nice place to live in though since there are definite benefits for living in a city with less people. It’s just less busy and less stressful I think.

Docks in the Aker Brygge area.

And I think that was the main thing about Oslo as a city. I could see it being a great place to live in and raise a family or something but honestly it was kinda a bit too quiet for my tastes. There wasn’t too much to do and everything was even more expensive.

For the most part, I spent a lot of time checking out museums and random sights around the city. One museum that I really enjoyed was the Nobel Peace Center, a place dedicated to showcasing the recipients of the award and to further it’s message.

They had a nice exhibition went I went called “Tell the World About Us”, a photo and story collection of people around the world who undergo systemic suffering and injustice. It was pretty dark and depressing but at the same time it was incredibly powerful. Really makes me think about how fortunate I am to live the life I do.

The Tell the World About Us gallery.

Another museum that I went to that was pretty neat was the Viking Ship Museum, which if you couldn’t figure out from the name, is about viking ships. It was a bit small but it had a few real ships on display which was cool. The vikings were a group of interesting people and so I’m always down to check out more stuff about them.

Other than the museums, there really isn’t too much to do in the city. They have this fancy opera house by the water which looks pretty cool, but if you’re not really into opera then you pretty much just go and check out the building and leave.

One cool thing I did though was take the metro outside of the city. When the trains are in the city they’re underground but after a bit they move above ground. The specific line I took essentially goes into the mountains so you have this pretty great view from the side of the mountain down to the city.

I missed the train but got this photo.

That in and of itself was a pretty neat ride. I personally like to people watch and observe how the local population lives their lives so it was cool since a lot of people had skis, sleds, or snowboards and just casually took the train up to enjoy a day in the mountains.

People always say that the Norwegians love their skis and honestly it was pretty wholesome to see so many families and school trips on the train with their gear. It doesn’t seem like it’s too much out of the ordinary but I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.

At one point I even saw some people just casually ski/snowboard straight to the train platform. It was such a casual slide down to the platform and then dismount and wait for the train. Fairly common with bikes, but probably the first time I’ve seen it happen with winter sports gear.

Holmenkollbakken, a ski jump tower.

Anyways, the mountain itself had some pretty good views of the city. That was my last day in Norway and just walking around in the snow was a pretty nice experience. It was a good time to reflect upon the trip and to just kinda take it easy.

Speaking of snow, the weather wasn’t cold enough to actually have snow accumulate in the city, so the only place I saw it was outside of the city center. One thing I noticed when I was there was that they don’t salt the roads.

In Canada, every time there’s snow they pour literal tons of salt and sand on the roads which does a great job of melting the snow and ice but it creates this disgusting slush and brown snow. But in Norway, it didn’t seem like they even use salt. They just shovel the roads and sprinkle some gravel.

The end result is that the roads are clear and the snow still looks pristine. It was honestly really nice since I love the snow but it always ends up looking disgusting in Canada due to the salt and sand. It genuinely looked so much better without the salt and it’s definitely a lot better for the environment too.

A wintery road in the mountains.

Overall, Oslo was alright. I don’t think it’s the most exciting city I’ve been to. It’s quiet and there isn’t too much to do. Probably a great place to live in, but for tourism, it seems like it would be better off as a transit hub to get to other places in Norway.

I know I personally don’t really have an urge to go out of my way to visit it again, but if I was there for a night or two on-route to another city or something, I’d be ok with that.

Sognefjord: The King of the Fjords

So normally when I write blog posts about where I’ve been, I typically just write about cities. But, on my trip to Norway I spent some time outside of the cities exploring the fjords, and I really wanted to write a separate post just about them.

The entire concept of a fjord is so cool and I’ve always wanted to go check them out.

I mean, it’s a narrow strip of water surrounded by tall mountains that go on for kilometers at a time. As a dude that comes from a city with no mountains or seas, everything about a fjord just seems so amazing.

An overcast day at the fjord.

So, when I was planning my trip to Norway, I made sure I spent some time actually in the fjords. I found the Norway in a Nutshell tour which seemed like a great fit since it meant I could check out the UNESCO section of Sognefjord on the way to Oslo from Bergen.

That was all I really needed to hear. I ended up booking my itinerary myself through the transit sites instead though since it was cheaper to do so. The end result was essentially the same but I just saved a couple hundred crowns.

The fjord experience started off at Gudvangen, which is at the base of Nærøyfjord, the UNESCO section of Sognefjord. The moment I got off the bus I was instantly in awe at how beautiful the place was and it was only just the beginning.

The view at Gudvangen.

The weather was a bit overcast so it was super dramatic and there was no wind so the water was so calm. It was beautifully epic. The water perfectly reflected the mountains and the clouds and it looked like a giant mirror.

It was so amazing to just stand there and look out over the water.

Then, I got onto the ferry which traversed Nærøyfjord and made its way to Aurlandsfjord, another branch of Sognefjord. The ferry itself was also quite cool. Very modern boat and it was purely electric so it was both quiet and environmentally friendly.

The Power of the Fjords.

The view was unbelievable. I did a fjord tour when I was in Bergen but this one had taller mountains and calmer waters and so the atmosphere was just so amazing. I pretty much just stood on deck in the wind for the entire two hours of the tour and just took it all in.

Every time I think about Norse mythology or the vikings or whatever, I think of people in small wooden boats just traversing the fjords. In my head, I’ve always kinda imagined it to be so serene and so epic. And honestly, despite being on a tourist tour on an incredibly modern boat, it still felt so awesome.

By the time the tour was almost over and I could see Flåm, the village where we’d be docking at, I was actually kinda sad. It was such an enjoyable experience that I wanted to just stay on the boat. But alas, I had to depart.

It’s impossible to appreciate the scale of things from a photo.

Typically, Norway in a Nutshell tours would continue on from there and go to Oslo, but I decided I wanted to stay the night in Flåm to spend more time in the area. I booked a snowshoe hike ahead of time and despite it being a bit warm and not snowy, we drove up to the mountains where there was snow and managed to do a bit of a hike.

The endpoint of the hike was this awesome section in the mountains that give this incredible view of the fjord below. After spending two hours on a boat looking at the fjord, it was breathtaking to see the fjord from above.

A view of Aurlandsfjord from the mountains.

Finally, I concluded my amazing fjord day with a “viking dinner” at the Ægir Bryggeri, a microbrewery in Flåm. That was by far the nicest dinner I had during my trip to Norway (and most expensive) and the beer was also fantastic.

Overall, that was honestly such an amazing day and probably the best day of my time in Norway. I had really high expectations of the fjords before I went to Norway and I’m glad to say that it really met my expectations. Seeing the fjords in person really cemented the idea that Norway has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.

I really can’t wait to go check out other fjords now. Not just in Norway but in other countries too. I’ve heard that Iceland is also incredibly beautiful and certain parts of Canada also have them too. I can’t really articulate how cool they were, you just have to see them in person.