Tag Archives: National Geographic Traveler Magazine

Fjord Norway? Yes Please!!!

I’m not sure if it was Benjamin Franklin, or Albert Einstein who said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.” Errr… not really. According to Ryan Howes, Ph.D in Therapy, it’s actually a legal term pertaining to a defendant’s ability to determine right from wrong when a crime is committed.  Well, a crime has been committed alright! It’s called THE TEXAS HEAT! 75+ days over 100F (39C) and still counting with little to no relief in sight. That’s usually when my mind starts to drift, and I begin to dream of being somewhere cooler than my beloved Austin, Texas. Until about… right now… 100% of my travel blog entries have been about places I’ve already been. While I enjoy blogging about my trips, I’d much rather get some feedback and participation from the 5-6 of you (7 if I include myself) who actually read this Travel Blog and change things up a bit by conversing about destinations I WANT to visit.

Milford Sound - South Island, New Zealand - November 2005

I was recently asked, “Hey Cooke, how do you come up with these crazy trips like South Island – New Zealand, Vermont, U.S.A., and Lake Bled, Slovenia of all places?”. Although a magician typically doesn’t tell you how he picked the Seven of Spades with your signature on it from the jacket pocket of your cousin’s next door neighbor’s uncle’s pharmacist, I’m here today (and today only) to reveal my secret weapon for absolutely awesome fantastic make you say “OH WOW!” destinations. The answer is quite simple – and highly recommended – National Geographic Traveler’s 133 Destinations Rated. Currently Ranked #1 on their list… NORWAY.


As they clearly state… it isn’t a popularity contest. It is an assessment of authenticity and stewardship, evaluating the qualities that make a destination unique and measuring its “integrity of place.” So far, we have been to 8 out of their top 20, and have been able to say “OH WOW!” each and every time. You could almost count Medieval Granada and the Alhambra, Spain as 9 out of 20; however, if you read my previous blog, you already know that I only made it as far south in Spain as Seville. Take a look at the list and you will see what I’m talking about.

Lake Bled, Slovenia - May 2011

133 Places Rated: The List, by Score

Next year, we are supposed to go to England for The Olympics, visit family, and go to another TBD (to be determined) destination in Europe. The problem I’m having is the British Pound versus the US Dollar. STINKS! Plus, I’ve only been to England about 20 times as an adult, and lived there for the first 11yrs of my life. Not much I haven’t already seen. Which leads me to my dilemma. While I  don’t want to disappoint family members, and would absolutely love for my kids to see “where Daddy was born and raised”… I keep going back to National Geographic Traveler’s 133 Destinations list with a selfish dream to visit their TOP RATED #1 out of 133 destinations – Fjord, Norway. Just can’t get my mind off that place. Fjord Norway? Yes Please!!!

Norwegian Flag - officially adopted on July 17, 1821

The Internet is a beautiful beast! Only tamed by those capable of putting information in a concise and bad ass arrangement for me to locate what I want (and need) to plan a trip. Vist Norway is definitely one of the BEST travel web sites I have ever seen in my life. In addition to a GREAT web site, VisitNorway.com also has a solid YouTube Channel – http://bit.ly/nQmo7L .


VisitNorway.com has only fueled my desire to see Fjord Norway by about 789.26%. Yeah, I made that number up; BUT… I am absolutely fascinated by the fact Norway has a population of about 4.8 million and covers an area of 385,155 square kilometers of astonishing nature (fjords, mountains, waterfalls, glaciers), unbelievable history (Vikings and the Sami), arts & culture, and of course… Norway is the home country of my favorite pro-cycling sprinter – Thor Hushovd – God of Thunder – World Champion – recently signed on BMC Racing Team for the 2012 pro-cycling season. So, what’s not to love about Norway?

Thor Hushovd - God of Thunder - World Champion - recently signed on BMC Racing Team for 2012 pro-cycling season.
Wearing the yellow jersey of overall leader, Norway's Thor Hushovd rides to the signature ceremony prior to the start of the fifth stage of the 2011 Tour de France on July 6, 2011. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images)
German fan Didi Senft (El Diablo) jumps as overall leader, Norway's Thor Hushovd (center) rides in the pack during the 7th stage of the 2011 Tour de France on July 8, 2011. (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)
German fan Didi Senft (El Diablo) jumps as overall leader, Norway's Thor Hushovd (center) rides in the pack during the seventh stage of the 2011 Tour de France on July 8, 2011. (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

I’m learning new words that I can’t spell OR even pronounce, and LOVING every minute of it! Places like Bergen – The Gateway to the Fjords – known for Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf, the Fish Market, and surrounding mountains and fjords, such as the Hardangerfjord and Sognefjord. The Sognefjord is Norway’s longest fjord and one of its arms, the Nærøyfjord, is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, so that alone tells me… I MUST see this. The city of Ålesund – known for its architecture in Art Nouveau style, its surrounding fjords, and the high peaks of the Sunnmøre Alps. And if the timing was right… it’s hard to beat viewing The Northern Lights from Norway. Just looks incredible!

Flam Railway (Flamsbana) - Norway

But more than anything, IF… let me rephrase that… WHEN I get the opportunity to visit Norway… I am most excited about seeing the panoramic views of the fjords and mountains along the world famous Flåm railway (Flåmsbana) as the train loops its way from Myrdal on the Oslo-Bergen railway to the city of Flåm, nestled in the innermost corner of the Aurlandsfjord. I also want to explore the Geirangerfjord , another fjord on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. There are a LOT more places I’d love to see; but, for now… check out this video on The Flåm Railway and you’ll quickly understand my fascination with Fjord Norway: http://bit.ly/q4WgKl

Fjord Norway – famous fjords and beautiful mountains – Norway official travel guide – visitnorway.com.

I would LOVE to hear some thoughts/ideas from those of you who have insight on Norway and/or have visited recently, so Join the conversation! Until then…



sLOVEnia: the little things we remember

I remember somebody once telling me… “Sometimes it’s good to be alone. As long as you never feel lonely.” I’ve been alone for the past few days. Home sick with bronchitis and a nasty sinus infection. Sorry for the ugly visual. But that leads me to my point. At no point do I ever feel lonely, and yeah… it has been good to be alone. No wife. No kids. No work. Very little stress (other than being ill). It has allowed me to contemplate on the importance of life. Love, family, friends, health (not so good right now), a place to call home, a job, and no matter what… you’ve GOT to have a hobby. Me? I have three hobbies. Dreaming of the next travel destination (if you haven’t guessed this by now), pretending to be a writer, and attempting to be an amateur photographer. A valiant effort on all three, because I’ve done what I’ve always set out to accomplish… I’ve joined the conversation. That’s how you start.

Lake Bled Slovenia 2011
Lake Bled Slovenia 2011

So, as I lay there alone, contemplating the world… actually just trying to figure out if I wanted a cinnamon raisin bagel, or a bowl of frosted flakes for breakfast (I went with the bagel), I thought about my recent travels through Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Italy for my 5yr wedding anniversary with my wife (Anna). I couldn’t help but laugh to myself about “the little things we remember”.

"Schnauzer vs Swan 2011"
“Schnauzer vs Swan 2011” – View of Castle Bled from Lake Bled Slovenia

Our first night in Slovenia, we took a walk around Lake Bled before dinner. The sun wasn’t even close to setting; but, it had this magical glare across the lake. The Pletna boats had docked for the evening, the wind was calm, the clouds mysteriously eerie, and the waterfront was an evening stroller’s paradise. I took my camera out to capture the lake and Bled Castle (Blejski Grad) perched upon a cliff’s edge in the background, and that’s when it happened – My favorite moment“Schnauzer vs. Swan”. A Slovenian man, walking his miniature German Schnauzer was dragged into my frame. No worries… I have an 18-250mm lens, I can just zoom past him. A swan calmly approached the bank, then ding! ding! the match was on! Yeah, I’ve gotta get a picture of this! What you see above this text is the before shot. I didn’t feel like shooting pictures of an undersized dog picking a fight with an over sized white bird. Plus, sometimes you have to come out from behind the camera lens and enjoy the reality of the time and space you are within. SO, that’s what I did.

View from Belvedere Pavillion of Church on Bled Island, Lake Bled, Slovenia with Mala Osojinica Forest Behind

In my previous blog, I wrote about the morning I woke up entirely too early, and watched the Sunrise on Lake Bled. I completely forgot that I had my old beat up Canon Elf digital camera lodged in my pocket, and actually captured 30secs or so of that incredible moment – alone down by the Pletna boat dock. Like I said, the great thing about TRAVEL… “the little things we remember”.

The thing about SLOVENIA… It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world that most people don’t even think about… or even know about. Each year, we try to find a travel destination that makes our friends and family say “Where?” or “Why?”. The kind of  backdrop that tells me, Jason… you’re not in Austin, Texas anymore. May 2011 – Slovenia was that destination.

Bled Island (Blejski otok), the only natural island in Slovenia.

We learned about this fascinating small country in Central Europe through National Geographic Traveler Magazine. Bordering Austria, Italy, Croatia, and Hungary, this small country is packed with unbelievable beauty, incredible people and culture, captivating history, and a surprisingly amazing cuisine.

Ljubljana – Capital City of Slovenia

Mountains, lakes, wine country, farmland, rivers, coastline, forests, and caves. Slovenia has it all. There’s a reason the word LOVE is in the middle of sLOVEnia! Truly a place to be discovered.

view of Church of St. John the Baptist
Lake Bohinj (Bohinjsko jezero) and view of Church of St. John the Baptist – Triglav Lakes Valley

I’ve also uploaded all the photos from our Europe – May 2011 – 5yr Anniversary trip to Germany (Bavaria), Austria, Slovenia, and Venice, Italy on my Flicker page. If you have more time on your hands than you know what to do with, or your stuck in a waiting room at a Dr.’s office or the DMV, then check it out: Europe 2011 – Austin Globetrekker

Cloudy Day in the city of Piran, Slovenia – Karst & Coast Region on the Adriatic Sea

I’m sure I’ll have more MUREMindless Useless Random Entertainment about my travels for you soon. Stay Tuned! Until then… TRAVEL| EXPLORE | DREAM | DISCOVER

“The Path” – Villa Bled on Lake Bled, Slovenia