Posts Tagged ‘Scandinavia 2006’

Scandinavia 2006: looking back

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

So, I’ve been home for a couple of days now and I’m looking back on my trip. The pictures are up! I’ve only added some general descriptions to sections of pictures, so at least that gives you some idea of where they were taken. I will add more detailed descriptions soon. Click on one of the pictures or go to http://theplunk.cjb.net/gallery and look up the Scandinavia 2006 album.


Stockholm


Lofoten

When I think back (and if you’ve read my journals then this is pretty obvious), it was just awesome. Almost everything was right. So I sure am thankful for that.

– I really liked travelling solo, it’s great to be able to do whatever you want to do. I don’t think there are a lot of people that I could have done this trip with, if any at all. I mean, with a group it would have been fine, but if it was to be one other person, then I’m not sure.
– I’m not sure if I would have liked it so much if I wouldn’t have stayed with people through Couchsurfing and Hospitality Club. I did enjoy the couple of days I just stayed in hostels, but I didn’t exactly meet a lot of people through that. There was the night with the Taiwanese folks, but that was it. I suppose I would have pulled it of, since I don’t mind being on my own for a while, but this was definitely the better way to go.
– It occured to me that when you look at someone’s profile on Couchsurfing or Hospitality Club, you always get some impression of what the person is like, but they usually turn out to be quite different.
– Transportation and accommodation worked out really well, and I got along with all the people I stayed with.
– The weather couldn’t have been much better. Sure, there were some rainy and cloudy days, but I spent a lot of them in the train. Most of the time it was just sunny, a bit cloudy and a perfect temperature! So that was pretty exceptional, because you never know in Scandinavia..
– I liked visiting a lot of different places. Travelling every day was no problem at all.
– The main purpose of the trip was of course to see a lot beautiful things. Sure can’t complain about that either, I probably couldn’t have gotten much more out of it.

The highlights, concerning..
cities: Bergen and Stockholm
people: Stavanger and Stockholm
nature: Lofoten and Preikestolen
busrides: all the rides on the Lofoten
trainrides: Bergen – Oslo

Another thing: I was really glad to have some music with me. It ‘enhanced the experience’, so to speak. I mostly listened to these albums:
At The Close Of Every Day – Zalig Zijn De Armen Van Geest
Bane – Give Blood
The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Bouncing Souls – Anchors Aweigh
Foo Fighters – The Colour And The Shape
Iona – Heaven’s Bright Sun
Iron & Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days
O, Brother Where Art Thou? – OST
The Shins – Oh Inverted World
Simon & Garfunkel – The Concert in Central Park
The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead
Trivium – Ascendancy
Zero 7 – When It Falls

I would definitely do this again. I’m thinking about doing an Interrail trip through the UK and Ireland, maybe next year. And meanwhile, I will probably make some city weekendtrips. Rome, Barcelona, Kopenhagen, London and Vienna are still on the wantlist.

Sorry that this post is a bit random, but I didn’t really know how to put it better, or just didn’t want to spend more time on it.
Ok well, that’s the end of it. Case closed. I’ve bored you with this for long enough. Time to move on.

Scandinavia 2006: day 16-17

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

Date: Thursday, 17 August
Time: 9:15 pm
Location: Maastricht to Dordrecht

Back in the Netherlands.. it’s almost over now. So this will be the last journal entry. Well, the last one describes my activities anyway.

Wednesday, 16 August
Arrived in Malmö early in the evening. So, I still had a couple of hours before the train to Berlin would leave, and I went into town. For some reason I kept thinking I was in Denmark, haha. I was pretty close, but it was definitely still Sweden. Malmös old town is pretty cool. Not spectacular, but some nice buildings and squares. I walked around for a bit until I got hungry. Lonely Planet listed this cafeteria that served Mexican food for low prices, so that sounded like the place to be. Well it definitely was cheap, 60 Kr for a really big plate of enchiladas with rice, tortilla chips and salad and a drink. It was actually so much that I wasn’t able to finish it. It was a funny scene in the cafeteria: one table with three hobos, one with three skater kids, one with a young businessman. And me.
After dinner I walked around some more and then I headed for the train station, to get on the night train. This was to be my first ‘couchette experience’. There were six beds in each of these, and it occurred to me how little space there was in there. You couldn’t really sit up (at least I couldn’t, having the lower bed). There were two Japanese girls, two Swedish girls and some guy, didn’t know where form. Didn’t talk to anyone though.
After an hour the train got on a ferry to cross the sea between Germany and Sweden. That sure was a funny experience. The ferry was actually pretty big, with several floors, huts, a restaurant, a shop and an upper outside deck. There were other people (who weren’t on the train) there as well, some were sleeping in the hallways or even outside. After hanging out on the deck for a bit, I went back to the train to sleep. For sleeping, couchettes are pretty good, better than for sitting, which makes a lot of sense, since they’re made for people to sleep in (oh, ok!). Only downside was the pillow, which sucked, but I had decent night’s sleep.

Thursday, 17 August
Arrived in Berlin a bit before 6 am. The Hauptbahnhof (main train station) sure was impressive. It had several stories with a bunch of shops, and it looked very modern and clean. Later I heard that it had been completed only three months earlier.
So I had a day to spend in Berlin, because in the evening I would take a flight back to the Netherlands. The plan was to take a guided tour (Brewer’s Berlin Tour), a friend had told me those were really good. It would start at 11 so I still had some time to kill. But I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to do anything at all. Don’t know why really, I just wanted to go home right away or back to Scandinavia, haha. But that was, of course, not possible, at least not without spending a substantial amount of money. So I just had to make the best of it.
I got some breakfast and looked for a nice place to sit outside of the station, but such a place didn’t seem to exist. Eventually I sat down by a river, which was ok. At this point I didn’t know yet if I was going to do the tour, check some things out myself, or just hang around at the station all day. Ok, I knew that last option would be a bad idea. With the second one, the problem was that I didn’t know where to go; I had no map or whatsoever. But then I saw a sign that said the Reichstag was nearby. I figured that would be interesting, so I checked it out. It was indeed, and there was a tourist office there, but it was closed and I couldn’t find out what time it would open. So I still didn’t know what to do and went back to the Hauptbahnhof, and sat and read there for a while. Then I decided I would just take the tour, it would be a shame to miss that.
I went to the meeting point early. For a while it looked like no one was going to show up for the tour (including the guide). But then the guide did show up, an American guy. He told me he wouldn’t be the guide though, he wast just there to pick up people. We went past some hostels to pick more people up, and along the way he already told me a lot of interesting stuff. We met up with another guy who’d picked some people up as well. In the end there were only three participants, which was not enough to let the tour go on, but we were able to join the all-day tour (the other one was shorter). So that’s what we did. This tour was done by Terry Brewer himself, who has set the whole tour organisation up. He was an older guy from the UK, who had been living in Berlin for 25 years. He sure knew a lot! We mostly went through the old centre of East Berlin. We passed some spots where historic events had taken place, like in WW2. It was kind of weird to think about that. Quite a bunch of buildings were still damaged from that war, of course nothing had been done about that in the DDR years. So it was a very interesting tour, of course a lot of things had to do with WW2 and the Cold War, and I’m very interested in those, so that was cool. The group was pretty big, about 25 people. Almost all of them were pretty young, a lot from Australia, some from North America and various European countries. I wasn’t really planning on talking to anyone, I’d done my share of meeting new people, hehe. But some people just started talking to me so then I had to. No, it was cool. It made it more fun after all.
I had to leave early and Terry adjusted the tour a bit for me, which was very nice of him. And he kept saying: “Young Edwin here is going to leave soon to go to Maastricht”. In the end he’d said it like ten times, haha.
So I left and after a while I got to the airport, Berlin Schönefeld, from where I would fly to Maastricht / Aachen. It was easy to get there with the S-Bahn (a sort of local train). I was about 1.5 hour early so I had all the time in the world to visit a free bathroom (airports rock!) and eat some dinner. I’d gotten really tired of the bread and cheese and crackers and potato salad, so I threw away what I had left and in Berlin I just bought my meals from various joints. It was kind of lame, but I was just really done with it. And there wasn’t much point in saving it. Not like I would want to it eat it once I got home.
Anyway, we boarded pretty late, but we only left a couple of minutes later than planned. I was flying easyJet this time and everything was just fine. We even arrived a bit early. In Maastricht I got out really fast, my bag was one of the first to come out, and it was a really small airport. From there I still had to take a bus and a train back to Dordrecht.
While I was waiting for the bus, this big car pulled up to the bus stop. I was the only one there, so I suspected he was going to offer me a ride. I thought about accepting it for a while, but then I figured I’d better not run the risk. I could use my OV-card (a card that college students get so they can use the public transportation for free), so the bus wouldn’t cost me anything anyway. The driver asked me (in English) if I was heading for Sittard and if I wanted a ride to the train station, and that, by the way, he was a cabby. Of course he was Dutch, but I still answered in English. I was so used to that after two weeks. Then he said: you’re Dutch, right? So I laughed and said yeah. He said he thought I was an American, because I had my Boston t-shirt on, and my bag had the name of an American company on it. I figure that throughout my trip, more people have probably thought the same thing. In Berlin some guy asked me if I was from Boston as well.
Well the trip back to Dordrecht sure was boring. Then, in Dordrecht, I walked home from the station. The stuff I had written earlier, like how I was really looking forward to coming back to my country, city and home; it was actually pretty disappointing. No, it just sucked. Ok, getting back in the Netherlands was kind of cool. But walking through Dordrecht was lame. There were annoying kids out on the streets. The place looked like a dump compared to Scandinavian cities. Getting home was even worse. There was no one there of course, and I just felt kind of empty.
Ah well, I’ll just need some time to get used to it, it’ll be alright.

Scandinavia 2006: day 13-16

Friday, August 18th, 2006

Date: Tuesday, 15 August / Wednesday, 16 August
Time: 14:00 / 14:20
Location: Skanse (Stockholm) / train from Stockholm to Malmö

Ok, Prague no longer bears the title ‘Edwin’s favourite European capitol’. This title has been claimed by Stockholm.
Right now I’m waiting for my friends, Steven and Merie, to show up. Can’t wait to see them, and talk some Dutch again, haha.
Right, where was I..

Sunday, 13 August
Today I forgot that it was my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary.. oops.
I arrived in Östersund and met up with Hanna, the girl I would stay with. She was about my age and had four (!) jobs, at various hotels and bars around town. We went to her apartment, which was located in the city centre (always a plus!), and it was a very nice place. Pretty tidy too. (Haven’t really mentioned that before, but just so you know, some other places were dumps, haha. But that’s all part of the experience.)
So we talked for a bit. The other week she’d had some guys over from the Netherlands, and they’d left her some typical Dutch food items: ‘stroopwafels’ (a sort of cookies) and ‘De Ruyter kleintjes broodbeleg: vlokken, hagelslag en vruchtenhagel’ (chocolate sprinkles and other similar stuff we put on sandwiches). She hadn’t been very eager to try them out yet, but now she did. She liked the stroopwafels, but she thought that it was very weird that we put stuff like chocolate sprinkles on bread. Haha, well I guess it is. Whatever you’ve grown up with.
We went for a walk through the centre. It was kind of nice to be in a ‘big’ town again (Östersund has a population of about 45,000). On the way back Hanna saw some friends having a drink outside a bar and we joined them. At first I didn’t have too much to say and they mostly talked Swedish, and translated some bits. Then the bar closed and we went to another one. There I was able to ‘blend in’ and everyone mostly talked English. It was a fun night. I had my first ‘cocktail’, haha (no, without alcohol), which tasted pretty interesting. And no smoke! Since 2004 all public places, including bars and such, in Sweden are smoke free. Best idea ever.
Went to bed (a comfy couch this time) around 12.30.

Monday, 14 August
I woke up pretty early as always. Had some bread with the chocolate sprinkles for breakfast, felt just like home, haha. Hanna had told me she would probably sleep in, but she had given me a key so I could go out. And so I did, just to check out some other parts of the centre. Östersund is nice, not too much to see in particular, but it’s alright. It’s located by a big lake, which separates the town in two parts, I walked over a bridge to the other side. The weather wasn’t too great, it was clouded and raining a bit.
On the way back, I bought a book: ‘A long way down’ by Nick Hornby. I wanted something else to read because the only book I had left, a collection of Henry Rollins’ first five books, wasn’t that great. I figured any Nick Hornby book should be good, before I left I’d starting reading his ‘About a boy’ and I liked it a lot. And of course ‘High Fidelity’ is great too, although I’ve only seen the film.
Got back to the apartment, and Hanna had just woken up. There wasn’t that much time left before my train would leave, so we just hung out and talked and then I left. It had been another good Couchsurfing experience!
I got to the train station and wanted to retrieve the reservation I’d made a day earlier, for this trip to Stockholm and the trip from Stockholm to Malmö. But it hadn’t gotten through or something. Weird, but fortunately I could still make new reservations. It was even better this way actually, because on the phone they’d told me that my Interrail ticket wasn’t valid for the first part and they charged for a regular ticket on that one. But now the lady told me it was valid after all. Good.
The train ride was ok, not much to it. In front of me there was a guy reading a book, and the chapter was called ‘Seven steps for interpreting the WISC profile: from IQ’s to Factor Indexes to Scaled Scores’. I’m glad that wasn’t me. During the second part I was traveling with a X2000 train, a new type. It’s quiet, comfy, fast and they have wireless internet access on board. Not that that was any good to me, since I didn’t have a computer, but I thought it was pretty cool anyway.
Got to Stockholm at 7.30 pm. While the train was riding through the city, it looked pretty good to me already, so that showed promise. But first I had to go to Kallhall, a suburb 20 minutes to the north west of Stockholm, where Sofia, my last Couchsurfing host of this trip, lived. She was originally from Spain, but had been living in Sweden for ten years now. She had a studio apartment, which wasn’t too big, but it was a nice and cosy place. By the time I got there it was about 8.30, so I didn’t really want to head back into Stockholm, and besides, it was fun hanging out with Sofia. She let me listen to a bunch of Swedish bands.
We went to bed pretty early; she had to get up around 6 am. I had a lousy night, too much thinking, it happens.

Tuesday, 15 August
Fortunately, Sofia was nice enough to give me a key, so I didn’t have to get up when she did (5 am). But I couldn’t sleep anymore, so I got up pretty soon after she had left, did some laundry and other stuff and then headed into Stockholm. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t exactly great; clouded and some rain every now and then. But you can’t win ’em all. I decided to follow this route that was in the Lonely Planet book. Stockholm has both an old town centre and a modern centre. The old centre (or: Gamla Stan) is located on an island and mostly compromised of houses in different colours along small streets. Besides that there is the royal palace and some churches. The modern centre (Stockholm Central) is the business / shopping district. So, this route went through both. It was nice to get a taste of Stockholm Central, but I was much more interested in Gamla Stan. This was amazing indeed. Unfortunately very touristic and crowded as well, but you can’t blame ’em. It reminded me of Prague a bit. I love that kind of cities (or city parts).
I decided to wander off the route and head to Södermalm, which lies south of Gamla Stan and is supposed to be kind of a hip neighbourhood with galleries, design collectives, secondhand shops and more. So that sounded interesting enough. First I got on the Katarinahissen, a tower from where one gets a nice view over Gamla Stan and other parts of Stockholm. Then I went into the neighbourhood, mostly looking for (secondhand) record stores, but without much success. So I guess that was a bit of a disappointment, maybe I just looked in the wrong places. But it was still cool to walk around there.
Got some bread for lunch from a supermarket and then I went back through Gamla Stan, to the modern centre, where I sat an a bench by the river to have some lunch. The sky was clearing up and during the rest of the day the weather would be great.
Then I wasn’t really sure what to do. Steven had said he’d contact me when he’d know what he and Merie were up to, but I hadn’t heard from him yet. But I saw that I’d missed a part of Gamla Stan so I walked back there to check it out. On the way I got a message from Steven, saying they were going to Skansen and if I could meet them there. Sounded good to me, I wanted to check out Skansen anyway, so I met them there, which was really great. Merie’s sister and her boyfriend had come along as well. Skansen is the world’s oldest open air museum, it’s supposed to be a sort of miniature Sweden. It’s located on Djurgården, an island consisting mostly of parks and museums. It was pretty cool. They had all these old houses, in which actors were playing to live or work, as if it was, I dunno, 150 years ago or something. There was also a small zoo, mostly containing animals that live in Scandinavia, like reindeer, elk (moose), seals and brown bears. It occurred to me that I hadn’t been to a zoo in ten years, it was fun to be there again. We spent the rest of the afternoon and we saw most of Skansen.
After that, I was deadly tired. The others were planning to grab dinner somewhere and check out the Kulturfestival that was going on, but I just wanted to go back to the apartment. So I did. That’s one great thing about traveling on your own. It had been great to spend the afternoon with my friends, but now we could just go our separate ways.
Back at the apartment I grabbed to opportunity to cook some dinner. The cooking pads didn’t seem to work too well, so it took me a while, and it was just about done when Sofia came home, around 8.30 pm. She thought it was really cool, so I was glad to have done something in return for the place to crash (and I was glad to have a decent dinner again as well, haha). After dinner we watched the incredible movie ‘The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. We both needed to see it again, and agreed on how great it was.
We talked some more afterwards and then went to bed. I was a weird kind of tired, like really exhausted, but not sleepy tired. So I was afraid to be heading for another crappy night, but it was alright.

Wednesday, 16 August
Sofia had to work early again, and I would leave before she’d be back, so we said goodbye. The last Couchsurfing experience of this trip had been one of the best; Sofia was a really cool girl and a great host, and we got along well.
The weather was really bad that morning, so I had no intention of hurrying to get to town. The only thing I’d thought about doing this day was taking a boat tour though to archipelago, or just to one of the islands. But that didn’t seem like a lot of fun in this weather anyway.
So I got to Stockholm at about 12. Initially I’d planned to take the 4.10 pm train to Malmö, which connected well to the Berlin Night Express, but it was fully booked, so I had to take the 2.10 train. So I had about two hours left to spend and thought about going to this music museum, which was free (like a lot of museums in Stockholm). But by the time I got there (admitted, I hadn’t taken the most efficient route and had lunch in the meantime), it didn’t seem like it was worth the effort anymore. I was still in Central Stockholm, right by the harbour, so I decided to just sit there and enjoy the sights.
I got on the train to Malmö, which is where I am now. Once again, the ride isn’t too exciting, but, once again, it’s ok. Only the very south of Sweden was interesting to see; it’s very flat and mostly agricultural. Could be the Netherlands!
It’s actually pretty cool to have some time to spend in Malmö, because it’s supposed to be a city worth seeing. And after that, all there’s left is Berlin. I don’t think I want to go home. Or maybe I do. Whichever, I’m going anyway. But it will be hard to get back in the daily routine. As always.

Scandinavia 2006: day 12 – 13

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

Date: Sunday, 13 August
Time: 16:25
Location: Inlandsbanan (train) from Arvidsjaur to Östersund

Yet another train ride, and I don’t mind. I was thinking about home though. One great thing about traveling is coming home again. I already started thinking about that after I’d been on the road for only a couple of days. Not that I’m not enjoying myself, on the contrary, I love it. Seeing new places, meeting new people, and it gives me a great sense of freedom. And coming home again also has some disadvantages: work that has to be done, obligations that need to be fulfilled.
But I love my country (not in a patriotic way), my city, and the people that I know there. So it will be great to come home to that. And so, I don’t think I’d be able to travel around for a long time, with no such thing as home. To live somewhere else for a while is another story though.
Ok, so much for the intro.

Saterday, 12 August
I got on the Inlandsbanan in the morning. It had only two wagons and a diesel engine. Looked sweet. The Inlandsbanan isn’t just a train ride, it’s more a kind of a guided tour. There was a conductor / tour guide, an old guy who was really into it. He told us about any significant places along the way, handed out brochures, and talked to everyone. He really seemed to enjoy it, so that was cool. He even gave me some brochures and a map of Arvidsjaur, where I was going to spend a day. We also made some stops, one of them at the arctic circle, which was cool, because I’d missed it on the way up through Norway. So this part of the Inlandsbanan was a pretty cool experience.
I got to Arvidsjaur, a small town, which didn’t look all that appealing at first. I started pouring, which was the first real rain I got, but later it cleared up and the weather was great again. It was about 1 pm and I met up with Dennis, a guy from Hospitality Club that I was going to stay with. He looked kind of hippie-ish and worked at a home for elderly. It was just a temporary job; he said he usually spent a couple of months a year working, and traveled during the rest of the year. Sounded pretty cool to me. He was pretty quiet and at first we didn’t really have a lot to talk about. So I started thinking, would this be my first not-so-good HC/CS experience? (…nah!) We hung around at his apartment for a while, a friend came over, and I decided to head into town to see if there was anything to do. I’d read about this old Sami village, but there wasn’t really a lot to it. Then I walked past this lake/big pond, a very nice place, where I sat for a while. Then I walked up this hill, which had a tower on top of it, from where I got great view over Arvidsjaur and surroundings. I was really tired so I just dozed off there for a bit. There wasn’t really much else to do at that time and that was easy to walk to. I thought, I wished I had traveled from Gällivare to Östersund in one shot, or that I could move on to another town, or whatever. I just wanted to get on the road again!
Dennis had to work in the evening, but he’d given me the keys to his place, so I just went there and got online for a while. Later that evening there would a party and Dennis had invited me to come along. But I decided for myself that I wasn’t going to go; I was tired and not really up for meeting new people. Well I ended up going along anyway, along with two other guys. First we went to a chalet, which was located by a lake in the woods (how surprising!), out of town. It was kind of a get together of old class mates who were home with their parents for the summer. First I just sat there listening to people talking Swedish, but I didn’t mind. I remembered that when I was in Stavanger with Steffen, he and his friend would just talk English all the time when I was around, even if they weren’t talking to me. I thought that was really cool, but I found that it was also pretty unique. Can’t blame those other people though, most people do it like that. Then I talked to these two girls for a while, and then everyone suddenly left (we’d been there for half an hour or something) and we headed for the one and only pub in Arvidsjaur that was open during the summer. Talked to Dennis and his friends for a bit, and also to these guys from Switzerland. When I was introduced to them as being from the Netherlands, they all went, alright!! They told me they would be going to Amsterdam on the way back home. I had some vague idea of what they were going to do there, and they confirmed it. We didn’t stay for too long; Dennis had to work early the next morning. I didn’t mind going to bed either. So it had been a fun night after all, which was no surprise to me actually. It always turns out ok.
Dennis actually let me sleep in his bed, while he slept on the couch. Talking ’bout hospitality..

Sunday, 13 August
I was allowed to stay in the apartment in the morning, which was nice. Didn’t really do much; I went out to the lake and sat there for a while, doing some reading and listening to music. Early afternoon I got back on the Inlandsbanan, to head to Östersund. Staying with Dennis had been fun after all. Arvidsjaur had been a bit boring, but it was nice to just relax for a bit.
The second part of the Inlandsbanan isn’t all that exciting. Not much variation in the scenery, and the guide isn’t as cool as yesterday’s was. There’s this Dutch family on the train as well. I always think it’s kind of cool when you hear them talk, it’s just good to hear something familiar (this doesn’t apply when there are a LOT of Dutch people around, like there were at the Preikestolen). But I don’t feel the need to talk to them or let them know I’m Dutch. I guess maybe it would be different it they were my age and seemed like cool people. I did talk to this older Norwegian guy from Stavanger, who had followed pretty much the same route on his trip as I had on mine. He told me the Bergen – Oslo trainride used to be better, they’ve added a lot of tunnels which make you miss some nice scenery. Well I still thought it was pretty amazing, hehe.
I got some stuff from the supermarket for lunch. The salad, which I thought was some kind of vegetable salad, turned out to be crayfish salad, and the milk, which had already been opened, looked really weird. At least I still had some bread and cheese.
About a 100 km left to Östersund, where Hanna, a girl from Couchsurfing, will be waiting for me. I’m pretty eager to get off this train right now. It’s honking all the time, to get animals (mostly reindeer) of the railway, and it’s a very loud and annoying sound, which is driving me nuts. And it smells like someone let out a really bad fart which won’t go away (fortunately it did go away after some time).
Tomorrow I’m off to Stockholm. Should be awesome, partly because two friends from my town will be there for a couple of days as well, so we are going to meet up. It’s pretty funny actually, because we didn’t plan it or anything at all.
Ok, bye

Scandinavia 2006: day 9 – 11

Sunday, August 13th, 2006

Date: Friday, 11 August
Time: various
Location: Abisko and Gällivare

Sitting here in a sort of living room in the hostel, with a nice view. It’s hard keeping track of the days of the week.. I get them all mixed up, ha.

Wednesday, 9 August
Well, nothing really interesting happened indeed. Back at the hostel, a new guy had arrived (the English guy had left that morning), a Norwegian who was probably in his 50’s or so. So it was another quiet night.

Thursday, 10 August
Got up, got a shower, got breakfast, got online, got out. I took the bus to Narvik, a trip that would take about 5.5 hours. Again we got some really awesome scenery. We also went on a ferry, which was a nice surprise.
I was thinking about how I’m traveling every day of this vacation. When I planned this vacation, I wasn’t really sure whether I’d like that all too much, but I do! It’s just exciting to visit new places all the time. I guess I got a bit contaminated with the ‘on-the-road’ virus, that (among others) Jack Kerouac wrote about so well. It depends on the form of transportation you’re using, and the company you’re with, though. If I was here with a car, I would have done it very differently. Public transportation, especially train and boat, are much more comfortable and relaxed ways of traveling. And if I’d be here with a bunch of friends, then it would probably be better to stay at some places a bit longer.
But yeah, anyway. Two things that have occurred to me quite a few times during this trip:
– everywhere, the water is so freakin’ clear! Every time I pass some form of water I have to look in it again, because I think it’s so cool. It will probably be different when I get to southern Sweden; I don’t remember being so amazed when I was in Sweden ten years ago with my family. Of course it was still much clearer than in the Netherlands.
– the distances. I was thinking about this on my first train ride, from Oslo to Stavanger. After four hours I was only about halfway yet, and that was only a small part of my entire trip. But in that time I could have crossed the entire Netherlands. And by now, I could have crossed it don’t-even-know-how-many times. It’s just funny.
So, I got to Narvik, which was my last stop in Norway. From there I took the train to Abisko (some great scenery again), and after about an hour I crossed the Swedish border. Goodbye Norway, hello Sweden! I was curious about the north of Sweden, up until now I had never even gotten halfway up the country yet.
I arrived in Abisko late afternoon. There was a hostel/tourist information centre right by the station. Actually that’s all there was, the actual town was probably at the next stop. I checked into the hostel, they charged me an extra 90 Kr because I wasn’t a HI (Hostelling International) member. I knew there was a charge for that, but it was supposed to be like 45 Kr. Lame. But the place was conveniently located, right by the Abisko National Park, where I wanted to go hiking, and it had a lot of facilities, like a small supermarket and of course the tourist centre. I shared a four-bed room with two girls and one guy, who were originally from Taiwan, but now two of them were in college in the UK and one in France. They were real nice.
I decided to go for a walk. I got a map with some routes, so I took one of those. After some time there was a sign that said there was a waterfall, 3 km in another direction. I happen to like those a lot, so I went for it. But after an hour or so, I still hadn’t gotten there, and I was done with it. So I decided to head back. I saw another trail, marked by red crosses. I took it, because I didn’t feel like going the same way back. But after a while this led into a bit of a swamp, and then the river (later I read that red crosses mark winter trails, doh!). So that wasn’t going to work, but I didn’t want to go all the way back to where the first trail started, so I just went off the trail and started looking for it, I had some idea of where it should have been. But of course I couldn’t find it, and I felt terrible for walking through the unspoilt flora, and thus spoiling it. So I headed back to the river, and hoped I could walk along the shore or something. Well not really, but after a while I found an unmarked trail, which led back to the trail I’d started with. Whew. Well I learned my lesson: never go off a trail, and never take a trail marked with red crosses in the summer. Just too bad that anyone and the Lonely Planet could have told me that in advance, ha.
Back at the hostel I talked to my roommates, about football (soccer), differences between countries, and stuff. They told me the Netherlands used to rule over Taiwan; I didn’t even know that. Or maybe I did at some point, but it had been stored in an unreachable part of my brain.
We all went to bed pretty early, I think.

Friday, 11 August
In the morning we had to clean the room ourselves. I’d never had to that before, but whatever. I went for another walk, a longer one. It was real nice, except for the mosquitoes (hadn’t seen any of those in Norway) and the fact that when I got halfway, I really needed to go.. as in, to the bathroom. So it was quite a relief to get back to the hostel.
First I had planned to take the 5.22 pm train to Gällivare that day, because someone had told me it was a lame town, so I figured it would be better to stay in Abisko longer. But I felt the need to get out of there. I just wanted to get to a place with banks and supermarkets; I still didn’t have any Swedish kroner, and the choices in the small supermarket in the hostel were, of course, pretty limited. Besides that, I was planning to stay in a cheap bed & breakfast in Gällivare, so I would have my own room; something that sounded very appealing to me at that time. Anyway, I took the 12.33 pm train (which had a delay of about 45 minutes). I was glad to be out of Abisko. Although I can recommened it to anyone, it’s a beautiful place, but I just had to go. The train ride was nice, I was able to assume a very comfortable position, so I just dozed off a bit while listening to the O, Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. The scenery wasn’t particularly interesting anyway.
I got to Gällivare around 4 pm. Well, the person that told me it was a lame town was right. What a crap hole. I couldn’t imagine people actually living there. Ok, maybe there were some other parts in town that were nicer, and it wasn’t like it looked poor or dirty or anything, but centre was just plain ugly and there was no atmosphere or whatsoever. The B&B was full, apparently they hadn’t received my reservation email. But now I got a bed in a hostel instead, which is probably even better in the end. It is located behind the station, in the country side, and it consists of cabins. The cabins have separate bedrooms, with one bunk bed in each, and a shared kitchen, bathroom and living room. The other bed in my room isn’t taken (yet), so I will (probably) have a private room anyway.
In Gällivare I found a bank (with an ATM that was only in Swedish, and required bankcards to be put in upside down), a supermarket, and a computer with internet, so I was all set again. I even cooked myself dinner for the first time during this vacation. Sure, it was just noodles with paprika and mushrooms, but hey. I also got a popsicle bearing the name of BLACK LEMON, which looked really tough, and tasted very interesting. Liquorice and lemon.
While walking from the centre to the hostel, one gets a very nice view over a lake, with some forest and hills in the background. A typical Swedish landscape if you ask me. That made me remember why I like Sweden so much. It doesn’t have the extreme landscapes Norway has, but it can look oh so peaceful, quiet, and beautiful in a different way.
There’s only two other people in the cabin, an older couple, I think they’re Swedish, who keep to themselves. Fine by me, gives me some rest. It’s interesting though how some people really try to talk to you and others (literally) only say hi. Whatever floats your boat, I’m ok with either ways. Adjö!

(a bit later…)
Actually, right after I finished writing, five more people came in. But they all went into other rooms, so I still have my own room.
Oh and tomorrow I’m leaving at 7, to get on the Inlandsbanan (Inland Railway). It’s supposed to be pretty exciting. I shall see.

Scandinavia 2006: day 7 – 9

Friday, August 11th, 2006

Date: Wednesday, 9 August
Time: 17:00
Location: buses from Reine to Kabelvåg (Lofoten)

Man, I love the Lofoten! But back to Bodø first.

Monday, 7 August
When I got to Bodø, late afternoon, I could finally see some sunshine in the distance. But in the town itself it was still cloudy. I gave Ane, the girl I would stay with, a call, and she said she’d pick me up. After 45 minutes she still hadn’t showed up, so I started wondering what the deal was. Actually I felt I’d rather stay in a hostel anyway, and I wouldn’t care all that much if she wouldn’t show up. But a couple of minutes later she did show up, with her dad, and a car, and I was glad anyway (later she told me she thought I would arrive the next morning, that’s why it took her so long). Ane is a vegan straight edge girl, who talks a lot and is very spontaneous. She lives with her dad in an apartment a bit away from the city centre. When we got there, she started making dinner, and I talked with her dad a bit. Although he wasn’t extremely good at English, we still managed to have a decent conversation.
In the evening we just hung around the apartment. Ane told me about all these Norwegian and local bands, mostly hardcore, punk and electronic. Bodø seemed to have a very lively scene for its size.
I tried to look up the timetable for the ferry to Svolvær, which I was planning to take the next morning, but their internet connection wasn’t working. I was pretty sure though that it would leave around 10 am, so I figured it would be ok. We went to bed, and this time I got to sleep in an actual bed! Super.

Tuesday, 8 August
In the morning I called the ferry company to check on the times. It turned out that the ferry only left around 10 on Thursdays; during the rest of the week only at 7.30 am and 5.15 pm. Blast. I really didn’t feel like spending another day here; the weather was miserable and I just wanted to get to Lofoten. But, whatcha gonna do. So I spent most of the day hanging out with Ane in the centre of Bodø, which was alright. Bodø is a convenient place to stay, because you can get to a bunch of cool places easily. But the town itself is, apart from it’s nice location, pretty dull. I guess the weather didn’t help either.
There were a couple of bands playing during the day, we checked them out. There was this jazz band called Jazz Kamikaze. They guys in it were all pretty young (a little older than me I guessed), but they played like advanced jazz musicians. Pretty sick. The music was good, although sometimes a bit too chaotic for me.
We went back to the apartment and had some dinner and chocolate cake that Ane had made. It had been fun hanging out with her, listening to music and stuff. Then it was time for me to go. Ane thought it would take about 30 minutes to walk to the centre, so I left a bit more than 30 minutes before 5.15. I had some idea that I wasn’t going to make it, so I walked as fast as was possible with my backpack. Then, after I had taken a bit of an accidental detour, I was pretty sure I would miss the ferry. I made a hitchhike sign to some passing cars, but they didn’t pick me up. I was pretty bummed at this point. No way was I going to spend another night in Bodø. Then I saw a cab. I thought, this is probably my only chance to make it. So I waved at it, and it stopped. And I made it to the ferry, which actually left a couple of minutes earlier than scheduled. No way would I have made it on foot.
I don’t want to give this journal too much of a ‘spiritual load’, but the fact that this cab showed up at exactly the right time (if earlier, I probably wouldn’t have taken it, if later, I still would have missed the ferry), could hardly have been a coincidence, or so it seems to me.
Anyway, I was so happy to be on that boat. It was a very nice trip too, and I listened to Iona, which music suited the landscape (the rocky / mountain coastline) and the weather (rainy and windy) very well. I saw that the restaurant was selling waffles with jam and sour cream, a typical Norwegian snack, and I decided the buy some. Bad idea. Right after I was finished, the boat head to the Lofoten islands (it had been cruising along the coast up until that point), onto the open sea. The sea was a bit wild, so the boat was doing some pretty heavy rocking. At first I thought it was fun, and that thought would have remained, if it wasn’t for the waffles I’d just eaten. I started getting nauseous and after a while I felt really terrible. Never have I been so glad to get off a boat, I think. If it had taken a bit longer, I probably would have barfed, luckily I didn’t get to that point, haha.
So, I was in Svolvær. According to Lonely Planet, it was 5 km to Kabelvåg, and there was a bus connection, but I didn’t see a bus terminal or anything, and I didn’t feel like looking for it, so I decided to walk. Even thought this Lofoten island wasn’t supposed to look very exciting compared to the others, it looked pretty great already. The walk was doable, and the hostel was very easy to find. I’d called them during the day to make sure the reception would still be open, so I wouldn’t have to worry about that. It was a nice hostel, it looked just ok, but they had quite a lot of extras (breakfast and bed linen were included, and there was an internet terminal). Hence the price, I guess: 240 Kr for a night. Pretty expensive, but oh well, I’d already saved a lot of money through Couchsurfing and the Hospitality Club, and there weren’t really any alternatives for this situation.
I got a bed in a dorm with 10 beds, but there was only one already taken, by an English man from London. He didn’t seem very interested in making conversation, but he was a helpful and ok guy. Even though I was really tired, it took me a while to fall asleep.

Wednesday, 9 August
Woke up, did some laundry and took a shower. There were public showers, but the English guy had shown me the private showers, which were probably meant for the people in private rooms. But no one was there anyway, so I just had to take advantage of that.
The plan for today was to take a bus down south to Leknes, rent a bike there and bike to Moskenesøy, which was supposed to be the island with the most spectacular scenery. I had some time before the bus left, so I decided to walk to the centre of Kabelvåg and explore it. It thought it was a nice little village. The day had started out partly cloudy, and it seemed like it was clearing up more, which was great. (By the end of the day the sky would have cleared up completely).
The bus ride to Leknes was pretty awesome already. When I got to the tourist office, it turned out that they didn’t rent out bikes anymore. Crap, now what? I could take a bus to Moskenesøy, but that would cost me another 100 Kr, I would only get to one place, and I wanted to get back to the hostel a bit early, so I’d have some time for dinner and internet. First I tried to find a place by the coast, with a nice view, where I could have some lunch, but I soon found out that it would take quite a while to walk up to such a place, something I wasn’t up for. Then I thought, ok, screw it. I’m not here to save money, or to get online, or whatever. I’m here to see as much as possible. So I took a bus to Reine, a village on Moskenesøy, which was once voted for as the most scenic place in Norway. I could see why. It would have gotten my vote, probably. There wasn’t really a lot to do there besides enjoying the sights, so I decided to take the first bus back to Leknes, so I would still be back at the hostel pretty early. Or so I thought. I sure was glad I’d decided to go to Moskenesøy after all, it was definitely worth it!
The bus was mostly filled with French teens, of which some were singing Champs Elysees and other French songs out of a songbook, and they seemed to be taking it very seriously as well. Does it get any better than that? Don’t think so. It was such a bummer to see them get off the bus early, forcing me to listen to my own crappy music again. When I got to Leknes, there was no direct connection back to Kabelvåg. So I was stuck in Leknes for two hours, which I could have spent in Reine instead. Oh well, it was ok. Got dinner from a supermarket, wrote for a bit and time flew by. So now I’m on the bus to Kabelvåg, and I doubt anything interesting will happen before I go to bed. So goodnight.

Scandinavia 2006: day 4 – 7

Wednesday, August 9th, 2006

Date: Monday, 7 August
Time: 9:46
Location: train from Trondheim to Bodø

Wow, time flies. I thought I´d skip a day and write today instead, because I’ll be on the train all day.

Friday, 4 August
I arrived in Bergen around 2 pm. What a beautiful city. The ferry terminal is right in the centre, so you get a great view on the city when you arrive. Well, just look at the pictures (when they´re online). I had some time before I would meet up with Sunniva, so I went to an Internet cafe to (finally) update my journal and take care of some other stuff. Went to 3 different places actually, because the first two were about to close. So I already got to see a bit of Bergen on the way. Definitely a city you have to go to. And so thought a lot of people; there were lots of tourists around.
At 4.30 I met up with Sunniva. She was studying English and wanted to become a translator, probably of books (as in literature). She was pretty busy with work, but the weekend had just started so she had quite a lot of time to spend with me, which was cool. First we went to her apartment to drop off my stuff. She lived in the centre, which was very convenient of course. It was a small place, but cosy (and hot, it was on the second floor). She also had two budgies; one of them talked and liked sitting on people, which was pretty funny.
We left to do some sightseeing. First we walked past the famous fish market. It was alright, not too much to it, I thought (except for a lot of FISH of course). The we took the Fløibanen funicular up one of the city mountains, from where we got a great view over the city. From there we took the non-touristic walk down, first through the forest and then through neighbourhoods of small streets and timber houses, very nice. By the way, the whole day there was pretty much a clear blue sky and it was warm, which is pretty exceptional for Bergen. It rains about 275 days a year there. We went to this vegetarian restaurant, which looked really funky, played terrible music, and offered menu items like a `Flash Gordon burger´ (which I had, and it included pink dressing). I know, that sounds pretty bad, but the food was pretty great and it was a nice place to sit outside. Next up we walked through Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage site. I always thought it was just a bunch of old timber waterfront buildings in a row, but there is a whole site behind it as well. It´s just like walking through a street in the middle ages. Again just check out the picture, it was pretty amazing. We spent the rest of the evening in a park at the tip of the centre of Bergen, with a great view over the Byfjorden. I figured that if I’d live here I’d go here in the summer to hang out with friends, like I sometimes do now in the Wantijpark in Dordrecht. Just for that we should all move to Bergen. Back at the place we watched two episodes of The Office before we went to bed. I’d never seen it, but it was very funny, so I should probably get the dvd. This time I had to sleep on the floor on an air mattress. Not too great, but hey, can´t complain when it´s a free place to crash!

Saturday, 5 August
Today was a bit cloudy, but besides that it was still nice. I had to catch the train at about 1.15 pm, so I had some more time to spend in Bergen. I walked around town a bit more by myself in the morning. Did some shopping, got a banana and chocolate spread in a tube (great!!). Together with cheese and bread, this is what I´d pretty much lived on for lunch and sometimes breakfast for the past couple of days. And I doubt that will change. I usually get some food from my hosts as well, so that´s really cool. For dinner it varies, I usually pay for my own portion.
Anyway, I went back to Sunniva´s place to get my stuff and say goodbye. It had been cool, we´d actually spent quite a lot of time together talking (while walking through the city). Just about random stuff, but still. So I guess we got along pretty well, but I think two days maybe would have been too long. But that doesn’t matter, it worked out well like this. So once again, good thing I spent two days in Stavanger and one in Bergen.
I went to the train station to make some reservations for the trip from Bergen to Bodø. I like seat reservations a lot actually; you don´t have to worry about getting a decent seat when you´re getting on a train. Then I went to library, where they had free internet access (but yesterday it was just about to close when I got there). I asked about it and the lady didn´t seem very eager to let me use a computer, and said something about a library card, but I got to go online anyway, ha. Afterwards I made myself some lunch in a park nearby with a big pond. Nice place.
I got on the train to Myrdal. I was pretty curious about this ride; this would be the first part of the famous Oslo – Bergen railway, which is supposed to be ‘one of the most spectacular rail journeys on earth’ (Lonely Planet). This first part was very nice indeed, so that showed a lot of promise. But first I got off in Myrdal, to take a ride on the Flåmsbana, another spectacular rail journey, which descents 865m over a course of 20km. It was spectacular indeed, just too bad it’s hard to take pictures out of a train (window). Something I have to deal with a lot during this vacation. Oh well! Got a bit stressed out on the way back to Myrdal. I thought I’d have some time to spend in Flåm, but I had to go back right away if I wanted to be in time for the train to Geilo. The Flåmsbana train left a bit later than scheduled, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. I asked the conductor and he said the train would be there in time, but it didn’t really comfort me. Well I made it, and it turned out that almost everyone on the train had to catch that train to Geilo (which would continue to Oslo), haha.
So on with the Bergen – Oslo railway. The next part was beautiful as well; it went past the Hardangvidda, a national park which consists mainly of a plateau, with tundra landscapes. I also got to see a glacier.
I arrived in Geilo, where I was going to stay for a day. This time with someone from the Hospitality Club, a guy named Howard. He was from England, but had been living in Norway now for some time (he’d also lived in Japan and I think Spain as well, pretty amazing). He had two friends over from the US, Hanne (not sure how you spell it) and Rick, who were visiting him for 9 days. I thought ok, that’s cool, should be fun. Then Howard told me there was a festival going on in Geilo this weekend, and tonight there was a band playing, and a bunch of people would come over to his place first. So first two girls showed up, along with a girl from France, who was giving a massage course at one of the local hotels, where Howard and the other girls worked. So this was becoming quite an international thing. Anyway, we had some dinner and everyone sat around the table talking, and I felt out of place pretty soon. They were all a bit older than me, and just a bit different, so it seemed. I thought ok, this is going to be a lousy night, but that’s the risk you run when staying with people you don’t know. After dinner more people showed up, and we moved to the living room area, and I was sitting next to Rick, the American guy. I figured I could talk to him, about the US, and what they were doing and stuff, so I did, and later Hanne and Howard joined a bit as well. Rick and Hanne were very interesting people. They were originally from California, had lived in Prague and Japan, and then moved back to CA.
So, I felt a lot better, and it seemed like it was going to be fun a night after all. I even went along to see the band. Well, band, it was a male guitarist/singer and a female singer, with a ‘band-in-a-box’, who played some ok songs (but most of them in a bad version), and mostly lame songs. On top of that, pretty much all the people that were already there, were old. Normally a setting that I would avoid at all costs, but I was here now, with some people that I’d started to like, so I just made the best out of it. I even got dragged onto the dance floor a couple of times and I thought, oh what the heck. So it was actually a lot of fun and I just kept thinking how funny it was that I’d ended up here on a Saturday night, having a good time with people I’d only met a couple of hours earlier. Never thought that could be me. We went back to the apartment (which was really nice by the way) and they learned me a new card game called `shithead´, which was fun. We went to bed, and this time I got a mattress on the floor, which was a huge improvement over the night before.

Sunday, 6 August
Had some breakfast, then Howard had to go to work, so I hung out with the Americans for a bit. Then they started packing, because they were leaving that day. I said goodbye to them and then left myself, to do some hiking. The weather was great again. I had planned to do this hike on the Hardangervidda, but it turned out to be too far away, so I just took one of the trails nearby. Geilo is a skiing town, and in the summer the ski trails are used for hiking and biking. I had some trouble finding the trail I was looking for. At some point I got halfway up this mountain, were there was a bench and a great view, so I figured I´d just sit there and have some lunch. Then I got the idea to go swimming, which sounded much better than more hiking, so I went down again and found a place to swim. Sure was nice, except that my phone fell in the water. At first it still seemed to work ok, but after a while it started acting weird, up to a point where I couldn’t use it anymore. I figured I´d take it apart, so that maybe it would dry up and start working again. Fortunately it did. Howard came back from work, we talked a bit, had something to eat, and then he took me to the hotel where he worked, where I could use to internet for free. Sure was nice of him.
Then it was time to go. It had been another great time. It started out kind of hectic and overwhelming, but in the end it was really cool. Howard´s a great host and a very nice guy. So I got on the train, which was the start of a 22.5 hour train ride, all the way up to Bodø. First it was off to Oslo, for the last part of the Bergen – Oslo railway. This was beautiful as well, so, looking back on the whole ride, it´s definitely lived up to its reputation. I passed Gol, a town I visited when I was in Norway with my family. Didn’t recognize anything, but still, it was fun to think about it.
I got to Oslo around 10.30pm, where I took the night train to Trondheim. It had seemed like a good idea to do this, because it would save me some time, and a really long train ride is no problem when you´re sleeping anyway. But what I didn´t know is that a bed on this train costs 750 Kr. Of course that wasn´t worth it to me, so I just got a chair. Well, now I know that sleeping in a chair doesn´t work for me, at least not when this chair is located in a train (in an airplane isn´t too good either, but still better). Even though we got a blanket, an inflatable pillow, ear plugs, and eye mask, I only got about three hours of sleep I think.

Monday, 7 August
At 7 am the train arrived in Trondheim, where it was cold and it was raining a bit. It was cool to be there again, though. I always like it when you´re in another country and you come in or by a place you’ve been before, especially when you recognise some things. I didn’t stick around for long though, ´cause the train to Bodø left at 7.40.
During this train ride, the scenery started out pretty boring; mostly agricultural landscape, with some hills and forest. It got better when we got more up north, there were some real nice parts. What´s kind of depressing though, is that I’ve only seen one tiny piece of blue sky so far, and we’ve been on the way for almost 8 hours now. Hope it will be better in Bodø and especially during the next two days on the Lofoten islands. Tonight I´m staying with a girl from the Hospitality Club called Ane. I think she still lives with her family, that should be cool for a change. On the Lofoten I will stay in a youth hostel for the first time during this trip; in Kabelvåg, for two nights. Should be cool as well.
Catch you on the flipside!

Scandinavia 2006: day 2 – 4

Friday, August 4th, 2006

Date: Friday, 4 August
Time: 11:00
Location: ferry from Stavanger to Bergen

Goddag! Things are going well. Well I’ll just pick up from where I ended my last journal entry.

Wednesday, 2 August
I got to Stavanger at 7:19 pm and met up with Steffen. He had a car, which would turn out to be pretty convenient. First we drove around Stavanger a bit, to give me some impression of the city. Stavanger is the 4th largest city in Norway, with a population of about 170,000. I thought it looked alright.
We got some pasta for dinner and went to his place. Man, and what a place it was. He had an apartment in the basement of his brothers house, in a nice and quiet neighbourhood. I absolutely loved it. It kind of reminded me of the holiday homes I stayed in with my family when we visited Norway in 2003. A friend of Steffen, Hans, joined us and we just watched some tv and a movie. It was nice to relax for a bit. Went to bed at a reasonable time too.

Thursday, 3 August
In the morning Steffen dropped me off at the harbour; my plan for today was to visit the Preikestolen (Pulpit rock). I was really looking forward to that. I took a ferry and then a bus to get there. Pretty nice route, and the weather was great; partly cloudy and a good temperature. To get to the Preikestolen one needs to hike up there, which took me about 2 tot 2.5 hours. There were some pretty tough parts, but it was doable and the scenery was nice. There were lots of tourists, a lot of German and Dutch people.
I got to the Preikestolen and it was incredible, to say at least. Just the rock itself is incredible, and then the view.. First time I saw a real Norwegian fjord. Up the fjord it was pretty cloudy, but around the rock it was pretty clear. I sat on the edge for a while, it wasn’t as scary as I had thought. There were a lot of people around of course, but it’s simply a must-see, so that makes sense. I got pretty tired on the way back, and on top of that it started getting pretty hot and I ran out of water. But I made it, and at the starting point there was a bathroom (which was free, to my surprise) where I got some water, so that helped.
On the way back to Stavanger I had trouble not falling asleep, but I felt better when I got back. I decided to explore the city centre a bit. First I walked to the cathedral, which was very nice, and then past the harbour to the old town. This is a small neighbourhood of old, whitewashed, wooden houses on a hill. It was pretty cool. After that I was done with it so I gave Steffen a call. I hung around at the harbour for a while, a great place, especially in the great weather, until he picked me up. We got some groceries to make dinner and went back to his place.
There was a beach nearby, so I walked there for a short swim. Sure was nice. I just can’t over how clear the water was, so much different from the North Sea. It was nice to swim in a sea again, hadn’t done that in 4 years. I went back to the apartment and we had some dinner, with Hans, who’d dropped by. We had nachos, cheese, refried beans, japalenos and a bit of cinnamon all put together in an oven dish. Tasted pretty good, I should try it out myself sometimes. After dinner we went for a drive around Stavanger. First we went to this tower where you get a really great view over the city and it’s surroundings, and then through some neighbourhoods with really nice houses and these insanely prized (of course pretty much anything in Norway is insanely prized according to Dutch standards, but still) apartment buildings that were under construction. Hans and Steffen told me that right now Norway’s economy is booming, and in the major cities, expensive apartment buildings are rearing up their (ugly) heads. Not that they’re all that ugly, but we agreed that it’s a bit of a shame. Anyway, it was a nice drive. During the rest of the evening we watched some tv again, and I had to email some people from Couchsurfing and the Hospitality Club, for accommodation later during my trip.

Friday, 5 August
Today I’m going to my next stop: Bergen. I decided to take the Flaggruten ferry to get there. It’s faster and more comfortable than the bus. It’s pretty expensive (560 Kr), but I got a good discount on it with my Interrail pass (-240 Kr). Sure is a nice way to travel. The scenery isn’t too extraordinary, but it’s the coast of Norway so it’s not bad at all, of course. The weather is incredible. Only a couple of clouds here and there.
So this morning I said goodbye to Steffen and Stavanger. I had a really good time there. In fact, I wouldn’t mind living there, I think. Especially where Steffen lived: a nice, quiet neighbourhood, only a short walk from the coast/beach, and pretty close to the city centre. Stavanger is pretty big, but it doesn’t feel like a big city at all. The weather is probably comparable to where I live, just a bit lower temperatures. And nature’s right outside your doorstep.
I got along pretty well with Steffen and Hans, I figure we could be good friends if I lived there. So I’m glad I stayed in Stavanger for two days, even thought it means that I’ve only got one day to spend in Bergen. I wonder what that city will be like. This afternoon I’m meeting up with the girl I’m staying with: Sunniva. Off to another adventure!

Scandinavia 2006: day 1 – 2

Friday, August 4th, 2006

Date: Wednesday, 2 August
Time: 12:10
Location: train from Oslo to Stavanger

So, this is it. I’m on my way through Scandinavia. I guess it hasn’t really gotten through to me yet, haha. I’ve been, more or less, planning this vacation since February or March, and now I’m actually doing this. Pretty cool and weird.

Anyway, let’s start with the first day.

Day 1: Tuesday, 1 August
In the evening my parents drove me to Schiphol airport, which was cool. After checking in and getting some Norwegian Kroner, I went to the gate. To my surprise, the airplane wasn’t there yet, and it was only half an hour until boarding (which would take place at 7:45). Weird. Sometime past 8 it got there, and around 8:40 the boarding was done. Then the pilot told us that they were going to have to wait until 9:01 to take off. So, 35 minutes late. Oh well. Sure was glad I hadn’t decided to take the night train to Stavanger, which would leave about 45 minutes after landing.
The flight was ok. During check-in I was able to book a window seat, and I got some nice views over The Netherlands and Norway. Luckily I was a bit sleepy and I had to yawn a lot during landing, which relieved the pressure from my ears. I’d heard that ‘popping’ your ears (breathing out with your nose and mouth closed) can be pretty bad. Anyway, I didn’t have to do that. It was about 10:30 when I walked out of the plane, so they’d caught up a bit. I turned my cellphone on and saw that Marius had tried to call me a couple of minutes ago. Marius would be my first Couchsurfing host, in Oslo. I tried to call him back, but no answer. Great. I figured I’d just go to the train station, where we were supposed to meet. The express train from the airport to the train station cost me 160 Kr, and it turned out to be a 20 minute ride. I thought, ok, this is definitely not going to be a cheap vacation, haha. When I was in the train, Marius called me again, and told me where we would meet. He sounded like a nice guy, so that was cool.
We met up and took a bus to his apartment. It was a cool place, although quite a mess, but I’m used to that I guess. Apparently he rented a room from this lady who lived there with her son. They were gone for a couple of days though. We just hung out for a while. He showed me a bunch of sketches of a Norwegian comedy group, in which a guy would lip sing to a Dutch speech part and then a song. Marius had always wondered what it meant, and I of course was able to explain it to him. It was pretty funny.
I spent the night on a nice, big leather couch.

Day 2: Wednesday, 2 August
In the morning I said goodbye to Marius and I took the bus to the train station. So that was my first Couchsurfing experience, as a guest. I liked it, Marius was a good host. It’s pretty amazing to be able to do this! On the way to the train station I realised again what a nice city Oslo is. Sure, it may not stick up compared to other European capitals, but there something cool about it. I saw some places that I recognised from the last time I was there, 4 years ago. Pity that I didn’t have any time to walk around a bit. I’ll probably come back some day (actually I will on Saturday, but just for an hour or so, in between two train rides).
So right now I’m on the train to Stavanger. It’s pretty comfortable, I’ve got a window seat and the seat beside my is empty. The scenery is nice, mostly forests and mountains, sometimes a nice view over a lake in a valley. It’s a lot and then some more of the same though. This should be one of the least exciting rides of this trip.
Ok, I’m wrapping up. Tonight I’m meeting Steffen, I’ll be staying with him for two nights.

off to the great right-now-not-so-white north

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

Well I’m off to Scandinavia! Tonight I’m flying to Oslo, and from there the adventure begins. I’ll post the schedule when I get the chance, and of course I’ll try to update every two days or so.

It’s been kinda quiet at my LJ lately, I know. There’s a lot of things I wanted to write about, but I just didn’t get around to it. And now there’s no more time! Maybe when I get back.