A Travellerspoint blog

The Land of Fjords ~ Norway

sunny 19 °F
View Europe 2010 on Khandilee's travel map.

So I landed in Oslo, Norway....

The first thing that struck me is the fact that the airport is about the size of South Bend! If your not familar with SB...it's TINY. As we were getting ready to land, I realized that I had chosen my seat poorly. You see, on RyanAir there are no assigned seats and I thought that I needed to sleep so chose a windowless seat. It worked out great as I slept like a baby on the plane but as we were flying low over the Fjords getting ready to land, I realized that I was not able to see the beauty that was floating below me. Sad....

It's cold here. Yep, it is. No....really, I mean it...it's cold! It's a good thing that the sun is shining or I think I would freeze in place. I guess it really isn't that bad. Walking around Oslo today my nose and ears felt as though I were going to suffer from frostbite. I think I stopped about 20 times for coffee just to warm up. I'm goin gto have to find a better way to get warm as a cup of coffee here is about 25 Krone = $4.22 usd !!

Let's back up to yesterday. I was watching the scenery on the bus (in between naps) from the airport into Oslo and my first thoughts were that it looks a lot like what I would think that Alaska would look like. Hills covered in snow with rock walls along the roads, small and large farm-houses dotted across the countryside. It seemed very remote. It took about an hour and 45 minutes to get into town from the airport. Somehow, I thought that I read somewhere that it was only 45 minutes away...oh well, better make certain that I give myself plenty of time to get back to the airport on Sunday. No time to worry about that right now...

We passed my boat/hostel on the bus on the way to Central Station. I tried as hard as I could to keep the direction in my mind but with all the turning and such, by the time we got to CS, I could not for the life of me figure out which way to the boat! I knew that I was close and I should have simply asked but I was stuborn (and tired) and just grabbed a taxi outside the station. Of course, my taxi driver didn't speak any English so I was trying to explain in child-speak where I wanted to go. All I really would have had to say was...take me across the street! Literally! The boat/hostel was RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET!!! Ok, I am not going to beat myself up over the amount paid to get across the street...and I'm not telling you how much either! Lesson learned, but I was tired and at that moment, the cost was well worth it.

After I got checked in, I headed out to get something to eat. I realized that other than a croissant at the airport, I hadn't eaten since about midnight.... Where did I go? To Central Station! There is always food at the station and it was close. I don't know if it was because I was tired or starving but the Turkish Kabob that I had was quite tasty.

There is a wonder view from the MS Innvik (the boat/hostel/theater) where I am staying. I am right on the water and right across from me is the Opera House as well as the Castle. At night, they are both lit up and simply beautiful. Hope to get some pictures tonight to share.

Today, I wandered around lost for most of the day (starting to be a theme for my travels). I think I got a good lay-out of the city. Figured out the Metro. I saw the Royal Palace and wasn't all impressed. The people here are friendly, but not overly outgoing with strangers. I walked the boardwalk at Aker Bridge and had lunch at a place called Albertine Cafe and Bar. I enjoyed a bowl of fish soup full of fish, clams and shrimp. Very tasty. Oh...side note: The bread here is wonderful!!

I'm back at the boat now for some warming up. Enjoying some hot coffee (free) and internet. This evening, I am going to climb to the top of the Opera house for (hopefully) some great photo op's. Then a totally non-touristy activity...I am going to the theater to see Shutter Island. I have been wanting to see it since I saw it advertised way back in October before I left the states and it's playing at the theater here. It's supposed to be in English with Norwegian sub-titles (we'll see).

Tomorrow I am planning to be a complete tourist! Going to take a tour...yes, me...taking a tour! Planning to visit Vigeland Sculpture Park, Holmenkollen & Viking Ship Museum.

Posted by Khandilee 07:36 Archived in Norway Comments (10)

Pulling out of a mindset of Sludge in Prague

sunny
View Europe 2010 on Khandilee's travel map.

This is what I feel like I am trying to do. Trying to keep the gray sky from turning my mind and thoughts gray. If you read my last post, you'll know that I have been suffering from a bit of feeling 'down'. I had decided to put an end to it and get out to explore, regardless of the weather.

I talked another civilian RN into taking a spur of the moment trip with me. Where? How about Prague? It's only 5 hour drive away and we have a 3 day weekend to do it in. Now, this sounds like a lot of time but in reality it isn't. You will see below that 3 days (when working nights) is a horribly short time to travel and explore a city. I am still trying to convince the scheduler at work of this....

Lets run a quick time-line:

0730 We both get off work and head to my place to meet and drop off the extra car and pick up Aco.
0845 Coffee is had (couldn't start the day without it), clothes are changed, car is packed, Aco is rounded up and we are off to pick up the rental car.

0910 Arrive at car rental desk. Wait in line, pick up keys and receive instructions on return and obtaining a gas card. (Gas card 'must' be obtained in order to fuel the car ~ in Germany only ~ at the American base prices). This is extremely important due to the price of gas on the economy here. It's over $6/gallon here in Germany and I have no idea what the price might be in Czech Republic. Off we go...

1010 Arrive at Vogelweh base. This is the base that is closest to my apartment where we will drop the other car due to the fact that you CAN NOT park your car at the car rental place on Ramstein Base. Who has ever rented a car at a place that won't allow you to park your personal vehicle for the duration of the rental? Not me! Never....already frustrated that we have to drive back to my place to drop off the other car before we can hit the road toward Prague.
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So we are at Vogelweh, after dropping Switzer's car at my place. First stop is the ATM, yes...we both forgot to get some Euro and although we will be spending on the Czech currency, it's always good to have Euro. Especially since we are traveling through Germany to get there.

Now onto the gas station to get the Gas card. No coffee in the coffee machine at the station. Getting more aggravated. I'm getting tired! Woke up at 3pm yesterday and still have more errands then a 5 hour drive to an unfamiliar city and exploring to do....

Stand in line for said Gas card....

Teller informs me that I can't get card for rental. I have to go to the security office to get the card then I have to come back here to get it loaded with funds. Uggggghhhhh!!!
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Off to the security office. On arrival, the window has the blinds closed. Not certain if we are in the right place we stalk a passerby and ask. Yeah, right place...just pick up the phone on the wall. Oh, right! The phone (that I didn't see). Thanks. Phone picked up and I asked about getting a Gas card. The answer went something like this "yes, this is the right place....but we are closed now......on duty days we are open after 4pm.....on non duty days we are open at ???......but it's a duty day and we aren't open.....you have to go to Ramstien.....to the security bldg num.........." FUCK IT! I am SO DONE! Yes, that's exactly how I felt at this point. I had the piece of paper that told me that I could get this done at Vogelweh and that's why I came here because I hate trying to navigate the base at Ramstein and I had to come back this way to my house to drop off the car anyway. So I ranted and bitched for about 10 minutes to Switzer (who pleasantly listened), then we hit the road....nearly 11am now.
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As it turns out, you really don't need to get a card for a rental. Oh, yeah you probably 'should' get one but no one asks in the economy to see the registration and make certain that you are gassing the car that is on the card. Why should anyone care anyway? Gas is Gas. Does it matter what car you are gassing? Well, obviously someone thinks so. Let's just say that I know you can use your card but I can't discuss how I paid for MY gas on the economy!

It's pushing 6pm when we finally get to the hotel, checked in and to our room. It's been a long day and we are both exhausted. But...we are in a new city and don't want to totally waste the evening. We have no Krona on us so we head to the Metro station to use the cash machine. Finding it without difficulty about 10 min walk from the hotel. Very convenient. Next item on agenda? FOOD! I am starving....and I really want to try out the Czech Beer that I have read so much about.

Not really wanting to venture into the city we look around the local area and find a restaurant/bar about a block away from the Metro. It's a cute little place and we end up sharing the far end of a table with some locals. It looks like a local place. We are the only English speakers here. I think there might be others that are tourists, many languages are being spoken. The waiter brings Switzer a dark brew and myself a medium brew. I don't know the names but they are both WONDERFUL. I'm certainly not a beer connoisseur but these are the easiest drinking beer I have ever tasted (the dark was especially good).

After looking over the menu for quite some time, we finally decided on eats. I ordered 'Mother-in-laws Breath' or something like that. It was potato pancake's with some sort of white cheese in the middle and fried.....Wonderful tasting with the side of sauerkraut. Switzer got a steak that was unfortunately, a little on the tough side. The local couple at the other end of our table took great delight in watching my reaction to the food when It was delivered and tasted. They were smiling and giggling...weird? I didn't get any pics...didn't want to embarrass Switzer too much! A couple of beers were had then it was back to the hotel for an early turn in due to exhaustion. Man, I am getting old!

I think we slept for about 10 hours.....I don't remember anything except having to get up around 0200 to take Aco out to potty. (poor girl, I have got to find a sitter for her).

We started out early the next morning and spent the entire day exploring, mostly wandering around lost and gawking at the architecture. Street food was considered as there were multiple stands set up in the town square.
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But it was early and we resisted since we were still full from the hotel breakfast. Lunch was Nachos and quesadilla at a little bar alongside more Czech beer. Not very original for Czech food but it was good and filling and the beer a delight...again (although the service a bit poor).

I think we got to see most of the main tourist sites:

Prague Castle
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Of course with all this beauty, I felt that it wouldn't be complete without a statue of me and there was an open space for just such a statue:
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Charles Bridge: This was full of people and half of it was blocked with scaffolding. It was much prettier at night and I got a shot of the full moon as well. The street performer was fun to watch and I also have a video that's pretty cute. I have to get back for a Marionette show sometime.
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Old Town Square and Misc Buildings and views and such:

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I took my time picking out select postcards to mail out. If you didn't get one this time, maybe I'll get you next time. Make sure that you have given me your address though or you'll never get one! haha

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The Jewish Quarter: We saw the graveyard completly surrounded with fencing and were unable to figure out how to get into it. I got a couple of pics from the gated door, but nothing up close. It would have been fun/interesting to have been able to explore this a little more up close.
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I don't think that I can go anywhere with another person without them taking a picture of me with the map trying to find my way....
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The Powder Gate: This was one of the first sights that we came across and set the mood for the trip.
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The Horologe (Astronomical Clock): We took some great pics here but didn't see it hit the hour and get to experience the figures moving at the top of the hour.
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Now for the not-so-touristy type stuff. These were the sights that I will probably remember the most. There were the man-hole covers that were quite unique.

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Then we searched out the Graffiti Wall

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Just before we found the Graffiti wall, we ran across the Love locks. I think my favorite is the one with a yellow ribbon....

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There was an underground tour that we had hoped to get to but timing wasn't on our side. I'm sure that there are many more things that we could/should have seen but overall, it was a good trip. The weather (although still cool) was wonderful with the sun shining most of the time and we were greeted with a full moon after dark.

Another local bar was found for dinner/drinks and we enjoyed the gallivanting of a group of Englishmen out on the town for the weekend. They were put in their place when a couple of girls they were flirting with suddenly decided to start making out. We all got quite a laugh out of that....

Here is a pic of Switzer and I at the bridge....
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Self photos make me look like a dork, but we had a great time and can't wait for the next adventure!!

Posted by Khandilee 08:16 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged women Comments (5)

Lots of Living and working and not enough PLAYING

I was reading an article on www.bootsnall.com the other day and I just can't stop thinking about it. I'll find it and link it here later...it was about 'travelers' vs 'expats'. I can say now that I have experienced both of these. As a traveler, I have enjoyed the US, Vietnam and Italy. Now I am experiencing living as an expat in Germany. These are two very different worlds....

I have decided (possibly prematurely) that I do not enjoy being an expat. I much prefer the life of a traveler. I really have no interest in continuing to live here in Germany. I have a decent job, a nice apartment (that I really don't want) and have made a few friends since I've arrived. I really liked the feeling of being able to move every 3 months if I wanted too. I'm probably a little jaded on my opinion right now but that's how I feel.

Being a traveler....I love the feeling of not knowing what the next week is going to hold, or where I will be staying in two nights from now. THe excitement of reaching a new city and finding my way around holds something for me. Where I'm going to get my dinner or what the 'free' breakfast includes and if it will be enough to hold me over until lunch. The push to explore, knowing that I've only a few short days and I'll be gone....it's like a drug, I want more.

Right now, I'm feeling stagnant. Like I am somewhere that I don't fit. It's ok not to 'fit' if I'm traveling but now I am living here and not to 'fit' is not a good feeling. After finally putting my finances together in the states so that I could afford to travel and enjoy my life...I am feeling the crunch of living on a restricted budget. Between making less money and having to set up an entire house and now having BILLS.....well, I am feeling strapped. I'm sure it's just a fleeting thing.....hopefully. Besides the fact of all of the above, yes: I'm in Europe. I should feel blessed but there are a few hurdles standing in my way in order to enjoy being in Europe. I'm trying to work these out and hopefully it will happen soon....

Only 285 days left until I can freely leave Germany and not owe the US Gov't anything.....maybe my opinions will change by then?

Going to go play with Aco now!

Oh...http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/10-02/expats-vs-backpackers-why-all-the-hate.html here is the link to the article. My bad, it was backpackers not 'travelers'.

Posted by Khandilee 12:47 Archived in Germany Tagged business_travel Comments (5)

A Man's (or woman's) Best Friend Arrives

It's been a little over 2 months since I left the states and left my little one behind. She has finally arrived. Mom and Dad had a hassle free flight to Frankfurt. On arrival it was like no one even cared that they had a dog with them....they literally could have walked out and no one would have been the wiser. It was Dad's first time flying and I think he secretly enjoyed it. Of course, I don't think that he will ever fully admit that due to the fight he gave me over getting out here!

Aco's homecoming was nothing extraordinary. I got her out of her crate and kissed on her a bit, then took her out to find a patch of grass to relieve herself. I won't go into details here.... I didn't even cry; believe it or not!

We stopped at McD's at the airport and had a bite of breakfast before driving on to my place 1.5 hours away. When we got to the apartment, we were all tired. Daddy was asleep before we set foot into the door. Ok, not really but it was very close to that!

I had to work that night so off to bed I went with hopes that Aco would join me.... My hopes were crushed when she trotted up the steps and found a comfortable spot next to Daddy. I think she likes him a bit.... She did finally find her way to my bed sometime during the day.

The next day, we tooled around town a little and stopped at the German grocery. We picked up some cheese and sausages for the road trip. I took Mom and Dad for a fine dining experience for a street-stand frankfurter! We spent the rest of the evening resting and preparing for our Road-Trip to Paris.

The drive to Paris was uneventful. The weather held out for the drive with no snow. Mom and Dad suffering from jet-lag and me from third shift work, we decided to relax on the first night in Paris. We went to a little restaurant just next to our hotel and had a wonderful dinner. The entire menu was in french and the waiter spoke little English. We ended up ordering the pre-fix meal and each ordered a different meat. Mom got 'poultry', Dad 'beef' and 'fish' for me. All of our meals were amazingly good. Plates were cleaned off and little room was left for our deserts of a chocolate lava cake and creme' brule'.....

I had booked a free tour of Paris the following day to start at 2:30pm. We left the hotel early and walked around Paris on our own exploring then began to head toward our meeting place for the tour.....we had planned to get a bite to eat once we got close to our meeting spot, but we ended up getting a little lost and by the time we arrived, it was time for the tour. The guide, Piere was wonderful. He directed us to a cafe' where we enjoyed coffee and sandwiches prior to heading off on the walking tour.

Piere was a wonderful guide and we got an inside look at his area of Paris. After, we wandered toward the Eifel Tower for a night-time view and a few pictures before heading back to rest our feet at the hotel. We were all quite tired from all the walking and I think I was nearly frozen to the bone.

Next, we were off to Brugge, Belgium. I fell in love with this city when Aaron and I visited in December and it didn't disappoint this time. Window shopping, chocolates and good food were had and even Aco enjoyed meandering around the city. Of course, they let her into the restaurants and she even got a chair to herself so she felt like a little princess.

I forgot to charge my GPS so we got a little turned around on the way home and the 4 hour drive ended up being about 6 hrs. In addition, something is going wrong with my car. It's missing and I can't figure out if it's a tank of bad gas, clogged filters or possibly the fuel pump going bad....it's gotten me to work now for two nights and hopefully one more then it's off to the mechanic.

Mom and Dad's visit was way too fleeting. I felt like they barely got here and were leaving again. There is so much that I wanted to show them and feel like they only got a small taste. Maybe they will make a return visit.....

I'll post pictures soon....

Posted by Khandilee 18:25 Archived in France Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

My German Home

I finally have some furniture and am starting to feel like it's my place. Thought I would share some before/after pics for everyone....

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And just for fun....here are some pics of the snow in my backyard about 2 days ago:

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Posted by Khandilee 01:11 Archived in Germany Tagged women Comments (5)

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