Monday, 23 October 2006

Scandinavia part 5: Bergen, Norway

After a long adventurous trip across Norway and after sleeping ourselves out, Aurelia was even tired of sleeping at one point Image, we woke up to start a beautiful day in Bergen.

A nice breakfast in a sun lit restaurant at the hotel on Bergen Bryggen was the best way to start the day (and supply our selves with sandwiches for lunch Image), We checked out and went walking on the Bryggen, this is the centre of the city and is a really nice beautiful place that makes you feel happy, i even bought myself a traditional Norwegian sweater and a T-shirt with a small Norwegian flag on Image.

We went all around the city, took a lot of photos, the weather was quite warm regardelss of the little fog. And it didn't rain! and i actually won a dinner because of that Image, Erik bet me for dinner that it rained on us there (but it actually didn't, hurraay!).

Bergen has 7 mountains around it, the highest one is Ulriken and you can go to its top using a "funiculaire" called Ulriksbanen, we went up there and the sight is really huge, you can see all Bergen clearly from there, it's nice to see the bryggen from up there, cool! That place also has a column with pointers to the seven peaks, if you stand there and look exactly in the direction the arrow points, you'll see the corresponding peak Image.

Walking back to the train station was really nice too, the city is just so calm and nice, we arrived about 20 minutes before the train departure time, got ourselves some food and drinks and went into the train.

In a couple of minutes, our journey back to Asker started, regardless of any problems on our journey, we really enjoyed it and were in a very good mood, we kept talking and laughing (and counting tunnels, there's just loads of them all the way), the man facing us was almost laughing out loud at what we say, we made his journey for sure Image.

6 hours and we were in Asker, back home (Scandic home), really happy and really satisfied with our most original and extraordinarily interesting trip. Image

Friday, 20 October 2006

Scandinavia part 4: Norway in a nutshell

Another weekend passed and another adventure...

This time it was inside Norway, me and Aurelia (a colleague of mine) decided to take the famous Norway in a nutshell tour.

Our tour started on Saturday 8:30 a.m. by taking the Bergen train to our first stop Myrdal, if you're a nature lover this is a road for you, amazing places all around, greens, water, rocky mountains, small houses, forests, just awesome, some sites were really breathtaking especially that we were quite lucky with the weather, we had a beautiful sunny day. The trip to Myrdal takes about four hours of beautiful landscape all around you. And i guarantee you a lot of Japanese tourists there, nobody discusses the fact that they're taking loads of photos but imagine a family travelling together and each member of it has his own camera! They exceeded my expectations to be true Image

On the way the train passes by a town called Finse, this town is located on the highest point of the Bergen railway at a height of 1222m above sea level, all the mountain peaks around are covered in snow, that was a huge sight, warm sun and cold icy breeze from those snowy mountains around.

Arriving to Myrdal, we switched to the Flåm (pronounced as Flom)train, this is quite an old (more tourist attraction actually) that takes you from Myrdal to Flåm via the most beautiful railway road you can ever see, it goes on the steep of the mountain, you're surrounded by green mountains and waterfalls, of which Kjosfossen (i'm not sure about the name, i'll check it later) is surely the most impressive, it's big, strong and really beautiful.

You reach Flåm which is a small town between fjords and mountains which is really sweet but really empty, my advise: if somebody advises you to stay for a day in each town, don't listen to them just take the whole tour to Bergen and spend a day in Bergen before going back. Anyway from there you take a boat that goes through Aurlandsfjord which starts in Flåm and you go in beautiful water between mountains and waterfalls again for about 2 hours till you reach Gudvangen.

What you can see in Gudvangen is summerized in one word ... Nothing! And if you miss the tour bus to Voss there, you're probably stuck till next day, and that what almost happenned to us...

We arrivedin Gudvangen at 5 p.m., having a schedule that clearly states that our bus goes on 17:45, so we went to get something to eat and drink, by the time we got back (which was about 10-15 minutes later) the bus was gone, we waited till 17:45 but absolutely no busses showed up, then we decided to ask the receptionist in the only so called hotel there. He took out some charts, looked into them and coldly said "You just missed the last bus to Voss today, the next one is tomorrow morning", we were like what?!!! This was the beginning of a nightmare, this meant staying in Gudvangen till morning, losing our day in Bergen and losing quite an amount of money on transportation (two train tickets will be lost and we'll have to buy new ones back to Asker). What could we do? He told us that the only solution we have is Autostop! I've never done that in my whole life!

We went to the main road going to Voss, which is 45Km away and started pointing to cars to stop, it took me a couple of cars before i could raise my arm and point, but...for an hour we were standing on the road out there and nobody stopped, till we started losing hope and going back to the hotel and considering our trip over and suddenly a car stopped...Inside was a good looking man around 30 years of age, we asked him if he was passing by Voss, he was and he agreed to take us there. He asked about our story and our destination, he knew that we were supposed to catch a train from Voss to Bergen at 19:20, and we all knew very well that we're not gonna make it. Then he asked me what we will do if we miss the train and i said "try to find any other solution to get to Bergen" he stayed silent for a minute or two thinking then he just said "I'll take you to Bergen, problem solved, i'm going there anyway", i actually didn't know what to say, i just couldn't believe how lucky we were now. It turned out that he lives in Bergen and was in Oslo buying a new car (the one we were riding).

The thing that really pissed me off is that we were standing on a Norwegian road for an hour and not a single Norwegian stopped, some were even going to the other side of the road! The guy who stopped for us turned ot to be SWEDISH! Looking back, i'm really sad i didn't ask him what his name is and didn't take a photo of him. But i'm really thankful and really grateful to him from the bottom of my heart.

So now we reached Bergen, thanked the guy and took the bus to the center of the city to start looking for our hotel, when we reached the center, i was quite sure that this will be far from that hotel, but as we were looking around i noticed the logo, and was like: Coool! so it's right here, we started walking, got some food, got our room, ate at the hotel and had the best night sleep ever, long, comfortable and relaxing...

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Scandinavia part 3: Copenhagen, Denmark

Hmmm, Copenhagen... Don't know where to start...

It's surely a great experience to see a new country and go around its capital, i enjoyed that fact. Well, to tell the truth, Copenhagen has a lot of nice places and is a really beautiful city in general, all the squares, the old buildings, churches and towers, the small alleys and pedestrian streets are just wonderful.

A must see in Copenhagen is Nyhavn, the small port (in the photo above), where you can find a lot small coloured houses stacked next to each other, and the sight is just an artist's imagination, it's a very good idea to take the cruise from there that takes you through Copenhagen from the sea, you'll see almost all famous sights, includng Langelinje "the little mermaid" which is Copenhagen's most famous site, but it's better to visit her from the land side to see her face.

Another great place is the Round tower, it takes you to a thirty somehting height, on a spiral path almost right to the top of this tower. From where you can see all copenhagen, and that's a really impressive sight, and to give it even more pleasure, take the St. Kannikestraede to reach there and buy some delicious caramellized almonds from the handsome Moroccan guy there Image.

Also, it's really nice to go along the pedestrian street¸get where you can also do shopping and souvenir searching, i bought myself a Copenhagen T-shirt and mug there. And if you like to party, that area around that place is full of pubs and night clubs where you're guaranteed to have some fun and good time.

Also if you're travelling from Norway or Sweden, make sure you take the bridge connecting between Copenhagen and Malmo in Sweden, that's a sight you shouldn't miss especially on a sunny day. Beautiful!

The down side which make me not like the city was actually the people, the city was too dirty and the place in front the city hall was all trashed up, also on Saturday the streets were full of drunks, everybody's walking with beer or other drink in their hands and drink like crazy, swaying people in the street was a normal sight. That was irritating and sometimes even disgusting. Image

I don't think i'll visit it again unless i have really nothing else to doImage

If you have the time and money, go see it, but if you don't don't be so sorry about it.

Scandinavia part 2: Stockholm, Sweden

I'm writing about this more than a week after but the feelings of that place are still the same, i really enjoyed that big, busy yet very beautiful and heart capturing Swedish city.

My journey to Stockholm was really special, though i went there all by myself and spent two days walking around on my own, taking photos and enjoying the new experience, i had so much pleasure of this visit.

Stockholm is located at the east southern end of Sweden, the city's southern half is basically a grouping of islands of different sizes which actually gives it the charm. Each island has its own special components and its own special taste, for example, Ridderholmen gives you the feeling of ancient living, Skansen gives you peace and glory, Kastellholmen of greatness and solicitude, Vasagatan of modernity.

It's a big city with a huge mix of people from all around the world, living and working there and of course some who are just visiting (just like me Image), it has so many diverse aspects, the architecture, the people, the culture, the crowded shopping malls, the beautiful small restaurants on Drottinggatan.

You can go around it and never get bored, i was there for two days, and when i had to leave i didn't want to, i enjoyed it so much, i made the biggest amount of photos in 2 days that i ever had before.

One of the must see places in Stockholm will surely be Drottinggatan, this narrow, long pedestrian street is the perfect place to shop, eat, get souvenirs, sweets and chocolates, or just walk around enjoying the spirit of the city, and i really recommend "restaurant Drottinggatan" if you decided to have dinner on your way, it has a very interesting choice of dishes and desserts and a good delicious meal is guaranteed.

You should also see Ridderholmen, Gamla Stan & Kastellholmen , three old places that have really beautiful sights and you can take some amazingly artistic photos there. And also some gorgeous photos of them if you cross south and go up from south bank (Söder Mälarstrand).

When it comes to museums, Nordiska is really interesting and the national one should be good. Awalk on the banks of Stockholm is a must as well, it's just amazing!

And the feeling you really get while walking around is that this city should be visitied in one of two ways: 1-Either alone in a good mood (even if not, you'll get a good mood there Image)
2-Or with someone really special, a person you really like and feel 100% comfortable with Image.