Hello all. Glad you could all make it. This is my blog set up so that I can keep all of those people interest informed about what I am doing in my travels through out Europe and… other places. If you are new to me (the blog I mean) then follow this link https://jacoblaw89.wordpress.com/?order=ASC to the very first page titled “The First Address”. When you finish the first page, you must hit ‘older post’ to see the next 5 in chronological order. Confusing? I know. Imagine trying to pioneer this method.
If you have visited before then the most recent post is below this page. You will have to just click ‘older post’ which is underneath he comments section until you get to the post your up to.
Hope you enjoy the reading and please let me know what you think. If I don’t know what people think then I can’t improve. I don’t want any comments about poor spelling and grammar. Das ist verboten.
I’m back. It’s been a while but I am just recently got a bit more enthusiasm to write again and it was sort of forced upon me by a Canadian woman named Meehgan that is living at Staffelter Hof at the moment with me. She kind of fluffs around the Hof doing odd jobs that Gundi (my host mother) asks of her and she also is a big twitterer and does a lot of promoting Mosel wine all over the world to her hundreds of followers. She decided one day that it would be a good idea to start a blog about the Hof and get all the international people that have stayed here to write something about an experience they had here or really about anything that had any mention of Staffelter Hof. I was the first cab off the rank and so I wasn’t really sure what she was expecting but this is what I produced. I’m just going to link it so that I don’t have to stuff around with formatting and also gives the other blog more hits and you can see what other people have written. I hope you enjoy it 🙂
ps, a new post of my travels coming soon
You are going to need more than a bit of spare time to read this. Top up the coffee cup, get some canned food that wont go off and tell your friends and family you love them, you could be gone for a long time.
Ok so, as you all might have realised, I haven’t exactly being keeping up to date with my blogs. This is mainly due to the fact that I was getting bored with writing. Each post was rather large and I couldn’t bring myself to continue to write that much. The other option was to write less about each day but I felt that was doing a half assed job; My dad has been trying to teach me for a very long time. I think it has finally worn off on me somewhat. Another reason I wasn’t very enthusiastic about writing was that, well basically, I had stopped travelling. I wont spoil the story too much, but I wasn’t on the move each and every day doing something or going somewhere crazy or note worthy. Basically what I am going to try to do with this is sum up my last 2 months which is ironic because this is exactly what I said I wouldn’t do. I’m shortening what I write about each day but at the same time I am still going to write a lot. So here it goes….
I’m in London… I was staying at a hostel I had stayed at before called Clink87. It is in Kings Cross which is a nice part of town, quite central but right near a tube station that takes you anywhere and everywhere. The purpose of my stay in London was to use up a few days out side of the Schengen countries so that I could go back into Southern France for Christmas and New Year. I would need to get a visa of some sort as well so that I could travel more in Europe but I really could not be bothered doing that right then. It had been only a day or 2 since the Norwegians rejected me and I was over it (little did I know….) so I was happy just chilling in London for a bit before heading to Southern France for Christmas and New Year. The hostel was just a hostel I knew. Tim, Joel and I had stayed there last time and I didn’t think much of it but at least I knew where it was and what to expect from it.
Anyway, I stayed there for the full week before going flying to Nice. My days usually consisted of spending some time in the morning at the British library (which was just down the road) using their free internet as you had to pay at the hostel far too much. After using internet for a couple of hours, I would go walking for the afternoon. Didn’t matter the weather, I would just walk. I would look at the map and pick a destination, I would then put the map away and only look at it to make sure I hadn’t missed my stop yet. I loved it. That’s how you should get to know a city. People that take the Tube everywhere get to know The Tube, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Hyde Park (the corner of it), Buckingham Palace, London Eye, St Pauls Cathedral, British Museum, 483 other museums, maybe Camden town (a cool market district which I might mention later) aaaaaand maybe a touristic English pub. When you walk everywhere, you actually hear some British accents, you see how the general population go about their business, you see the kind of street food they have, what kind of shops they like, the advertising that is popular, the smells, the sounds, the architecture, the nationalities that the place has and those other things the tourists miss. This is how I saw London and like it sooo much more this time around than last. When I finished my walking for the day (usually a couple of hours) I would go the the supermarket for food and cook at the hostel. The first few days I was buying all my food at pubs cos it was sooo damn cheap and good but I wasn’t really meeting as many people as I hoped and hostel kitchens are great places to do that. Dinner would range anything from a pre-made soup from Tescos (Woolies/Coles but better), to looking in Tescos “we’re going to throw this food out tomorrow” section which put all the items at about half price even though it was still fine, and make something out of that. That was the usual thing to do. The bar opened at 6:00. It was located in the basement of the hostel where the kitchen was as well. Every night was a special thing happening in the bar.
Monday was ‘Quiz Night’, Tuesday was ‘Cocktails and Karaoke’, Wednesday was Beer Pong, Thursday was.. never the same. They never found a constant thing to do I think. Or maybe I didn’t like it so I just ignored it completely. Friday was ‘Clinkism’ which meant absolutely nothing. It was Friday, that’s all. Saturday was ‘Lockin DJ’ so they had a DJ different from the ones they hired for throughout the week there. I didn’t notice a difference. And then Sunday was movie night. I met soo many people in that bar and had so many great times. The drinks were cheap, all tasted good, the bar staff became my friends, the people living at the hostel became my friends, the bouncers became my friends and even the DJ’s knew of me. The hostel and therefore the bar was full of mostly Frenchies. The stereotype of French people tends to be kind of right when you are in London. The whole idea that they are unfriendly, can’t speak English and generally snobbish people. I mean, obviously there are some that buck the trend (Julien, Virginie) but the ones in the bar were pretty consistent with that trend. So the first week I tended to hang out with the other 20% of the hostel, which were Aussies.
On the 23rdof December, I flew to Nice, got on a train and headed to Julien and Viginies place near Hyeres. That same day we drove to Marseilles to Virginies mothers house where we stayed the night. Christmas eve is often the biggest day for Europeans and that night they give all of their gifts to people. I had kind of failed on this part and only had something for Julien and Virginie which I had whipped up just a couple of days prior to leaving. It was a dartboard with a couple of pictures of Nicolas Sarkozy pinned onto it. They liked it. Julien wanted to play straight away. On boxing day we all went off to a small place called Anliac. We were with Virginies mother, Christine and two of Julien and Virginies friends called Cindy and Vince with their 3 year old son, ‘Airone’. Now, I know very well that he was not Air Force One but that is how Virginie told me to pronounced his name, but I do think I get better after a week of “AIRONE! A SE” (Airone, sit down).
The house we were staying in is owned by Vinces family. The land had been in his family since 1645 or something around that time. The early 1600’s sometime. How cool is THAT?! To put it in perspective, the first recorded instance of white people landing in Australia is in 1606. I love the thought of that. Anyway, that’s where we were. Essentially in an old farm house in the middle of nowhere (relative for France), surrounded by hills and not many people. We had to drive through small towns that would have been around for hundreds of years, up and down hills and valleys with some snow every now and then. Really stunning trip just to get to the house. Once we got there, we settled in. This meant starting the fire that would never go out and then cooking food for dinner. These two activities along with drinking wine and sleeping made up about 80% of our stay. Julien and I made up a ‘saying’ for this. It went something like “eat-wood-sleep” or “fire-eat-sleep”. That pretty much sums it all up. We would get up in the mornings, eat breakfast (baguettes 🙂 ) and then go out for a couple of hours somewhere.
Either to a nearby village or town for supplies or just a short walk. When we did this, it was usually to a couple of the neighbouring villages/towns. One of the towns had a farmers market that was on everyday. That’s where we got our fruit and veg. It also had the bakery where we bought all our bread and Madeleines which were to kill for. You wouldn’t want to die for them because then you couldn’t eat them and that would defeat the purpose of killing yourself. All that will achieve is you dying and leaving behind a mass of grieving people and a psychiatrist that needs to find a new person with an addictive personality disorder to fill in his or her 2:45 time slot. We would then go to a closer town to get the meat from a specialist butcher. Sometimes we even had to go to a third town to get something from a supermarket. That wasn’t as much fun. Towards the end of out stay, sometimes we just opted to not leave the house out of pure comfort. When we got back at about midday, the chefs would disappear into the kitchen and come back 45 minutes later with a 3 course meal for lunch.
Entree was pretty much always the same. Bread, some dried meat or soup, foie gras, nuts and basically anything else we could find. Then the main course would be some kind of light dish. Usually some kind of vegetarian pasta but sometimes something richer. Didn’t matter. It was was all delicious to the point that I wish my stomach was the size of a grain silo that had lost the bottom. Then dessert was either fruit or cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. And so many different types as well. I wasn’t a huge fan of most types of cheese before that week but after having cheese for dessert even lunch and dinner, I couldn’t help but get a taste for it. Even the smelly stuff which I always avoided by poking it with large sticks to keep it at a safe distance and spitting at anyone who offered any to me more than once. All was served around the table with local red wine. This whole ritual would take about 2 hours at the table.
After lunch was cleaned up, we would do something else. That’s right. Something else. We had a bit more time than before lunch so we would go a bit further as in to another town or a longer walk or go somewhere close and stay for longer. We visited old towns and villages, we went for walks and one day we went to somewhere that there was a bit of snow. The pretence of this idea was that we wanted Erwan to see snow. The ‘adults’ absolutely enjoyed it as much as Erwan. The highlights of that day was making a snowman with all the usually eyes, arms, nose and button but we also pimped him out with my specs, scarf, backpack, mobile, cigar and hair before we finally let Erwan destroy it. On the way back to the car, Virginie found a hill that she could slide down on her back with Erwan on her stomach. We all did it at least once I think. Viginie and Erwan twice. After doing that, and continuing towards the car, Vince and Erwan had a nice time getting intimate with a puddle and face planting it. That was pretty funny. We did eventually get home.
After our days adventures, the chefs would disappear again and their presence was replaced by delicious smells. It was usually my job to entertain Erwan which was ok for me. I had fun with it for the most part. He loved cars so most of our playing involved cars. This ranged from a very fun and none violent game of pushing the cars across the table at each other to him pretty much ditching them in my general direction and then losing them behind furniture. Not a problem. He thought it was funny to lose his cars but I never got them back for him. We also did some drawings on a white board he was given for Christmas. At first it was fair. He would draw something and I would translate that into something. Usually a car. The game evolved into one where he would rub out whatever I drew even as I was drawing it. This got boring somewhat quickly. So we both started learning the colours together. Not that I can remember any of it now. While doing any of our activities, we would be talking and having really good conversations. Every now and then the others would just crack up laughing cos I managed to answer correctly or I would say something just completely stupid. He obviously couldn’t speak a word of English and I couldn’t speak a word of French but both of us being children, it didn’t bother us at all. He would say something and I would answer, then he would say something else. It was perfect. Like a normal conversation. Something like “Qu’est-ce que vous” and I would reply “That is a very nice car you have drawn”. He would say “Pourquoi le livre drole d’odeur?” and I would ask “What colour is the car?” We had fun at least. And without the constant attention, he would run a muck and annoy everyone instead.
When dinner was ready, we would pack all the toys away and set the table. Dinner was up to four courses. It would start with the usually appetiser of soup, pretzels, dried meats and sometimes cheese. Main course was something a lot heavier and contained meat. One night we had Boudin Noir which is like black pudding, but with more blood and less of everything else. Every night we had something different and it was always fantastic. Very rich, fattening, delicious and making me want to never leave this place. Ever. The next course was cheese, naturally, and then finished with dessert which was the same sort of stuff we had for lunch. The meal we had on the final night was nothing short of a royal banquet. We had duck confit, pork sausages, dried meats, olives, soup, cheese, wine, baguette and other things that I cant even remember even the next day when I was writing notes. After dinner was finished, we would clean up and depending on what time it was, we would either go straight to bed (yes, dinner would last 3 hours sometimes) or do something else. We played trivial pursuit one night and then Pictionary the other night. Both of these were very difficult for whoever was on my team as they needed to translate and I slowed the games down a bit. You would think Pictionary would be easy in different languages but it still required Virgine to translate things in her head very quickly. Another night we had some of Vinces family over for pre dinner drinks until 11:30. Another night I learnt to play Tarot, which is a card game, but usually we just relaxed with a nice cup of mint tea.
After staying in Anliac, I went back to Virginies mothers house for a night before I flew back to London on the 2ndof January. When in London, I did nothing. Well, I started researching my options for staying in Europe. It took me about a week to get it out of the English that I couldn’t get a visa from them while I was there.
So I flew to Ireland. During that week I drank lots of alcohol by night and by day did some touristy stuff whenever I felt like it. Similar to before Christmas and basically just generally had a lot of fun in the hostel bar with people. I met a couple of great Irish people that I met up with while in Dublin the following week. When I actually arrived in Dublin, I quickly found out that not even they would let me apply from there… This made me preeeeetty angry. Basically it was a wasted week in Dublin. When I say wasted, I still had fun doing similar stuff as I was in London but I didn’t need to spend all the money getting there. I did enjoy it more than the last time I went on the last trip though.
After a week in Dublin, I went back to London. This time I looked at applying for German visa. I had that idea before I left to come to Europe in the first place but decided against it because I didn’t want to tie myself down to an idea that I might not want to follow through with. The visa last for a year and I believe you can only get it once in your life so if I didn’t use it then it would be a huge waste. I had been warned that getting visas in Europe would be harder but I never thought impossible. Anyway, after doing reconfirming the research I had done, I was able to apply. I had to make a booking to hand over my stuff to the Germans which was in several days. In the time I was stuffing around London, I did manage to break one of the laws of the World and started to get some of the Frenchies to talk to me. That made my stay there so much better. I ended up with this group of friends that were really fun people. A few Frenchies, Italian girl, an Aussie guy (that loved hitting on girls but he was soo funny when he did in the right way), a South African guy, and Aussie girl, a British guy (that liked hitting on girls but did he was soo funny for the wrong reasons but he liked cooking and wine so that made him better), an Aussie guy who worked at reception, a bunch of the employees and others that came and went. I continued my habit of drinking a bit each night and then doing whatever during the day. Some of the ‘during the day’ activities involved teaching the Frenchies that it is very funny changing your friends birthday on their Facebook to the following day when they weren’t looking. Was very entertaining. I also gained a huge liking to cooking. On a couple of occasions I spent several hours in the kitchen making a meal for 5 or 6 people. Maybe that’s why the Frenchies liked me…
The day I had to hand in my visa application was the 26thof January. To Australians, this will mean something. It’s Australia day. In Australia its a nice public holiday that you spend with friends. When anywhere else in the world it means get ridiculously drunk at the nearest Australian pub and don all of the green and gold that you have in your wardrobe. I had to be up at 6:30 that morning for the interview with the Germans.
On the way back, I filled an important tradition and got Maccas before getting back to the hostel. I went downstairs to where the bar and kitchen are to eat it. All my Frenchies were there (When I say Frechies, I mean all the people that I hang out with regularly) and they were sober (It was only 8:00). The Maccas, however, gave me a second wind.
Now that was a night. I picked the drinking back up and we all had a fantastic time. I have never drunk so much in one day but I didn’t feel ill, I didn’t wake up with much of a hangover, I just managed to have a good night. I think it was because it was such a long day and some good spread out drinking. I ended up going to bed at 4:00am. That meant I was drinking for about 12-13 hours (Bar closes at 3. I don’t know when my last drink was) and I had been up for about 22 hours. Epic day. And the best Australia day I have ever had. Will never forget it. I know it was a hollow patriotic atmosphere, but it really felt good just to be with so many people that think similar to you. Way different from my Frenchies.
The weekend after Australia day, I went to Wales. I did this while I waited for the German visa to come through and also I was getting itchy feet. Yes, I was having fun but I am still a traveller and I wanted something new for a bit. I went into Cardiff with no idea what to expect and just booked a hostel. Cardiff was ok. Not very much happening, not too much to see but I spent most of my days trying to see stuff. I had this plan to try and make it up to the north of Wales which is supposed to be really very nice. Turns out the Albanian bus system is better than the Welsh one. It was going to be difficult so I just went to a small town on the west coast called Fishguard.
I was staying in a hostel but it was more like Couchsurfing that I paid 16 pounds a night for. The guy let me eat his food, use his TV and I even went out with him and his old country mates to the local pub. Was a really good experience. I stayed for about 4 nights, one of those days I didn’t leave the house as I was sick and wanted to get better, but I did day trips the other days to St Davids and some other places of lesser note.
Was all very nice. I then went back to London via Bristol for 2 nights. I stayed with 2 German girls that I had met in Cardiff. One lived there and was a carer for children with serious mental difficulties and the other was just visiting her. They lived in a large apartment that housed about 12 other Germans. It was pretty fun 🙂
When I got back to London, I had about 2 nights before I had a flight to Berlin. The night I arrived back was big. It is the first time in my life that I have large sections of the night that I simply do not remember at all. I know I was having fun as I found some photos on my camera, as well as a very embarrassing video for me. I still put it up on Facebook. The following night was not heavy at all for me. I just played beerpong and stopped drinking.
I had a flight to catch the next morning at 7:00. I did however spend the whole night up. I was having plenty of fun with my people that I didn’t want to go to bed and before I knew it the bar was closed and I wanted to be leaving for the airport in a hour. I had packed all my stuff already and I just stayed up. I left and caught my flight somehow. I was so tired. I hear people telling stories of staying up late for flights and stuff like that and I never knew why anyone would put themselves through that but I now I get it. Its not that hard really…
When I arrived in Berlin, It was about 10:00am. The max temperature for that day was -7. Minimum was -15. Bit of plummet from the nice 2 of London. I was staying at a hostel that got fantastic reviews but was boring as. Plus it didn’t have a kitchen. I didn’t go outside at all while I stayed there. It was too bitterly cold. I wasn’t in any rush. I would be living in Berlin for at least a few months. I’m sure I will see everything I want to in that time. I then moved to the hostel that we stayed in when I was with my parents called Wambats. I had applied for a language school in Berlin which didn’t start for a week so I went back to doing what I knew best which was drinking in the hostel. It worked out nicely cos my hostels happy hour was from 6-8 (I would usually start at 7:00/7:30) and then a hostel around the corner had a bar that had happy hour until 10:00. At that place, me and a couple of Aussies that I was hanging out with, met a huge group of Swedes. We all would hang until happy hour finished and then head out somewhere. I met heaps of other people along the way but they didn’t really compare to my Frenchies.
After staying for a week at this hostel I was able to move into my apartment that was provided by the school I was studying with. It is very centrally located, right next to the Brandenburg Gate and Tiergaten (The Berlin equivalent of New York’s Central Park). The first two weeks I was living with a Brazilian guy who is in the same class as me. It was pretty awesome cos we get on well and the place is supposed to sleep 5 so plenty of space. Just this week we got a new house mate from Romania. He seems cool so far and he is helping me a fair bit with the German as he is at a much more advanced level than myself. The German is coming along. Not as well as I hoped but it’s happening. My favourite day of the week is Monday actually. Class starts an hour later and then at night is the Stammtisch which basically translates to “reserved table”. What it means for us is you go to the restaurant at school and have a couple of drinks and meet people. And there is basically no Aussies. I have only met 2 out of about 70 people that appear at Stammtisch every Monday. Makes me a little happy. Its not that I don’t like Aussies, its just more interesting meeting others. The second weekend I was in Berlin, Me and Thomas (that’s the Brazilian house mate) went to Prague. I was sceptical as I went on my last trip and thought it was somewhat average compared to the hype that surrounds it. We left after class on Friday and got back to Berlin at about 11:00 Sunday night. My opinion of Prague only improved slightly. We had the best weather. It was the hottest it had been for me in about 3 months at 12 degrees but the tourists were still there. It is just covered in tourists and I think the place has been somewhat ruined by it. I remember Prague was ruined for me last time cos Ellis, Tim, Joel and I had just come from Budapest, Belgrade, Sarajevo and Croatia. When people go to Prague they like to say things like “I went to Prague, its Eastern Europe, it was amazing, so nice, so different, so cheap” but to me it just seemed like Western Europe. Yes it was cheaper but the Eastern Europeaness had been chased out not long after Communism fell in the area. The one thing it definitely had that I missed last time was magnificent beer. I don’t know how I missed it last time but this stuff is truly incredible. We tried about 10-12 different styles and producers and the thing is that even these really good beers cost about the same as beer in Germany which is about half what we pay for crap in Australia. It very nice. We spent several hours just chilling and have some slow, delicious beers in our time their. And Prague is still nice. It is worth a detour if your in the area, I just felt it didn’t live up to the hype.
I have done a few other things as well. The most noteworthy things would be the DDR museum which is all about the Communist time in Berlin and a day trip I did to Potsdam. I went to the DDR museum with the school and I really liked it. I felt that it was relatively unbiased and told the plus and minuses of both sides of the wall quite well. Granted, it wasn’t perfect in this regard and you still felt the positives well and truly outweighed the negatives but that might have actually had something to do with the fact that the positives really did outweigh the negatives. They had lots of information about the daily lives of people all the way from school and through to retirement. They had information about sports, technology (which they did excel in in some areas), what the people could buy and how the whole ‘getting goods so that you survive’ thing worked (or not). They had one of the old Trabant cars which was the communist car that they gave out to the populous. They were good if you could get one. You were usually on the waiting list for up to 13 years for one and they were very basic machines. But they did the job just fine.
The other thing I did was a day trip to Potsdam. When I say day trip, I was staying at Wombats at the time and I was usually getting up around 11. So by the time I had breakfast and decided what I was going to do it was closer to 1 when I left the hostel. People had told me that I needed a full full day but I was keen to go right then so I did anyway. It was only 45mins by S-Bahn (City train. Kind of like going to Mandurah) and when I arrived it took me a little while to get orientated. And by orientated, I mean find absolutely anything. I had no map nor any idea about what I was supposed to be seeing so I started following signs to the tourist information place. On the way I kind of discovered a fair bit about the city. It was very clean and shiny. That’s about all. Well, no, that’s not quite all. I found a few of the ‘off the beaten track’ parts as the signs for the tourist info were few and far between. The thing is that they had the sign posts up and pointing to where various things were but only 1 in 3 had the tourist information centre written on it. I just kind of had to guess. I do love getting lost so this was only slightly frustrating while most people would have been pulling there hair out by the handfuls. I did eventually find it and the lady was about to tell me why I was there. She generously gave me a map for 2 Euro and then told me where to go. Potsdam used to be where a few of the Prussian or maybe even the German Kings had their residences so basically they had this huge area with many many palaces. The park its they were in was huge, I spent the next 4 hours just walking from one end to the next. The palaces were all very nice and large and yellow and the parks had plenty of space and not many tourists or even normal people. I had such a good time just wondering. The problem was I ran out of time and I needed to start heading back before I got to see everything that I wanted. I did get to see all the palaces but there was some other things I also wanted to see but it might have taken me an extra 2 or 3 hours to get there. Oh well, Just another reason to go again.
And that brings us up to now. I hope you enjoyed it. I wrote it over about a week when I had some spare time. I doubt I got down everything I wanted to write about if I make any major changes then I will make a separate post. I am not going to write about each day because that would just be silly but if I do a weekend away then I will do a post on that. Thanks for reading!
Lucky me, third day straight I need to be woken… This time is was for myself and not Alex. I had set my alarm for 4:45. I had breakfast and a shower and then walked to the metro stop where I could catch a bus to Oslo S. I nearly missed the bus. Well I thought I was going to to. For a couple of minutes. I had built in heaps of time in case I did miss it but it would have been pretty annoying if I had. I would have had to stay out in the cold for an hour waiting for the next night bus. It stressed me out a little though. I just don’t understand where I lost the time but I really had to push myslef when walking. Normally I am really good about getting up and ready in time. But not that morning… I still made it and I actually managed to get off at the right stop and everything. I had to wait 45 minutes for a train to the airport. This is one of the reasons why flying is not always the fastest/cheapest and option. You need to spend so much time and money getting to the airport that sometimes it is just quicker, and more comfortable to take a train or a bus. I waited around for a bit in the station itself. Actually, random side story. When I was sitting in the station, I was on some benches, there was a few other people around and I could hear some faint talking coming from somewhere just above me. From the roof. It was actually a walkway above me. The sounds, considering they were in Norwegian, didn’t really seem to make much sense. It was talking but it was like the pitch and the tone of the voices kept changing. And they weren’t singing, they were only talking. Lots of different voices. I was looking around on the roof and could not see a speaker anywhere. No one else seemed to be worried by the voices at and considering it was 6 in the morning, I thought I must literally going crazy. I mean, I like to talk to myself, but I have never heard voices before! I figured they must have been coming from something on top of the walk way so I tried to ignore them but it was pretty difficult. I imagine this is exactly what people who do hear voices feels like. It was one of the strangest feelings I have ever had. If I was fulling awake, I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about it, wouldn’t have let it got to me but because I was quite tired and was a bit stressed out earlier, I couldn’t help it.
Back to sane Jacob. With about 15 minutes until the train left, I went down to the platform. (the voices stopped.. for now) The train pulled up about 1 minute before it was due to leave and then it didn’t. It just didn’t leave. And then there was an announcement in Norwegian and everyone sighed and got off. So I followed. I asked some people what was going on and it turned out I still needed to be on that train. It wasn’t going to be stopping at some of the stops. Apparently all of the stops that these people wanted to go to. So I waited for it to leave. The board said it would be 10 minutes. More than 10 minutes went past and I poked my head out to see what was happening and it said 15 minutes. I was getting a little worried. The train ride takes up to 45 minutes and my flight was leaving in just over an hour and a half. I was cutting it pretty close. I wanted this damn thing just to leave. It eventually did, only a couple of minutes later. What a stressful morning it had been. I thought I was going to miss my bus, I was hearing voices and then my train just wouldn’t leave the station. It was a major relief when it did finally pull away. At least I was on my way again. The train did take a shorter time than I expected. I made it at 7:10 and the flight left at 7:50. I had to check in my bags, using a system they only use in Norway I think where you put the tags on your bags yourself and then hand them to the person at the counter. I got through and got to the gate at 7:35. Too easy. Plenty of time.
The flight was good. I had booked with an airline called SAS (Scandinavian airlines something) , it was the same one as I had taken from Alta to Oslo. They are a nice airline, not a Ryanair/Virgin Blue budget one and we got fed on the plane. The best bit is they do Youth tickets which pretty much halves the cost of the airfare from a full adult price. So I was flying cheaply and in style. And I would be landing in Heathrow which means its easy to get into the centre of London. When I arrived in London, I got off the plane and grabbed my bags. And started sorting my stuff out. I realised I had left my laptop and iPod on the plane…. I have never left anything on the plane. What a stressful day. I think I deserve to hear voices with a day like that one. It was pretty easy getting my stuff back though, I just had to wait.
I got out of the airport, and down into the tube. Cost about 14Pounds to get to Kings cross where I was staying. I was just going back to a hostel I had stayed at before. On the last trip I was on. I didn’t really like it all that much there before but at least it was familiar territory. The tube took about 45 minutes from the airport. And they say Heathrow is more central… When I arrived, I was able to find the hostel easy enough and I checked into my room. No I didn’t. I arrived to early to check in. It was about 12:40. I put my luggage into the luggage room and raced out. While waiting to check in, I had seen the free walking tour that started at 1:00 and I just thought why not. By the time I left the hostel, I only had 10 minutes until it started but I knew from experience that they always start late and and even then, they spend a bit of time at the meeting point talking about the stuff in that spot. I got there 15 minutes late. And they were still there. The tube is good but it is not perfect. I needed to change and that made me late. Didn’t matter, I caught onto what was happening, quickly. The tour took about 3 hours and took us to Buckingham, Hyde Park, Trafalgar square and finished at Westminster Abbey. After the tour, our guide took whoever wanted to go to a pub for some lunch/dinner. I had bangers and mash. Except they called it something different. I was talking to a bunch of people at the pub and they said they were going to a thing called Winter wonderland. It is a new thing they do in Hyde park during Christmas.
We walked there and it was amazing. There were so many people around, the atmosphere was great. They had food and rides everywhere. There were several of places you could get mulled wine and the lights! There were so many lights. My poor voice-hearing brain was struggling. To keep up. We walked around for a while, there were 5 of us and we were constantly looking out for each other so that we didn’t get too separated. We had a grand time. It was a large carnival with plenty of different things to see. It is hard to describe. I realise everything I have said sounds like any carnival (that isn’t in Australia) but this was different. It might have helped that for the first time in just over 2 months, I could understand the random people that were walking around me. That was pretty cool. Normally, if I hear someone speaking English, I just get a little excited inside and swing around to have a look to see who it is. This led to me getting very dizzy that night.
We all stopped and had some mulled wine and chatted for a while at a stand. After a bit, I said that I wanted to go. I had planned on going to a Couchsurfing meeting with the plan of finding a host to stay with rather than the hostel. I asked if any of the people I was with wanted to come and just 2 of the guys did. I felt bad cos I was having fun, and enjoying their company, but I wanted a host to stay with so I had to bail. All I knew was the name of the place and the area it was in. I had the idea that we would turn up and just ask people if they knew. We arrived in Leicester Square and started asking people. No one seemed to know of it. We walked around a bit and couldn’t find it at all. We were asking people as we went and eventually, after putting the clues together of about 5 different people, found it. I was on the guest list which I had signed up for on the Couchsurfing event site so we all got in free opposed to paying 10Pounds which is a lot.
When we got in, I started talking to people. I was having a good time but I did forget my purpose a little. While people were still sober, I forgot to ask if anyone had space for me. As the night drew on, I got desperate. I was just walking around to all the surfers that I could, tried to find out if they were hosting, if they could host me and if they couldn’t, break the conversation after 10 minutes or so. It was all a failure. I found some guys who was a huge Couchsurfing snob and talked at me for about 40 minutes about the good old days of Couchsurfing and how it’s nothing like it used to be and people do it for the wrong reasons now blah blah old man. Just give me a free place to stay 🙂 haha, I should have said that to him. Might have got a nice big fist to the face if I had.
I searched for a while, and eventually just gave up basically. I couldn’t tell who was a Couchsurfer and who wasn’t any more. (It’s not like we walk around with badges on) and I was starting to get pretty tired. I had been up for a fair while There were a couple of people that were asking me if I wanted to go to a different place and I just said yes in the hope I might get one of them to host me. We walked around to a few different places but none of them were letting us in for different reasons. Either they were full or it was ‘members’ only and stuff like that. We did end up going to a place which does cheap cocktail jugs. There was about 6 of us and we had 2 of these jugs. We sat in a circle and the game was the pass it them around as quickly as possible and drink at the same time. It was actually a lot of fun. We went out again and looked for a different place that they knew of. It was bitterly cold. I only had my jumper on and wasn’t really prepared for the cold like this. I simply got bored and tired and cold. I ended up heading home. They were able to help me catch a night bus as the tube stops at 12/12:30 and I was too far away to walk at that time of night. It was pretty easy. I knew the stop I needed (Kings Cross. It is kind of obvious) and I jumped on the bus. I didn’t quite have the right change. I was 20 Pence off so I asked some old guy in the seat right next to the driver if he had any change. He gave me some lecture about not having the right change and how could I not have the right change when getting on the bus ect ect. Just cos I don’t spend an hour before I leave home working out the exact route and times I need to take and the exact fair I need to do it. I had arrived in the country only hours before hand. I didn’t even know what the coins meant. Anyway, he annoyed me. He did give me the money but I nearly didn’t accept it as I didn’t want his money. He was just really rude.There were others on the bus I could have asked and probably would have got it too
I made it back to the hostel and checked in at about 1:30. Maybe the latest check in I have made? I don’t know. I bet the people in my dorm were pretty pissed that I was making my bed at that time. I fell straight to sleep. I have no idea what happened to the two guys I brought along. I had seen them a few times during the meeting but I hadn’t seen them in a while before I left. Hope they got back to wherever.
We had to get up nice and early again. At least this time I had warning so I was able to shower and everything before leaving. We left at 7:30 and I just went straight back to the hostel for internet again. Soo sneaky am I. I actually stayed for about 6 hours. I was doing a mixture of things. I tried calling the Politi (Police) which is where you hand in your application forms for visas but they simply would not answer. I think maybe because it was a Friday. I don’t know. They didn’t really have much info suggesting any reasons why they might not be answering. I mean, when I say thay, it just took me ages to find the information telling me that they are closed on Fridays. I wanted to get a booking so I could hand in my application that day, before the weekend. But it seems that the cops take there weekend a day early in this part of the world.
I decided to call the UDI again. I wanted to find out if there was somewhere else I could hand in my application. I got a nice lady on the other end after a long wait, about 40 mins. Well she was nice but the information she gave me was not. I spoke to here for about an hour. We came to the conclusion that I couldn’t apply from within Norway unless I was super awesome and lots of pieces of paper to prove it (University education) and there was no other way of doing it. This lead me to get a little annoyed. Not at her. She was really helpful. She tried to find loopholes in the system for me and all this kind of stuff. Normally when you call a government agency, they try and get you on and off the phone as quickly as possible. She really tried to help. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be helped. I spent the rest of the time searching for some flights. I think I have explained this before but with an Aussie passport, I get 90 days within an 180 day period within the Schengen countries. The Schengen agreement is an a greement between a bunch of different European nations letting anyone travel between them as if it were just a domestic trip. They even let each other work in their countries. I had used about 83 days out of my 90 so far and I had planned on spending Christmas and New year in Hyeres/Southern France so needed to get out to preserve days. As it was, I was going to over stay my welcome when I went back but at least I could minimise the potential damage by a couple of days. I was looking for flights out of Oslo to London as the UK is not in the Schengen agreement so I could stay there for a maximum of 6 months as a tourist.
I actually found a flight that wasn’t out of this world crazy expensive and booked it. It was early the next morning. I had gotten myself into a bit of a bad mood, as you may imagine. Even though I had had the bit of luck at finding the cheap flight. I wanted to get out and about. Go and see some of Oslo that I had missed last time. I walked to this large park that is supposed to the pretty cool. It took me maybe 30 minutes to get there and I would say it was worth it. Better than bumming around a hostel that I wasn’t even staying at. The place is full of sculptures by a single artist (I think) and they are all of humans in various states. All have different emotions and doing different activities. Really quite cool. In the centre of the park was this spire that went quite high. You could see it from quite a distance, even from outside the park (and this was no small park either) but what I didn’t realise from that distance what it actually was. It was a spire made of people sort piled up/crawling their way to the top. Scrambling over each other to get to the top. The were limbs and heads everywhere and they were all of different ages and sizes.
I continued walking around the park, I think the sculptures only take up park of the park, and I found a nice little hill/mound to climb. I tried to go up, though I might get a view. Took a few goes. There was a fair bit of water on the ground. It was probably only 2 degrees or something, and there had been snow which was melting really slowly therefore it kind of hangs around on the ground for a long time. Made the climb a little slippery but I got there in the end. At the top I couldn’t see anything. It was surrounded by trees so I decided to climb down the other side. This side had rocks on it which I didn’t think would be a problem. I got half way down, then couldn’t work out how to get the rest of the way. The problem was that this side was in the shade, so all the areas out in the sun was melting a bit, the water on the rocks was ice still. I didn’t have my awesome, pro, traverse-any-terrain boots on so therefore I couldn’t just traverse any terrain including icy rocks. I ended up taking a leap of faith and it worked. I survive to get lost/stuck again.
From there, I walked around a bit more. There were a bunch of dogs playing in the thin snow which was amusing. They would be chasing each other or just a ball and then slide around as they tried to stop. I eventually left and headed to a nearby grocery store for some food for my plane the next day.
I ended up walked back to Alex’s where he only beat me home by a few minutes. We sat around for a while and I explained what had happened with visa stuff and told him that I was leaving the very next day. At about 5:30, I started making dinner. Alex had told me he loved potatoes. How could I leave without offering to make him my now famous potato bake. This edition came with reindeer instead of bacon. Was still pretty good! Even though Norway was in the middle of a butter shortage crisis (?!?!) We were eating at about 7:30 and at 8:00 the next Couchsurfer arrived. It was a Hungarian guy that I never understood the name of. We all sat around until about 10:00 when we opted (I think mainly me and Alex) to go to bed. For me it had been a long and frustrating day….
I got woken up by a call on Alex’s phone. That wasn’t what bothered me, it was half an hour later that he came in and said that the call was his work calling him in and we needed to be out of the house in 20 minutes. He works as a relief teacher and someone had called in sick. We left the house at 7:45. I don’t mind getting up early, but I usually give myself plenty of time. I am happy to sacrifice an hour or more of sleep to have breakfast, shower and 15 minutes leeway. He had me thrown out after 20. Annoying. Plus at that time of the morning, nothing much is open.
What I did was I went to the centre of town and went to a place Alex had suggested as a place you can get free internet. It didn’t open until later but I wanted to find it. Firstly, I went to the tourist info place. Luckily, this was open. I wanted to find a medical place so I could get a medical certificate. Oh, I forgot to mention, the whole point of flying down to Oslo was because I was coming to the end of my 90 days in the Schengen area. With an Australian passport, you get a total of 90 within an 180 day period in this area. Schengen is an agreement between many of the European countries which allows them to have open borders for people to travel through. In terms of travelling, it is like one big country. And I was approaching that 90 days. I think I was up to 80. This meant I needed to work out a different way of staying longer if I wanted to continue travelling. My favourite idea at the time was to get a working holiday visa for Norway. I had really enjoyed my there plus they don’t have the Euro and they earn lots of money and they all speak really good English so I could get away with not knowing Norwegian well.
So the mission was visa. The target was Norway. To get the visa, I needed a medical certificate to prove that I was in good health and that I wouldn’t be running into hospital every few days because of something. The tourist info was able to tell em a place and I called them using my mobile. When I had the booking, that’s when I went looking for the place with free internet, which, as it turns out, doesn’t exist very much. I looked and looked. I had the address. The tourist info had said it to me as well and it was in Shoestring but it simply was not there. They were renovating a building so I guessed that that was it. Eventually, I gave up. I was asking people and they knew about it but had no idea where it was. By this time, I decided I may as well wait in the medical centre building.
I found the place with relative difficulty, and only had to wait 15 minutes or so. The doctor I got was pretty good. He knew what I wanted and had a bit of a sense of humour. He did his thing, signed all the little pieces of paper and gave me my certificate of good health. I then left and went to a maccas to use that free internet I had been looking for. Talked to Clare for a while on skype and did some searching for stuff, on other stuff and stuff. It was very tiring. I eventually found a place I could go to and talk to someone about what visa requirements I needed. Just to clarify. I left the maccas at about 2:20 I have written here in my notes. This is relevant as it took me about half an hour to walk to the building and the place closed at 2:30. I was told that I could call as late as 3:30 however. I kind of knew where I was, right near the Anker hostel. The place I had stayed last time. I knew they had free internet and I also knew that they have no idea what is going on, as in the staff at reception, so I decided to steal there internet.
I went in and found a spot and called. The man I spoke to was very helpful. Told me all I needed to know about where to lodge my application which was one of the main reasons I called. I used internet there for ages as well. I knew Alex wasn’t getting back until about 8:30 so I really didn’t have much to do other than sit around. While I was there I saw one of the staff members getting into a nice verbal argument with a couple of different people. I don’t know what it was over but they were both angry. I know one was over a deposit of some sort which was eventually returned and the other I have no idea. I know I asked a question at some point “where can I get a passport photo taken” (for my visa application) and he kind of scoffed, looked at me strangely and then talked to me as if I was a child while telling me some places. Dickhead. It is not as if you can Google “Passport photo locations Oslo”. What do you expect me to do. After that I had a feeling that he was the reason there had been arguments. Dickhead.
Eventually, I left. It was about 8:00. One of the places Dickhead had suggested for passport photo was the train station which I needed to go to anyway to get to Alex’s. I eventually found the machine somewhere, somehow, by accident I think. I took my photos (Damn, cameras were made to take pictures of me!) and got on my metro train. Halfway there, I decided to check the message he sent me about what time he was arriving. It was 9:30 not 8:30 (He put it in 24 clock which always confuses the hell out of me) so I went to the nearby maccas and used more free internet for an hour, leaving at 9:30 so that he had time to beat me there. It worked. When I arrived, he had only been home a few minutes. We had some dinner which was reindeer (!) with potatoes and chatted for a bit before going to bed around 10:30. We both knew we had to be up early the next morning again.
I woke up around midday. Late, I know. What a waste of the day… Having said that, I got up half an hour later than that. I must have been tired. I knew Ingred was at work so after breakfast, I got on the Box again until 3 when she got home. Turns out she had overslept and arrived about an hour late. We had some lunch and sat around again for a bit. She had to go back to work so we left a bot earlier than I normally would to get to the airport, but she gave me a lift so I can’t complain about that. We said out goodbyes and I checked in ect ect ect. I had to wait a little while for my flight. It was probably 2 hours. The flight itself was uneventful. Not much to say about that one.
When I arrived into Oslo, I made my way to Alex’s. He was my new host. I had sent out a bunch of requests but being mid December, people were busy with school and Christmas stuff so they all said no. I put myself on the general “I need a couch” section and Alex had replied. He gave me his number and I thought, well why not. His profile was a little strange but he had plenty of good references so I didn’t think it would be much of a risk. I caught public transport to his house, trains/metro and a bus and happened to meet him on the street just outside his house. He took me to his apartment where we hung out for a bit. I had arrived at 10:00ish but had eaten on the way so I didn’t need any dinner. We sat around chatting until about 12:30. He had explained a few of the house rules which is completely fine except one of them I didn’t really like very much. That one was that he didn’t like his surfer to be in the house without him. It wasn’t about a key situation like with Irene, it was a security thing. I kind of understand. He has up to two other room mates, one of them being the owner of the building, and he was worried that the surfer might steal something from them. If you invite someone into your house, that is always a possibility. You have read my profile, you have seen that I have references stating that I am a good person to host and trustworthy. If you don’t think I am trustworthy, don’t invite me in. Simple as that. It’s not like I have to wait for you to be out of the house to steal something. I could wait until your in the shower, or even just the toilet. Run into one of there rooms, snatch something and either act like nothing happened, or bail. I didn’t think it would be much of a problem, until the following morning…
Sorry it has been a bit of a wait in between posts. Just kind of lost interest. Plus I wasn’t doing as much so not all that much to write about. But I did just find some that I wrote up and didn’t actually post.
I had to get up early again for my bus to Alta. I was up at 5:45. I was able to get breakfast at the hostel as she sets it up early for the people who work or something like that. When I went out, the weather was not pleasant. It was very windy. Not all that cold but the wind was high. I waited at the stop just outside the hostel for maybe 10 minutes with my back to the wind so my face didn’t freeze. The result of that was that my ass froze instead. I though that that my jeans were getting really wet and I was worried this could be a problem. It could be a very uncomfortable ride if they stayed wet when the snow melted. I got on the bus and dreaded that first sit. Dry. No idea how, I mean, I was constantly having snow thrown into my legs and bum by the wind, but not a drop stuck. Oh well, not complaining.
I had the choice of catching this bus or one that left later in the day. I am glad I chose this one. About half way through the ride, there was enough light to be able to see stuff again. The snow was deep and the mountains amazing and the rocks scattering the hillsides just to polish it all off. I knew this was the last chance to see this great scenery before I headed away again so I really tried to take it in.
The bus ride was unfortunately eventful again. The bus wasn’t working again and we had to change twice. I finally arrived back in Alta at about 11:00 where Ingred picked me up. We went back to her house and hung out for a ages. She had work at 5:00 so we were just sitting around for that entire time. She offered the Xbox as soemthing to do while she was at work and I couldn’t help myself. I played on it for a while and about half way through I got to skype Ellis. And I ate dinner. So wasn’t really that absorbed.
When Ingred came back at about 10:00, we hung out some more until about 2:30. I was so tired from by trip that morning that even though I wanted to stay awake, I simply couldn’t.