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The Flying Dutchman

Fjords Galore!

NORWAY | Sunday, 16 May 2010 | Views [698]

I left Copenhagen after two days there, and set my sights on Sweden.  It was kind of a big deal to cross the bridge from Denmark to Sweden (longest in the world?), because I had seen it on Discovery Channel many times!  We left Copenhagen, on our way to the bridge, and I was getting excited until walls came up on either side, and the train headed dooown into a tunnel. No. This isn't going to happen.  The trip was almost ruined, but luckily we came back up out of the tunnel - still in Denmark - and onto the big famous bridge.  We sped out over top of the sea and the bridge went by alot faster than I was expecting - maybe ten/fifteen minutes.  I saw a windfarm in the North Sea - which I had also seen on Discovery Channel, and upon arriving in Sweden, the first of several Ikea's - which I had seen on... *cough* HGTV (just flipping channels of course).

We sped through Malmo and saw the twisty skyscraper - again, Discovery (Sweden, who knew you were so awesome?), and passed through the less interesting, flat countryside (no countryside is THAT interesting after being in Switzerland) of Sweden, all the way to Gothenburg. 

I got out at Gothenburg and found my way through the city using the tram system, until I arrived at my hostel.  I met my hostel mates - there was a large group of Brtis, Swedes, and an Austrian who were studying here, and were partying it up in the hostel before heading out for the night.  I hung out with them for a while, but told them I couldn't go out, I had plans.

You see, back in Switzerland, for Bonnie's going away party (which had an attendance of two), we were unable (no, unwilling) to finish all the wine that we had bought when we were expecting a larger crowd.  So, with one bottle left we made a deal: When Bonnie got home she would organize a skype chat night with people from rez with me, and I would carry the wine around in my backpack until that night, when we would all be able to finish it off together.  

Tonight was that night, so I logged on to skype all set for the big chat, and so excited that I could finally get rid of this wine that I had been carrying around in my backpack through five countries.  My excitement was quickly halted, however, when I noticed the lack of cork screws in this kitchen.  Hmmm, this could be a problem.  How to open a wine bottle without a wine bottle opener?  With the help of the Swedes/Brits/Austrian, this became a team effort, and we made little progress (note that my team was a little bit trashed by this point).  Finally - mere minutes before the skype date was scheduled to commence - the Austrian guy managed to open it with a spoon (the cork was now IN the wine bottle, but at least the wine was accessible).  

The night was saved, and I was excited once again!  What a beautiful thing this would be!  I quickly noticed another problem: the wine was missing.  I had put it on the table, right there, but now it was gone.  Turns out, the group had left for the club - well-sauced - and on the way out someone had snatched the open bottle of wine.  After all the distance that bottle had come, after all the memories, after having my dreams dashed and then my hopes renewed, it was all over.  I never got a sip of that wine, but I got over it pretty quick.  They had made the mistake of leaving their wine behind (which was much more expensive than mine AND it didn't have a cork in it) so I helped myself and got on to skype, where I got to see everyone from rez!  Great night! 

The next day I went out to explore the city of Gothenburg.  It had originally not been in my plans, but due to the long distances between places in Scandinavia (relatively, of course, it is still way closer together than anything in Canada), and the extremely high price of staying in Oslo, I had been semi-forced/semi-decided Gothenburg would be a nice place to visit, and it was. 

I headed out for breakfast, a little bit nervous after all of the horror stories I had heard about how CRAZY the prices were for anything in Scandinavia.  I also wanted something Swedish, so I wondered if this might jack up the price even more.  Five minutes out of the hostel, I came to a place on the corner with two really key words right on the sign: Buffet (check) and Swedish (check).  Then I saw the price, and it worked out to like $9.  This was an amazing place and I wasn't even in it yet, which made me suspicious that it would all be too good to be true.  I'm tellin' ya folks, it was so good, and it was true!  There were a hundred different items on the buffet, and they were all AWESOME.  haha, it was delicious, and Swedish, and cheap, and all-you-can eat, so that is exactly what I did.  

I could have left Gothenburg right then and been satisfied, but no, I wanted more, I wanted a vista.  On the map I found a cathedral at the highest point in the city, so that is where I went.  I worked my way up the hill to cathedral, stumbling onto a beautiful church on the way, but I knew there was a reason that this one was only part of the way up the hill, 

I made it further up the hill and was stopped by a little Swedish girl standing behind a table on the sidewalk with her mother speaking Swedish.  I apologized for not knowing Swedish and the mother took over and translated.  They were running a little business, she said, and wondered if I was interested in buying something from them.  I walked out of there with half a sea-shell and one of those ironed wax art thingies (I don't know what it was supposed to be, but it was the cheapest thing there), all for just 3.75 euro.  That's like five dollars, spent on NOTHING.  I had now found why everyone said Scandinavia was expensive, it's those mother-daughter tag-teams that rip you off.  There's absolutely no way that I would be able to say no to the smiling 5 year old with blonde pigtails, and the mom knew it.  Shrewd. 

I continued on and finally made it to the top, where I found the cathedral, and the great view of the city, the inlet of the ocean that it was on, and the surrounding hills.  I sat for a while and took in the magnificent picture before me and beautiful weather.  

I compared the view before me to my map of the city, and planned out my next venture: to the Old City.  I made my way down the hill towards the coast.  I dodged trams, cut through a park, crossed a canal, and found myself in the beautiful heart of the city.  Fancy old buildings that had been restored and looked like new lined the streets everywhere I went.  Every once in a while there was a very-cold-looking canal.  I meandered through the Old City,  no goal in mind, just appreciating my setting.  I found my way to the train station and the the mall across the street from it.  

I wandered back through the city and - after getting momentarily lost - reached my hostel.  I packed up my things and checked out.  After Subway for supper - [Swedish] Meatball Marinara - I hopped on a tram, and returned to the train station.

I checked the board, and couldn't find my train which was leaving in an hour for Oslo, Norway.  I kept checking until it finally came up on the board about 15 minutes before it was scheduled to leave.  It didn't tell which platform the train would be leaving from, however.  I scanned the station and found someone else who looked as puzzled as me, and asked if he was going to Oslo.  He was indeed (wow I'm good), and he couldn't understand why there was no platform either.  He spoke Swedish, luckily, so I let him do the talking, and he somehow discovered that we were in fact taking a bus, and not a train.  I followed him through the station towards the other end where the buses parked.  

We walked through the station and then someone caught my eye.  I definitely stared at this woman for a good three seconds before my brain worked out what I was looking at.  Arpana Nair! Arps! From Prague! and Hamburg-Copenhagen! AS IF.  I just started laughing, and it hardly even surprised me even more, and she thought it was crazy too.  Seriously, the odds of crossing paths with the same person not twice but THREE TIMES, in EUROPE!  It kind of blows my mind.  It was already five minutes past when my bus was supposed to leave, and translator/guide was getting pretty far ahead, so Arps walked with us to the buses, and told me all about how Stockholm and Oslo had been, and I gave her the inside scoop on Copenhagen.  Then we actually traded maps from the places we had been and the places we were going to, which I thought was ingenious and really cool. 

We made it to the buses, and miraculously, our bus hadn't left yet, so I said goodbye to Arps (more of a seeya later, we were pretty sure we would bump into each other a few more times yet) and boarded my bus.  

The bus carried us over the frozen Swedish landscape for 5 hours until we crossed over the border into Norway and reached Oslo, stopping only for passport checks (first time yet, because Norway isn't in the European Union).  We all got out at Oslo, and I followed the stream of passengers out of the bus terminal, hoping everyone was going to the train station, like me.  Upon leaving the bus terminal and finding our selves in downtown Oslo at midnight, everyone scattered.  I couldn't choose who to follow because everyone split up - zigzag formation.  Thankfully I found some signs to follow, and had soon made my way to the train station and found the ticket desk.  

I inquired about the next train to Bergen, Norway (the city of the fjords) - knowing that there was one leaving in an hour - and she informed me that, sorry, it wasn't possible.  Crap,  this Scandinavia venture was short on time and long on distance, so there was no room for setbacks like having to wait in Oslo - without a hostel booked and knowing that all hostels in Oslo were way overpriced and booked solid three days in advance - for two days before the next train went to Bergen.  She must have noticed my not-okayness with this, because she sympathetically suggested I talk to the conductor as soon as the train arrived in the station, and ask if I could get on the train.  

I did this, as it was essentially my only option.  My Canadian flags came in handy (once again), as I walked up to the conductor and he noticed them right away.  

"Canada, eh?  hahaha"  He greeted me, and I knew I was off to a good start.  We talked about the Olympics and he told me about his sister who lived in Canada, and then I asked if there was any possible way that I could get on this train.  "Oh yeah, I'm sure we can fit you in there somewhere."  He told me, and the trip to Bergen was saved.  I was told to go to the very back of the train, and hope that someone would not show up.  More luck came my way, and the spot that I had chosen to sit in and hope for the best turned out to be the one spot in the carriage that wasn't taken.  Thank you to whoever out there missed that train!  I would not have enjoyed having to stand the entire way to Bergen.  

The whole ride there I was quite tired, but wouldn't let myself go to sleep because every time the train stopped I was in danger of losing my spot.  So, I took several little naps, but never really slept that well for the entire six hour journey.  

Finally we arrived at Bergen.  The snorers awoke - surprised at how peaceful that train ride had been - the rest of us glared at them, and we all spilled out of the train together.  Silly me had forgotten to write down the directions to the hostel, so I talked to the lady at the ticket booth.  I also couldn't remember the name of the hostel I was staying at, so I had very little to go on.  She told me that there was one just down the street outside the station, and sent me on my way.  I think she was crazy, because I could not find this hostel anywhere.  I walked around town, which was amazingly tranquil - 630am in the cold Norwegian air, and Scandinavians love to sleep in, I had the town to myself.  I walked EVERYWHERE, and my backpack was starting to wear me down (never mind my lack of sleep).  I was no longer trying to find my hostel, but ANY hostel, thinking that each hostel would know all of the other hostels.  I found none.  No, I found one, but it was closed.  

I DID find one thing that helped me out,  something that Scandinavia is full of: Seven Eleven's.  There I asked directions - the guy knew nothing - got some breaky , and asked where I could find an internet connection.  All of a sudden there was no internet anywhere, but he told me that there was an internet cafe in the mall - which would be opening at 9.  Of course, it was Saturday, and that is why everything in town was closed.  I wandered some more,  not interested in taking pictures and just wanting to find my bed, just to lay down on it, for like a minute, that's all I was asking for.  I wandered (backpack and all) for the next two hours (stopping intermittently at bus shelters to enjoy a bench) with no luck, no internet connection, until finally the mall opened at 9.  I got inside, found the internet cafe, used my internet, and got the address of my hostel.  The directions sent me back to the area that I had been scouring all morning, and wouldn't you know it had been just around the corner of a street I had walked down several times. 

I got inside and checked-in.   Finally I found my bed and collapsed on it.  Not for too long though, there was no time for sleeping!  I introduced myself to the guy staying in the same room as me. 

"Hi, I'm Neil, I'm from Canada" I started.

"I don't care where you are from" He replied, not making any attempt to mask how rude that was.  After a short pause, I tried again to converse,

"Where are you from?" I asked.

"Slovenia" He said

"Cool." I said before being cut off.

"I don't care if it's cool.  I don't care what anyone thinks.  I don't need to change to have other people think I'm cool."  was his response.  I was quite shocked by this, and decided that this conversation didn't have much potential, so I locked my stuff in my locker (because obviously this guy would steal it if I didn't, right?) and left.

I headed out into the city forgot how tired I was.  I now took pictures of everything I had walked past that morning .  Bergen was a very Norwegian looking city, straight out of a postcard.  The Old Town was situated on a peninsula sticking out into a fjord with views of the mountains all around.  Leaning wooden fishing buildings painted different colours lined one side of the harbour.  Grander stone ones (much like the ones in Gothenburg) lined the other side.  The furthest inland point of the bay was met by the fishmarket, where the days catch was bought and sold.  Live lobsters and crabs, North Atlantic Salmon, and lots of others were on display.  I explored the city and took in the natural and man-made beauty.  I went back to the hostel to ask my friendly hostelier what to see since I only had one day in this city.  She told me that I just had to go up the furnicular, and get the spectacular view of the fjord from up above.  

While at the hostel I met another guy staying in my room, Nicolas, from Paris.  I asked him if he knew the other guy in the room, and he said yes, but that he wasn't much of a people person.  I strongly agreed.  Nicolas said that he usually couch-surfed (staying at people's houses, for free), and that if I was ever in Paris, I could stay at his place.  I later gave Nicolas' information to anyone I met who was going to Paris.  

TO BE CONTINUED...

 

Tags: beautiful, bergen, fjords, gothenburg, neil loewen, norway, sweden

 

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