Monday, 30 January 2006

Scandinavia: Viking Land

Winter in Scandinavia is really the epitome of winter...or at least it sure seem like it while I was there. Think complete white all over with black leafless trees and large snow covered areas that would be water in the summer. Oh and of course it has to be snowing too, with the wind blowing snowflakes about, making them dance in the air.

Beautiful? long as you're indoors looking out. It's an entirely different story if you're outside and then the whole situation I've just described takes on a far less pleasant view. For starters, the temperature would be about -10 degrees or lower and the snow covered ground while pretty, gives cold feet and makes the ground slippery and more strenuous to walk upon. The wind blows the snowflakes into your face, especially your eyes, numbing your face and making it tough to see where you're going.

I guess beauty pretty much always comes with a price. It's too cold to even make snowballs coz de snow doesn't melt enough to stick, but it's perfect ski snow though. I ended up having to purchase furry boots for walking through the snow coz if I stayed using track shoes, I reckon I'd have lost my toes long ago! Still I liked Stockholm even though it snowed every day I was there. It was pretty imressive seeing the snow-covered frozen sea that was just tempting me to step on it. Fighting the temptation wasn't very easy, especially when the hostel I was staying in was really a boat and the docks make it pretty easy to just step off!

I spent quite some time in museums simply coz it was warmer and most museums were free. I think I know more about viking history and the whole royalty back when they wore armour and such better than I know NZ history. Anyway it made for an interesting experience. I think the only complain I have about the place is that the stores all close by 6pm...even the huge department stores. By 6.30, the streets are pretty much deserted, and can seem a trifle scary in Gamla Stan which is the old town with it's tiny alleys and cobbled streets.

Compared to Sweden, Finland was much better, it being warmer by the time I arrived and certainly stores were opened till much later. I really liked that there were so many outdoor skating rinks, simply coz all the lakes were completely frozen over so anyone can just ut on a pair of skates and skate (which many did). The "rink" I went to was the size of 2 olympic size rinks. It rocked. There's just something about skating outdoors, plus there's plenty of space for everyone!

During the time I was in Helsinki, I also went to Suomenlinna, an ancient island fortress listed on the world heritage list. As they wanted to preserve it as it was, there wasn't any railings or stuff anywhere and you pretty much could climb everywhere at your own risk. The view is great from the top of the fortress walls and climbing up is pretty easy with lotsa natural footholds. If you slipped though, it would mean a nasty plunge down to the rocks and the frozen sea below. Being very helpful, signs are posted from time to time reminding people to look out for small kids if they have them with them. My friend told me many a person has met an unpleasant end at the bottom of the cliff, her grandmother being one of them and the most recent being a 9 year old girl last year. It's easy enough to fall and die without any railings as it is, but it's even more treacherous in winter, when the place is totally snow covered. The problem with snow covered ground is that you don't know how deep it is so if it turns out deeper than you think it is you end up slipping...which I did at the edge of the cliff and almost fell if not for this plant I grabbed hold of. I like plants. Not many tourists come in winter so the fortress was pretty deserted while I was there and you really feel totally alone in a silent fortress with the stone walls all around you and caves and canons. It's almost magical really, you feel like you're really looking into the past. Unfortunately I am unable to put into words the intensity of the feeling so please do go and experience it yourself!

Tuesday, 10 January 2006

Netherlands - Land of the Giants

Staying with Wouter here in the Netherlands is great! For one I get to see him again. The funny thing is it feels like we've never been apart as though I've still been seeing him everyday. Secondly, coz he's currently staying with his mum, he's staying in a national I get to live in a monument. His stepdad is really rich and the house is really pretty. It's funny coz there's this plague that says "monument" right beside the front door and the year the house was built 1633 is painted on one of the walls (the age of the house is what makes it a monument).

The Netherlands is great, although I can't read the street names, people do speak english. I've not had to look at a map at all since arriving since Wout has been taking me around and he picked me up at the train station when I arrived. Nothing in Holland has been made for small people though and I certainly feel tiny compared to the Dutch! On Sunday I went to church and even the pews were made for bigger people. My feet could touch the ground and when kneeling my feet couldn't touch the ground either! Not a very comfortable experience! But the Dutch are nice, well all Wout's friends and his family is nice.

Tomorrow we're heading to Amsterdam and it's great having someone else decide where to go and what to do. Planning an itinery is somewhat tiring! I'll be going to see coffee houses there too....which don't sell coffee but 'legal' drugs. The thing is most of the customers of the coffee houses are really tourists rather than Dutch which is expected since by restricting something you only make people want it more. Strange how the human mind works that way...

Monday, 9 January 2006


I'm not cut out for flings. My french guy and I have been either emailing of texting each other almost everyday, even though it takes me about an hour to write an email in French. He writes to me in English, but it's really bad it takes awhile for me to comprehend. I guess my French is better than his English.

Anyway now that Bovy can't make it to Germany, which was our next stop after Netherlands, I am going back to France. To see Bovy again (she is still stuck in Paris)...and of course to meet up with my French guy. Lol Guess I'm not really bummed out about not seeing Berlin or Cologne, but I think I'll go ahead to Frankfurt earlier if only to get the Ritter Sport choc with yogurt in it that you just can't find anywhere else in the world (believe me I've looked in every country I've been in!).

Saturday, 7 January 2006


Since Bovy lost her passport and with it her visas, she couldn't travel to London and I ended up having to travel to London by myself. My London trip didn't go very well right from the start. First off, I missed my train to Tours despite rushing to get there in time, but the RER took ages to arrive. Had to pay extra to catch the next train. Then when I got to Tours, because it was late I missed the airport shuttle so I had to take a cab to the airport which cost me heaps. Then when I checked in my luggage, they told me it was too much past the weight limit so I had to pay for excess baggage.

I was totally exhausted after arriving in London coz I had been lugging all my luggage which was really heavy around almost all day...and I had to take a cab to the hostel. In London, the cab drivers don't help you with your luggage, they make you put it in the cab yourself. Upon arriving at the hostel, I discovered there wasn't an elevator and I was on the 3rd floor. Think heaps of stairs and very heavy luggage. Plus the room I was in was only for 1 night before I was supposd to change rooms. So I lugged everything up, with much difficulty and when I got into the room, it pretty much seemed to be an all guys room coz there were 6 guys taking a nap there. Didn't feel too comfortable taking a nap myself (although I really really wanted to) so I had to go out wandering around in the cold. The other big prob;em with the hostel was that for some reason the luggage room is located on the 3rd and a half floor. I mean of course that is the most logical place to locate a luggage room. After all, everyone just loves carrying their luggage up a few flights of stairs!

Being alone and female in London is not nice...London is full of dodgy guys, but don't tell my mum that coz she'd freak. Anyway my experience with dodgy brits amounts to meeting a flasher at a bus stop at 5pm (by then it was already dark) and having this man older than my dad try to kiss me and ask if he could take me home. I am still trying to forget the awful image of the flasher and I still shudder at the thought of that old man whom at first seemed like he was just being friendly. Well moral of the story there is don't talk to strangers. Honestly he seemed harmless... Give me grabby, clingy Italians over Brits least they dun attack you!

My last 2 days in London were pretty good though, mainly coz I met these German girls who stayed in the new room I moved into and so I had people to go around with. It also meant I could take photos with me in them too! Lol

Overall London was ok I guess (if frightfully expensive where transport is concerned)...just not nice to be there alone. I definitely love the theatre there I went to watch Fame which was fantastic and they've got pretty good deals for students. Shopping was good too with all the post New Year/Christmas sales. Sandwiches are great. It was also nice to be able to understand everything...the ads, the road names etc!

Sunday, 1 January 2006

New Year's Eve

There's something about New Year's eve that makes you wanna spend it somewhere special. And so I did. In Disneyland Paris. It was a fantastic New Year's eve despite all that had happened before. The 'before' I'm talking about is Bovy's handbag getting stolen and in her handbag was her passport among other things. We definitely didn't have a very nice eve of New Year's eve. I spent 7 hours sitting on my suitcase in the RER station in Paris outside the ticket counter while Bovy went running around trying to find the Thai embassy.

Still, Disneyland was great...and tremendously crowded. I've never been to Disneyland before and neither had Bovy so I guess both of us were catching up on our childhood. It's a huge place and despite the whole day we spent there...from 11am to 1am, we still didn't manage to cover everything or see all the shows. The highlight of the day would have had to be the christmas parade. Disneyland screwed up our tickets so to compensate for that they gave us VIP spots to watch the parade which was fantastic (we had all this space to ourselves and an unobstructed view).

I'd studied about EuroDisney as a case study in Business Strategy earlier and one of the things the case mentioned was that Disney is very selective about the appearance of their employees...they all have to be beautiful. I guess it's true coz all the princes on floats in the parade were really drop dead gorgeous...certainly fairy-tale like. The thing is, even the bad characters looked good too! I don't suppose it would be very pleasant to get rejected for a job because one isn't good-looking enough. I wonder how many people apply and get rejected...

We definitely had a magical, if cold, New Year's countdown. Might have been better with a partner I guess coz during the countdown we were entirely surrounded by couples, which made Bovy miss her kind-of boyfriend and me...let's just say I hadn't gotten over my french guy yet. 8p