24 June 2009

Sitting on Trains

Early mornings. I’ve gotten more used to this as our trip marches on. We had to get up at about 6am this morning to catch a series of trains from Oslo to Hamburg, Germany. The night before was considered the longest day of the year in Oslo. Being such, the sun didn’t set until about midnight and even then it never really went away. At about 4am it was as bright as usual. So we were pretty much assured an early wake up call.

After trucking down to our train which took us from Oslo to Gothenberg, Sweden, I immediately fell asleep. As I drifted in and out of sleep I would see very beautiful sites typical of what one would expect to see in Norway. You know Viking ships, salmon, the normal stuff. In reality, it was endless amounts of beautiful countryside. Endless green space, houses on the water and lots of trees.

Four hours later we arrived in Gothenberg. We had a layover of 2.5 hours so we went straight to the tourist information to find out how to maximize our time. The lady working there said the best itinerary would be to see a famous statue, a food market, a fish market and old town. We did all four. The highlight of Gothenberg for us was going to the food market. It was like a smaller version of the Westside Market in Cleveland, Ohio. What especially made it for us was cheap food. As we’ve said the Scandinavian countries are super expensive, so when you can get good food for about five dollars per meal, you go for it. We shared an order of Swedish meatballs and an order of fried fish. Both dishes came with the berries typically found on the side of any meal ordered at Ikea (lingonberry, I think) as well as a tiny salad and mashed potatoes. The food was good, we were stuffed, we were happy.

Once seeing the other sites in Gothenberg, none of which are worthwhile to call out, we were on our way to Copenhagen. The train ride was fun, partially because we got to ride in first class. We got to try to communicate with an old Swedish couple, tried to read Swedish newspapers and tried to see into the cockpit of the train. Quite amusing.

In Copenhagen we narrowly made our train to Hamburg. Once again we were in first class and were in a private compartment with only one other lady. This woman turned out to be exceptionally nice. She had been returning from a conference up in Denmark and appeared to be itching to talk to someone. So we all chatted for the rest of the way. She also had some sandwiches and chips she gave to us vultures, so it was a good score for us.

The highlight of the journey was when in the middle of our train from Copenhagen to Hamburg, the woman in our compartment started to pack a few things up. She told us that the train was getting on to a boat and we had to get off. Naturally, I was dumfounded…train on a boat?! That proved to be the case as we loaded the train on the boat with cars and trucks next to us as we went from an Island in Denmark to Denmark on the mainland. The boat they loaded us on to was nice as well. It was like a cruise ship with restaurants and stores. It was all a very unique experience to say the least.

Finally, we made it here to Hamburg and are plotting our plan on how to get to Marseille so we can make it to Morocco by next Monday. And the trip continues…

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So we got into Oslo bright and early Tuesday morning. We had three objectives in our first few minutes there: obtain reservations for the trip back to continental Europe the next day, find a map and get a hotel room for the night. Reservations were easy, the office was open just a few minutes before we got there and we were able to get information on all our connections for the next day as well as 1st class reservations (originally we were going to head to Brussels, but scrapped that plan as we didn’t want to have to change trains at 3 in the morning – we will be spending the night in Hamburg instead) Next, it was off to the tourist information kiosk to hopefully get information on hotels and a map. We left a few minutes later with a map and a list of budget hotels, check & check. We made our way through town to the first recommended hostel, checking at a Clarion on the way (uber expensive) at the hostel we found out they had no rooms. We made our way to the next listing…only dorms left and we would have to be separated. Um no. Then a few more places all about $200, eep! We were about to give up and head back to Sweden or at least somewhere other than Oslo.

Charlton left me at the internet café at the train station and went to get money and found a gem of a hotel about 2 blocks from the train station (and with a name like Budget Hotel, how can you go wrong!) The place was very clean and it seemed like we had the whole floor to ourselves. 4 nice big bunks beds all for us and a shower across the hall, it was heaven. Although, I would have taken anything after 3 night trains without showers. $100 a night, FINE! Can’t believe how expensive it is there.

After dropping off our bags we asked the guy at the desk where we could get some cheap Norwegian food. He pointed us to a little café with Norwegian meat open faced sandwiches. Both of us were still hungry after but couldn’t afford more so we took our snacks we packed and at in front of the National Theater. Then we walked to the palace garden where I harassed some of the guards (all for a photo op) and then we headed toward Oslo University. There they had an exhibit on Oslo – its past, present and future. It was incredibly interesting and gave us a lot of background on the city. We then walked to the city’s memorial cemetery before heading back to the hotel to check in and have much needed showers and naps.

After relaxing for a bit we wandered out to get dinner, we ended up at a place down the street where we got some fried fish and french fries, still pretty expensive but at least it was more reasonable. Then we headed down to the pier area to watch the fishermen and boats. Then we walked down to Aker Brygge where there are a lot of new condos and restaurants, was a really neat area. Then it was time to head back to the hotel…although it wasn’t even dark. All the literature in Oslo said the 23rd was the longest day of the year (um, isn’t that supposed to be my birthday?!) it didn’t get dark until around 12:30 when we finally headed to bed for our early morning train ride back to the continent and more reasonable prices.

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Catching up

Here are pics from the last couple days, enjoy!

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