vacations - scandinavia 2005
Suddenly I was faced with not having a job. In 1994 when my company in Hamburg laid us all off I spent the next 6 months scrambling to find a new position, turning down opportunities to study in Russia. I could not be so irresponsible and actually enjoy the time off. So I sent out resumes attended various conferences in an attempt to make my self whole and employed. Eventually I landed a job in Scotland that had nothing to do with my previous 6 months of efforts. This time more than 11 years later I ignored the financial considerations and swore I would make to best of my time off. Ever since my time in Europe I had longed to travel to Norway. So on attending the annual 'Norway Day Festival' in San Francisco with Anne and others of the 'Young Scandinavians Club' I decided that 6 weeks hiking in Norway was in order.
On investigating the airfares I discovered that Icelandair allowed a stop-over for up to 7 days in Iceland on the way to Oslo. Always dreamed of spending time in a hot spring surrounded by ice during a sunlit midnight .... the flight to Reykjavik was rapidly booked. An email went out to my friends informing them of my impending travels. Lisa H. informed me that her 'Burning Man' friend Liam had just posted a note on 'Tribe.net' asking if she had any connections in Reykjavik. I met up with Liam to find out why he was off to the northern lands. It turns out he was headed to a festival in Sweden. He had no idea what to expect and was just going on a recommendation of a friend. I checked the website out and I was IN!! How could I resisted a festival called the 'No Mind Festival' promising 'Headless dancing in the Barn'.
Thus 6 weeks in Norway had now become - 1 week in Iceland, 2 week in Sweden and 4 weeks in Norway. As we will see that will also change.
Iceland - Reykjavik - June 30th - July 1st 2005
Iceland has a total population of 290,000 and yet it is the size of ??? and has its very own language based on ''Old Norse'. Don't worry everyone speaks English. Although most of the population lives around the capital Reykjavik it is still a relatively small town of 183,000 people. So although Reykavik is promised by Icelandair to be the 'in' party spot of Europe its no Paris. If you do want to party make sure you are there on a Friday or a Satuday night all other nights are dead. If you arrive there on Thursday a trip to the 'Blue Lagoon' is the typical activity to fill up an afternoon. In the time I was there the near midnight sun conditions meant that it was light at midnight. Good as thats about when people were coming out to party. Plan on buying duty free and drinking that in your hotel as everything is extremely expensive ... especially alcohol. Thus in Iceland it is usual to get pre-drunk at home parties before hitting the town to get even more drunk. This is a theme that comes up in Oslo and Stockholm and is rather disturbing.
In short Reykjavik was a fun place and I danced my tootsie off BUT I had planed to catch an 8am bus ... to my everlasting regret this did not happen. If I had my time again I would skip the parties and make sure you take advantage of the unique countryside.
Iceland - Roadtrip - July 1st - 2nd 2005
If you miss a bus in Iceland thats it ... there is generally one bus per day to where ever you are going. I had planned to head to Lannmanlaugur to do 'one of the worlds great hikes' and I had exactly the right amount of time to do it if I caught that bus. Plan B was hiring a car and heading out the the Snefall National Park. Along the way I saw some absolutely wonderful countryside. Unfortunately when I arrived at the Snefall Glacier the weather turned nasty and I could not see a damn thing. The view from the campsite was spectacular. So on a whim I could only do one thing see if i could make it to Lannmanalaugur.... my original quest. Why was this a problem .... well technically I was not suppose to drive the car into the Icelandic heartland as once you get about 100km away from Reykjavik and off the Ring Road the roads rapidly turn into dirt tracks. Eventually you have to deal with river crossings. Needless to say I made it ... with the first river crossing being only a couple of 100 meters from the Lannmanlaugur Hut. I set up camp and spent the rest of the evening in the Hot Springs ... again making sure I was there at midnight.
Iceland - Lannmanlaugur Hike - July 2nd - 5th 2005
Given that I had a car and not much time I would not be able to make a one way hike to Porsmork (pronounced Thorsmerk) as I had hoped. But I could do the first one and a half days of the hike. As you can see in the Photo Album the scenery is spectacular. It included lots of lava vents and a glacier cave.
Norway - Oslo - July 6 - 8th 2005
I had two days in Oslo and what wonderful summer days they were. If only Oslo was like this all year long. My residence was the M/S Innvik a ship moored on the habor near the main railway station. Spending most of my time in the central region of the city I came out at night to explore the night life. All I really found on this part of my stay was a nice little pub and chatted to a few friendly people.
Sweden - Ängsbacka - July 8 - 15th 2005
On Friday I headed by bus to the small town of Molkom 30km north of Karlstad in Sweden. As I outlined on my Angsbacka page I was headed to a festival I knew almost nothing about. I was half expecting to get there and find out that it was not my thing and leave shortly thereafter. As it happens I would not only stay the full week but I would extend my stay for an extra week. It was a lot of fun and definintely the hightlight of my trip. How could it not be workshops on self-development all day, vegetarian food, dancing and 'no alcohol'. And best of all lots of hugging!
Norway - Oslo - July 15 - 16th 2005
After a week of getting in touch with my inner-self I headed back for a day and half to Oslo. Remi was having a party and I needed to see what the 'other' world was like where people didn't hug each other all the time. I would later find myself at 3am in the morning totally sober singing songs of joy to the police and a lot of annoyingly drunk norwegians. As it turns out scandinavians in general can get absolutely plastered and show no shame in being so. One girl in particular insisted in trying to dance with me ... would fall over numerous times and simply pick herself up and want to try again. I finally had to just walk off the dance floor and run away.
Sweden - Ängsbacka - 17th - 23rdJuly 2005
I was so glad to finally be back in the 'real' world namely back at Angsbacka a few days later. At first it was unusual as most of the people I had connected with in the first week had gone. I had to meet new people and the atmosphere at the beginning of this week was obviously not going to be as loving as it was at the end of the first week. I had to accept it would take time to get there. By the end of the week it was I had met a few more good friends.
Norway - Jotunheimen National Park - July 24th - 28th 2005
It was planned that my next step would be the Lofoten Islands above the artic circle but I did not read the fine print on the train time table which says that the night train to Trondheim departs everyday except saturday and sunday. It was in Norwegian and I had not got as far as understanding 'except'. Needless to say I changed my schedule and took a bus to Lomm the town closest to Jotunheimen National Park. I soon learnt that you NEVER travel on the weekend in Norway. It is hard to get connecting buses and basically do anything. This is despite the fact that it was tourist season and thus weekends themselves have no meaning.
Jotunheimen is the most spectacular national park in Norway and contains the highest peak in Northern Europe namely Galdhopiggen. My first stop was Spiterstulen a cabin and hikers hut run by the DNT. I spent several hours trying to decide what to do the next day .. should I climb Galdhopiggen or should I hike a Glacier. I wanted to do both .. and then where. Just at that moment an announcement declared that the next days guided hiking trails would be decribed in 5 minutes. And guess what I could do both Galdhopiggen and the Glacier in the same day! Perfect! In addtition I soon met Eva and Sofi who explain where they had been in the last week and could recommend a suitable trail. The best part of this is that I learnt I did not have to carry my enormous back pack on two days of the hike. You simply put it on a boat and it is taken to the next hut for you.
We conquered the Glacier and I even did a glacial-pool skinnydip .. surprisingly depite being near freezing your body does not feel cold. It is too busy shutting down its vital organs to feel cold!! Galdhopiggen was a tough climb but we made it .. it actually isn't that high but we did scale it at its steepest part. Unfortunately and as always happens in Norway the moment we reach the summit the clouds surrounded us spoiling any chance of a view.
Norway - Lofoten - July 30th - August 3rd 2005
A night train to Trondheim then a connection to Bodo. I decided I deserved a party night in Bodo and splurged on a hotel with
Norway - Hurtigrute Ferry - August 3rd - 4th 2005
An over priced ferry that travels the coast of norway from Bergen to Lapland. The views are in part spectacular ... how ever the novelty soon wore off. Especially when 5 bus loads of German and American couples all over the age of 70 arrived. The dance floor was full but no one to dance with!!
Basically I would not recommend anyone going on this ferry. For the money you could go to Svalbard!
Sweden - Stockholm - August 5th - 9th 2005
Without a doubt Stockholm is the most gorgeous city I visited on my trip. It has the feel of the best European cities but is superbly located on a harbor surrounded by an archipelago of approximately 20,000 islands. Although I splurged on a hotel room for the first two nights for the remainder of my visit I stayed on the AF Chapman a Hostel ship moored in the harbor. I met up with a friend from Angsbacka, Asa, who used to live in Stockholm. Attended the "Stockholm Gay Pride Parade" and even found the Hare Krishna restaurant ... met up with some spanish, english and new zealanders. Visited 3 museums including the Vasa Museum. The 'Vasa' was designed to be the flagship of the swedish fleet in 1620? but it was so misdesigned that it toppled over and sank within half an hour of its launch. In the 1960s they salvaged the wreck and renovated it. Its is spectacular and in excellent condition.
Finland - Helsinki - August 10th - 11th 2005
Having totally made a mess of catching a ferry to Gotland I found myself at the station in Stockholm wondering how to recover my schedule. The next ferry did not leave until late in the afternoon which would simply not give me adequate time to see Gotland at all. The day before I had met a man at the Hari Krishna restaurant (great food!) who recommended getting the ferry to Helsinki. His wife worked for Silja Ferry Lines so he may have been biased! As it happened having a Scanrail pass meant that the trip would be free in a shared cabin with 3 other guys. I was a bit hestitant after my Hurtigrute Ferry experience but I was surprised - this was much more fun. I immediately hit the wine bar and coincidently sat next to an absolutley gorgeous girl. Naturally the equally 'gorgeous' latin multi-lingual bartender happened to be her boyfriend! But the conversation was fun. From the wine bar to the pub and I was chatting to a girl who was to inform me that she hadn't been able to continue as a porn star as she had put on too much weight since giving up her drug habit.
At the time Helsinki was hosting the World Athletic Championships and on the ferry we could watch them ... watch how every event was totally flooded out by torential rain!! So it was no surprise that my one day stay in Helsinki was spent for the large part in a tour bus (which is actually the best way to see a city quickly) and in several cafes. I wasn't terribly impressed with Helsinki in comparison to Stockholm but to be fair I have not seen them both in similar weather conditions. When I arrived in Stockholm the next day it was even more sunny and delightful as I left.
Actually the most fun I had on this little excursion was on the ferry trip back. As the Silja ferry was booked out that day I went on the Viking Line ferry. This ferry is older and as such attacts fewer families... Great! The pub actually had 'atmosphere' ... I soon met up with Richard - my cabin mate - and we took part in a pub quiz. Then with Rachel from Boston and 'Clark Kent' from Berkeley to form the Kareoke group called 'Clark Kent and the Kryptonites' in our rendition of Gloria Gaynors 'I will survive'. Needless to say we were terrible but we had a blast. The entertainment that night was "Elechick - the Australian Sensation'. I must say I was sceptical ... then suddenly this deep voice blasted out ... everyone stopped and listened. She was terrfic. Of course when a couple of Australian songs were sung i was out on the dance floor and Rachel, Richard, 'Clark' and I made it our task to get all the tight-assed Swedes and Finns up and dancing. The hardest to break were Jaana and her friend who had been sitting at our table most of the night. Needless to say the ferry rocked all the way back to Stockholm.
Sweden - Goteborg - August 13th - 14th 2005
Swedens second largest city is also located by the sea. Whilst not as
spectacular as Stockholm it has an attractive feel to it. I was lucky
enough to have a tour guide, Asa, to show me around. It happened to be
the weekend of the "Gotebergkasslet" a large festival.
During the day a trip around the harbor on a barge were we had to often duck to ensure we kept our heads under the very low bridges. The even was spent at the ?? A very old style and charming theme park. I was subsequently convinced to to go on some ride that twirled me around and put me on the verge of throwing up for the next three days. We also saw ?? singing a tribute to Edith Piaf ... many of the songs were in French of course but some were also in Swedish which was interesting. It was truely a wonderful experience.
Sweden - Linkopping - August 14th - 15th 2005
At the beginning of my first week at Angsbacka I met three girls who were kind enough to laugh at my attempts at raising my tent and then helped me. I ended up spending a damn lot of time with Lotta, Nina and Agneta. Thus in the last days of my trip I travelled to Linkopping to pay them a visit.