Saturday, September 30, 2006

Spending the last of our Kuna

Had a bit of a slow start to the last full day in Croatia. Slept in, caught tram to city. Tried to find a post office to send a painting (0.5 x 0.4m) back to Australia. First post office said that we would need a permit from the Minister of Cultural Affairs to export art. If so, why on earth didn't the art gallery say so when we were buying the damn thing?

Next post office didn't do packages that size.

Third post office said you have to go to the parcel section of the post office, around that corner and into the next dooway.

Next doorway said, no, that bit is further down the road.

Went to visit the parcel section. By this time, ready to punch the living daylights out of these people for giving us the runaround.

When the guy behind the counter said No, we would need a permit from the Minister of Cultural Affairs, and it takes about a day to get; I *think* by my sigh of exasperation & pulling ou of the map of Zabreb to ask, 'well is it on this bloody thing?', he took pity on us. It cost 350kn to send back. So that was the last of my sisters' kuna.

But I still had a bit of money to burn.

I had about $175 in AUD on me, which was a bit much to fritter away on useless things like souveniers. So after our tour of Mount Medvednica (via cable car), and our tour of the Mirgoj cemetery (most beautiful cemetery in Eu) we were about to go eat in a restaurant that served up good Zagrebian typical dishes, about 50-70kn per main course. But first we went shoe shopping... and I bought 2 pairs of shoes, but one pair I couldn't resist, they were so beautiful... they're bright red clogs (birkinstocks) and they've got a picture of a sheep on them!!!

And then we had no more money left for a typical Zagrebian dinner, and we had to go eat in a cheap fish diner instead (highly recommended by lonely planet, but still), and then when it came to actually pay, we were standing at the counter counting out the lipa to make 11 kuna.

Luckily we had already bought our train ticket to Slovenia, and our day ticket to get to the train station today. Hopefully there is no baggage charge for our packs, because we won't have anything to pay with!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Pula on Istrian Coast, Croatia

I have stayed in Pula and Rovinj on the Istrian Coast in Croatia. If you imagine the 'leg' of italy, it's kind of the bit facing the leg, up where it would join an imaginary body. It has been very beautiful.

Pula is a very small tourist town, reliant entirely upon the tourist dollar. Found this out because we were visiting out of season, and thus everything had closed. Our landlady told us abouta ferry 'Danica' that went out to an island about 5km away, we thought that would be a nice thing to do.

The day before we had visited the closest beach (possibly a YHA only beach) and had enjoyed its rocky sunniness for a total of 5 minutes before the heavens opened, and the torrential rain started. Lucky then, that we were at a YHA beach, because we then took shelter under the roof of its outdoor seating area as the gutters overflowed and cascaded across the paved floor.

When we got to the Marina, Danica was no longer running ferry services to this island, and the owner had left for the season. There were no other "excursions" leaving from Pula until nextyear.

Visiting the Roman amphitheatre in the centre of Pula was *about* the only attraction. It was almost wholy intact,and there was a museum about amphoras and olive oil production, in the basement where the gladiators used to hang out.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


So! Oktoberfest. Started on the weekend of 16 September. I arrived in
Munich on the Sunday, when the only thing to do was Oktoberfest.

Wandered down after unpacking at the youth hostel, catching an
underground train to the main station, and then catching an S-line
train to the recommended less-crowded station.

Wiesn, means 'fields', but this really was an asphalted fairground area.

There were a lot of people dressed up in their Lederhosen and
colourful Drindls, even little toddlers, and newly-borns.

It was so loud! I visited a couple of beer halls, and had my backpack
felt up by bouncers (for what, I can't imagine). It was pretty
in-your-face. I saw trays of charcoal-smoked fish being carried past,
so I went and had a look at the smoking pit. Rows and rows of fish
over charcoal pits, and being rotisserated over stands. The cheapest
fish was mackeral at 3.50 euro per 100g.

The fairground rides were extensive. Like the easter show but 1000's
of times louder. I couldn't understand the German, but it sounded a
lot like "40hours of non-stop rocking ROCK!!", again and again and

I got quite weary with the sun, and the walking around, so I had a bit
of a granny sit down on the steps of the spinning teacup ride. There
was a distinct lack of places to sit, because in the beer-halls, you
had to have reserved your table ages in advance. Everyone was chowing
down on sugar coated almonds, foot-long bratwurst, brezen, and fish
and chips.

I was so mesmorised by the action of the person making crepes: With
one hand behind your back, spread mixture on hotplate, spread around
with little mallet-like implement. Ask what flavour the person wants.
Flip with a knife onto the hotplate next door. Sprinkle flavour stuff
on. Half it with the knife, fold over; quarter it with the knife, flip
over. Somehow pick up with a knife that it folds into 8ths, place into
serviette & hand to customer, watch them burn their fingers.

I had a refreshing lemon & sugar crepe and then wandered on home to
have an adventure at the Bavarian Beer place down the road. A waitress
who offered me a shandy as an alternative to not *really* being a beer
drinker (I had 1/2 a litre of Augustiner Edelstoff instead), and a
nice half-portion of roast suckling pig & homemade potato dumpling.
Potatoes count as 'greens', right?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Oslo to Munich

I couldn't get a direct flight from Oslo to Rijeka (or Pula) on the day that I wanted, so I had to settle for a flight from Oslo to Munich, and then Munich to Rijeka the next day. I didn't realise this, but it was a total score - because I arrived in Munich the weekend that Oktoberfest or Wiesn started.

Meant to get the first tram from the youth hostel to the main train station, Oslo S, because I'm a cheapskate, and I had 23 minutes or so of internet time that I had already paid for (that's 10 kroner, dammit), but getting up early in the morning was soo hard, and I had to drag my enormous pack out into the hallway cause I'm way too nice and considerate to wake the others up in my dorm room at 545 in the morning whilst packing. Brain hadn't even made it to auto pilot stage, so I had trouble folding up the sleeping liner.

So no early tram for me, and no more internetz in Norway. Instead, I finished off my dinner of Chaterelle (50kroner for 0.5kg) pasta, and then the normal cereal and yoghurt. Spent my last 13kroner on chocolate (the Norweigan equivalent of an Aero bar), and then gave the
remaining 50c to the Salvos.

Flight was okay, got a window seat, but on the wrong, *sunny* side, so I couldn't actually see that much. Don't sit on the LHS of plane if flying south in the morning.

Ticket machines at Munich airport for the train lines only take 10€ notes.

Caught S1 line to Hauptptbahnhof, then went to change trains for the U1 line to Rotkreuplatz. Of course I caught the train in the wrong direction, but it only took me 3 stations to work it out. Saw a lot of people wandering around in their drindls and lederhosen. They really do get dressed up here to celebrate, it's not just a con put on by the Lowenbrau!

I was so used to the nice signs around Norway, that I was totally pissed off by the lack of signage (and the terrible map from the hostel website). In Oslo, Harldsheim had a nice sign from the tram stop showing the path to the hostel. I walked in about 5 different directions before I actually found the correct street for the place.

As I checked in and got my bed linen, I was told that everything was closed, not because of Oktoberfest, but because it was Sunday. And really, the only thing to do today was head to Oktoberfest ...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Norway Trip Summary

Hideously overdue with this bloggy thing, so all of Norway will have to wrapped up in this one post.

Lets see...

- Everyone in Norway smokes, all outdoor areas are really for smokers, not for people who enjoy the outdoors
- Everything runs on time! Trams are good because they annouce the next stop as well as displaying it. Ahhh, organisation.
- Don't buy City tickets, e.g. the Bergen card without checking if all the attractions are open
- food, coffee (avg 30kroner for something with milk) is expensive
- clothes are cheap!
- a 1 bedroom apartment in Oslo would cost 6000 kroner per month
- Buying the Norway in a nutshell ticket or Triangle tour ticket on the net is cheaper, but is less flexible. I think you can change your tickets around up to the day before you travel.
- If you're an active person, spending at least one day in Flam *as part of the Norway in a nutshell tour) would be worthwhile. There were things like kayaking along the fjord, or riding down from Mrydal to Flam that I would have adored to do. Dangnamit! Next time.

- The streets around Skagen are good to wander around at random.
- The old town (gamle stavanger) is beautiful, with whitewashed houses and flower pots and gorgeous roses everywhere. Each house has a little bench seat to sit on. It gives good views across to the Skagen area.
- it is worthwhile paying for coffee on a really hot Indian summer day, just to get the nice cool courtyard and the tall glass of water
- 'books, bar and caffe' on Orreholmegate has a fantastic courtyard
- If accomodation is all booked up in Stavanger, try Haugesaund, or the Mossvagen Campground.

- Most of the attractions listed on the Bergen card are closed in the off season (September onwards)
- Heading up the Floibanen Funicular just before sunset, and watching sunset from the top of Mount Floyen is unbelievable and well worth it
- It gets cold on top of the mountain after dark!
- If you have time, walk down from the mountain
- I got off at Proms Gate (2nd last stop), and wandered down through the cobblestone streets above the Furnicular station, and it was very nice
- Wander through the wooden Bryggen area at random

- The 'Use-it' place, at 3 Mollergata has free internet!
- They also publish a good mag, 'Streetwise', with tips on doing Oslo on the cheap
- H&M, a department store, is everywhere.
- Cheaper to buy train (and tram) tickets at a machine (Automat)
- A good spot is to catch Line 3 (?) to the end station - Frognersternum, the view from the moutain is beautiful, and you get to hang out with the downhill mtbers.
- Karl Johans gate is a hole. Head up and around all the other streets instead.
- I didn't find the Viking Museum that interesting... wish i had gone to the Folk Museum instead... the ferry ride over was nice though (I like boats!)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Stavanger, Norway

It is amazing how much a mood can affect your perception of a town.

I arrived in Stavanger, Norway on Tuesday evening, not having booked
any accomodation. I had tried to call two places the night before, one
mob had gone on holiday, one place was fully booked up. I thought that
I would have no trouble finding somewhere to stay, and was willing to
spend a couple of extra Kr to get it. Except that I hadn't counted on
there being two major events on in town when i got there. One was a
tourism conference, and the second event, I found out later was a big
bank robberz trial. This is a place that gets fully booked out durning
summer, and this was the case now. I called two more places - and they
were gone. Changing more money into 5Kr pieces (each phone call costs
5Kr minimum - so 1AUD), i had visions of having to dump all my worldly
possessions in a locker, and finding a park bench somewhere.

Finally, I had a flash of inspiration. All the rich oil execs surely
wouldn't be slumming it would they? The yha had already closed for the
season (university accom i think), so when after several ring-outs the
Mossvagen campground answered and said that they had a room available,
i could've leapt down the phone and kissed the girl. Suddenly
Stavanger seemed a much nicer town.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Challenges to make the journey more interesting

1. arrive in stavanger with 2 big events on and no accomodation booked
2. find a sunhat in norway, heading into dark winter

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Travelling Light

My pack weighed 15kg when checking in at Sydney Airport. It is now a
little lighter.

When packing, I had debated whether or not to take a cream pair of
pants ('carpenter' pants), one of those ones that are like cargos. I
haven't worn them for a while, and now I know why. When I was fending
off the lynch mob at the kuala lumpor internet terminal (free net
access!), I could feel something kind of cold on my backside, and I
thought that I had sat in
something wet.

And then I boarded the plane to Amsterdam, and after a
fitfull night of sleeplessness, got up to go to the bathroom. I found
out that I had torn a hole in the back of my pants! The material was
so thin (because I used to wear them all the time), a section had
ripped from underneath the pocket towards the centre, and my
uncomfortableness during the night had only worsened the matter!

I ran off with one of the 'free' blankies on the aeroplane to hide the fact
that I now had half my backside exposed, but it was so unweildy
wrapped around the top of my pants, i decided to 'pretend' that I
didn't know about it, and #ahem# had a nice cool breeze whilst in
transit in amsterdam, and then to Oslo until I could get my main
backpack off the conveyor.

I chucked the pants out when I got to the YHA in Oslo. My pack is
lighter one pair of pants, but heavier by one airline blanket...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Last minute panic

I am supposed to be flying out of the country in under 12 hours. Heading off to do 'the big Europe trip' (3 months), I'm not doing *quite* what I had originally planned, which was head over to the UK and work for a bit, like several of my friends have already done, or about to do. Jealous as.

I am so hideously disorganised. I have decided that when I get back, I will stop leaving everything to the last minute like I have this time. Its all very well to do when you leave only one thing to the last minute. It doesn't work so well with multiple last minutes. Cascading issues with work and personal life have meant that apart from my first week in Norway, I still don't know what exactly I am doing once I get over there. I am just relying on the fact that I will meet my sister, and everything will be okay again. A faint hope.

I'd booked my leave so that I would fly out just as my supervisor flies in. I still haven't written up the notes for the handover of the projects I've been responsible for. I don't want to do anymore work related stuff, and I don't want to pack.