July 28,29,30: Being good at self punishment I chose Norway as the country to visit after Sweden. To complete a tour of the world’s most expensive countries and cities I have compiled the following list: Moscow, New York, Tokyo, Paris, London. These have to be next on my to visit list now. Actually I have been to Moscow but when I was there I don’t think it was that expensive yet. Now if you don’t own an English soccer team then you probably can’t afford to live there I’m told.
Two things I first noticed about Norway on the train journey from Oslo to Trondheim.
1) Norway is a beautiful country, like a picture postcard. Mountains with snow, running fresh water streams, massive fjords, pristine nature, like I remember Switzerland and Austria being but even more beautiful.
2) There are no people in Norway. For such a huge country there are only 4 million people which means you can travel for some time through the countryside on a summers day seeing lots of farms, houses and roads and see almost no people, it really felt like a deserted country sometimes.
3) (I can’t count) Americans probably deserve their reputation as bad tourists, or it could just be my bias. For the whole journey we were sitting next to this American family with two young girls from Hell (Actually ‘Hell’ is a town in Norway, they were likely from somewhere else) who argued loudly in between hitting each other and running up and down the train despite being told not to.
Trondheim is the third largest city in Norway (I think) and used to be the capital. There are a number of interesting little things about the town, including their own little version of Alcatraz; a prison island where people used to be imprisoned and executed. On the final day we got to watch a local festival in progress (Olav festival I think) named after a king, all the kings being named Olav or Gustav or maybe Magnus.
It was good to meet up with a fellow Aussie; John-Paul and his girlfriend Astrid (Hej there!) and see how the locals live which is always so much better than just seeing the postcard shops and tourist sights.
July 26-27th/2005: The ‘Baltic Kristina’ was 5 hours late leaving the port at Riga so our arrival into Stockholm was a bit late as well.
The journey through the small islands from the Baltic Sea to Stockholm was an unexpected treat and something that would be missed if you flew into the capital. Sweden and especially Stockholm are composed of a lot of small islands, and travelling past them is quite a sight. I want to own my own island, and around Stockholm would be a nice place to do so if you could afford it 🙂
In Stockholm our small group walked around the old town for a while before having dinner at a kebab shop recommended by a local. The Swedish cuisine was difficult to define and like a lot of Europe is being devoured by the more dominant influences of 1) Generic Chinese restaraunts 2) Kebab shops 3) Pizza (The Scando’s really love pizza) 4) the American fast food chains that infect the planet.
Our small group consisted of four people by this stage, myself, my girfriend V, her friend Laima and an Iranian living in Oslo we met on the boat called Aggi. It’s very nice when you have some local knowledge (and transport!) as a tourist, makes a big difference.
Day 2 and V and myself went to the Vasa and Nordic museums. The Wasa museum was a particular highligh for me.
The Vasa is the worldâ€™s only surviving 17th-century ship and one of the foremost tourist sights in the world. The ship is displayed in a purpose-built museum in Stockholm.
Like the Titanic the Vasa sank on it’s first trip. The story of the people on board is captivating and thorough, there are even skeletons on display !?
After the Vasa museum we walked through ‘Skansen’ which is a huge open air park/zoo in the middle of Stockholm. Plenty of interesting photos which will be uploaded to the photo section soon I hope. Probably the highlight of the zoo was seeing 3 bear cubs and their Mum playing.
July 25th/2005: Today was spent waking early to travel by bus from Vilnius to Riga, a 4 hour journey through the Baltic countryside, Latvia looking pretty much the same as Lithuania in this regard.
The rest of the day was spent walking around the old town in Riga, trying to avoid getting run over by Latvian drivers (they are famous for this) and taking photos of the historical buildings.
The Rigan’s can write a decent chapter in the book “Selling your soul to tourists”, it’s always sad when you see the tourist dollar changing the nature of the thing it is supposed to be viewing. This happens in Australia somewhat, especially in Surfers Paradise where Japanese tourists can have the rare pleasure of flying JAL, staying in a Japanese hotel, dipping their toes in the Australian water for 15 minutes while their Japanese tour guide waits to escort them into Japanese owned duty free shops (kickback please) so they can buy cuddly koala’s made in China to take back to Tokyo.
Riga is only an overnight ferry trip from Sweden and is a popular destination with cashed up Scando’s who have pushed up the prices to ridiculous levels and ensured that you can’t walk any distance without viewing posters for adult clubs and other tourist traps.
In Riga I had a coffee in a supposedly nice looking cafe that I know was one of those that make you from a pack and add hot water, not cheap either. The salad was also something that was so bad it was laughable. Just incredible. You can only get away with such disdain for your customers usually when 1) They are tourists or 2) Everyone else is serving up the same garbage.
The only real highlight of the day was visiting the “Occupation Museum”. Like the rest of the baltics Latvia has served as the meat in the sandwich in both world wars and have a good story to tell about both the Nazi’s and the Soviet’s. Only thing they were missing was the occupation by the Swedes and other foreigners, it’s just occupation by the Kroner now instead of the Kalashnikov.
Another hour spent messing around with importing photos to my blog, another hour of life wasted (pretty much).
If it’s not the World Wide Wait (still have a darn slow connection at the moment) then it’s new software that even though it might be very powerful is not easy or intuitive to use.
So.. the simplest of tasks eludes me for the moment, which is incredibly frustrating. Sometimes the best solution is just to walk away for a while and come back later and ask someone who knows more! Now I just have to wait for my computer literate friend to log on..
Norway is a very expensive country.
A restaraunt bill for dinner for two people:
$31.50 1 hamburger with chips
$55.44 1 steak with vegetables
$13 Cider drink
$7.56 1 coke
$107.52 = One expensive meal
I’m glad to say the hamburger tasted pretty good, probably 7.5/10 as far as a basic hamburger and chips goes, better than one of the fast food chains but not the best ever. The restaraunt was definitely more fast food than fine dining as well.
Normal costs for the Vikings perhaps, but tougher for the poor tourist.
Gee it must be nice when you are lucky enough to discover oceans of oil in your backyard. Wonder what life was like when the Norsemen weren’t so oil rich!?
Ok, not the worlds most exciting photo, but a test to see if I can upload photos to my blog.
This is a photo of a random street in the old town of Stockholm, taken 27/7/2005. Australia doesn’t have much in the way of old town’s so I’m always interested in looking at old buildings, and old windy cobblestone streets.
Edit… Ok so the problem was case sensitivity… stockholm.jpg should have been stockholm.JPG really quite simple no!?