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Scandinavia 2009

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       | 29 Jun | 30 Jun1 Jul2 Jul3 Jul |  4 Jul |
  5 Jul6 Jul7 Jul8 Jul9 Jul | 10 Jul | 11 Jul |
12 Jul13 Jul14 Jul15 Jul|  16 Jul17 Jul18 Jul |
19 Jul | 20 Jul21 Jul22 Jul23 Jul | 24 Jul | 25 Jul |
26 Jul | 27 Jul | 28 Jul | 29 Jul | 30 Jul |

29 June Monday - Day 0

Late this afternoon, I boarded a Scandinavian Airline flight direct to Copenhagen. We were served meals after a couple of hours. One nice feature was that there were several on-demand movies to watch on the individual video screen in the seat back in front of me. I picked Watchman, since I needed something mindless. Near the end of the movie, the flight attendents ordered the window shades to be pulled down and turned of the cabin lights. This meant sleepy time. Unfortunately, try as I might, I could not fall asleep.

30 June Tuesday - Day 1

Cycle City

Eventually the cabin lights turned on, and we were served a light meal. The video screen also gave me the option of watching the plane's position on a global map or looking at the video from cameras at the nose of the plane facing forward or downward. That was a convenient feature given that I was seated in the middle of the plane. When we landed about 1 pm, I looked to the row ahead of me and saw Rick Steves getting his bag from the overhead compartment. Rick Steves! My eyes bugged out as I got excited. His travel shows are what first got me interested in international travel many years ago. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to get a picture with him, but it was definitely on my mind.

Once inside the airport, I found an ATM, then bought a train ticket to Copenhagen (since the airport was actually located in Kastrup). After a 20-minute ride, I arrived, and quickly found my youth hostel, but had to wait until 3 pm to check in. Since it was late in the day, I spent my time walking around the city, checking out the streets and gardens. It's amazing how many cyclists pedal down the street in Copenhagen. The locals here are very much into riding bicycles. In the early evening, I entered Tivoli, which is an amusement park that has been open for 160 years. It's full of rides, which I skipped. But I did catch an odd performance art piece and a big band playing swing music. It might not have been worth the 85 kroners, but I figured that I needed to see it. Afterwards, I headed out to the street to find a cheap dinner. I ended up at a British-style pub, which, according to Lonely Planet, are becoming quite popular here.

1 July Wednesday - Day 2

A View from the Canals

After waking up at 4 am, I realized that I couldn't go back to sleep, so I decided to start my day early, catching up on e-mail. My guidebook recommended taking a boat tour along the canals, and I decided that doing some sightseeing while seated sounded like a good idea. The guide explained sights in English, Spanish, and Danish in the one-hour tour costing 60 kroners. We saw the new opera house, former army buildings converted into residences, a statue of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid (with her head replaced after someone cut it off), and nice views along boat-lined canals.

I spent the rest of the day on my feet, first stopping at Amalienborg Palace, the home of the royal family, to witness the changing of the guard ceremony. A guard explained to the nearby crowd that the queen was out of town for the summer, so the ceremony was not as big as usual. But the guards marched out with their fluffy, black hats and did their thing anyway. In all, it was kind of slow and anticlimactic, but it was something to see. After finding a small sandwich spot for lunch, I headed to the Nationalmuseet, or National Musuem, where I spent several hours examining Danish artifacts from prehistoric times to the present. Interestingly, many of the earliest settlements in the area were on the land that formerly connected Denmark and England, but is now underwater due to the warming since the last ice age. Also, many well-preserved bodies of early Danish people have been discovered after being preserved in the bogs. The combination of acidity, cold temperature, and lack of oxygen in the bog act to preserve human bodies. After spending the afternoon on my feet, I grew tired and headed back to the youth hostel to rest.


2 July Thursday - Day 3

Castles and Beer

This morning, I awoke at 5 am. I guess that's progress over yesterday. After a store-bought breakfast of yogurt, I headed to Kongens Haven, or the King's Garden, where I paid to enter Rosenborg Slot, or Rosenborg Castle. This castle was built by the Danish King Christian IV in 1606 as a summer home and expanded over subsequent years. It took less than an hour to walk the three levels to examine the art, tapestries, and other ornate collections inside. I paid extra money for photo permission, but then noticed that my camera battery was dying! So, I only took a couple of photos inside. After exploring the castle, I headed to the Statens Museum for Kunst, or the Danish National Gallery. Inside were large gallery rooms with art ranging from 19th century realism to crazy modern abstract.

I hopped aboard a bus to ride back to my youth hostel, where I started charging my camera battery. Then, I headed to a nearby grocery store, Super Best, to buy a cheap lunch. Unfortunately, everything in Denmark is very expensive, either because of high taxes, a bad exchange rate, or both. That makes budget travel quite difficult. Later in the afternoon, I headed to the Carlsberg Brewery, where I went on a self-guided tour for 60 kroners. Interestingly, in the 19th century, a Carlsberg father and son had a dispute leading to two separate breweries. One adopted a star for their symbol, the other adopted the swastika, a symbol of luck borrowed from India. Outside the brewery, you can still see a large concrete elephant with a swastika on the side. After enjoying the two complementary beers, I felt exhaustion setting in, so I returned to the hostel to crash.


3 July Friday - Day 4

Walking in Circles

This morning (after waking yet again at 4 am), I was able to have a form printed at the hostel. Then, I went out to find a post office, so I could mail it to my future employer. I walked in circles for a while before I finally found a post office. Then, of course, I had to buy a packet of envelopes even though I needed just one. But soon enough, the letter was in the mail. Then, it was off to the Rundetarn, or the Round Tower, which is a tall tower with a spiral walkway (not a staircase) that lets you casually ascend the 35-meter tall structure. So, I walked around in circles to ascend the tower. From the top, you can get a nice view of the Copenhagen skyline and see many church spires sticking out.

I casually wandered back to the hostel to grab some lunch before heading out to Christianshavn, a neighborhood located across the big canal from the city center. There, I went to Vor Frelsers Kirke, or Our Savior's Church, where I ascended a standard staircase followed by a spiral staircase that wrapped around the tower on the outside of the spire. I have to admit that I was feeling a little vertigo ascending this tower. And yet again, I was walking in circles. After catching more great views of the city, I returned to terra firma and walked to Christiana, a hippie, counter-culture area with a small craft market and other goods for sale. No photos were allowed, and signs indicated that no hard drugs were allowed. This was definitely a different side of Copenhagen. And once again, I walked around in circles.

That night, I went out to find dinner with Amir, a Seattle swing dancing friend also on his way to Herrang. We found a kebab place by the river and joined a crowd of people listening to a DJ spinning techno. Then, we walked down the waterfront and found an 18-piece swing band playing really good swing standards. This was part of the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, which started today. Next, we headed to the M.S. Stubnitz, a ship that cruises around Europe, acting as a unique music venue. We first heard a Django band play on the top deck. That's where I ran into Johanna, a Swedish dancer I had met in New York for Frankie 95. I also ran into Bodeil,  a Danish dancer I had met at Swing Out New Hampshire in 2008. Interestingly, neither of these girls were on their way to Herrang. After midnight, a swing band started performing on a lower deck. Although it was hot and stuffy, I enjoyed several dances with Swedish, Danish, and Germans girls. What an excellent way to end my stay in Copenhagen.

4 July Saturday - Day 5
Journey to Herrang

This morning, I packed up and walked to the train station with Amir where we caught the 9:23 am train to Malmo, Sweden, crossing the water on the Oresund Bridge. From the train, we couldn't see much more besides support girders and water. But this is the longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe with construction completed in 2000. In Malmo, we had 15 minutes to make the train to Stockholm. I found a cash machine and acquired some Swedish Kroners. Amir went to buy a ticket. However, when I hopped on the train, I couldn't find him. Then, the train left the station, leaving me wondering where Amir was. Later I learned that the ticket machines would not accept his card, and he had to wait in the long cashier lines to buy a ticket. Luckily, I had a Eurail pass, so I could hop on board at will.

When I arrived in Stockholm, I found an information center and confirmed the way to travel to Herrang. The friendly woman spoke English and sold me tickets for the Metro and the bus. Apparently, you have to buy two tickets at a time. (Why they don't just double the price boggles me.) Anyway, I easily found the Metro and rode it three stops to the bus terminal. There I was bit confused, as I didn't ask what bus number to board. So, I asked a bus driver, who answered me in English. He told me to board his bus and wrote down where I would need to transfer. In another three hours, we had arrived at the Herrag Kiosk. I exited the bus with many young people and found a sign for Herrang Dance Camp. I had arrived.

The camp, however, was not terribly well organized. After going through check-in, they did not explain how I was to get a bed. So, I went to reception, and they basically told me that I might have to wait an hour or more. So, I sat and waited for an hour. When no one showed up, I began to put some of my stuff in a locker. That's when a English dancer said that it was safe to leave things on my bed. When I told her that I didn't have a bed, she told me that I needed to just claim one, then walked me around the dorms until she found one without a label for week 2. It wasn't until after the 9 pm meeting, four hours after arriving, when I was finally given a label for my bunk bed. After that, I finally got to enjoy myself during the evening dance on an outdoor, covered dance floor. Interestingly enough, the DJ's played mostly mid-tempo songs, making it easy to dance without stopping. About 3 am, the crowd had thinned out and the sky had been getting brighter. Since it's summer and I'm so far north, it never gets completely dark here. That's also when I realized that there was a dance floor inside the building. No one had told me about that. In fact, information seemed hard to come by on my first day at camp. Anyway, at 3 am, I decided to try and get some sleep before my morning classes. Although the organization at Herrang was severely lacking, the dancing was still great.

5 July Sunday - Day 6

Classes Begin

Luckily for me, I was able to wake up late - around 10 am - to make my first class, which started at 11:20 am. I first ran to catch breakfast around 10:30, even though Restaurant Yum Yum technically closed at 10 am. Then, I went to grab a shower, but was chilled by the cold water that came out of the shower head. Thankfully, my classes were really fun. The first class was an audition, where they divided my level (intermediate advanced) into three groups. While I was dancing, I tried my best to look solid and do some stylish moves. That's when Steven Mitchell walked up to me and said, "Just do swing-outs, man!" So, I just did swing-outs, but it wasn't as fun. Still, he gave me a sticker for group 1, so that was good.

My classes that day were taught by Shane and Ruth from Australia, Jeremy and Laura from Orange County, and Steven from New York with someone from Russia (Virginie could not make it this year). I had never had classes from Shane and Ruth before, but they taught an excellent and sharp routine. Jeremy and Laura taught some swing outs that ended with spins, and Steven taught a little stylish routine. It was a pretty full day. I ate dinner at Cafe Yum Yum, then went to the daily 9 o'clock meeting, during which I found myself falling asleep. So, after the meeting, I went to my bunk bed to take a short nap. Unfortunately, the short nap lasted all night long, causing me to miss the dance. The next day, I was told that a band had played at the dance. I wish I had known that a band was playing. Then, I might have forced myself to stay awake.

6 July Monday - Day 7

Swedish Talent

In the evening after classes, I attended the 9 o'clock meeting held every night at Herrang Dance Camp. The meeting concluded with a vaudeville act by the Carling Family, an amazingly talented Swedish family of musicans who also juggle and perform other entertainging acts. The drummer, Ulf Carling, exhibited his amazing balancing skills while balancing on a board placed over a cylinder upon a high platform. Smaller platforms were added to this rolling board, making the performance even more and more dangerous. I thought for sure that he would fall and crack his head open. But he stayed balanced the whole time. In addition, the beautiful and talented Gunhild Carling held one trumpet and played it, then she held two trumpets and played them both. Finally, she balanced a third on her mouth and played all three trumpets! After these talented stunts, the whole Carling Family Band came out and began playing for the dancers. I stayed up until about 4 am dancing in this room and the outdoor dance floor.

7 July Tuesday - Day 8

International Relations

Herrang Dance Camp is full of dancers from nearly 30 countries. But most of the dancers I've met have been from the northern edge of Europe, including Sweden, Norway, Russia, and Lithuania. In my class, I've gotten to know a friendly group of dancers from Norway. This afternoon, I got a chance to sit down for an ice cream break with my new Norwegian friends. When attending a camp like this by myself, it's nice when you can befriend a few people in your classes. You can chat about each others' dance scenes and history of swing dancing.

The Tuesday evening at Herrang is a blues night. Part of the Carling Family Band played blues music in the top room, while DJ's spun swing music on the lindy dance floor outside the building. I spent most of my time in the blues room, but came down to the lindy room to practice moves I had learned in class. Before I knew it, it was already 6 am, so I decided to head back to my bunk to sleep. Luckily, there were no classes in the following morning, giving me time to sleep in.

8 July Wednesday - Day 9

Slaving Away

Wednesday at Camp Herrang is Cultural Activities Day. However, I was not interested in any of the activities available - a soccer match between Swedes and Australians, a bicycle ride to an old church, making brownies, slack-lining, or juggling school. Instead, I volunteered to be an extra in a little homemade movie for the dance camp. I was not aware of the script or plot details. But the scene in which volunteers were to be a part required several people to act as slaves, pulling a cart containing a ruler. We filmed the scene in the beach area near the marina. The landscape is devoid of trees and looks very surreal - like a desert. Filming the scene was a very fun experience, full of impromtu suggestions that were used as the director only had a loose idea of what he wanted. I can't wait to see the final product on Thursday night.

9 July Thursday - Day 10

Cabaret Night

Thursday was another rainy day at Camp Herrang. It seemed as if the weather did not want to cooperate with campers. Some of the rain even invaded the dance tents, causing parts of the wooden dance floor to be wet and unusable. Some class locations were even changed so that the balboa dancers could use the smooth floors inside the Folkets Hus. After five straight days of dance classes and staying up late to dance, my brain began to fail me. It's quite difficult to keep focusing on new material after so many classes and so many late nights of dancing.

That night was also the cabaret show, in which dancers could perform short, 3-minute songs, dances, or whatever they wanted to entertain the audience. This show went from midnight to 1 am, after which the dancing began. In Europe, it's standard to ask for a second dance with your partner after the first song ends. If you don't ask or wait for a second dance, it can be considered an insult. Of course, if you're dancing with a beginner or someone who can't dance well, it can make for a long dancing experience. But I chose to never turn anyone down for the second dance. However, the difficult thing about this tradition is that it can be hard to dance with someone if they are on their first dance with a partner while you're on your second dance with someone. Then, you have to take a break for a song and hope that your intended dance partner doesn't get asked for a third song. Nevertheless, I have found the European dancers to be very friendly.

10 July Friday - Day 11

Last Day in Herrang

The sun finally appeared in the Swedish sky on Friday after a long week of cold, rainy weather. After dancing until 5 am on the previous evening, I decided to sleep in this morning and miss my first class. I needed a little bit of rest to keep my brain working and to have enough energy to enjoy my last night at dance camp.

Every Friday night at Herrang, there is a different themed party. Tonight's was the Wedding Party. Many dancers dressed as grooms, brides, bachelor party attendees, despondent bridesmaids, or anything else that was vaguely related to the theme. Since I didn't bring any special outfits, I went to Herrang's "Prop Shop," which is full of fabrics, costumes, and plastic accoutrements. There, I put together a silly costume, which I explained was a typical Norwegian groom or a Viking groom. I did not quite match the rest of the attendees in attire, but my appearance was silly and fun and that's what Herrang is all about.

I have to say that after a week at Herrang, my impression of the dance camp has become decidedly positive. When I arrived last Saturday, I found this place to be chaotic and confusing, as demonstrated by the lack in instructions for how to find a bed. In addition, I kept learning things that I wish I had known earlier, such as the fact that a band was playing Sunday night, when I went to sleep early and missed the dance. But after many great classes with world-renown instructors, after many hilarious 9 o'clock meetings led by camp leader Lennart Westerlund, and after many late nights of dancing with friendly women from all over the world, my impression of the camp changed dramatically. Although Herrang lacks the small, cozy vibe of Swing Out New Hampshire, another dance camp I've attended, Herrang definitely has an enthusiasm and energy that is hard to deny. I am wishing that I signed on for more than one week. Although I generally enjoy traveling to new locations when I do travel, I definitely would like to return to Herrang at some point in the future, and I plan to make it a longer stay.

11 July Saturday - Day 12

Ride to Stockholm

This morning, I woke up late, after going to be about 5:30 am. I grabbed breakfast, then updated my website as I was waiting for the laundry to open at noon. After I picked up my laundry, I packed and found that the next bus departing Herrang would be at 13:50. I ate a quick lunch, then waited for the bus.

I had to transfer buses twice, but after two and a half hours, I had arrived in Stockholm. After getting more cash, I found my hostel, then went out in search of dinner. I found a pedestrian-only street called Drottninggatan and settled on an Italian restaurant where I ordered a pizza and beer.

After dinner, I went back to the hostel to search for lindy hop in Stockholm. I had been told that there was a place called the Chicago dance club that had swing dancing. Once I found the website, I saw that the swing dancing nights were Saturday and Wednesday. Since it was Saturday, I decided to head out and try and find it. I punched the address into Google Maps and figured out how to get there by metro. When I arrived at the designated address, however, there was no Chicago dance club. Somehow, I had made a mistake. Still tired from the long week at Herrang, I decided to head back to the hostel and catch up on sleep.

12 July Sunday - Day 13

The Vasa

On my first full day in Stockholm, I woke up late - about 10 am - and was out the door by 10:30. I rode the metro from Centralen to Slussen, following the advice of Lonely Planet, and rode the elevator at Katarinahissen. However, the view of Gamla Stan, or the old town, was blocked by the elevator. Then I strolled through the neighborhood of Sodermalm, walking down cobblestone streets and checking out old churches. On one street, Master Michaels Gata, there was a placard explaining the the row of wooden houses were built in 1729, ironically after the great fire of 1723, which destroyed most of the wooden buildings in the neighborhood.

After lunch at a small burger joint, I rode the ferry to Djurgarden, a neighborhood with an amusement park, museums, and a large entertainment park called Skansen. I skipped the amusement park and headed straight to the Vasamuseet, or the Vasa Museum. Here on display is the Vasa, a warship commisioned by King Gustav Adolphus VI  in 1626. When she was completed two years later, the Vasa sunk on her maiden voyage. The ship was tall and narrow to make it a fast vessel, but it was also constructed with two levels of guns, both of which made the ship top heavy. All it took was a gust of wind and open gun ports for the ship to blow over, fill up with water, and sink. The ship was discovered in the late 1950's, and pulled up from the bottom of the sea in one piece in 1961 - 333 years after she sunk. The ship was put back together, using 95% of the orginal material. It's quite an amazing sight and quite an interesting story.

After the Vasa Museum, I considering going to the Nordiska Museum, but it wasn't free as Lonely Planet said. It was also too late in the afternoon to visit Skansen. Perhaps I'll return here later during my stay. I then wandered by foot back the the main city center, catching a bus along the way. To save money in this expensive country, I bought some food at a grocery store and a 7-11 by the hostel.

13 July Monday - Day 14

Old Town

Gamla Stan is the name of the Old Town area in Stockholm. This is where I should have started my tour of the Swedish capital. Narrow cobbelstone roads, medieval buildings, large impressive architecture - it's old world Europe on a small, easily navigable island. Stockholm was originally founded on this central island as it made it easy for rulers to control trade coming through the waterways.

I first stopped at Storkyrkan, the Royal Cathedral of Stockholm. Inside was an impressive life-size statue of St. George and the Dragon. Also, there was a painting depicting a strange phenomenon in the sky of Stockholm in 1535. Apparently, seven rings of light appeared from seven to nine in the morning. I wonder if anyone has tried to explain this event using modern astronomical knowledge? That would be a fun mystery to solve.

Next door to the church is the Nobelmuseet, or the Nobel Museum, where I went on a tour. Alfred Nobel had collected over 300 patents in his lifetime, mostly in explosives, which gave him his huge fortune. The interest from his fortune still pays for five of the Nobel prizes (physics, chemistry, physiology & medicine, literature, and peace) plus administration costs. Interestingly, the peace prize is given in Oslo, and the economics prize is a Nobel memorial prize begun by the bank of Sweden in 1969, which also provides the payout. The economics prize is still considered equal to the others, however. This still leaves open the possibility for more prize categories in the future.

Just after noon, I rushed outside and ran toward the Royal Palace to catch the changing of the guard ceremony. A large band played upbeat marching music while the traditionally dressed guards executed their marching rituals. Because of the presence of the band, this ceremony was a lot more exciting than the one I saw in Copenhagen. Afterwards, I grabbed lunch in an underground, cavern-like cafe. Then, I headed back to explore the Royal Apartments, the Treasury, and other exhibits inside the Royal Palace.

By the end of the afternoon, I was quite tired from being on my feet all day. (Sightseeing is tough work, people!) So I bought a snack and sat under a statue. While traveling, I have to split my time three ways: one is sightseeing, wandering, and having fun; two is recording and journeling; three is working on logistics like transport, lodging, etc. The third is probably the most important, but I often think about it least. After my day of sightseeing, I headed to Cityterminalen, where I found the Viking Line desk and bought an overnight ferry ticket to Helsinki. This is how I will journey to Helsinki on Wednesday night.

14 July Tuesday - Day 15

Museum Day

The weather looked a bit sketchy as I headed out from my youth hostel this morning. Dark clouds appeard to be rolling across the sky. So, I went back and grabbed my rain jacket before heading to the Stadshuset, or City Hall. I went on the 10 am guided tour in English. They also offered tours in Swedish, Russian, French, and German. The interesting thing about this building is that the Nobel Prize banquet dinner is held here every December. I got to walk on the staircase, which the Nobel Prize winners descend as they are presented to other dinner attendees. Luckily, I still have a lot of time to work on my speech before I need to return here.

After the tour, I waited to ascend the tower. The queue for the entrance was deceptively short. Since only 30 people were allowed inside at any one time, it took forever for the line to move. After a full hour, I was finally given the opportunity to climb the tower and get a nice view of Stockholm, despite the rain that was now pouring down.

On account of the rain, I decided to avoid going to Skansen, the outdoor Swedish theme park, and visit museums instead. I grabbed a quick bite to eat at a kebab place, then rode a bus to the east side of town, where I explored the Historiska Museet, the Museum of National Antiquities. Here, there are displays on the prehistory of Sweden as well as the Viking past. In the inner courtyard, kids are invited to act like Vikings by grinding corn, hitting each other with stuffed bags, or trying on Viking clothing. I quickly rushed to try on the chain mail and helmet in the wardrobe tent. Hey, it didn't say that adults were prohibited from participating.

By that time, I noticed that the rain had stopped. Still, it was too late to go to Skansen, and it was too late to go to the other museum I had in mind. Instead, I wandered toward the water, found a sidewalk vendor, and bought a hot dog and soda. That's where I saw a crowd of young people gathered behind a barricade in front of the Royal Hotel. Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd. I walked up and asked who they were waiting for. Apparently, it was Britney Spears. I chose not to spend the rest of my evening waiting for the pop princess, instead returning to my hostel.

15 July Wednesday- Day 16


This morning, I finally made it to Skansen, an outdoor Scandinavian theme park. It featured many traditional Scandinavian houses with staff in period costume. There was also a zoo section, where I saw reindeer, elk, wolves, and, most interesting of all, bear cubs fighting in a pond. I managed to capture some excellent video of the fighting bear cubs. Overall, though, I was not terribly impressed by the park, especially after waiting three days to finally see it.

In the afternoon, I returned to the hostel to pick up my backpack and head to the Viking Line cruise ship, which I would ride overnight to Helsinki. I shared a super small room with three other gentleman. The room had two bunk beds on either side, and not much space for anything else. Because of this, I spent the first part of my evening on the upper deck reading while the ship navigated its way through the archipelego toward the Baltic Sea. I enjoyed a nice (but pricey) dinner in a restaurant, then returned outside to catch the sunset. Back inside, I sat and listened to a Finnish guitarist play American rock'n'roll songs until past midnight. Then I found my cabin and went to sleep.

16 July Thursday - Day 17

Wasted Day

I awoke in the cabin, hearing an announcement, but I didn't follow it. Eventually, I got out of bed, dressed, and left. The ship was deserted. Apparently, we had docked at Helsinki! I quickly left the boat and entered the terminal. After joining a long queue at a cash machine, I went out to wait for the number 4T tram. And waited and waited, but it never came. So, I looked at my map and figured that it was a short walk to the city center where I could try and catch another tram. Luckily, this plan worked, and soon I was at the Olympic Stadium, the location of the youth hostel where I would be staying for the next two nights.

After checking in, I decided that it would be a good idea to drop off my laundry. When I asked for laundry service, I was given a key and told where to do my laundry. For some reason, it didn't occur to me that waiting for the washer and dryer to do their work would take up valuable time. At Herrang, I was able to drop off my laundry and pick it up the next day. So, unfortunately, I spent the next hour or so waiting for my laundry to finish. On the plus side, the hostel's WiFi was working, so I was able to update my webpage. Following laundry, I was hungry, so I stopped at a kebab place for a late afternoon lunch. That's when I saw the clock on the wall and realized that it wasn't 3:30 pm, it was 4:30 pm. I had changed time zones on the overnight voyage. That meant it would be too late to visit any museums.

Instead, I decided to go on a self-guided walking tour, using my Lonely Planet guidebook to clue me in on the key sights. Since it is summer and I am so far north, the sky stays light until quite late, making an evening walk an easy thing to do. While walking through the Esplanade Park, I saw a band playing rock and blues tunes, so I stopped for a while to listen. Then, I continued on my walk, eventually making it back to my hostel. Tomorrow, I vowed to see as much of Helsinki as I could.

17 July Friday - Day 18
Island Fortess

Today was my second day in Helsinki, and it was meant to be my last full day here. So, I had to make it count. I started by ascending the Olympic Stadium Tower, which was located right next to my hostel. This gave me a decent view of the city. Next, I hopped on a tram and headed to the Kansallismuseo, or the National Museum of Finland. This museum had a large section on the prehistory of Finland and covered the changing eras of history from the medieval age to the enlightenment. Then, I caught lunch at a nearby cafe, ordering what I thought was a sandwich, but what turned out to just be Focacia bread.

After my so-called lunch, I headed to the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, which features an ever-changing display of exhibits dedicated to modern visual and mixed media art. The artwork I saw ranged from the weird and wacky to the surprisingly cool and profound. Next, I walked to the train station to reserve a seat for the overnight train ride to Rovaniemi, which I would be taking Saturday night. As usual for Scandinavia, the salesperson spoke perfect English and was very friendly. Then, I crossed the street and went to the Ateneum, Finland's National Gallery. This museum exhibited many Finnish paintings, including artwork that focused on the Kalevala, the epic poem of Fininsh folklore.

To appease my stomach, I found a grocery store to buy some snacks. Then, I headed to the waterfront to find the Linda Line ticket office, where I bought a round trip ticket to Tallinn for the next day. I was planning to take a day trip to Tallinn, Estonia right before my overnight train ride up north.

By that time, it was almost 5 pm. But there was still time to catch a ferry to Suomenlinna, an island fortress built by the Swedes in 1748 for protection against the Russians. Unfortunately for Sweden, they lost Finland and the island fortess they called Sveaborg to Russia in 1808. When the Russian Revolution happened in 1917, Finland gained its independence. In the following year, during the Finnish Civil War, the island was renamed Suomenlinna, meaning the castle of Finland. It's now an historical sight, and a fun place to visit, as many canons still line the fortress walls. Although I arrived late, I was able to see the last showing of the historical film in the museum (at 5:30 pm) and walk around the island freely. After dinner, I caught a ferry back to the mainland.

18 July Saturday - Day 19
Two Hours in Tallinn

Some days are diamonds. This was not one of them. Yesterday, I had purchased round trip fare to ride a hydrofoil ferry to Tallinn, Estonia and back again. The ferry left at 8 am, and I needed to check in at 7:30 am. My return ferry left Tallinn at 3 pm. I left my hostel at 7 am, rode a tram to the train station, and quickly put my large backpack in a locker (as I would be taking an overnight train later that night). That's when I realized that it was already 7:30 am. I rushed to the tram stop, and hopped on a 3B tram that I thought was heading south. Soon, I realized that it was heading north! So, I hopped off and waited for a southbound tram. It was 7:45. Finaly, a southbound tram came. I guessed where to hop off, then started running. It was 7:55 am. Then, I saw a tram stop with a 3T tram going my direction and leaving in 2 minutes. I waited and took the 3 T tram south. I hopped off at 7:58 am and started running. Then I stopped in my tracks. In the distance, I could see the red ferry pulling away from the shore.

Inside the ferry terminal, the woman at the counter said that I could take the next ferry that left at 10:30 am. But that was a slower ferry, taking 2 1/2 hours instead of 90 minutes. I debated whether it was even worth it to go. But I had already paid the fare, and I probably wouldn't get back here anytime soon, so I decided to go for it. I spent my waiting time reading, while I saw other patrons drinking their morning beer. (What is it with Europeans drinking at all hours of the day?)

When I finally arrived in Tallinn, it was nearly 1 pm. Not only that, I needed to check in at 2:30 pm for my 3 pm return ferry. And I was hungry, so I needed lunch. I followed the line of people walkng to Old Town, and shot a few pictures while looking for a place to eat. When I sat down to wait for my food, it was 1:30 pm. I just ordered a stuffed pancake, but apparently, I picked the slowest restaurant in town because I sat waiting until nearly 2 pm! It was the most torturous wait for a meal, as every minute spent waiting was one less minute of sightseeing in my already brief schedule. After stuffing the pancake in my face, I ran out to do some quick sight-seeing on my walk back to the ferry. Unfortunately, I couldn't find half of what I wanted. But I did make it back to the ferry on time for my 2:30 check-in. At 3 pm, the ferry left for Helsinki. Estonia is the 20th foreign country I have now visited. My two hours in Tallinn, however, were simply not enough.

Back in Helsinki, I found a restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet and ordered a Finnish meal - vendace, which was battered and fried fish. They were small fish, however, and not terribly tasty. The beer in Finland is also pretty bad. I don't recommend it.

A little after 7 pm, I boarded a train for an overnight trip up to Rovaniemi. To add insult to injury, my reserved seat was in an old railway car without A/C. And the sun was shining in through the windows, warming up the car. Luckily, it got cooler as the sun went down. But it never got completely dark, and I never got that much sleep that night.

19 July Sunday - Day 20

The Arctic Circle

My train pulled into the Rovaniemi train station around 8 am. I walked out and walked through the town, which seemed like a ghost town. Of course, it was 8 am on a Sunday morning, and I was in the northern reaches of Finland, so I probably shouldn't be expecting too much. After dropping off my bag, I waited for a store to open, so I could buy some breakfast. I also purchased a ticket for a "reindeer safari" from the local tourist information office.

First, I went to the Arktikum Museum, which was really very nice despite being far from any major city. The museum had many exhibits explaining the nature of the arctic circle as well as life in the Laplands (northern Finland) in the past and the present. There was even a slideshow about nature and the northern lights, the latter, of which, can only be seen during the winter, when the skies grow dark. (I guess I'll have to return to see that.)

In the afternoon, I walked down to the safari office to go on the river cruise to the reindeer farmstead. It was quite a pricey trip for what we received - basically a boat ride to a set of traditional houses, where we got to walk amongst a few reindeer in an enclosed area. Oh, yeah, they also threw in coffee or tea. Then, we rode back. Still, it was cool to see reindeer up close and walk around them.

My last venture of the day was to ride a bus to the Santa Claus Village. Yes, Virginia, they really have a village here dedicated to Santa Claus. It's located right on the Arctic Circle, which can be found at 66 degrees, 32 minutes, and 35 seconds latitude north. There's a gift shop, a post office where you can get an offical Santa Claus stamp put on your postcard, and Santa himself will greet visitors. Unfortunately, I arrived too late to see the jolly old man in person. But it was kind of a trip to see that a place like this existed. And yes, I did get my picture taken on the Arctic Circle.

20 July Monday - Day 21

Travel Day #1

I had not exactly planned how I would travel from Rovaniemi to Oslo. At first, I thought that I would just head back to Stockholm the same way I came to northern Finland, but that involved an overnight train ride and an overnight boat ride - very time consuming. Yesterday, I considered booking a last minute flight from Rovaniemi to Helsinki to Oslo, but an online search revealed that plan to be financially prohibitive ($900!!). My last idea was to see if I could ride a train west to Sweden and then down to Stockholm, where, I could catch a train to Oslo. An online search at raileurope.com revealed this to be possible, but the website told me that  I would need to go to a ticket office to get the details.

This morning, I walked down to the Rovaniemi train station and asked how to take the train to Oslo. The man at the ticket counter told me that if I wanted the details, I'd have to go to a website or call the office. So, I asked if he could tell me how to take the train to Stockholm. He then handed me a timetable of train and bus departures that I would need to follow. That would put me in Stockholm the following morning, after an overnight train from northern Sweden.

Timetable in hand, I boarded the 10:07 am train to Kemi and crossed my fingers that I would get everything right. In Kemi, I found the bus station, and rode a rusty old bus across the border to Haparanda, Sweden. Here, I had time for lunch. Then, I caught a nice double-decker bus to Lulea. That's where I boarded a train I thought was headed to Stockholm. However, the ticket taker told me that it was only heading to Goteborg. So, I needed to get off the train at the next stop and wait two hours for the train to Stockholm. I did just that, but first tried to get a seat reservation, an important thing to have on an overnight train ride. Unfortunately, there was no ticket office at Boden, only a ticket machine. But someone working there told me that I could walk down the street and get a seat reservation at a travel agency.  I arrived 30 minutes before closing and was able to buy my seat reservation. Then, I headed back to the train station to board the train to Stockholm. When I found my seat, I was pleasantly surprised to found a power outlet next to my seat. That meant that I cold plug in my laptop and use my time to work on video editing, something I've been meaning to do for a while.

21 July Tuesday - Day 22

Travel Day #2

The overnight train was supposed to arrive in Stockholm at 7:15 am, but around 6:30 am, there was an announcement that the train would be 90 minutes late. We arrived in Stockholm about 9 am, which meant that I had to take a later train to Oslo. To bide my time, I tried to find a quiet area in the train station to record voice overs for my videos. No such quiet space existed. Instead, I found some terminals offering internet at a rate of 30 minutes per euro. That gave me the chance to check up on e-mail and such.

The train for Oslo left at 12:25 pm. Right before the train left, I bought some Thai take-away, so I would have something decent to eat on the train. I also made a seat reservation, so I wouldn't have to move when I discovered that I was sitting in someone else's seat. After three hours, we pulled into Karlstad, where I changed trains. On the Oslo-bound train, I went to my seat, but it was occupied. I politely showed the woman my ticket, revealing that she was in my seat. Then, she showed me her ticket that had the same seat number! Since there was an open seat in the next row, I just sat there. When the ticket lady stopped by, she told me that my ticket was for tomorrow, not today. That was a mistake made by the agent at the ticket counter, not by me. Regardless, I was able to keep my new seat for the ride to Oslo.

I arrived in Oslo at 6:30 pm and found my hostel shortly thereafter. In all, I had spent about 33 hours in traveling from Rovaniemi, Finland to Oslo, Norway. That was quite a long trip. I spent the evening walking around Oslo, as the summer days stay light until quite late. I found a place for dinner on Karl Johans Gate, the popular pedestrian street running through the city center. Food is ridiculously expensive here. Of all the cities I've visited on this trip, Norway is definitely the most expensive. It will not be possible to travel cheaply here.

22 July Wednesday- Day 23

Maritime Metropolis

Waking up early, I hopped on a ferry to Bygdoy peninsula, where I spent the morning exploring five different museums. The Viking Ship Museum has three Viking ships used as burial chambers. These 9th century ships were excavated, restored, and put on display. Despite their simple appearance, these ships were capable of long journeys at sea. The Norsk Folkemuseum was an outdoor park exhibiting traditional Norwegian homes and farm buildings. It was fairly empty of people when I went, however.

The Kon-Tiki Museum displayed two of the ships built by Thor Heyerdahl, an ambitious sailor and explorer who proved that ancient people could have sailed from South America to Polynesia as well as from Africa to South America. I definitetly plan to read more about his adventures. I watched a panaromic film about Norwegian maritime excellence at the Sjofartsmuseum (yes, the name is real). And I saw two ships used by Roald Amundsen to travel to the North and South Poles as well as cross the sea north of Canada to reach Alaska from Norway.

In the afternoon, it began to rain, so I headed for the Radhus, or City Hall. I joined a guided tour in English, where I learned about Norwegian history and saw many amazing murals. Afterwards, I walked to the Nobels Fredsenter, or the Nobel Peace Center. Here, I learned about the most recent winner, Martti Ahtisaari, the former president of Finland, who has helped resolve international conflicts in Kosovo, Namibia, and Iraq. I also watched a very inspirational film about other winners of the prize. The Peace Center was quite a moving experience.

Back at my hostel, I began downloading photos to my computer. It used to be that you walked into a common room of a youth hostel and met other travelers. Nowadays, you walk into a common room, and everyone is buried in their laptop, keeping touch with people back home. Luckily, today proved to be a bit different. A German traveler, whom I had met yesterday, entered the room and asked if I wanted to join him for dinner. He quickly rounded up three other travelers, and we headed off to find a Norwegian restaurant mentioned in a local guidebook. The restaurant we picked also featured a live performance of music that sounded like Norwegian country. It wasn't terribly kind on the ears, but we did get to see some local senior citizens show off their dance moves. After this cultural experience, we tried to find a bar listed in Lonely Planet. After getting lost and trapped on a bridge above the road we wanted, we finally found the place. There, we enjoyed several rounds of beer as we discussed language, politics, and drinking until closing time. Beers are not cheap in this town, but it was still a very fun way to spent the night.

23 July Thursday - Day 24

Late Start

I woke up a little bit later today, and left the hostel a little later than usual. I guess a late night at the bar will do that to you. My first stop was at Akershus Festning, or Akershus Fortess. There is a castle and set of fortess walls on a hill along the waterfront that date back to 1299 A.D. A sign said that the next guided tour was at noon, so I walked around a bit before it started. It turns out that I was the only one present for the English guided tour, so I ended up having a private guided tour given by a cute Norwegian woman. I learned about the history of the fortress and how it has undergone many changes and additions over the centuries. In fact, the castle is still in use by the monarchy for official functions. After the tour ended, the guide asked if I had any questions. I considerd asking her out on a date, but decided to refrain.

Noticing the time, I rushed over to the Royal Palace to watch the changing of the guard ceremony. A band marched up the street leading to the palace and into the palace grounds. Then, one row of guards was replaced by another row of guards in a long, drawn-out ceremony. It was good, but I still think Stockholm's changing of the guard is the best. Then, I walked back to Akershus Fortress where I explored the castle with an audio guided tour.

By the time I was done with Akershus, it was late in the afternoon, but I still had time to explore the Nasjonalgalleriet, or the National Gallery. This museum is filled with paintings by Norwegian aritsts as well as a few by other prominent artists. I have to say that I have become a new fan of Johan Christian Dahl, whose landscape paintings are quite breathtaking. The museum also houses The Scream, the famous painting by Edvard Munch. However, I did not see it. Perhaps it was on the third level, which was closed for some reason.

My last stop of the day was Vigelan Park. I rode a tram out to the park, which contains many bronze and granite sculptures of the naked human form. Gustav Vigeland was the Norwegian artist who conceived and created the sculptures over his lifetime. It's quite an impressive sight. And the man was definitely obsessed with the human form.

24 July Friday - Day 25
Norwegian Roots

This morning, I woke up early and rode the train to Vinstra, where I met my distant Norwegian relatives. I had been corresponding with them over the past few weeks, so they knew that I was coming. When I arrived at the train station, I walked into a phone booth to make a call, but the phone would not accept my kroner coin. Then a gentleman walked up to the phone booth and asked if I was David. I said yes and shook his hand. This was Svein, my second cousin once removed (i.e., my mother's second cousin).

Svein drove me to his house, where I met his wife. There, I was fed bread, meat, and cheese as they asked me about my travel plans. I told them that I was interested in seeing a nearby glacier and then riding a ferry across the fjord. They then set about checking maps and bus timetables in an effort to help. On one hand, I felt bad for unwittingly pulling them in to my travel itinerary planning, but on the other hand, it's always good to get some local advice.

We also discussed our genealogical background. Svein had some geneological information, similar to information that I already had. But he also had many photographs of his ancestors, some of whom were mine. For the first time, I got to see pictures of my great-great grandparents who owned a farm on the west coast of Norway. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to visit the farm and do the sightseeing I had planned. Perhaps, I'll return another time to check out the ancestor's farm.

Svein also took me on a tour of his town, including a drive up through the mountains. We often had to slow down because of sheep and cows in the road. Apparently, the animals graze on the mountain top until fall, when they are collected by the owners. From the top of a nearby mountain, we were able to see Galdhopiggen, the tallest mountain in Norway. Vinstra may be a small town, but it does have a lot of scenic beauty in the hills and mountains.

25 July Saturday - Day 26

To the Fjord

After waking up late, and folding my laundry, I got a ride to the bus station in Otta from Svein. I thanked Svein for letting me visit. He and Astrid were very nice and generous hosts, and I hope to be able to see them again some day.

My bus ride went up high through the mountains, at one point reaching 1400 meters (4600 feet) high. At that point, the bus driver stopped for 15-minute break. I got out into the chilly mountain air and was able to see my first glacier in the distant Jotunheimen National Park. The bus continued along treacherous switchbacks and along mountains covered in green grass and gray rock. Eventually, we descended to a road that drove followed the edge of Sognefjorden, the longest fjord in Norway. After nearly four hours on the bus, we arrived in Sogndal, a sleepy, little mountain town that would be my home for the next two nights.

Even though I lacked a map of the town, I was able to find the hostel fairly easily. I did not have a reservation, and when I showed up, I was told that the hostel was full. But then the girl said that there might be some beds available in a dorm room. She walked me to a room, and indeed there were. After checking in, I ate at the only restaurant I could find - a Chinese restaurant. Tomorrow, I plan to ride a bus up to the Jostedal Glacier and go on a guided hike.

26 July Sunday - Day 27

A Glacier with a View

The bus left the Sogndal bus station at 8:45 am and arrived at Nigardsbreen about 10:30 am. There, I stood in line at the information center. I had wanted to buy a ticket for the three-hour tour, but they were all booked up, so I got one for the two-hour tour instead. We were given crampons, an ice axe, gloves, and a harness. After a short boat ride and a short hike along the rock, a rope was attached to our carabiners, connecting all of the members of our group together. Then, we began our ascent on the ice.

The glacier we hiked reached a depth of about 70 meters. We hiked maybe that high above the water level. The main glacier reached a depth of 700 meters, but we didn't hike far enough to see that one. We did get to walk through a section of the glacier called the labyrinth, where we walked through narrow crevasses of blue ice. All along the route, we saw little rivers of water running down the surface of the ice. The temperature of the air was a lot warmer than I expected, and my several layers of clothing almost proved to be too warm.

The one thing I did not like about the hike was being tied to other hikers, especially since I had a slow hiker behind me and fast hiker in front. I think they both conspired to pull me apart. The nice things about the hike were the excellent view of the mountains on either side of the fjord and seeing the blue ice, although I did not see as much blue ice as I saw in the brochures. Still, it was definitely a unique and interesting experience.
After we descended, I headed off to wander around on my own. That's where I saw melted glacier water entering the river. The melted glacier water has an odd green color. The guide explained that the green color resulted from tiny sand particles reflecting the light. I'm not entirely sure I understand that explanation, though. I think it must be caused by envy of the water frozen up high with a view of the fjord.

27 July Monday - Day 28

Fjord Adventure

Today, I had an intense travel/sightseeing day planned. I was going to ride a couple ferries across the fjord, then a scenic railway up a mountain, followed by catching a train to Bergen. I had looked up the timetables for everything except for the train to Bergen, and I was certain that it would work if I could catch the 7:50 am bus to Kaupanger.

My alarm clock was set to ring at 6:30 am. When I awoke, I looked at my clock. It was 7:30 am. I went into superfast mode, getting dressed and packing as quickly as I could. I wasn't sure if I could make this bus in 20 minutes, but it was worth a try. After a last check around the room to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything, I rushed to the reception, where I threw the key down on the desk since no one was there. I had a few minutes to spare, so I made a sandwich from bread, meat, and cheese in the breakfast area. Then, I ran outside to the bus stop across from the hostel. This was quicker than walking to the bus station down the road, but I wasn't sure if the bus I needed would stop here.

A little after 7:50 am, a bus stopped for me and I asked for Kaupanger. The bus driver said yes, so I got on. I just might make it after all. When I was dropped off in Kaupanger, I could not see the waterfront, so I had to wander around. Luckily, I had over an hour before the ferry left. I finally found it, then waited for the ferry. A busload of Japanese tourists were also taken the ferry. That could be dangerous, I thought. But why is it that you always see busloads of Japanese tourists? Don't they every travel alone?

The ferry ride from Kaupanger to Gudvangen was amazingly scenic, especially as the sun was shining that morning. When we entered the Naeroyfjorden area, our boat was trapped between two towering walls of rock. Countless waterfalls could be seen along the cliff walls. A few little towns existed along the waterfront, but the buildings looked like toys compared to the behemoth rock walls behind them. Honestly, traveling through the fjord felt like watching an Imax movie, except that it was real. My photos and video won't do this place justice unless I can show them on an Imax screen.

I finished my sandwich at Gudvangen, then waited for the ferry to Flam. This ride was nice but less spectacular, and it started to drizzle. Once I arrived in Flam, I bought a ticket for the scenic Flamsbana railway. This was very crowded, but I managed to get on the 4:10 train. I even managed to get a window seat. This train ascended the mountain, giving us many great views of the valley below. We even made one stop where we could all get out and view a waterfall up close. My glasses got wet from the spray.

Once I arrived in Myrdal, I asked for the next train to Bergen. I was told that it was leaving right away. So I ran to the train, hopped on, and quickly found a seat. Oddly enough, the conductor never came to check my ticket. I also noticed that I was surrounded by people in one of the tour groups. When I exited the train at Voss, I saw a sign that said the car was only for people in tour groups. Whoops. I guess I got that ride for free. I had dinner in the train station, then boarded the train for Bergen at 7:20 pm. By 8:40 pm, I had arrived, completing my traveling adventure.


28 July Tuesday - Day 29


Since I made it to Bergen last night, that gave me one more full day of sightseeing on my trip. Bergen is not a large city, with a population of a quarter of a million. And, it's possible to see most sights by walking. After buying a 1-day Bergen Card at the tourist information center, I set off to explore.

Most of the sights of the city are north of Torget, or the waterfront fish market. After smelling the fish and seeing all the tourists gawking at souvenirs, I walked through Bryggen, the old medieval quarter, and entered the Bryggen Museum. Here, I saw archeological remnants of the city dating to the 13th century.

Next, I headed west to see the Rosenkrantztarnet, or Rosenkrantz Tower. This is an old castle fortress built in the 1560's. You can go down the stairs to see the dungeon, then up the stairs to see the living quarters, even getting view from the top of the tower. Right next door is Hakonshallen, Hakon's Hall, a large hall constructed in 1261 by King Hakon Hakonsson. Both of these structures were damaged in World War II, but they have both been faithfully restored.

On my way back east, I stopped at the Leprosy Museum, which is inside of an old building that used to house leprosy victims. Apparently, Bergen scientists were on the forefront of understanding leprosy. Illustrations showed the horrible disfigurations caused by leprosy. After this museum, I stopped at the train station to make my seat reservaton for the morning train to Oslo.

After a late lunch, I boarded the funicular, an inclined railway, that carried riders up to the top of Mt. Floyen. Here, we were treated with an excellent view of Bergen, especially as the sun was shining. Descending the mountain, I decided to call it an early day and head back to the hostel to catch on e-mail. I have to make sure I go to sleep early so that I can wake up early for my 8 am train to Oslo tomorrow morning.

29 July Wednesday- Day 30

Train/Boat Day

Several days ago in Vinstra, Norway, I planned my "exit strategy" for leaving Europe. It involved taking a day train from Bergen to Oslo, followed by an overnight ship from Oslo to Copenhagen, and then riding the local trains to the airport in Kastrup to catch my flight home. Now, I would finally get to see if this plan would work or not.

I woke up early enough to get to the Bergen train station by 7:30 am, which turned out to be too early to board the train leaving at 8 am. My promptness made me proud, though I did have to wait a bit in the rain before the doors opened. The ride to Oslo went smoothly. Myriad mountains and random river streams passed me in the window as the train traveled eastward. Soon, the scenery become more boring with flatter land and mostly trees in view.

I arrived in Oslo at 2:30 pm. The ship I wanted left at 5 pm, but I had not yet made a reservation. So, I quickly walked to the DFDS ferry terminal, which I had visited during my stay in Oslo. That was good - knowing exactly where to go. I soon arrived and went to the ticket window to buy passage. The clerk said that there were very few cabins left, but I did manage to get one. Unfortunately, DFDS does not offer shared cabins like Viking Line does, so the cost of the ride was terribly expensive. But I had to take it, since I had a flight leaving Copenhagen the next morning.

Boarding began at 3:30 pm, and I quickly found my cabin. I set about working on video editing to bide my time. I didn't even notice when we left the dock. For dinner, I had decided to treat myself to steak at the Explorer's Club as it was my last dinner in Europe for this trip. When I went to get a table, the maitre d' asked if I had a reservation. I said no, and he told me that there was a 2-hour wait. Since I was quite hungry, I ended up having dinner next door at Cafe Latitude. The name was not as fancy, nor was the food, but at least it filled my stomach.

30 July Thursday - Day 31

Rushing to the Airport

I awoke early enough to enjoy a buffet breakfast. Ship food is not cheap, but you don't have much of a choice. I packed up my gear and went down to the starboard door on deck 5 to await docking in Copenhagen. We were scheduled to arrive at 9:30 am. My flight time was 12:20 pm. A week ago, this seemed like a perfect plan. Today, I wasn't so sure about that. About 9:40 am, people started moving, and I realized that they were exiting through the port side door.

I quickly ran through the ferry terminal and outside into the rain. I saw the S-train in the distance and walked toward it. The only thing was that I did not know if the station was north of south of me. So, I asked a woman walking by who pointed me in the right direction. Once at the train station, I could not figure out what train to take, so I asked another woman, who told me to ride the southbound train two stops and then transfer.

Two stops later, I got off the train and followed an airplane icon to tracks 1 and 2. Then, I asked another woman which train to take to the airport. She told me that there was one leaving at 10:18, but that I could check the information boards to find an earlier one. It turns out that there was a train leaving in a few minutes at 10:08. I hopped on board, despite not having a ticket. When a conductor asked me for my ticket, I pulled out my Eurail Pass, which had one more day of travel left on it. I had paid for 8 days. The conductor stamped my pass and walked on. I had now used all 8 days.

The ride to the airport took about 15 minutes. When we arrived, I hopped off the train smiling. I had made it to the airport by 10:30 am, just as I had planned. That gave me two hours for check in and getting through security. The check-in line was short, but there were lines at security, passport control and at my actual gate. Nevertheless, I had 30 minutes to wait before boarding the plane. So, I pulled out a sandwich from my bag and ate second breakfast. By 1 pm, the Airbus aircraft was in the air, and I was on my way to D.C.

The plane landed in D.C. a little after 3 pm, making the flight about 8 hours total. I then went through customs and immigration. For some reason, though, I was selected for a supposedly "random" bag check. This meant that the airport security person had to empty out every single item in my bag. He pulled out my clothes, my underwear, my maps. He flipped through my journal and my notepad. It was quite invasive. He also kept asking me questions about my trip and about my employment. I don't know if he was making small talk or trying to incriminate me for something. Finally, after he pulled everything out, I was free to re-pack my bag. Maybe I shouldn't have said I was unemployed and returning from a 4-week trip to Europe. In any case, it was quite an unfriendly welcome back to the U.S. of A.

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dave at backpackingdave.com