Sunday, June 20, 2010

Life is Grand

The last days in Bonn were fantastic. Beautiful weather (though Claudia complained Winter was back, I was thrilled with the cooler temps, knowing "Famously Hot Columbia" would be blistering when I got home). I took a stroll through my old neighborhood along Poppelsdorfer Allee. The castle at the end used to feature live performances of Beethoven's works. He was born in Bonn. As I walked under the train trellis to get to Poppeldorf, I passed the sticker station that always used to amuse me. Check out this picture. Who can spot the Rebel Flag? Yep. That's right. The South will rise again, maybe even in Germany.





Friday. Visit in my second Heimat, Bonn was really fun. I met up with former Deutsche Telekom colleagues for a lunch at the headquarters, which Claudia arranged. How sweet was that of her? We ate in the cantine at DT HQ. Deutsche Telekom is the parent company of T-Mobile, and a major force in European, and now worldwide, telecomms industry. The headquarters in Bonn is impressive. I was running around like mad to make the lunch on time, as I no longer had Claudia the Original Travel Frau along to keep me on schedule. I missed the first Strassenbahn and when you're depending on public trans to get somewhere, you just can't be late. So I took a taxi, which was nuts. The guy was trying to get around all the football traffic! Germany was going to play Serbia at 13:30, and the fans were pouring into the bars and streets and trams. Many of them wrapped in the German Black, Red, Gold flag.

I finally made it to the DT HQ and it was more amazing than I remembered. The atrium is massive. Lots of windows, light and PINK. There is a DT store there where you can buy merchandise, a hair salon, two coffee stations. You want it, they got it. It's like a little town in itself. A mega screen was set up in the atrium to watch the World Cup game. Already fans were reserving their seats.

 The cantine at DT is really fancy. Any food option you want - salad bar, pizza bar, veggies, dessert. If they only sold beer! Claudia treated me on her employee card, which she can load up with Euros and swipe everytime she's ready to eat. The dining tables and chairs are very chic and modern. We found a long table for all eight of us! It was great fun to see everyone and to learn about the DT corporate politics. :) Herr Oberman, the CEO, introduced the first quota in Germany to ensure women are hired for positions, particularly in the IT field. It's a big, aggressive move, and has been met - as you can imagine - with some controversy. That was a fun theme for Table Talk. :)





The DT Internal International Communications Team I interned with in 2002, before I started the corporate training program. Front to back: Ruth Kraatz, Ursula Schmied, Christiana Frense-Heck, Fabian Dumas, Claudia Jordan, Dirk Meier, me, Karl Weiland. GREAT seeing all of you!

After lunch, Dirk and I watched the Germany v. Serbia game in the DT atrium, watching on the edge of our seats. It was a disappointing loss, but the Germans handled it like good sports. I managed to catch a shot of one of the ads during half time. It features my favorite player from the German team who was injured and couldn't play the World Cup, Michael Ballack. Aber hallo!!


In the tram on the way back into the city, I ran into lots of sad, face-painted people, and some singing and revelry. It was a thrill to be in the middle of all of that during such an exciting time in Europe and around the world. In 2006, FIFA says there was a cumulative audience, in-home and out-of-home, of 26.29 billion World Cup viewers.

A little walk through Bonn's Suedstadt to Judith and Jens' house to meet their kids and see their two-week old (!) baby was fun. I got to watch the USA football game with them, and TRY to talk a little German with their wee one, Juna. Their entire living room was decorated in Germany garb. Fun!


On the way to meet Claudia for dinner, the Bahnhof reported the 2:2 draw USA v. Slovenia.


On to meet Claudia for dinner. She made reservations at a restaurant on the Rhein called the Rohmuehle and Biergarten. It's in a restored mill house, with modern design incorporated. A gorgeous place on the river.




Right next door is one of the most imaginative and futuristic five-star hotels I've ever seen. The Kameha Grand was designed by Marcel Wanders.Click the link and watch the video. You can see how funky it is. We had a drink at the bar there. We were treated very well, as you can imagine. The entrance says, "Life is Grand." Fitting! That taxi in the picture is a Mercedes, as all the taxis in Germany are. The one that took us to the Berlin Tegel airport actually had a flat screen TV in it so the driver could watch the World Cup at stop lights. Ha.


Bonn is the same size as Columbia. It has a river (the Rhein), a university, and a major corporation (Deutsche Telekom). The T-Moblie HQ is also there, where I also once worked. We drove by it on our way to Kameha. It's got a Starbucks inside the atrium. Lots of coffee. Lots of coffee. (I drank so much while I was on vacation that I think I will have to keep up the habit. Lattes and Latte Machiatos are my faves). My point in comparing Bonn to Columbia is that we, too, could have a Kameha. I mean, we have a Hilton, but .... BORING. I think Bonn is very progressive for a mid-sized town. I like that.

T-Mobile (now incorporated into Deutsche Telekom) headquarters building. It was still under construction when I left in 2004. This picture captures only one wing of it.


Up early Saturday for the ride to the train station. Claudia was such a dearheart to drive me there. I got a Fussball Bloc at the bakery (bread wrapped in paper like a hot pocket, made especially for the World Cup frenzie) and a coffee. We waited in the quite chilly weather for my train. When it arrived (not puenktlich) I jumped in, found my seat, and waved goodbye to Claudia. She doesn't know it, but I teared a good bit on the way to Frankfurt airport.

The Frankfurt Airport is not my favorite. To give you an idea, here is what it took for me to get to my seat on my plane:
Get out of train.
Take escalator up, then down.
Turn left, then right, then left, look at signs to Terminal.
Walk a long alleyway to the Terminal. Search for my gate.
Walk further to the gate. Stand in line.
Have my passport checked, dodge lots of families with at least six sets of luggage each.
Back to the escalator to the gate area, through security (30 minutes).
Sit in a small, glassed in room with about 300 other people.
Sprite out of the vending machine.
Totally missed the chance to buy a magazine, some more chocolates and gum.
Another long walk through a tunnel to the plane landing. Search for seat.
Sit down.
Sit for 35 minutes on the tarmac. I was worried there would be another 'incident' but we took off fine. The  US Air attendants were rude, except for the male attendant. He couldn't stop saying it was 'his pleasure' to do things for everyone.

I was glad to land at Charlotte. I took the Columbia-Charlotte Shuttle home. I recommend it. $49. There were three of us in the van. One guy from India, who talked on the phone for about 20 minutes in one of the 30 or 40 languages of India. Later he told me what it was, but I can't remember. It wasn't Hindi. I told him we understood every word of his conversation. We laughed. The other guy in the van was a guy who used to work for SC Commerce and is good friends with several people I know, grew up in the same neighborhood I grew up in, and still lives close to where I do. There's that small world again! He actually knew about New Carolina. I didn't have to explain it! I actually practiced the whole flight to Germany how to explain in German what I do for a living. It's hard enough in English.

Home sweet home around 6 p.m. on Saturday, and everything was just as I left it. Except for the front porch ferns. The Japanese Beatles have made a nest in what once was a thriving, hardy, full blown evergreen. I will have to go to Lowe's. Apparently, you have to buy a little box with some magic stuff that lures the little pests away from your plants. But that is a small challenge compared to some I faced during the vacation - showering in the hostel bathroom in Oslo over the toilet comes to mind.



Despite lots of shopping, I am happy to say that I still made it home with only one piece of luggage. I added one small sack of treats to the carry on. Not bad for two weeks, seven airports, and five cities.


During my vacation, I was reminded how fortunate I am, and how important it is to live in the moment. For the first time in awhile, I really felt I was doing that. I loved being able to speak German again, and was surprised how quickly it came back to me. Surprisingly, very little went wrong on this trip (schief gegangen, in German).  And the things that did were more like adventures, and in the end, really didn't matter compared to the things that exceeded my expectations. I hope I can go back to the daily routine with this same way of viewing things. I met someone during vacation one evening who had seen it all. Nothing was interesting or impressive to this person. It made me sad. I want always to be as pleasantly surprised by events as I was on my European and Scandinavian vacation, and don't want to ever lose a sense of wonder.

It's been fun keeping up the blog. I appreciate those of you who have followed it, commented, and shared the experience with me that way. I also truly appreciate my guest bloggers, and friends who met up with me and made the journey such a memorable one. :)

In the last weeks I have waved hello and goodbye to many of my favorite people. I have a full heart. And an empty wallet.

Gruss and Kuss!

The Travel Frau

----------------
a poem my friend Karen sent:

“Waving Goodbye” ~ Wesley McNair



Why, when we say goodbye

at the end of an evening, do we deny

we are saying it at all, as in We'll

be seeing you, or I'll call, or Stop in,

somebody's always at home? Meanwhile, our friends,

telling us the same things, go on disappearing

beyond the porch light into the space

which except for a moment here or there

is always between us, no matter what we do.

Waving goodbye, of course, is what happens

when the space gets too large

for words – a gesture so innocent

and lonely, it could make a person weep

for days. Think of the hundreds of unknown

voyagers in the old, fluttering newsreel

patting and stroking the growing distance

between their nameless ship and the port

they are leaving, as if to promise I'll always

remember, and just as urgently, Always

remember me. It is loneliness, too,

that makes the neighbor down the road lift

two fingers up from his steering wheel as he passes

day after day on his way to work in the hello

that turns into goodbye? What can our own raised

fingers to for him, locked in his masculine

purposes and speeding away inside the glass?

How can our waving wipe away the reflex

so deep in the woman next door to smile

and wave on her way into her house with the mail,

we'll never know if she is happy

or sad or lost? It can't. Yet in that moment

before she and all the others and we ourselves

turn back to our disparate lives, how

extraordinary it is that we make this small flag

with our hands to show the closeness we wish for

in spite of what pulls us apart again

and again: the porch light snapping off,

the car picking its way down the road through the dark.





Friday, June 18, 2010

Serendipity

Yesterday in Bonn was fantastic. I must have walked 5 miles. It doesn't seem like I've been gone so long at all.

The Cramers were gracious as always. Their garden (and their pet turtles) are still wonderful. We had some Kuchen from the finest backery in Endenich. They showed me a picture they took of me six years ago, which they keep in their album of all the international folks who come to rent from them each year. I was very thin. Mr. Cramer said that all Americans gain weight when they go back home. "It's the food." Ha. He is right! I tried to tell him there are movements to eat more locally grown, fresh foods. Gotta love the German directness. Always know where you stand!




Edith was so sweet to come pick me up at the Cramers. She drove all the way from Köln to visit with me again. We had a nice dinner in Bonn at Giacomo and went by BonnGout as well, where we could watch a little football. It was nice weather out.

On to the HausBar which is at the Opera House, to meet Claudia and some of her wonderful friends.


Live music, and lots of German men in tight blue jeans. Well, maybe not all of them were German. If you've been following the blog, you'll know that I got a little side tracked last week on the train ride to Düsseldorf. Remember, cute British guy who lives in Bonn? He was at the HausBar. When I saw him I said, "See, I told you I'd run into you in Bonn."

It's a smalll world, after all.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

From the Spree to the Rhein


Claudia and I managed to get in a nice boat tour on the Spree yesterday, before heading from Berlin back to Bonn. It was a gorgeous day in Berlin. I think I even got sunburned. The airport and flight were uneventful, and we landed in Bonn in time to walk down from Claudia's apartment to the Rhein in Bonn.



We had some Kartoffelbraten and Kraut Salat and a couple Rheinland beers in the beergarden, then settled in so Claudia could be ready for work. She has been a fantastic travel partner. As a note the (very) large mug of beer on the table in this picture is Claudia's. Ha. And it's a combo beer and Fanta. The Germans like to mix drinks. Juice with spritzer water and beer with cola. It's pretty tasty. I was drinking a Kölsch, of course. In Bonn, you can order Bönnsch, the local beer.

I have rested some today, and am excited to see the Cramers this afternoon for tea and Kuchen. I rented a room from the Cramers for a couple years when I lived in Bonn, and they were very good to me. Tonight I'll meet with friends in Bonn and can't wait!

Life is fantastic. I am happy.

We went shopping in Prenzlauerberg in Berlin. After we had Flammkuchen and Latte Machiatos at Café de Paris. Maren, Claudia and Amy, soaking in the easy sophistication of one of Berlin's most wonderful neighborhoods. The sun came out, and we found ourselves sitting without words for long periods of time. This should really happen every day, not just on extravagant vacations. We should really be able to take time everyday to sit and think and observe - with people we love right beside us. The Flammkuchen is like a crepe pizza. I ordered Flammkuchen with goat cheese and onions. The onions were so sweet. Our French waiter was a bit challenged, as he was the only one working, but it's always more relaxed in European cafés. There's not the rush to be finished and to pay and to move on. We easily could have sat there all day and no one would have bothered us.
But we went on to some shopping and found a few wonderful boutiques. I bought a new purse and some ballerina flats in my favorite color. Now I just need a pair of skinny jeans to wear with these flats and I'll look all Euro-chic. My new bag is from a Spanish designer called Desigual.
The embroidery reads: Life is fantastic. I am happy. I thought that was fitting!

Maren was a terrific guide. She knows the streets of Berlin in and out, and getting a car tour was special. She drove us past the stadium where Berliners watch Weltmeisterschaft Fußball. Impressive! We got to watch Italy play the first night we arrived in Berlin. Every bar or restaurant we passed walking in Kreuzberg had a flat screen showing the game. The constant wasp-buzzing sound of the vuvuyelas luring us. We'd pass one café and hear a whooping noise, another and hear a resounding sigh of dissappointment. By the time we made it to the end of the street, we felt we'd captured nearly every play of the game.

We stopped at Potsdammer Platz, where pieces of the Mauer and guards swarmmed with tourists stand to stamp your passport, as if you were really crossing into the East. Potsdammer was reconstructed in the 60's - lots of money was poured into the area to rebuild it. There are many impressive buildings, and an IMAX.

Just down the street, there is a Holocaust Memorial, a monument designed by architect Peter Eisenman, in memory of the murdered Jews of Europe during WWII. The monument was finished in 2004. At first, it seems to be just a series of grey, concrete stumps, but as you move deeper into the installation, the passagways narrow, and the blocks become taller and you begin to feel the weight of lives lots during the holocaust.
People, including us, were playing on the blocks. It might seem irreverent not to treat it like a cemetery, but the architects themselves expected people to respond naturally to the built environment.

Maren showed us a spot on one of the roads that maks where the Berlin Wall would have been. There is an inscription telling a bit about it. Mostly this goes unnoticed.

There really are a lot of people in the world, and when you visit a city the size of Berlin, it's easy to feel very insignificant. I think about 4 million people live in Berlin. After touring around with Maren, it seems there could never be enough space for all of them. A ton of them were probably tourists, and when we went to the Brandenburg Gate, even a Native American Indian showed up.

Maren the Amazing Tour Guide took us to several famous Berlin Theaters. We stopped off where the Berlin Ensemble performs, had a visit with Bertold Brecht, saw the foyer of the famous Volksbühne and then made our way to the Museums Insel (Island) area to the Berlin Amphitheater.




We closed out the evening near the Museums Insel (Island), on one of Berlin's Beach Bars. Strand Bar #1 comes highly recommended. Maren treated me to a Berliner Pilsner, and we relaxed before going to the theater to see Don Juan. The theater was much like the Globe in London. Outdoor theater in the round. We were lucky to have such good weather. Don Juan was very funny, and a bit slap stick.There ws even some audience participation.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Globalization


Globalization is an American in an Irish pub in Sweden pulling for a German team in World Cup Football. Claudia and I were excited about the 4:0 Deutschland gegen Australian. Podolski, Klose, Müller und Claudias new lieblingspieler (who is actually from Brazil), Cacau. And yes, I had two German Blog editors helping me spell those names.

Claudia and I are sitting in Maren's lovely apartment in Berlin - group blogging.



The last hours in Stockholm were nice. The sun was out, we hopped into the yellow bus line of the Hop On Hop Off bus tours and got to ride around parts of the city we didn't get to see by foot. One of the neighborhoods had lots of hip shops and restaurants, where Bellman, Sweden's favorite troubadore from the 18th century, once lived.

Taxi to the airport, a bit of a wait, more chocolate and 3 hours later, we were in Berlin, where the fabulous Maren, today's guest blogger, greeted us, took us for a Berliner Weiße (beer with sweet syrup) on the Lietzensee. Beaufiful weather in Berlin! We took a little walk through Charlottenburg and watched football at the Gainsbourg Bar Américan. The Germans were not pulling for the Italians.



Today is Tour de Berlin with my friend and Travel Frau guest blogger Maren.


As you can never be really sure about what is going to happen, when you show around guests in Berlin I cannot tell what we're going to see totday. Maybe a bit of everything: Museumsinsel, Regierungsviertel, shopping around Hackescher Markt and Friedrichstraße... And of course - because I am the " inoffizielle Kulturbeauftragte von Berlin" I want to go to some of our famous theaters (Berliner Ensemble, Deutsches Theater, Volksbühne etc.). I also like boat trips on river Spree, so I hope to do one with Amy and Claudia today. If we have enough time (well, there is never enough time to show everything, because Berlin is too big) I'll take them to Kreuzberg: Falkenbergstraße - best ice cream in the best city of the world :-))

Sunday, June 13, 2010

LOVE Stockholm 2010

I heart Stockholm. And Stockholm hearts me. In fact, the entire week here is dedicated to me: LOVE Stockholm 2010. Okay, maybe not just for me. The Princess Victoria will wed Mr. Westling, her personal trainer, on June 19th, and there is a lot of Love Mania going on here. On the scale of the Obamarama.


Claudia and I landed last night after a very quick jaunt from Norway. This time, we checked in to the Radisson Blu Strand - on purpose. A nice change from the Hostel in Norway. The Radisson Blu allegedly has the best view of any hotel in Stockholm, and I would agree, if my room didn't overlook the breakfast area. But really, this hotel is fabulous, and right on the water. We kicked back and watched the USA v. England game on our (not flat screen) TV.

We had a wonderful breakfast including caviar pate, fish pate and small pancake medallions. I didn't eat everything on my plate, so Claudia has blamed me for the rainy weather. In Germany, the saying goes that if you don't clean your plate, there will be bad weather.






Stockholm is known as the Venice of the North. It is a beautiful city. The weather is mercurial, and we don't know whether to put our jackets on, wear sunglasses, rain coats or scarves, but the friendly people make up for it. Swedish and Norwegian languages are a little like German, but to me, more sing-song. Lot's of lilting, but a lot of the same words - at least they are sometimes easy to recognize. Here they say "Hey"and in Norway "Hihi"as greetings. One guy I met getting on the tour bus said he spent a year in Louisiana and that people in the South of the USA were 'very religious.' Apparently he had to go to the Baptist church every day. Here, Christianity has only been around since 1200. Before that, it was a pagan land, and many of the pagan traditions still linger. Like the trolls. Claudia and I found some wonderful ones in a store on a cobblestoned alleyway in the Old City today. If we do not make them mad, they will protect us.



We also stopped off at the royal palace, where I was crowed Queen Travel Frau.



We decided on bus tour and a boat ride this morning, because the last leg of our Oslo adventure has the Travel Fraus feeling a bit kaputt. It downpoured the entire last day of or Oslo visit, and by the time we made it to dinner on the harbor, my tennis shoes were completely soaked. Every restaurant was booked, but we finally ended up at Mr. Bay, an asian fusion restaurant that was super chic. We walked in like a bunch of wet fish, dripping water all the way to our swanky seats at a round table near the bar. But it was well worth the walk around town to find a place. Claudia and Dirk (the two Germans) were very silly, and thought joked about how the asians in Thailand serve 'sticky rice with mango,'and there it was on the menu in Oslo! I had a plate full of fresh seafood: king prawn, toothfish and crayfish. Dirk, who Team TravelFrau named 'der kleiner Geniesser'or little bonvivant, ordered the fried banana for dessert. So, you can imagine what fun we had making inappropriate jokes ...



Bill and Dirk tricked Amy and Claudia into going to Et Glas, another chic place where all the beautiful Norwegians go. It was small, and cozy, with a glass chandelier in the middle, and a spiral staircase to the top level. We enjoyed the people watching, and a night cap, then took a taxi home (again in the rain), only for me to discover that I had lost my cell phone. Then back in the taxi in search of cell phone. "Please take us to Et Glas." The taxi driver made a joke: "You only want one beer?" That would have been funny were it not so late, were we not so wet from all the rain, and were I not in a panic about losing my phone. Et Glas does mean one beer, and I probably wouldn't have lost my phone had I stuck to that. But there it was, on the floor at Et Glas. In tact. Gott sei Dank! Back to the hostel, and good night.

The next morning, my shoes were so wet and smelled so badly that I stuck them in a plastic bag thinking I could dry them out when we got to Sweden. I had to wear flip flops the rest of the day. Good thing we got a ride to the Kon Tiki museum and to the airport in Bíll's rental car. A very nice treat to be chauffeured around Oslo!



The Kon Tiki was very cool. Thor Hyderdahl is one of the world's greatest scientists, explorers and environmentalists. His sailing exhibitions ending with the Kon Tiki disproved many theories about culture in the pacific, and his multi cultural sailing teams showed that people can work well across cultures. Videos, replicas and pictures showed how the reeds and balsa wood rafts were made, recreating the way ancient peoples might have crossed the oceans. In keeping with the nautical theme, Bill and Matt made Claudia and me feel like the Rheinland sea maidens at Lorelei, serenading us with operetta songs as we left the exhibit. It wasn't hard to notice that a name like Claudia is much better suited to opera. "Claudia ......!!!! Claudia .....!!!"

So onward to the airport, where I discretely threw away my stinky tennis shoes, spent our last remaining Norwegian Kronen on chocolate and Prosecco, and made it to Stockholm in time to open that bottle of sparkly, kick off our flip flops, and watch the USA v England football (soccer) match. It was a 1:1 draw. I think the reason many Americans don't go crazy over soccer, is because you can actually finish a match without a winner.

Today, Germany plays the Aussies. We hope to find a public square where we can watch it. TGI Friday's perhaps? I have already seen three of those in Stockholm.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Norway

Note: pictures tell a thousand words, but we can't upload them just yet. Stay tuned.
Claudia, today's guest blogger from Germany, and I are sitting in an Internet Cafe on Thorvaldsgate in a hip part of Oslo (once called Christiania), Norway. We hate to admit it, but we are about to go back to our very luxurious hostel to take a nap. When the native Norwegians take you out to dinner, and then to the Beer Palace, trying to hit more than one museum a day is simply too exhausting.




The Norwegians were friends of Bill's, who is also part of Team Travel Frau. The Norwegians were very large men,  three times the size of normal people, with large voices, and large personalities. They took us to the Meat Market. That's a restuarant, people, where they serve meat for dinner. It should have been fish, since we were right at the port at Aker Brygge, but we will eat fish tonight. Matt, an American friend who lives in Oslo, showed up on his bike and met us there. So we were seven out of 400,000 other people in the city last night. Erik and Jens-Erik were the perfect hosts, paid for dinner, and bought a round of drinks at the Beer Palace. I tried a Borg. OK, maybe more than one. Takk (thanks), Erik and Jens-Erik! We partied into the night, which in Oslo begins much later. At 11 p.m., it was still light outside.

Erik wearing a South Carolina Seersucker tie (I brought treats for the guys).



Matt on his bike in the port area that has been built including mixed use, modern buildings.

From the moment we touched down in Oslo on Wednesday night, we noticed how long the days can be. Literally. By the time we arrived at midnight, it was still somewhat light outside. My day had started early, in Cologne, with a trip to the Dome where I happened upon a demonstration. Then some shopping, my first Broetchen mit Schinken and I was back at Bill's packing up the suitcase for my next jaunt. Claudia and I were to meet in the train, as she was coming from Bonn to Duesseldorf, where our flight was leaving for Norway. I got to the Bahnhof, got in the train, and realized the Verizon network was not connecting me to Vodafone. Great. I wouldn't be able to connect with Claudia. I didn't find her in the train, but I did get to sit next to a cute British guy who had me so flustered I got out too early and had to take a taxi to the airport.

No flights leave Duesseldorf after 11 p.m., so the airport was pretty empty. I went to check in, hoping Claudia would have done the same, and there she was - just about to give up on me and head back to Bonn.

We hadn't seen one another in six years, so big hugs all around, and then off to check in. An hour and a half later we landed in Oslo. It was still light out. Claudia had the brilliant idea to purchase a bottle of bubbly at Duty Free, then we went to the taxi station.  Though we are seasoned travelers, we did not check the best way to get from the airport to our hotel, so 20 minutes and 900 Kronen (100 €) later, we asked exactly how far it was from the airport to the center of town. "Oh, about 40 kilometers." Scheisse. So we finally find Einendom Hostel #1 and jump out with glee, only to find a locked door. We call the number, get a machine with options offered in Norwegian, can't get a person on the line. It's 12:30 a.m. Hmmm ... What would you do? Well here is what we did, and the lovely and talented Claudia guest blogger will now give you her perspective on the story:


Unexpected stop at Radisson Blu


 Guest Blogger at work in the Internet Cafe:



Okay, I try..... After a few glasses of Cava, red wine, whisky and beer (yep, in that order) it's not easy to think today..... But I am happy to have booked the adventure trip with Love Tours as it's everything but boring.... Okay, back to the story..... Thanks to modern technology, we googled Oslo's taxi number to get our very own Pakistani taxi driver to take us to the next hotel (Anker hotel). Amy got out and I had to stay with Abdul to watch the luggage. After 15 minutes, Amy comes back..... no more room at the Anker hotel since it's fully booked.... But the friendly concierge (after telling her that there was a conference in town which is why all the hotels would be booked) gave her a list of hotels and we started calling one after the other..... "sorry, we are fully booked....". So the concierge was right. We finally managed to find a room at the Radisson Blu and at 2 a.m. we were ready to pay any price. So off to the Radisson which costs the ridiclous amount of 2,500 Kronen (a bit more than 300 Euro). No, not the Queen suite - a regular room. Anyway, a bottle of warm Prosecco later we got a call from Bill who had arrived in Oslo in the afternoon and stayed at the same hostel we were supposed to stay. We had tried to reach him a couple of times - without success. His phone had died and only after re-charging the batteries he got our messages.... It's a bit peinlich to say, but we were both too blonde to read the instructions on the confirmation page..... "... for key retrieval please open the attached pdf file....". We were supposed to have picked up the key at the 7 Eleven around the corner from Eiendom.... So much about being an experienced traveller. 



Five hours of sleep later, we took a shower (not knowing how luxurious it was) and went to have breakfast and did some people watching. A lot of the doctors in town for the conference were staying in the Radisson and we got our 30 minutes of Grey's Anatomy. 

A flirt with the cute (young) Swedish concierge later, we were sitting in the taxi, trying to find the 7 Eleven to pick up the key for our hostel room. Well, what can I say... there are simply too many 7 Elevens in town..... To cut a long story short, about 12 p.m. we had our key, found ourselves back at Steenstrupsgate 1 to finally get into our room..... Room? I actually wouldn't call it a room.... it was more like a doll house.... two small beds with disposable bed sheets (yes!), a multi-functional bathroom (you can do all in one: pee, brush your teeth and shower) and a flat screen TV (?????).



The shower and toilette at the Hostel.

 
Okay.... back to Amy....

With the hostel scenario behind us, we could put our energies into FUN. Claudia the intrepid tour guide, mapped out our way to the National Theater, where we were to meet the boys (Matt, Dirk and Bill). She brilliantly navigated us through the Trikken and T-Bahn network, and we got to the National Theater on time. Claudia, the Original Travel Frau, was back!
Oslo is a beautiful, tidy, friendly city. We walked from the National Theater to the port for a boat tour of the fjords. Wow. Little wooden colored houses on the edge of the rocky cliffed waters, lots of green and rolling hills. Many of the island homes were private, and the older homes had bathing houses down near the water, where water is pumped inside the house so you can go skinny dipping without your neighbors seeing you. They are painted the same colors as the main house, so you know which belongs to whom. Wouldn't want to walk down and catch your neighbor in the full monty!





We were on the boat for two hours, and about halfway in, Bill couldn't resist ordering an ice cold Fanta. And the guy in front of me couldn't resist ordering a hot dog, what Claudia later called a Frankfurter Crepe, because it was literally a crepe rolled around a hot dog. Maybe a little mustard on the side.

We passed the new opera house, a very modern building right on the water. One island had a bird sanctuary, and one populated with rabbits.  It was good we went on the fjord tour yesterday, because it's done nothing but rain today. That's why we hit the museum today, to check out the Munch Museum. Munch is from Norway, and the Scream hangs in this museum. At least one of them. He painted two, and etched one. My favorites are the vampire series and the landscapes. Yellow Log had a cool near-3D effect.

In the time it's taken to write this blog post, I think we've lost time for a nap. Tonight we've got a date at the Fish Market. And tomorrow we're off to Sweden.

Ha det!