Oslo: The A-Team Reunited

September 6, 2016 - 7:36 pm No Comments

Emerging from Oslo Central Station, the streets were filled with people who were smiling, laughing, going places. Street performers played music and danced on flattened cardboard boxes. Norwegian flags hung from buildings. Homeless people sitting on either side of the pedestrian streets. There is an energy here that Stockholm didn’t have.

The Airbnb apartment that we booked for Oslo was not ready yet, so we parked ourselves at a pub for a drink and a bite. We saw a bunch of people walking around with German soccer jerseys, and a quick look online revealed that there was a match between Norway and Germany that night. We decided to go for it and splurged on some tickets.

But before the game, we headed to Martine’s place for dinner. Martine is Jerry’s Norwegian wife, and the whole reason Jerry is here in Oslo. Her family lives in Asker, a small town just outside of Asker and a short train ride away. Jerry had no idea that Doug made the flight over, so when Doug showed up with me and Conrad, it was quite a surprise. The A-Team was finally reunited.

After dinner, we headed down to Ullevaal Stadion for the soccer match. Doug and Jerry are huge soccer fans, so this was quite a treat for our first night in Norway. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let me into the stadium with my camera because it was a “professional” camera, so the others went in while I spent a half hour being led around by incompetent ushers and security guards and circling the stadium looking for the ticket office to store my photo gear for the game. Missing the national anthems and the first few minutes of the game for this pissed me off.

Germany v. Norway at Ullevaal Stadion Read the rest of this entry »

Stockholm with the Boys

September 4, 2016 - 3:01 am No Comments

Landed in Stockholm. First impression of Sweden is that the cool, brisk air is refreshing and that a sky full of clouds looks weird. Coming from the sunny Balkans, I have not seen clouds like this in over a month. Lush greenery everywhere, orderly public transit. In just about every way, this place is the opposite of Greece.

The Arlanda Express train whisked Conrad and I to the city center. Stockholm’s suburbs are dotted with squarish, plainly colored office buildings, surely filled with IKEA’s finest. Stockholm Central Station treated us to the fastest wifi we’ve had in over a month. I caught up on my blogging while Conrad sat across from me and wolfed down some Burger King. Then Conrad took us to the sweet apartment he booked on Airbnb, and it’s there that we met up with Doug. Good to have him around for this leg of the journey.

The three of us spent the next couple of days taking brisk afternoon walks around the city. “Gamla stan”, as Stockholm’s old town is known, is filled with matching, uniformly sized buildings lining streets and alleys of cobblestone. Various shades of pink and orange and gray give the town some character, but the whole area was surprisingly quiet and lifeless, even on the weekend. Most stores and restaurants were closed, and the few that were open were nearly empty. The few tourists walking around seem to be German, French, and Asian.

Road in Södermalm Read the rest of this entry »

Relaxing in Rhodes

September 1, 2016 - 4:34 am No Comments

Coming from Santorini to Rhodes took two flights, both with Aegean Airlines and with some very attractive flight attendants.

Compared to the other Greek islands, Rhodes is huge and highly developed. There are more amenities, and standards of service are definitely an improvement. American hotel and fast food chains and Starbucks were distinctly absent on the other Greek islands, but here they are everywhere.

We’re staying at Stay Hostel in Rhodes Town, and this place is pretty awesome. Social, fun, centrally located. Cheap drinks, good wifi, and a great shower. What more could you want from a hostel? After being on the move for ten days on a sailboat, we really needed a chill spot like this.

Our first day in Rhodes was spent sleeping, showering, catching up on wifi. We headed to Tamam, a place I found on TripAdvisor, for lunch. A truly amazing experience, with fantastic food and wonderful service by Andreas, the restaurant owner. Andreas and his family really know how to run a restaurant.

Shrimp and Zucchini Tagliatelle in a Garlic Butter Sauce at Tamam Read the rest of this entry »

Amazing Amorgos

August 28, 2016 - 12:22 pm No Comments

Giant waves made for an adventurous sail to Amorgos (ah-MORE-goss). You’d think that sitting on a sailboat for ten days is a great opportunity to catch up on blogging and photos, but not so much. When we’re in motion, the sun and spray on deck make it impossible to do anything, and seasickness sets in quickly down below. The key to avoiding seasickness is to keep the laptop closed, stay above deck, and focus on the horizon around you. Or lay down with your eyes closed and let the rolling boat rock you to sleep. Try to do anything with your eyes open below deck, and you’re asking for trouble.

Daisy Cranks Read the rest of this entry »

Three Islands: Koufonisia, Naxos & Schinousa

August 25, 2016 - 6:40 pm No Comments

Koufonisia was a good stop, with a good mix of beaching, drinking, and eating. The Greeks are not stingy with the food portions or alcohol content. Dishes are massive, drinks are strong. But I must admit that I’m starting to get a bit tired of Greek salads, gyros, and souvlaki.

Ammos Beach Read the rest of this entry »

Sailing the Cyclades

August 22, 2016 - 5:06 am No Comments

We arrived at Santorini’s tiny port of Vlychada to meet our group for the sailing trip. Aside from me and Conrad, the group is entirely Australian. Four women in their 50’s traveling together and a couple in their 20’s. Our captain is Daisy, who is English and on her first sailing adventure with the company.

There are 2 cabins on board. The couple is taking one, Conrad and I have the other. Sleeping quarters are cramped, with Conrad and I sharing a thin mattress about the size of a double bed. The moment I first saw it reminded me of this scene from Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Conrad and I will sleeping head to toe, back to back to reduce the odds.

Small Bed for Two Read the rest of this entry »

Five Sunsets in Santorini

August 19, 2016 - 8:12 am 1 Comment

The flight over to Santorini offered views of several cute little rocky islands. Santorini is much bigger than the others. Coming in from the east offered a close-up view of the massive peak of Profitis Ilias. Had no idea there were mountains this big out here.

Just outside of the airport was a shuttle bus waiting to take me to Fira (FEE-dah), where my hotel is. They dropped me at the bus station, and after a short walk, I was at Thalia’s Apartments. Thalia herself appeared to greet me and give me the lowdown on her place and the island. She’s very sweet and couldn’t believe I was in my late 30’s. I’m loving it.

In late afternoon, I made my way to the famous Santorini view across the water. Crossing the main street is an adventure, with cars and buses and scooters zipping both ways unpredictably. My walk continued past the souvenir shops and and up the hill and to the edge of the cliff overlooking the water. And then it opens up. The view is immense and breathtaking. No photos can prepare you for that. Cruise ships on the water below are the only thing that give a sense of scale, and they look like toys.

View of Caldera from Fira Read the rest of this entry »

The Last Day in Athens

August 14, 2016 - 5:08 am No Comments

We took a quick flight to Athens and then made our way to our hostel in the middle of the city. Mandy took us out for a walking tour around the city center.

Old Royal Palace Read the rest of this entry »

Corfu: Greece At Last

August 12, 2016 - 4:01 pm No Comments

The stomach bug or whatever that swept through the group has mostly passed, and we’re all starting to feel a bit better. I’ve never seen a stomach bug sweep trough a group so quickly.

The ferry to Corfu was nice and relaxing. The taxi that picked us up at ferry terminal was not, driving like bat out of hell through the narrow and twisty streets of Corfu with a remix of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” blasting on the radio.

Dusk on Garitsa Bay Read the rest of this entry »

Driving Through Albania

August 11, 2016 - 5:01 am 1 Comment

Done with Kotor, we headed southward to Albania and to its capital, Tirana (TEE-raw-nah). Sitting in a minivan for a few hours, conversations turned more crude as we all got to know each other a little better. Matthew taught us the terms “instavomit” and “invagination”, which we have used to humorous effect.

We stopped for lunch at a sketchy restaurant on a river just across the Albanian border. I was craving chicken, but the only chicken item on the menu was chicken penne. I took a chance, and it was completely awful. I half-joked that it was not chicken but one of the many stray cats that wandered around the restaurant as we ate.

On the Drin River Read the rest of this entry »