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02 July 2005

berzerker and god of thunder

travel day to oslo, norway, through sweden, my bus was leaving at 1:15pm. checkout at the sleep-in heaven was 10am, on the earlier side of hostel checkout times. not much time to sleep in and the room wasn't very heavenly. blick, the three tiers of doom. packed up and left the room; chilled in the lounge reading an english language danish newspaper until about 11:30am. american president bush would be visiting denmark in a few days; security precautions were being taken. walk with the pack down to the bus station. the bus was waiting, a nice big 'oslo' sign in the window. kick. thirty minutes early. should probably ask the driver if this is definitely the right bus. i resolved to mill about for five minutes before asking the driver. milling time is important.

milling. a guy with long blonde heathen hair i'd put at 16 or 17 walked up to me and asked me something in [i assume] danish.

me: do you speak english?

heathen: [facial expression like he had to make some internal adjustments in order to switch over to english] are you waiting for the bus to oslo?

me: yes. is this the right bus?

heathen: no. i showed him my ticket and he said the ticket isn't for his bus.

showed me his ticket... exactly the same ticket as mine. joy. okay, where was our bus? [i never got the heathen's name, so i'll call him 'berzerker'. berzerker had just come from the roskilde music festival with his friend whose name i also never learned. his friend, who also had long heathen hair, didn't say much and was armed with a bright orange backpack and an acoustic guitar with a 'be a dick' sticker on it. very typical when i meet two guys: one does the majority of the talking; the other is silent, only speaking in his native language to the other. i'll call berzerker's friend 'god of thunder'. both were from norway, about 90km south of oslo.]. berzerker said god of thunder had asked the driver about our bus and that it was supposed to arrive soon. said he saw sabbath at the roskilde festival. i asked him how ozzy did... 'sick'. i asked him about the metal situation in norway... must be an evil death metal scene? berzerker said the metal scene in norway sucked and that most good shows happened in sweden. kick. i decided that berzerker and god of thunder both rocked harder than hard.

our bus finally arrived. got on and then waited for a late bus with connections from paris to arrive, about thirty minutes after our scheduled departure time. blah. depart. bus driver spoke mostly in english. very funny guy. very dry sense of humor, he spoke slowly, monotone.

one hour to malmo, sweden. swedish customs officer boards and conducts a person to person interrogation. 'i'm american. i'm going to oslo.' end of interrogation.

i lost the 'must.stay.awake.to.avoid.missing.any.scenery' attitude during this trip. i inflated my travel pillow and soon got comfortable. i had no norwegian doom metal loaded on my treo, so drifted in and out while listening to metal [damn those are some fine jeans]. the swedish countryside wasn't very different from pennsylvania.

stop at a swedish rest area. i asked berzerker what currency they would accept. god of thunder said they would take danish money. i only had a few danish kroner remaining. bought a coke, a kingsize twix, and an orange using my credit card.

berzerker and god of thunder got off the bus at the stop before oslo. stradsborg. berzerker extended his hand. stay evil, ye lords of norwegian black metal. |m|/

arrival in oslo one hour and fifteen minutes late. bus driver: 'and of course we're an hour and fifteen minutes late. sorry. but what can i do? nothing.'

i should have peed on the bus, but who wants to use one of those bus bathrooms? in the bus station... bathroom, bathroom... ah, there it is. GRR. 10 norwegian kroner to use the facilities. i needed to get money out of the atm regardless. hmm, the atm didn't dispense any 10 kroner coins, how unusual. okay, i didn't have to go that badly. i walked out of the bus station and began scanning for public transportation. i knew i had to take tram 17, but i didn't know where the closest tram stop was, the cost of a ticket, if a could pay with a 200 kroner note or if i had to have exact change... okay, yes i did have to go that badly. i needed a 10 kroner coin, pronto. back into the bus station... no open stores. across the street in the train station i found a convenience store and bought a coke. there it was, like one of wonka's golden tickets... the 10 kroner coin. rush back across the street... insert coin... open door... some guy pushed in behind me before the door closed, freeloading on my 10 kroner coin. damn you. i didn't care. more important matters to attend to.

okay... transportation. back over to the train station where there seemed to be more action. ah, tourist information booth. got the transportation information as well as a use it oslo guide [if you remember from a previous entry, i found use it's copenhagen guide extremely helpful]. located the tram stop. a very nice couple [i'd put the accent on scottish] helped me navigate the ticket dispenser [no english labels; only norwegian] as well as find the correct tram [the first tram i boarded was going in the wrong direction]. thank you nice people. tram -> correct stop. a sign pointed the way to the hostel, seemingly into nowhere. without my gps i would have wandered for much longer than i did. i'll refrain from going on and on [again] about how much time my gps has saved me. got into the hostel at midnight; they didn't have my reservation but had an open bed. two were already asleep in the room. i unpacked quietly, went back to the lounge and read the use it guide... finally to sleep.

posted by paul at Sat 02 Jul 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (3)

01 July 2005

in my mind's wasteland

my second day in copenhagen. a few steps out the hostel door, the zaps in my toes told me that they'd like some attention. i briefly considered ignoring their requests before turning around and heading back inside. hmm, interesting blister pattern. nothing serious, nothing that would stop me, nothing could. nothing. blister kit, equipped and unstoppable. never used one of these before: tape, moisture pads, friction absorbers. tape tape, boots on, zaps gone. _out_

i needed to formalize some plans. my first night at the hostel had impressed me to head north, away from it. just away. that feeling had faded somewhat, but quickly remembered, the intensity then, and i thought better than to question it. north, to oslo then. i located the internet cafe [no wifi or laptop access, blah] and tried to book a bus to oslo for the next day, but the site indicated that online tickets could only be purchased three days in advance. i'd need to go to the bus station to purchase the ticket in person. transportation and accomodation arrangements must fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. usually best to investigate prices and availability for both before committing. sometimes the pieces don't always fit together perfectly. i committed internally to the trip north. three nights, two days in oslo. booked a train to bergen on the west coast. hostels fell into place nicely. three nights in bergen. north, where now the sun never sets. i investigated prices for the hurtigruten, a fleet of boats which travel the coast of norway from bergen to the far north. prices seemed prohibitive, but i resolved to investigate transportation options further while in bergen. internet plans in place. over to the bus station to buy my ticket, hopefully there was still room. done. pretty girl. 298 kroners.

slight digression on the money. i know one euro is a little more than a dollar. but kroner? the exchange rate is something like seven kroner per dollar. this makes it a bit more difficult to make the calculations back to dollar. money here in denmark has become more about a meaningless number. 298 kroners? okay, sure, what does that mean? this way of thinking is good but mostly bad.

i wanted to fit in another walking tour to the christianhavn area and also take a canal ride. first, the walk, but on the way to the start point, i passed a boat soon departing on an hour long tour of the canals. thirty kroners. the sign indicated there were tours in danish, english, german, and french. wondered if this boat was the english version... maybe a different language every hour? 'is this tour in english?' 'yes.' interesting the way tone can give additional meaning to a word. i inferred 'yes, now give me your thirty kroner and take a seat you one in a million touristas i see every day. i'm bored of this job and have better things to do.' the travel planning had eaten up a good portion of the day, into the afternoon. there were several other canal tour companies, but the timing was right here and the sand was running, so i decided to take the tour. the boat departed and the yes man [joy, he was the tour guide] began speaking in danish. [in my mind's wasteland the wind picked up and i raised a fist in the air defiantly and screamed 'nooo!', formulating plans to throw the man overboard and take back my thiry kroners.] then the man repeated himself in english. and then in french. no germans on board. perfect. of course each version is going to be slightly different; i wondered what i'd be missing. the boat moved smoothly through the water, barely fitting beneath the arches of the bridges, the best part. i'd seen most of the sites from land. my first impression of the guide held true; several times he forgot the english translation as if he couldn't be bothered. the hour went by quickly, but i was only slightly more informed at the end of it all.

continuing to christianhavn, i saw this guy retrorocking the dual cassette deck boom box on his bike. the spiraling tower. onward to christiana, copenhagen's free area independant state (as declared by a bunch of random freethinkers [hippies] in 1971). i got a slice of pizza and ate in a christiana square [?]. one building had large circle/slash 'no cameras' signs. if i lived in this area, i'd paint the same signs on my house, damned touristas. i concealed my guidebook and tried to remember the walking tour route. a nice path, but soon there was no one else around and i became slightly nervous. empty city streets and residential areas aren't usually the best idea, so my instinct tells me. walk a bit faster, past houses and horses and piles of things. at the end of the path i break out onto a less than main street but more main than the path and i see people. turn around to look at the path. hmm. probably shouldn't have been there alone. back to the main part of town. walk past a police van where approximately eight officers are returning. in 2004, the police engaged christiana in a major drug raid. operations apparently continue.

back to the hostel for some more writing. i met francisco originally from puerto rico, a teacher in madison, wisconsin, currently living and studying in rome. thirty-two. we talked about european perceptions of americans. he'll be in rome until 10 august and invited me to stay with him. thank you francisco! not sure if i'll make it down there before you leave.

nick would be leaving for a long bike trip to sweden early the next morning. i got his email address before i fell asleep on the top of the three tiers.

posted by paul at Fri 01 Jul 2005 at 00:00:01 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

30 June 2005

waiting for the all powerful

when i checked into my hostel yesterday, the staff person, olivia, gave me a free guide called 'playtime, a non-commerical guide for tourists on a low budget in copenhagen' put out by an organization called use it. great guide; exactly what a traveling me needs. it outlines several different walking tours and transportation options and includes tons of other useful information. that's two thousand pounds of useful information. think about it. heavy, isn't it? i'm going to write use it and tell them how much i appreciated their guide.

today i followed one of the walking tours outlined in this guide. covered a lot of danish ground. i'll let the pictures tell the story, but in summary, i saw some danish people, danish buildings, danish fish, danish birds, and danish insects. many times when a fly lands on me i think to myself, 'that's not an american fly, that's a [in this case] danish fly. i wonder if he has an accent.' ha. then i try to imagine the fly speaking danish. for some reason this always makes me laugh inside, sometimes outside, and the fly becomes no longer a pesky little insect, but a danish gentleman or lady dropping in to say hello, in his or her native tongue of course. hello danish fly, thank you for stopping by.

the guide indicated the inner city tour would take approximately three hours, but i believe i spent close to double that, stopping here and there for pictures or to walk the entire way around a building or to take a nap next to the black diamond. i can't remember the last raining day; the weather has been that great. today the sun was out and i was sleepy near the end of my tour. i saw several people reading and laying out by the water, and my 'sit down and rest for a few minutes' turned into a 'lie down and sleep for an hour'. i did consider the fact that the sun was shining brightly and i wasn't wearing any sun protection, but only briefly, dismissing the burn potential. my skin is probably the darkest it's ever been; my almost three months of walking outside must have conditioned my skin beyond burn level. what a great nap. i woke up and continued the tour and was soon back near the beginning. here i sat for about a half an hour and watched some americans sing american music in front of the 7-11.

random points:

. the copenhagen street lights aren't situated on posts, they are hung from a complex network of cables. seems like maintenance of this system would be more onerous, but it is very interesting.

. copenhagen is the most bike friendly city i've visited to date. i've heard that the bike reigns supreme in amsterdam, but copenhagen must be close behind. there are bike lanes in the streets and there are special traffic signals just for the bikers. this brings me to my next point.

. 99% of the people i observed, including those driving a motor vehicle as well as bikers and pedestrians, obeyed the traffic signals. i think i only saw one person j-walk today and when a biker crossed the street against the light, two separate car drivers honked their horns repeatedly with accompanying grimacing facial expression even though the biker wasn't affecting their course. i waited with others to cross the street until little red person in the pedestrian signal changed to a little green person... even though there was absolutely no traffic in site. everyone just stood there waiting for the all powerful signal to change.

. the guidebook indicated that the little mermaid is the most photographed woman in copenhagen.

. during the tour, i stopped in at a 7-11 to grab a drink and a twix, and while i stood outside eating it, i saw this sticker. the words at the top read 'while you were sleeping'. image of gary coleman. the word at the bottom: 'innocent'. bizarre, eh?

. i had had my chuck taylors on yesterday as they're ideal airport footwear. didn't feel like digging out my new hiking boots today. at the end of the day today, i had blisters on both of my feet. i haven't really taken a close look yet, but i know they're there. i'd guess very small; the pain isn't too bad. i think i hadn't tied the laces tightly enough and my feet were able to move around a bit in the shoes as i walked. first blisters of the trip. i've been pretty concious about taking care of my feet. without them i wouldn't get very far. i'll have to see what the damage is in the morning.

back in the hostel room i met nick. went out in the lounge to write a bit. nick came out and i invited him to sit down. very cool guy. canadian from montreal, living in seattle enrolled in a phd program for astronomy, biking down to slovenia with his friend currently living in lund, sweden. even though we talked about where we'd been and where we were going, i didn't get that traveler competition vibe from him. at all. talked about biking and i asked him about tycho brahe. determined that nick is the type of person with whom i could go on a month long bike tour.

while brushing my teeth i noticed the very stylish 'i fell asleep in the sun with my sunglasses on' bandito mask. apparently i'm not beyond burn level. went to sleep on the tower. two girls sleeping on the lower tower tiers; i put their accent on australian or new zealand. they seem to stick to themselves, i wouldn't use the term 'unfriendly'. not open. slightly uncharacteristic of the accent.

posted by paul at Thu 30 Jun 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)