Can’t get ‘Nuff of Norway

IMG_3366From my Friday morning class, to the airport, to Bergen, Norway.  Last weekend consisted of a short but action packed trip across the continent.  Once we got to Bergen, we picked up our tickets for our tour the next day called “Norway in a Nutshell,” and then checked into our hostel, the YMCA hostel, where we shared a room with two others from Montreal.  After getting settled, we went off to explore the city in the beautiful sunshine.  One of the first things we saw was a platform with tons of shopping carts filled with free books.  I was tempted to stop and look around, but settled for just taking a picture, as Jordan pointed out, it was most likely a community event.

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The streets around our hostel were filled with interesting things to look at.  We wandered down a small street with an adorable vintage dress shop and a neat bar.  Then we went to the harbor; Bergen is a port town with lots of water – make it more hilly and it could have been akin to Wellington, New Zealand, one of my favorite places on earth.

IMG_3232There were entire alleyways built out of wood with shops and offices lining the lower and upper stories.

IMG_3245We saw the city’s castle and walked along the water stopping at a few tourist shops along the way.

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IMG_3241Soon, after we happened to stumble upon the Fløibanen Funicular, a railcar that takes you up the Fløien Mountain to see a great view of the city.  We jumped at the chance, excited to have run into something we weren’t sure if we would have time to do.  While we were waiting for the train’s next departure, we walked down the street that was right next to the station and saw what looked to be the nicest cafe I’ve ever seen.  It was functionally decorated with stacks of books everywhere and bookshelves lining the walls.  There was a typewriter near the counter where you place your order and the kitchen behind the counter looked homey.

At the top of Fløien Mountain, there is a shop, a restaurant, hiking trails, and most importantly a stellar view.  We marveled at the city from above just as the sun was going down; there was the city below us with the winding river flowing through it.  We could see the mountains surrounding the town, giving it the name “the city among the seven mountains.”

IMG_3255The sun disappeared behind the furthest mountain, and in the last reverberating minutes of daylight, we hiked around the trails at the top of the mountain.  There were statues of trolls everywhere, and once we strayed further from the main section of the complex, it seemed like a place where trolls might actually live.  Huge roots came up out through the many layers of moss  that seemed infinitely squishy under our feet.

After we headed back down the mountain, we got some dinner in a restaurant right on the harbor called Zupperia.  Their speciality is soups.  Jordan got a three soup sampler with one soup standing out: reindeer goulash.  I got the Norwegian baked salmon in spicy cream cheese with vegetables.  It was delicious!  The menu said it was a traditional way of baking the salmon.

IMG_3259After dinner we walked around town a bit and saw some of the nightlife happening around us as we digested.  We decided not to go into any bars, baring the fact that a beer was about 10 USD, when in Prague, we can get a beer for 1 USD.

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We woke up early the next day, I to a wonderful view of a hill full of houses from my upper bunk skylight.  Our Norway in a Nutshell tour started with a train ride, and then a bus ride.  We were already starting to see some fjords even before we got on the amazing fjord cruise boat ride.  Jordan and I stood outside for most of the ride even though it was freezing.  We saw beautiful fjords all around us, small towns of 100 or 400 built into the sides of mountains, and saw the newly frozen ice breaking under our boat and skidding all across the icy surface of the water.  Although it was cold, it really was a marvelous, wonderful splendor.

We got off in a town where we had three hours.  We walked around seeing the sights, being surrounded by either fjords or water on all sides.  We checked out the souvenir shop, and then made our way to the outer limits of the town, sat on a bench and ate lunch.  We heard a rumbling noise and looked up onto one of the fjords, amazed to see that we were witnessing an avalanche.  After walking through the whole town, playing on swings, and exploring, we went to a cafe and had a wheat beer that was brewed right in that town.  I wrote a couple of postcards and then we left and got on the Flåm Railway, a scenic and historic railway route.  Everything was snow-covered and we stopped at a completely frozen waterfall.

IMG_3385The last leg of our journey was on the Bergen Railway taking us to Oslo where we would quickly sleep for the night before catching our plane the next morning.  It was a comfortable train, and although our view started to change from fjords, we still got an amazing view of snowy plateaus lit by the setting sun and summer houses snowed in by deep piles.  We arrived in Oslo late at night and checked into our hostel after getting a quick bite to eat, being starving.  We slept for four hours and then had to get up to catch our flight back.

There is no question about it that we didn’t have enough time in Norway, but I’m so glad we went.  It was an amazing place.

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Český Krumlov

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A couple of weekends ago, we visited Český Krumlov, a city in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic.  The city is home to the famous castle, the old town is a UNESCO heritage site, and it is popular for many water sports in the summer as it is located directly on a river.

The sun was shining when we arrived in Český Krumlov.  We checked into Pension Tiffany which was situated on a small windy street.

IMG_3133After checking in to our tiny room at the very top of the pension, we set off to explore the city.  We saw many old buildings and pretty sights in the city center on our way to see the castle.

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IMG_3142The river really permeates the city in a way that we both felt in summer it would seem like the Czech Republic’s equivalent to a beach town.

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Once we were in the castle, we decided to trek up to the top of the tower and see the beautiful panoramic view of the city.

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After exploring the castle a bit more, we decided to check out the rest of the town before dinner.

IMG_3197Near the water, Český Krumlov is very touristy with souvenir shops lining the streets, art galleries, and cafes in plenty.  But once you walk away from the river, the city gets grainier and far more interesting.  I loved to marvel at what people’s lives would be like living on the outskirts of the city center.

For dinner we went to Tavern Satlava where they cooked over an open flame that was right next to our table.  The restaurant looked like a cave inside, and we ate like serious carnivores.  It made me feel like maybe we were cavemen, or at least vikings and the food was delicious.

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Night life is not very big in Český Krumlov, so after dinner we found a cafe open late and had some dessert and a drink.  It was one of the only establishments open past 8pm in the winter time.

The next day, we woke up early and hiked Klet mountain, elevation 1084 meters.  Although we weren’t exactly prepared for a hike, we’d had so little time to spend in nature since we moved to Prague that we decided this was the perfect opportunity!  The trail was a bit icy in spots, and our shoes had much to be desired, but we made it to the top, to a wonderful surprise.  A restaurant and observation tour.  The top of the mountain reminded me of a lodge at a ski slope.

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It was a clear day, and from the top of the mountain, we could see the Alps!  It was beautiful.  After spending a bit of time enjoying the views at the top, we hiked back down along the bike path (less snowy, better grip for our shoes), and headed back to Prague.  It was a short but sweet weekend away.

An Average Day in a Not so Average City

Hello and happy Sunday! It is rainy and grey here, but that didn’t stop me from exploring the city on a morning run today and finding Letna park where there was a great view of the city and green-ish grass! Grass is such a novelty around these parts.

image2The park also has a cool-looking restaurant inside.

image3Letna park is about 2km from my apartment and the entire park is huge!  I can’t wait to go back there and explore more of it.

Yesterday I checked out the local library that is literally a 3 minute walk from our apartment.  Inside I found a magical tower of books.

image1I took a little while to explore the library, and it has an English section!  Albeit, I haven’t heard of most of the books that this section contains, it still has more books than one person could probably read in 25 years (200 of them?).  So I got all of the paperwork that I need to get a library card, and I will be back there soon to sign up!  To get a library card you either need to pay a deposit of 1,000 czk or you need to have proof that you live here from the foreign police.

This week has been a pretty “ordinary” week – as ordinary as one’s week could be while living in a foreign city.  We didn’t take any trips, but we’re hoping to next weekend.  Either way, on Friday night we went to a bar right near our house that looked like an adult version of a treehouse.  There was writing all over the walls, a guitarist playing on stage who was simply a brave bar patron, and a giant dog mingling with the drinkers.

Even when a week or day here isn’t overtly exciting, there is always something to see, something to experience, and something to be thankful for as a Prague Expat!