Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

nose rings

What to do on a rainy day in Riga, Latvia?! Get your nose pierced!

Get Ready....



This is where I tear up...

All Done!

Saturday, October 13, 2007


When we check into the Krakow hostel, we are greeted by Martain, the manager. He takes an immediate notice of Peter's last name. Peter's father was born in Breast which is now part of Belarus but has been controlled by Poland in the past. So their last name Maksimow, or Makismov as it was pronounced by all eastern europeans, got a lot of attention. Martain asked Peter if he knew of the author Vladmir Maksimov. Well Peter had in fact heard of that name, since it is his father's. The two began talking. Peter was excited to have a connection to his roots and Martain was excited that he had found someone so intrested in his love of history. Then next morning Peter got up before me and I went looking for him. I found Martain in the lobby. He asked if he could help me. I said I was looking for Peter. His responce "Oh, Peter Maksimov. Peter Maksimov is on the 4th floor having his breakfast" I felt like I was traveling with royality.

Friday, October 12, 2007


A day was spent walking around the old Jewish Ghetto. This is where the Jewish population of Krakow was forced to before and during WWII. The walls have been taken down, and it now has blended back into the city. You can see the outline of Schindler's factory behind the train bridge as you walk over the river. On our way back to the old town we stopped in the square that would have been the last spot of home many people saw before they were shipped off to a concentration camp. Here in the square there are now empty chairs that represent waiting. Buses pass, rain falls, pizza express has opened across the street, children run down the sidewalk, and the chairs sit waiting.

Ben the Funny Australian

Said goodbye to b!tch hat Daniel and the Golden Hostel. Ben, Peter and I check into the Krakow Hostel right in the town square and 10 zloty less. The three of us spend the day

bonding over some Pivo in the streets of Krakow.

Ben watching out for the local police

Hiding our drinks in Ben's jacket he got at the second hand store where you buy things according to weight. A Polish woman costs a lot.

Peter is considering trading in the Volvo for this ride.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

B!tch Hat Daniel

A long 15 hour bus ride later we are in Poland. The houses and building we pass though in the early night are missing paint and care. The people look a bit hard, you can tell we have traveled east. This is a different beauty.

We check into the Golden Hostel and meet our Nigerian roommate Daniel. He was laying in bed with all his clothing on under his covers. I think that the weather was not agreeing with him. We invited Daniel out to explore with us as he had not left his bed since he had arrived. As he suited up in his winter gear we realized that he had a black beanie hat with the word BITCH written in bright red on the front. We secretly wondered if he knew what his hat meant. We did not have the heart to tell him...
Out to see the main square. Peter was also dressed up in his winter gear, his tevas with socks, large Norwegian sweater over an argyle purchased at a flea market in Amsterdam, and jeans covered in patches and pins. His outfit was so unique that he was stopped and interviewed and photographed by a fashion website. This site will be up soon or so we are told. They had a hard time believing he was an American. I am not sure what American are supposed to look like, but I guess we are not it.

Back to the hostel, we meet Ben our other roommate Ben from Australia.

The four of us go out that night to a local brewpub, but not before Ben and Peter remind Daniel "Don't forget your bitch hat". We order the big glass...

The beer is good, the company is funny.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Change of Plan

2:32 walking to the Euroline office.
-Nora "so Peter the tickets to Prague are 58 euro, right?"
-Peter "yes the bus leaves tonight at 7:00"

2:34 outside of the Euroline office.
-Nora "look there is a sign that says we can go to Krakow for only 56 euro"
-Peter "What a deal! We get more kilometers for our Euro!"

2:36 inside the Euroline ticket office.
-Peter "Two tickets to Krakow please!"

It is amazing how things can change in 4 min...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Beware of the Book Fair

Frankfurt is home to the largest book fair in the world. We were made aware of this when we woke up and the hostel breakfast was the most amazing spread we have seen in a long time. The Frankfurt Hostel was full up with book fair people as we began to call them, we were told that there were a few more beds available, but the price was twice as much. This did not settle well with us, so we went off to find other accommodation. Well we actually went out to recycle and figure out a plan. We found another hostel where we could stay on a mattress on the floor in a converted conference room for 13.50 euro a night. Sign us up!
The day was spent writing and napping next to the river. The plan for Prague is hatched over a traditional bratwurst and frites lunch at a farmers market. Over the German meat we decided to take the Eruolines bus to Prague then next day since tickets were only 58 euro. Back to the hostel to get our things...or so we think.
We end up talking and making fast friends with a Kiwi, Kiran. One thing leads to another and soon we are having a party in the lobby. We are joined by an San Fransisco girl Tiffany who was celebrating her last night in Europe. We met many friendly folks that night. We had fun guessing which guests checking in were "book fair people". There is a stark difference between the normal backpacker strapped down with all their worldly belongings on their over worked back, usually wearing some hardy shoes and some sort of wool product. Verses the "book fair person" wheelie bag, tweed, cap, get the picture. I think that our rowdy group managed to scare a few of the worms though.
We left the Frankfurt Hostel went across the river to our beds on the floor, and dreamt of Prague.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Am Main

Frankfurt an Main:

We arrived in Frankfurt an Main, with the intention of quickly departing for Prague. We soon found that we could not afford a the train tickets. In fact we could not afford ANY train ticket ANYWHERE in Germany, ANYWHERE near Germany or ANYWHERE with a German sounding name. So we went to the one place that near the train station we could afford; The Frankfurt Hostel. Off to explore!

Per usual we were embarking on a new city that we knew nothing about. We came upon the world headquarters of the Euro, We were a bit sad they were not handing out free Euro souvenirs outside. Walking from there we entered the Römer square, built in 1405. We began to be thankful that we could not afford the train, there was so much to see in Frankfurt. We crossed over the Main River along one of the many bridges. The sun was shining. Into an old medieval section of town that has been converted into bars...we are in Germany remember. These amazing buildings have been preserved and are now serving good times to a whole new generation. They just made smoking illegal inside, this bar has a creative solution to how to make it's ashtray money back. We enjoyed the day, the sun, the river, the tallest building in the European union, some good beer, recycling and getting the deposit back! (Germany reuses its beer bottles). We walked for hours. There is such a contrast in this city, you can walk down one street and see some ladies practicing the worlds oldest profession. Two streets down you will find some beggars and drunks, next to that is the Gucci store and a shopping street that looks like 5th ave. You can tell there is money and modern commerce happening a stones throw away from 500 year old buildings.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The land of milch and honning

Christer was kind enough to save us the 5k, $16 bus ride into town and took us in his mothers car. We were surprised again by Tejere, Alec and Christer's kindness as they gave us a parting gift filled with memories of our time with them.

We flew from Oslo Torp (120 k outside of Oslo) to Frankfurt Hahn (110 k east of Frankfurt). I believe that it should be called Luxembourg Hahn because that is how far east it is. Our flight arrived at midnight and we were without a bed to sleep in. Thank god for the free market system for there was a HUGE sign for the Advance Hotel. 45 euro a night for two, free Internet, use of sauna, free airport pickup AND a toll free phone number. A toll free phone number is unheard of here in Europe. We call and 15 min later Andreas comes with the black Advance Hotel mini van. We are driven though the night to a small town called Büchenbeuren, 3.1 km from the airport. We went to sleep happy in this quiet town in our beds on Hauptstrasse 35. The next morning we opened the shades and were treated to an amazing view of the German countryside. Green rolling hills, apple orchards and farmers working in their fields. This quickly helped us decide to stay in Buchenbeuren for a few more days.

Peter was particularly excited when we found out that the only store in town was the supermarket this would give us a constant supply of German brew, though not on Sundays since the country seems to shut down on the lord's day. This made our stay complete, we now have all we need, though the hotel workers could not understand why we wanted to stay and kept trying to get us to take the bus to Frankfurt. They were not aware of Peter's quest to taste some of the best beer that Germany has to offer. The small market did not disappoint and not only did all the beer adhere to the Reinheitsgebot law, or German Beer Purity law (originally enacted in 1516), which permits only four ingredients in the beverage: water, hops, barley, and yeast, it was also super cheap! Let the tasting commence.

We did not drink all day as the previous paragraph may allude to. We walked through the countryside, found some blackberries for desert. Watched a wedding procession, saw the farmers hard at work and enjoyed some good German cookies. Perfection.

We spent most of the day enjoying the sun and the view seated on the edge of this field. We fell in love with Buchenburen and all it had to offer. You often don't need modern buildings, tourist attractions and souvenir shops to be magical. Peter went for a run that night. When he came home he announced that he was inspired by this place. He felt like he could run forever, something that his body has not allowed him to do in sometime. We celebrated with a good meal, desert of blackberries with cream, and a sauna.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Revenge of the Bulega

Sickness the next day...REVENGE OF THE BELUGA!!!!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

What's for dinner?

As most of you know I don't eat red meat. When this is first explained to someone I will get the inevitable response "Well do you eat pork since it is the other white meat?". Annoying. So I have been editing my response to my dietary choice as "I don't eat mammals" or "I eat things with three legs or less" since chickens, turkeys have 2 legs and fish and tofu come in at 0 legs(though I have not yet made a ruling on 3 legged cats and such).
In Norway, at the Rimi 1000, I was faced with a conundrum; Whale. Or as it will now be referred to, Beluga. We were assured by our Norwegian friends that this beluga in the freezer section was not the happy beluga we donated our pennies to in school during "save the whale" campaigns. So the dilemma I faced was not one related to Greenpeace, I simply did not know if I ate whale! It is a mammal, but it falls into the no legged sea creature category...Well when in Norway...
Tejre, Peter, Christer, Alec

We had a feast our last night in town. We were joined by Christer, another fine Norseman who only solidifed our love for the people here. He is a kind and curious soul who loved to share stories and ideas with us. One of the main courses was the aforementioned Beluga. I can say that it does not taste like chicken or warm apple pie. It was more like a very tough red meat with a fishy aftertaste. I would not want it everyday, but I am glad that we tried it at least.
We also tasted some fine Laphoriag Scotch which had a peaty smoky taste. An excellent choice for those of you interested. The digestion was aided by a fine Cuban cigar,

Turkish pebber shots,

and lots of laughter that lasted long into the cold night.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


All together we spent 5 days in Oslo with Terje and Alec. The condo was up against a large forest with many kilometers of muddy trails with lots of prickers, but not poison ivy as was my first reaction to the rednss.
The woods were also home to ancient Norse Viking burial mounds. I, myself, am a Packers fan, but found them awing none the less. We ran often in the woods along the trails used by those ancient men. The locals thought us to be a bit crazy with scraped up legs, muddy shorts and smiling red faces. burrial ground
One of the beautiful things about couch surfing is that you get to see how life really is in a country. The small everyday things that you miss while meeting Australians and Canadians in hostel common rooms. The one touristy thing we did was to visit the sculpture park. We went with our host Terje as he decided to skip classes once again and spend the day with us. Tejre and Nora skipping class
The sculpture park was commissioned by the city of Oslo in hopes the perfect park would be created. The artist, Gustav Vigeland, was told that his budget was endless, and he could have as much time as he wished. He took 40 years of his life to create the plans for this park. Each bridge, tree planted, sculpture, and fountain was of his design. He never got to see his work come to fruition in that he died before it all came off his paper and into reality. Walking though the trees and fields is like being in a museum. It was as intricate as a puzzle and I wondered if there were secrete messages hidden in the carvings and sculptures. Sitting in the sun by the fountain does make you think of the message the artist was trying to convey, the journey of life. Fountain by Gustav Vigeland
We did in fact also go into a museum but that was only so that Peter could use the bathroom. That was our time being a tourist in Oslo.
Terje is a creative soul who is constantly looking for a new opportunity to create something. To do this he is need of a constant supply of art supplies. He finds most of them at the Salvation Army. He mentioned our first day there that he may be taking a trip to this store at some point. I am guessing that at the delight that lit up in our eyes at this prospect, Terje felt that he had come across two kindred spirits. It seems that since people in Norway are so well off they donate extremely nice things to the poor, like us!. We went to two stores all together. We purchased two hand made Scandinavian sweaters for 15 usd each. We had almost bought one in town the day before that was more than twice as much and less than twice the quality. All together we found some amazing, non touristy items, glassware, pewter, plates, and warm clothing that will last us into the future. We vowed that after this we would be on the look out for other second hand stores in future countries.
Some of the other non touristy things we experienced in Oslo via Tejre and Alec:
-Going to the recycling center. Norway is years ahead of the US, well most of the world is, in this respect. We were happy to be around so many green minded folks.
-Going to the supermarket Rimi 1000 and trying to find the cheapest things. Surprisingly this was not eggs as they were $5.00 for a dozen. But cabbage and orange juice were not too bad.
-Being a secrete shopper with Tejre. He gets paid to shop at gas stations and rate their service and sandwich making abilities. He used to work for McDonald's but he gave too many good ratings and he got taken off that account.
-Learning all about life in the Norwegian army. They have compulsory military service. Alec used to be a royal palace guard. We quickly learned this is not glamours, it is quite boring.
-Going on a beer run that turned into a mission of stealing apples from peoples yards. A game that Tejre had not played since he was a young lad.
-Trying to learn Norwegian by watching American television with Norwegian subtitles. Many young people in Norway have an amazing grasp of the English language, this may be a reason why. It is sad that we pump all our trashy television to the world.
-Sharing books and our love of them. I was able to read two books while curled up on the Ikea monsters.
-Going to Max Bo, a home depotesque store, to eat free pancakes with jam, blue raspberry slushies, and take free samples of wall paper.

Museums are great. to pee in.