It has been awhile since I have written an email update so welcome to the shift to my blog page. Below is a highlevel summary of the last few months. I may do some posts on specific countries or I may focus on travel tips, we shall see. As all of a sudden I have become quite a seasoned world traveller and it is nice that friend and family find my tips helpful as they fly to join me on an adventure.
Where am I right at this moment: in a seaside village south of Oslo, Norway I am overlooking a beautiful fjord enjoying the colours of summer after a crisp winter visit here. The view defiantly helps with the exam study! Here is a picture of the winter view.
Where have I been on this trip: have a look at the maps below! The top of Norway wouldn’t easily make the map so it is on a seperate map.
How did I get here: by plane!! The Europe journey commenced when I landed in Copenhagen, Denmark on 1st December 2018 after 6 weeks at home in Australia. Flying into Denmark marked the 25th country I have visited and it just happened to be the nearest airport to where I was going in Sweden. Im very fortunate that I was able to get an extended Swedish visitor visa
When I arrived in Sweden and I was like a little kid at Christmas waiting for the snow to appear. Driving around in the darkness (sunset 3:30pm) meant that I could continually stare at the countryside, picture undulating green hills, oversized red barns and houses with yards covered in white twinkle lights. It was so pretty, nearly every house has some form of lights in each window. Sorry I did not manage to capture too many photos although there was lots of snap chats sent! But if you ask my Swedish family I wouldn’t stop commenting on it for months during my stay!
I managed to get a white Christmas in Norway! That is Christmas being celebrated on 24th December. But aside from joys of winter in Scandinavia December was a little black, not just the reduced sunlight. I was rather impacted by grief losing a grandparent who was like a father to me, 1 week after arriving. I was just glad I was around extended family overseas for December. And grateful that technology makes it easy to stay in contact with all at home. Because I have taken a career break I was able to spend the first 8 weeks at home with both grandfathers. Let’s be honest I had a blast with them farming, fishing and cooking for them (and myself!) and it’s time I will get to treasure for the rest of my life. But back to this adventure
I do need to confess this is my sixth trip to Europe so I have made it a big focus on this trip to visit new places (sorry to my other lovely friends here in Europe!). I have been highly successful with the ‘new’ places this but a couple of old favorites, Norway and Jersey, did sneak in! I also returned to the Netherlands again but I was there to see the AMAZING tulips as I had previously been there in summer and missed them each visit.
Some quick stats
Countries I’ve now visited in my lifetime: 36, yes more than my age! And 14% of the world according to the app visited (remember to add-on your home country and any countries that are grouped ie Scotland, England).
Countries I’ve visited since August, 2017: 22 (11 new ones)
Style of accommodation: couchsurfing, hostel dorms, Airbnb, Hyatt hotels and beautiful friends homes in the countryside of Sweden, Norway and Scotland.
Travel method: cheap airlines, occasionally nice airlines, train, hire cars, cruise ships and buses. My favourite method would be high-speed trains but often its cheaper to fly. I do not enjoy bus travel but sometimes its the only way. I will do a post on how I plan trips along with the app’s I survive on (under the menu heading travel tips!). I still get blown away with jumping on a plane and sometimes less than an hour being in another country especially for a cost of AU$15 (Poland, Eastern Europe).
MBA subjected completed- 1.5 with hopefully only two to go in Semester 2 2019 and it is finished.
Weird thing I notice about not working: my phone basically does not ring except an occasional call though whats app or messenger. The night time calls from Australia are solved by having do not disturb on at night 🙂
Where would I (unexpectedly) go again: Spain (to explore the north) and Turkey.
Where I would be happy to live: Izmir, Turkey
Where I am unlikely to go back to: Jordan, Portugal, Kosovo, Macedonia. Lovely people in each of the countries but I do not have a desire to return there unlike other countries where I repeatedly visit and want to explore more of (Germany, Italy, Norway, Jersey, Scotland, Sweden, England to name a few). I would also recommend you visit Sintra in Portugal for two attractions photoed below, the Palace of Pena and the grounds of Quinta de Regaleira which is described as a playground for adults. And Ill reminded you Porto is home of Port and we had some fabulous port there!
Prettiest city: would have to be Budapest, the combination of fresh snow and viewpoints like Fisherman’s Bastion below made it a stunning city in winter.
Cool things I’ve done… well the list is endless but here is a few (excluding food moments, that’s another post)
Quick ones – many “firsts” including; ice skating, an ice hockey match, a white Christmas, driven a mini cooper on unsalted* country roads in winter on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, swam in the dead sea, touched the red sea, visited a second new wonder of the world- Petra, been on a ship in the middle of a severe snow storm above the arctic circle, driven in an gale on the Island of Skye, ridden Scottish Highland ponies in the Highlands… *snow and ice covered main roads are sprayed with saltwater to reduce the danger of sliding, smaller country ones are not spray so often or at all.
- Flew to the Netherlands to see the tulips, a bucket list item and although I’ve been to Europe a number of times this is the first time visiting outside of summer. It was awesome to visit Keukenhof Gardens with a Dutch/Australian friend who was over visiting her parents. It’s now the second time I’ve caught up with her in Holland, not just Sydney! But back to the tulips, even after 6 hours there we were still gushing over new and different varieties. There is no editing to the iphone pictures above.
- Booking tickets to a Twenty One pilots music concert 4 hours before the show. It was the last show of their Europe tour and was the best decision! Literally came about as a dorm mate mentioned thats what she was doing for that night, so I joined her!
- 2019 started off with an attempt to see the northern lights in Norway, there had been epic light activity We went headed off by train to Bodø (18hours), then hopped on the Hurtigruten costal ferry for 24hours (awesome) up to Tromso then flew home. [inset amazing northern light photo]. Reality of what we got to see: an epic snow storm and almost 24hrs of darkness a day. However on the ferry in the twilight it was spectacular to see the Luft
- Hiked up an active volcano, Mt Etna, Sicily. While amazing to see a volcano so close, the ash falling on me in the afternoon was not so desirable. Crazy part (other than the active volcano part) was that I skipped the expensive chair lift and walked up. The fear of heights was not a problem, possibly because the fear is worse going down not up and I walked down via the spirally road. Later I read how exceptionally difficult fitness wise the climb was is considered, glad I read it after and not before [insert eye roll]. Overall I walked 17km for the day and yes it was a very tough walk up. I took a break part way up and called friends and family at home which was a great idea. I viewed it as good experience and practice for South America, I not sure how much I enjoy my ears ringing though.
- Jumping off the train at Cordoba, Spain mid-way through my journey from Madrid to Seville to see the 856 red and white striped columns at the Mezquita was pretty cool. I liked the concept of it passing though 3 religions in the last 1000 years, although I’m saddened that the Catholic Church will not yet allow Muslims back in to pray. I was lucky enough my travel companion in Spain took my suitcase and checked us into the accomodation while I did this adventure. We had literally discussed that the cost of day trip from Seville was outside my ‘entertainment’ budget and then saw the stop on our trip to Seville. The best part about arriving into Seville was meeting her at the most AMAZING tapes bar next to the Cathedral.
- A trip to the Polish cities of Wroclaw and Warsaw as it was AU$40 to fly back to Sweden via these cities. I loved the polish dumplings and cheap beer. I also couchsurfed for most of the trip which was a great way to meet people and discover what is really occurring in a country ie candles may look romantic but in reality highlight a peaceful protest touching a lot of Pols.
- Ended up in Serbia after not enjoying Macedonia that much. And loved the vibe and people of Serbia. And unexpectedly found Serbia to be in the top 2 safest countries I have ever been in, the other is Norway. It’s unusual as a solo female traveller to be reminded of the safe aspects as it’s generally a constant be on high alert in certain countries and because of the solo factor.
It’s pretty special to get genuine insights into to local life in other countries. It goes without saying the family in Sweden, Norway and Scotland continue to do this when I stay with them from ice hockey matches, to farm visits and ice skating at the local community ring. I suppose in return they get lots of amusement from having me around, especially as I’ve never lived in snow and ice so I’m continually like an excited little kid at Christmas. And then the seasons change and I return from adventures and get excited again.
Another unexpected insight was going along to a BBQ in Sicily, Italy as it was ricotta making day!
Other moments that stand out are having a private cooking lesson in a hostel in Serbia. Being amongst the Jersey cows on Jersey Island (where they originated from) on the farms and then lunches and dinners with new and old friends.