August 02, 2002

2/8/02 Athens, Greece (Phill)

2/8/02 Athens, Greece (Phill)

Just as I sat down to write this someone tapped me on the shoulder and it was Simon my friend I was supposed to meet in Athens. Cool stuff, I'm glad he made it, I had my doubts :) Plus I've been avoiding doing the Acroplis/Parthenon with my dorm-mates becuase I figured I'd do it with Simon. At least now they'll know I wasn't just avoiding them :)

On that topic, the people in the hostel are extemely cool. Some of the nicest I've met so far. There's a couple of Icelandic girls, a couple of Canadian girls, a Spaniard, an Argentinian and even Miguel from Austin! Yup, from Austin. Anyway, I've been hanging out with those guys pretty much all day (more like all night!) and it's been fun.

I almost had a great deal out of here. Turns out Air Italia (Alitalia) fly to Berlin from here but it stops off in Rome. I spent a few hours today trying to convince them to let me get off the plane in Rome for a few days and get back on and continue to Berlin. No go! It's actually cheaper to fly to Berlin (via Rome) than it is to fly directly to Rome. Plus, one of the lovely German girls from Ireland is going rafting in Germany in a few weeks so we're trying to work out if I can go do that. That'd be cool.

Today I did a few of the major sights. The National Archeological Musem, The Toman Agora of Athens, Olympieon and the National Gardens. The coolest thing is that they're all free if you're an EU Student. Of course, I'm not, but I've been able to talk my way into each of the sights for free so far. :) Hey! It's allowed, I'm unemployed....

I think I'm going to jump on a ferry to Italy on the night of the 4th (20 hour journey) and go to Rome, maybe take another ferry to Croatia after that. Really I just want to head back to Northern Europe cause there's so many people I want to see there. I'm trying not to rush too much.

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August 03, 2002

3/8/2002 Athens, Greece (Phill)

3/8/2002 Athens, Greece (Phill)

I just thought since I was back in the internet cafe (dead cheap here) that I'd post my thoughts. So Athens is supposed to hold the Olympics in 2004. I'll bet it doesn't happen. The city is nowhere near prepared. There's no infrastructure for transporting that many people around plus I've yet to see a completed stadium.

When Kelly and I toured Sydney's site the guide actually mentioned that it was suggested that Sydney may be asked to rehost if Athens fails. Luckily Sydney is more than prepared, it's stadiums are almost all still in use and the trains/subway etc... is still built.

Athens is a big city, but it's defiantely not rich. I really doubt they have the money to throw this project in the overdrive it needs. I read that when they were building the lake for the rowing course (very important to me!) they uncovered an old burial ground and had to start again!

The Parthenon and Acropolis aren't definately impressive. Simon and I wandered around all today and were in awe the whole time. Cetainly they're all overwhelmed by tourists but each site is big enough to accomodate them all.

I'm going to hop on the boat tomorrow afternoon to Italy. I thought about visiting a Greek island or two, but it sounds like it's just one big drunken fest of english and americans (okay, the might be a scot or two drunk also), so I'll give it a miss. Plus there's so much more of Europe to see.

Don't work too hard!

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August 06, 2002

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6/8/02 Athens, Greece (Phill)

6/8/02 Athens, Greece (Phill)

Well the final couple of days were pretty crazy. I think we got as far as Simon showing up in the internet cafe. Well, little did I know that another friend of mine was coincidently in the same cafe! I didn't recognize her but she did think she saw me but didnt believe it. So after Simon and I wandered around and did the rest of Athens a girl comes up to me and hugs me in Syntagma Square. I have to admit I recognized her but had no idea of her name. When that happens (seems to happen alot to me) I do the obviouys thing: introduce her! So I just say "This is my friend Simon" and it forces her to give her name: Rebecca. 'Becs a crazy cool girl that William and I used to hang out with in Austin: It was fabulous to see her again but we only had an hour since her tour was leaving: Crazy, crazy coincidence.

Okay, so Simon and I headed back to the hostel. He had been trying to change his flight to one the next morning since I had booked a ferry out anyway, plus we had seen all the sights we wanted to see. Well, our friends at the hostel had also booked a ferry out to one of the islands. By this time Simon and I had both decided we wernąt going to pay for the hostel again since weąd been out till the early hours of the morning anyway. So we decided to sleep in the square. A choice we'd later regret!

We grabbed a shower and our stuff and headed to the port where Miguel and his girtfriend were planning on leaving from. Waiting for the boat we bump into two Canadians that we had been hanging out with but were now MIA. Turns out they're heading out on the same boat as Miguel and were very excited. I think it was at this point I was regretting leaving Greece.

Basically I like Athens, but I really loved the people I was hanging out with, they were brilliant! Anyway, I did contemplate jumping on their ferry and did briefly try to change my ticket. But I was pretty excited about Rome, so we saw them away and that was all :(

We both wandered around trying to pass time and at about 11pm we realized we were totally exhausted and had no place to sleep! Simon had an early morning flight and it seemed to make sense that he sleep in the airport. Then I decided that I might as well too since I had a ticket that would get me there and had figured out that they never check anyway so I might as well just go. The airport was like a bloody camping ground! Packed with people except security seemed to take a special interest in us and kept waking us up and moving us on! Very frustrating. Needless to say I didn't get much sleep!

Anyway said goodbye to Simon and hopped back into Athens to catch my bus to the ferry port (3 hours). On the bus back in I met two totally lost Scottish girls and spent about 30 minutes explaining to them how to work the public transport and getting them to their destination. That was my good deed for the day.

Basically the ferry turned out to be pretty terrible. I should've flown ,(ferry plus trains were half the price and I thought theyd be fun), and I've learned my lesson! The ferry company managed to assign me a seat in the Cinema, seriously. How do you sleep in a cinema? THey did the same to two Italians and the three of us spent the better part of an hour explaining to the crew that it was unacceptable. Really the customer service here is nothing like youd expect in the western world!

Anyway, I did end up winning a new seat and the Italians bought their way to a new one. Slept terribly and arrived in Italy exhausted. I caught the first train from Ancona (the port) to Rome and found my hostel.

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8/8/02 Rome, Italy (Phill)

8/8/02 Rome, Italy (Phill)

After I arrived at my hostel I met two of my roommates: Anook and Fica: I apoligize for the spelling: Anyway, these are two crazy, brilliant Dutch girls. They're both taller than me and I dont fancy my chances in a fight, but they both are ex-rowers so you have to love that! I chatted with them for a while in the dorm room and eventually headed out to dinner with them. I had a brilliant time, we all just clicked instantly: Drunk some wine, had a nice classy Italian dinner near the Spanish Steps and laughed the night away.

I woke up late this morning and finally got underway seeing Rome. I walked via the Coleseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain and a selection of other wonderful buildings. I cant believe how many tourists there are though, its insane! I really like Rome so far, its not cheap but its worth it! Anyway, I'm waiting for the Church of the Immaculate Conception to reopen so I can see the bones of 4,000 dead Monks. Sounds great, huh? :)

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August 11, 2002

11/8/2002 Venice, Italy (Phill)

11/8/2002 Venice, Italy (Phill)

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Well the last few days in Rome went like this: I hung out with Fieke and Anouk until they left. I realy had a great time with them and will definately be visiting them in The Netherlands. Hopefully Fieke is meeting back up with me tomorrow somewhere near here also. I was most impressed by the Colloseum. Quite honestly I was impressed with all the Romans managed to build. The buildings not only were stupendous for the day, but have managed to survive 2,000 years of Italian drivers crashing into them! Quite an acheivement, I promise you.

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After rome I headed to Naples to see Pompeii. Pompeii, of course, is the most perfectly preserved Roman village anywhere. It was a major port around 100BC but in the late first century Vesuvius erupted freezing the village with hot ash. Now that it has been excavated you can walk around the place exactly as it looked 2000 years ago (well it probably had less tourists with cameras...). Around 2000 people died that day and many of their bodies were also frozen in time and have been reconstructed using plaster exactly as they died. It's chilling but fascinating stuff. The village had a massive stadium for the games and music halls. Although considering all the brothel remains I saw, I couldn't find the remains of an ancient Roman Internet cafe. They can't have been too much fun!

Okay, I spent all day yesterday travelling from one end of the country to the other. I arrived in Venice late last night after a terrible day. The whole country is packed with tourists and its really hard to find places to stay. While stuck in Florence yesterday trying to get to Pisa I called hostels in Florence, Pisa and Venice trying to get a dorm bed; Unfortunately to no avail... Anyway, I did manage to get a bed in venice so I bought a ticket to Venice. Again, crappily, the ticket I was sold was for a train that left the minute before. Italian customer service, I tell you! I had to cash it back in (losing $10) and buy another ticket.

Arriving in Venice is pretty fabulous. Just to get from the train station to my hotel I took a waterbus. Travelling down the Grand Canal at night made the day much better. It certainly looked like the Venice of the travel brochures, georgous buildings lining the water, gently lit from inside. Very impressive. When I found my hotel (in the pouring rain) my little room was lovely. I think I'm so used to sleeping in squalour that I forgot how the rest of the world lives. My room even came with towels and soap! I like it, I might even splash out and stay there again tonight.

Today I'm heading to the Basillica and maybe just to a park to chill out. I just ate a massive breakfast (came with the room so I had to eat my moneys worth!) so I need to go digest somewhere :)

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August 17, 2002

16/8/2002 Pisa, Cinque Terre, Lucca

16/8/2002 Pisa, Cinque Terre, Lucca etc.., Italy (Phill)

Phew! Crazy fun days! Fieke (I need to learn to spell this one!) and I met up in La Speiza with the intention of spending a few days in the idealic settings on the Cinque Terre. Basically its a group fo 5 small villages lining the sea. They're still making it into the guidebooks so its largely unspoiled but certainly not lacking in the tourists. We went to the first village and managed to get a place to sleep but quite honestly by mid-afternoon we had realiyed that we didnt want to sit around idly for two days. We were having a great time.

It was funny cause I wandered around Venice seeing all the kissing couples and thinking: "Take it indoors, come on!" and now I was one of them!

We headed out the next day to Pisa, simply to see the Leaning Tower. It was pretty small actually and we didnt waste too much time there either. Caught an afternoon train to Lucca. Lucca is a georgous tiny town, surrounded by a midevil wall. The problem is that we arrived on an Italian holiday and really struggled to find a free room! But, in typical Phillip fashion, I bounced onto my feet and we found a brilliant wee place right in the heart of the town.

I really have to say that I had a brilliant time with Fieke. Being Dutch, her English is great, but I still got to expereince some literal translations of Dutch sayings which kept me laughing. My favorite two were talking about "growing up as strong as a cabbage", but perhaps even better was after kissing her being told that "you turned my stomach". Umm yeah!

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17/8/2002 Zagreb, Croatia (Phill)

17/8/2002 Zagreb, Croatia (Phill)

After saying goodbye in Florence yesterday I went through Venice to catch a night train to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. I had a nice group of people in my dorm on train but each time we crossed a border we got woken up by two sets of police checking passports etc... So needless to say I didnt get more than 30 mins of sleep. Plus the idiots took my ticket and then tried to charge me for another one! I was not a happy camper, but got it solved and arrived here at 5:30am. There reallz isnt that much to see here plus theres no beds anywhere so I'm planning on hopping on the night train to Split. My sister recommended that I go to Medjugore so I'll try and get accross there.

My plans to go to Prague and basically north are being impacted by the terrible flooding so I might have to detour through Switzerland. Not sure yet. Bye!

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August 19, 2002

Medugorje, Bosnia-Hercegovina

Medugorje, bosnia-Hercegovina

Just a quick note since I dont have much time left. Yeah, bosnia, didn't actually realize that Medjugorje was here! I was on a bus this morning and we passed through passport control then I started to see road signs with pictures of tanks of them....... But everything is fine, went and saw where the apparitions happened etc.. Basically for the Non-Catholics, in the earlz 80s the Virgin Mary started appearing to 6 kids here and apparently appears every day to some people. So needless to say its a major major catholic site. The number of languages Ive heard here is astounding. Even the Irish have invaded in force!

I might catch a bus to Sarajevo tomorrow (sorry mum) cause I'm so close it'd be interesting to see, but Im struggling to find accomidation there and its not a city I just want to show up in. Maybe the US Peacekeepers I met today would put me up :)

Okay, gotta run. Otherwise I'm off to Slovenia.

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August 22, 2002

Ljubljana, Slovenia (Phill)

Ljubljana, Slovenia (Phill)

So hands up all those who even know where this country is? I didn't!

I came here on the way to Vienna primarily to see some caves. I know, I've seen lots of caves this year, but I heard these were especially cool. In actuality the coolest part was the wee train ride down into the caves. Felt a bit like that scene in Indiana Jones! Well, without people shooting at me. The caves were cool, but a bit of a disappointment compared with the ones in Australia
, Thailand, Vietnam and China! I think its safe to say that I'm all caved out!

The city is okay, quite cultural, lots of Theatres, Opera things like that. Went to a pretty cool museum yesterday and laerned about the history of the country. Seems like they've been invaded by every southern-european nation and lost. The problem is that Slovenia is a bit like the bread-basket of the area: great natural resources, intelligent people etc... So Yugoslavia desperately tried to hold onto the area until they were distracted in 1991 when Croatia and the UN were bombing them! So Slovenia managed independence without a single death. Pretty impressive!

Last night I went out to a bar with some other hostellers and met some niec Slovenians. I'm amayed at how well they speak english here. Everyone we met could speak it prefectly (albeit with a bit of a Russian sounding accent!). Anyway, lots of fun.

Okay, so tomorrow I'm off to Vienna for a day with an English guy called Steve, then to see my Uncle Gordon in Prague the following day!

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August 23, 2002

23/8/2002 Vienna, Austria (Phill)

23/8/2002 Vienna, Austria (Phill)

Well, Steve and I arrived in Vienna today. We did the quickest tour of the city anyone has ever done, got it “done“in about 3 hours. I think we“re both a bit tired of doing museums etc.. so we wandered through the sights and parks. Its a nice enough city but hardly different from much of what we“ve seen.


Thats all. Tomorrow Prague then perhaps Krakow the following day to see Aushwitz.

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August 24, 2002

24/8/2002 Prague, Czech Republic (Phill)

24/8/2002 Prague, Czech Republic (Phill)

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Another quick one, made it here okay. Talked to some nice Dutch people on the train. I just got an email to say that I might be able to meet my favorite uncle (gordon of course) in Prague tomorrow. He actually is working about 2 1/2 hours away from here, so we might be able to meet for lunch or dinner. Need to call him.

After negotiating a lower hostel rate we went back to the train station. Steve's off to Amsterdam (for the boat to Hull, England) and I want to go to Berlin. Problem is that the flooding is making the 4 hour train to Berlin 12 hours, with numerous change overs. Checking out buses which might work. Also conteplating the Krakow thing. Plus, my best friend John's plans to meet me in Helsinki in a month are getting complicated. Now we're not going down to Eastern Europe, instead we're going to Russia! Which means I need to get a Russian visa, takes 5 days in Helsinki. Sounds easy, just show up, drop off your passport and come back 5 days later. Except I can't leave the country without my passport, so I'll likely be stuck in Finland
for a week. I read that the borders are pretty lax so I could probably go back to Stockholm for the time. Who knows.

Prague is fine so far, havn't seen any damage from the flooding, but the town is noticably quiet. Plus, there's armoured vehicles and a heavy army/police presence everywhere we look. Metro's are still shut, the train today was rerouted because the train station is submerged. Interesting time to be here!

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August 25, 2002

8/25/02 Prague, Czech

8/25/02 Prague, Czech> Phill

Well, had a great day, My uncle did show up and along with his boss showed me a great time here. Basically they fed me and bought me drinks while walking between the sights. I was definately well looked after. I explored the flood areas in the morning. Definately a lot of physical damage to buildings, mud everywhere, shops pouring out into the streets. I walked past piles of clothes that were destroyed in the floods and moved out onto the street.

Ironically, same as Kelly, off to Krakow tonight. I'm just stopping over to do Auschwitz, I spell that differently every time!). Then on the next night train to Berlin to meet Christine and the German girls. Great time in Prague though, saying goodbye to Steve tonight after I found him a cheap flight back to the uk *beats the 20 hourson the train!(.

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August 26, 2002

Krakow, Poland (Phill)

Krakow, Poland (Phill)

Okay, I promise you I'm not addicted to the internet, but each day is a new country and a new currency. Right before I leave I'm stuck with all this worthless money and a wait for a train so I go to the internet. Hey! C'mon I'm doing it for you! There's all this pressure cause if neither of us post for two days then our hit rate falls! :)

I was floating on air last night for some reason. I found my night train and had the entire 6 berth compartment to myself. The train was really quiet, brilliant. Plus, the only other folks in the carrige were smart backpackers. Not the American-Frat-Drink-Your-Way-Around-Europe, but the ones who actually take the time to walk past the bars and see the sights. Anyway, I was really impressed with a couple of Kiwi's who were taking a camper van accross europe. Cool stuff.

Anyway, got some sleep and even convinced the Polish Immigration guy (at 3am) to stamp my passport (British passports rarely needs visas and so no stamps) so I was chuffed. Anyway, I was awoken by a crude Mexican accent shouting about stuff being stolen. Anyway, I ended up bumping into the guy while waiting in line for tickets for the train out tonight. We ended up going to Auschwitz together.

Yeah on that. This was definately one of the highlights of my trip. A totally unqiue and daunting place. Before you get in you watch a video which is simply horrific. You really are in a new frame of mind walking around the place. The Death Chambers were chilling. All in all about a million a half died there over the 4 years. Terrible terrible stuff and you feel a bit strange 'touristing' this sight. The guided tour was brilliant though, very in depth. But you come accross piles and piles of human hair, shoes, luggage, spectacles etc... It was the biggest concentration/death camp but the SS tried to destroy it before they left so a lot of the records have been lost.

Okay, finished emailing and chatting with my boss, so I'm off to catch my train overnight to Berlin, 11 hours, and I didn't get a bed, only a chair. Supposed to meet Christine (German girl I met in Ireland) at 2ish tomorrow.

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August 28, 2002

8/28/02 Warsaw and Krakow, Poland

8/28/02 Warsaw and Krakow, Poland (Kelly)

Okay, this is really odd. You know Phillip and I have been traveling without each other since April and what do you know I am only 2 days late and I could have seen him here in Krakow. I am still with James, actually until Friday when he leaves to go back to London and I move on to Italy. We spent all day Monday and Tuesday in Warsaw, which is the capital of Poland. Warsaw actually has a very unique history behind it. From 1918 until 1939 Poland was a peaceful independent nation and then Hitler tried to come in and over run the land, which in fact he did a pretty job. He bombed and destroyed 85% of the city forcing the once inhabited one million people to evacuate the city. The "Old Square" in Warsaw was built about 700 years ago in the Gothic era, which of course was destroyed. However, the community ceases to amaze me. There apparently was an artist that had painted the square before the bombings and the city was able to rebuild almost an exact replica of the 13th century buildings, crooked and all. Anyways, yesterday James and I caught a train around 5:00 pm for a three-hour train ride to Krakow.

So on that note, in Krakow...James and I went to Auschwitz today, which if you are anything like I was, I didn't know about this place. Turns out that it was the largest Nazi concentration camp in all of Europe. It was extremely eerie to walk around the camp. A majority of the buildings were still in place so we were able to get a full-blown tour. The most horrific of all the barracks (buildings) was barrack 10 and 11. There was a wall in between these two buildings that was called the death wall...as you can imagine many thousands of prisoners were executed against this wall.

There were two areas of Auschwitz, which we toured. The second one we had to catch a bus for a 3 km ride. This is the area that the majority of the gas chambers were. The remains still lie as the SS dynamited them in order to destroy them but the "museum" has left the ruble to be viewed. This whole experience reminds me a lot of cambodia's experience with the killing fields.

The next two days here in Krakow are going to be filled with touring the city and then I am off to Milan on Friday...coming back to France on my way to Spain...makes more since this way so that I won't have to back track the other direction.

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August 29, 2002

28/08/02 Berlin, Germany (Phill) So

28/08/02 Berlin, Germany (Phill)

So I did make it to Berlin. I arrived on the train at 7 in the morning and had until 2pm to meet Christine. I did my typical aimless-wandering until I found things I wanted to look at. I walked through a georgous park that sits right in the heart of Berlin, all the way to Checkpoint Charlie. CC was the first thing I wanted to see. It dawns from the end of World War II when Berlin was split into 4 zones each controlled by a different nation. Checkpoint Charlie, no prizes for guessing, was controlled by the Americans. The checkpoint is still there along with a good museum on the history of the wall. Most of the wall is actually gone, but theres still 500m or so of it that hasn“t yet been sold to the tourists and stands. I even managed to find a Schlotzski“s Deli for lunch! Hey, come on, they have free refills, I havn“t seen that in months.

I did a few other museums in my stay, notably the Jewish museum. The nights I hung out with Christine and Kathrin (also met her in Germany). I really had a good time, I swere student apartments are the same all over the world. Slightly messy but totally communal. Last night before we went to an Irish Pub, I did the girl“s english homework for them. It was on Animal Farm which I quite liked!

I managed to get some work done too, ie- I arranged my onward transport. I managed to totally score with a flight on SAS to Oslo. I was actually planning on skipping Copenhagen cause I“m short on time and I ddin“t think it was worth 80 dollars just for a train ticket there when I already knew there was only a days worth of stuff I wanted to see. But I managed to get my flights so that although it was Berlin to Oslo, I flew through Copenhagen. When you fly through another airport en route, you always have 24 hours before your connection is considered a stopover (and you pay for two air tickets). Luckily there was a flight landing in Copenhagen at 2pm and a flight leaving the next day at 1pm for Oslo. Free stopever!

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29/8/02 Copenhagen, Denmark (Phill) Again,

29/8/02 Copenhagen, Denmark (Phill)

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Again, today I was walking on air. I don“t know why though, but I was floating around. Said goodbye to Christine and bumped into her roommate (who had no clue who the strange boy wandering around his house was). Ended up going to breakfast with her roommate and talking business for an hour. It was a nice change.

Got to Copenhagen, found my hostel and set out. Short on time here and there“s quite a few things I wanted to see, primarily the Viking History stuff. I found the National Museum and saw their great exhibits. Wandered around the city seeing all the famous buildings you“re supposed to see, and of course, I found the rowing club. Wish I had brough my stuff! The only thing I didnt see that I want to is the Carlsberg Brewery and I“m off there for 10am tomorrow. :)

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August 30, 2002

29/8/02 Olso, Norway(Phill) I finished

29/8/02 Olso, norway(Phill)

I finished Copenhagen this morning, of course I went to the Carlsberg Brewery. I really need to learn not to do these brewery tours on an empty stomach! It was actually not a bad tour, much simpler than Guinness. Afterwards I went to see the 'world famous' Jen Olsen's Clock. Totally dissapointing, apparently it took 27 years to perfect, she might as well have bought a Casio in that time!

Plane to Oslo was empty, maybe 30 people onboard. The lunch was Caviar, very strange, but didnt really go well with my dislike of fish! Then I made a silly mistake, in calculating how many Norweigan Kroners equal one dollar I misplaced a decimal place (much easier than you'd think) and ended up taking out close to $1000! That should last me a while :)


Found my hostel, and like Denmark its full of old people. Apparently the term 'Youth' is just to make the title longer?? :)

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