Welcome back to myself

Almost 10 years ago I received this blog as a gift from a friend, a very thoughtful gift for someone that loves to both travel and write!  However, somewhere along the road the trips became more numerous than the time available to write about them and the more time that passed after a trip the higher the barrier to get the entry done became.

A few entries to come:

Montréal:  I returned to visit my friend Julie (trip from hell with cancelled connections and bagage delay). Visited the Botanical garden and a cosy town close by.

Nice:  in 2004 I spent thirteen weeks here learning French, this summer I was back for a few days walking down memory lane. So many old favorites revisited (if you go: DO NOT MISS Marc Chagall’s museum, suggest you visit it in the afternoon as the sun is then illuminating the canvases)

Prague: 2 years ago I visited this little pearl. Absolutely adored the city and look forward to giving you a few useful tips if you plan to go there!

Berlin: Spent a few days here this summer with my dad, revisited some old favorites, but also found new ones! A walk along the canal from the Haupt banhof to Hackescher Markt for example, with all the outdoor servings along the way. 😉

Krakow:  Earlier this fall I was  back here with my family, this time we made excursions to important sites outside of the city: the salt mine & the camps from the second world war.

Looking forward to tell you more about these trips!

44 hours in Krakow / Living on the edge

As my friend Charlotte and I continue to work our way throug the Ryan Air destinations from Göteborg the turn had now come to Krakow, Poland. We flew out Thursday afternoon and started off by almost missing our flight. Being the frequent flyers that we are we thought we had all the time in the world and at first we did not reflect over the speaker’s announcement when passing through security: “last call Krakow”. Instead of taking it as a hint to hurry up to the gate, our thoughts were more in line with “funny, two flights to Krakow at the same time of day…?“ Fortunately we did locate an information screen and realized that it was in fact our flight that was boarding…

Arriving in Krakow late afternoon a warm breeze welcomed us as we left the aircraft, which always makes for a good first impression of a city. After some confusion at the airport shuttle, which is starting to be a bit of a habit considering it took us three attempts to leave the airport in Budapest last year, we finally arrived in downtown Krakow and located our B&B without any further mishaps.

The walk from the central station to the market square, passing the massive shopping center Galleria Krakowska, entering the park separating it from the old city, reaching the Florian gate and continuing down towards the square just strengthened the feeling of Krakow being a superb weekend getaway. For a visit this short, there’s not really much time to dig into the museums offered, however, just walking around the city is a nice experience in itself as it is a very clean city where houses are well kept and people are very friendly. We visited the castle, which offered a number of different architectural styles, we saw the famous dragon statue next to it, we went up in a hot air balloon circling 150 meters above ground, we ate (bought and drank) chocolate at the chocolate factory Krakowska Manufaktura Czekolady, we spent hours at the mall mentioned earlier and just enjoyed the city’s atmosphere in general.

Eating out in Krakow was also a great experience! The city is full of cozy restaurants; they all seem to have a theme which they certainly follow through on when it comes to inventive interior design.  I can recommend all of the restaurants visited during our two day stay:

Dinner: The first night out we had dinner at Zielona Kuchnia, a restaurant located at a quiet parallel street where the table was set in a green and nicely decorated court yard. I had a steak which was perfectly prepared!

The second night out we had dinner at Trezo, the service was superb, the meat was yet again very well prepared and the interior design with their stone wall was impressive.

Breakfast: The first morning we had a polish breakfast at Guliwer; again very good service in a nicely set surrounding. The second morning we had breakfast at Soprano Trattoria, a place chosen more for it’s interior design than for the breakfast selection offered. Although I enjoyed the bruschetta, I would think that a dinner here is a better option than a breakfast – but the place is definitely worth a visit!

Leaving Krakow became an as a memorable experience as the stay itself. We had nothing planned for the day of departure except for having breakfast, returning to the chocolate factory to purchase some chocolate and go to a grocery shop to buy some food for the journey home. A nice and relaxed start of the day… until we realized that we were still in the city center with only ONE HOUR left until the gate was closing. Running to the airport shuttle, settling down on the seat thinking “well, we still have 45 minutes and the bus should only be about 20 minutes or so.. we’ll be ok!” we slowly realized as the bus made its way towards the airport, at a pace far from what we would have preferred, that this was going to be tight! Turns out, the bus ride is not 20 minutes but 40 minutes! We ran off the bus at 12.57 knowing that we would probably just arrive at a closed gate considering that we had only 3 minutes to go…. I think I speak for both Charlotte and myself when I say that we have never been as relieved to see a long queue of passengers to a delayed boarding process as we were today!

Köszönöm, Budapest!

I once heard that to really get the most out of life you need to do something every day to challenge yourself. For me, travelling toBudapestmeant getting out of my comfort zone. I have travelled quite a lot in my days, but all my traveling has taken place in countries where I, at least to some extent, speak or understand the local language. Hungarian, however, is not one of those languages!

Getting fromSwedentoHungarywent smoothly, getting from the airport to the city centre was a different story! It took three attempts before we finally got on the bus from the airport (First, the answer was “No, we do not take VISA” and then after having looked for an ATM and returned to make a second attempt to buy tickets for the bus we were met by a “Sorry, no change”) So, word from the wise: buy your bus ticket from the newspaper stand outside the arrivals hall at the airport and save yourself a lot of trouble! They take VISA. The, “Sorry, no change” became one of the most common lines during our stay inBudapestwhen we tried to pay with our recently collected ATM bills…

The first night we climbed the hill up to the citadel, it looked far but it only took us 10 minutes of power walking from Hotel Gellért to the top of the hill. The reward: an awesome view ofBudapestby night. We also visited the Great Market Hall one morning, but I must say that I am not really one to appreciate places like these when I am a tourist. A food market is a food market whether it is inFrance,SpainorHungary, and if I am not looking to buy food then my time is better spent elsewhere.

We made one big mistake when packing for our weekend inBudapest: we figured going south meant going to a warmer climate. BIG MISTAKE! The weather resembled Gothenburg’s weather which meant that we were constantly a little bit on the cold side which is not ideal when most of your time is spent outdoors. Being there late November did, however, mean that we had the fortune of visitingBudapestwhen it was a city decorated for the upcoming Christmas season. If this is also the case for you when/if you go there then let me suggest that you climb the castle hill in the afternoon, buy yourself a cup of glühwein and place yourself facing the Danube in time for the evening to arrive so that you stand there when the city lights are lit. It’s a beautiful scene!

Another beautiful place to visit is the St Stephen’s Basilica. Those of you who have read my blog before know that I am a little bit of a sucker for Basilicas – and this one made it into my top three! Another recurring topic is usually crêpes, I never had a crêpes inBudapestthough, but here they sell something else in the streets that you should definitely try while you are there: kürtöskalács (a.k.a. chimney cake). It’s kind of a cinnamon bun. Delicious! And a perfect snack for a cold Swede to eat while sightseeing.

Budapest has become a very popular destination for Swedish people to go on for a weekend abroad and it became painfully obvious during our stay. Everywhere we went we heard Swedish being spoken and in some stores they even sold Christmas decorations with “God Jul” written on them, granted my Hungarian is limited but somehow I doubt that that is the way they say Merry Christmas. I cannot blame the other Swedes for wanting to visitBudapestthough. For each day spent there I liked it more and more. It is a beautiful city, the people are very friendly (It’s amazing how far you can come with speaking your own language combined with hand movements, a smile and a finishing Köszönöm) and the food and drinks are cheap. (The exchange rate at the moment is 3000 HUF for 100 SEK and we bought breakfast in the form of a large baguette with cheese and ham and a cappuccino for 500 HUF – I wouldn’t even get a large size Cappuccino for that in a Swedish Café). I am looking forward to returning some day during the spring season to also see and experience the city in bloom.

Marseille, April 2012

I love France. And this love was instantly strengthen when I, after leaving a cold and rainy Gothenburg, stepped out of an airplane at the airport in Marseille on a late Thursday evening in April and felt the warm breeze against my face. Right then and there I knew that this weekend in the south of France would be a success!

One thing that I absolutely love about coming to new cities is getting to know them by walking around – without a map and without a specific destination in mind. I find that this is the way to go about in order to find the real treasures, hidden from the “standard” tourist. And God knows there was a lot of walking in Marseille.

After having left the bags at our hotel, New Hotel Select, a very well located and neat one I must say, we went out to familiarize ourselves with the neighborhood. Within minutes we found ourselves in the harbor area where there were a lot of alley ways with cozy restaurants lining up after each other offering one Mediterranean specialty after the other. It looked so nice, however, when having dinner there the evening after I realized that it was better to just enjoy the view than to actually order from the menus offered..

Sometimes when I walk along Vasagatan in Gothenburg I see tourists taking photos of one of the high school buildings there. Granted, it is a rather impressive building and I guess that they assume, by the looks of it, that it is a monument worth taking photos of. Still, I cannot help but smile when I pass them thinking “if only you …”. The same thing happened in Marseille: at one point we found ourselves on a street in front of a building with the word “Alcazar” written in oriental letters above the entrance. There is a Swedish pop group with the name Alcazar which my friend is a fan of and so she started taking photo’s of the house – as it had Alcazar written on top, was a huge and beautiful building AND had people queuing on the outside she figured it must be something worth photographing. Turns out it was the city library…

One of the first, and best, discoveries in Marseille was finding ourselves in front of the Marseille Cathedral (Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille). It is a huge and magnificent building with a stripey looking design, a style that was new to us when we saw this Cathedral but later found to be common in Marseille. The Cathedral looked rather closed down and abandoned, luckily someone tried to enter and found the door to be open though. It is rather impressive to walk around in a building with a history such as this one where the sound of your foot steps echo in the silence surrounding you. When it comes to religious buildings there is, however, another one that is more connected to the city of Marseille: Notre Dame de la Garde, a basilica situated on the top of a hill. It was of course a place worth visiting but this building did not generate the same feeling of awe as the Cathedral had generated earlier that morning. However, the view from the hill was awesome and the winds blowing up there that day was something extra-ordinary!

Day two we had planned to take a boat out to Chateau d’If, the fortress made famous by Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. However, we were told by the staff at the Tourist information that boats would not stop there on this particular day due to heavy winds so instead we bought some baguettes and took a boat to Frioul, another island nearby. This island offered beautiful scenery and a number of historic landmarks, if you have the time and want to do something very relaxing then I recommend you to go there. Have a picnic, climb the hills and enjoy the view of Marseille from the ocean side.

Before coming to Marseille there had been a lot of talk about what a dangerous, dirty and worn down city it is. My perception of the city after having spent a weekend there is nothing like that! I found it to be a charming city, not all that unlike Gothenburg: the city centre is small enough for everything to be within walking distance, it was clean, people were friendly and the weather was exactly what a frozen northerner needed! Not to mention that the shopping was good and the crêpes were delicious!

 

Roma

After having written a few travel entries I have come to realise that expressing the events of a fully packed weekend abroad is about as easy as fitting my weekend shopping into a Ryanair approved hand luggage. However, I will give it a shot and try not to be too detailed about my latest Ryanair experience. I wouldn’t want you to give up your reading half way through. 

Exiting the airplane at Ciampino Airport on the 28th of January I felt a gentle breeze caress my cheeks. Being starved of sun and temperatures above +10 degrees Celsius my weekend in Rome could not have begun in a better way. I knew instantly that this would be a good trip!

Arriving in the city we managed to find our hotel without any greater difficulty, despite the fact that the hotel name on the front of the building was not the same as the name of the hotel which I had booked online at hotels.com a few weeks earlier. Apparently the hotel that I had booked, Terni Hotel, shared location with Dina Hotel, which was the name on the outside. Slightly confusing. Before arriving in Rome I had wondered what the hotel room would be like, paying 100 Euros for three nights in the centre of Rome I dared not expect too much of the accommodation but I soon realised I had made a great deal! The room seemed newly renovated and was very clean and well kept! It could not have been much better!

The good thing about being a tourist in Rome planning on making it around by foot is that the sights are located rather evenly across the city so you never really notice how much walking you do! My friend and I started off taking a stroll around the Coliseum, continued over to the “Magnificent building” (also known as Il Vittoriano) passing by some Roman remains on our way (the Roman Forum). Before long we had also covered Piazza Navona, Panthéon, Fontana di Trevi, the Spanish stairs and Saint Peter’s Basilica. My favorite sight was without a doubt Fontana di Trevi, I’m not exactly sure what it was about this particular place that caught my interest but there was something about the area that made it fascinating despite the fact that it was crowded by tourists all day (and night?).

Before going to Rome I had high hopes as for the food, wine, desserts and coffee that I was to indulge in while there but I must say that none of this managed to fully live up to my expectations. Except for the ice cream that was to die for the pastries I tried did not exactly leave me wanting more. I love chocolate, but I don’t get why they have to put liquor into everything!  As for the food I ate I can’t deny that the pasta Carbonara was good and proved to be a safe card at most restaurants, but frankly, how hard is that to cook!? Walking around on random we ran across two places that I would recommend to visit, the first one was a rather tiny café called Er Baretto, situated at Via del Boschetto 132, specialising in coffee. The owners were very friendly and keen on making their visitors feel special and taken care of and the Cappuccino was well worth a photo or two before one ruined the decoration made in the foam. The second café to recommend was situated a little outside of the touristic area and we came across it by chance when trying to kill time waiting for the transfer bus to the airport. The café called Casina al Parco is situated at the entry of the park next to the crossing of Via Tiburtina and Via dei Peligni, it is a small café that feels more like a place attracting the locals than the visitors from abroad. They had the best pastry of the weekend as far as I was concerned, a croissant filled with vanilla cream – simply delicious! It didn’t exactly make things worse that we paid 6,50 Euros for two coffees and two pastries at this little café compared to paying 7 Euros for one piece of Tiramisù at Piazza Navona, which was not even that good.

On this particular trip the problem of fitting my shopping into the bag did not really occur as we did not manage to find the shopping street on our walks around the city, but I guess that is a reason as good as any to return to Rome again soon. That, and the ice cream.

Weddings of 2010, part 2

The second wedding of this summer took place in Portugal, on a beautiful summer day in August. The thermometer showed 40 degrees Celcius and I was happy not to be a man, as having bare feet and wearing a dress was warm enough!

The ceremony itself was held in the Sagrada Familia church in Entroncamento, about an hour drive north of Lisbon. It started off with a solist performing Fantasía, a song I first heard sung by Il Divo a few years ago and which made a beautiful opening number, followed by something even more beautiful : the entry of the bride herself. Ana is always beautiful but this day she looked truly amazing and I can imagine that Daniel felt pretty good about what was about to happen…!

The reception, held at the Quinta das Sentieiras in Abrantes, after the wedding was like taken from an american movie. On arrival we were all welcomed by servants carrying around different kinds of appetizers, table’s lined up with chef’s composing skewers of our choice and free bars serving Sangria among other things – all of this to the tunes performed by a live orchestra seated in the middle of everything.

A four course meal was followed by the wedding cake and champagne under the stars, in turn followed by the, by the groom, much dreaded bridal waltz. He needn’t have worried about this part of the evening though as he did very well. I don’t think he stepped on his wife and they both stayed on their feet the whole dance through. The party lasted until the early morning and I think everyone was happy with how the day turned out.

The day after the wedding my friends and I had breakfast in Tomar, followed by a short walk through the narrow streets of the old city before driving back to Lisbon in time to experience the much talked about Café Pastéis de Belém where we enjoyed some delicious pastry before taking a walk along the water side.

In the evening we had dinner at a very traditional Portuguese restaurant where we got to prepare our own meet, which was served to us raw on top of a very hot stone where it cooked itself under our watching eyes. It was a delicious meal, followed by the equally delicious chocholate cake of the house. I’m pretty sure none of us left the restaurant feeling hungry. We took a detour to a bar for a quick drink before heading home to one of the locals where we climbed the stairs up to the roof terrace and spent an hour or two talking about a little bit of everything while enjoying our view of Lisbon from above under a star filled sky and a temperature of 29 degrees. It’s crazy to think about it being hotter this night at almost 2 in the morning than on a GOOD summer day in Sweden… I would really like to return to Lisbon, there seemed to be so many more things to see and do there, not to mention the weather being great there.. 🙂

At five in the morning I took a cab to the airport along with a friend of mine, marking the end of yet another intense reunion/wedding weekend. I wonder who’ll be the next one to get married, and when this will happen. Looking forward to next years reunion either way, hoping to be reunited with our Canadian group member as well as she’s been very missed out during the last few get-togethers..

Weddings of 2010, part 1

This year I had two international weddings to attend, first off was the one in Helsinki where Anna Rönngård was to become Mrs Kietz. I flew over to Helsinki on the morning of the wedding day and as the rest of my friends who were to attend the wedding had all arrived the day before I was left alone with finding my way from the airport to the hotel. The bus dropped me off at the train station and I managed to find a map of the city centre, however, it wasn’t a very tourist friendly map so I had some trouble understanding how to interpret it and finding out where I was and what direction I was heading. In the end I decided to just pick a direction and see where it took me, a decision that proved very fortunate as it didn’t take long until I stood face to face with Alex, Daniel, Ana, Kissy and Toby. What an amazing co-incidence! They were just on their way to grab some lunch so I decided to join. 25 metres from where we all met we ran into the bride to be! You can imagine that Helsinki felt like quite a small city after this – in less than ten minutes I had managed to run into everyone that I now in this city!

After having had a look at the market place down by the water side and tried the reindeer meatballs (which didn’t taste all that different to regular ones) we returned to the hotel and got ready for the ceremony which was to be held in St Lawrence church in Vantaa, outside Helsinki. Unlike the wedding last summer in Austria I actually understood what the priest was saying, for most of the ceremony that is. Being in Finland half of it was held in swedish and half in finish – actually took me a while to understand what happened when I suddenly had a hard time hearing what the priest was saying but then it struck me that he had switched language in the middle of everything. Something happened during the ceremony that fascinated me. As in sweden the psalms were in a key not fit for amateurs so I had a hard time singing along even though the words were familiar to me, a problem that didn’t seem to actually be a problem for my austrian friends who sang along DESPITE of not knowing what they were singing! When I asked them afterwards they acted like it was nothing, “if you know the hymns in one language you can easily follow the rest of them”… hm.. I don’t know about that…

After the ceremony we all got into a bus and went to the location of the reception: Merimelojien Maja, which is situated close to the Rowing Stadium in Töölö. It was a beautiful setting, althoug it would have been even better had it not been windy as h**l! All the information during the evening was given in three languages. First in swedish, than finish and last but not least english – something that caused quite a few smiles during the welcoming speech at the reception when the brother of the groom talked about the Uni-sex facilities as everyone got the point already when the information was given in swedish and then it became VERY clear to everyone when it had also been said in finish and english using the same expression in all three languages.

The evening turned out to be quite the success and once again it was shown that it is quite a small world that we live in. There was for example a finish girl at the party who’s cousin’s daughter, living in Sweden, is a friend of a friend of mine and the only girl seated at our table that was not part of our Erasmus crew, who had flown in from Sydney to spend a summer at home, turned out to live on top of the chocolate store that was across the street from where I lived during my ten days in Sydney.

The food and wine was great, the Koskenkorva nice and chilled, the speeches amusing and the games very entertaining (I got a few good ideas for the next swedish wedding….). The party lasted until early morning and it was with sore feet that I returned to the hotel with the rest of the guys at dawn.

After a few hours of sleep we met up with Daniel and Ana for a breakfast in town, followed by a walk around the city before leaving for the airport. As usual the reunion meant a hectic weekend but also, as usual, it was well spent time in great company.

Except for a few short walks around Helsinki I didn’t really get to see a lot of the city, but the parts that I did see made me want to return some day for a longer stay.

Last but not least I’d like to finish this entry off by sending a big thank you to the newly weds for a great weekend and all the best to them in their future life together!

Girl’s weekend in Dublin

In October 2009, my friend Anna and I decided to go to Dublin for a city break in the spring of 2010. The weekend that we chose seemed so far off at the time, but now it has already come and passed.

We flew to Dublin late Thursday afternoon and got on a bus from the airport to the city centre around 8 p.m. without knowing where to get off. During the bus ride I recalled the name of the stop that had been listed on the web site of our hotel, however, as the stops were not called out on the bus there was no way of keeping track of where we were. Luckily I overheard some other tourists talking about our bus stop so when they got ready to get off, so did Anna and I.

Managing to get off at the right stop didn’t mean that our problems were solved though since the map that was inside Anna’s Dublin guide proved to be quite inadequate when it came to displaying the street names. Again, we proved lucky as a local stopped to help us and pointed us in the right direction which saved us from spending too much time searching our hotel hungry and wet (being Ireland, of course it was raining!).

After checking in and finding that our hotel was way above the standard one is used to when staying at hotels abroad we headed back out again in the search of something to eat. Fortunately for me, Anna stumbled on to a pizza place on Wexford street which we decided to try out. The restaurant, that was called Hell, is a pizza serving chain originating from New Zeeland. In contrast to what the name of the place might suggest there was nothing hellish about it as far as the food was concerned. The pizza suggested to us by the very friendly Hell-boy was truly delicious as was the dessert – the Unearthly – a pizza with bananas, mixed berries, chocolate and custard. Strike one!

Friday morning we went looking for a breakfast place serving pancakes. The search brought us to the Temple Bar area where we finally decided to enter a place called the Brick Alley Café. Here we got ourselves some pancakes with maple syrup and a bagel, just what we needed to be well prepared for a long day of walking. We had a look at the castle, some old churches, located the Old Jameson Distillery which had been recommended to us by the Hell-boy and then found ourselves entering Henry Street a shopping Mecca. The first store that we came to was Pennies and when introducing this store to Anna I had no idea what I got myself into. We left the store about two hours later, each of us with a shopping bag and a little less money at hand. However, since I got a summer jacket, a t-shirt, a top and a pair of sunglasses for less than 28 euros the feeling wasn’t all that unpleasant.

We bought ourselves a cup cake each from Johnny’s Cupcakes at the ilac shopping centre and continued walking down to the inner dock where we enjoyed these yummie pastries before continuing our walk across the Liffey, via Trinity College and Grafton Street and last but not least back to our hotel. After getting changed we returned out on the streets of Dublin and walked down to Temple Bar where we had dinner at a five-storey party complex. The food was nothing out of the ordinary, but the music entertainment on the ground floor was very good. Unfortunately we got there just before they decided to go on a break so we only got to hear three or four songs before we headed out on the bar street in the search of some live music and Irish pub atmosphere. After entering and exiting a few bars we found this one place that was hidden in an alley and located on the second floor where three men in their 60ies were playing traditional music accompanied by a bunch of people of mixed ages. We stayed there and sang along for a song or two before moving on as the place was too crowded for us to find a seat.

Saturday morning we started the day by having breakfast at Keogh’s café. We had passed this café the day before and their scones had stayed with me since then. I ordered one walnut/apple scone and one mixed berries. The walnut/apple one was good, but not nearly as tasty as the one with mixed berries!

After finishing our breakfast we walked over to the Guinness Storehouse, something that kind of felt like an obligation when in Dublin. However, except for the exhibition showing how to make a Guinness and the part where we got to serve ourselves the perfect pint this visit was not that mind breaking. Straight after being done at the Guinness Storehouse we went over to the Old Jameson Distillery. Unfortunately the next guided tour was to start 40minutes after our arrival, which seemed like bad luck at first considering time was not something we had a lot of, but it turned out quite well as this pause gave us a good opportunity to have our first Dublin served Irish Coffee and I have to say that I have never had one as good as the one served there, but hey, where else to get a perfect Irish Coffee if not here!? As for the guided tour I found it to be very good in deed! If you decide to take it, make sure to seat yourself in the front of the movie theatre so that when the guide asks for eight volunteers you can make sure that you’re one of the lucky one’s to be chosen. Anna and I did this and it resulted in us getting to taste and to compare the Jameson whiskey with a Johnny Walker and a Jack Daniels. Even though Whiskey is not my favourite drink, I had to focus not to make a face when drinking, it was a nice experience!

Anna and I were recommended to visit the Distillery in order to get a good view of the city from above, apparently the view was to be better from there than from the Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse. When heading towards the shopping street after finishing our tour and having picked up a souvenir bottle each from the gift shop, it suddenly hit me – we had actually FORGOTTEN the reason for which we had visited the Distillery and left the place WITHOUT checking out the view!!!! Well done…

After visiting some more stores we walked around a bit in the city, and when walking along Nassau Street we stumbled on to a restaurant called the Pig’s ear. I still don’t know what it was that made us stop at their sign but for some reason we did and we ended up reserving a table for later that night. The dinner turned out very well and best of all was the dessert, – the “Pig’s Ear’s own vanilla cheesecake with mixed berries and crumble” – it was heavenly and a good ending to a great trip.

I know that this entry is a little bit too long by now so I will try to rap it up. However, I’d like to finish off by saying that I really do recommend a visit to Dublin. The size of the city makes it perfect for a city break as you quickly learn how to navigate the streets without a map and finding your own favourite spots will definitely not be difficult. Next time I will make sure to check out the view from the Distillery and have after noon tea at the Shelbourne Hotel, two things that weren’t done this time…

Ps. don’t forget to bring your charger for the camera battery, having a low battery day 1 is not too enjoyable. Also, if flying with Ryanair and not planning on checking in any luggage – don’t bother packing any clothes, there’s plenty of that in Dublin and the prices are dangerously low Ds.

Sightseeing in Stockholm

Most people tend to forget taking the time to appreciate what is just around the corner from where they live. Even though I am aware of this flaw in most people’s character I am sad to say that 99,9% of the time I am no better myself. This is one of the reasons for which I really appreciated the weekend spent in Stockholm with my dear friend Cecilia a few weeks ago.

In stead of spending Saturday shopping in the Galleria or on Drottninggatan we took a nice and relaxed walk along the north bank of Mälaren, arriving at the entry to Stockholm’s old quarters where we entered a cosy little café at the beginning of the main street. It was far nicer than I had expected from a café lying in the most touristic area of all, and their caffe latte will definitely go to history as one of the most memorable ones! After this nice little stop we looked into some of the shops along the street and ended up buying one watch each before exiting the old quarter and moving via Kungsträdgården and the medieval fair that took place there this Saturday on to Östermalm where we had lunch at a random café. This particular day the café was also visited by local celebrity Carin Da Silva, famous from Let’s dance (AKA Dance with the stars). After our little lunch stop we headed back home to my place, had dinner, watched some tv, had some wine and then travelled across the city to Söder where the goal was Kvarnen, a pub/bar/nightclub. Before leaving Kvarnen about two hours later Cecilia had named their Chili nuts the world’s best tasting Chili nuts. So, folks, if you like spicy nuts, do not miss out on the ones served at Kvarnen…

Sunday morning we packed our picnic-basket and took the bus to Skansen, which is a park full of wild animals and old houses and other historic objects from the Swedish country side We spent the whole day looking at the animals and the scenery in general. As the hours passed the weather improved and when we sat down at a café after lunch it was a lovely spring day, as can be seen on the photo above! Sitting there by the house wall in the sun, sipping our coffees and eating sweets – could life get any better? Unfortunately we didn’t get to sit there for too long as we had a train to catch that was to take Cecilia back to Gothenburg.

Even though time passed too fast, as usual, I really enjoyed her visit and am looking forward to hosting her for the Royal wedding in June!

Entering a time bubble..

The 19th of February was not just another Friday in the life of this travelling Swede, on the contrary there was something very special about this day. Not only due to it being the day I was to fly to Frankfurt with a ticket that I paid 7 euros for, but rather due to it being the day that I was to step into a time bubble and return to 2006. You see, after more than three years me and my best friend from my Erasmus in Lille had finally managed to find a date and a time to meet again! I could hardly believe that it was true and to be honest I didn’t really let myself get too excited about the trip in advance, the idea was to believe it when I saw it and be happy about it then in order to save myself from getting to disappointed in case something fell through.

The journey from my door to the hotel in Heidelberg literally took me all day. I started early in the morning and arrived at the hotel at around 6 p.m. When I checked in (speaking GERMAN) the person at the front desk was unable to find my reservation, BAD omen, but then it all worked out when we realised that the person taking the order had misheard the name, big relief. About fifteen minutes after I opened the door to my room there was a knock on the door and within seconds I had been thrown from the 19th of February 2010 back to mid-December 2006, a time I then spend about 40 hours in.

After a couple of minutes of starring at each other while having our jaws down by our knees things were right back to what they used to be like. Conversation ran smoothly, laughter came within short intervals and the atmosphere was just very friendly.

In the first evening we took a stroll towards the old city centre and it didn’t take long until it , once AGAIN, was clear whom of us is equipped with the best inner-GPS. Without even having been in the city before I managed to point out the right direction, whereas my friend, who had actually been in Heidelberg before wanted to walk in the other direction. However, after having asked a friendly local we ended up heading the direction that I had suggested in the first place and a while later we came to the old city. This turned out to be the easy part though as finding a restaurant took about the same time. I must say that it ended well though as we picked one that served traditional German food and beer!

After dinner we went to the pub street where we found a cozy bar and I was so happy to be catching up with my friend that I didn’t even notice that people were smoking inside the bar until I had my second drink in my hand! I would have thought smoking in-doors was banned all through Europe by now, but apparently this particular bar had missed out on the passing of this law. Eventually we left the bar with the good music, funny drinks and disgusting smokers and tried our luck with finding another bar in the area. They all seemed pretty packed though so we ended up walking up and down the same street until I finally found an empty pub. I felt so sorry for the guy working in there, being all alone while all the other bars were packed, that I forced my friend to join me in there. It turned out that the pub being empty had nothing to do with it being unpopular, it was more of a result of it being a “TO GO”-bar. So, we bought ourselves some beers and then headed out in the cold again where we found ourselves emptying the beers in the middle of the street like two teens not allowed to drink alcohol. After this incident we found what was soon to be our favourite bar/restaurant: Schmidts situated at Hauptstraße 187. At Schmidts I got to taste the bananenweizen, a beer mixed with banana-lemonade. Despite what it might sound like it actually tasted ok. After this evening of experiencing the local culture we returned to the hotel, played some cards, ate candy and reminisced about the good old days before finally passing out after a very long day.

Saturday morning started with a coffee-to-go at the McDonalds next to the hotel. With the coffee in hand we had a stroll along the river until we arrived at the old parts of the city where we had breakfast at Schmidts before heading up the hill to the castle. Apparently Heidelberg is world famous for their Castle ruin, parts of which can be seen on the image connected to this post. I don’t think that I had heard of it before though. Being the tourists that we were we had the audio tour, which is actually quite fun with the right attitude – at least until it gets freezing and starts to rain. We took off from the castle in a rush once the bad weather started and traded freezing our fingers off for having coffee at a chocolate bar in the city. After this we returned to the hotel, had a nap and then got ready for this evenings dinner in the old city. Having learned from the mistake from the day before where almost an hour was spent finding a restaurant we had already picked a restaurant for this evening during our walk in the city the same day. It turned out to be far better than we had expected! Great food, wine and setting! (Despite all this I was not clever enough to memorize the name of the restaurant and Google proved to be of no help at all..) Unfortunately, the fact that this was already the last night of the mini-reunion put a little shadow over the evening but it was still a very good one.

Sunday morning we had breakfast at McDonalds next to the hotel and then took a short walk around the corner to the station where I bought some bread (I ordered in German!!!) and then finished off with a coffee at the station before I entered the bus that was to take me to the airport and back to February 2010.