Friday, July 13, 2012

Lofoten/Tusen Takk, Norge

It feels weird; I am sitting in Canada writing this blog post. This ultimately means my journey to Norway has now been completed. I am combining my last trip in Norway, as well as giving some much needed thanks to all of those who made my travels and experience in Norway/Europe amazing.
My final journey while in Norway was to Lofoten Norway. This is arguably the most popular destination for tourist, and I can see why. The place is absolute paradise. The mountains and the scenery is absolutely breath taking. Norway in general is beautiful to visit regardless of where you are, but this place is jaw dropping. My friend Remi and his family have a camp ground there, so it made accommodations extremely easy, and once again it is always beneficial to know a local. He was an absolute great guide, and it was an enjoyable relaxing 3 days. The first day we got there, relaxed and then went out on the boat to look for puffins. It was great, because we actually found one. We also got to take in the midnight sun. The second day we went to a caving, and fishing which was a great adventure. The third day he took us and saw some more sights, and then we went for a hike up a local mountain in Svolvaer. That was also a great experience, because the view is beautiful from the ground, but was absolutely breath taking from the top of the mountain. It was really a great trip, as I was exhausted from all my travels. I would like to give Remi a huge thank you for accommodating and driving us everywhere to ensure we had a great trip. Here are a few pictures from the trip.

Interesting rocks just off the coast

Nik and I on the beach - Midnight Sun

Some local mountains

Outside after caving

Midnight sun

View from halfway up

View looking down from the top

At the top - I was really tired

Finally, it is time to give some thanks to people who made my trip in Norway amazing.

1) I would like to thank Harstad University College for everything they did for me. From the grant, to all the help I had getting housing and the papers  that I needed for my residence permit, their services were exceptional. It made getting to Norway and my experience stress free. I would also like to thank all of the staff who ensured that I had a placement, and for being an exceptional resource for any issues I had.

2) I would like to thank the international office at Minot State University for ultimately accepting me for the exchange, and ensuring that everything was done prior to me leaving. I was extremely nervous about the pre departure process, as I have never actually even been over seas before. They helped me through the steps, and I am thankful for that. You were truly a wealth of knowledge.

3) Stagnes 8-13, my field work placement. This was the absolute best placement that someone could wish for while in Norway. How accepting, friendly, and knowledgeable everyone was towards me was everything a person could ask for. The staff was friendly, and accommodating, and the students were exciting, fun and full of energy. Thank you all for accepting me with open arms.

4) The international community at Harstad University College. I will never forget the memories that were created with all of you. From the many adventures we had from horse sledging to times where we simply sad around drinking tea, I will embrace all of these memories. I will never forget any of you, and you all really helped shape me as a person. I couldn't ask for a better crew and the cultural experience I learned from you all.

5) I would like to thank the people of Norway. I came to a country not knowing what to expect, and ultimately I fell in love with the country and people of Norway. You were all so helpful, friendly, informative, accepting, and as a tourist, I couldn't ask for anything more. I met so many great friends from the university, my field placement; to random people I met along the way. In many instances, you invited me to visit you from your home towns, and taught me so much about the Norwegian Culture. I will sincerely miss you all so much, and leaving Norway was one of the hardest things I have had to do in my life. I left a completely different person, and that change was for the best. I cannot thank you all enough.

6) I would also like to take this time to thank everyone who followed my blog. It was gratifying to hear that so many people enjoyed following my experience abroad, and I hope that I may have even inspired some people to study abroad.

So many of you who followed my blog, may be wondering what is next for me. I have graduated, and am technically am back in Canada unemployed. I have a knee that needs to be operated on, and I am waiting to figure out when my surgery on that will be. If it is right away, I will postpone finding a job, and get surgery. The doctor figures I will be out for 6-8 weeks before I can start physiotherapy. After that is done, I will find a job and work as hard as I can, with the goal of returning to Norway to take a 1 year language class then work in Norway. Ultimately, my goal is to work in Norway, but if for some reason that doesn't work out, the goal would be to work in Europe. After touring and travelling Europe, the European life style is something I definitely feel suits me. That is all for now

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Lensvik/Trondheim Norway!

The last stop of my european journey was to go to Lensvik and Trondheim Norway, to visit my friend Emma.  I really wanted to see more of Norway, and I am so thankful that she let me visit her.  It is really neat to see everyday life, to see where someone grew up, went to school, and what her life consited of, and now consists of. On top of all of this, Norway is such a beautiful country it is always great to see more of it.  Although we didn't do so much tourist stuff, that was not the intention of my visit, it was to see what everyday life was like for them, and to have some fun on top of that.  It was such a great stay there, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Emma and Anja, for showing me around, keeping me well entertained, and showing me a great time in Lensvik and Trondheim.  I would also like to thank all their family and friends for welcoming me, and being so accomodating while I was there.  It was truly a great ending to my European tour! 

Scenary in Lensvik

Beautiful Lake

Trondheim from the Tower Restaurant!

Trondheim at about 3 am in the morning

Another picture of the view from the top of the Tower
So just and update on my current travelling status, I am currently back in Harstad, Norway.  I will be visiting my friend in Lufoten Norway early next week, and then will be returning home to Canada on June 29th!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Local Tour Guides

Wow, is travelling Europe ever fun. It is absolutely insane all the different kinds of people you meet, and the things you get to see and do.  No two countries are the same, and the cultural experience you get in each is new and exciting.  Lately, I have been in Holland and Denmark, where I have had the great fortune of having my friends from those countries show me around.

First, my friend Margit met in Amsterdam to visit and show me around to different places.  It is extremely helpful to have someone who speaks the native language, so things like directions and suggestions are much easier to get. We toured around and she showed me different typical Dutch things, such as the special plates, and in this one area the Dutch curtains. We then went to a more traditional Dutch bar.  It was really fun to go here for me, because I got to experience some Dutch music and a Dutch atmosphere.  The atmosphere was neat, and the music, well let’s just say I won’t be putting it on my iPod anytime too soon. We then went to another pub restaurant, where we had Bitterballen.  It was so good and traditionally Dutch too!  At this point, it was fairly late, so it was time to go home.  It was so enjoyable to have a local Dutch person show me around, and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening!
Houses off the Canal

The Fantastic Curtains

Traditional Dutch China Design

The statues are even ready for Dutch Soccer
Two days later, I met my friend Anja in Copenhagen.  She had to come into Copenhagen to do a few tasks, and it worked out perfect because we got to meet up.  We started off the journey by going to look at the town hall, and her and her friend told me about Tivoli and other such Danish attractions in Copenhagen.  We walked around, and went to this round tower, where we got to see a complete view of Copenhagen from way up, and it was incredible.  You could see the majority of the city, and all the different landmarks that Copenhagen had to offer.   We then went to an area of Copenhagen called Nyhavn, and enjoyed ice cream on the canal by the docks.  It was such an enjoyable relaxing day, I enjoyed it thorougly!

Anja and I at City Hall!

Copenhagen from the top

Boat in the Canal of Nyhavn
I would like to take this oppurtunity to thank my tourguides in each of the cities.  I really appreciate the time you took to show me around, to give me a traditional experience.  An update on my travels, I am now in Lensvik Norway, with another friend visiting, to also get a traditional Norwegian experience :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Lets go Biking

Just a small update on my travels, I have arrived in Utrecht Holland, and it is quite a beautiful city.  I took the train from Eidenhoven to Utrecht, after my flight from Poland, and everything went smooth as can be.  Arrived in Utrecht, and found my hostel without much difficulty.

So here are my first impressions about Utrecht, Holland.  It is a very beautiful European city as I have mentioned earlier.  It is well maintained, yet still looks very European.  But here is the kicker, I have never seen so many bikes and people biking in my life.

For my faithful blog followers, I mentioned biking in an earlier blog about Sweden.  Well, Sweden has nothing on Utrecht.  Everyone bikes everywhere, and there is even sidewalk lanes dedicated to bikes.  Want to know how I figured that out? I got a bell rung at me because I was walking in the bike lane.  I cannot express in words how many people bike here, it is so cool to see.  I also have not seen one gas station, although I am sure they exist somewhere haha!

A small group of bikes

Bikes all lined up near the city center

The special bike lanes

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Polish Walking Tours

My time in Poland is coming to an end, and I have absolutely loved every bit of the experience.  During my time here, I took advantage of a few walking tours that I am going to tell you about. What is great about these tours, is that they are absolutely free.  The incredible thing about the fact that they are free, is that they are also extremely informative, and also quite fun. 

The first tour I went on was the Jewish Krakow tour.  Basically, we went to the area in Krakow where the Jews settled and lived in prior to World War 2.  They showed us the different synagogues, and told information on how many Jewish citizens lived there prior to World War 2, and then following.  The next part the led us to the ghetto, which is where they were forced to live under Nazi control, and then to finish off the tour we ended up at schindlers factory.  It was extremely informative, and I really enjoyed it.


Stairs featured in schindlers list

Street art representing Pope John Paul II and his followers

Sorting area for Jews in the Ghetto - Those who were fit stayed, those who were not were sent to be killed

Schindlers factory gate.

The second tour that I went on was the Royal Krakow tour. It basically went over the history of Krakow through the years, and which countries owned Krakow. It was not as interesting as the Jewish Krakow tour, but still worth it for the price. It also led us to the castle in Krakow, which actually was very cool as well. It showed the different city walls, and what remains of the old walls. It also led us to John Paul II window that he would appear at when he visited Krakow (he was originally from Krakow). It was a good tour to learn the history, and for the price it was definitely worth it!
A picture of the pope at the window that he would appear at when in Krakow

Fire breathing dragon at the castle

The best possible picture of the castle I could find

Monday, June 4, 2012

Auschwitz Concentration Camp & Wieliczka Salt Mine

Time for an update on my travels. I want to apologize to everyone who has been faithfully following my blog. I had stated previously that I would be updating my blog more often, but unfortunately my lap top power cord has bit the dust, and no longer works. I looked at replacing it here in Poland, but the voltage of the actual cords is different. The only way that I can update my blog now is when the Hostel computer is not being used. The laptop itself is getting old, and I had intentions of getting a new one anyway. Enough about that, and time to talk about my adventures.

One of the first places I visited while in Poland was the concentration camp Auschwitz. It is one of those place that I have always wanted to visit, but clearly it is not for a fun time. So I went to the camp, and I must say it was one of the saddest things I have ever witnessed in my life. Seeing how brutal this camp was, and the conditions they had to live through was extremely saddening. When you are in Auschwitz, you get taken through the camp and inside many of the buildings. In these buildings you get to see a room full of shaved hair, all the belongings that the prisoners brought to the camp, and things like rooms upon rooms of luggage and shoes. The worst part is that this is only the first of two places you go. The next camp that we went to was called Auschwitz-Birkenau, which was only a couple of kilometers away. It was actually built by the prisoners of Auschwitz during the war, and the conditions there were horrible. It was a really rainy day, and I was miserable after being there for an hour, so to think that people could have spent years there was really hard to swallow. This is definitely a part of history that I think everyone should see, even though it can make for a sad day.
Up to 8 people had to sleep on each level of these

Toilets prisoners had to use

The row of toilets, absolutely 0 privacy.
Double row of fences

Ovens in the crematorium
Now on to something a little different. The next place I visited was the Wieliczka Salt mine, which started in the 13th century. I was not really sure what to expect when I visited this, but essentially it is like a town underground. There are cathedrals, and different commemorative rooms throughout the entire mine. The wood is very well-preserved throughout the mine, due to the high salt concentration levels, and even gets stronger as time goes on. You end up descending 125 meters, with rooms to visit during the whole time. It is hard to explain it on a blog, but pictures may help. Sorry about the quality of a few of the pictures, they are uploading rather weird. 

One of the exhibitions in the tour

One set of the many stairs in the mine
4 guys would spin this around in order to bring the salt up from lower areas
They got smart, horses worked better.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Welcome to Poland

Well, I have officially arrived in Poland.  The flight went very well, and I had no travelling complications along the way, besides being on a flight full of Justin Bieber fans.  A few of them saw the canadian flag on my back pack, and asked me if I had met them.  I later found out that he was performing on Oslo, so this all makes sense now.

Anyways, after my arrival in Krakow, I definitely realized I was not in Norway anymore.  I asked a couple people inside on how to get to the train station, and they did not understand me.  I finally went outside and asked around until 3 girls from Holland were there, and they helped me out! I talked with them for a bit, and they were super nice, and even offered to show me around in Holland! I then hopped on the bus and headed for the heart of the city.  

I found my hostel without much difficulty.  I must of just had some bad luck with people who couldn't speak english at the airport, because once I went to the shopping mall it was super easy to get help.  I settled into my hostel, but was very tired.  I decided that for the remainder of the day I would just wonder around Krakow, and take in some of the sights.   It is a such a beautiful city! I had no idea or expectations of what Krakow was like prior to coming, but it has made quite the impression on me so far.  It is also very nice and convenient that it very cheap, so things are quite affordable.  Here are some pictures I took while wondering around.
Getting ready for EuroCup!

Hallo Old European street

I will find out what this is when I do the city tour.