Month: September 2014

Warszawa Centralna to Chopin Airport

Since I got a cheap Norwegian Airlines flight from Warsaw to Barcelona, today I took the train from Krakow to Warsaw (~US$30) and then the SKM train from Warszawa Centralna to Chopin Airport. Couple of notes: The intercity train from Krakow to Warsaw is pretty basic; for US$20 I could have gone 2nd class, but

The Flamsbana

Hi All!  Here’s a catchup post about a day trip I took from Oslo.  I combined a ride on the Flamsbana (Flåm railway) and a ride on the ferry between the towns of Flåm and Gudvangen, which let’s you see the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord.  There are “Norway in a Nutshell” tours that can provide these trips, plus others, into a journey around Norway.  I decided to save some money and follow the itinerary myself.  It’s actually pretty easy (at least for these segments) to arrange.  Just go to the train station in Norway and the NSB reservations person can book the required trains, ferry and even bus connection for you.  I’ll cover the initial part through to Flam here, and then the ferry ride later.

Your day starts early with a train ride from Oslo to Myrdal, departing around 6:43 AM and taking about 5 hours and 20 minutes.  It’s main highlight is climbing up to one of the highest elevations in the area, Finse (1,222.2 meters above sea level).  This turned out to be a pretty cool ride, IMO possibly better than the Flamsbana ride itself.  Why?  Well, mainly I loved the scenery along the way… and unlike the Flamsbana it was easier to get a good view out the train windows.

The scenery (in September) was quite varied – many different colors of vegetation, and rocks, and even water.  Not sure if that holds true all year round (and in winter I gather much of it will be covered in snow).  Here are some examples:

Oslo to Myrdal 1  Oslo to Myrdal 2

Visit to Auschwitz, thoughts

I arrived in Krakow today via night train from Budapest. Being quite early I decided to visit Auschwitz. I’ll do another post about the logistics and visit and pictures, but today I just wanted talk a bit about the overall visit. As just about everyone else who goes will say, I think everyone should go.

Split pea soup and pancakes, Sweden

Apparently there is a Thursday tradition of eating split pea soup and pancakes in Sweden.  And by Thursday, it seems many people do this just about EVERY Thursday.  A guy at the hostel had got a recommendation for a good place (and the lowdown on the tradition) so we headed over to try it.

Pretty good, first the soup (with side of sausage and ham):

Split pea soup, with a side of sausage and ham.

Split pea soup, with a side of sausage and ham.

And to go with it, pancakes…

Warszawa Old and New

Got to Warszawa yesterday and am leaving for Munich tonight, a quick visit but well w0rth it!  I liked Praha (Prague) a lot but it was a bit overloaded with tourists and unfortunately the typical Czech surly service was getting on my nerves.  Although I will say there were many great service experiences too!   But it’s just the nature of the culture, yes?

Anyways, I only got to see a bit of Warszawa but would definitely recommend coming back.  The people seem much friendlier (both in the tourist areas and on the bus, which I think is an uncommon tourist transport mode here).  The city is an interesting mix of old and new.  First there is the (I think communist era apartment block look, but livened up a bit with some street art):

An apartment block building with some street art, Warsaw, Poland.

An apartment block building with some street art, Warsaw, Poland.

This was about a half mile from the Old Town, which is an interesting place given that it was practically obliterated by the Germans in WWII, but then subsequently recreated in the 1960s.

Old Town Square, Warszawa, Poland.

Old Town Square, Warszawa, Poland.

Stockholm Hostel af Chapman

Hi All, a catch-up post today, just wanted to share some pics from where I stayed in Stockholm.  Like the other Scandinavian cities, Stockholm is quite expensive so hostels were my first choice.  But as a somewhat unique opportunity, there are some hostels with rooms on ships.  One of the earliest (or maybe the first?) is on the af Chapman.

View of the af Chapman, now a hostel in Stockholm.

View of the af Chapman, now a hostel in Stockholm.

You do have a choice of staying on the ship or in a building on shore.  The hostel was pretty nice actually, with a nice buffet breakfast (though that was extra) and a nice little cafe (on shore) where you could sit outside and see the city and ship views.

Krystal Mozaika Bistro, Prague

Probably the most unexpected thing about Prague has been the quality of the food.  I expected food to be affordable, if not downright cheap, but I didn’t really know what to expect as far as type of food.  My vision of Eastern European food (from somewhere not necessarily based on any facts) was meat and potatoes – probably fairly bland.  Well, it has certainly been affordable (by US standards) but it has also been excellent!

Tonight I walked about a mile east (away from touristy areas like the Charles Bridge) and ate at Krystal Mozaika Bistro.  I think at least tied for favorite meal of the trip so far, and definitely wins for value (oops, will post about 2nd place soon).  First, the neighborhood certainly changed – almost no tourists or hotels as opposed to my current spot (sort of on the eastern edge of Praha 1).  However, it seemed pretty nice, and the bars and restaurants along the way were varied and several quite busy with young, fairly prosperous-looking types, though not what I would call yuppies nor hipsters.  Many places looked like nice little restaurants + bars where dinner would cost between US$10-20.  Also along the way were tons of cheaper eats, Chinese / Vietnamese and Turkish offerings where you could get a meal for about US$5.  Even a cheap sushi place!

Anyways, back to Krystal… it was a cool place, tucked away in between some offices / industrial looking buildings.  Inside it was fairly casually decorated, and cool modern music was playing.  But a look at the menu dispelled any casualness – interesting sounding dishes like “Cherry Smoked Duck Breasts – 5 hours smoked with home-made plums chutney” vied with “Free Range Chicken Thigh ala Coq a Vin”.  It was hard to decide — but I finally settled on Pickled Mushrooms to start, followed by the “Fillet of Fallow Deer, hokkaido pumpkin puree, autumn vegetables, veal jus and pumpkin seed oil.”  Plus a large draft beer (I think I missed the wine list which was on the blackboard, in Czech.  The waiter quickly gave me an English menu as soon as I said hello…)

Fillet of fallow deer, Krystal Mozaika Bistro, Prague.

Fillet of fallow deer, Krystal Mozaika Bistro, Prague.

The deer was amazing… perfectly medium-rare, and not gamey at all.  Have a better look after the jump, vegetarians may want to avoid… 🙂

Hello From Prague

Hi everyone!  Took another night train from Amsterdam to Prague.  Pretty decent ride although I will say that so far the City Night Line sleepers / couchettes have been OK but a little hard to get a good night’s sleep.  Mainly it is because the train stops at several stations and rocks a fair bit.  Not sure if it’s because the carriages so far have been a little older.  We’ll see how other train companies / lines stack up.

In any case, arrived in Prague and after some messing around trying to get proper coins for the Metro ticket, I made my way over to my AirBnB. The ticket machines here don’t take credit cards or bills, plus the Czech Republic still uses their currency, crowns, and not the Euro.  Tip: look for the toilets in the train station, and there will probably be a change machine.

After settling in (booked a private room, but looks like I will have the whole apartment to myself!) I went looking for lunch.  On the AirBnB host’s recommendation page was Potrefena Husa.  I went over and on the lunch specials was beef cheeks cannonade (sort of like a goulash made with dark beer), plus a 0.5L Staropramen beer at 1/2 price.  Done!

I started off with a Staropramen dark.

I started off with a Staropramen dark.

Nice beer, and with the lunch special, about US$0.65!  Yes, that is sixty-five cents.

Hello from Amsterdam

BTW, I am in Amsterdam!  Got here yesterday, and here ya go, the obligatory canal view: I’ve been somewhat a tourist here, getting the I Amsterdam card and visiting a lot of museums, etc.  But I did have a great Indonesian meal (another post), and met a cool couple from Bruge on the canal boat

Serendipity Part 2/2

Hello All!  I am writing to you from Amsterdam, actually got here yesterday.  Lots of things to report on since I last wrote, but I know that I promised to tell you what happened on the train ride from Stockholm to Copenhagen.  Well, here goes…

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