After our Trolltunga adventure we left Odda and it’s terrible showering facilities behind us, boarding first a bus to Voss, to meet the train taking us to Oslo. It was a long journey, but booked because it was supposed to be the most beautiful train ride in the world, and it did not disappoint. The ever-present tunnels (side note: on the bus to Voss we went through tunnels that were so massive they had roundabouts in them!!) acted like a camera, giving us snapshots of the beautiful countryside as we whipped by: scene one – beautiful lake, green hills, adorable red wooden slat house, scene two – huge green expanse, snow tipped mountains..
We arrived into Oslo in the evening and made our way to Grunerlokker, where we were staying in an apartment with air BnB hosts who, to our delight, were cat sitting! Nothing makes you feel at home as a pet!
Grunerlokker was a great area, quite a young scene with lots of bars and restaurants. We only had one night there, and the next day we walked all around the city. Highlights were the architectural opera house on the harbour front, and the fortress we stumbled across which was beautifully maintained and had beautiful views over the water.
That evening we boarded a ferry, the Pearl Seaways, which took us from Oslo to Copenhagen. More a cruise ship than the Cook Strait interislander, we waved goodbye to Norway from the Sky bar with drinks in hand, treated ourselves to dinner in a restaurant and later toured the duty free shops – such luxury!
Our arrival in Copenhagen the next morning was met by confusion – no customs to pass through?! And then a bit of navigating to find train tickets, the train station, somewhere to stow our bags for the day. Activities which took quite a bit of organising and with my empty stomach fast turning “hangry”, Kelly beelined us to the nearest cafe for some much needed coffee and breakfast before things took a turn for the worse!
After that (mood improved you’ll be pleased to note), we wandered the streets of Copenhagen, walking the long High street packed with beautiful shops, street entertainers and shoppers to the Palace garden.
Later, after checking in to another air BnB, we wandered to nearby Christiania – not knowing what to expect, but a place that had come recommended as a must visit by many we’d encountered. The first sign we were in the right place was the man dressed military-esque striding from street side Copenhagen down a slightly overgrown path, joint in hand, cannabis scented smoke trailing behind!
I should probably explain.. Christiania is a free city in the heart of Copenhagen – where cannabis is not so much permitted as tolerated by city officials. Overgrown trails winding around the lake revealed pretty open spaces with many relaxing in the sun. We walked through the town where sellers offered their wares from behind face coverings (perhaps things are not so complacent as they once were). Most amazingly is that within metres of crossing the city border of Christiania, we were back in the midst of Copenhagen metropolitan! No photos were allowed, but this place truly was a marvel!
The next day saw us boarding a plane to Rome, Italy, and the end of our Scandinavian escapades.
This part of the trip we had initially planned to go to Turkey, but due to recent events, and issues with our insurance, we decided it would be easier to reroute to spend longer in Italy and Greece, saving the lures of the Blue mosque and those hot air balloon filled Cappadochian skies for another time.
Because of the rearranging, things became a little fluid in terms of our itinerary, and we arrived in Rome not quite sure of our plans. But first, pizza!
..And gelato, and buffalo mozzarella, and tomatoes, and prosciutto, and wine, and pasta. And it was delicious! The first full day took us to Testaccio, an old part of Rome where food used to get prepared for the city, to partake in a food tour. We met up with Gigi our food tour host who showed us, and eight other tourists, some of the great culinary delights of the town. Along with visiting some iconic places, we learnt something of the food as well – that Margherita pizza was made to reflect the colours of the Italian flag, and named for Princess Margharite, and amazingly that there is literally a hill made from broken amphora (vessels that carried all food stuffs). Apparently, given olive oil is a devil to clean out of the clay vessels, they decided it would be much easier to break them up and chuck them in a pile – over 100 years a hill was formed! The temperature inside the hill was discovered to be a perfect store for wine, and served that purpose for many years, though now has restaurants burrowed into the base of all enjoying a perfect temperate respite from the beating Roman sun.
And the gelato! Our final stop on the tour was at a gelateria where we learned that sadly 80% of gelato is not real gelato, and how to tell (naturally, we have now become gelato connesseuirs, minded to screw up our noses when confronted with ‘poofy’ impersonates – however, I still think that there is an argument for trying the fake stuff, if times are tough, you know, from an educational perspective..)
The site of our lesson was at a very prestigious gelato establishment which had been in the family for many a generation. The patron was a true professional – he veto’d some of our companions choices with a very firm non, much to the chagrin of the group! (But truly, who puts coffee and lemon together?! ) I can honestly say that Iv never felt so unsure of myself when picking a dessert!
The food aside (again – fabulous) we spent many hours touring the impressive colosseum, the gigantic Palintine hill and Roman forum, all of which were fascinating and overwhelming in their size, the quality and quality of the ruins.
We also toured Vatican City, joining the throng wandering the halls of the museums to the Sistine Chapel to gaze at the exquisite ceilings, and then to take in the enormity of St Peters Basilica. On our final night we treated ourselves to pasta at a recommended trattoria and then took the metro to visit the Trevi Fountain lit up under the night sky.
An impressive city, amazing to wander around, with hidden treasures to be found around every corner, in seemingly unsuspecting locations! It was hard to squeeze so much into one post, harder again to pick just a few photos to go with it, especially of the museums, and the attractions we visited! There will be more on Facebook if any one is interested! Ciao! Xx
Kelly’s Pro Travel Tip:
We witnessed someone having a seizure in the central train station! Well, I thought it was a seizure until I realised the guy was still upright and what I thought was slurred speech was him actually talking on the phone, the rapid arm movements thought to be uncontrolled spasms were merely an illustration in Italian sign language. This bizarre spectacle confused weary travellers and while knowing Italians gave this flailing man plenty of room, hapless foreigners that strayed too close were repayed with a stray backhand from his wild gesticulating. Italians are by nature very passionate and if you think the above example demonstrates this, you wait until they are talking about food. Such brings me too our friend the gelato man Trelise has mentioned above.
Rome is a large sprawling metropolis home to millions with a crime rate to match. Trelise had inadvertently booked accommodatation in a neighbourhood that would later be described by one local as “ah, the place with the prostitutes”. So you’d think, and rightly so, that I would be very nervous about getting robbed, stabbed or the like. Well friends let me assure you, that this pales in comparison to the paralysing fear that is the simple task of choosing two gelato flavours. Yes that’s right, the delicious creamy treat loved by all. Not a stabbing, not walking through prostitute infested dark alleyways or getting kidnapped. Gelato. Let me set the scene. We’re in a working class neighbourhood in Rome, no one cares to speak English and one is so very passionate about food. Here we are getting our last entertaining speech on gelato when our host has but one final comment “these guys take gelato very seriously, so if you suggest a combination that they do not like they may… direct you to pick another flavour” to which the group laughed and I thought great, here we go, a bit of Italian banter. Boy was I wrong.
Trelise and I were 3rd and 4th in line, an in depth analysis and thought provoking discussion had broken out between the two of us, the pros and cons of each flavour acknowledged and commented upon, as usually does when we decide on food, when the first unsuspecting victim attempts her order. The guy behind the counter is probably about 6 foot but must weigh about 150kg. Possibly a result of the gelato before him but who could really blame him. Let’s call him Luigi. Anyway, “I’ll have… Coffee and… Lemon” she said. An odd choice I thought but each to their own. Well. No. Not each to their own, luigi’s eyes bulged, face turned red and he let out a barrage of words which luckily no one could understand, dropping his gelato scooping thing he walked away in disgust. The group shrunk back and this poor girl was cowled. SHIT JUST GOT REAL. It was intense, I imagine the atmosphere similar to being held at gun point, one not willing to move should they make a mistake and anger the other.
Luigi, somewhat calmed after a furious discussion with another patron, walked back to the bar. His stoic glare struck fear into every heart. His intention not needing translation. Pick. Another. Flavour. The girl faltered, who could blame her, she started rambling, mumbling through the flavours. She’d obviously slipped into a panic, finally she let out a squeak. “hazelnut?” all eyes in the room shifted to Luigi, his gaze had not left the girl. He moved, everyone held their breath, he shrugged his shoulders in indifference. Acceptable. We all let out our breath.
The game had changed and Trelise and I knew it, we no longer cared about getting what we what we simply wanted to survive. Our collective brain power now turned to compatibility. Does pistachio go with hazelnut!? Jesus Christ, is it OK to go nut on nut?! The next person was up. She shuffled to the bar and let out a barely perceptible whisper ” coffee and… Berry” WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU WOMAN THAT WONT BE OK!? And it wasn’t. Luigi hit the roof. His yelling barely comprehensible to the natives in the bar, he gesticulated wildly, someone near the back of the line started sobbing. It was a messy affair. Once he had calmed down she picked again, “Hazlenut”. Thank god. Go for what you know works people! Trelise looked at me in despair, sweat had broken out and was pouring down our foreheads. She looked to me for help and so I did the only thing I could. I pushed her towards the bar. I’m not proud of it but at this stage it was every man for himself. She meekly made her way to the bar, her frightened expression meeting luigi’s. The odds weren’t in her favour and Luigi knew it. She mustered everything she had “pistachio (good start, yes) and … ricotta.” HOLY SHIT WOMAN THAT IS BOLD. My heart stopped, time seemed to slow, everyone in the room knew this was a gamble but none knew the outcome. Luigi let out a wry smile, someone clapped. It was amazing. Trelise skipped out the door like a school girl having bested a bear. I was next, my heart was racing, knees weak, arms were heavy, there was vomit on my sweater already, Flávio Al Vellavevodeta’s spaghetti (which was delicious, by the way). Luigi stared at me, f$&k it I’m going nut on nut. ” Pistachio and Hazlenut”. He glared and me. I glared right back. He grabbed a cup and filled the order. Grazie, I said as I scampered out the front door.