Border stories

Why do you travel?

Lot’s of reasons for lots of people. Of course I will not count all the reasons that may be, but a reason we’ve been to Copenhagen a few years ago, was among the most interesting ones.

If you’ve read the “about us” page, you already know by now that I am from a semi-developed country. Being from a semi-developed country means that you are a big potential of being a refugee-at least in the eyes of many developed countries. Most of the countries worth to travel, requires a visa from me and my people. Not the one, you can pay and buy from the airport. The one that you need to apply well in advance, with files of documents, proving that you are rich enough that you would not dare to migrate to their country. Moreover, to take this visa they ask for a huge amount of money (for instances a visa for our family to Britain costs around 2.500 usd.) That’s why, many people in my country just prefers to travel to countries that do not require visa. But more moreover, some countries procedures last weeks, which means being apart from your passport. That’s why we did not go to New Zealand for instance, as we were told that we need to give our passports to the consulate for about a month. They must be crazy.

For EU countries (not all, but most) we are required to have a Schengen visa, which can be taken from any EU (not all, but most) country consulates and be used in Schengen countries plus Switzerland. OK I am coming to the point: The reason we did a long weekend to Copenhagen was, our 1 year Schengen visa was about to end (which was taken from Belgium consulate), so we thought we must go to somewhere in EU, in the end of the week we were in. After a brief search of alternative flights and hotels and “list of have not been countries”, we ended up in Copenhagen-a country only I had been before, my husband and our son did not.

Unfortunately the visa humiliation does not end in the passport. When we reached Copenhagen airport, we were among the first ones got off the plane. However, just after the first corridor, there was a security guy checking the passports and the visas and when he saw ours, (I do not know why) he probably decided that we very much look like refugees and made us stand at one side, to consult about our visas to many of his friends. (And I do not know why) this took them about 20 minutes, while in the mean time, all the other passengers passed us, with the thought of “They must have done something wrong” in their minds and eyes.

They finally let us “in” and we had a very nice long weekend escape as a family, but we do not think that the humiliation in that border was something we deserve and I will prefer not to go to Denmark again, if I have chance not to.

Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do…I miss John Lennon!!

Happy New Year

Travel map

Travel map

 

I wish all my travel lover followers a very happy year with full of travels with friends and families, with loads of photographs to share and lovely memories to remember forever.

This map above is from the wall of our son’s room. If you look closer, you will see pink marks on the places we have been together with him. This year we reached to 20 countries on 4 continents. Our aim is 4 travels every year, two of which, to new countries for our son. My wish list for the coming year is:

1. Maldives (a new country for us all) to enjoy some swimming in winter.

2. Belek/Turkey for a golf holiday in February or March, for a long weekend.

3. Paris in May, third time being in France, but first time in Paris for our son.

4. Somewhere North in June, for a longest day possible, maybe to Moscow or St. Petersburg.

5. UK in summer (a new country for our son), we lived and studied in the UK before our son was born, but we’ve never been there since we returned in 1998. Still hesitating, as you know our love of renting a car and driving, which is the biggest concern of us in the UK.

6. A weekend in one of the Greek islands.

7. Oman for another golf holiday and warm weather in Autumn (A new country for us all)

8. Dubai, in October for a conferance (A new country for us all)

9. Germany (either Nürnberg or Berlin) in December, to visit the Christmas markets.

Oooops, this has been quite a lot. Well, let’s see what life will bring.

Great Cruise Tour-day-6

Good morning view while approaching to Oslo

Good morning view while approaching to Oslo

The 6th day of our Great Cruise tour started with a lovely good morning view of Oslo. Unfortunately we only had a few hours to spend in Oslo, the capital of Norway. Moreover, this few hours would start even earlier than the days before. Therefore, I preferred to order my breakfast to our room, in order to avoid the hassle of 13th floor restaurant, and enjoy a superb breakfast with a splendid view of Oslo bay and islands. (Just a little tip here: order breakfast to your room, more than you think you will eat, as the plates are so small.)

No place to eat in our tiny room, so we did eat in our balcony

No place to eat in our tiny room, so we did eat in our balcony

Besides the breakfast, the early morning routines were pretty much the same. Today we took the “Introduction to Oslo” tour which I would not recommend if you are not a big group like ours. The only attraction of the tour was a superb Vigeland Park, which could be reached by a taxi, faster and easier. Other than the park, we did not have any chance to see the centre of the city, because of the traffic and not easy for the huge bus to go around, we could only pass trough the main streets and noted to come to Oslo again, sometime soon.

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

Vigeland park, is a must in Oslo, one of the best parks I have ever been. Home to some 192 sculptures by its namesake, the Vigeland sculpture park is the cynosure of Norway’s artistic landscape. The park is Gustave Vigeland’s artistic statement about the quintessential themes of life and relationships. A hundred meter long bridge bifurcates along a waterfall, each path adorned with large bronze wheels, while the bridge itself is adorned with granite depictions of humans at various stages of life, including Angry Boy, one of the most prominent sculptures in the park. Its other highlights include sculptures such as The FountainThe Monolith, and The Wheel of Life.

Angry boy

Angry boy

Wheel of life

Wheel of life

Vigeland Park

Vigeland Park

Another attraction of Oslo is the park where the winter Olympic games are held and the ski jump tower. The observation deck by the tower has a lovely view of Oslo and the Ski Jump simulator is very attractive for a child like ours.

Ski jump tower

Ski jump tower

Goodbye Oslo

Goodbye Oslo

I wish we could stay more in Oslo.

Another important thing to remember in Oslo is to redeem your invoices for tax free refunds, as Oslo is the last stop in Norway. To do this, you need to approach the tiny building by the Cruise, in which there are some souvenir shops and long queue of tax refund. Moreover, in the queue you find out that there are two different tax refund companies and if the invoices you hold comprise them both, you need to get in two different queues one by one. My advice would be either just skip it (which means  no tax refund), or ask your friend or partner to stay in the other queue (which is at the far end of the building). Other wise you spend a good half hour waiting in each of the queues. Is it worth waiting? Well, about 15% of the invoice, if you have a number of them, it may be worth it.

A chat from yesterday evening:

Our son: Mom do you remember the dance lessons you took.

Me: Sirtaki, Salsa, or Tarantelle.

Our son: Tarantelle, do you remember the dance steps?

Me: No, none.

Altough I enjoyed the Sirtaki class (yesterday), Salsa Class (The second day) and tarantelle class (today), during  the one week tour, when I try to remember any of them… No, not even one step is in my mind. What a pity.

Our day ended with long lunch, again in the Kaito sushi bar, the rescued island, far from the mass of people. And an afternoon nap, before dinner, after which we found – luckily- a place to sit in the lobby and enjoyed the live music of piano.

Great Cruise tour-day-1

The main activity of our summer has been the Cruise trip with MSC Poesia to Norwegian Fyords. We were a group of 8: Me, the organiser-as always, my husband and our son-as expected, my mom and her husband, my uncle and aunt and my grandfather. So group aged from 9 to 90. Tough isn’t it?

Actually our flight to the Cruise point-Copenhagen, started a day earlier, so let me start by telling you the day -1. Since our flight was an early bird one (Which we all hate) first-time-ever, we stayed in the hotel just by the airport in our home city, although we live just about 30 min. from the airport. We enjoyed a fine wine with a well done meat for dinner, in a wine yard close to the airport, and the airplanes passing just above us. We saved about 45 min. more sleeping time and in my opinion can save your next day, especially if you are not an early bird family.

Day 1 was a typical traveling date, long flights with some delays. First breakfast at the first flight, second one at the lounge and the third breakfast at the second flight (not a good start for my diet). Arriving to Copenhagen Airport, transfer to our cruise and getting into the first queue of never ending “get in the queue” ‘s.  After about an hour of waiting in the queue, we finally got on our ship found our rooms on the 10th floor, saw how a room can be so tiny. Opening the extra bed for our son and the situation got worse. Good that my grandfather is with us and staying in a single room:-) Our son is immidiately posted to my grandfather’s room and here it is, we have a rather normal room again.

Checking the daily news in the room

Checking the daily news in the room

We were told that the restaurant on the 13th floor is open all day. That would be a good choice for a late lunch actually, but we got our first lesson right after. It was absolute mess with lots of children around, people with loads of food on their plate are searching for some more and we try to find a place to be seated. Lesson number one: Never ever eat lunch at 13th floor.

Learning to tie the life jackets

Learning to tie the life jackets

Having started the day very early in the morning, I would die for a mid-day nap for a few hours but duty was waiting. First I went to listen the extra tours provided during the tour, as we were a big group I wouldn’t risk not to take a tour. Later on I understood that I did the right thing, as the Norvegian Fyord cruise ports are on very tiny villages, where you would not find much things to do. Bus/Train/Boat tours on the other hand take you to further than the Fyords, which you will see on the coming days.

Listening the tours and deciding the suitable ones for us, did not finish the duties. We all supposed to be in the rescue training at 5:00 pm, ready with our life jackets. Listening to “What to do” in 7 languages and find out the deck we would be ready. Fun but not for sleepy tired people like us.

In the cruises, you either eat dinner at 6:00 pm or 8:15 pm. It was good that we preferred to eat at 6:00 pm. Altough this caused us to miss most of the departures from ports, in later days we have learned that it is not the only day 1 started early. Each day we had to woke up earlier than the previous:-(

Just after we settled down we met our waiter; an Indonesian guy, so kind, but unfortunately did speak very bad English.  Somehow we managed to order, eat and finally got in our beds, before sunset of north.

View from our room at Copenhagen port

View from our room at Copenhagen port

A New York Travel with a lost luggage

Until our son was 3, we almost did not do any travels abroad. Our traveling with our son history started 7 years ago. And until he was 9 we could not be brave enough to do a long haul flight. That’s why our first time travel to US was last year.

Actually the start of our journey was really dramatic. We arrived to JFK safely, but our luggage did not do so (first time of such an experience). The more dramatic thing was, all three of us did fit in one luggage. The visa control was about 1,5 hours and it took us another 1,5 hours to search for our luggage, find a desk to inform the situation and try to understand how we would get our luggage. Not a nice welcome huh? Especially after a 9 hour flight, especially with a child.

Well, without our luggage, got off the airport, got the first taxi we met (and fooled by the driver, which is another story). Since we were late, the ruch hour started in Manhatten. Arrived to our hotel in New Jersey in another 1,5 hours. Thanks got, our hotel was just by a shopping mall, where we tried to find some underwear, t-shirts, lens solutions, ipad and iphone charges. When I say we, acually, I should say I, because that was when our son started to sleep on a bench at the mall, my husband stayed with him, and I tried to find everything, of course in different levels of Macy’s and by tring to understand the sizes which are totally different than we use and with dreadfully being sleepy.

We wish the story ended in a few days, however it did not. Everyday with hopes and loads of telephone calls, we were starting the day at Macy’s again, buying something to wear very quickly, trowing away the etiquettes, wearing them on and going to Manhattan. After 3 days, we got a phone call that our luggage has arrived and will bring it to our room. We all jumped on beds shouted and shouted. Ant the door rang, I opened very exitedly, and that was it: A WRONG SUITCASE. We could not beleive our eyes

How the story ended: We bought new suitcases in NY, flew to Las Vegas, and than to San Fransisco, than drove to LA and after 15 days of travel, flew back home. Our luggage arrived a month later,and the airline did pay only 1/10 of our expenses, after calling about a hundred times, writing loads of e-mails, which took about 6 months. We tried this adventure not to ruin our travel, since we paid loads of money for it, but we got a lot of lessons. Now we only travel with carry-on luggage and follow www.onebag.com rules.

Visiting Ancient Sites

Visiting ancient sites

Visiting ancient sites – Pergamon

It always has been amazing to see how our son’s imagination work in the ancient cities. While we intent to see just “stones”, our son loves to do shopping in an “Agora”, do some cooking in a “kitchen”, play a game in the “amphitheater”, pretend to be a statue, be a king, be a slave, be a carpenter or be soldier… Ancient sites are really good places to play the old “pretending to be” games.

When we visit an ancient site he never wants to skip any bit of the “stones” and wonders the story behind every stone. Good way to teach the history and let him know that there were thousands of years people lived without their ipads, or PSPs. Hard for him to believe.

The best ancient cities we have been were in Turkey, Greece and Italy. The story behind the ancient cities are more amazing than the sites itself. How people cured themselves in the very first hospital of Asclepion, how people died of diseases, how they have been to the toilet all together in Ephesus, where the gods lives in Athens, and how people could not escape from the Visuv volcano in Pompei.

Pedestrian crossing on a busy street of Pompei

Pedestrian crossing on a busy street of Pompei

To get the most from an ancient city, when we finally finish all our walking, we love to stop at the souvenir shop and buy a little souvenir or postcards to remember the site. After a fine walk in the ancient sites, we also love to relax in a fine restaurant and talk about what we just saw, what we will remember and sometimes our son draws some pictures about the details of the stones and I am always amazed how he can remember such things in such details.

Pretending to be s statue - Ephesus

Pretending to be a statue – Ephesus

Remember me to write about our little “Do you remember?” game later on.