Sep 29, 2016

3 New Countries: Slovakia, Romania and Serbia

My total number of countries visited is rising. Last week I added three new countries to the list: Slovakia, Romania and Serbia. Flying with Norwegian Air Shuttle to Budapest, Hungary, and renting an apartment there was a great choice. Cheap apartment, but very central and short distance to reach all good things in the city. Spas, shooting clubs, and sights all around. Budapest is worth a visit!
It was my third visit to Budapest, but first as a total tourist. That was a great change of scenery.
Did some morning walks in the city, and two very long days in the city. Memorable days in the sun!

Speed Tourism.
Speed tourism is the new word in my vocabulary. Or, at least the exercise. Inspired by the Nordic travel champions Gunnar Garfors ( ) and Henrik Jeppesen (, whom have visited a unprecedented number of nations, mr. Garfors even did it while maintaining a full-time job, we decided to visit three countries on our list, in a rented car. Garfors is even a multi record holder in Guinness Book of Records. So, Friday through Sunday, we hit the 130 km/t highways in Budapest to cross borders and make new memories.

Keleti, central Budapest.
First stop was Vienna, to visit a pastor friend of mine. Been there before, but a couple of hours in Vienna is never wrong. A pleasant meal at a Mongolian-style restaurant, a short hour drive going east, and we arrived quickly in Bratislava, Slovakia. My friend, and chauffeur, Sigurd, has a thing for castles, and after beholding the Schloss Liechtenstein in Vienna, he had gotten the taste of blood.
Bratislava castle.

So, to Bratislava we drove, as fast as it was safe to drive our rented Ford C-Max. Arriving in Bratislava, we took to the white, marvellous looking fortress on top of the city. Pictures, toilet visits and a brisk walk later, we activate the GPS and try to leave the city. No such luck. The GPS takes us BACK to the castle, and even down a one-way road past the castle. Dead end. Switching to iPhone GPS, and getting out of Dodge for the second time, we find signs leading us back to Budapest. Arriving in the middle of the night in a city of 2-3 million people is interesting. Never sleeping, but a lot less people.

Romanian border,
The next morning we set the GPS on Szeged, in the south of Hungary, to act as a hub for our travels to Romania and Serbia. Arad, Romania was the first stop on our speed tourism. Since Count Vlads castle in Transylvania - Muhahahah - was too far away for our taste, Sigurd sort of lost the taste for blood.....

Arad, Romania.

We had singled out a fortress to visit in Arad through our extensive googling at night, but to no avail. A uniformed military man stopped us, and told us in no uncertain terms that this place was "off limits". He took our passports, and was on the phone for a long time. So long, actually, that my friend wondered if we ever get close to a military installation in Romania, ever, again. Only time will tell. So, we turned around and set our sights on Serbia.

Non-memorable restaurant, Subotica, Serbia.
Driving across the border from Hungary to Serbia today is no such small matter. Hungary is disputing the EU-directive about receiving a lot of refugees, and therefore the border police is very attentive. Being two Norwegians, though, makes the crossing painless, and once we actually met the border guards, we were in Serbia faster than you can say Sremska Mitrovica, which is a city in Serbia. 
We never saw this city, though, but we stopped in Subotica at a local restaurant. 
I wish I could write that it was a great dining experience, but it was not. The steak had to be taken back to the chef, and they placed a smoker couple in the non-smoker part of the restaurant where we were seated. Apart from that, painless. No tip, to put it nicely.

The trip back to Budapest went pleasantly uninterrupted, and we arrived safely at midnight. Speed tourism is our thing, especially in a family car like the Ford C-Max in central Europe. 

Sep 15, 2016

Next stop: Budapest

Next week, a friend and I will take a trip to Hungary. Budapest, to be specific. A trip for guys. A visit to the shooting range, rental car with unlimited kilometers included, a heavy right foot and hello, Vienna, Bratislava, Timisoara, Zagreb, Ptuj and Maribor!

If I can persuade my friend, I might have 4 new countries on the list before we return home to Oslo. Wow!

do any of you have some tips on where to go in these cities, and/or somewhere else to visit?

Please let me know!


Aug 17, 2016

Country No. 40 - The Vatican.

When visiting the Vatican, I have to admit something: It was the shortest visit I have ever had in any country. It lasted well under an hour, and it was memorable in one way - hot as blazes.

My daughter and I flew EasyJet from Nice to Rome, Italy. I have to commend the EasyJet-people. The aisle was almost 50 per cent wider than on any other plane I have ever been in! To a big man, that is good news! The seats were comfortable, and we arrived on time. After hailing a cab in Rome, avoiding all pickpockets, and having survived the trip to our hotel, the night just consisted of sleep.

Tram tracks.
In the morning, we had breakfast and headed for the bus stop. We could choose between tram and bus and metro. We chose tram. Bad choice, but we did. Got to the last stop, and walked a couple of hundred meters to the St. Peter´s square. Customary pictures were taken, to prove our presence, a few trinkets and a cap was bought, and back on the tram. Done deal! Been there, seen that. (Not too much, but we could not stand the heat anymore.

Have you heard the expression "Sweating like a pig"? All wrong. Pigs have no sweat glands, and cannot sweat. That is why they hide in the mud. Well, I sweat like a horse. Have you ever seen a race horse, all sweaty after a run? That´s me travelling in hot countries. Nothing new there. Good thing there are laiudry places around!

I do not necessarily like the hear, but I have to cope with it. The urge for "immer weiter" is still in my blood. I will reveal more in next blog post, for I am thirsty for more countries this year. Tickets are bought, wait and see! There will be more info coming your way.

What is your biggest travel challenge? Your spouse is not allowed to pin point ...

Aug 4, 2016

Country number 39: Monaco

In my quest to get to see 50 countries before I turn 50, I can now check Monaco off my list. Was it magical? In many ways, no. In a couple of ways interesting.
To know that there is a Formula 1 race happening in Monte Carlo every year - in these narrow streets: yes. The opulence, one car after the other parading my, not so much. That is the good part about not having too much money - there is nothing to show off. But Monaco being the playground for the rich, I was not surprised.

The good:
Monaco is beautiful. Even with a lot of construction going on in the harbor, the city of Monte-Carlo came across as beautiful. And so were all the yachts in the harbor.
Walking past McLaren cars, Rolls Royces and Bentleys with registration plates from Italy, Great Britain, Switzerland and France, just to mention a few, where there has been no money spared, it sure looks interesting. And with only 2 per cent of the population of almost 38.000 people being out of work, is also a nice fact.

The bad:
Monaco levies no income tax on individuals. The absence of a personal income tax in the principality, has attracted to it a considerable number of wealthy "tax refugee" residents from European countries whom derive the majority of their income from activity outside Monaco; celebrities such as Formula One drivers attract most of the attention, but most of them are less well-known business people, according to Wikipedia.
Money laundering.
The Council of Europe also decided to issue reports naming tax havens. Twenty-two territories, including Monaco, were evaluated between 1998 and 2000 on a first round. Monaco is the only territory that refuses to perform the second round…

For those who get their Monégasque citizenship, I am sure there are good parts and bad parts to everything. I just do not see it all during my limited time in the country. I just scrape the tip of it all.
As a one-day tourist, arriving by train from Menton, there is nothing much to be irritated about. Walking downhill, taking the public elevator back up, and spending a lot of time in and around the harbor, I get the feeling that voyerism is the thing in Monaco - see and be seen. The vast majority of the windows are facing down towards the harbor - the view is the opulence of the insane yachts, with two and three decks and entire crews cleaning them.
The italian ice cream tasted all right, the service was good, the prices were not crazy and the pizza tasted like pizza. I have a sense that even though the Monégasques have the motto: "Deo Juvante" (Latin for "With God's Help"), it cannot be easy to be a spiritual leader in this place, with money playing first violin in almost everything. Kudos to the churches still operating here!

Memorable - sure, having read about Princess Caroline of Monaco since I was a teenager, I was happy to finally be visiting the country. To see the automobil club of Monaco, walk in the streets, seeing a picture of Prince Albert and his wife Charlene on a picture on a wall, ok. Seeing more fancy cars than I could name - impressive then and there, but not in the long run. Easily seen, and easily forgotten.
Prince Albert and Charlene

A good thing, though - the leader at the restaurant “Stella Polaris” at ground level, right next to the harbor, was very understanding and replaced a chair at our table before I sat down.
– A bigger chair for you, Sir!
Very good service, and it made our meal a little better. Thank you, Stella Polaris!

Unto new territories!  

Published article at GoMadNomad!

Today I woke up to an email from the USA - which made me happy - and then some. The resected travel magazine have just published my travel article! I am beyond happy right now. I feel so happy, and I will probably not land for the rest of the day, so let me write this at once - to get it off my chest, so to speak. You can read the article here:

Photo of the article header.
This is my first time being published as a travel writer. Having written and published five books previously does not seem to matter right now. I am elated! Anyway, I just wanted to share this with you this morning, and tell you it really made my day.

Today, we are back in the Mediterranean Sea, to get some more tan. Our bodies have healed, thanks to Aloe Vera gel and lemon (Yup, it is real. Look it up!)

Buses have limited space. I know.
So, another hour or three, then back into the shadows, and maybe a short trip to Monaco or Nice this afternoon. Will be a little challenge too, because even though Air France has had the opportunity to adjust the width of their seats for bigger passengers, that is NOT the case with the buses. They are still meant for petite French men and women. C´est la vie!

Oh well, the price will compensate for that. The local bus betweeen Nice and Menton only costs 1,5 EURO. Yup, you heard me. One and a half Euro! One of the perks of traveling like a local... Have a nice day!

Aug 2, 2016

Merci, Gjertrud!

During my second day in Menton, France, I sense a big gratitude towards my French teacher at U.Pihl skole, at Åsane: Madam Gjertrud Haugstvedt.  A deep gratitude for the teaching, the home work (which I rarely did, sorry!) and the hours of conversational French she had me go through, to "get the hang of it", so to speak.
Teacher. NOT mdm Haugstvedt) 

- Aujourd´hui, je comprends, Madame Haugstvedt.
(Today I understand, Madame Haugstvedt).

Being a tourist with my daughter, the future of my life, conversing with the French (and somewhat Italian) shop owners in town, she is impressed wth her fossil dad. Her eyes are big and round. She is genuinely interested and keeps asking: " Do you REALLY understand all that?". And "oui, je comprends." (Read above for translation).

How does a big man sleep in the AirBNB-rented apartment in Nice? Not nicely, let me tell you. The bed we have to share, is made for hobbits. Half the night was spent in a corner, for back support. I asked the nice lady living here, for a chair, and I hoped for a lounge chair, but got a dinner-table chair. I will try it tonight, and maybe go back to Daniele and ask for another chair tomorrow, if I need it. (I have a  feeling I will....)

Having spent the whole morning in the water and at the shore, I am happy that the Aloe Vera lotion is working. The sun is up, which is the case 316 days a year, according to the local tourist board, and the sun tan lotion 50 is doing its thing. Almost perfectly. Not bad, being at a place which has an equal amount of rainy days to Bergen´s rainy days!

I am sorry, Bergen. That was unfair. I know it is not that bad. Mais presque. (But, almost that bad...).

Do you have a teacher you would like to send a "Merci" to, right now?

Jul 28, 2016

Luggage or no luggage, that is the question

This summer, my daughter and I shall travel with only hand luggage. That will be a first, and I am intrigues to see how it works out.
I have travelled halfway around the world before, as a journalist, with only a big backpack containing all my clothes, Macbook, camera, chargers and necessities, but this time the princess will
also have to try it. She is a real sport, so I think we will be okay.

Well, we are aiming for Côte d´Azur, So I believe it will be easierthan at trip to Northern Russia. Don´t get me wrong, I love the people in Murmansk region, and Russians generally, but the chance of not having to bring more than shorts, t-shirts and short-sleeved shirts on a summer vacation, would not be big. I suspect pants would alson have to accompany the clothes. Not this summer. Since we are changing a lot of airplanes, the easiest thing to do, is to bring it all unto the airplane. And hello - it is Southern Europe!

I am traveling only with my hand luggage. No backpack extra. All I will have, will be in the hand luggage. When I was at secondary school, my teacher told us about a friend of his whom traveled to The Canary Islands in the spring time. He put on a shorts, a t-shirt, shoes, and socks. And his VISA-card. "Whatever else I need for a week, I will buy there", he said. Smart dude.

Well, being a small giant, I cannot do the same in the south of France, I believe. And certainly not in the land of the petite Italians! So, I have to bring a little extra, but still minimalistic.

Once my brother helped me move. He grabbed what seemed like an easy thing, my gym bag. What he did not know, was that it was full of books. I love books. "You should immerse yourself into minimalism", he said....
Well, maybe this is the first step in that direction, brother!

How far have you been traveling with only hand luggage?