Thursday, May 31, 2012

Oslo, Norway

 The archipelago in all of the cities we went to were just gorgeous... especially from above!

 The opera was so cool! So different. I couldn't stop taking pictures of it. If only there were no people!

And now for the excitement!
 May 17: Norwegian National Day... a BIG day there. And of course, Euro-style, so everything is                        closed!

                                              Random parades in the streets ALL DAY.

 And now for the awesome outfits. Let's begin with Oma and Opa at the train station...

 Above: this is what I thought all Norwegians would look like. Tall, skinny, blonde, and in this awesome get-up. On National Day, the stereotypical Norwegians came out of hiding (I think they all came in town for the celebration). But the day before, we did not see ONE stereotypical Norwegian.... more of a mish mash of cultures. Not what we expected at all, but considering it's a big city, makes sense.

 The little girls in their dirndl-like dresses were TOOOO cute! This one especially, spinning around, oblivious to the thousands of people around her!

 These overalls were hideous. Hideous! We couldn't figure them out. Why most people were dressed up (if they didn't have the outfit, they all wore suit and ties - yes, THAT dressed up), but some were in these ridiculous overalls.
Turns out, these are the kids that are going to graduate high-school this year. They get the overalls and then decorate them... So at least there was a REASON for them!

Alrighty, guess I'm now starting at the beginning. For our Scandinavian/Baltic adventure, we flew into Oslo, Norway from Frankfurt Hahn via RyanAir. It was our VERY LAST (hopefully ever) RyanAir flight. HALLELUJAH. These flights are never normal, never uneventuful. There is always some sort of drama, annoyance, whatever. We are just DONE with them! I thought it was partially zee Germans fault for not understanding the concept of a line, but really, it happens everywhere, every flight RyanAir. Anyways, flew into Oslo and trained to the city center. We stayed right by the train station, which is usually a sketchy area in most Euro-cities, but not really the case in Oslo... Ok well one side was sketchy, but only one! And we avoided it, so no biggie, except one day when we walked through on accident... And yes, the trash of Oslo hang out there. Wow. But the hotel was nice. The Radisson Blu. We stayed in lots of Radisson Blus this trip... not sure WHY, but that's how it happened.

We only had one night, 2 days -ish in Oslo. The first day we walked around and saw the sights. We knew that the following day was National Day so everything would be closed and there would be a lot of stuff going on.. There's nothing too crazy to see in Oslo. But the opera is AWESOME. Super weird, different architecture.. and it's almost been turned into an outdoor playground. People hang all around it, take picnics, let their kids run around it, it's crazy! But rightfully so. It was a cool place to hang out.

After seeing the sights, walking around, having coffee, our usual, it was time for dinner. We KNEW all of Norway was ridiculously expensive. So we decided ahead of time that we would not get a fancy meal there. We had 7 more nights to eat nicer meals, Scandinavian meals, so we went with something low key so we would not have to eat our own extremities the rest of the week. A was craving Asian so we went to this Thai place we saw. Off the beaten path. No one there. Sure. This looks good. We each ordered a beer and a meal. Nothing crazy, right?! Well, first I should interject and say originally, we were planning on NOT knowing the conversion right Norwegian to Euro. We thought we'd just wing it. We didn't want to worry about it the whole time. Well, we wimped out and looked it up.... after dinner. We read that a 'nice' meal would cost 'x' amount of money and this Thai place was a lot less expensive than that, so whatever. Turns out our 2 meals and 2 beers cost 130 Euros!!! AHHH! That's over $150. 130 Euros. It deserves to be said again. For freaking Thai. Holy scheisse. So we paid the bill before converting it and thought, well,  it was waaaay less than what we read it would cost for dinner. So we converted it. 130 euros. Turns out, the 'nice' meal they were talking about evened out to abou 350 euros. GEEEZZZZZ. Thank goodness we decided to go with Thai and not a typical Norwegian seafood meal. Seriously. I could NOT EVEN BELIEVE it!! Seeing as we just spent waaay to much money on not an incredible meal, we went back to the hotel to lay in bed and read our books. I could not wrap my head around spending anymore money.

So the next day is May 17, Norwegian National Day. We only knew about this because one of our Swedish friends, Lars, told us. He said it would be crazy... a big party. Well, it was Norwegian National Day. And there were parades. And people were dressed up... and I mean DRESSED UP. Suit and ties if they weren't in their patriotic dirndl/leiderhosen equivalent. Not us of course. We stuck out like sore thumbs. Oh well. Anyways, the parades and such started early in the morning. We only hung around til 1 (we had a train to Gothenburg, Sweden to catch), but it wasn't as crazy and Lars made it out to be. Maybe it was because it was still early, but we didn't see one single person with a beer in their hand. Oktoberfest that early is already CRAZYYY. Maybe it's just because beer is so expensive in Norway they can't afford it? I don't know, but either way, not nearly as nuts as Oktoberfest. It did make for some awesome people watching though! I have never taken so many pictures of people in my life. And as you can tell, I'm not very good at it. Guess I need some practice. So anyways, we walked around and people watched all morning and hopped on a train to Gothenburg. Considering we spent an arm and a leg on a just ok dinner, we skipped lunch! I will say, as a side note, the train station was SOOOOO nice and this held true for every single train station we've been to in Scandinavia. Super fancy, super nice, and the trains too. Free wifi, coffee machines in every car, etc etc.

Gothenburg, Sweden, was our next stop. One night there before Copenhagen. Perhaps tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Helsinki, Finland

Welcome to...

At the tail end of our trip, we flew from Copenhagen to Helsinki via SAS. Painless flight. Painless transport to and from the airport. We actually had an hour bus ride from the Helsinki airport to city center, but we got to see more of the country that way, so it worked out perfectly (finnair bus)! Once we got to the city center, we took the tram to our hotel. Helsinki has an awesomeeeeee tram system. It's cheap and efficient. Runs all the time, to everywhere. I think the tram system may have been my favorite thing the city had to offer!

There was nothing we were DYING to see or do in Helsinki, but we hadn't been to Finland yet and it was a good stopover before Tallinn. Of course, once there, we realized we really only needed a day, didn't need to spend the night. But we had to take the ferry to Tallinn which was two more hours and we'd already reserved our hotel, so whatever. We decided to stay and enjoy the gorgeous weather and perfectly blue skies. 

We headed to the Tourist Office, in hopes of a map. Instead, I found a way around the Russian Visa Requirement. One of the reasons we wanted to do a Baltic cruise originally was because of their 2 day stopover in Russia. I REALLY want to go! But outside of a cruise, I've found it nearly impossible. The Russian Visa requirements are expensive and time consuming. Apparently, Helsinki and Russia both recognize this and are trying to boost tourism. They now offer a ferry to St. Petersburg. It's overnight. You can go for 1 day/2 nights, or 3 days/4 nights. I am SO Bummed I didn't know about this before. We definitely could have fit it in our trip perfectly! AHHH. However, I did send the information to a friend who is also dying to go... maybe they'll take advantage of our poor research.

Bummed that we were walking around Helsinki and not St. Petersburg (spoiled, I know), we saw all the sights, ate a pastry, had coffee, saw more sights, had dinner, etc etc. Bought a magnet for the collection. The normal.  We enjoyed our trip to Helsinki, got to soak in the sun for 24 hours, and gladly got to add another country to our list. But more than 24 hours is too much, especially compared to Copenhagen. 

The next day, we took the ferry to Tallinn, Estonia. (Yes, my posts are slightly out of order, seeing as I haven't even posted about Oslo, Gothenburg, or Copenhagen yet. But I took the fewest pictures in Helsinki, so I have less to weed out!)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

now you see them, now you don't!

Rouladens are a glorious thing. The Germans are genius.

No rouladens...

Coming down....

 And all the way down. PITCH black inside! You could sleep for days. They even help with the noise. Over the weekend, they tricked the dogs into sleeping in! Not sure why Axel decided to take them out of our house in Kasel, but NOT a smart move. When we build a house, we are DEFINITELY putting in rouladens!

In other Rapaljes news, everyone has settled in to our new house perfectly! Minus the BMW which decided to die on me after the gym today. It must not be too happy with our upcoming move. Luckily, I was only stranded for 30 minutes. Tatjana came to the rescue!

Monterey to Morro Bay

Anniversary #4 has been planned. We are driving the Pacific Coast as shown here! No, we will not live in Europe anymore, but we still want to travel... a little.. until A starts residency.

Monday, May 28, 2012

so long, Scherfs

As we promised Herr Scherf, our neighbor (not the same Scherfs who make our favorite wine.. another. Scherf is like Smith in German, very common), we popped by on Saturday afternoon for a drink. He'd been begging us for some American whiskey, so A bought him some Maker's Mark as a good-bye gift! 

Over the past three years, he's invited himself over multiple times to drink A's Jack Daniels, walk around our house, yap in German, etc etc. On his first visit to our house, he saw a black and white picture of my Grandparents from the 1940s after he got back from WWII. He pointed to my Grandma and said, "Sie ist ein fiiiiiiine frau!" HA!

This visit was just as exciting. After answering the door with no pants on (mental image for life), he proceeded to yap our ears off again, only in German, for about 2 hours. He was SO excited over the Maker's Mark, it was just hilarious. He did not however want to open it... at ALL. He kept telling us how it could last for 100 years, etc etc. He yapped some more about Egypt, his wife (who's in the hospital), his grandkids, etc. We went through a local bottle of Sekt and a bottle of Champagne, both of which he insisted were the best... better than wine. Oh and pretzels of course, he IS German afterall. 

At the end of our visit, he kept repeating something to me in German. I was confused. Something about a kiss. Turns out, he was asking me if he could kiss me on the lips. Of course he asked me this when A went to go take the dogs out. I was taken by complete surprise when he planted one on me. A's only quesiton: did he slip you the tongue. BAHAHAHA. Oh geez. 

 Showed us a picture of Kasel from 1950. He's lived in Kasel for 70 years. In his same house for 35. Kasel used to be spelled with a C - Casel. From this picture, you can see many of the same houses, restaurants, his house growing up (a pig farm), and our favorite house in Kasel which has recently been restored and is beautiful. Our house did not yet exist!
SO excited over some good ol' American 'viskey'

Friday, May 25, 2012

new digs

welcome to our new (to us) temporary apartment in Schweich, Germany

 the most important part?! the lovely outside area! yes!

Unfortunately for us, we moved out of our Kasel house. It takes our belongings a good while to arrive in America and seeing as we'll only be living in Ohio for 11 months and have to sign a leaseon a house for a year, it was better to try and get our stuff there about the same time we'd be getting there.

When we moved to Germany, we had the same sort of problem. We were stuck in a temporary house in Speicher called the Weidenhof Palace. OH MY GOSH thank GOODNESS we are not living there again. Talk about ghetto. And 70s. And sketchy people. Of course, I was by myself for a good part of it, which contributed to the terrible. We were on the third floor, no elevator, with 2 dogs. Not the best situation.

So this time, we were smarter about the whole deal and moved into a 'ferienwohnung,' or apartment rental. They are ALL OVER Germany and I'm not sure why we didn't know about these kinds of places then. Someone needs to get hte word out to the new people coming in - don't live in the Weidenhof Palace, find a ferienwohnung! Luckily for us, one of my German friends owns one that she rents out and it's close to Kasel in a town called Schweich. It is MUCH nicer than the one in Speicher - the whole apartment AND the people! No complaints.

We got back from Scandinavia yesterday and moved in with the few belongings we didn't ship. Then last night while we should have been unpacking, Tatjana and her husband Lars, decided we should have a little wine welcome instead.. A few hours and a few bottles later, we managed to unpack nothing. Oh well.

Pictures from Scandinavia to come soon! 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Riga, Latvia

RyanAir strikes again.

We had our whole Scandinavian adventure planned out perfectly... our hotels, our transportation, etc etc. Then RyanAir cancelled our flight home from Tallinn. Well, that's not entirely true. They delayed it.. 3 days. Yea, we couldn't stay in Tallinn for 3 additional days. 3 more days in Estonia (5.5 total)? Nah. So we were forced to buy another flight. Unfortunately, not another airline flies into Frankfurt Hahn Airport. So we bought an AirBaltic flight from Tallinn to Frankfurt Main.. unfortunately for us, this flight came with a three hour layover in Riga, Latvia. Normally I'd welcome the opportunity to explore a new country. But all we have time to do is explore the airport coffee shops. So far, the coffee is good, chocolate croissants terrible. Once we arrive at Frankfurt Main, we have to take the RyanAir bus to Frankfurt Hahn, get our car, and then drive home. All in all, RyanAir jipped us of 5+ hours.

Fortunately, our flight to Oslo, Norway last week was, dare I say, last RyanAir flight... EVER. Hallelujah.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

one of the reason's Denmark (Copenhagen especially) is so awesome: 200% new car tax

Friday, May 18, 2012

Yesterday we took a three hour train ride through the Norwegian countryside from Oslo to Gothenburg, Sweden. The views were absolutely amazing. It made us both really bummed we don't have enough time for a Fjords trip.. guess we will have to come back!

Today, a train from Gothenburg to Copenhagen... let's hope it's just as pretty!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


well, it's true what they say... Norway = ridiculously expensive.... about 100% more expensive than Germany... so 130-150% more expensive than the States. WOWZERS. good thing we're only staying one night!!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tschuss, Kasel

Last night was our last night sleeping in our Kasel house, our favorite house.

Today is the last moving today, our last day in Kasel.

Right now, I am drinking my last cup of coffee on the porch, my favorite spot, overloooking our beautiful courtyard and Neustrasse, watching everyone walk down the street to catch the bus for work.

Sad, yes.

Tonight, we are heading to my friend Jandee's to stay. We will be there 2 nights before we head to Scandinavia for 8 nights (Oslo to Goteborg to Copenhagen to Helsinki to Tallinn - adding 4 new countries to our list!). Upon our return, we move into our ferienwohnung (vacation rental apartment) at Tatjana's in Schweich, one of the neighboring villages, where we will remain until June 10. Then, we head to Croatia for 8 days with some friends, then back to base for the last 3 nights.

We fly into Baltimore on June 20. From there, we'll immediately head to Blacksburg where I'll spend the next 10 ish days with the pups while A does his checking in, etc etc at the new base.

Friday, May 11, 2012

It's 2 in the afternoon, 78F, and the mover's already left for the day. They said it was 'too hot' to continue working! Funny thing is, I agree with them. 

moving day #2

It absolutely cracks me up that multiple Germans have asked me, 'And your kitchen? Uou take that with you too, yes?'

I also showed Svenja pictures of our new house and she said, 'And you will use that kitchen?'

Germans and their traveling kitchens... cracks me up!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Boston, Riva, and moving

A friend sent me this and it describes Boston and Riva to a tee today! Not to mention it's hilarious. 

Trogir, Croatia