As we passed this HUGE waterfall, the trained screeched to a stop and said “10 minute photo stop.” I jolted off the train, and asked someone to take a photo of me when suddenly ethereal norwegian music (think Celtic Women and you come pretty close) start playing faintly over the waterfall’s roar. I cracked a smile at how cheesy it was at first (about 20 minutes prior, the train’s touristy tour guide explained how many myths came from this valley, including women who lure you into the woods with their siren-like voices), but it quickly won me over—the already mesmerizing waterfall, in the midst of the dramatic Norwegian landscape, took on a whole new, truly magical dimension. Just as I got goosebumps (from the atmosphere. not the chill!), a women in all red appeared on the top of an ancient building, dancing to the music. The crowd (myself included) gasped in awe and crowded the edge of the platform.
Just as quickly as she had appeared, she disappeared, and suddenly an identical women appeared on the rocks of the waterfall, sensually moving to the music. She raised her arms and leaped into the waterfall (ie, she jumped behind a rock), and the lady at the castle reappeared. The two went back and forth like this for a minute or two, and just as suddenly as it had happened, it was over. For a blissful moment, it was as though the world had stopped turning and we were a part of the mythical land of Norway.
The spell didn’t last long, however, as the train blew it’s whistle, and we hurried back into our cars with the unspoken fear of being left behind.
I’m not going to say that the entire Norway in a Nutshell price was worth it just for that one magical moment… but I will say that I’d be willing to consider doing that mecca-adventure again to reenter that realm of myth.
Norway in a Nutshell
$360 (2030NOK + food), and 16 hours of train, boat, and bus rides later, and you get to see the essential parts of Norway—the fjords, the mountain tops, the gazillion waterfalls (see my next post), and more.
Here’s my honest opinion—Norway is absolutely beautiful, but it wasn’t worth all that money. Perhaps its just because I was just in the Swiss Alps, which is a lot like Norway minus the water/fjords, or perhaps I am simply burned out (true), but I really found myself just saying “that’s nice” a lot of the times… except for during what I will talk about in my next post.
Berlin, the electrifying city…. and also the city of few photographs.
Granted, I spent a large majority of my time here running around the city attempting to find DB workers who spoke English well enough to tell me where the lost and found was in the off chance someone turned in the iPhone I left on the subway*, but even local Berliners admit that their city isn’t that photogenic. Unless, of course, you like photographing graffiti (which, I do)!
Indeed, all my photos came from my free walking tour I did with a donations-only company. After 3.5 highly informative hours in the 38 degree sun (that’s 100 degrees Fahrenheit), I felt compelled to give him my last 2 euros—which was very nearly catastrophic when I was trying to get a train ticket to the airport the next day!
While most of the pictures are “just’ important buildings, memorials, etc, I want to showcase the random photo of the tour group under the weaping willow.
That photo was taken as we were hiding from the sun in the middle of a almost-ghetto parking lot near the Berlin Wall. Cool story, huh? But wait— in actuality, underneath the parking lot, filled in and sealed of to the public, is the bunker where Hitler died. The city tried to keep the location a secret for years, and even today there is only one unobtrusive informational sign marking the spot. The idea is that they didn’t want to leave a spot for Neo-Nazis to use as a meeting point, etc etc.
What I think really struck me about the city was how much energy it seems to have. More so than any other city, I was tempted to join my fellow hostelers and go explore the extraordinarily vibrant night life. It may not be “Cabaret” anymore, but it still has the feel of being the Place To Be!
Also, speaking of Cabaret, what I found astonishing was just how incredibly forward Berlin used to be, before Hitler. There were popular gay clubs (which became the scenes for Stonewall-like arrests… that ended up with loads of people being sent to concentration camps for “preventative measures.”) in the 1930s. Actually, the more I’m around Europe, the more I’m amazed—there are gay hang outs that I learned about dating back to the early 1800s!
It seems like all that progress was halted during WWII, however, and unlike Women’s and Racial/Civil rights, was not helped by the war, but rather put off to deal with the “bigger issues” until the much more recent past.
Of course, absolutely zero research went into that above statement; it’s just my observations (which could easily be very mislead!)
*I found my phone—it required two bilingual strangers’ help and cellphones, a very honest subway passenger who turned it in, and hours and hours of time. But the point is, my faith in humanity remains just as strong (if not stronger) than before.