Friday, March 30, 2012


After 2 flights and 3 bus rides, I have arrived to my hostel in Dublin.  We were exhausted but we were in the city famous for its pubs so we obviously had to go out for one quick pint of Guinness.  It was 1am on a Thursday and all the bars seemed to be closed, finally after about an hour we found one that was open and downed our first Irish beer.  Then, we took advantage of not being in Norway and being subjected to Norwegian prices, and downed some chicken wings and pub grub.  Then I had a sleepless night, despite the hostel being wonderful, there was a loud squeaky train outside that passed by every 10 mins, keeping me awake.

Today was a very full day, my legs are aching from the 10 hours straight of walking.  We did lots of wandering and exploring this lovely city.  We spent some time walking though the main shopping street then strolled through a gorgeous park where we were nearly attacked by pigeons, they were vicious and everywhere!
We visited the National Gallery and saw some great artwork, although not much of it was even Irish.  We check out a museum of Natural History, which was actually really interesting.  It was basically 2 floors of stuffed animals from polar bears to kangaroos.
Natural History museum.
We saw Saint Patrick’s church and ended up in Irelands oldest library.  That sounds like a snore but it was fascinating, the books were sooo old!  In the back of the library there were cages where people had to sit to read so they wouldn’t stain or ruin the books.
In the evening, we booked a seat at the Brazen Head pub (supposedly the oldest pub in Dublin), at a folk story and legends dinner.  It came highly recommended and was well worth what I paid!  There was a 3 course traditional Irish meal and in between courses there was a guy telling us legends, stories, taught us about the Irish beliefs in fairies and there was a live band after playing some great Irish jig/sing along songs.  Id suggest this to anyone visiting Dublin.  There was about 50 people there and probably 40 were American.  Through out all of my travels, from Australia to Norway it is very rare to meet any one from North America but it seems as if they all flock here.
A store that sells Tim Hortons in Dublin!!
After some more Guinness we wandered around to another part of the city near the river. Now I am headed for bed (I learned my lesson and bought ear plugs) so hopefully Ill be rested for a bike tour and a Guinness brewery tour tomorrow.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Fried Cod tongue... mmm
So I ended the last post saying I was waiting for people to come over to try… cod tongues! I believe that one of the best ways to experience a new place when traveling is to try some local food, no matter how outrageous it might seem.  So far this mentality has led me to eat kangaroo, raw whale blubber, camel, yak meat and milk, whale, puffin and now, cod tongue.  I am not going to lie, I had low expectations but I was pleasantly surprised, I actually enjoyed it and ended up having 6 tongues!  My Norwegian friend bought them, he came over with a bag of about 50 cod tongues which we rolled I flour with spices and then fried.  It felt so strange while rolling them in the flour mixture, they felt like human tongues and have similar muscle and veins… I started to feel strange with my own tongue!  Anyways, we had a few people over to try it and although some were grossed out, the general consensus was that it was yummy!

The bus ride to Sweden was only 2.5 hours.  Having come from Canada where it would take well over two days of non stop driving, it was interesting that I could get across and entire country in that short of time; granted Norway is very narrow but still, neat concept.  Our resort (Riksgransen) was gorgeous and it was right on the mountain.  I shared a room with a girl from Siberia and another from Denmark.  The first thing we did once we settled into our rooms was walk 2.5km to the nearest grocery store because food is 30-40% less expensive in Sweden then it is in Norway.  Many Norwegians across the country drive to Sweden just to shop, there is even a TV show about the phenomena!  The store we went to clearly catered to Norwegians but we got lots of good (relatively affordable) food.  The walk back was exhausting due to heavy grocery bags and being splashed by vehicles on the narrow road, then we prepared dinner... Swedish meatballs!!  That night we went out to experience some ski town culture.

In the middle of the night we were awaken by hotel staff telling us that a pipe had burst in the hall and some water leaked into our room.  They cleaned it up and offered to switch our rooms but we were half asleep and didn’t pay much attention.  We woke up bright and early for a day of snowboarding!  There were only a few of us who were not beginners but we all had fun!  The sun was very flat, I don’t know how to describe it other then that but it made seeing depths very difficult which was interesting.  The equipment we rented from the school was no good, the edges hadn’t been sharpened in years and it had clearly been a while since their last waxing so I had a hard time at first but then I mastered it! At one point I snowboarded from Sweden into Norway!
At one point, 2 other and myself made it out to an off-piste area and due to the awful sun and lack of depth perception we ended up at the top of a 7 meter cliff.  By the time we realized where we were it was to late to turn back and the only option was to go down.  The problem was that the cliff was 90 degrees vertical with the ground and because of the unsharpened edges on my board, I couldn’t even stand up to ride down or I would just fall down uncontrollably.  The German guy I was with was more brave then me so he made it down half snowboarding/half falling.  He landed alright in a pile of fluffy snow.  I ended up taking off my board and throwing it down at him and hiking down the cliff like a rock wall.  Near the bottom when I still had about 4 metres to go there was an over hang and no where for me to grab onto so I fell the rest of the way but I was okay.  Next was the Danish girl who was on skis.   She ended up falling 7 meters into the open arms of the German guy, then they fell backward!  It was crazy to watch and I was certain one of them was hurt until I heard them laughing; luckily the snow was super powdery.  We then went to walk further down the hill until and area that was skiable.  When I finally went to strap on my board I let go of it and slid away from me about 50 metres, lucky Anja was quick enough and already had her skis on to go after it right before it fell down another steep cliff.  It was quite the adventure so we deserved what we did next... apres ski!

Late night apres ski
I had always heard of “the great European après ski” but wrote it off as just having a few drinks after skiing; turns out it is much more then that!  At 4:30 when the lifts close, everyone (and  I mean everyone, families with kids and old people) head to the hotel bar still in their ski clothes.  There was a live musician playing song that everyone (at least everyone from Norway/Sweden) seemed to know and they all sang along, it was such a nice atmosphere!  There was enough places to sit so at one point we were sitting on the floor with our drinks.  Oh, something that should be mentioned about Sweden (don’t read this mom and dad) is the disappointingly low alcohol percentage in their beers.  I bought some ciders because of the unbelievably cheap price only to find that they only had 2.25% and the highest % in any beer is 3.5%.  It was still a fun night regardless.

Check out how high the snow was!
It was even higher then this at some points.

The next morning, those of us who were stoked for another day of skiing woke up early and excitedly got ready only to find out when we got to the lobby that the weather was to bad to ski safely so the lifts were closed.  Luckily we were able to get out money back but still had to wait until 4pm for our bus to come.  The majority of the people I was with just wanted to spend the day lazing around in the lobby but I did not come to Sweden to sit indoors.  I only managed to find one person to come adventuring with me but we had fun!  We brought saucer toboggans with us for some geocaching.  Every time we went down a hill we tobogganed down and when we had to walk we sometimes ended up in snow well past our waist.  We walked all the way to the Norwegian border and found the cache we were looking for.  The ski hill was closed due to crazy Arctic weather but it only made this adventure more fun!  I came to the realization that, when well dressed and prepared, I can have more fun and feel happiest in the snow (I know, crazy Canuk, eh?). 

We ended this time with a hot chocolate with the others at the resort where I met 4 Canadian military officers who were training in Harstad and just drove to Sweden to say that they had been there.  I would never had otherwise talked to these guys but there is something indescribably bonding and refreshing about meeting Canadians when abroad.  We chatted for a bit and then got on the bus for the long ride home.  It was my first time far out of Harstad since I got here (and even when I got here, I didn’t see anything on the 45 minute bus ride from the airport because of the never ending darkness) and the view from the bus was spectacular.  People say it is very similar to Canada, and it is, but it is different in a way I cant describe.  Not better, just different and beautiful :)

Remember that ALL the good pictures from my trip are on my Facebook, I only chose a few to post here... and I love to read comments on my posts!
Arctic geocaching

Thursday, March 22, 2012

LlAmbers visit

I finally got the chance to show off this lovely place, my new home, to a friend from Canada.  Amber is a friend of mine that I have known since I was 15 and she is now living in Copenhagen with her husband.  She arrived Monday night and leaves Friday morning which gave us 3 days to explore.  Harstad is a small town and there is not much to do, especially without a car, but we managed all right.  We did lots of walking; she had troubles slipping and sliding on the icy roads and it reminded me of the first few weeks when I was here where it was nearly impossible to stay upright when walking.  I never realized how much better I got at walking on ice until now.  Near the end of the week the ice had turned into slush and we had a hard time walking again for this other reason; the weather is always so strange here.

The evening that she arrived, we went for a nice walk by the ocean with my roommate and a Norwegian friend.   Before she got here, I had told Amber to have her fingers crossed that she would see some Northern Lights when she was here… she clearly had them crossed tightly because that evening, the sky above the fjord was filled with green, flickering lights! It was a perfect start to her trip here.  We even threw snowballs into the ocean… how many people can say they have done that?

Tuesday morning I had to present a paper at a seminar at the school but after that was done, Amber and I went for a walk on the pier and in the town.  We are from prairie Alberta and she now lives in Denmark, both of which have very few hills are far from the mountains.  The mountains never cease to amaze me here and were breathtaking for her.  They are on the opposite side of the fjord and are visible on most days.  They are especially amazing when it is cold out so the air makes them very clearly defined.  We walked through the school and the town then made some delicious lunch; she is a good cook and she taught me a few good recipes!  That evening we went for a little hike to a look out and had a fire and brought thermoses of hot chocolate.  We were lucky once again and saw even better Northern Lights then the evening before and even got a few pictures!
Since this was only her second time in Norway, obviously she needed to experience some XC skiing.  We headed to Folkenparken, the “people” park in town, and spent the afternoon skiing around.  The weather was perfect.  At the end, just as we were about to leave we saw a couple in a big red van park in the parking lot.  They get out two sledges and start hooking up ropes.  Then we hear barking coming from the van and realize they were about to go dogsledding!  It was amazing how many dogs they could fit into the van, they just kept on coming out!  Then we walked home, made dinner and headed out to Ludo for a drink with a few people.

This morning we walked to the Trondennes church (most northern stone church in the world and Harstad’s only tourist attraction).  It was rainy (yes, rain in March above the Arctic circle) so it was a rough walk.  We had to jump into people’s drive ways to avoid getting splashed by cars.  This was my first time going to the church / walking along the ocean on that pathway in the light.  Previously, I had been there in the day but when it was always dark out or I had gone in the evenings to check out some northern lights or for a walk.  It all looked so different during the day!  The ocean and the view was incredible; we even reached in and touched the freezing cold ocean!  Anyways, we got to the museum expecting a cup of coffee at the café but it was closed and the museum was over priced and not worth checking out again.  We went to the church to take some pictures and just as we were about to walk into the door, a man comes out and tells us that there is a ceremony going on.  A procession carrying a casket was on their way out just then so we left right away.
 Then we walked around the town a bit and came home to make stuffed peppers for dinner and now as I write this, in the oven are some apple pie pastries that we hand made, they smell so good already!  We are waiting for a Norwegian friend to some over because he promised us he would make us Cod tongues… a Norsk delicacy  Mmm!?  Tomorrow we wake up early, Amber catches her plane and I hope on a bus where I will drive 3 hours to Sweden for a weekend of snowboarding and XC skiing!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March 17

I have signed up for a 20 hour Russian course.  It is pretty difficult because the characters are very different from English; there are a few similar characters but they have different sounds so it doesn't even help.  I don't expect to retain much but it is interesting to learn about his other culture especially since there are so many Russians around here.  Here is an example (and the only word I can remember...): "спасибо" is pronouned "spa-see-ba" and means thank you.

Aside from that I haven’t really been doing much here lately except school.  I have 2 big essays due when I get back from my UK trip, which I am trying to finish before I leave so I don’t have to worry about them.   

I booked tickets to fly into Dublin on March 29!  I haven’t bought tickets to come back yet because I am still figure out the dates.  Budget airlines here are unbelievably inexpensive… it cost only $19 to fly from Oslo to Dublin! I plan to travel around Ireland for about 6 days, then take a ferry across and spend a day or two in Scotland and see a friend I used to work with many years ago who is living there now.  Then Ill head south toward Newcastle in England where I will see a past roommate and good friend I met at UNBC.  Then Ill head south some more toward London where I am staying with a friend I met in New Zealand who I have stayed in touch with.  When I am there, three friends from high school will be in in London at the same time as they are starting a big backpacking adventure so we will surely meet up!  I know two other girls who are living in London as well, one in fashion school and one in ballet school, so Ill be sure to meet up with them and get shown around the big city.  Also, as it turns out, I have distant relatives from my dad’s family that I have contacted and will meet as well.  I am so looking forward to travelling again!

My roommate’s boyfriend has been visiting from Denmark and leaves on Monday, which is the day that my good friend Amber will come to visit me from Denmark.  She and I worked together at summer camp many years ago and I am so looking forward to showing someone around this lovely place!  Hopefully the weather is good; it has been raining a lot lately despite being above the Arctic Circle...

Every 2 weeks the International Students Union puts on an international movie night.  The past movies have been from Russia and Germany and have been great insightful movies into their culture and history while keeping a great story line.  Now I have to think of a similar Canadian movie, any ideas?!? Brenden and I cant think of anything truly Canadian that would appeal to students from different nationalities…


Although my father was in the military and lived 20 mins away from an Army base, I as a Canadian, was very rarely exposed to anything to do with the military.  At home, I see the odd soldier in uniform running some errands later work but that is the most Id see; I feel like Europe is a different story. 

First off, many countries including Norway have mandatory enrollment for young males to dedicate a year of their lives to service.  There are clearly many exceptions and ways to weasel their way out of this commitment, but regardless the expectation exists.  After the year, they can choose if they would like to commit to more and as a girl, you can choose to try it out for 6 months and then make a decision to commit further.  I can only think of one or two people I graduated with from my high school class of 322 that chose voluntarily to serve for the Canadian military.

Here in Harstad, which is above the Arctic Circle in Northern Norway soldiers, primarily Dutch and British, come to do their “Arctic training”.  It is not rare to see someone in uniform walking around or hanging out at the bars nor is it rare to see ginormous military ships in the harbor.  I never really thought about it until the other day when I saw a massive British boat called the HMS Illustrious (R06), which has a capacity to carry almost 700 people and 22 aircrafts.  It was unbelievably huge and I watched as 5 big black helicopters flew around it while training.  It was just really interesting to observe.  I also saw the Norwegian Army’s “Skjold class patrol boats” which are the fastest armed craft in the world (they can read 110km/hr… second only the Canadas Unarmed craft that can go up to 116km/hr).  Anyways, just some ramblings. 

Me holding the HMS Illustrious
and the black dot in the sky by my head is a big black helicopter :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

Ooookay, so what have I been doing the past two weeks?!  Basically, class, assignments for my UArctic online class and tourism class, getting together with people here, enjoying northern lights, etc…  

I worked my second shift at the pub, it was an evening during the week so it really wasn't busy which was a nice change from the hectic Saturday I worked last time.  Halfway through the evening the fire alarm went off so everyone had to evacuate.  Turns out someone in the school (which is attached to the bar) tried to microwave something and somehow created a big smokey mess but after about 20 minutes we opened again so no worries.  I am getting good at making drinks; Ive learned that "ol" means beer.

Wednesday was my birthday, I’m 22! It was my 4th birthday not at home but my new little family away from home helped me celebrate in style!  I had class in the morning but received lots of Happy Birthday’s and hugs.  In the afternoon I did some shopping and even bought 2 dresses which were a great deal… Ill wear one to my party tonight!  My lovely room mate made a delicious vegetarian lasagna for my and we shared with some more friends that came over.  Halfway through the meal a friend from Ghana showed up with ice cream cake… it reminded me of DQ ice cream cakes mmmmm.  Then we got even more people together to go for a hike to a look out on the top of a hill that over looks the entire fjord; we made a campfire and looked at the gorgeous northern lights that were at a peak of activity… a perfect birthday evening.
Chilling by the campfire, checking out the fjord with the gorgeous Aurora Borealis above.  Awesome Birthday :)
Tonight I am celebrating my birthday with my roommate Rebecca whose birthday is next week.  We are having about 25 people over then going out afterward, it will be fun!