This weekend in the spa was so much anticipated. And so much needed after a ten day constant streak of work. It been turbulent. And I feel the toll on my mental health, my body and my well being. And this trip more or less is my only vacation away from home this year. So yes, I was looking forward to it. A lot.
This weekend in spa was a gift from my mom to my 40th birthday. And I loved it the moment I got it. And a bit ahead of time she asked if we want to spend another night because Monday was a holiday. And so we did.
We started on Friday. I was pondering taking the car but in the end decided we go by train. This way I wouldn’t have to concentrate and it already was a little adventure. I headed out at 11 am. Hopped on the train where my mom was already seated. We had to switch trains at a little station – we almost missed it as we got some pizza and then didn’t find the right platform. But then an old lady helped us out.
I was pondering back and forth if I should write a little travel post about our anniversary trip to Oslo. I feel like I will not have something new to say about the city and I will probably not be able to give you the best of tips. But then, this is my party and looking back I always regret not writing my travel posts so lets do it. Hope you stick with me to the end.
We flew in Friday morning and out again Monday night leaving us two full days and two half ones. When we arrived on Friday there was still a dust of snow on the ground and we couldn’t be happier. However we could see no 10 meters ahead of us due to heavy mist. We decided to take a walk around the hotel after check-in to get a lay of land. The hotel was build a newer part of town with modern housing on little peninsulas and lost of waterfront. As you know by now our happy place despite the wind and cold weather.
Towards the evening we decided to just find a place to eat and head back to the hotel to relaxe a bit. Unfortunately my shoe broke right there and then and we had to do a little impromptu shopping trip. I didn’t want to spend all Saturday doing that. Luckily I found a shoe right in the first store and so we didn’t waste much time there. After dinner we went relaxed in the room with some reading, talking and crosswords.
On Saturday we had a wonderful relaxed and late breakfast. The snow was all gone, the mist was all gone and so we decided to see as much from Oslo as we could. The forecast didn’t look to promising. We started out by having a look at the opera hose that happened to be right in front of the hotel. It is a modern building modeled after an iceberg in the sea. And the best part is the roof is open to the public and everyone can just clim the iceberg. You could even get up there with strollers and wheelchairs as it was no stairs. Lots of wind though. And a beautiful view of the surrounding city.
Next we climbed the castle hill and strolled around there (not too impressive to be honest) but a nice few to the water. Then we wandered into town looking for the old city center. If we ever found it I was not impressed. When I think old I have midivil towns in mind. This was more like bricks and mortar old I guess. I started drizzling right when we came upon the boulevard Karl Johann that leads up to the castle. So we made a stop in one of the coffee places to warm up. Here we had a lovely chat with a local lady.
Later we strolled to the castle and a look but not inside and then walked down the boulevard because I wanted to see the cathedral. As you know I always need to see those as I love the architecture. Unfortunately this one was very disappointing. I think I didn’t even take a photo.
We had our anniversary dinner at an Italian restaurant in a food market. This was a good compromise for us as I was able to have some seafood while Mr. ♡ also had some choices.
Unfortunately on Sunday a big storm hit and it was raining non-stop from morning. So we took our sweet time with another long breakfast. Then we decided to go to some museums. In the end we spend all day in the Nobel Peace Prize Museum reading up on everything and a lot of people. It was nice. Later another coffee break and some relaxing hope the weather would quiet down a bit so we could walk along the marina. No such luck. So we decided to have an early dinner and head back to the hotel.
The next day we had to pack and leave the hotel but not before enjoying another wonderful breakfast. Then we haded to a sculpture park. The artist Gustav Vigeland worked his entire life on filling up and entire park he design with sculptures. Over 200 in total. It was interesting to see even though it wasn’t quite my taste in art. As this was a bit more outside of the city center we took the tram there. This way we also got to see a bit more of Oslo. And at least some of those old wooden houses I was searching for. Unfortunately not much time to wonder around. We stopped at the marina and walked around there for a bit before heading back to the hotel picking up our luggage before heading to the airport.
So much for the anniversary trip to Oslo. Here are a few more facts I gathered.
Things I found interesting
Right when you land you realize the Norwegians are more relaxed. The airport felt like a huge lounge area instead of a hectic travel hub.
You can rent a tiny little house boat that contains a sauna. Either with friends or a spot in a public house and then just jump in the Oslo Fjord to cool down. We observed some brave people doing so.
The most peculiar food we came across is a sort of cheese made of whey called brunost. It is eaten on waffles, crips bread and biscuits. We had a chat about that cheese with our waiter and it was very interesting. The taste however is something to get used to. But I am always interested to try local things.
For some reason Thors hammer is present through the city. We have come across a few references and not only because of Netflix releasing a new show.
Travel & Transportation
Boarding a plane from Berlin to Oslo is the fastest way to get there. Specially when only staying for a long weekend. Since bankruptcy of airberlin though it wasn’t that easy to find good flights and in the end we did pay quite a bit. But my mind was so set on Oslo that I didn’t feel like I should rethink the whole thing due to prices. We knew it wouldn’t be the cheapest trip – Scandinavia never is.
After arriving in Oslo you have two options to get into the city. The airport is about 50km outside the city. There is the flytoget airport express that is a non-stop ride to the city center and takes 19 minutes and costs around 20€ And then there is the Vy service – the national train company with one stop in-between taking a total of 23 minutes costing only half with around 10€. But be aware: at the airport the ticket machines for the flytoget are omnipresent while vy can not be found. That is why we took the expensive ride into town. It was a relaxed one though since we were all by ourselves in the train.
Within the city you could walk most of the areas you will look at during a weekend trip. If not you can get the app Ruter Billett to buy your ticket and get around the city. There are options for 24, 48 or 72 hours.
We spent the time in the fairly new “Clarion Oslo” hotel. It is a chain within Scandinavia and we picked this one as it was modern and not too expensive compared to others houses. It was located within walking distance to the main station (Oslo S) and the opera house. Beforehand I wrote a quick note asking for a quite room with some nice view telling them that we are taking an anniversary trip to Oslo. When we entered the room we had a little treat and a handwritten card from the hotel staff wishing us all the best. This was a really nice touch and I never had anything comparable. Also I was really impressed with the breakfast that was served. It was a huge buffet and you have a ton of options from continental to more local choices. And since the hotel has a cultural and art orientation you will be able to admire a real Edvard Munch in the lobby. So I can definitely recommend this hotel.
Now I wonder: have you ever been to Oslo? Is it on your travel bucket list? And where should we go next for our anniversary trip?
This posts contains links to business. I was not paid to mention them but have found them either helpful or could recommend them because of the service they provided.
My travel plans can fill many pages of a notebook. I just love seeing everything. However I rarely share my travels here. Not quite sure why. I’ve mentioned that I’ve given Mr. ♡ flight tickets to Venice for his birthday to finally cross of a longtime dream of his. While Venice was somewhere on my travel list it was not very high up. End of September we spent a long weekend in Venice. And let me tell you, I regret not going making it a priority earlier.
When we got off the bus we were granted this view of our first Venice cannel:
I was instantly in love. I’ve heard the water does smell and looks an ugly grey but I can not confirm. All throughout the time we were there the water had a unique shade of turquoise which I was not able to document in the photos.
What to do in Venince
Well you can probably do lots and visit a trillion museums. Honestly, we didn’t do any of it. Instead we just walked around, climbed bridges, sat at plazas and looked at churches and came across interesting nooks and crannies.
We didn’t even go inside St. Marks Basilica. However we quickly planned on coming back. For this trip we were just enjoy walking the city getting a feel for it so next time we could be more intentional on what to look at. I would definitely like to see the Guggenheim museum, also I do want to see the inside of the basilica – I have a thing for churches as you know. Also I’d wanted badly to go to the cemetery but it was already dark and I was scared to be left there over night.
Things I found curious in Venice
You can read all the historical fact and stories in any book or magazine. Today I want to list a few things that came to my attention that I didn’t know or found curious:
Lot’s of Asians seem to do their wedding – or at least their wedding photos – in Venice.
The glass of the street lanterns are pale pink and it looks really cool.
I was not really aware that Venice is a car free city – however very logical. But even more curious I didn’t see a single bike or scooter. Don’t know if they are banned or if it just doesn’t make sense with all the steps and bridges.
There were not as many pigeons as I had feared even on St. Marks square.
Some corners have so many bridges that it almost seems ridiculous. I mean do you really need a bridge 2 meters apart…
Travel & Transportation
We took the plane to Venice and started out rather early (for us) on a Sunday morning. That had us arrive in Venice around noon. I wanted to take one of the boat routes to town but unfortunately I couldn’t figure out which one and what station would be nearest to the hotel. And I really didn’t want to go through while dragging a suitcase. We ended up taking the bus which was really easy, cost 8€ each (could have bought a round ticket for 15€/person) and dropped us off right at the hotel. However if I ever go to Venice again I will get into town by boat. And if I have to get a water buses or one of the private boat rides. It will blow you away approaching Venice by water I am convinced.
Also we had a bit of a tough time figuring out the transportation carriers and services. So here is what I picked up so you might get quicker in understanding.
Vaporetto – it’s what the water buses are called and which are run by ACTV. They mainly operate within the city limits. A single trip costs 7€ but I would not recommend that. Get a day pass or a pass for multiple days. This way it’s easy to hop on and off to your liking.
Alilaguna – is a boat service connecting the outer islands and going further distances. They do not have as many stops within the city but connecting the airport to the city and Murano.
Gondola – I believe you know about the famous gondoliers. When you walk up to one of there stations you will be asked to pay 90+€ for a 30 min trip. Honestly that was not worth it for me. However I looked into it and found this app where you can pre-book a trip for 18€. Unfortunatly you need to print out the ticket so I didn’t go through the hassle getting it done in the hotel. But next time I probably would. Also in the app you can see where the gondola actually goes through. So pick you boarding spot wisely.
We stayed in the AC hotel Venice a outlet of Marriot hotels. It was perfectly located at the travel hub of the city which made transfer to the airport a bliss. Also we managed to get a room with view to the canal. Service was very attentive and helpful. Nice features were the 10€ tapas & snack spread Sunday night including one beverage (usually wine but we were able to substitute to beer and coke). Coffee beverages were complimentary until 4pm. While the room was small it was still enough space. However it was not a room to spent lots of time in but since the common areas were cozy and we were out and about most times it didn’t bother us too much. Would I recommend it: definitely. Would I stay there again: yes.
Have you ever visited Venice or are you planning on doing so? What’s your favorite spot?
Disclaimer: This post contains links to businesses we used. There was compensation involved. I just link for your convenience.
Every once in a while I mentioned that I love looking at architecture. Precisely at sacred architecture aka old churches – and not only since I read Ken Follett’s “Pillars of the Earths”.
I am in awe of what mankind was capable of so many years ago when building techniques were less evolved. So much dedication, so much craftsmanship in masonry, carpentry and arts in general. Imagine you are a humble human being in the Middle Ages wandering for days to reach the big city and being greeted by a gigantic structure like that. Of course you can argue it was intimidating and forbidding but I believe it would have been amazing.
I have seen quite a few churches on my travels. Just recently I have discovered that I unconsciously created a shortlist in my mind. So for all my fellow architectural admirers here is my list of favorite sacred buildings.
City/Country: Prague, Czech Republic Built in: 1344-1929 taking 585 years Measurements: 124 nave, 60 m transept, 33 inner heights, tower heights Architectural Style: triple-naved basilica, High Gothic Historical importance: The church is part of the castle complex and sits on top of a hill overlooking the city. The master builder who started the construction – Matthias from Arras was a geometer and influenced the footprint of the building – a triple-naved basilica – and laid groundwork for the structure. After his passing the 23-year old master builder Peter Parler took over who was a trained sculptor and woodcarver. And this you can see in the entire church. He saw architecture as sculpture. He invented the so called Parler-vaults – double groined vaults which enabled wider ceiling width and at the same time created a net-like ornamentation. State of the art tracery and no identical window throughout the church are another pioneering feature. The St. Veits Cathedral had a high influence in the Late Gothic Architecture in all over Europe. Fun fact 1: Due to a legal dispute over ownership only 7 people have a key to the regalia of royalty that are stored here. Fan fact 2: The church has 7 bells – the biggest being 13,500kg – which are still being rang manually by 4 people until today. Why I love it: This is the church where it all started. I have first seen it when I was in my early teenage years and have come back two more times to see St. Veits Cathedral. The outside with its flying buttresses is just breathtaking. And the vaulted ceilings in the inside are in no way inferior. I also like that it is located on a hill and you can actually make out the gigantic and impressive architecture from afar which is not always possible with churches that are within cities.
Unfortunately all my photos are still analoge but there are many on the web.
City/Country: Helsinki, Finland Built in: 1888-1891 taking 3 years Measurements: 59m length, inner heights, 74m tower heights Architectural Style: cross-shaped cathedral, Gothic Revival Historical importance: It is the largest stone church in Finland by seating capacity and has very good acoustics. Located on a hilltop were there used to be the midsummer festivals. The church is – compared to others on the list – not that old. The outside is red brick and sits on a massive granite footing. The interior used to be a greenish-grey color but was changed in later renovations to a light-cream color. It was build by Adolf Emil Melander who also designed the seats, pulpit, altarpiece and font. It all has a ornamental feel to it. Why I love it: We actually stumbled into this one and I had no idea about it beforehand. I liked it from the outside, it was already dark and snowing and it just gave off an interesting vibe. A sermon just ended and people left so we were able to have a peek inside and I was just stunned. It was a serendipitous find. Only later I learnt of its importance.
City/Country: Lübeck, Germany Built in: 1250-1350 taking 100 years Measurements: 103m length, 38,5m inner heights, approx. 125m tower heights Architectural Style: triple-naved basilica, Brick Gothic native to the baltic region Historical importance: It is the highest brick building with the tallest brick vault ceiling in the world and the first of it’s kind. St. Marien was pathbreaking for 70 further churches in the baltic region. While on the outside its red brick shines bright the inside of the building is very calm. All was painted white and detailed floral frescos have been painted throughout the church. The church was destroyed in 1942 during a bomb raid and many of it’s artefacts and paintings burnt down. The fallen down bells have been preserved and it is humbling how they lay shattered on the floor. Immediately the church received an improvised roof that prevented further damaging and the re-building started 1947. The reconstruction has made it possible to cater to modern needs such as floor heating and more minimalist interior design. However it also removed some art historically pieces and is still controversially discussed. Fun Fact 1: There was a scandal regarding the reconstruction of the fresco in the 1950s as one of the restaurateurs Lothar Malskat “invented” missing pieces of the frescos. After self-indictment the paintings were washed off. Günter Grass refers to this incident in his book “The Rat”. Why I love it: The brick building style of the baltic architecture is just so unique and different. And also so impressive. I mean it is just bricks and then the ceiling is almost 40 meters high. It has a modern feel to it when entering while still holding the impressive architecture maybe even caters to it. The whitewashed walls and simple window decoration focus on the structure instead.
City/Country: Santo Domingo de Guzman, Dominican Republic Built in: 1514-1541 taking 27 years Measurements: 53m length, 3x23m wide, 16m inner heights, Architectural Style: triple-naved hall church, Gothic (& Baroque) Historical importance: It is the oldest church in the “New World” and (since 1990) part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site which expands around the old town of Santo Domingo. The three doored entrance is rather unique as two doors are gothic and one baroque. The cross vaulted ceiling and limestone walls are really impressive and give of a golden coloured look. Fan Fact 1: It is said that the church was the resting place of Christopher Columbus (before moved to a site a few miles away) however there is a dispute going on with Spain who claim they have the remains. Fun Fact 2: The 500 year old doors are opened by the same key every since. Why I love it: When I first saw this church it really hit me were I was standing. The sky was bright blue and the limestone was contrasting against it. The building style was just so different from churches in “The Old World” and it felt somewhat surreal. As often the outside impressed me much more than the inside. However for a Catholic church it was not as overly decorated and pompous but still rather gloomy. However it was fascinating and I would visit again when being in Santo Domingo.
City/Country: Berlin, Germany Measurements: 29m wide (on curb view), 97 m length with 15 angle, 50m inner heights Built in: 1859-1866 taking 6 years Architectural Style: Moorish Revival Historical importance: For this building renowned architect Eduard Knoblauch and Friedrich August Stüler were contracted. The oriental style with it’s gilded dome and terracotta front was unseen in Prussia. During the Pogroms Night 1938 arsonists set the synagogue on fire. Contrary to orders policeman Otto Bellgardt and superior Wilhelm Krützfeld intervened and called fire brigades argumenting it is a heritage-protected building and saved the building from burning down. Unfortunately the main synagogue was still destroyed in 1943 during British air raids. Remains have been savaged for building material and the dome had to be blown up due to safety reasons. Only in 1988 it was decided to rebuilt the facade and a few rooms behind. It now hosts a museum about Jewish life in Berlin. “Fun Fact”: Due to the bright color of the cupola it was camouflaged during WWII to avoid falling victim to air raids. Why I love it: For me this place feels like home and I walked by it daily. Being part of the Jewish volleyball team Makkabi allowed me access to the parts of the building which now inhabit a gym from which we could see the dome while practicing. This also had me attend service once here (and once in a Prague synagogue). Seeing the golden dome always makes me happy. It is were I went to pay me respects on November 9.
There are couple of sacred places I would have loved to see from the inside (or closer up) however I was not able to enter for not being part of the congregation or the religious faith. So if you ever made it to the following places please let me know how to get in: Dome of the Rocks, Jerusalem and Upensiki Cathedral, Helsinki. And of course there are many more I want to see.
Now please share your favorite building I need to see and put on my list.
I love traveling. A lot! This part of me as not been reflected accordingly on this blog.
I have been fortunate enough to have seen a lot of countries in Europe and just one weekend in September I was able to check off another one. Ukraine. Probably a country I wouldn’t have gone to on my own but I’m happy I did. A weekend in Lviv – thanks to family shenanigans.
First off Lviv is a lovely little town close to the Polish border with a stunning city center which is not without reason UNESCO world heritage.
My first view of Lviv was like a time travel. The Uber took us through some grey socialistic part of town (unfortunately no real images). I was in awe by its ugliness and somehow familiarity. It reminded me of my hometown in very early ages. And I felt like I wanna jump out and just go photo exploring. Unfortunately no time.
When coming closer to the city center everything changed and it became a mid evil town with old cute buildings.
Lviv has a stunning market place. Right in the middle is the city hall located. A certain Eastern Europe architecture style as I have learned. The old town contains architecture from Renaissance, Baroque, Classicism and Jugendstil – the reason why it is under UNESCO world heritage.
Also lots of churches, chapels and cathedral. We came by some cloisters with wooden walkways.
We also went to The Lychakiv Cemetery that I quite liked. It was really crowded with graves and at the entrance area they where majestic.
On our first day we came by a cookie shop. But it wasn’t any kind of cookie shop. The icing decorations were amazing. I’ve once read or saw a documentation about how the icing in some country was in inspired by handmade lace and embroidery.
While walking around during our guided sightseeing we ended up at a cloister. While it was nice it wasn’t outstanding. Then we went to their little gift shop and they talked about one of the nuns doing a lot of pysanski I immediately was on alert. Because that is the name for the Sorbian Easter eggs I shared and did. And I knew in Eastern Europe the technique was a bit different. However I could not figure out how the did it. Well I do know now and I was able to purchase the tools. Also a book about the craft. So I am more than happy.
It broke my heart seeing the “babuschkas” sitting on the street selling their meager harvest to people. There was one old lady who sat on her crate all day with a plastic cup of berries and a bag of potatoes and when we walked home at midnight she still sat there – half asleep and sunken. I just felt all the emotions… I didn’t take pictures as it felt too intimate. Unfortunately we couldn’t buy anything since we couldn’t use the products. But if you travel the country go buy from them.
There are also regular market places where produce is sold. The people selling there have bigger harvests and also have to pay a few to secure their spot at the market. Most Ukrainians shop their fresh produce on those farmers markets.
Also, I haven’t really seen a supermarket by western standards. There are more little corner shops where you get your things.
What I didn’t know was that Lviv has a flourishing coffee culture. You could probably spend the entire weekend on a coffee tasting tour. We where at one shop where they served it like when it first came to Europe.
Also the region is known for pelmini. It’s filled noodles basically but the fillings are very tasty. With mushrooms and pumpkin and meats. The best red beet soups ever was also discovered during this weekend in Lviv.
And my cousin found this cute Strudel shop (Rynok pl. 13, Lviv 79008, Ukraine). Everything strudel in there: sweet and savory and soso yummy.
We stayed in the Ibis Style Hotel (no sponsoring ;-). It was only 10 min walking distance from the old town and a perfect spot for us. What I personally liked a lot is that you could grab free drinks (coffee, tea, water) in the lobby. Breakfast was pretty good to and offered a variety of western european food and local hearty choices. Bu be aware: everything is spiced with garlic – even fro breakfast!
As for the price range it can be compared to Western Europe standards. One could probably find cheaper ones.
One thing I fell in love with are those cute little yellow busses. I will spare my collection of picture and just share one.
I was really surprised by Lviv. It is a beautiful little town and perfect for a weekend trip. It is not too touristy. And i found mainly locals where visiting over the weekend. Of course you do have some international tourist but they seem more like the individual travelers. And I was surprised how cheap everything was if you exclude flights and accommodation.
Now let me know, would you travel to Lviv? What place had you totally surprised?