Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Croatian holiday, Part two (Hvar and Split)

Part one of my Croatian holiday, about Dubrovnik and Korcula, can be found here. This post starts with our arrival in the island of Hvar. However, I've already covered the beautiful city beach in Hvar here, my tongue in cheek take at Hvar street style here and an extraordinay evening in Split here. So, now for the rest:

From top of the Hvar city centre, looking up at the old fortress

Hvar Harbour

Korcula was a quiet, litte island seemingly full of backpackers, sailors and a handful of other tourists. Hvar, in comparison, while being nowhere near as commercialized as some of the other Mediterranean hot spots, clearly held an attraction with a larger number of tourists, some of them of the very affluent kind. The vessels moored in the harbour sometimes gave the impression that this island is the millionaires' playground, as witnessed by some of the yachts:

Huge, some of them even with their own uniformed security staff

"Mine is bigger than yours....ha ha"

Sailing boats for charter

The hill in the backgound of the harour is where we rented an apartment

There were more shops here, larger hotels and the nightlife more action filled. Apparently, Hvar is supposed to be the Croatian island with the highest number of sun days. Also, it only takes an hour to get here by catamaran from the city of Split, which with it's international airport and huge ferry terminal serves as a feeding point for a large number of visitors to Croatia's attractions.

As soon as we had found a place to stay, we started out by doing what we did in the other places, namely finding the closest beach:

B. with the everpresent floating mattress

The huge hotel situated above the public beach. They had their own pools, so the beach wasn't crowded...

...there was more than enough space for me to happily float about

Every afternoon when returning from the beach, we would sit down in the piazza in the middle of the city centre, having our traditional "after beach"  small beers while engaging in some people watching as they walked along the harbour, across the busy piazza, or were just running their errands or "walking" their dogs...


...while just enjoying our surroundings...

At times we also made it into some of the small charming stores or stalls in the narrow streets:

I didn't really buy a lot, but one little souvenir was too cute to pass by:

After several days at the beach, I felt the need for some action. So two of us left Hvar and the hill that we stayed on behind for the day...

 and booked a sailing trip to the island of Vis and the blue (or was it green?) grotto with a company called Hvar Adventures:
The skipper talking to some of our fellow sailors

B. enjoying the elements - only the sound of the wind and the waves

While I enjoyed chatting to the skipper...

...and the view of the grotto:

Afterwards it was time for lunch and a swim:

Whaaaat? No floating mattresses on board? I actually have to do the work myself? Scandalous!

On our last night in Hvar, we all went out for a "farewell" dinner. The others chose to stay behind for the rest of the holiday, and only B. and I would be going to Split. We also had some beer:

One metre, to be exact! (No, I did not drink it all by myself even if I look pretty happy)

The morning after, we had to leave at around 7 AM to catch the catamaran onwards. The normally busy piazza was like a totally different world at that hour:'s our (space) ship coming to take us away on new adventures


Coming up later...

The Italian encounter

(Random image from the net.)

Ain't it funny how sometimes completely coincidental happenings can turn into some of the most memorable experiences?

Last week, my friend Hege and I agreed to spend the lovely sunny and warm Saturday evening on my terrace, just to relax, chat and have a few glasses of wine.

(Daytime - My photo)

 What it looked like that night (sorry about the camera shake, but dropped the flash in order to catch the natural light)

While planning for the evening, I decided to ask the other girls to come around, too. It ended up being five of us, enjoying drinks and snacks, and just generally having a good time. So much in fact, that at around 1 AM in the morning we were in the mood for going out and decided to continue the party at a pub in a nearby area called Grünerloekka, popular for it's atmosphere and nightlife.

Incidentally, one of my friends speaks Italian, and through her we met a large group of Italian guys at the pub. Funnily enough, of all cities in Europe, they had chosen Oslo as the venue for the bachelor party for one of them. Funny because bachelor parties usually involve consuming at least a few beers, and Norway, due to the extremely high taxes on alcohol, is commonly known for its' exorbitant prices on all alcoholic beverages compared to almost anywhere else in the world. However, these were well travelled men and had already visited a number of other European cities, so Oslo was chosen as few, if any, of them had been here before.

The combination of wine drinking Norwegian girls and beer swinging Italian men seemed to be a very good one. We got on so well that after the pub closed, we all went back to continue the party and have a night meal in my place. With the weather last weekend being among the best all through the summer, even at that late hour it was still warm enough to sit outside on the terrace. It's just a small one, so it had already seemed full with the five of us earlier in the evening. Somehow, though, we managed to fit in more than twice as many people, excluding the one guy who was so exhausted that even with all the noise the lot of us made, he fell asleep on my couch.

My guests didn't leave till about 6.30 on Sunday morning. Later that afternoon, surprisingly, as I would have thought all of them would have been completely exhausted by then, one of the Italians called me and generously invited me to join them while sightseeing around Oslo. I met them again at the tiger statue in front of the Oslo Central station.

Quote from wikipedia: "The city was once referred to as Tigerstaden (City of tigers) by the author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson around 1870, due to his perception of the city as a cold and dangerous place. This name has over the years achieved an almost official status, to the extent the 1000 year jubilee was celebrated by a row of tiger sculptures around the City Hall." (Random image from the net.)

In the warm and sunny afternoon, we decided to visit the famous Vigeland Sculpture Park, one of the most popular attractions in Oslo with tourists and locals alike. According to the official information from the Vigeland museum: "...(T)heme of the entire park: Man's journey from cradle to grave, through happiness and grief, through fantasy, hope and wishes of eternity." There are more than 200 sculptures in the park, all of them created by the artist Gustav Vigeland, who donated all of his work to the city.

The park seen from the air. The main entrance is a bit further out of the image at the far left, above the public pool. The distance from the main gate to the last statue symbolizing the wheel of life at the far right is 850 metres. The fountain is located in the middle, while the Monolith is on the granite plateau a bit right of the centre. (Random image from the net.)

Sinnataggen (the angry boy) - the most famous sculpture, located on the bridge across the pond (Photo from the Vigeland Museum)

The large fountain with the Rose Garden in the middle of the park (Random image from the net.)

The Monolith - 17.3 metres tall, made of a single block of granite (Random image from the net.)

The wheel of life - at the end of the park (Random image from the net.)

After spending several hours in the park, including chillin' in the grass by the bank of the pond with some cold drinks, we spent the rest of the evening first enjoying dinner at The Broker pub in the popular shopping area of Majorstuen, located in the Frogner borough of Oslo, before continuing our walk through the city to the Royal Palace and it's surrounding park. The Palace is at the end of Oslo's main street Karl Johan, and the destination of the Children's Parade on our National Day on May 17th, to celebrate our Constitution that we got on that date in 1814. On every National Day, the Royal family waves to all the children and other spectactors from the balcony.

(My photo)

The parade leading up along Karl Johan towards the Palace on May 17th (photo from
Then we continued further down along Karl Johan on to the Stortinget (the Parliament building, random photo from the net).

Since this was pretty late in the evening, the building was closed to visitors, but it is possible to visit it if making an appointment in advance. Through the windows at the second floor we could barely see some of the main hall, but from a previous visit early this spring, here are a few photos that I took inside it:

The main hall where politicians gather to vote on laws.

The painting in the background depicts the statesmen that wrote our Constitution in 1814. Above it is our national symbol, the lion with the sword and the crown.

The view from the Parliament, with the Karl Johan to the right, the Palace in the background, and the round roof of our National Theatre barely visible behind the trees to the left.

Having greatly enjoyed my glorious day with my newfound Italian friends, and guided them through parts of Oslo and our Norwegian history, we concluded our evening by walking Karl Johan all the way down, taking in the views of parts of Oslo's nightlife along the way, and saying goodbye back at the Central station.

I'm rather ashamed to admit that while visiting a huge number of much more far away corners on the globe, I've never been to Italy before. But now that I know someone from there, and with the possibility of seeing some of them again and possibly share an equally pleasant time again sometime in the future, I guess I'll have to put Italy on my travel wish list fairly soon.

This all started out just by a friend suggesting drinks on my terrace. Who would have thought? You never know your luck!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Furry greetings in my guest book

From Sati (3)....

...and Poja (3).

While mum and dad cruised away in the Mediterranean, they left us with this weird babysitter that was waaaaay too strict and did not let us do absolutely everything we wanted to. For instance:

She would not trust our flying squirrel skills and let us jump off the terrace. I mean, come on, it's only five floors down...

...and she would only let us climb halfway up the bookshelf...

...even if she knew we would have so much fun going all the way to the top!

What a boring old fart!

And then she would force us to exercise outside EVERY DAY!

Over there? What do you mean over there? That's friggin' halfway across the park!

Hmmmm....only if you carry me up the stairs afterwards. All five floors, or no deal!

No wonder we sometimes were dead tired...

I'm not gonna make it all the way to my bed, this plastic bag will have to do....

But, ok then, it really wasn't all that bad...

We got to fight with her large collection of ugly teddy bears...

...and mess up her kitchen drawers real good

And she did have a lot of patience when we found something really interesting to do... testing out the ostrich kind of life style...

...or spending endless amounts of time playing hide and seek...

...or even wanted to take a roll in the soil in the janitor's freshly planted beds of flowers in the backyard:

But the coolest thing though, was when we put up our most sorry faces to show her that the grass would be so much greener on the other side of the terrace door...

...the sucker fell for it every time!


When mum and dad came to get us again, we showed our appreciation for all the soil cleaning work she had to put up with by restraining ourselves from going for her tempting soft leather Jimmy Choos, and only left our greetings in her cheap $2 flip flops. Aren't we just the most considerate guests ever?!