The GoGlobal Blog

Month: June 2017

Flyin Solo – Copenhagen

Flyin Solo – Copenhagen

My one and only truly solo trip I took this semester was to Denmark. I realized I had been to every Scandinavian capital except Copenhagen, plus I had wanted to travel alone at some point, so it felt fitting for my last trip of the semester to be there. Here is my experience down in words….

Day 1

Despite being enthusiastic for my final trip, especially since I was traveling alone, I got rather sentimental at the airport. I started thinking about how much time I’ve spent in this airport these past 6 months and how that airport and Denver’s are my favorite airports. I laughed when I reminisced about my first trip I took there to Krákow. My friends and I were so newly aquatinted with the country and traveling. We got lost, over packed, you name it. Now I feel like a pro or something because I’ve done so much traveling this semester. Except my expert bubble popped when I still managed to try to board the wrong flight. That was the second time that happened but in my defense the flight I tried to board was also to Copenhagen but only 20 minutes earlier than my actual flight—an easy mistake really. When I finally boarded the correct flight, I was in the front row, feeling like a boss. I looked out the window and thought how beautiful Norway is in the summer now that everything is green. “My Frosted City” to which I named because it always looked like it was frosted with snow now more closely resembled “My Green City”.

When I landed, I was happily surprised at how easy it was to figure out where the metro was to get to my hostel. The airport looks eerily similar to the Oslo one, and the public transit systems could be sisters. Although, the amount of people and how they act is very different. The train was packed full of people by the time I got off, and the city as a whole was bumping for a Wednesday afternoon. Juxtaposed to that, Oslo seems quite desolate, although I like that the city is smaller and not crowed. Copenhagen with the crowds and the fact that I was alone for the first time made me feel extremely anxious and I couldn’t shake it.

After I checked in, I immediately left to go grab food. I was so hungry that I bought the first sandwich that sounded good at this cool market outside my hostel. I saw in the distance what looked like a park so I figured I would go there to eat it. I was happy to find that it was a lake with a nice walking path around the perimeter. It seemed like the only place in the city that wasn’t packed and I was beyond grateful to take this opportunity to calm down and acquaint myself with my environment.

The park right near my hostel where I spent my first day at, as well as ate at least one meal a day at the entire time I was in the city. Very lovely.

I guess it just felt strange to be alone suddenly. The past week I literally spent every single moment with my friends (or studying) because seeing that we were leaving soon, we were trying to pack in as much time together as we could. Thus, transitioning from that to complete solitude in an unfamiliar city really threw me off. Not to say that I wasn’t happy to be in Copenhagen, or that I can’t spend time alone in general, but it was just a surprisingly hard transition that I wasn’t prepared for mentally.

With no plans of what to do (again logistics are not a strength of mine), I just kept walking anywhere that looked appealing. Turned out that I happened to arrive on a day when this massive EDM festival was going on. It’s the biggest street party in all of Denmark, called Distortion. It used to be all over the country but the smaller areas got sick of it and moved in all into Copenhagen. The party was going on the entire week and would move each day to a new section. Streets were closed to cars and instead filled with what seemed like every 20-something-year-old Danish person intoxicatingly vibe’n to the beat of the music. Every 10 meters there was another stage and at some points the crowd was so packed it was hard to move. When one stages’ music would fade, another would come into focus. It was THE place to be for everyone my age it seemed! Given that I was alone, I mostly just walked through and took it all in, wishing that the guys were here with me because together we’d have a blast.

As I was getting tired of being surrounded by drunk people with loud house music all around me, I set off to escape the festival and continue seeing the city. It was an interesting first day, and I was keen to see what the next day had in store.

Distortion, the largest street party in all of Denmark, was absolutely crazy. At one point, I come across this man just carrying around a plastic leg!

Day 2

I woke up around 9:30 and to my surprise all the people in my room were already out. I got ready and set out for a quick breakfast at the market near my hostel. I wanted to make the 11am free walking tour in the city so I didn’t have all that much time. The cafe I went to took forever, so I had to scarf down my food before speed walking to the meeting spot at Town Hall.

When I arrived, there were a ton of people–probably the biggest walking tour I’ve ever seen. Before it began I heard two guys next to me had an American accent so I asked them where they were from. Their names were David and Tommy, two college students from New York who go to school in Buffalo. I found that intriguing because that’s where my mom was from. As the tour went on, we hung out the entire time and got to know each other as we walked from each destination. I learned a lot on the tour as I always do (the free walking tours in every city are amazing, I highly encourage doing them on the first day of any trip to gain your bearings in the city, both geographically and historically). For example, the crown prince and his family took in an exchange student this semester! How cool right? I should have applied on exchange here!

The famous Navn street in all its glory.

When the tour ended, the guys and I went together to Christiania, the free town in Copenhagen to explore and more importantly get food. Inside was really fascinating. It had a totally different atmosphere juxtaposed to the rest of the city. While inside, we ran into a group of Finnish men that Tommy had met the night before. They took us to this beach there which we would have never known existed if it weren’t for them. We stayed there for hours and eventually the New York guys got up and asked if I wanted to leave with them. Since I knew them a little better, I went with. We walked back to the city center and got another hot dog to eat–the hot dogs there are amazing, be sure to order them with everything on them. Unfortunately, I was so hungry I didn’t even think to take a picture. So sad… After we ate is when we split our ways and I went back to my hostel to nap for a little.

The entrance to Christiania, the free town. On the flip side it reads, “You are now entering the EU”.
The beach in Christiania where the people I met and I spent a good few hours at.

When I awoke from my nap, a Swedish guy had moved into my room. We talked for a little before I headed out to continue exploring for the night. I ended the night by watching the sunset over the river. When I came back, the Swedish guy and I talked the rest of the night together. He’s 23 and quit school three separate times. He seemed frustrated with himself that he did such a thing. I found him to be quite intelligent, for when he found out I studied math, we talked about our favorite proofs for quite a while. It was a perfect, chill second day in Copenhagen.


The beautiful sunset I witnessed along the water.

Day 3

I didn’t need to leave for my flight until 4:30pm in the afternoon, so I set a plan to see the rest of the city that I wanted to hit. I quickly ate breakfast at the hostel with a Brazilian woman whom I met that morning.

Now, my first stop was the botanical gardens followed by the Kings Gardens. It was so beautiful and peaceful inside. I always love seeing the botanical gardens in any city I travel to. Kongens Have, or the Kings Garden was bigger than I was expecting. There were large fields of finely cut grass that people were sun bathing and playing games on. I could totally see myself throwing around a ball, or lying down there for days

The botanical gardens in the city. Very sublime.

Next on my agenda was Kastellet, i.e., the star shaped fortress. I heard from a friend who studied abroad here that it was unlike any fortress any Americans have ever seen, yet I was still astonished. It was basically a gorgeous park with a moat running through the middle. There was even a windmill on the hill at the very center. I sat on a bench in there, just relaxing, watching the occasional runner or biker swing by me. I ended up walking the entire path that surrounded the fortress, both on the lower path, as well as the path on the hill. If you’re a runner, I think this would be a fine spot to take a jog if ever in town.

The statue of the Little Mermaid is just on the perimeter of Kastellet. I’ve heard not to really go there because it wasn’t worth it but I decided that I wanted to see what has been deemed the 2nd most underwhelming tourist attraction in the world. What I found more impressive when I saw it, was the amount of tourists gawking at such a mediocre statue. I stayed for a half a minute before moving on.

One part of the fortress. It was so beautiful it was hard to believe it actually was a fortress.
The windmill that was located on the hill inside the fortress.
Included because I think this statue is cooler than the Little Mermaid…

On my way to the Church of our Savior, I found this interesting Octagon. There was a small door and inside was so unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s an art installation called “Cosmic Space” by an artist from the Faroe Islands. Definitely try to find it if you can. No one really notices it, so I was the only one in there for quite a while. I don’t want to include any photos because it is one of those “be surprised” types of places. Not a huge tourist attraction, but when you happen across it, you’ll be glad you saw it.

Finally I arrived at the church. I first went inside where the organs were playing some rather dark music very loudly. Yet, the inside was remarkable. Probably one of my favorite churches I’ve ever been in. Following a quick stop in there, I headed up to the tower. I’ve heard it was the best view of the city, but I had no idea just what that meant—beyond worth the 35 kroner I spent to get there. First you had to walk up a set of narrow wooden stairs inside the church. A funny, elderly British couple near me were playfully bickering about how difficult it was. Then you come out onto a platform where you can see the whole city. I thought this was the end until I turned the corner and saw a set of oxidized copper stairs spiraling upwards on the outside of the tower. I climbed these, with my legs shaking from my fear of heights, until I reached the very top. Glad I made it before I left, is all I can say.

Overall, it turned into a beautiful trip. I finished it off by eating an early dinner and reading my book by this beautiful lake before heading off to the airport. TY København.

The the best view of the Church, but you can see the twisting stairs at the very top.
A small view of the stairs I climbed on the outside of the church. So high!!

Well this is my last blog I’m going to write. I don’t think I’m mentally prepared enough to write a final, “goodbye” blog so I’ll leave it at this… S/O to all my friends, all my roommates, all my adventures, and especially to all of Norway. You’ll be missed…

Spring Break: Part 3 – Rusland

Spring Break: Part 3 – Rusland

Day 6: Thursday (Entering and Customs)

It literally took us a full 24 hours to get into Russia. (Cami, who was extremely upset at that fact, said she “will never forget” it). As everyone was trying to leave the boat, it got so jam packed that no one could move, so Vince and I just sat on the ground to wait out the crowd. When we finally left the boat, it was snowing and freezing outside—exactly what you would imagine Russia to be like. To get to boarder control, we had to take our first steps on Russian soil over to a nearby building. Just as Vince is telling me that we can’t take pictures at the borders, I snap a picture of him, the boat, and the blizzard around us. He laughed at me but later was really grateful because he ended up loving the photo I took.


Vince and the boat – our first steps on Russian soil.

We realized that our ESN group must have met somewhere on the boat and we missed it because we were the first one to get to customs. At first, it was as scary as I was imagining. Vince went first, then me and Nick went in tandem. I just stayed extremely quiet and did what they told me to do. Cami, who was still upset with how long it took to enter the country, noted that she felt like we have to beg to get into Russia, or at least that’s how it felt to her.

Particularly because we went first, we had to wait forever for the rest of the ESN group to finally enter Russia. We just found seats in the building and ate the rest of our food.  We were glad we got there first so we could relax. Just as we were saying how easy it was to get into Russia, we learned about how the only two people of color were stopped by border control and have been in questioning for the past hour…. sickening, I tell you. The male was taken first and was interrogated for 15 minutes. Then the girl was told to follow, the guards not even looking at her passport before telling her to step aside. So, in short, border control was easy, but only if you are white… After an hour and a half, our ESN leader decided we had to board the bus for our city tour without them.

The first thing the tour guide said was, “Believe it or not, you are in Russia.”

We saw and learned a lot while on that tour bus. Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, the church that used to be the main church for the entire city, is probably one of the most impressive buildings I’ve seen in my life. Russia, with 342 bridges, is nicknamed “The Venice of the North”. Interestingly, 1/10 (approximately half a million people) live in communal apartments in Saint Petersburg. They are basically like a dorm or hostel style living arrangement to keep costs down because most of the people are extremely poor.

Usually I don’t like organized tours, especially those on busses in which you are unable to walk around through the city. However, for several reasons I was grateful to start our stay in Russia with a city tour. One, I was exhausted. Two, the weather was snowy and cold. And three, the tour guide just knew so much about the city! I found it fascinating to learn about it in way I never would have if I had traveled individually.

Despite what I just said, it was too difficult to not fall asleep for a little on the warm, rumbling bus, so soon I drifted off with my head resting against Cami’s shoulder.

Eventually, we arrived at our hostel that we would be living at for the next few days. Luckily, my little crew was called first for our room assignment as well. We had the very top floor and a nice big room all together. Due to our enormous hunger, we immediately went food shopping to try to find items for a communal dinner and for food the next day. It was the hardest shop of my life because I was just so tired and hungry that I was paralyzed and was unable to make an decisions. Cami opted for going solo for dinner so the guys and I bought pasta with meats and vegetables. Cooking took ages (figures) but it was kind of fun all cutting and cooking together. The hostel’s cooking supplies was subpar (no pepper!), so that contributed to the extended wait time. Around 10pm, we had finally finished and I proceeded to eat till I was in pain. Climbing the 5 flights of stairs right after meant that I had to immediately lie down for a little to digest all I had consumed.

Later that night, Cami and Nick decided they didn’t want to go out for whatever reason, so it was just Sam, Vince, and I who set out for a night in Russia. We happened to met a guy named Victor in our hostel who is from Russia. He took us under his wing and showed us the ropes with the public transit, using random cars as taxis, not allowing to take pictures in the tunnels to the trains, etc. Speaking of, I LOVE the metro system in Saint Petersburg!! It is just so cool! Victor said that the deepest is about 100 meters, and to get down there you ride the longest escalator ever!

Victor got a little funny as the night went on. He kept telling us stories of how he’s seen many people get shot before, and all the fights he witnesses on the streets.. Really made me (and the guys) weary of the country. Then before we left him, he said that the men in Russia are crazy and how I, specifically, shouldn’t date them. It was an interesting night to say the least.

The metro escalators that go 100 meters down into the ground!

Day 7: Friday

 On Friday, we ate breaky (what Australians and Kiwi’s call breakfast) extremely fast because we felt unnecessarily rushed to head to the Hermitage Museum. It was a long walk over there, and after 10 minutes or so, Vince joked that we had already walked twice the length of Helsinki.

When we arrived at the museum, we had to do coat check which was the biggest hassle ever. No person behind the various counters were taking our jackets for whatever reason, and the ladies would just yell at us in Russian. So frustrating, but eventually we found a nice woman who took our coats.

The first thing our tour guide did was warn us that “back pockets are the public pocket”, because pick pocketing in Russia is far too common. The museum, and particularly the church, has unreal amounts of gold leaf everywhere. The place was really beautiful but far too large. You’d have to spend days there to really see it all.


Outside the Hermitage museum.
An area inside the Hermitage.

Our group was starving and tired so when the tour ended we searched for a place to eat. The first open and relatively inexpensive place was an Irish restaurant, but luckily we were all able to get Russian cuisine because they provided it along with Irish dishes. I got salmon cutlet which was so delicious – my meal probably was the best out of everyone’s and it was the cheapest somehow. The guy when we paid even gave me and the girls a discount (not the guys for some reason, strange I know).

After that, we set out for coffee, and the only place we found that was crazy expensive was McDonalds! But hey, it was about a buck for a big Americano, so worth it. We were still amazed at how expensive everything seemed to be—we thought it was be beyond cheap in Saint Petersburg.

Later, we went to the top of Saint Isaac’s church, which only cost 150 rubbles or about $3. It was so cool to see the city, despite the chilly wind blasting us. I stood there, alone, just amazed at the city and myself. In other words, I found the city to be so vast that it felt crazy. Then that got me thinking about how I couldn’t believe I was there getting to experience it. So far, all my travels have been to places I never thought I’d see, especially including Russia. I was just grateful to myself for pushing my comfort zone and experiencing parts of Europe that most Americans usually don’t get to travel to/ have no desire to travel to.

The view from the top of Saint Isaac’s Church.

When we left the church, Cami and Bianca wanted to go shopping (something I never have the desire to do), and some of the other guys just wanted to go back to the hostel to nap. I was frustrated because we only had so much time there, so I wanted to keep exploring with or without them (except that I was rather timid of traveling alone in Russia). Luckily Vince opted to stay with me, so once we helped the others find the metro, we split off to go explore.

Again, I really loved spending time with Vince, this time included. As we walked around Saint Petersburg, we discussed how we see ourselves within our generations (I consider myself a millennial, while he believes he belongs to generation X), our parents, taking a gap year, you name it. Eventually we came upon the Grønland of Russia—a really cool outdoor and indoor market with lots of clothing located outside and free food and meats inside. (Grønland is the cheap market in Oslo where we all go food shopping even though it takes over a half hour to get there.)

The entrance to the market Vince and I found.

After leaving the market, we ventured back outside just to walk. While we were on top of Saint Isaacs church, we saw this beautiful blue church in the distance and Vince and I wanted to go see it but figured it was too far a distance to walk to. Well, low and behold, we somehow found it on our walk! It was bigger than I even realized and very beautiful. A statue made of cannons was outside which was interesting. I wish I knew Russian to read what it said. We checked the door to see if we could go in and it turned out that a service was going on. It was Russian orthodox, I’m pretty sure. The inside was spectacular and about a hundred people were standing in the middle facing a few men performing the service. In the back was a small choir singing peaceful church tunes. Every 15-30 seconds everyone was make the sign of the cross and then bow, some just partially and others all the way to touching their toes. It was so unique and fascinating to watch. Vince had never even been in a service before, no matter the denomination. Now we can both say we’ve attended a Russian orthodox one!


The ‘blue church’ with the unique statue in front.

We realized when we took the metro back that we were at the station that just had the terrorist attack about a week earlier. There were still a lot of flowers outside and a ton of scary policemen with unfriendly dogs standing around the main entrance hall. Felt weird to have just been in Stockholm at the place where their terrorist attack happened and then also in Russia where a separate one had just occurred. I can’t really put to words how it felt, but I guess rather surreal is the best way I can explain it.

When we finally got back to the hostel, Vince and I made dinner together and shared our meal with three other people (Dutch, Swiss, and French). They were working on trying to finish the biggest pot of pasta I’ve ever seen for 3 people. Luckily for us, they couldn’t and asked Vince and I to help them eat the food. Ironically, the guy from the Netherlands told us through laughter that he witnessed our friend Sam blow drying his hair in the bathroom for the longest time ever. Except, he didn’t know it was Sam, so as he was telling the story, I realized it must have been Sam because, well, his hair is probably his most prized possession. We all laughed for a while at Sam’s expense.

Speaking of Sam’s hair, he ended up doing all the boys hair that night before we went out. Needless to say, they looked quite snazzy. Our plan was to go to a bar crawl that Sam heard was going on earlier that day. We told everyone else about it, so when it came time to meeting in the hostel lobby, fifteen people from our group was there but no official bar crawl was happening. Sam must have heard wrong. However, since we were all there, people decided lets do our own. I naturally went to my phone and started looking up pubs near us, which somehow indicated to the group that I was now the leader of this shindig. I certainly wasn’t comfortable with it but I tried to do my best anyways because everyone was set on me running this event. They started calling it “Shayna’s famous pub crawl”, while Cami joked that we should have charged them for attendance. It actuality, I got everyone lost a little but it still turned out fun. I was the only American, so people kept joking how they happened to put the American in charge. My friend group ended up just sticking together and talking the whole night, which was just the best. I couldn’t believe how dispite there being so many other people with us, we enjoyed each other’s company so much that we stuck together. I really loved it. It was a very good day that ended in lots of friendship and laughter.


Nick (left) and Vince (right). Clearly loving their hair by Sammy K, and each other’s company.

Day 8

We woke up at 8:15am (kill me) with the intent to try to figure out how to get to Catherine’s Palace on our own for the day. According to google maps, it was a two hour trip by public transportation, which meant there was a lot of room for error that could result in us getting utterly lost.

Despite that fear, we departed by 9:45am first by taking the metro and then luckily finding the perfect bus to take us directly to the Palace that is outside the city. It was all much easier than we ever thought it would be. The public bus system (transit system in general) is really interesting and surprisingly easy to use. The busses, to be more specific, are all very archaic and small but come super often. You pay only 40 rubles and all in cash or coins. The driver will even deliver you your change as he drives. I noticed people going up and just asking the driver to stop random places even. Plus, people on the sidewalk could wave down the driver and he would stop. Maybe I’m weird because I am oddly fascinated by cities various public transit systems, but I think anyone could appreciate the unique Russian busses that we took.

This is the inside of the public bus we took to Catherine’s Palace. I was sitting at the very back, so you can see how small it was.

It only took an hour to get there (silly Google maps!) and immediately we were so glad we didn’t let the fear of getting lost stop us from coming. The palace looks absolutely unreal, and before entering we sat outside listening to a guy play the flute while we ate our lunch.

The crew eating lunch outside Catherine’s Palace.

The palace was so lavish, with gold everywhere and all the ceilings painted intricately. This is hard to describe, but it was cool how the paintings on the outside were an extension of the building and then it opened up to scenes depicted in the heavens. Vince and I stuck together for a while because we lost the rest of the crew but soon we all found one another and toured through the place.

Outside the Palace is just as amazing, in a way. It felt like Christmas of sorts walking through the gardens while it was snowing. Only after a minor snow ball fight did we then proceed with the rest of our day. While on the long bus ride back, I started thinking about what it’ll be like to go home. Even just the thought made me anxious and really sad. I was so happy here with everyone and everything, I didn’t want to leave and I especially didn’t want to stop seeing my friends there everyday. I was already getting upset about how near the end is. But that is so characteristically me; I always get upset when anything ends and things have to change. I tried to remind myself everything would be ok and just to live in the moment, which to be honest, is beyond difficult.

Here you can vaguely see what I tried to describe – the outside of the painting in an extension of the building opening up to the heavens.
The crew walking through the gardens.

Back in Saint Petersburg, Cami wanted tea so we stopped at a place called Oh!MyTea, a small joint with one other person in it. The guys became attached to their phones (free wifi and all) while Cami and I talked with the girl working for 15 minutes. She spoke fairly good English and she was so awesome! She said that Saint Petersburg is an exception to the rest of Russia because it’s so European. She comes from a small town 5 hours away by train but soon she is leaving to a different town on the border of Russia, China and Europe. She told us how she studied philosophy and Italian culture in college. We asked how she learned English and she brought up how she watches the show, Game of Thrones. Me and Vince just started watching it with the rest of the guys this semester (we were on season 5 at the time we were in Russia) so I yelled to the guys how she watches it too, and immediately they joined the conversation and we geeked about the show together. She almost spoiled something about John Snow for Vince and I but luckily Sam stopped her. It was a cute addition to our day, I really do think many of the people in the city are quite kind and lovely to chat with.

One of the most astonishing places we went to was the Church of the Savior on Blood, otherwise known as the Church of Spilled Blood. It was entirely decorated in mosaic—so hard to believe! I stood there in awe of the building for ages.

The outside of the Church of Spilled Blood.
The inside of the Church – everything is mosaic.

The rest of the day was spent eating dinner and going out. The following day which was Easter meant everything was closed in the city for the most part. We traveled a lot on another boat to Tallinn the next day which is beautiful (I wanted to move there for the summer, I loved it so much).

Please note, the rest of day 9 and 10 I didn’t take notes on (I usually do and that’s how I am able to remember the small details of my travels for these blogs). Hence, I am just going to skip to my last reflections while I was heading back to Oslo and just note that there is a significant gap in my recollection of events during this time period.

Day 10: The end of Spring Break

 While sitting on the train from Stockholm back to Oslo, I began to feel this hint of melancholy nostalgia for not only my spring break trip coming to an end, but for my entire semester thus far. Everything seemed to be moving so much faster than I anticipated and I felt as though I couldn’t catch my breath. Don’t be mistaken, in many ways that is a good reaction because it is indicative of an amazing experience, with incredible friends and memories. But at the same time, to be honest, I was terrified of it finally ending. The end always seemed so far away, just like how my spring break–which I planned with most of the people on this trip way back in Poland–always seemed far in the distance. But yet there I was, closing in on my last hour on the train back to Oslo–the place I now call home. I understand that before I know it, I will be on a plane back home, just an hour away from touching down in Denver.

It’s funny, Cami showed us last night a video of Zach and I back in Poland in January. We were sitting at the dinner table of the sushi place we went to on our first night. Our waiter was showing us on a map where the cool bars and clubs were. Nick, Cami, and Sam talked and laughed about how young Zach and I look. I concur, I actually looked like a different person even though that was just a few months ago. Cami said we all have changed so much since then, which I guess I hadn’t realized as of yet. Nonetheless, she is right. We have all changed so much in such a short period of time, and soon we would be forced to leave one another and nothing will be the same.

These last 10 days were phenomenal. I truly loved our group. Although we are all quite different, we meshed together almost seamlessly which allowed us to spend so much alone time with one another with zero clashes. Hell, one night all five of us slept in a room the size of a handicap bathroom stall–talk about being close with people!

It is worth noting as well that it was also a unique experience for me to be the only American while traveling on this trip. I learned so much from other cultures, specifically those in which my friends derive from, and I recognize I have so much more to learn.

Although I just discussed how particularly sad I seem to be, I also just want to highlight that I always get sad at anything ending. I’m an “easily pleased” person as my friends describe me, and thus, I am constantly sad when various amazing events in my life come to a close, this trip specifically. I guess I want to close this blog post with a moment of gratefulness for the various events that occurred during my travels.

I am grateful for Nick, who handled being alone with me like a champ. I am grateful for bread, peanut butter and salami, which got me through so many meals those 10 days. I am grateful for the alone time I received in Djur garden. I am grateful for the curry I shared with Vince and Nick because sharing is certainly not my forte. I am grateful for exploring the rest of Stockholm alone with Vince, only to happily run into the entire crew on the way to the boat. I am grateful for shared meals on the floor of various cabin rooms while aboard ferries. I am grateful for duty free vodka and fun nights of dancing, laughing, and bonding. I am grateful for the hours dedicated to playing the card game presidents/scum, as people call the game either name (we combined the names and denoted it as P.S. from now on). I am grateful for Russia not giving us any troubles and only good memories. I am grateful that our group always stuck together and had such an amazing time talking and got to know each other better and better. I am grateful for Russia’s metro system, and how easy the buses are to take. I am grateful for Vince exploring Saint Petersburg with me and happening across the blue church we were both so keen on finding. I am grateful for both the snow and sunshine that we received while traveling. I am grateful for the beautiful day we received in Estonia. I am grateful for being able to return to Stockholm’s national library before we came back to Oslo. I am just grateful.

Peace Spring Break, and thanks for everything ✌️ Peace Spring Break, and thanks for everything.

The crew in Tallinn, Estonia.
Love these people.
Spring Break Part 2

Spring Break Part 2

Spring Break Part 2: Overnight Boats and Finland

 Our next leg of the ESN (Eramus Student Network) Spring Break trip was to board a boat that would take us overnight to Helsinki, Finland followed by another night arriving in Saint Petersburg, Russia. This is Part Two of my adventures.

Day 4: Tuesday 

Our entire group boarded this massive boat that was to take us to Finland. It wasn’t as elegant of a cruise as the one I took to Riga the week before, but this time we were all in the same cabin (minus Vince, poor Vince…), which was both a blessing and a curse. It was only slightly negative because the room was incredible minuscule. Despite that, it was fun to have all of us there in the same cabin to eat, talk, laugh, and sleep together.

We all sat on the floor to eat dinner together and then Nice, Vince, and I went up a few floors to go read while Sam and Cami took a nap. The guys and I just sat in the café on board reading for an hour or so before we all met up to go exploring and purchase items from the duty free shop.

The view on the top deck of the boat as we were leaving Sweden – very beautiful.
Captured is Cami in our cabin for the night. You can see just how small it was, with bunk beds tucked away adjacent to one another.
We ate our meals together on the floor with food we had bought as various super-markets. Pictured is Vince eating an avocado like an apple.

Later that evening, we had such a fun time hanging out in the cabin. Sam invited some girls he had met to hang out in our room, which made it a tight fit. When the claustrophobia and heat became too much we moved on to the rest of the boat. I danced a lot with Cami and mostly Vince in the dance room before we ended up in this one area of the cruise that had this bald guy singing and playing the guitar for people to enjoy. Not many people were there, and those that were certainly were not playing attention to the entertainment. My friends and I were the opposite. We quite often sung along with him for hours and I had so much fun just being as peace with my friends, listening and singing to acoustics. The man definitely loved us and was gracious that we enjoyed his music.

Nick fell asleep (more like completely passed out) before any of us. So, naturally, we had to mess with him by placing as much as we could on his face before he might awake. It was so funny, all of us huddled around him in our tiny cabin doing that. Overall, it was beyond fun that night on the boat—much more than my previous boat experience to Riga where we lost everyone and I felt sick. Here, our group stuck together the whole night, talked, danced, and mostly laughed. It was just great.

Hopefully Nicky won’t be upset with me sharing this, but you can see just how much stuff we were able to place on his face while he was fast asleep… Quite the heavy sleeper that Kiwi is…

Day 5: Wednesday in Finland

When we woke up, we all ate breakfast in our cabin with the food we had purchased and then proceeded to get ready for our day in Helsinki. The first thing we did when we got off the boat was walk to the hostel to drop off our stuff because we would be on a different boat to Russia. (This boat company has a monopoly on the Russian market, only this one company offers trips to and from the country).

We went on a walking tour of the city which I found to be small and quaint. I enjoyed it, but I doubt I would ever have the desire to return. After a while, we were so hungry that we had to find somewhere to eat. We came across this unique indoor market where we all ate the most amazing seafood soup with unlimited bread. Vince and I, who were at a small table of our own, basically ate an entire load of bread between the two of us.

The main church in Helsinki.
Beautiful city, Helsinki is.
Inside the market we found in the city to get lunch. You can see the happiness in Sam’s face.
The market (and so many others in the Nordic countries) is full of fresh food, especially fish. I have become so spoiled with the high quality fish available here.
The beautifully scrumptious sea-food soup we bought, with a slice of bread off to the side.

After eating, we continued to explore and more importantly went food shopping again for the next long night on the boat to Russia. Because the country is so difficult to get into, we waited forever to board the Russia cruise. But, before we knew it, we were on board and in our cabin (we all got placed in the same room again, minus Vince—again). The guys and I played a game Nick introduced to us (we now call it “Back-to-back”) before Cami came and joined us. In short, the game is just a quirky, yet fun way to get to know good friends even better.

After that, we all just talked and, well, bonded. I really fell in love with this group over the trip, we were an amazing crew. I had the feeling before departing that it was going to be awesome with who was going, but honestly, I had no idea just how true that was. We agreed that we are all very different people and therefore probably wouldn’t have ever become friends if we had simply gone to the same university. Yet, because of the special exchange we chose to do, we nonetheless became friends and it just somehow works. Shows how you never know who you can get along with and grow to love. Everyone, even if you can’t see it in the moment, has something unique to offer to the world and specifically to you. I guess, in a way, I found it beautiful that this group of 5 people, 2 of which aren’t even native english speakers (and I the only American), could get along so well with each other. In the moment I didn’t realize that was part of what made me love the trip so much, but in retrospect, it certainly was a large, contributing factor to my enjoyment of Spring break.

I went to bed that night excited, for in the morning we would be in Russia… But that is for my Part Three of my Spring Break Blogs.

Takk for i dag, Lola blog!

Taken while exploring Helsinki. From left to right: Sam, Vince, Cami, Nick.
Spring Break: Part 1

Spring Break: Part 1

Spring Break April 8-18, 2017: Part 1

Precursor: I understand that most other students who were blogging through Loyola have since finished their semesters and therefore their blogging. My semester is not done (I finish far later than so many of my peers), and honestly I’ve grown to love writing these blogs. It is rather therapeutic to recount my adventures into print, and thus I am just going to continue doing so for my own sake until my semester is over…


“When we observe a woman who seems hostile and fiercely independent some of the time but passive, dependent and feminine on other occasions, our reducing valve usually makes us choose between the two syndromes… But perhaps nature is bigger than our concepts and it is possible for the lady to be a hostile, fiercely independent, passive, dependent, feminine, aggressive, warm, castrating person all-in-one. Of course which of these she is at any particular moment would not be random or capricious—it would depend on who she is with, when, how, and much, much more. But each of these aspects of herself may be a quite genuine and real aspect of her total being.” – Walter Mischel


The Friday night before departing, my Irish roommate Shannon decided to throw a going away party since both Cami and I would be gone over break, and well because she loves parties. I was sick and had woken up at 5:30am that morning because I had my Norwegian final that day which determined my entire grade—happy to say I have since passed! Needless to say, I was less than excited to host another party but I figured I’m young and it’s break so it’ll be a-okay.

The party didn’t end until quite late, and thus I didn’t fall asleep until a little past 4am whilst my alarm remained firmly at 8:30am because I had a mountain of laundry to get done before my 1:30pm departure for my 10 day long spring break trip. Way back in Poland, a few of us signed up to do an ESN (Erasmus Student Network) trip to Saint Petersburg. It starts in Stockholm followed by a cruise to Helsinki, Finland for a day. Then we proceeded to take another ferry to Russia for four days ending in a ferry to Tallinn, Estonia for one day and back to Stockholm to take the train back home. Our group was as follows: Nick (New Zealand), Sam (Australia), Vince (Netherlands), and Cami (Argentina).

I wanted to see Stockholm more since I’d be there so I planned accordingly to arrive there 3 days early with Nick. Hence my trip would be 10 long days of nonstop traveling. Since it is as such, I decided to break my blog post up in parts that way I could write everything my heart desires without feeling like it is too much all in one post. So here is my post for Stockholm, the first leg of my Spring break adventure. I hope you enjoy!

Day 1:

I met up with Nick at his apartment after rushing to pack everything in about 15 minutes because, of course, I spent my time cooking instead of preparing for such a long trip. We easily made our way to the train station, and sat outside in the sun waiting to board. For some odd reason, 2nd class was the same price as coach when I purchased my ticket. I forgot I bought the better option so I was happily surprised to find a large, comfy seat awaiting me on the train.

The terrorist attack had just occurred on that Thursday and all the trains were canceled on Friday for that reason. The train we were on was the first train to run since that happened, so it was extremely full of passengers who had originally planned to travel out the day before. I just wanted to sleep in the beginning so when a nice elderly woman sat next to me, I remained quiet and slept for the next two hours. When I awoke, I began to read. I looked outside the window of the train, thinking how I couldn’t believe I was there, traveling and living abroad. I’m so lucky, I thought.

I really needed to use the restroom so I had to ask the woman to get up. We didn’t realize that we both knew English for a while so it was awkward moving about. It wasn’t until I came back that she asked if I knew English and I said yes, also that “Jeg også snakker lit norsk” (I also speak a little Norwegian). Turns out she is Norwegian but married a Swedish man and lived in Sweden much of her life. She got her Ph.D. in German and was a professor at the University of Stockholm. We talked about languages and she at one point apologized for lecturing me. I told her not to be sorry, that I was genuinely interested in the matter. She spent the entire train ride reading the largest German newspaper I’ve ever seen. (Keep in mind the train ride is 5 hours, so that was 5 hours of reading a newspaper!). She was extremely kind and I could tell she’s lived an interesting life.

Soon we stopped talking and both went back to reading. After a while I stopped to eat my dinner. I had packed an assortment of food to be sure I wouldn’t get hungry and I wouldn’t have to buy anything; something I always do when I travel. This time I had brought lomper (Norwegian potato tortillas of sort), a banana, an apple, a cucumber, a carrot, an entire yellow bell pepper, and two hard boiled eggs (I know that’s a lot). After I gorged myself and after I cleaned up, the lady spoke up and asked if I had enjoyed my meal with a smile on her face. I laughed, understanding that I am probably the first person she’s ever seen do that on the train.

When the train arrived in Stockholm, Nick and I met up to walk to our hostel. I thought I’d be able to find it without a map, since it was the same hostel I stayed at a week previously. Sadly, I got us rather lost and since, out of the two of us, I am the better one at talking to strangers, I had to ask two nice girls who directed us back in the right direction. We ended the night with a beer and a walk through town before heading to bed. The atmosphere in Stockholm was rather somber, given the attack had just occurred.

One of the memorials for the terrorist attack that occurred in Stockholm just before I came there.

Day 2:

Luckily Nick and I both woke up naturally around 8:30am, because we had forgot to discuss the night before when we wanted to be up and ready. We both showered then went downstairs to eat the food we brought for breakfast. Lomper and peanut butter never tasted better.

We wanted to do the entire trip as cheaply as possible, which meant food shopping instead of eating out. After a quick stop at the market, we went back to the hostel to empty our backpacks so that we could bring all our food with us for the day ahead. We explored a lot of the city that day, including Old Town, the castle, the water, etc. What was really exciting was we came across the famous, annual march to the stadium that the Swedish people do every year on the day of the first football game. There is about 10,000 people that walk the hour and half journey over city roads and onto an interstate overpass. People are drinking, loud music is being played, and chants are being screamed every few seconds. I was having so much fun that I got Nick to walk the entire length with me! Again, I felt lucky that we somehow came to Stockholm when this was happening.

This is at one point during the march to the stadium while we were still in the streets of the city. The amount of Swedish people going wild for soccer was outstanding.

When I came back to the hostel after finishing my dinner and reading by the water, Nick was just lying in bed. I laid down and slept for a half hour and then awoke with the plan to go down to the bar, get a beer, and read my book. Nick didn’t want to leave and said he “might” join later which in Nick language means he won’t come. This almost stopped me from going because I felt weird about sitting by myself drinking. But thankfully I didn’t let him hold me back and I got the courage to go sit at the bar by myself. There was a beer pong competition going on but I had already missed the beginning so I couldn’t join. At first I felt weird sitting at the bar drinking alone but then me and this girl next to me smiled at me just before she asked if I was traveling alone. Her name was Hanna, a masters student traveling alone from Germany. I told her I had an antisocial friend so I was mostly on my own too (sorry Nick!). We talked for a while before Émilie, a French Canadian interning in Spain, also joined the conversation. Throughout the night and over a couple of beers we chatted and got to know one another. It was cool to see the conversation turn from general items to deep and controversial topics by the end. I really loved Émilie—our views coincided on many occasions. I left for bed that night with two new friends with whom I would have never met if I didn’t push myself outside my comfort zone.

Day 3:

My goal on this day was to go to Djur (Deer) Garden. Both my Swedish soul sister I met on my trip the week before and the elderly woman on the train told me it was a beautiful place, so I was keen to experience it. When we got there, Nick couldn’t just sit and chill (he always like to keep moving), and I am more the type of person who enjoys to sit in silence at one stop for an extended period of time. After a little I suggested that perhaps we go our separate ways, in which he promptly agreed. It was the best thing we could have done.

I first came upon this cool maze that was rather meditative, before truly entering Deer Garden. The Garden is a massive preserve in which the King used to go hunting for deer in back in the day. I still can’t believe this vast nature lies within the city. While I didn’t see any deer (until the end), I also didn’t see any other people. Plus, I got to share my lunch in a beautifully peaceful spot with a little friend who joined me. Just on Sunday the weather was warm and beautiful; I didn’t even need a jacket. That day however, it was colder, cloudy and rainy. But I was happy about that. I love that kind of weather still and it only means that there aren’t hordes of people wandering around, hence why I didn’t see anyone the whole few hours I spent in the forest. It was just me, the birds, and the wind. I needed this.

Sounds weird, but it brought me back my sense of independence. All of Stockholm did actually. Without hesitating I was able to ask strangers where to go at times, I navigated everywhere, I went off on my own to read and eat dinner at a park by the water, sat at the bar alone until I met two kind strangers whom I chatted with all night, and spent the entire 3rd day on my own. I guess what this trip so far had done is remind me who I am, in a way. I wrote previously about how I felt lost in my identity, trapped in feeling dependent on others and unable to adventure out on my own. Well there I was, doing just that. A goal I wanted to make for myself for my remaining 3 months was to do this when I am back in Oslo. Nothing should stop me from exploring on my own, and I am happy to report that nothing has since.

Now, I did see a small heard of deer on my way back out of the Djur Garden. There were about 8 young deer, two of which were bucks. It made me wonder what it must have been like in the 16th and 17th century to be in here hunting deer for leisure.

One of the trails in Djur Garden.



After I left the garden, I continued to explore a little longer, even though my body was exhausted from walking so far—about 30km by days end. I ended up finding the National Library which is super unique! I always love finding the libraries where I go.

I went back to the hostel, napped, got coffee, and while drinking my cup, my friend Vince (Netherlands) finally showed up to join Nick and I. We treated ourselves to a dinner out at this nice Indian restaurant, in which we decided to share three different curries. Then we spent the night walking through Old Town again for Vince hadn’t seen it. I was excited for the next day when our spring break trip truly began.

Day 4: Tuesday in Stockholm

 In the morning, I ate my breakfast while the guys played ping pong. Our friend Sam came by bus early in the morning so now it was the four of us. My roommate Cami would come shortly and then we would have the entire crew.

For our final day in Stockholm, I got them to agree to go to Skiddardvik lookout point which was about an hour-long walk away. Vince and I had all our stuff with us because we planned to explore right up until we had to get on the boat. Nick and Sam bought a locker at the hostel so they planned on meeting up with Cami when she came in on her train and then getting their stuff before going to the boat.

The lookout point was beautiful but it was really cold and windy that high up. It would be such a great spot when it’s sunny and warm with a nice cold beer and good company. After that we went walking through Söder, which is the hipster part of town. We stopped at a coffee shop and spent a while there just chatting and relaxing. Figures, though, it was probably the only shop without a bathroom and I foresaw that as a major issue down the road.

The guys then had to leave to head back, so Vince and I were left alone to keep exploring. It was nice to be able to talk with Vince, he is definitely one of my favorite people I’ve met in Oslo. We have many similarities, although we disagree a lot, and he has a highly unique insight on the world that I enjoy to see through his eyes. We walked along the water and through some gardens chatting about our social lives in both my sorority and mostly what he calls a fraternity but is different than what Americans consider a frat. It is some strange Dutch concept of a fraternity, but falls under its own category.

As we continued our walk, we both had to pee so bad that it was becoming desperate. Finally, we just went in another coffee shop and got a second cup of coffee just to be able to use the restroom—such a good decision. The coffee shop was French themed and Vince told me about for much of his life him and his family travel there each year. It was cool to listen to. Following that, we found a supermarket to buy food for lunch and the following days on the boat. We were so hungry that we also purchased 3 donuts to share before we stopped to eat lunch.

After scarfing down the donuts, we continued walking in the direction of where the boat to Helsinki would be departing. We were walking through a really nice part of town that felt very different compared to the rest of the city. We then found a nice courtyard to eat lunch with these cute elephant statues. Before we knew it, on our walk we somehow ran into the rest of the crew, so united we continued to the boat. Basically, we checked in, boarded, and the rest is saved for part 2! To be continued….

Journey through the Baltics

Journey through the Baltics

Stockholm, Riga, and Vilnius: March 29-April 2, 2017

I can’t really tell you why, but when I came to Oslo, my goal was to travel as much of Eastern Europe as I could. I became especially fascinated with the Baltic Countries (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) mostly because I had never really even heard of them. I decided no matter what, I was going there before I leave for the states in June.

Towards the beginning of the semester, my friend Graham feverishly planned all his trips for the semester in the cheapest way possible, including a trip to the Baltic countries. In our group chat, he invited anyone to join. I loved that I didn’t have to plan anything to go there (logistics has always been my downfall), so I took the opportunity he presented! When it came down to the final date there were eight of us total: Graham, Trond, Sam, Andy, Brad, Kersti, Remy, and I. The trip was extremely fast paced and exhausting. We took a train to Stockholm, then a cruise to Riga, then a bus to Vilnius, followed by a flight home. Everything was done as cheaply as possible, so many of our travels were at odd hours in the morning. This is my blog post to recount our adventures…

Stockholm, Sweden:

Our lovable friend Sam (Adelaide, Australia) of course forgot his jacket when we all met up to depart for our train—he is always the one to screw up our timely departures. He had to run all the way back to his apartment as we started walking down the hill at Sogn to catch the metro. After that set-back, and with Sam caught up, we got to Oslo Central Station to board our train. My lucky number (which appears everywhere in my life) is 14, so it was fitting that our train to Stockholm happened to be on track 14; it was destined to be a good trip!

I get terrible motion sickness, and therefore can never sit backwards on any moving vehicle. Unfortunately, my seat for the next five hours was exactly that, and I had to just suck it up. The five hours flew by in my opinion (my friends thought otherwise). I read a good amount of my book and then took a break to eat dinner. Andy came over as soon as I started eating and sat with me for a while. I think he was bored and was looking for someone to talk to. Eventually we all moved seats to sit near each other which was fun, but that quickly ended when heaps of new passengers entered our car at one of the stops.

I moved back to my seat since all my stuff was there and that’s when this friendly, hippie girl sat in the seat next to me. She had on a tie dye shirt, old 90s styled jeans, blond hair that was half up in a messy yet cool way, and a nose ring like mine. Immediately she was so talkative and we got busy chatting. We ran through our lives, what we study, how we like school and where we live. She is from Stockholm but studies in a town 2 hours away. She chose to go there to live with her then boyfriend but then they broke up and she admits that she wishes she hadn’t based her decision on where to attend college based on a guy. Nonetheless, she’s grown to love it. She really loves the life of the big city though, with all the people moving about and so much to do. She’s quite a lively person herself so it makes sense to me that she enjoys that environment.

At one point, we are laughing as she tells me how she pretends to be Norwegian when she is drunk and that some people have believed her. She begged me to try to pretend to be Spanish at some point since I know some Spanish. I told her the next time I’m out, I’ll give it a shot! The kind person she is, she friended me on Facebook to give me all these recommendations of stuff to do in Stockholm. I was so grateful for that since I traveled there with my friend Nick the very next week! Unfortunately, she stayed with me only for about a half hour because she was meeting her sister to go skiing. What a cool chick, I thought—I was glad I met her. As she hugged me goodbye I couldn’t help but continue to be so surprised at how warm and friendly she was. My friends in Oslo know her as my “soul mate” because she is everything I hope to embody when I met new people.

After many hours, we arrived at our hostel, and I was the last person to check in. Ironically, the guy couldn’t find me in the system. After a few minutes, I started to panic. All my friends had already checked in, and now I’d be the only one stuck outside in the cold with no place to stay! Luckily the guy soon realized I was somehow already checked in and that’s why he couldn’t find my reservation. For some reason the other two girls got in a different room so it was the 5 guys and I placed in the tiniest room I have ever stayed in while at a hostel. We dropped our stuff off and then went out to a local bar for a beer since it was already quite late.

Graham (left) and Sam (right) in our hostel room in Stockholm. Clearly they were excited.

When we came back to the hostel to go to bed, we all got in the tiny elevator in the building. Yet, when Andy (our big football player friend) entered, the alarm went off. When he stepped off, the alarm halted, and when he entered again the alarm came back with a vengeance. As we are all laughing, the doors closed and Andy had to take the stairs. Don’t feel bad though, Andy still beat us to the room. Once there, we got ready for bed. As I am trying to fall asleep, the guys are blasting Ugly God—an artist they have become obsessed with since studying here in Oslo. Thinking about how we all had to meet in the lobby at 9am, I tried to tune them out and drift off to sleep…

The next day we explored as much as we could in Stockholm before we had to make it to our cruise. We went to the castle and saw the guards change as soon as we got there (perfect timing, I know!). Following that, we walked through old town, ate a kebab, then headed over to this cool outlook on the other side of the city. We just sat up there for quite a while, soaking up the sun, as it was a really beautiful day. Stockholm – Check!


The group on the lookout that we found in Stockholm. We sat on the ground for a long time, just soaking up the rays and the sights.

Riga, Latvia:

I had never been on a cruise before, in fact none of the people in my group had, so it was unbelievably exciting when we first saw how big the boat was. Then when we entered they had live music and dancers to greet us. We were like kids in a candy shop, we were so excited. I even got my own cabin!! Remy however ended up staying with me because she had an old Russian woman in her room and wanted to skirt out of that real fast. We all met for beers at the pub and then broke off for dinner. Kersti, Remy and I ate peanut butter sandwiches in my room that we had bought before we left in Stockholm. It was cool to bond and talk with them, since I don’t really have any girlfriends in Oslo except for my roommates. The rest of the night got rather crazy, as we explored the boat and all the things it had to do. We practically all got split up, and luckily when I went to bed, I accidently left the door open which was good for Remy since she needed to get in to sleep.

A picture of my cabin on the cruise! The couch opened up to another bed, where Remy crashed for the night.

Once off the boat, we started walking to our hostel. The city didn’t seem great except for this prominent bridge until we hit old town near our hostel. Our hostel was so nice, with a cool hangout area and bar for the guests. I roomed with 4 of the guys and in our room we met this guy (whose name I forget) who was 24 and living in Germany, even though he’s American. He invited himself to lunch with us, and stayed with us for much of the day. I thought it was interesting how open he was to do such a thing, not that I minded.

After we settled, we set out for lunch including that guy. Our hostel made reservations for us at this really interesting Latvian restaurant that was all underground. I sat in a throne like seat of the restaurant. The food was just amazing, I ordered an extremely traditional Latvian meal which consisted of Grey peas inside a hollowed-out loaf of amazing bread, with a fresh salad on the side—the salad even had pickles! It was so dense and filling which was perfect after the long night on the boat with no real food. Honestly, looking back, that meal was probably my favorite meal I have had all semester in any of my travels. I could almost cry tears of endearment just thinking about it…

Not the highest quality photo, but this is my favorite meal of the semester that I got in Riga. Very traditional Latvian food and very filling.

Afterwards we set out to explore more of the city which proved tough with 9 people. Trond, Graham, and Andy disappeared soon after we departed and then Sam and the guy that tagged along wanted to just sit in a café. We were only there for a day and a night, so I didn’t want to just sit in some café, I wanted to see as much as I could! Luckily the girls felt the same way, so together we split off to continue exploring. This was a great part of the trip because I was able to get to know the girls better and we explored so much of Riga. We found this really cool park with an overlook hill to climb and even a jam-packed lock bridge. We then made our way to the famous market which was so cool! It was this massive building and each section was specialized in a different food group. The first was meat—heaps and heaps of meat. There were types of meat I couldn’t even recognize! The second was all veggies and the last was fish (it smelled awful so we spent very little time in that one). There was even a spice section with so many different types of spices! I wish I lived there just so I could food shop there every week, I loved it so much!

At this point we were exhausted and just wanted to find a cafe to get a pastry, since we were in the land of cheap everything. We found a cute one down the road from our hostel and we got delicious cake things before making our way back to the hostel to meet up with the rest of the crew and to nap.


The meat market in Riga! You can imagine how large it was, and there were several other buildings of this size specialized for produce, and also for fish.
The large amount of spices sold at the markets! This was just one stand of many!
The beautiful cakes that Remy, Kersti and I got at a cafe after exploring. Together these cost $3 USD.

I took a quick nap and then awoke to everyone starting to drink at the hostel bar downstairs. Me and the other girls set out to get something quick to eat and we settled on kebabs (yay second day in a row!). The kebab I got was probably the best one I’ve had since Krakow so I was quite pleased. When we came back, we played cards with some other people we met at the hostel. We taught them spoons and bullshit; ya know, the typical American card games we all grew up playing.

Everyone was participating in the pub crawl that night and the hostel gave us four shots spread out over an hour and then we set of for 3 bars and 1 club. The first bar was called the “Ausie backpacking bar” and it was set over several floors with a funky style featuring a 70s van at the bar—very unique. I was not really feeling the bar crawl, despite the fact that there were about 30 people from my hostel on it. I tried to enjoy myself though, since we were only there one night. The next bar was this cool coffee shop looking thing with just a big dance floor. It was fun to dance with the people from our hostel there. This Canadian guy who was the most outgoing, carefree, type of person I’ve ever met, even made me take a picture of him. We never even finished the bar crawl, and opted to instead just wonder the city a little before calling it a night. What we actually did though was sit outside a fast food burger place for like 45 minutes in the cold (why we didn’t go inside is beyond me) before I headed back with Trond to go to bed. It was a good day in Riga but we had to be up so early the next day to head to Vilnius so there wasn’t much time to rest!

That glorious kebab… tbt to the good times…
At the Ausie Backpackers pub, the bar was located inside a renovated 70s van! Very unique.
Pictured is the spunky Canadian I met. He just came up to me, posed like so, and said, “Take a picture!”


Vilnius, Lithuania

Despite all odds, our group managed to get up early and embark on our way to the bus station. I got a lot of pastries, a sandwich, and some more fruit for the four-hour long journey to Vilnius (I don’t like being hungry). While on the bus, I couldn’t stop thinking how unbelievable it was that we were traveling to yet another country already. No one was next to me so I tried to sleep as much as I could and then opted for watching a movie with Jonny Depp called Public Enemy Number One, which I never even finished.

The scenery along the way was interesting in my opinion, yet Sam begged to differ. At first it was raining and there was just trees everywhere (in fact so much of the country and even the city is heavily forested). We soon came across some quaint houses and before we knew it, we had arrived.

The walk from the bus was “sketchy” as the boys put it. I wouldn’t necessarily declare it such. It just wasn’t in the nicest area but shorty we entered the outskirts of old town where everything started to look as we imagined. We came across this beautiful church and we somehow entered the church right when they were practicing their music. It was beautiful inside and the two women singing had a beautiful voice. I felt lucky (number 14!) that we managed to go there while they were practicing.

Inside the beautiful church we came across in Vilnius where we heard the choir practicing.

The city got nicer and nicer the closer we got to our hostel. However, our hostel was in this street under construction. We had to walk through mud through this strange door to get in, only to find out later we could have walked around through an alley and avoided the mud completely. The hostel was cool but we couldn’t get our rooms until 3pm and at the time it was only 12. Thus, we headed out for lunch and exploring.

The entrance to the hostel. We had to walk through the mud to get there, and we all felt it was a strange location.

We had the largest group meal ever at this extremely hip bar. The owner had this strange beard and pictures of him were everywhere around the place. At the end of our meal, we even took a picture with him because he asked us to and he had the other two girls take hold of his beard for the photo! As for the food, we all got like 3-4 dishes—clearly we were starving after having not eaten practically anything all day. I am still amazed at the amount we could eat. The guys got some strange stuff too, such as pig ears. I tried it and it oddly tasted like rubber, aka not my thing…

The group at lunch. From left to right it is Trond, me, Sam, Graham, Remy, and Brad (Kersti took the photo). You can see just how many dishes we all ordered.

After lunch, we set out to just explore and ended up coming across the republic, Uzupio Respublika, holding their Independence Day celebration. There were people all dressed up, laughing and singing. As we crossed ‘the border’, we even got our passports stamped. This usually doesn’t happen but because it was their holiday, they were doing it for tourists. Once in, there was all this funky art, quirky shops, and even decorative boats in the water. It was really cool and we felt lucky to be there on this day. Plus, we had just visited four countries in four days! Well, sort of. If you google the Republic, you’ll learn it is slightly a joke, even to its own people. But hey, we found it cool.


The official entrance to the Uzupio Republic. We actually got our passports stamps just before on the bridge over.

Following that, we wanted to get to the Three Crosses Monument which was located on top of the hill in the city. To get there, we walked through this beautiful park and had to climb what I deem to be the Mantinu Springs Incline of Vilnius. In other words, it was this long wooden stair case up the hill There were a lot of trails on the hill that I took the opportunity to explore and then we just sat on the grass for over an hour talking and relaxing in the sun. It was so hot we didn’t even need our jackets. I laid down and even fell asleep for a little—it felt good to relax after so much traveling. On the way back to the hostel we stopped at the big river too which was so nice and moving extremely fast. Graham proceeded to dunk his head in the water—honestly that dude is a riot.

The famous Three Crosses Monument located on the largest hill in Vilnius.
A picture of the group where we sat on the hill, looking out onto the city of Vilnius.

Finally it was time to get our rooms. Only me and graham were in the same room in the main building while the others had their own room in a separate building. We entered our room to find these two Irish guys hung over as hell still sleeping at 4:30pm. They had the strongest accents I’ve ever heard and their humor made talking to them a fun pass time for me. We napped for a little and then all gathered to go get some ice cream in old town.

The first ice cream place was closed for some reason and we were so upset until we found several places further down the road. We opted for this incredible one that had a long line, but it was very worth it. After that, we sat in the main square watching the people walk, skate, and scooter around. The sun was shining and it was beautiful just to chill there on the marble seat for a few hours with everyone. At one point a man in the window of the main building started playing the trumpet, which is my favorite instrument. The square, overall, was awesome. I could have spent days just chilling right there.

In fact, we loved it there so much that we decided to go grab a quick dinner and bring it back there to eat. Everyone got a Lithuanian fast food meal while Kersti and I found a cafe to get a sandwich and I also got a slice of yummy cheese cake—I was treating myself since soon we’d be back in expensive Norway where I can’t even afford to look at a cheesecake. While there I got locked on the bathroom though, which is probably one of the scariest things that has happened to me in forever. I tried for a good few minutes to get out, before messaging Kersti, “SOS STUCK IN BATHROOM”. She came to the door and I could hear her laughing. The laughter stopped though as she soon realized the door wasn’t opening. After another 30 seconds it opened and I flew out. Phew!

We took our food back and just chilled again at this square. The bells ran on the hour and lasted for a while. We weren’t even talking much. I think we were all tired and just very at peace with relaxing there in silence. The next day when I boarded the plane back to Oslo, I happened to be sitting in row 14… Started and ended the very same way. Everything happens for a reason, man. It was a good trip.

The beautiful square where my group spent so much time relaxing, eating, laughing, and mostly people watching.