Monday, August 17, 2015

European Trip Part V: Scandinavia

July 26th – Stockholm

Dad and I met up with Mom and my brother, Dylan, in Stockholm.  Every time I race in Europe, I try to convince my family to meet up with me, so we can all vacation together.  Growing up, we spent out family vacations on the road, driving to camp at a national park or visit a relative.  As I started to travel a lot for sports, family vacations transitioned to watching me play soccer in high school and then run in college and as a professional.  While this European vacation was influenced by where I was running, I appreciated getting to spend time with my family without having to worry about competing or training.  

Dad and I found the Airbnb where Mom and Dylan had already spent a night.  The apartment was fine, but was a very tight fit with four people.  Mom and Dad had a bedroom with no door (which is a big bummer with how loudly Dad snores) and Dylan and I shared a snug pull-out coach.  

Stockholm seems to be a city of islands.  Mom and Dad took a boat tour while Dylan and I walked around.  We stopped at the Modern Art Museum, the entrance of the ABBA museum, a beautiful garden with a meditation walk lined by trees, a plain castle with wild raspberries nearby and outdoor choir performance.  

I joined ABBA

July 27th - Stockholm

My poor boyfriend, Michael, bought tickets to visit me in Europe before realizing it would be a full Cheever family vacation.  The five of us are going to have a lot of fun, but it was not quite what Michael had expected when he bought his plane tickets.

I spent a good chunk of the day waiting for Michael to arrive at the Central Station in order to show him the way to our apartment.  Once he had showered, the five of us ventured out to visit a glass museum and a ship museum which showcased a ship built in the early 1600’s that sunk on its first voyage.  The ship was pulled out of the Stockholm bay in 1961, refurnished, and put into a museum.

Dylan got bumped from the coach to a yoga mat on the floor.  Good thing he is an exemplar of easygoing.

July 28th - Oslo

We spend most of the day riding a train from Stockholm to Oslo.  We shared a six person room in a hostel with bunk beds.

July 29th - Flam

In the morning Michael and I found a delicious coffee roaster which was also a coffee shop.  I was a bit confused because there were only two chairs and most the space was taken up by a roaster.  But I took my seat, sipped my latte, and enjoyed watching two people using the roaster for a big batch of beans.

We took the train across Norway to Western Coast.  The train ride is supposed to be one of the most beautiful in the world, and it did not disappoint.  Dylan saw a bull moose, and we watched as majestic forests turned into snowy mountains which turned into the fjords.  

Mom and Dad stayed in a fancy hotel in the town of Flam which Michael, Dylan, and I walked to the outskirts of the village to a hostel.  We were momentary panicked when we found the registration area was closed, but the woman who was working returned after a few minutes.  Dylan and I decided to ‘scramble’ up a mountainside while Michael went for a run.  We found friendly sheep and got close to a powerful waterfall.

My New Friend

The fjords were more beautiful than I had imagined.  We were surrounded by mountains, except for the fjord channel which leads up to the sea.  Everything was green and lush, and everywhere you turned, there was another magnificent waterfall.

July 30th – Bergen

We took a five hour ship ride from Flam to Bergen through the Fjords.  The ride was just as picturesque as the train ride yesterday.

I was trying to take a nice picture

Waterfalls Everywhere

                                                                     Fjords and Fells
                                                             Mom and I on the Boat

We find out hotel, and are fortunate to be close by a nice restaurant with traditional Norse food.  Whale steak is on the menu, but everyone passes that option.  Michael and I share fish and macaroni pie and sausage and dumplings.

July 31st - Bergen

We spent the day walking around Bergen.  Michael and I hike a good way up the mountainside to find their track.  Unfortunately, it’s gravel.  I was hoping I could find a race here as a chance to return.  We visit the old fishing docks and explore the castle walls (not nearly as impressive as the Welsh castles).

Fishing Area

We have another awesome meal.  Here is my dad’s short take on it:

I online stumbled across what looked like a great restaurant and walked 5 blocks to check it out and get a reservation for a half-hour later, at 6p. Peruvian-Norwegian fjusion.
A man I gather is the owner was the only one in the 20-seat, 6-table, off-the-main-tourist-trail den of cozy and warm. He was quick to lower expectations, saying his primary chef was on holiday and his number 2 chef, his brother, was out because he had chopped into his own foot with an axe.
The owner then explained he had a very limited menu (3 dishes) because he was cooking instead of waiting tables, he was accordingly short-staffed, and he had a party of 12 coming at 8:30.
I asked the obvious question, "Can you cook"? Something about his answer made me think it was a stupid question and that his skill was not at all a part of the problem.
None of it was a problem. Awesome meal.
In talking with the non-owner waiter after the meal, I learned they closed for a week after the axe accident, canceling all the reservations they'd taken. When they reopened, they stopped taking reservations so as to prevent it from being too busy.
He pointed to the ringing phone he was not answering and said, ordinarily, you need reservations days ahead of time. I said we were lucky. He said very.
(The 3 dishes were a Peruvian raw fish dish (ceviche--drink the lime juice from the plate when the food is gone), a sorta pork lasagne (the "meal of the day"), and meatballs with rice and red sauce.)

At 10:00 pm we board a train headed back to Oslo.  It’s a seven hour ride, but we get beds to sleep on.  I have a harder time sleeping than I thought with the constant motion and noise, and many of us are sleep deprived when we leave the train the next day.

August 1st – Oslo

We step off the train, grumpy, but I try to be cheerful because it’s Michael birthday.  He’s having none of it until he can get some coffee.  No coffee shop is open yet in the train station.  None are open in the blocks around the station, but we finally settle for some Seven 11 coffee.  

We get the day to wander Oslo.  The five of us go to a large park full of famous sculptures.  Michael and I are unimpressed, but Dylan wants to stay and looks at them longer.  Michael and I follow my parents to the Oslo modern art museum.  

We board a cruise ship for another night of sleeping transportation, but at least it’s easier for us to sleep and we get a longer time before we are kicked off.

August 2nd - Copenhagen

Copenhagen is off to a bad start.  We start to take the metro the wrong way.  Luckily Dylan notices, and we return.  Then, Dad is almost pick-pocketed in the central train station.  He catches two guys opening up his zippered pants pocket where his wallet is, but we don’t know what to do besides yell at them and push them away.

Also, it smells like piss.  Everywhere.  Because it is summer, and Dylan, who spent a semester studying abroad in Copenhagen, says it’s legal to pee against outside walls. We find our way to our Airbnb (Dylan, Michael and I get to share a room with three single beds). The apartment is cute, but grimy and lacks some of the promised amenities including internet and a washing machine. We all need a washing machine, but Dylan really needs a washing machine.

The five of us venture to a tower/museum with a beautiful view of the city. We then find a castle and walk around the gardens before heading home.

View of Copenhagen

                                                               Michael and I and Castle

August 3rd

Dylan showed Michael and I around Christiania, a neighborhood that has annexed itself from Denmark.  It's an interesting place - it seems like it has expatiated itself in order to sell pot and avoid paying taxes, yet the inhabitants rely on the government in very substantial ways.

The best part of visiting Copenhagen is getting to have dinner with Dylan's former host family.  They cook us a wonderful dinner, and I get to try pork with skin on (so fatty, crisp, and delicious). We all had a good time talking about life in Denmark (most surprising fact: McDonald's treats its Danish employees really well) and making fun of Dylan.

                                                     Dylan (in the middle) and his host family

My favorite part about the city of Copenhagen is how bike friendly it is. There are bike lanes everywhere, and bikers everywhere.  One bridge had a counter of how many bikers had passed during the day.  We have a similar counter for the Fremont bridge and it gets to about 2,000 at the end of the day.  This one had tallied over 15,000 when we walked by in the evening.

                                                                     Bikes Everywhere
August 4th

I ended my trip in Munich, partly because I haven’t gotten to spend any time in Germany before, but mostly because my college teammate, Feli, lives there.  Feli is a steeplechaser who grew up in Germany, went to undergrad at Coastal Carolina University, and came to University of Minnesota for her Master of Engineering degree.  She then earned her Ph.D in Lyon, France, while simultaneously learning French.  Now she designs the power train (everything that propels a cart forward) for alternative fuel cars at BMW.  She has always been the only woman, or one of the few women in her education and her career, and, if you couldn’t guess, I admire her a lot.

Michael and I arrived in the late afternoon and went directly to BMW World (an exhibition hall for new BMW products) to meet Feli.  We walked around the Olympic Park, which is right next door to all the BMW offices, and we got to check out a great view of Munich from the top of a lookout point.

We then met up with Feli’s boyfriend, Etienne and went for a walk through the huge open park where Oktoberfest is held.  Even now, two months before the festivities begin, many of the the temporary behemoth beer halls have been erected.  In my travels I had heard a bit of grumbling about Germany – how Germans were stoic and strict, and didn’t like to have fun.  But tons of people were out and about, enjoying the nice summer evening.  We stopped for dinner and drinks at a beer garden, and the tables were full of boisterous groups, basking in the lovely weather and good food.

August 5th

Michael and I set out to explore old town while Feli and Etienne worked.  We had a great time wandering through Baroque chapels, watching hipsters surf in the city river, and looking at a plethora of archaic paintings of baby Jesus.  But the real full started when Feli picked us up in one of her BMW test cars to go run a small mountain race in the foothills of the Alps.

Feli With Test Car

We drove about 40 minutes outside of Munich to a small village at the base of a mountain.  We met up with a few of Feli’s colleagues and about 200 other runners to race 7.5 kilometers up the mountain, climbing about 2,000 feet.  The race was difficult, butI had so much fun.  After 1k of running flat, we entered the forest and started a steep uphill.  There were a few flat sections, but for the most part we were slowly climbing.  The race took me about 43 minutes to complete, which is a long time for me, but it was one of the most fun races I’ve ever done.  The scenery was beautiful, we got to finish at a beer garden, and I received my best trophy ever: pretzel bread in the shape of a one.  Many of the runners stripped, showered, and changed at the finish line with not embarrassment of nudity.  Then everyone ate a hearty meal and the parents drank beer while the children ran helter skelter over the hillside.  When awards were over and it got dark, we turned on our running headlamps and walked down the mountain.

Finish Line
Michael and I

Matching Shirts and Trophies

August 6th

I am so thankful I had the support to travel to Europe this summer.  In four races, I set personals records in two events (flat 3k, and 1500m) and ran a World Standard in the steeplechase.  I got to relax in Wales on my own, race with friends in Ireland and Finland, and travel with my family and boyfriend in Scandinavia.  I’ve loved it all, but goodness gracious, I am excited to sleep in my own bed, dress myself from my dresser, and cook my own meals.

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