Friday, December 21, 2012

tSH goes to Norway

Where did I go to next, you wonder, after those 30 hours in Helsinki?

Why to Norway, of horse, of course.

I was fancy free and on holiday again, as luck would have it. I should plan this lifestyle more often - work one day, take four off.

In all actuality it was Finnish Independence Day on Thursday and it only costed me one extra vacation day to get a four day weekend, so the girlfriends and I (read: German K and Hong Kong P) booked a trip to nearby Norway to see some hot Norwegian man action (this is not quite literal, but the plan to assess how attractive the male population was was actually discussed when deciding where we should go for said weekend). Loud discussions about the hotness levels of the males around us were in fact, embarrassingly had. Surprisingly alcohol was not even usually involved.

We had a pretty breakneck plan down in the books, to ensure we could squeeze as much awesomeness into the four days we had off (you can tell that all of us travel fairly often, minus German K, and had specific ideas in mind). Our itinerary went a little like this:

Day One: Fly to Oslo from Helsinki at the ass crack of dawn. See the city all day before meeting up with our couchsurfing host (I will explain the couchsurfing in a minute). Sleep in Oslo.
Day Two: Wake up again at the asscrack of dawn to make our train from Oslo to Bergen. Supposed to be one of the most scenic train rides in the world. Arrive in Bergen in the afternoon. See city all day before meeting up with couchsurfing host. Sleep in Bergen.
Day Three: Wake up once again at the asscrack of dawn to make our flight from Bergen to Oslo to Tromso (there is no direct flight from Bergen to Tromso, so we had to back track and wait at the Oslo airport to go to Tromso, which is really far north). Get to Tromso at noon. Meet with couchsurfing host at airport. See Tromso. Sleep in Tromso. See Northern Lights.
Day Four: Wake up at a normal time (finally). See Tromso. Make flight in afternoon back to Oslo, which then connects back to Helsinki. Land around midnight. Go to work next day.

That was our master plan. We didn't actually have any plans within any of the cities themselves (and none of us did almost any research beforehand to find out if there were any specific sights to see in each city, though Hong Kong P did bring her iPad), but we did have the most ridiculous travel plan of all time. And we were going to do it. In four days.

Now, a word about couchsurfing. During the planning stages of our trip (which took place in a conference room, at work, during an allotted meeting time...hilarious as that sounds...don't worry, it was only an hour and we were actually pretty professional about it...it was the only time we could actually squeeze in to plan anything because both me and German K were working overtime the entire time up to the time we left minus the times me or Hong Kong P were out of the country), it became clear that Norway was going to be expensive. Already known to be an expensive country (read: they use Norwegian kronors instead of the euro (any country that refuses to use the euro actually has the money to refuse...like the Brits with their pound, the Swiss with their francs, or any country with kronors/crowns), by the time we booked things were not exactly cheap.

So, wanting to stay slightly on a budget and because hotels were not cheap in the slightest, German K suggested and insisted we try couchsurfing.

To be honest, I was hesitant about the idea. I'm not hugely fond of sleeping on people's couches in general and I do feel (snobby or not) that I'm old enough to have earned the right to comfortable accommodations. Plus I was more than happy with paying.

However.

German K was clearly not willing to pay, it would save us money, and there were three of us. This would definitely be the best circumstances in which to try it.

Ah, what the hell.

Couchsurfing, if the term is unfamiliar to you, is basically a worldwide community of people who open up their houses to travelers who want a place to crash. It's entirely free, and is actually against the rules for anyone to accept money for someone staying. There is a recognized website for arranging stays, and people need to have registered profiles in order to get people to stay and in order to stay, at said residences. This is how you find people and they can tell you whether or not they accept your request. People also get ratings, recommendations, and reviews (both as travelers and as hosts).

Oh the glory of the internet age.

Anyway, since it was German K's idea, she volunteered to make an account and get all of the arrangements for it. Awesome. We decided on a few profiles we liked from each city, but in the end left it up to her to judge whether someone would be fine as a host. Also, it ended up depending on whether someone was available for the dates we were going to be there and could accommodate all three of us (since we weren't going to split up...too much complication not to mention not preferable by any of us).

So, after a time, all of the arrangements were set. The trip was planned and off we went.

What will follow is our chronicle of the gorgeous land of the Norge.

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