At 5am I walked through the snow down to the station and took the train to the Oslo airport were I flew to Salzburg. My long time friend from church youth group, Seth Timpke, met me. We took the bus back to the boarding school he works at. Dropped off my things, and then he took me for a bike tour to the city and back. It was gorgeous. It looked as if tall mountain peaks were just plopped onto a relatively flat landscape. On the bike ride we ride by the house from Sound of Music, checked out an Easter market, saw many historical buildings and fountains, went by Mozart's house and got a late lunch at an Austrian restaurant. Stopped by a few more places on our way back as well.
We woke up early Sunday morning to take a train to Vienna. There we stayed with a lovely couple via airbnb. After dropping off our bags we hopped on the metro to start our day which included visiting the palace (another easter market there too, but with tons of food!), St. Stephens cathedral, Wien Prater and ---- where I got to eat some schnitzel.
Took an early train to Budapest, Hungary. We stayed at Pal's Hostel. Luckily they let us drop off our bags before our checkin time at 2 so we wouldn't have to carry them around for 5 hours. There were more holiday outdoor markets selling all things from food to handicrafts. We split up for a little bit to explore the market district at our own paces (I wanted to look at the shops and stuff). I went to the large indoor city market hall and got overwhelmed very quickly. Tons of shops crammed side to side. Again, more food, handicrafts, but also produce. On the way back I looked through more of the outdoor market and found a booth with gorgeous handmade silk earrings. I first walked away after browsing them but then went back. I knew I'd be disappointed if I didn't get a pair. And I love them!
Around 2 we went to check into our hostel, which I was expecting to be a room with a bunch of beds. Boy did I get a surprise! The receptionist took us out of the building, Dow. The block and into another old building. We rode the elevator to the top floor and when she opened the door I was stunned to find a large apartment! It was so trendy AND through the large view windows was the Basilica! We were so close! The apartment had 3 rooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a large living area. Soon we met two others staying in the apartment with us, Leandro and Walter from Buenos Aires. We had planned on taking a free walking tour at 2:30 but it began to rain so instead we found a couple grocery stores and came back to the apartment to eat and drink some wine. Had a very enjoyable evening getting to know our new Argentinian friends.
In the morning we went on a two hours free walking tour. The weather was not our friend. Freezing winds and occasional rains. I was silly and didn't pack any very cold weather stuff. Still, the tour was interesting and informative. History is very interesting to me so I enjoy getting to experience these places first hand. After the tour we met up again with Leandro and Walter and headed to get lunch. After some wandering and misdirection we got en route to a restaurant that was highly recommended by a local I stopped to ask. I believe the restaurant was called Klauss's? Everyone got goulash but since I am not a big meat person I got a delicious potato onion soup. It was so nice to have something warm after being so cold. Following lunch Seth and I went to see the inside of the basilica. It was another amazing church. We went back to the hostel to grab our things then made our way to the airport to catch our plane to Athens, Greece. The flight went well. We stayed at another airbnb place that night. While waiting for our train we met a "former American" (as he called himself) and his best friend who is a Grecian that's lived in Canada and Britain. Talking was them was hilarious. They were silly and provided some entertaining conversation. From the main station we took a taxi to the apartment. The driver got a bit lost on the way, but in the end found the place.
Sun!!! Oh my goodness. I can not begin to explain how thrilled I was to be in warm weather and get to wear a sundress. First thing was going to the Acropolis. The amount of scaffolding on the building was disappointing. It was much smaller than I expected and we got done kinda early. On the advice of my dads greek friend from tacoma we went to check out the Plaka area. This I loved! Itons of shops, ruins and restaurants packed the alley streets. Beautiful colors, delicious smells. After some more exploring post lunch she and I split up so we could each do what we wanted. I wandered a bit out of the main touristy area onto a street win tons of old antiques, books and the like. This is when I found an awesome vintage store. I bought a cute strapless frilly red polka dot dress for €5 in addition to an awesome pair of pants from the main market for €8. I was pleased.
Our flight to Crete was in the early evening. The flight went quick and the view over the island was incredible. We landed, grabbed our rental car and after an hour of driving dark windy roads we arrived Rethymno. The guy who runs the hostel was incredible! Super helpful and kind. He to Seth and I of this great place to get some good food. I absolutely love Mediterranean food and was excited to eat it living in Norway has meant that going out for anything, except street side burger kitchens is for the most part out of the question.
Stefan sat down with us and our map of the island and showed us all his favorite places to go. So for that day we decided to go to Kournas lake and Plakias. I'd like to take this time to say that the one downside of Greece is its poor signage. There was either none, or the signs that existed were covered in graffiti. Needless to say we got a bit turned around on the way to the lake. Next time I'll get a GPS! It was still a beautiful drive. The lake was gorgeous. Beautiful green and blue water surrounded by lush hills. We had lunch here and got to watch an awesome goose fight! Next on the schedule was Plakias, a beach town on the southern part of the island. After another beautiful drive we were blown away by the view at the top of the hill before driving down into the city. There was practically no one on the beach. We bought a bottle of wine, some ouzo and halva (another of my favorite greek treats) and proceeded to relax! It was at this moment that I realized I need to do more "relaxed" traveling. While touristy stuff has its place for me it doesn't even begin to compare to the sheer joy I feel when there is no schedule to adhere to and I can just soak up God's beautiful creation. As the sun began to set we gathered our things and went back to the hostel. Stefan recommended another amazing restaurant. This one was owned by one of his friends and was a bit nicer than the place we ate the night before, comparable to contrasting the Olive Garden and a nice Italian restaurant like Pomodoro's or something.
At the hostel we met two Danish girls who were staying in the same room as us and in its them to join us on our trip that day. We stopped in Chania on the way to check out the town a bit and buy some lunch fixings. The rest of the journey was filled with very windy mountain roads, but finally we arrived and it was paradise. Except for the fact that i forgot my towel...that was unfortunate. But it just meant that I got to go exploring the amazing rocks and beaches that much more. I tried to make a resting place from beach wood, but it just was not the same. The waters were clear bright blue. I don't think any picture can do the real thing justice. We headed back before it got dark and Seth and I went out for dinner and even picked up some baklava on the way back to the hostel. We didn't go out partying or anything for our last night. I've found that when I travel I spend so much energy during the day that by time night comes I don't have the energy, but also feel content relaxing since I've been active.
After connections to Athens and Copenhagen we finally arrived at oslo airport. Sadly, we didn't take into account the Easter holiday and the fact that all rental cars would be sold out. Long story short we tried to get back to Bø but ended up being stranded in Kongsberg- an hour train ride away. We asked a taxi driver for some help and he turned out being an American from Florida! He let us sleep at his place and dropped us off at the train station in the morning. Truly a blessing.
This was an amazing trip altogether and I'm so glad I was able to have all these wonderful experiences.