June 26, 2005

Salzburg – Almdudler, Bosnas and tropical heat

Montag 20.6.2005

I am sitting on the train from Munich to Nuremberg so it’s a perfect moment to sum up the events of the past 6 days in Austria and Germany. I’ve had the most amazing time and become a friend of Almdudler, Weisswurst und of course the heat of central Europe. German politeness and hospitality keeps astonishing me – I just struggled to this train with my heavy suitcase, rucksack and 2 massive plastic bags and was generously helped by an older German gentleman, who was well worried if I’ll be able to carry them all and if I’ll find a place to keep them during the journey.

My European adventures started when I left Stansted Airport on last Tuesday 14.6, which feels like it was centuries ago! I was pretty knackered after the restless night at the airport and slept all the way until we landed at the Salzburg Airport in Austria. As soon as I stepped off the plane the tropical heat and the beautiful snow-covered mountains welcomed me. The Salzburg Airport is amazingly located almost in the centre of the city and is surrounded by the Alps in every direction.
My cousin Riikka’s fiancée Flo picked me up from the airport. Flo is Austrian, and I got my first culture shock when trying to speak to him with my German, which had deteriorated considerably since my last visit in Austria.
Riikka and Flo live in a beautiful house right next to the airport. The whole Austrian architecture is incredibly different to English. The house was in 3 floors and had wooden stairs exterior to the walls. Flo’s cousin Markus lives upstairs in this house and Flo and Markus skillfully attached a hammock to Markus’s balcony on this first night when I was there. The experience on the balcony was breath-taking – firstly because the balcony was in the 2nd floor and really high but also because the view was really beautiful. You could see all the way to central Salzburg and also die Festung, the fortress, which is on one of the hills.
The city is really beautiful, if it was not for the immense amount of tourists it would have a lovely village-like atmosphere. There is a river, Salzach, in the middle and the houses are high and quite decorative. The gaps between the houses are absolutely tiny, and therefore the city feels more like a village than a metropol. Also there are numerous churches and an open-air market. Many stalls sell bakery products such as Brezeln, rolls, buns and cakes.

Tuesday went really quick as I was so exhausted from the trip to London. Me and Riikka started to watch a German talk-show and it took about 5 seconds for me to fall asleep.

On Wednesday 15.6

me and Riikka visited Europark, the shopping centre nearby the house. My camera decided to stop co-operation with me just when I left London – as a result I did not get any pics of Piccadilly Circus and some other places. While my camera was completely kaputt, we tried to get it fixed but we didn’t get far. Apparently it is dead and I’d have to get a new one. Luckily, the memory card was still fine, and I managed to save the pics from London. Bought some jeans as had to leave the old ones in London. We had a lunch in Ikea, which was positively really Scandinavian. They even had a shop where they sold Scandinavian food items, such as cloudberry and lingonberry jams and meatballs. And Princess tårta, princess cake. At lunch I also had an Austrian speciality, Almdudler, which is fizzy herbal drink – really really good. I tried to order it in Munich on day before yesterday but was laughed at. Almdudler is only sold in Austria.

In the evening we went to Biergarten called Augustiner Kloster-Bräuerei. Biergartens are really popular here. There are open-air “bars” – there are lots of tables typically under some trees and if you drink anything else than a beer-related drink, people look at you funny. In Austria and Germany there are numerous different variants of beer. I came to Europe thinking I hate beer and just discovered it is absolutely gorgeous! Especially Radler is good, it contains half a glass of beer and the other half is some type of pop(typically lemonade or Fanta). Also Cola-Bier is popular, that is Radler with coke. Kloster-Bräuerei is a name for a monastery where they brew beer. My friend from Munich, Raimund, gave me an explanation for this queer combination of religion and beer. Apparently the monks had to earn some money to maintain the monastery, and when in some countries herbs and medicines were produced and sold by monasteries, the Austrian and south-German monasteries brewed beer instead. Apparently it was drunk pretty much every day and during the fast before easter the monks obviously weren’t allowed to eat but they were still allowed beer. I just can imagine what went on in these monasteries, it must have been cheerful…
In the monastery Biergarten the drinks weren’t served to the tables but we had to go in. They only have 2 different sizes of glasses: 0.5 l and 1.0 l. The bigger one is what we call a jug in England! Also they don’t do smaller volumes of beer than half a liter, so when you want a Radler, you have to take the bigger one.
It was a really good night and we sat hours under the chestnut trees of this Biergarten drinking liters and liters of beer. However, I find the drinking habits here relatively sophisticated(if they can be that with several liters of beer…) while there were no drunken, aggressive or impolite people, which could be expected with this amount of alcohol. I think the beer is drunk so slow that people only get a bit tipsy and cheerful but not properly drunk.

Afterwards we went to Flo’s brother’s place for a chat and football match. This country is almost as crazy about football as England*huoh* I find the Austrian German at least twice as hard as the Bavarian dialect, which again is regarded as hard to understand. Luckily, I had my cousin Riikka around to explain the oddities of the language.

On Thursday 16.6

we went for a long nice walk with Pilvi, Flo’s mother’s dog. Again it was really boiling hot and we were trying to sunbathe in the garden which was full of ants. Eventually after a quarter of an hour we had to give up as we had the ants everywhere and Pilvi was constantly lifting its legs and managed to kick a bag of sweets all over the garden when trying to get rid of the ants.
We visited Germany in Freilassen, which is only about 10 minutes away from Salzburg. We went to another Biergarten, called Drei Hasen = Three Hares. I was really tired again and almost fell asleep at the Radler glass. And understood even less about Austrian German.

On Friday 17.6

we did some walking on the beautiful mountains of Salzburg and had a little picnic in Augustiner Biergarten. We are trying to stay away from the centre the best we can. The main road, Getreidegasse, is absolutely packed with tourists and Mozartkugels. It was cool when I visited Salzburg for the first time 2 years ago but this time I felt annoyed when walked over by the Japanese tourists. Getreidegasse is also expensive and I cant even imagine how much money they make with those Mozartkugels(Salzburg is the birth city of the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and they have created a big brand with his name. Nowadays everyone buys these chocolate-marzipan balls names after the composer)
Another thing I noticed is the Austrians’ obsession with the energy drink Red Bull. Apparently some rich dude has bought now the Salzburg ice hockey and football teams, which are called Red Bulls and they are promoting this drink everywhere. They even had Red Bull ice cream!

In the Saturday morning 18.6

we visited Das Museum der Moderne, the museum of contemporary art. They just opened a new exhibition that morning and it was really interest, though a bit surreal. After the exhibition we headed once more to the centre and had some Bosnas, really spicy and delicious hotdogs. Tasty


Luggage problems, theathre and sleeping at the airport

Monday 13th of June

Was woken up by Adam who was off to the States in a few hours and wanted to have the Full English Breakfast before that. Suvi was too tired to get up and stayed in bed. Adam decided to carry me on his shoulders in a gentleman-kind manner and we got people on the street staring at us and saying how strong he is. Had a great English breakfast and then Adam flew off to LA and I went to wake Suvi up.

We put our stuff together and we had a brilliant plan on leaving our luggage in the coach station storage lockers so we woudnt have to drag it late at night. The London underground station design was a real pain(no escalators again!) and we were wandering around the streets of London desperately trying to find the the coach station. Logically, the station was located far far away from the tube station with the same name and there were no signs to direct us. Also people were either tourists or knew no directions, or in the worst case both of these. However, they were very eager to advise us on directions, and eventually directed us to a completely wrong direction!

Having finally found the coach station we went to the luggage storage service and found out they would close at 11 pm. This again didnt fit our plans at all because we were going to go to theathre later on and the show would not finish until 11.

And it gets better: apparently all the luggage storage places in London would close by midnight which meant that we would not be able to leave them anywhere! We were already worried we'd have to take them all the way back to Bounds Green and then to the centre again but luckily Selina came up with an idea to leave the stuff at a hostel. After a a few phone calls we were ready to head to a hostel "near" the station. We could also store our stuff for free which of course was great.

We were running really late because we had the theathre show at 8 and I had to buy a pair of shoes as the ones I wore on Saturday night were such foot-killers. We managed to find some shoes – the first high heels I tried on, 30 pounds and wouldn't have bought them had it not been for the extreme rush. Again we went to Camden town to get same sun shades for Suvi and have a quick lunch/dinner/whichever-meal-but-we-were-starving. Found some gorgeous Thai food for just 2 pounds a portion which was great.

Then rushed to Mark's house again. We had about 30 mins to take a shower and pack our stuff and regardless of the fact that we knew we are extremely short of time we managed to be too slow. On the top of everything else Selina called me and said we would have to be at the theathre at 7.25 rather than 7.50 which meant that we were even more late. And conveniently the line cut off just when I asked which tube station we need to go to so we had no idea whatsoever where we were trying to go. At 7.15 we finally left the house, carrying 2 massive bags each and our hair soaking wet. It must have been a hilarious scene to have us run with all this stuff, me in my 3-inch heels, trying to look posh but miserably failing in this attempt.

As soon as we got on the train, 3 horrible Turkish-looking guys, spotted us and got a bit too friendly.(Believe or not, I have nothing against Turks, just against sleezy guys in general! Good friend of mine is from Turkey.) We were extremely stressed anyway and the last thing we wanted was these horrible men staring at us and trying to touch our legs! We told them to stop and when it didn't work we changed the car. But they kept following us all the time and stood behind me in the escalators(Oh dear! Indeed they did have some escalators in London underground!) and tried to touch me up too. I swore at them and said I'm gonna call a police but nothing worked, it was well scary and I felt many times more uncomfortable than on Saturday night when we almost had our purses stolen.

We also discovered that we were on the wrong station. We had asked a lady on the train for directions, and once again we had been advised to go to a wrong place! I could not call Selina from the underground as there is no network coverage. Now Selina explained that we'd have to collect our tickets at the box office before 8 or otherwise we will only let be in after the interval. The time was 7.58 and we had to catch the tube again to go to Covent Garden. Having no idea where we were trying to go, we asked every other person for directions and everyone gave different one. Conclusion – is you ever travel in London, get yourself a decent map and never ask anyone for directions.

We just made it to the theathre! Looking dreadful and sweaty, we sat down to watch the show which was well worth all the effort and stress. We saw "Woman in Black" in the Fortune Theathre and the production was well-made, and really creepy. This was the first time I have been scared in a theathre show. Unless you count the times when the show has been so rubbish, that I've been scared I fall asleep while watching it. Honestly, this one was really good!

The show finished a bit early and we decided to go for a drink. Around midnight me and Suvi left to go to the airport.

Got changed, picked up the luggage at the hostel and then went back to Victoria coach station. By the time we got on the bus, I was so knackered that I just passed out and didnt wake up until the driver yelled "Stansted!" and we had to get off the bus. We had to spend the night at the airport and I slept surprisingly comfortably on the floor. This was probably due to the tiredness which had built up since the farewell bbq but however I only woke up hours later when Suvi was shaking me and speaking Finnish with a mad Estonian accent. Apparently her ferry trip from Tallinn to Helsinki had been cancelled and judging by Suvi's behaviour, she was not impressed with the Estonian customer service. Eventually she found another ferry and is now happily back in Helsinki.

I went to catch my flight to Salzburg looking forward to new adventures in Austria


The city of Bagels and Magic Mushrooms

Sunday 12th of June

Previous one was really long, so I’ll keep this one short(er).

We decided to visit Camden Town where they have an amazing market full of exotic food, interesting clothes, antiques and apparently magic mushrooms and cannabis lollies. I still didn’t understand how they are permitted to sell drugs there but there were quite a few stalls selling them and judging by the looks of some people in the market, the mushroom business was going quite well.

We stayed away from those but had some gorgeous Chinese food, really cheap as well, only 3 pounds a portion. The combination of all those shops is just mind-blowing, almost dream-like, because some them are so absurd.

Mark headed back and me, Suvi and Adam (a freeloader from Los Angeles) went to see some tourist attractions. We saw Big Ben and the surrounding buildings + London eye.

Adam must have thought me and Suvi were insane or at least on mushrooms because Suvi was constantly singing her Bagel song from the previous night. I’m sure he understood our appreciation for bagels though, since there are so nice and popular in the States. Besides, Adam had just eaten raw beef and egg yolk in Latvia on the pay before and bagels are surely nicer than that dish!

We went to an Internet café. Me and Suvi desperately needed a toilet and rushed into the closest one we could find. Only when we got inside we realized it’s a gay karaoke bar. Those gay guys were so good singers and most of them really good looking as well! Gays are so lucky! For some reason Adam didn’t want to join us and escaped to an Indian restaurant. We stayed in the gay karaoke for a while, then Selina joined us and after a while we went for a wander around China town and had a drink in an Irish bar.

Again the underground wasn’t running, we had to take a bus and wait in Wood Green for ages to get another bus to Bounds Green. Having learnt from the experience previous night we didn’t attempt to walk. When waiting for bus, we popped into a kebab shop and had some Turkish guys behind the counter saying “Theer are beeuutiful kirls in Finlaand” I’m kinda getting bored of hearing that in London now.


Hitch–hikers Guide to M45

Saturday, 11th of June

Both me and Suvi were absolutely knackered after the late night on Friday caused by overwhelming excitement and general nervousness about hitching. However, we managed to crawl out of bed around 9 o’clock. in the Saturday morning. I made a major discovery on Friday night about 5 seconds before falling asleep – I had given my Internet banking details to my friend Helen who generously promised to store some of my stuff over the summer when I’m not in England. I realized also that I have to pay the deposit for the newly-found next year’s house before arriving in the UK, and this obviously was made extremely difficult by the fact that I would not be able to access my bank account without those significant little codes. In addition, I also remembered I had forgotten to give my duvet cover for Helen to store and I want to keep it for next autumn and those horribly chilly October nights. So I would have to go and do a lovely extra tour to Helen’s before starting our journey to London.

“Fortunately” Helen didn’t answer her phone – fair enough, it was early Saturday morning – but I desperately needed to drop my stuff off and get my bank details asap. I decided to head to Kenilworth regardless. I got to Helen’s house – still no answer and the front door of the block of flats was locked. When peeping through the window on the door I discovered there was a back door open so I just invaded the garden and got into the house that way. Nobody opened the flat door even after a frantic door-knocking session, so I concluded Helen must be at her boyfriend’s, Colin’s, house. Luckily Colin was in and he even had the bank details I was after! So that was finally all sorted and I could eventually return to the campus and start the hitch.

A distinctive smell of a permanent marker-pen welcomed me at the door. Suvi had used our pillow sheets to make 2 tops for us saying “London” and “Suvi/Laura” on them. Also she had turned our bed sheet into a massive Finnish flag, which to be honest reminded greatly of a pirate flag or similar since the cross was black rather than blue. Oh well…

I returned the keys of my room and off we went!

It was a boiling hot day and we were exhausted by the time we got to the Tesco’s kiosk. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting the campus I can tell Claycroft and this kiosk are located less than half a mile apart. Bought some water and bumped into a nice guy who offered to take us to the Coventry railway station. So we got a lift before we had even properly started hitching!

At the station we realized however, that it was a very bad choice of the place. After being stared at by other people in traffic for about an hour an old guy came to us and told us to find London Road rather than using Kenpass Highway/A45 we had intended to use.

Bored of waiting, we decided to walk to London Road. Note, that we had heavy suitcases of weight of 20 kg each and in addition we both had 2 bags. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of getting perfect arm muscles by dragging these horrible bags around Coventry.

We only had been on M45/London Road for maybe half an hour when we saw a police car drive by. We obviously were terrified as hitching on motor ways is illegal in England. Conveniently, the police car stopped and the officers came to talk to us. This is one of the brilliant situations where is a big advantage to be a foreigner. Putting a barely understandable accent on we explained we are trying to go to London and pretended we don’t understand what a train is, when the police suggested that as a preferred mode of transfer. Anyway, they wanted to see our ID’s and then told us to get on the police car! Scary! I thought there are going to take us to the police station but they kindly dropped us at the train station where we had started the hitch maybe an hour and a half before. I did ask them if I can take a photo of them but they didn’t let me, surprisingly. It must have been pretty obvious that we were just pretending to be brainless and know no English…

Our arrival arose attention at the station. I presume it is not a very common scene to have 2 blonde Finnish girls be dropped there by 2 police men, even if it’s Coventry.

Scared by the encounter with the police, we decided to travel by train rather than hitch. There were 2 different ticket options and you are probably not surprised to read that we chose the cheaper one, 20 pounds, which is still a rip-off. This was supposed to involve 2 swaps, but when we got to Rugby, we just simply got on the more expensive Virgin train which took us to London in an hour and no-one noticed any difference. So eventually we ended up in London more than an hour earlier than expected.

We had sorted the accommodation earlier through GlobalFreeloaders website, where people from all over the world can contact each other and then stay at each other’s houses when they travel around. We found Mark from this website and headed to his house in North London, Bounds Green. The London Underground is Jurassic- they apparently have never heard of escalators! It’s great fun having traveled for 6 hours and then trying to lift your suitcase up the stairs, poooh!

We got to Bounds Green using Piccadilly Line and had a little shopping session at the Costcutters near the tube station(we are loyal to this chain and always use the one on Warwick campus even if it may be overpriced). We were supposed to give our infamous pirate Finnish flag to Mark but since we had been traveling for so long and the sheet was really scratty and smelled of sweat we somehow thought it might not be a good idea.

We got to Mark’s, had a shower and had some lovely pasta cooked by his French freeloader guest, Flo. We also had some wine. Mark was really funny and good at putting on different accents, especially the Chinese one sounded pretty authentic. We had a chat about Finland and I informed him about essential wacky competitions we have, such as a wife-carrying competition, mosquito-killing competition, sauna and ice-swimming competitions.

Soon it was pretty late and we got ready really quick to go out to night clubs. After being lost in the underground and desperately looking for my friend from Warwick, Selina, we ended up at Leicester Square where we also found her. Then we started a frantic discussion about which nightclubs we should go into and after standing there for about an hour, me and Suvi got bored and decided to choose a nightclub for just 2 of us. We went for Rouge, and I confused all the night club information people by saying that I had been promised to be let in for a discount price. Eventually we got the entry for 8 pounds, when it should have been 15 pounds. The night club information manager gave me his number and offered to buy me drinks but I was happy with just the discount price.

Rouge was good fun, though unreasonably pricey like any club in London. We stayed there till 4 o’clock when the club closed. It was already bright outside when we left the club. We were absolutely starving and wanted to get some food but a group of dodgy, Indian-looking people tried to steal the contents of our bags. Shaken by this, we didn’t want to eat and tried to find a night bus instead.

We didn’t have a slightest idea which bus to take and where it would depart. So we were just wandering around and ended up in Trafalgar Square where a kind bus driver took us on the bus. We both fell asleep on the bus and at some point I woke up panicking that we had missed our stop. We discovered that the bus wouldn’t go to Bounds Green but to Wood Green, which according to the bus driver was only “5 mins walk away”.

Just before the Wood Green bus stop Suvi saw a bagel shop and since we were both really hungry at the time, we have been craving for bagels ever since. We were really tired anyway, so couldn’t be bothered to walk back for bagels. It took us ages to walk and we didn’t know where we were going anyway. My shoes were extremely uncomfortable and I walked bare-footed. Suvi was singing about the gorgeous bagels all the way and tripping over her own feet all the time. Horrible foreign guys were stopping their cars, whistling etc. other annoying stuff and we told them to F* off in Finnish as we couldn’t be bothered to reply in English. We were back at Mark’s house at 6, 2 hours after leaving the club and collapsed to the bed.


My travel itinerary:

11.6 London

14.6 Salzburg, Austria

18.6 Munich, Germany

20.6 Pegnitz, Germany

25.6 Berlin, Germany

5.8 Finland

10.9 Back to Cov


Welcome to my travel diary

The year at Warwick is finally over and me and my insane friend Suvi decided to give a joined farewell party on Thursday. We started at 4 but did not actually manage to get any food before 6. In the meanwhile we had lots of lovely drinks . At some point we also discovered it is possible to eat jelly with chopsticks(Chris successfully fed James with them…)The cheerful lot headed off to Varsity.

Me and Suvi have to wake up in just 6 hours time before getting up and before that we'll have to produce a magnificent piece of art, namely the finnish flag we intend to give our host in London. Also we practised drawing on our legs with a permanent marker pen(realised after using it!) and had to remove it with washing-up liquid. So that's about having early nights*huoh*

Right, we are off to bed now. My last day at Warwick has been great as we finally managed to find a house for next year. It's much nicer to return to the Uk knowing I dont have to live in a bin!


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