Saved by a turbah

It’s been a while since my trip to Iran now, still I can not stop thinking about this little episode that happened to me when I was going in to see the crown jewels of Iran. Anyone who has been in the Central Bank of Iran and want to see the collection of gemstones, know that security is taken to the utmost highest level. It is of course surveillance cameras everywhere and you have to go through three checkpoints. The guards are strict and have eyes that can almost see right through you.

The first control was just inside the door and went fairly fast,  and we were guided into a waiting room, where we had to store over bags and camera equipment in the lockers. While our guide picked up tickets for us, we were placed in a new security line. The guard had a tough time keeping track of all the tourists, and unregulated behavior were therefor sanctioned. One of our fellow travelers had two sets of glasses, sunglasses and reading glasses. Curtly she was stopped and sent out of the queue. I had a bottle of water, which I had to dispose, but unlike my fellow travelers I came in with my sunglasses!

When everyone had passed trough the needle’s eye number 2, we were placed in a new line, and after 15 minutes we were motioned further down a staircase and yet a new security checkpoint. At that time the atmosphere were pretty testy in our little group. We wondered what we could have managed to smuggle in through the previous two checkpoints,  we were literally stripped of everything, except our cloths!

When it became my turn, I was immediately drawn to aside by one of a watchmen. I thought it was my sunglasses, because it was the only thing I had of  exterior that could activate the metal detector. But he was not interested in my sunglasses, where they sat firmly on my head. However, he checked all the pockets and stopped abruptly when he came to the side pocket of my pants. There he found something, he looked up at me with a stern mine and with a hard voice he said: “open your pocket”.    I could not remember what I had in my pocket, and thought someone had planted something on me?  My hands trembled  when I  open the pocket. Slowly I pulled out the object , while I thought about what it could be. I opened my hand careful, I was just as curious as the watchman, and the surprise was therefore equal for both when we saw what it was.

Inside one of the mosques in Ishfahan, I tried to take pictures from slightly different angles and put my camera on the floor. But because it was lying askew, I needed something to support it. In a bucket, I found some flat rocks, and I took one with me. When I was finished shooting, I put the stone in my trouser pocket and forgot about it. The stone is a Turbah and used by Shia Muslims as they pray “postrate”. The stone is made of clay from Karbala that is considered holy to Muslims. The soil represents the earth that God used to create the earth and man.

The guard took the stone from my hand, looked at it and then came the widest smile I’ve ever seen. He looked at me, said something in Persian, while he smiled even wider, he gave me the stone and patted me on my shoulder. He took my hand and pushed the other tourists aside.  And within seconds I was standing in front of a large display cabinet and studying Farah Diba’s jewelry, while the others were still waiting in the line outside.

The guard probably thought that I was true believer, which I am not though. However the stone is now firmly stored in my photo bag, ready to stabilize the camera if needed. Since it appears to be a door opener as well, it is with me on all my trips from now.


Elephant merry-go-round

I’ve never ridden on an elephant before, and was therefore very excited when our guide told us we were signed up for a ride up to the beautiful Amber palace. I imagined me that we rode under tall trees. It was quiet, you could hear a small river flowing and birds singing. The elephant was thirsty and drank some water from the river. And of course the elephant sprayed me, just as I’ve seen on film… In reality it all reminded of a giant carousel.

As little children, we stood in line and waited until it was our turn. And even though all were grown ups some of tourist had bought funny hats of the merchants…We climbed the ramp where the elephants were waiting in line to pick us up.

Slowly the elephants walked up the hill to the Amber castle. As we were sitting sideways, we swayed quite a bit. I had planned to take a lot of photos, but ended up having a clear focus on not falling off and pushing the elephant off the wall with my feet.

So as I was clinging to my elephant and camera, feeling really uncomfortable and awkward, I kept repeating to myself: “I shall never ride an elephant again”.  And I promised myself that, the owner of elephant riding-idea would have no wine for dinner tonight!

To make the embarrassment complete, “pro” photographers, calls for your attentions, just like parents do to their children riding on a merry-go-round, and want you to smile and wave! I didn’t dare to wave and the smile I put on was so fake that even the elephant felt sorry for me. Well, the photographer got his shot. I shouted to him that I would not buy his photos. He just smiled back, as if he knew that my friends would buy the photos, which they did.

Inside the palace walls the ride was over, and I was happy to get off. The elephant coachman, claimed his tip and we got ready to run a gauntlet between merchant selling knick-knacks.

Ethically I cannot forgive myself that I actually did this.

Preparing for trekking in Bhutan at Dronningberget

When I woke up this morning I felt that today is the most splendid day to start the preparation for our journey to India and Bhutan in october. This journey will be a combination of trekking at high altitude, and hard core tourist sight seeing.
As I consider my self to be an expert in sight seeing (have at least a master degree),there is no need to prepare for that, not at the moment at least. But I need to improve my trekking abilities. So to get a feeling of how my back will feel like after 5-6 hours trekking at high altitude. I filled my back pack with some heavy books (books from my psychology study ) and my camera gear.
The weather conditions was fine and I met a lot of people, presumably not with the same purpose as me.
Anyhow, in the absence of mountains, I aimed for Dronningberget – “The Queen’s hill”, which had to do as mountain substitute.
This little hill’s forest is created in inspiration of the english parks from the 19th century.
At the foot of the hill there is a bust of Count Wedel Jarlsberg, with the grieving national lion, and at “the summit”, a “mountain lodge”. The path to the “mountain lodge” goes through an old hazel and linden forest. The lodge, which now serve as a café, has been renovated and is now sparkling in its utmost beauty.

Well, for me this was the end of todays hard work out.  Still, this was not at all a challenging trek, I admit that I could feel a mild pain after carrying my books on my back for 3 hours. So the little trip, was not in vain…


Last weekend I was invited to come sailing with some friends and we had the most splendid weekend.  The tranquility and the feeling of being in touch with the elements, makes sailing one these activities one cannot get enough of .
I also came across a well hidden secrete, or it is a secret thus one knows about it yet. On one of the islands of Bolærne were we landed,  I felt an attraction towards a beautiful old house. The woman whom met us at the door step was warm and welcoming, she served us waffles and we felt at home instantly.   She could tell us that the house had been own by a pilot and his wife. Today the house is for rent if one would like to stay a weekend or even a week. So why not get away from a stress at an island in the Oslo-fjord…

Loshuset på Bolærne

The Barcode in Oslo

The Barcode, they named the buildings which will be Oslo new business and residential area in Bjørvika. But this name is so burdened, that authorities had to change the name of the area to The Opera Quarter. The criticism from Oslo’s residents have been that it closes the view to the bay, and fjord view is important for the naval Norwegians. But those buying apartments in The Barcode facing the sea, will of course be able to enjoy their morning coffee on the terrace overlooking the Opera House, the bay and the islands. Those that earlier enjoyed this view might instead enjoy a good view of The Barcodes architecture!

A curiosity is that the flats have mobile shields, to either shade for the sun or to prevent office people to stare into your bedroom. But if you buy a flat in a barcode, one should not be surprised to find one self an exhibit object, the spaces between the buildings are narrow….Looking forward to see it all finished, and how the citizens will adopt these “newcomers”.

The girl with the accordion


Last summer I made it down to Gdansk, a lovely little town in North Poland. I didn’t have any particular reason for going there, therefor I wanted to just walk around and  let the city introduce it self. Well I had planned one visit to the Post museum to attend an exhibition of photos by a young Norwegian student taken in the thirties . Gdansk was totally bombed out at the end of WWII, but the citizens have rebuilt their beloved city. The photos taken by this student show how close they manage to copy the old houses. Therefor Gdansk is a lovely city to stroll around, talk to the nice and friendly people, and enjoy the architecture.

Poland has the fastest growing economy in Europe, thus lot of Polish people go to Scandinavia seeking better fortune, a lot of Eastern European peoples go to Poland to work. During summer hordes of the Travelers or Rom people as they like to call them self,  spread out through Europe to work or to beg. Many of them play instruments such as the accordion. It is mostly adults that are begging, but you may see children as well. It is sad that Europe cannot take care of the poor ones, but the problems in many countries economies forces a lot of people out on the streets.

So to the little girl playing accordion. I stood for a while and watched her playing. She played the same tune, as almost all the begging accordionist play: “La vie en rose”, over and over again. She watch the rich people as they passed by, but her eyes always looked down when someone looked back at her. Some gave her money, some just walked by, she never thanked those who gave her money, she just kept on playing as if she wasn’t there. After enjoying her interpretation of “La vie en rose” 3 – 4 times I dropped a ten Euro bill in her basked. She stopped playing immediately, grabbed the bill and started to count her income. Her desperate reaction moved me, was it right to give the money, what if she was fooling me, that she didn’t need the money and did it for fun, or what if she was so poor that my little contribution would help her get bread and milk the next two days. I watched her for a while and went for lunch and tried to get the incident out of my mind. But I could not, the thought about the little girl counting her money striving to get the ends to meet, would just not let go.
Because what ever I had done, give money or not I ended up with the same conclusion. It is all about my own conscience. I gave money, but I felt really  bad about it. Because, as you hand over the money, in a short moment you feel that you are a good person, buy you also show that you are richer than the beggar and somewhat emphasize that you are of a higher range in the social ladder. If I had not given the money I would have felt like an ignorant  egoistic human being. I could not stop arguing with my self. And I realized why I so often close my eyes to their existence.When I had finished my lunch the girl had left, I felt revealed, once again I could leave my bad consciences….


Glimpse of Gdansk


I came across this poster in Budapest. Thus sport events is not exactly my cup of tea, I remember the games because of two things: Many countries boycotted the games due to Soviet’s invasion in Afghanistan. And the card stunt showing Misha, the bear, crying in the closing ceremony! Strange times… How ever the Soviets did boycott the games in L.A. in 1984…



Snøhetta(snow hood 🙂 ) is one of Norway’s highest peeks with it’s 2264meters.It takes about three hours to climb up and about two hours to come down.

Weather in Norway is always changing, therefore one must be prepared for all kind of weather. Today we had sun, snow, rain and temperature around +2 to -2 Celsius. After we concurred the peek, we celebrated with a snow ball fight…

Tongba and dried yak meat – At the bar in Landruk – Nepal

If you want to taste the local beer tongba, you must make sure to walk with a guide willing to introduce you to very local costumes. We did, and our guide took us to a well-hidden bar in Landruk.
Landruk is a small village in the valley Kimch. We arrived early in the morning after having climbed the 400 meters height from the bottom of the valley.
The bar in question, bears little resemblance to bars like we’re used to. It is simply the holder’s kitchen, attracting porters in transit to refresh their throats.

The beer is made literally while you sit there! You take malt in a metal cup, mix it with hot water and drink with a straw, tastes like cider and some other stuff. Dried yak meat take the drink to a higher level… unforgettable!

No dolor, no gloria – Camino de Santiago

No pain, no glory, I read on a t-shirt in Burgos, picturing two feet with lots of blisters and chafing. And when we arrived at the square in front of the Cathedral of Santiago, we saw many who had made sure they had their honor intact. Thousands wander the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela each year and even though you do not get blisters or other physical pain, It can be quit a struggle. The landscape sure is beautiful but it is capricious. Cold air blows almost nine months a year and the heat of the plains can be unbearable, but this is a part of experiencing the glory.

If you have walked the whole way from Le Puy (France), I can understand the feeling of victory but also sadness when you arrive and see the beautiful cathedral.
Your long journey is over, and if you didn’t get to feel the pain you will have no glory, and then your long walk is in vain. Still you have met some new friends, and after all Santiago in the stardust, is really something to strive for.

In our journey toward salvation, we have not experienced pain in any way. We realize, therefore, that our salvation lies in all the good food and drink we have been served on our way to Santiago. And with all the restaurants and bars in the streets around the cathedral, I can not conclude otherwise than that Santiago has to be experienced as heaven even though you are not a pilgrim.

“Bus is a better choice”…

…said the receptionist, then it all went wrong!

Initially, we had decided to take the train from Bilbao to Bermeo, but the young boy in the hotel reception recommended the bus, Because it was easier to just take the subway to the bus terminal, than walk to the train station. And that is where it all started to go wrong. As we had limited time, we had to go strait down… Though it is more or less only two metro lines in Bilbao, it should be easy to get on the right line. But we were able to get on the train that went in the opposite direction of our destination. I took us, of course, three stops before we noticed. The lines run quit often, so it didn’t take us to long to change train. In total we had only lost ten minutes, but those ten minutes we needed to find the bus, buy the tickets, now they were lost….

Eventually we arrived at the bus terminal, but found no bus to Bermeo. Short of time we run around in the terminal, checking all the schedules. The queues to the ticket counters was long, very long. Finally we got hold of one policeman, he could confirm that the bus we were looking for, departed from a different bus stop. (This bus stop was actually just minutes form our hotel) We attacted a taxi driver, and asked him to step on it. The driver, on the other hand, responded to drive slowly, one could almost walk faster… He had not a single hint of South European attitude in terms of driving. We arrived at the roundabout, where our bus to Bermeo had it’s stop, three minuttes before departure. Unfortunately, our bus was not the only one, there were at least 7 buses! We ranfrom bus to bus shouting out ” Bermeo”

Breathless and relieved, we went on board just a minute before departure. But we had only a 50-euro banknote, and the driver did not have change. We had lost, after all this we had been through, we had to get off the bus because the driver could not give us change! With drooping heads and disappointed we went off the bus. But , an angel of a young mobile talking lady, in the first row, asked the driver to charge her bus card with three extra tickets. She made our day, but still we did not have money to pay her back, and she was getting off before Bermeo. But the other passenger started to raise money for us, one cent here and another there. Finally we are able to pay our 3€ depth, but the lady savor did not want our money, so we ended up with not paying for the bus, and in fact earning in stead of spending…

We arrived in Bermeo and cwalked all the stairs up to the Eremita monastery of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe – and had a great day, but all thanks to the lovely lady and the other passengers on the bus from Bilbao to Bermeo!

Dhammayangyi Temple – Bagan

The biggest temple of all the temples in Bagan, was abandoned when King Narathu,whom got it erected, was assassinated.
The story behind this lunatic king is that he killed his father and his brother, so that he could step up on the throne.  Later he also killed his wife, and I have reasons to believe that it was her father that got Narathu killed eventually.
Most temples, as you may see, has the shape of a leaf, but the Dhamma Yangui is shaped like a pyramid. Some locals believes it is haunted, and it hangs a certain kind of mystique around the temple.
If you do not find the Dhamma Yangyi temple interesting, there are several more to choose from. Bagan is in fact an entire forest of stupas, temples and pagodas, and they are a beautiful sight as they reminds us of ancient times with all their mystique and tranquility.

The farmers in Bagan operates their agriculture between the stupas, as they have done since ancient times. Our guide took us on a tour of the village and we got to meet the farmers and learn about their hard, but also quiet farmer’s life. The cows that came in from the pasture was the signal for us to go and take pictures of the  beautiful sunset over Bagan.

Bagan is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Should you be in the area, do pay a visit, you will not regret it.

Flight announcments at Yangoon domestic airport

At the domestic airport in Yangon, the flight announcment is done the good old way. Traffic staff just walk around in the departure hall and announces the flights “manually”. They simply calls out your flight number and hold up a board. All departures are using the same gate and they even take off at the same time, creating a small caos at this small airport.

All the flights start early in the morning from Yangoon, and they fly a particular route, either to Heho, Bagan and Mandalay or vice versa.
One must not be surprised if they change the routing and fly over your destination, or they add an extra stop, without further notice.
Before arriving in Myanmar, we were warned about the safety of the airlines and in particularly airlines run by the military regime. But even though we were somewhat hesitant when we saw the airline’s slogan Safefy (?),Reliability and Comfort, but it appears that Air Mandalay kept their promise and had full control of the passenger’s safety .

A bottle of Sprite – blessed by the chanting monk?

Holy water is important in many religions, including Buddhism. Every day, water is made sacred through the monks’ prayer and reading from the Holy Scriptures.What I found unusual was the blessing of Sprite!? But by all means if the heavilysugary drink becomes more healthy, I am for the blessing of all drinks ….:-)

Taung kalat – walking in monkey poop

After driving for about 2 hours from Bagan we arrived at Mount Popa, where we would climb the 777 steps to the top of the mountain Taung Kalat to the Taungkalat shrine. The view from the top of the mountain was of course fantastic with a stunning view of the Ayeryarwaddy river and the surroundings. But the “trek” to the top is also quite an experience. At some places the steps are really steep.

Monkeys have found their livelihoods among the pilgrims and tourists. And they do what ever it takes to get a small meal, even though it means steeling. Several times we saw sticky-fingered monkeys looking for a chocolate hidden in a bag or a cigar in a breast pocket. They gave us many good laughs, but these monkeys can be quite troublesome. They also fight quite often and can make a tremendous noise.

In the Budda temples shoes are  prohibited, so we had to walk barefoot from our car to the top. The steps seemed a bit sticky, and several times we wondered what we stepped on, and our suspicions were confirmed at last, we had stomped around in monkey poop and pee. Despite this fact it did not take from us the great experience to “hike” to the top.

Inle – off the tourist track

20120310-204040.jpgWe were lucky enough and persuaded the guide to take us off the tourist track, and by that we could visit the family of our driver

Anto – the eldest son of the house, must now help his mother to manage the family after his father passed away, only 42 years old. Everyone must contribute, so that they one day may get a TV. Still they do enjoy the tranquility, and do not want to change they’re life with the busy city life.
Before his mother dies, the son must become a monk, if her afterlife should be of the good kind. But he is getting old, and the monks life is not want he strive for at the moment.

There are only a few weeks until the election, but still they do not know whom to vote for, thus they know nothing about politics and are more concerned with daily life than the politics holders in Yangon.

Inle is situated in the province of Shan, which is the province that produces the most opium in Myanmar…

Strolling the bridge of U Bein

While the duck farmers gathered their geese and the sun was going down over Amarapura it was time to wander over the 1300yd Long teak bridge. Not only is it the world’s longest footbridge as it gently curves over Taungthaman Sea, it is probably the most photographed of its kind.

The monks from the convent school goes back and forth twice a day, simply to keep fit, but if I get to judge, also to get a break from the strict monastic life.
The bridge creaks quite a bit, and there are only a few of the over 1000 poles that have been replaced since the bridge was built. The bridge is popular, so one can not expect to have the bridge by one self, hordes of tourists take over the bridge and take their pictures of the monks and the local heroes. We on the other hand, went all the way to the other side, and therefore escaped the tourists. But we became populare targets by the locals whom wanted a picture of us. Gigglingly, they contacted, and was surprised and shy, when we smilingly gave permission to snap away. It was in a way fair after all the pictures we had taken of them. When the sun went down behind the hill, we walked slowly back to the western side, while we chatted with the monks, A wonderful experience


Child labor

When travelling around in Myanmar, one must be prepared that you may be exposed to child labor. In several places we saw children working on repairing the roads. This is obviously something they want to hide for their tourists, thus our driver refused to stop. In a way I can understand that they want to display only the pretty side of the medal, but if we are to eradicate child labor and the fact that several million people are victims of modern slavery, so this must be brought to light. In a way I feel a bit guilty – living in the western world whom for centuries have exploited almost the whole world! The children in the picture are not workers, their just watching the elephants having lunch.


Kavi is the name of an Indian boy and his story is depicted in the movie with the same name. Kavi wanted to play cricket but in stead he had to work to help his father pay his dept.

Construction workers

Driving in Myanmar

Driving a car in Burma is, as far as I am concerned, associated with a risk. They have the steering wheel on the right side, same side as they are driving??? The day we arrived we actually thought that they drove on the left side, and was surprised when we realized that the oncoming traffic was in the “wrong” lane. (I here must add that we did suffer from jet lag, and therefor our ability to judge the situation a bit reduced).
In addition to that the cars have the steering wheel on the wrong side, you have all the mopeds that do not necessarily follow the trafic rules, well the few rules there are to be found. On top of this are the cars overloaded with people and goods, creating with quite a few dangerous situations. After the two hour drive from Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin, we had had enough and replaced the car with a horse and carriage … Unfortunately, that was also a pretty bumpy experience, but the pace quite different. 🙂

The process of changing money in Yangon


Travelling without a credit card is almost impossible to imagine today, but in Myanmar they simply don’t accept debit or credit card. So before our departure, we had set up a travel budget, to make sure we had enough dollars. Setting up the budget was not as difficult as sticking to it. Every day we must make an estimate of how much money we used, which sends us back to our student days, and that is an eye opener, so I guess it is a meaning in it.

Since they do not accept cards, one would think that it was relatively easy to change money, but it is a rather bureaucratic affair. The entire transaction is divided into six, meaning there are six officers to make sure everything goes by the book.

1 Sign up, and accept your money and passport
2 Prints the authorization
3 Endorses the application, before it is handled to the bank manager with your passport
4 Get the money from the safe and logs it.
5 A new round of counting by the assistant manager.
6 A final endorsement, before you get the money

The Dollar notes must be brand new and without any folds, if not, you will simply get less value for your money. It all takes about 30 minutes …


“Go to Lake Bohinen, it’s better, and fewer tourists,” said the waiter, while he poured more wine. We knew he was right, because even though Bled is a tourist magnet with its beautiful villas, churches and castles, lake Bohinj has a spectacular scenery and is half as commercial as Bled.


And nothing is more boring than the commercialization we so often experience, I therefore browsed guide books for something more. And this time I had luck with me – in one of Bled’s many hotels, I found something that caught my attention. But in spite of commercialization, Bled remains one of Europe’s most beautiful places. The lake, Bled Castle, the island with its beautiful church, is like a fairytale.

There are no annoying  motor boats, so one experience a tranquility that automatically makes one slow down. The silence is interrupted only by the church bell on the island. Visitors to the church may ring the bell for good luck.  So while walking around the lake and watching the beautiful suroundings, one can enjoy  the sound of all the souls who hope for happiness.But my goal for this trip was something  very different, and to get to “my attraction”, we had to go to the Hotel Villa Bled. My traveling companions was somewhat skeptical when we pulled into the driveway of the hotel. I had not told why we should stop at this hotel, therefore they agreed with some reluctance.

Hotel Villa Bled was completed by Tito after World War II, but the first villa was built in 1883. King Alexander bought the place of Windischgrätz family in 1922, determined to build a new villa in flight with the old. But the King died in 1934 and the house demolished.  The reconstruction of the new house was interrupted by World War II. But Tito demanded to finish the villa once the war was over, it became one of Tito’s favorite places.

But  Tito did not only rebuild the Vila Bled he also committed artist Pengov – and therefore one of the meeting room has a huge fresco that describes Yugoslavias struggle against the Nazis during World War II. It is this fresco that caught my attention! But it is not certain that you will be able to se this magnificent piece of art. Since the painting is in a meeting room in a hotel, it might be occupied or even worse it may be covered. Therefor I was a little nervous when I confronted the front desk. But the receptionist gave me access with great enthusiasm.

The painting depicts air bombing of Belgrade, the battlefields of the Neretva, Sutjeska, Igmanski and ultimately victory over the Nazis and the rebuilding of the country. The fact that it is in a meeting room, and reflects postwar use of artists to portray the political attitudes and propaganda, make this interesting. The fresco is, however, covered with curtains if the room is used for weddings or other events intended that the  painting theme is considered  inappropriate.  The fresco is considered part of national heritage of Slovenia, and therefore it can not be moved to a place more available for the public.

In our artistic stop we did, like everyone else, and rented a boat rowed out to the island with the beautiful church of the assumption. After an hour off shore we drove to Bohinen just to check if the waiter was right, and that he was. But after seeing Pengovs fresco, and walked in Tito’s park, I admit that in spite of all the commercialization, Bled is beautiful, very beautiful.

Yalta – Soviet’s former amusement park

I had great expectations of Yalta. I had imagined a beautiful city with old buildings from the era when European kings and Queens used to spend their summers. So my disappointment was unbearable when I realized that Yalta is a large amusement park, where they played bad music and drink alcohol in public areas, terrible!
The road from our hotel to the beach, was a long street adorned with street vendors and rides. Street vendors sold same stuff as you will get anywhere as well as drinks(?). Inhabitants consume much alcohol, resulting in one of Europe’s lowest life expectancy – 50 years.

But a curiosity, fascinated me, they have retained the old street names from the Soviet era, so you can still run up Lenin Street and the statue of him in the harbor is still there. According to the Mayor’s, Soviet times is a also part of our history and should not be removed. He’s so right so right.

Steer clear of the public beaches they are overcrowded. We paid us in one of the best beaches, although the price is low, the service is good. However, one must be prepared for the new rich fat Russians drinking vodka all day, and it’s a strange sight as they lay like walruses with their very beautiful ladies at their sides.
There are many good restaurants in Yalta, but there are also many bad. Villa Sofia is, apparently,a great restaurant. People stopped to have their picture taken outside. We however wanted to eat there, but was met with a rather patronizing attitude. The food however was fantastic.
At two restaurants we dined, some of the guests got so drunk that they simply fell asleep at the table. A sad experience, a boy of 7-8 years was around the adult table and bore clear signs of the situation. Waiters did nothing to stop the drinking, but served even more booze. These experiences is st ill stuck with me, and by that I’m struggling to recommend Yalta.

In addition the restaurants play loud music, making it almost impossible to have a conversation. Besides, nothing is so annoying as 2-3 songs vying for attention in your ear. The music is also bad, almost miserable.

The traffic is nicer than I expected, but be careful. Two of our drivers drove as if they had stolen the cars. One driver was more on the leftside of the road than on the right. He showed me his driver’s license to prove that he was a good trusted driver… !? They have however begun to stop for pedestrians, but make sure the car coming behind has stopped as well!

Bring a lot of smiles in the bag when you travel to Ukraine, they need it. These people have suffered much and therefore they need all the support they can get. I gave away all my smile on the trip and was therefore a bit empty when I got home. There will be a while until I go back to «the border country» Ukraine. Ukraine is in fact land on the edge of Russia, the soil is black, while the country next door the soil is light and therefor it is called Belarus.

The Night train to Simferopol

Although we chose to travel first class, we had to make up the bed by our self. Here they have something to learn from the West: Once you have paid extra for first class so should not need to make your or bed, and it should be dark chocolate on the pillow.

It was not allowed to enjoy wine either. Our conductor was of the very strict variety, I was a little afraid of her! No matter how bad the service might be, train is a great way to travel in Ukraine, but by all means go first class.

Balaklava – Ukraine

 The Balaklava harbor is in fact a good choice if you need to maintain  your submarine. Balaklava has a very deep harbor and that makes it ideal for submarines to navigate sub sea into the huge tunnel without been detected by the western countries satellites. During the Soviet era this little fishing village did not “exist”. It was kept as a secret by the Soviets, and  was not visible on any maps, even the locals who lived around Balaklava did not know what was going on. Only the local fishermen whom had their boats in the harbor knew, but they were also monitored. Today’s submarine shop is converted into a museum, and you can either take a boat into the tunnel or walk.

Balaklava is beyond this is a quiet little village with few tourists. But the  harbor still has a lively evening. There are few restaurants where will get good food for a small amount,  on the contrary  the wine, one can steer clear – drink beer or water.


The flight from Kiev will take only 50 minutes and the fare was around 50 €. The runway in Odessa was somewhat a bumpy experience and we wondered if the wheels on the plane really could take all these speed pumps, yes thats what they felt like, speed bumps.

The airport in Odessa, is the kind where you have to do everything by your self. In the sense that you almost have to unload the aircraft baggage on your own. Odessa was a very positive experience. The city’s opera building is actually one of most beautiful opera houses in the world. Several streets in downtown are now converted to pedestrian areas, where there are many good restaurants.

I would like to mention two restaurants we visited the “Steak House” and Kompot in Deribasovskay Street.  They had good food and good wine selection. But they are popular, so make reservation in advanced if you want the most popular tables. They are also some of the few restorants that don’t play loud music. You may therefor enjoy their food and wine in peace and quiet, only disturbed by people passing by.

Buy an ice-cream and do as many Ukrainians,walk down the Potemkin stairs. The stairs are ninefeet wider at the bottom than the top and in addition it has got an optical illusion. When you stand at the top and look down you can see only landings and from below you only see like a long flight of stairs without landings.

Castle Howard – York

Oh, Charles, do not be such a tourist. What does it matter when it ‘was built, if it’s pretty?”
(Sebastian Flyte to Charles Ryder in Brideshead revisited)

And beautiful it is, the castle built by the third Earl of Carlisle in 1699 to 1712. The castle has been home for the family Howard in more than 300 years, and the castle is now one of Britain’s largest private properties. With its 13 000 acres the property covered no less than 5 villages and had its own train station. The castle is thus only 24 miles north of York, and the drive to the castle is worth the trip in the beautiful English countryside.

Despite that the Howard family still lives in the castle, much of it is open to the public. They have  placed guides in the different rooms, so you can go at your own pace.
Besides the many paintings and statues, one can also see some frescoes. Unfortunately, the castle  was virtually destroyed in a fire in 1940, the frescoes are not what they once were, but still they are  impressive. Several rooms are still not restored after the fire, which has made the castle quite  accessible to the film industry. Granada therefore used the castle in film adaptation of Evelyn  Waugh’s novel – Brideshead revisited. About the painter Charles Ryder, who falls in love, not only  the heirs to the castle, but also in the castle. The castle was also used in the remake of 2008. It  was  the Granada television series from 1981 that aroused my interest for the place, and it has been  one of my biggest dreams to visit this very beautiful castle.
The rain that pleased us all day didn’t give the parks surrounding the palace full credit, one can only imagine how great it must be on a sunny day. Next time! 🙂