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Subtitles rule

Posted 1 October 2007 - Umeå (SE):

Day two in Sweden and I did my best to learn a few new words. Beside the travel project, I will aim to speak a bit more Swedish before leaving here. I`m happy to find free newspapers and subtitles programs on my way, it is really great and I keep being surprised about how some countries keep dubbing TV-programs because it is such a useless thing to do. It doesn`t help anybody. There is hardly a better way to learn more languages than by being exposed to them as much as you can. Germany, France, Poland, Italy, and all others, please do something about it.

Otherwise (sinon) I have no special news today, I had a good day and that`s about all there is to say. I`ll probably be moving south a few hundred kilometres tomorrow, trying to find my way to Stockholm.

Photo: another crossroad

(© Umeå - SE, October 2007)
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Swedish city and language

Posted 2 October 2007 - Umeå (SE):

Another day in Umeå, because it turned out to suit my next host better. No problems here, it is nice to be in Sweden and I`m not so much bothered where. Swedish cities are not very exciting, mostly even slightly boring in the Northern-German sense of the word. But the language is just lovely and the people are nice and interested about my project, so that largely makes up for the buildings. Below ones are the most recent addition to the local `skyline`.

I will move on to Härnösand tomorrow. That is three hours south of here, next to a place where I will supposedly find beautiful cliffs over the sea. Will let you know more by tomorrow.

(© Umeå - SE, October 2007)
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Ski jump underneath railway

Posted 3 October 2007 - Härnösand (SE):

After three days in Umeå, it started to become time to move again and so I did. Destination: Härnösand, where I was invited by Jenny, a friend of the girls I had coffee with the day before yesterday. That`s where I am now, three hours south and a little bit closer to the final destination for Sweden, which is Stockholm.

The bus journey was full of pretty sights. Autumn lasts a little longer here than it does in Lappland and so I am back in the yellow and red colours. Which are particularly amazing when reflected in a lake that looks like it has just been ironed. No wind, completely flat and with a small red house somewhere dotted along the water.

Another thing that struck me was to see people ski-jumping at this time of year. I had gotten used to seeing ski jump slopes on hills, because they have them all over the place in Finland. But this no-snow ski-jumping was entirely new to me and I am happy I did not see anybody smash him/herself on the railway bridge crossing the runway.

(© Ornskoldsvik - SE, October 2007 )
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Chocolate cake

Posted 4 October 2007 - Härnösand (SE):

I was planning to move on to Gävle today but was a bit late applying for a couch there, so stayed another day here in Härnösand. For the fourth consecutive day, I had quite some exposure to Swedish and reading is already becoming easier. I walked around the city with Jenny, Mattias and Daniel in the morning, had tea and chocolate cake in the library and watched Shrek 3.

Tomorrow I will take another leap south: 4.5 hours to Gävle. From there on to some place near a lake called Falun, then to Stockholm via Uppsala followed by a few nights in the archipelago before heading to Scotland! All great here!

(© Härnösand - SE, October 2007)
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Another sunny day

Posted 5 October 2007 - Gävle (SE):

I stuck to the plan to descend to Gävle and was treated an excursion to the local newspaper of Härnösand in the morning. On the way there, I took a photo of the lake, which for most of it was covered by a big layer of fog. The sky cleared up later during the day, making room for sunny day number 3-in-a-row.

(© Harnosand - SE, October 2007)
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Children`s books

Posted 6 October 2007 - Gavle (SE):

I could easily keep writing about the weather, because most days go by without any major excitement. Nevertheless, I am still enjoying my travels a lot. I keep meeting interesting and hospitable people, I spend a lot of time outside in the open air and every now and then, I cook for people or sing along with them or whatever.

Today, I was listening to a girl playing keyboard and remembered that I should be writing children`s books. Just like my chef in the photo shop, now almost 10 years ago, used to tell me. It almost sounds strange among all these oceans of time that I should just find some spare moments to do it. And whenever that occasion occurs, I should write some song lyrics too. Well, there`s a time for everything and there will be a time for that. We will see when that is.

Photo: this afternoon in the city park.

(© Gavle - SE, October 2007)
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Hostel night

Posted 7 October 2007 - Uppsala (SE):

Another jump south, and I am now in Uppsala. It is slowly starting to get colder, which is especially noticeable on cloudy days like today. No special news today, except that I finally found a DVD with Alle vi är barn i Bullerby, a book my grandparents used to read me when I was younger.

Tonight will be the first hostel night in a month`s time. I have been staying at people`s places ever since I crossed the Gulf of Finland now 3 weeks ago. Thanks to Teemu, Johanna, Panu, Patricia, Mari, Jussi, Philipe, Etienne, Susi, Leena, Elin, Jenny, Mats and the other people and cats living in their apartments!

Photo: residential area in Gävle this morning:

(© Gävle - SE, October 2007)
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Boom - ouch

Posted 8 October 2007 - Arlanda (SE):

Hello all! This is Arlanda Airport reporting! I am still in Sweden and will reach Stockholm by tonight. I first need to wait for my travel companion for this week: Sanne. She`s the first visitor from Holland and she`s arriving on the evening flight from Amsterdam. My brother and some colleagues of work will follow her example in the coming months, probably be in Barcelona and Bratislava.

With a view on the runway and the sunset, I can tell you that I fell from the stairs of the youth hostel this morning. Flat on my ass and I think it temporarily shortened my spinal cord by one centimetre. I am starting to feel the impact of that now and it`s not very pleasant but not very painful either.

Below photo shows a bridge in the city centre of Uppsala. I did not know that biologist Linnaeus was from there, and physician Celcius as well. But I do know now, and I keep learning lots of little stuff every day. For those of you who want to know: no, I am not getting tired of the travelling. It`s actually just like working :)

(© Uppsala - October 2007 )
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Halfway of Almost halfway

Posted 11 October 2007 - Finnhamn (SE):

I`m running behind on Us Europeans again, shame on me. The island we are on is quite small, only one kilometre wide, and there are not so many people. I will catch up during the days to come. Here`s two photos of a morning training for the guards of the Royal Castle.

Plans for the coming days: to get to Eskilstuna tomorrow, a city west of Stockholm. Then from there back to Stockholm and out of Sweden next Monday. That`s a bit of a shame.. I did buy a DVD with a Swedish film, which I will use to practise my Swedish pronunciation during the remainder of the trip. Still 9.5 months to go, even though it somehow seems I am already halfway. Well halfway until Christmas, yes. But even Christmas is not yet halfway...

(© Stockholm - SE, October 2007)
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Finnhamn > Eskilstuna

Posted 12 October 2007 - Finnhamn (SE):

We left the Stockholm Archipelago this morning to get back to Stockholm and from there to Eskilstuna. We had some difficulties finding a youth hostel that was not fully booked but did find one in Eskilstuna and that`s why we are here now. Still having fun and the weather is getting better. Here`s one photo some islands in the archipelago. To me, they all look like giant whales backs, covered with trees.

(© Finnhamn - SE, October 2007)
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Two more days in Sweden

Posted 13 October 2007 - Eskilstuna (SE):

The Sweden adventure is slowly coming to an end. Yesterday night, the youth hostel kitchen was filled with some German employees of the local Volvo factory and a Finnish theatre group. The theatre group were drinking a lot and being loud. The Germans joined in and Sanne and I mainly sat there to observe the funny behaviour on display.

Today, we amused ourselves walking around the peculiar city of Eskilstuna. It was not particularly pretty, but still nice to walk around, drink coffee and eat carrot cake. Dinner consisted of Pasta con Aglio e Olio and a very nice salad. Jummy and a healthy bit of aroma therapy for everybody who arrived in the kitchen after us.

We will be heading back to Stockholm tomorrow, and go separate ways on Monday. Destinations: Amsterdam Schiphol from Stockholm Arlanda and Glasgow Prestwick from Stockholm Skavsta.

(© Eskilstuna - SE, October 2007)
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Stockholm nr 3

Posted 14 October 2007 - Stockholm (SE):

We left Eskilstuna behind and got back to Stockholm in the afternoon. The sky was grey and it started raining every now and then. The last evening in Sweden was nice though, with a lovely dinner marking the end of the `holiday season`. Below photo is from the first evening in Stockholm, when the weather was much better.

(© Stockholm - SE, October 2007)
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Bye bye Sweden

Posted 15 October 2007 - Stockholm (SE):

Back to travelling alone and away from Sweden.. I first joined Sanne to Arlanda airport, 25km north of the city, before moving myself to Skavsta airport, 150 km south of the city. Altogether it was quite a tiring day and I couldn`t wait to get to sleep when I finally arrived in the city centre of Glasgow (which in turn was about 50km on the bus from Prestwick airport). It was about 3 o`clock Swedish time when I touched my pillow and I fell asleep instantly. It`s exciting to be in a new country again, but I first need to collect my courage and motivation. And catch up with the writing because I am to days behind (again).

(© Stockholm - SE, October 2007)
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Plans for Scotland

Posted 16 October 2007 - Glasgow (UK):

I`m in Glasgow. Again I should say, because the last time I was here, was only 4 months ago. Nothing has changed, although it`s probably a little colder now than it was in June. The city is still a bit disorganised and not very beautiful (see photo). That does not mean that it`s not interesting, because for sure it is. I have not had much time to walk around today, but I will try to come up with some more exciting photos tomorrow. I just need to catch up with writing, but I am working on that as we speak.

Plans between now and Oct 25: get to Edinburgh at one point to visit Nikki, who was my class mate in Clermont-Ferrand now more than 7 (!) years ago. The last time I saw her was six years ago, so I it`ll be great fun to see here again and see how she is doing now.

(© Glasgow - UK, October 2007)
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Random architecture

Posted 17 October 2007, Glasgow - UK:

Glasgow reporting: I am back to the old rythm of interviews and walking. So that is what I did today, randomly walk around in Glasgow and enjoy the strange buildings. Very different from Sweden:

(© Glasgow - UK, October 2007)
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Back in Edinburgh

Posted 18 October 2007 - Edinburgh (UK):

After two pleasant days in Glasgow, I took the bus to Scotland`s capital Edinburgh this morning. The weather here is just as nice as it was in Glasgow. For one reason or another, the youth hostel here in Edinburgh is full of Germans, just like the Glasgow hostel was. I can`t help being annoyed by them and I wonder how that goes when I have to write about and travel through Germany. But then, there`s also a group of Dutch school kids here and they are very impolite and rough (which the Germans are not by the way, for them it is somehow enough to be neighbours and speak German to be annoying), swearing all the time and calling other people names. The Dutch habit to call each a combination of diseases and genitals is actually really disgusting and I am happy I did not come across that in any other country so far.

Apart from the Dutch and the Germans, there were also two French guys in the kitchen who insisted everybody in the dining room got up to clean their pans, because they also had the right to cook. Maybe everybody in the hostel is being annoying today, maybe it`s just me. The Scots have been nice with me though. You can read more about that at Us Europeans. Below photo is yesterday`s: a car wash at the outskirts of the city. Photos of Edinburgh will follow tomorrow.

(© Glasgow - UK, October 2007)
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Language advantage?

Posted 19 October 2007 - Edinburgh (UK):

Today was another nice day in the malt-fragranced and sunny city of Edinburgh. It is interesting to see how the fact that everybody speaks English here does not necessarily make my work easier. Speaking English in Finland or Sweden made people wonder why I had come such a long way to ask them questions, and it would make them accept my direct approach without too much resistance. Speaking English in Scotland is not very exceptional and because of that, it feels more difficult to have an excuse to talk to them. I guess I will face the same problem in Holland. People may wonder what I`m doing in my own country if I`m supposed to write about Europe. Why I need to ask them questions at all, because as a Dutch person, would I not be supposed to know my own culture?

(© Edinburgh - UK, October 2007)
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Posted 20 October 2007 - Edinburgh (UK):

Not so much news today, just another day in Edinburgh. You get used to it. Maybe that would summarise a nice lesson from my travel adventures so far: there`s nothing you can`t get used to. Food hasn`t been excellent over the last few days. Improvising and trying to slice expenses as all of the UK I have done so far has pressed heavily on the budget. I hope I can stay at some people`s places between here and Liverpool so I can compensate a little before flying out.

The photo below shows some people (finally). They are not doing anything interesting, which makes them very interesting to me. I like to think about what other people are thinking about when they don`t seem to think at all. Nothing, something, and in case of something: what? For myself, I have the feeling that I am always thinking of something, so nothing is not an option for me. I will just fall asleep, which I regularly do by the way.

(© Edinburgh - UK, October 2007)
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Socialising here and there

Posted 22 October 2007 - Edinburgh (UK):

I went on a quick day trip to the village of Saint Andrew with Nikki, passing and along Katie en Charles on the way back. This is pretty much all there`s left of Saint Andrews old cathedral.

(© St Andrews - UK, October 2007)
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Newcastle architecture

Posted 23 October 2007 - Newcastle (UK):

Today was my last day in Edinburgh. Nikki dropped me at the bus station in the morning. From there, I took the bus to Newcastle, 3 hours south. I slept quite a bit on the bus, bus also enjoyed wonderful and sunny scenery along the coast. Arriving in Newcastle at sea level altitude was quite interesting. All the (four) times I have crosses to the US, I passed Newcastle on the way. This is my first chance to see what it actually looks like.

It`s different from Edinburgh, that`s for sure. There`s a big valley in the middle with the River Tyne passing through. Many bridges, some typical British castle-like buildings and towers and an extremely ugly multi-level car park (photo below). I am staying with Derek, who lives in the street shown on the second photo.

(© Newcastle - UK,. October 2007)
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Posted 24 October 2007 - Newcastle (UK):

This is Newcastle again with today`s news. Walked around town, here`s a photo. Lots of thinking going on, but nothing particularly useful. Will write some more by the time I get to Portugal. Am a bit bored with my own project but should get better soon.

(© Newcastle - UK. October 2007)
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PT Olé

Posted 25 October 2007 - Porto (PT):

I safely arrived in Portugal and am very happy about that. Porto is the exact location and I still need to figure out which other places I want to see on the way. Photo from the stunningly beautiful city centre of Liverpool:

(© Liverpool - UK, Oct 2007)
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Healthy habits

Posted 26 October 2007 - Porto (PT):

Decent food!! I have been eating lots of fruits and vegetables (oranges, banana, tomatoes, aubergine, onions, zucchini and peppers) today and am very excited about that. The air is fresh here, the sun is out. The temperature is pleasant and the people look happy. It`s good to be here!

(© Porto - PT, October 2007)
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Sleepy day in PT

Posted 27 October 2007 - Porto (PT):

Uhm, today was not the longest day of all. After going out with Helena, Ivo and their friends last night, we only made it home (yes, home can be everywhere in Europe these days..) at 6. I woke up at 3 and only had breakfast at half 5. Helena (photo on today`s posting at Us Europeans) cooked her favourite pasta dish, with tuna and cream sauce. Very tasty! Now it is almost 9 o`clock and I haven`t done much more than typing my story. Shame but no shame 

(© Porto - PT, October 2007)
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Lucky bastard

Posted 28 October 2007 - Coimbra (PT):

I have had plenty of time to enjoy Porto, mostly because I did not get a lot of sleep while there. Yesterday was another evening out, and like the previous one, it only started at midnight. The night out included a pub visit until 2AM, followed by some dancing place until 6AM. I was lucky to get an extra hour of sleep in the morning, but unlucky to mess up with my phone and still wake up one hour earlier than necessary.

I said goodbye to Helena and took the metro to the train station. From there to Coimbra, one hour south of Porto. I had not made any reservation with the youth hostel and did not even check the location of the youth hostel on the map so arrived in a randomly lost kind of way. I only knew that the hostel was 6 kilometers away, the street address, and that it would cost 11 euros for the night, in case they had any vacant beds left. No sign of life at the train station though, so I just started walking in whatever direction. Allow me to add that the sun was shining, the sky blue and the temperature about 22 degrees. Nothing to worry about for that part at least.

When I was halfway, I obviously did not know that because I did not know where I was going, I asked a boy and a girl whether they knew the street name and the guy replied that they had been living there, that it was quite far, but that he would take me there by car. Quite cool and I made it to the youth hostel in less than 10 minutes. They still had beds available but I could only check in at 6. I then spent about an hour sleeping in a chair, before I grabbed myself together to do today`s interviews. And I will put them online in a few minutes from now:

(© Coimbra - PT, October 2007)
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Coimbra and reflections

Posted 29 October 2007 - Coimbra (PT):

Coimbra is a very nice university city that shows vague resemblances with Rome. It is obviously a lot smaller, but it has many pretty statues, churches, hills and cobble stone streets. The food market does not compare to the Campo di Fiori in size, but it is still a good place to get some healthy food.

I also spent some time this morning reading a Dutch newspaper – the first one since I left Holland three months ago. I was unhappily surprised by the coloured and polarised views, that are slowly shifting towards nothing but ordinary cultural fundamentalism – a movement that goes against all traditions and conventions of the Dutch society.

Apparently, the word `national pride` has somehow been given a different meaning. We have never had any other national pride than our Orange coloured football team that is always expected to win big tournaments but never does, and the Eleven Cities Skating tour that was not held for the last 10 years.

It is only against a supposed external threat that some populist politicians have decided that Dutch sources of pride should be revived. They forget to mention that tolerance and open-mindedness are the only virtues that The Netherlands can really be proud of. The current climate of fear will bring the Dutch success model to a grinding halt. It will kill tolerance, diversity and common sense: the only pillars of our economy and society since The Netherlands became a country of its own.

Enough commenting on politics, I have some other missions to complete. One of them is to increase my collection of crossroads. Here`s another one. I will post some pretty photos of the old city centre tomorrow.

(© Coimbra - PT, October 2007)
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Pretty Coimbra

Posted 30 October 2007 - Coimbra (PT):

Day three in Coimbra was just as nice as day one and two. The same sunny weather and it`s still very warm for the time of year. I spent the day walking around the city centre with a guy from Austria named Josko. The whole day was organised around a students parade to welcome the first-years` in university. I will post some photos of that tomorrow, because I already promised a pretty one of the old city centre for today:

(© Coimbra - PT, October 2007)
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Mass psychology

Posted 31 October 2007 - Lisbon (PT):

I arrived in Portugal`s chaotic capital Lisbon today. There`s a lot of beeping going on, lots of traffic jams and lots of people hurrying to I-don`t-know-where. I feel like everybody in the streets is about half my size, which turns the city into a giant ants` pile. I have not yet been able to understand the structure of the city, so for now I feel a bit lost. The city has some vague resemblances with Paris for the buildings and the streets, with Rome for some of the monuments.

Below is the photo of yesterday`s student marches in Coimbra. Starting all quiet and disorganized, passing by some strange behaviour, ending in a masses of students hitting the road. All in strange costumes and acting ridiculous. Interesting mass psychology. I wonder if they would dare to behave like that if they were not surrounded by thousands of fellow students behaving equally weird.

(© Coimbra - PT, October 2007)
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