Archive for November, 2008

Last day in Russia

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

Ganina YamaIt’s been almost a week since I hurriedly posted an update in Ekaterinburg. The girl who came to meet me was a couchsurfer that had offered to show me her city, and we met up with two more surfers as well, and we drove around to a couple of locations outside the city. The first one was a monastery called Ganina Yama, which was founded in 2001(!) at the site where the remnants of the last tsar and his family were found. The whole family are now saints in the Russian orthodox church. Before I met up with my guides, I found the church devoted to them in the city, Church of the Blood.

In Ganina Yama I tried to make another short piece of film, featuring two of my guides talking about the monastery, but it had already gotten a bit dark, so I don’t know if it’s of any use. When I was transfering the shots from St.Petersburg to the computer, I made a mistake, so I lost the files. Having time to come up with good ideas for these little pieces, and then filming it, is turning out to be rather more difficult than I had anticipated. Hopefully it’ll be better when I leave Russia, and have more time. I have really felt the time pressure of my visa these last few days!

EurAsian borderAnyway, back to Ekaterinburg: After Ganina Yama we grabbed something to eat, and then drove some kilometers west of the city, where there is a monument marking the official border between Europe and Asia. It’s not just a random line on the map, it is the actual area where the continental plates meet, the climate changes, and the water divide, where the european rivers run west, and the asian rivers run east. One foot on each continent, that’s not something you do every day! 😉

That night I got on the train to Irkutsk. It was my longest train ride so far, two and a half days! That does not mean I was bored, however. I’ve only travelled on the cheapest tickets so far, and it really feels safe. The train car is open, but with sort of coupés with no doors or curtains between. In each are three double bunks, two on each wall of the “coupé” and one on the wall along the “corridor.” The landscape is beautiful, with picturesque Russian villages, and long stretches of forest, but you can’t look at trees for 60 hours, so luckily people are very sociable! On the train from Ekat to Irkutks were a bunch of soldiers on their way home to their families and friends, after two years serving in Moscow. Needless to say, they were in a good mood, and anxious to meet everyone back home again. None of them spoke any English, but one knew a little German, and I know a little German, so he acted as translator. Before long the beer was passed around, and toasts made to meeting new friends, and to seeing old friends and family again soon!

I also met a couple of students on their way home from Moscow, and they spoke a bit of English. After talking for a couple of minutes, the guy says “wait here”, goes back to his place in the car, and returns with a Russian military hat, schapka, and says “Here, take it to remember Russia!” Shortly after that a guy in the next coupé leans over, and asks in Russian where I’m from. My heavily accented “Ya iz Norvegie” immediately caused him to produce a bottle of vodka from his bag, proudly pointing at the name on the bottle, saying it is the pride of his home town of Krasnoyarsk, and hand it over. When I make to open it and pour us a little, he shakes his finger at me and has me put the bottle in my bag, produces another bottle of the same kind from his bag, and pours two shots… Luckily I’ve found out that by proclaiming “Ya svisjenjik”, “I’m a reverend” I can get exempted from the Russian custom that you have to keep drinking with your host until the bottle is empty… 😉
The other student who spoke a little English, Anastasia, was from Irkutsk, and we exchanged phone numbers, so she could help me around the city if needed, and in return she’d get an opportunity to practice her limited English skills.

I arrived in Irkutsk three days ago. I was picked up on the train station, immediately bought a ticket for Ulan Baator, and I’ve stayed in the suburbs, in a flat of rather low standards, where my host actually lives for free! She also works in a hostel downtown, so that’s where I’ve been getting online. My host has been working a lot, so I’ve been spending the most time with another traveller, Leonid, and with Anastasia from the train. NastiyaLeonid is a hitchhiker from western Russia, who got here a month ago. Now he’s working at a tecnical museum to save money for a Chinese visa, and then he’ll hitchhike to China. His goal for now is Bali…
Last night I went to the first CS meeting in Irkutsk EVER, which was kinda cool! With the night spent at bar Liverpool and then a pizzeria, it got too late to go out to the suburb where I’ve stayed, so I got a mattress on the floor at Anastasia’s. This morning I got up early, and I’m taking a bus out to Lake Baikal with two Dutch guys I met at the CS meeting last night. 🙂 Gotta run to meet them at the bus station! (Pictures later…)

PS: Thanks for the comments, it’s good to know someone’s actually reading this! 🙂 Keep those comments coming!

Tsaricide? Is that a word?

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

The Latin American party rather turned out to be an info-evening, where Latin American students at the university of Kazan presented their country. It was kind of fun, because I never expected to see something like that in Russia, and also it reminded me of my time in the United World College of the Adriatic in Italy, where such things were rather commonplace. It wasn’t a party, however, so Pavel and his friend and I went to a restaurant after a while, had some REALLY GOOD Italian pizza and some beers. Afterwards, they showed me the town, and helped me by tickets for Ekaterinburg.

Annunciation cathedral and Kul Sharif MosqueThe next day I spent the morning trying to contact my host in Ekat, and surfing for a host in Irkutsk. I went around town by myself, and Kazan’s a really beautiful city. I went around the old Kremlin for a while and took some pictures. Like the heading in my previous post hints at, Kazan is a multireligious place. It is the capital of Tatarstan, and the Tatars are Muslim. About half of the 1.1 million inhabitants are of Russian ethnicity, and they are of course Orthodox. The result is that inside the Kremlin, the heart of the city, are both the beautiful Kul Sharif Mosque, and an Orthodox church, side by side!

Steam BarrelIn the evening, Pavel showed me a really interesting place. It was a sort of bath house, where we were first put in big barrels, where only our heads stuck out. There we were steamed with herbal steam, like veggies in a pot, until we were nice and cooked. They even measured our blood pressure both going in and coming out… Then we were led out, served herbal tea made on the same kinds of herbs, and ordered to lie down under heavy blankets to keep the heat from the barrels while we drank. After a while, some big Russian men came and gave us a massage that could knock the wind out of a medium sized rhino… An experience I won’t soon forget!

My train left Kazan at 2:28 am, so we sat up with some beer and snacks and watched The Simpsons on my laptop(!), and then Pavel even followed me to the train in the middle of the night! An exemplary host, he was amazingly helpful!

When I arrived in Ekaterinburg, I still hadn’t managed to contact my host, so I took the metro downtown, and went to an internet cafe where I posted an emergency message on the CS Ekaterinburg forum. After about an hour, I was contacted by a girl who could host me with her family, and then immediately after, my original host called me! One of her cs friends had seen that I couldn’t get in touch with her, and called her. It turned out she was having troubles with her cell, so we couldn’t call each other!

Today I am looking around town, and a nice surfer just came to meet me, so now I’m off.

(If you’re wondering about the title, look up Ekaterinburg on Wikipedia…)

Kazan – minarets and church towers

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Grave of the Unknown SoldierMe at Red SquareYesterday I took the metro downtown, and walked around Moscow, but not really for long. I saw the changing of the guard at the Grave of the Unknown Soldier, with the soldiers marching in that peculiar way without bending their knees! Then I went to the Krasnaya Ploschad, Red Square, took a picture of Lenin’s tomb, and marvelled at St.Basil’s cathedral. The cathedral was built between 1555 and 1561, after Ivan the Terrible’s victory over the stronghold of Kazan, where I am now. Then I walked around the Kremlin, before I went to meet the couchsurfer, Arthur, who helped me get the train ticket.

The Moscow metro is worth a mention. Most of the stations, at least those close to town, are almost breathtaking in their decoration. Taking a trip on the circle line, and getting off on each station, to walk around for a few minutes, is like being in the world’s busiest art gallery! Another thing I’ve noticed is that russians read a lot! I’ve seen countless people at the metro, dangling around from one arm, with their gaze firmly stuck to a book in the other hand!

After I’d gotten a ticket for the night train at 00:35, I went back home, and had some supper. I spent almost an hour getting what I needed for a really good Russian meal, in an overcrowded supermarket at a mall near Kievskaya. When I finally reached the check out, however, the cash registry broke down… I literally left my groceries on the counter and walked out. I went to another supermarket, but by then I was so hungry that I grabbed a frozen pizza and some coca cola…

My host Jimmy with his kitten               I spent a nice evening with my host Jimmy and his two cats, before I went to catch the train to Kazan. Being me, I was of course a bit on the late side, so when I reached the Komsomolskaya metro station, I had to RUN to Kazanskii station to catch the train. (You try running with a full 85 litre backpack on your back, and a stuffed daypack on your stomach, and you’ll soon find out that it’s not necessarily a good idea…) I managed to huff and puff, soaked through with sweat, up to the train as it was about to move out. Luckily the provodnitsa (train car manager) let me on! As soon as I got through the door, it closed, and the train started moving.

My two train trips so far have been on “platzkartny” in an open sleeping car, which is the lowest fare you can get and still have a “bed”, and it feels quite safe.  So far I haven’t met anyone who speaks English on the train, but everyone is very eager to try to communicate, and I had hardly even sat down on the the train last night before the guy next to me insisted I try some of the food he’d brought! After a while we made our beds, and climbed in. A roll-out-mattress, pillow, woollen blankets, clean linen and a small hand towel are included in the price, and handed out by the provodnitsa. It is, however so excruciatingly hot in the trains, that the blankets are absolutely superfluous. To put it that way, if my bedroom at home was that hot, I’d forego both pajamas, blankets and sheets. I lay on my bunk watching a couple of episodes of a tv show I have on my computer, before trying to go to sleep, but because of the heat it got pretty late before I managed. When I woke up around 10:30 this morning, the view from the window was hypnotizing, with the White Birch standing amidst the black trunks of other trees, like ghost trees, and all covered by a thin layer of the year’s first snow, and still some snow drifting through the air.

Kul Sharif MosqueThe train started moving right on time, but at my arrival in Kazan it was an hour late, so I got here around 14:30 instead of 13:25. Pavel, my host, had taken time off from work to come meet me at the station, and hence lost an hour more of work than planned! Pavel is actually not a couchsurfer, but he lives with his boyfriend, Michael, who is. Michael, however, is out of town but Pavel has agreed to host me nonetheless. He’s a really nice guy; not only did he wait for me at the station for over an hour, he’d also bought me food, so I could eat as soon as we got home.  He’s at work again now, but tonight he’s taking me to a sort of show that some of the international students here in Kazan are putting on, so I’m having a latin-american evening in Russia!

I also need to get train tickets to Yekaterinburg, preferably for late tomorrow night, because I unfortunately need to keep moving, if I’m going to be able to get out of Russia before my visa runs out on November 30.

MOCKBA – a true metropolis

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Ok, so I haven’t had time to write for a while, so I’ll do a quick update.
In Novgorod I was hosted by Aleksey and his family, but unfortunately Aleksey was very busy and had to work the whole weekend. On Saturday I spent the day in the centre of Novgorod, which has a beautiful historical Kremlin, or Fort. (The Novgorodians call it Detinets, “Young Men’s Compound) Next year the city will celebrate its 1150th anniversary, so unfortunately everything was undergoing renovations. Still, I got to see a museum with archeological finds from the town, dating back to it’s viking heritage, (it was called Holmgard, the capital of Gardarike), complete with a viking sword and viking dragon broches! It also had an impressive collection of russian icons.

On Sunday, Aleksey drove me and his mother and father out to a small monastery  a place called Peryn, outside the city, dating back to 995 AD. Then he drove us to St.Yuryev Monastery, where he left us because he had to work. His mother works as a tourist guide, and knew very very much about everything we saw that day. Unfortunately, she didn’t speak much English, so there was very little of her knowledge that she managed to communicate to me. Being a guide, she also knew the people at the ticket stands, so we got in everywhere for free! We hitched a ride with a tourist bus from St.Yuryev to the nearby museum of wooden architecture, where I got to try my hand at weaving and spinning, and try some old Russian children’s toys!
The buildings in that museum were moved from 26 different locations in the Novgorod region, and dated from the 16th to early 20th century. In the museum we also met a Swedish girl, who turned out to be Aleksey’s swedish teacher in university!

After catching a bus back to the centre of Novgorod, we also went back to the museum where I’d been the day before, but this time I got to see the treasury, which had so much gold, silver and jewelry that one could get almost dizzy! Last we went to the St.Sophia cathedral, which is the oldest stone church in Russia, almost 1000 years old, and still standing, still being in use! I’d been there the day before, but this time, with Aleksey’s mother, I got to go to a place that tourist normally can’t get to; up on the choir’s gallery! There were some amazing iconic frescoes, almost as old as the church itself!

Sunday evening I took the night train to Moscow, and I arrived here Monday morning at 5:32am. I was supposed to meet my host, Jimmy, at 7:30, but my phone didn’t work in Moscow, so I couldn’t get hold of him. Eventually, when the shops opened, I managed to get myself a new sim card, but by then Jimmy was at work, he works at the American embassy, and he couldn’t meet me before 5:30pm, which meant that I lugged all my belongings around Moscow the whole day! When I finally met up with him, we also met with Luka from Italy, with whom I’ve been sharing a room the last couple of days.

Soon after we arrived in his apartment, a huge place in a secure area, where many of the foreign ambassadors live, he got an sms about a couchsurfers’ meeting at a Banya, a Russian bath house, that same night. I really needed to relax after carrying all my stuff around all day, so I decided to go. I met some really nice people, and we had a lot of fun. We had a private area all to ourselves, with a pool table, karaoke, two sitting groups, a Turkish steam bath, a Finnish sauna and a cold water pool. One of the girls, Arina, were celebrating her birthday, and there was a lot of vodka and beer going around. After a while some of the guys cooked up a plan to have a strip show as a birthday present for Arina, but I don’t know if she was more flattered or embarrassed… 😛 The only thing that was a little disappointing, was that it wasn’t a REAL Russian banya with the Venik (bunches of birch twigs with the leaves still on), so I’ll have to try again later.  😉

Yesterday I was in good shape, since I’d managed to turn down most of the vodka in the Banya, but I was still too exhausted from carrying around all my stuff, so I stayed in, relaxed, washed some clothes and uploaded some photos and log posts. In the evening I went out to the weekly CS meeting in Moscow, and met some of the people from the banya, and many other couchsurfers. The Moscow CS community is very active!

Today I’m going to go around the centre of Moscow WITHOUT all my luggage, and just enjoy it. I’m meeting up with a couchsurfer I met yesterday, who’s helping me buy a train ticket, seeing as that is apparently one of the most difficult things you can do as a foreigner in Russia…

The past week

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

St.Petersburg, November 12 2008 – Idea for a video piece

Today I went to the Kazan cathedral again, to try to locate a priest or something who speaks English. I figured I’d try to get an interview about the youth work in the orthodox church in Piter, for my little video project, and maybe also get permission to film inside the cathedral. (Which is strictly forbidden, but I thought maybe, since it’s for a church…) My host gave me a note in Russian, which explained what I wanted, and I took it to the cathedral. After a while, they found a priest who spoke a little French, but seeing as my active French vocabulary can fit on two lines, it didn’t do me much good. We managed as much, however, as establishing that an English speaking priest would be there in about two hours.

So I walked up Nevsky Prospekt, spent a couple of hours in the Hermitage (looking at art and old stuff, I might say something about that later), and returned to the Kazan cathedral. One block up the street I found a Lutheran church, that had a gathering later that night, so a plan started forming in my mind, making a little piece that could maybe compare the little lutheran church and it’s work with the big orthodox cathedral across the street.

When I got back to the cathedral, it had been about two and a half hours, but there was a mass at the time, so I waited till it was done, and then presented my little note again. It turned out that the guy who spoke English had NOT been taking part in the mass, and had left ten minutes earlier, while I’d been sitting in on the mass. I got contact with one of the priests, however, he might have been about my age. His wife spoke English, so he called her, I explained to her what I needed, and she in turn told him, who answered her, and she told me that there was an English speaking deacon, Father Georgy, who was the one who’d just been there. The priest got my number, and would ask Father Georgy to call me, so we could set up a meeting.

With that promise, I went across the street to the St.Petri lutheran church, and found the meeting they were having. There were a handful of people in the youth room upstairs in the church, and they were having Taizé prayer in both Russian and German. I joined in, and with my rather limited German managed to follow the program. After the prayer, they had tea and cookies, and they were very curious who this stranger was. The youth pastor there, Tatiana, told me about the congregation and their work there, and she and her colleague Elena agreed to tell me a bit about it on tape. Tatiana was also interested in getting in touch with my congregation back home,  and explore possibilities of further contact! She struck me as a genuinely enthusiastic person, with a burning desire to do new things to keep building the congregation, in other words a wonderful youth pastor! I will certainly pass on the contact info and wishes!

Unfortunately Father Georgy never called, so I’m not entirely sure what to do with the takes from St.Petri in St.Petersburg, but I will keep them, and see if I can find another way of using it.

St.Petersburg, November 13 – Guided by  my host

When I got home last night, I was home alone, because my host was in Uzbekistan. (She’s a flight attendant) She got back early in the morning, and went straight to bed. When I got up, I took a good long time, because my feet have become a little sore from all the walking, so I didn’t want to get right back out. In any case, I was waiting for a phonecall from Father Georgy.

Since Natalia’d had night shift, she had the day off, and we spent it together. She helped me get to a medical office so I could get my second dose of Hep B vaccine, and we went to look for the office of Privjet in St.Petersburg, in case they could register my visa. (It was the office of a partner of Privjet, and they couldn’t)
We had dinner at a restaurant, went home and brought some beers, and watched the movie Mongol.

Novgorod, November 14 2008 – Novgorod, founded by vikings

Today was YET ANOTHER late morning. It shouldn’t be that hard to adjust to a two hour time difference, should it? Anyway, I went to the bus station, bought a ticket for Novgorod, had to wait an hour for the next bus, and now I’m here.
My host Aleksej picked me up at the bus station, and took me home to where he lives with his family. They seem really nice, and they want to do everything for me, and Aleksej tries to make them relax… 🙂

Once again I’ve forgotten that it’s later than it feels, and I’m putting down my computer a little before 3 am…

Novgorod – under construction

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

I am currently in Novgorod, until tomorrow evening. I arrived last night, and my host is able to have me until Sunday afternoon.  This is just a small update from an internet place in the centre of Novgorod, but they don’t have an accessible usb port on this machine, so I’m not able to upload my last entries, that I have on a usb stick, nor any photos. I’ll try to post them when I get to Moscow on Monday, instead.

Today I’ve been walking around the historical centre of Novgorod, which is all being renovated because the city celebrates 1150 years in 2009. It’s a small city in Russian standards, only about 200 thousand inhabitants, but it’s been important in Russian history. It owes much to the Scandinavian vikings, who had much trade going through, and in the museum today I saw lots of viking artifacts from various archaeological digs!

This’ll be it for now, more to come later.

CS’er on the move

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

(Wall-of-text-warning hereby issued)

I arrived in St. Petersburg yesterday. Unfortunately I lost my auntie on the way through immigration, so I didn’t get to say goodbye. Instead I was turned loose on the Russian society straight away… 😉
I arrived with directions to my nice couchsurfing host Natalia on my cell phone, and I managed really well. By the time I got here, I got to try a ride in an old, worn out minivan, find the Metro, change Metro trains and finally go by tram. I have no idea exactly how often the metro and the tram leaves, but I haven’t waited more than 3 minutes for either, even when I just lost the previous one!

When I got here, Natalia wasn’t home yet, but she had left the keys to her apartment with her neighbour(!) so I got in with the help of a really nice boy who spoke not a word of English.

By the time my host arrived, I’d found the local grocery shop and done some shopping, and that’s about it. She had another visitor with her as well, a friend and fellow Piter (that’s St.Petersburg) couchsurfer, Maria, whose apartment is being renovated. We had a nice chicken dinner with white wine, and talked for hours before going to bed.

St Peter and Paul Cathedral

Today I woke up late, had breakfast, took the tram and metro downtown, and walked around Piter the whole day. My feet are killing me right now, but it’s been really nice. I walked around the Petrograd side for a while, just looking at the architecture and life in general. I then went to the St Peter and Paul Fortress, and went inside the St Peter and Paul Cathedral. Then I walked to St.Isaak cathedral, where I met Natalia, and we went up on the Russian dinnercolonnade around the Cupola together. After a truly Russian meal of soup and cabbage rolls with buckwheat, I walked around a bit more, around the Nevsky Prospekt. I went by the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and got a view of the beautifully lit church at night. I walked through the Gostiny Dvor, (a shopping mall from 1750) saw the massive statue ofMe and Catherine II Catherine II in Ostrovskogo, the bell tower of the City Duma, and even managed to catch an orthodox mass in the Kazan Cathedral!

The Cathedral of the Icon of the Virgin of Kazan is very obviously strongly inspired by St Peter’s in Rome, although it’s a lot smaller. It even has the semi-circular colonnade in front! As I entered, I heard the chant of an orthodox priest, and as I approached the area where they held mass, I saw a small group of people standing there, turned towards the priest who was standing by a lectern, all making the sign of the cross at the mention of certain words in the chanted text. Soon a small choir, hidden on a balcony high up on the wall at the back, started singing replies to the priest, with beautiful harmonies.  After some time, another priest came around with the incense, before the mass continued. At the end, people gathered close to a priest that stood on the steps in front, and he said something that he had in handwriting on a piece of paper, possibly a sermon or an explanation of sorts. After that people started leaving, and a few came up to him and said a few words, then he put his hand on their heads and said something, before they kissed the air above his hand. I’m not sure whether it was a blessing or a forgiveness of sins, or what, but it looked like a very nice, personal and informal ritual. I didn’t understand anything that was said throughout the mass, with the exception of the occasional “Bog” (God) “Gospodin” (Lord) and “pomolimo” (pray) but I stood there with the others, making the sign of the cross and bowing in respect whenever they did. It felt nice to get out of the traffic and the noise and the stressed out crowds, and come into a holy place for an hour.

After the mass, I strolled along the Nevsky prospekt, up to the Palace Square, with the huge Alexander Column. I realized that I was quite far away from any Metro station, so I again crossed the Neva and actually went back to the same station I got off on earlier. Even though my feet were aching by then and I REALLY didn’t feel like walking anymore, I was lucky to get a beatiful view of the Hermitage and the rest of the waterfront by night from the Dvortsovy bridge across the river Neva, on the way to the station.

Natalia and Maria convinced me I should head down to Novgorod for a couple of days, on my way to Moscow, so I’m now trying to get someone there to host me on short notice… fingers crossed!

Alea iacta est

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

Ceasar’s words when he crossed the Rubicon seem fitting at the moment. (Not that I am planning to go home with an army to make war on my own country, but now the die is definately cast. I am leaving for Russia in about an hour… This is written (but not posted, since I can’t be arsed to pay a fortune for a few minutes of internet access) at Oslo airport Gardermoen.

02112008786.jpg

Filip came to the halloween party as a little bat

The last week has been really pleasant. I’ve been the monster underneath my godson Filip’s bed in Oslo! He’s almost three years old, and sleeps in a bed about 150 cm off the floor. I arrived the first night after he’d fallen asleep, but he was watching as his mom made the bed for me. He wondered why she was doing it, but her explanations only made him reply “I don’t understand!” As I entered the room to go to bed, I heard him stir in the dark, and when was under the sheets, he apparently woke up. After being quiet for a while, he said “Hello?” *long pause* “Mommy?” *another pause* “Daddy?” I figured I had to make my presence known, so I got up, turned on his nightlight and said “It’s me, Gjerulf, just go back to sleep, we’ll talk tomorrow.” I figured he’d be scared and cry for his parents, but instead he just said “Oh, OK.” and went back to sleep…

Like I said, it’s been pleasant. The day after I arrived we went to a halloween party where all the kids and most of the grown ups were dressed up, I went out to pick up my passport one day, another day I had dinner with a friend, and on Friday we went to a party, and yesterday we all had dinner at Beate’s parents’ house. Mostly, though, I’ve just been staying home relaxing and charging my batteries for when I leave. My cousin Gaute has just gotten the game Fallout 3, so we’ve been playing that, and having a good time.

Yesterday I charged computer, cell phone and camera, packed my bags, and basically got ready. I was on the phone till the wee hours of the morning, and then got up early, so I’ve had like four hours and a little of sleep. My flight was supposed to start boarding an hour ago, but now they’ve finally opened the gate, so this’ll be it for now!

(Posted from St.Petersburg the next day)

Bonfires and memories of childhood

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

I’m sitting on the train to Oslo, and it feels like my trip just started for real…
31102008784.jpgThe week spent with my grandparents has been really nice. The day before yesterday we built a big bonfire, and cleared some brush at my grandma’s little summer house. It’s the place where I spent most of my summers when I was little and lived up north in Bodø. We’d drive all day and all night, to come down south and spend the summer with our relatives. I learned to ride a bicycle on the big lawns around the house, went exploring and picking berries in the woods, fishing with worms and homemade fishing rods in the tiny30102008780.jpg lake and feeding old bread to the cattle that grazed in the field. The place really brings back memories!
Last night my sister Jenny and my brother-in-law Tom came down from Stavanger for the weekend, so I even got to say goodbye to them one more time. Jenny is pregnant, and the little baby boy is due February 27, so I’ll become a travelling uncle when I’m somewhere in South East Asia.
I’ll be in Norway a few more days before I leave for St.Petersburg, but my visa for Russia is valid for a month from today, so I’ll head out as soon as I get my passport back. The idea is to travel from city to city through Siberia in the coming month, and enter Mongolia around December 1. After a couple of weeks in Ulan Baataar and hopefully a little around the countryside, I’ll be entering China. I applied for entrance December 13, so unless the date has been changed to fit the train schedule, that’s when I’ll be going to Beijing.
My stay in China has not been planned in detail yet, but I figure I’ll have time for that in the six weeks to come.

(There was no internet connection on the train, so this is posted from Oslo a day after it was written.)