Tuesday, July 19, 2011


From Oslo we drove to Stockholm .
Sweden was more flat than Norway. A charming landscape.

Swedish landscape

Stockholm is the capitol of Sweden. It is built on 14 islands and sometimes called the "Venice of the North." It is a beautiful ,clean city with lovely architecture and parks .Very modern and like Amsterdam I found it to be a very livable city. The winters can be brutal but during the summer it was glorious.


The city was beautiful and easy to move around in .The Swedes are mostly very healthy looking attractive, tall and blond .Taking how little sun they see- they were tanned and very athletic.

We visited the Royal Palace .
This is the Official Residence of the Royal family. There are several museums in the Palace.

In the City Hall we saw the golden room where the reception is held for the Nobel Price Awards .

Nobel Prize Awards

City Hall -Stockholm


Skansen is a open air museum on an island near Stockholm
Skansen attracts more than 1.3 million visitors each year. The many exhibits site include a full replica of an average 19th-century town, in which craftsmen in traditional dress such as tanners, shoemakers, silversmiths, bakers and glass-blowers demonstrate their skills in period surroundings. There is even a small patch growing tobacco used for the making of cigarettes .

There is also an open-air zoo containing a wide range of Scandinavian animals including bison, brown bear moose, grey seal lynx otter reindeer and wolf. There are also farmsteads where rare breeds of farm animals can be seen.


After a very enjoyable time in Scandinavia , it was time to get back to London and face real life once again.

Scadinavia -Norway.

Oslo -Norway.

Neil +  Henry on a dirt road in Norway having lunch next to the trusted blue Passat Station Wagon.

Oslo is the capital of Norway and also the city where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded.
(The rest of the Noble prizes are awarded in Stockholm.)
President Mandela and President de Klerk of South Africa receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

The Vigeland Sculpture Park is one the most famous tourist sites in Oslo.
It is located in the beautiful  Frogner Park.
Below the sculptor with some of his art work.

Gustav Vigeland-Sculptor

Another interesting attraction we visited in Oslo was The Viking Ship Museum at the University.
Here they display the large Viking ships Oseberga, Gokstad and Tune, as well as founds from the chief grave at Borre in the Vestfold district.
The three ships are the best preserved Viking ships known, found in royal burial mounds in the Oslo fjord. As burial ships, carrying the dead over to “the Other World”, the ships were equipped with unique treasures such as wagons, horses and especially textiles which are seldom preserved from the Viking age, now on exhibit at the museum.

Viking Ships


Our next destination was the seaport of Bergen on the west coast of Norway.It is also called the Gateway to the Fjords of Norway .
Bergen is surrounded by one of the world's most spectacular tourist attractions - The Norwegian Fjords, which have now been included on UNESCO's World Heritage List.
Bergen is situated between the longest fjord Sognefjord north of Bergen and the beautiful Hardangerfjord in the south.

The fjords in Norway have been voted the world's most unspoiled tourist destination by National Geographic.

Geiranger Fjord.

We were going to visit the Geiranger fjord.
Driving up to the fjords one passes some  of the most  breathtaking un spoilt nature scenes in the world.Very tall mountains on the side of deep valleys with waterfalls all over .
 As snow covers so much of these region for months some of the roads are rather bad.
The road will go up  very high up into  the mountains and the roads could be dangerous.

We would be driving   and all of a sudden the road will end at a river and one had to wait for a ferry to arrive and take you over the river. The wait could be hours.

It was mid August but the weather never really got warm. It was cool and one had to wear a sweater to stay warm .Also some rain .In some of the camping spots we got soaking wet.
After the heat of Greece this was quite a nice change, but not always very comfortable.
We stayed in the camping site of the little town Geiranger and the foot of the fjord.

To me Norway was one of the most beautiful places in the world that we visited in Europe.
Very few people around and one feels one with nature here.

Scandinavia-Denmark ,Norway and Sweden

When Neil and I got back to London from Greece we had a few days to wash clothes and prepare for the next leg of the summer vacation.We planned to visit Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm
We decided to go by car, and stay in camping sites wherever possible .

We loaded the Volkswagen station wagon  onto the ferry for the Netherlands.
We spent the night with Elsa in Amsterdam and then  drove via Hamburg to Copenhagen in Denmark.

Amsterdam-The Netherlands.


As it was the 70's Scandinavia was knows for its liberal stance on pornography. When we got to the border there they were- one porn shop after the other....That was the last time we saw a porn shop!
For the rest of the trip we never saw any pornography. Every book shop had a closed off section that one could go into and look at pornography- but it was controlled by the shop owner- and no underage person could get in there.




Tivoli Gardens

Copenhagen is very famous for the Tivoli Gardens -the biggest amusement park in Europe.
The park opened in August 15, 1843. One hundred years later the Nazis burnt it down to break the spirit of the Danes ,but they rebuilt it, and it became more famous than before.
It was also the inspiration for Walt Disney's "Disney World" .

The statue of The Little Mermaid-
  sits on a rock in the harbor of the capital of Denmark-Copenhagen.
 Based on a tale  by  Hans Christian Anderson ,the small and unimposing statue is a Copenhagen icon and a major tourist attraction. The statue was commissioned in 1909 by Carl Jacobson son of the founder of Carlsberg Beer, who had been fascinated by a ballet about the fairytale in Copenhagen's Royal Theatre and asked the prima ballerina, Ellen Price , to model for the statue. The sculptor Edvard Eriksen  created the bronze statue, which was unveiled on 23 August 1913. The statue's head was modeled after Price, but as the ballerina did not agree to model in the nude, the sculptor's wife Eline Eriksen  was used for the body.

Statue of Hans Christian Anderson in Central Park. New York.
Hans Christian Anderson was born in Copenhagen and become world famous for his children's book.
 In the English-speaking world, stories such as "Thumbelina", "The Snow Queen", "The Little Match Girl", "The Ugly Duckling", "The Little Mermaid", "The Emperor's New Clothes", "The Steadfast Tin Soldier", and "The Princess and the Pea" remain popular and are widely read.
 "The Emperor's New Clothes" and "The Ugly Duckling" have both passed into the English language as well-known expressions.

Oresundbron bridge.

The 10 mile Oresundbron Bridge between Denmark and Sweden was opened on July 1 2000 by the Queen of Denmark and the King of Sweden.
Before this date the only way to get a car between these two countries was to take a ferry between Copenhagen and  Malmo in  Sweden. This is the longest road and rail bridge in  Europe.
When we were there in the early 70's we had to take a ferry to get the car into Sweden.
When we landed on Malmo Neil discovered that he forgot his passport at  the bank in Copenhagen.
It is not easy to travel by car in a strange city and country .There were no Euros in those day so each country had their own currency. We had to get some Swedish kronen before we could go to Sweden. Then we had to get papers to get the car on the ferry etc. - I don't blame him forgetting the passport. We had to put the car straight back on the ferry and go back to Denmark and fetch the passport.
Today this would have been less of a problem as we could have used the bridge to get back and forth!


From Malmo we drove up the west coast of Sweden on the way to Oslo in Norway.
Gothenburg the second largest city in the Sweden. This is the city where the Swedish car Volvo is made-it is also one of the biggest ports in Scandinavia.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Istanbul -Turkey.

Map of Istanbul.

In  Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city which straddles the Bosporus waterway between Europe from Asia, the buildings are as various as gingerbread houses, Baroque palaces, and the two of the most famous mosques in ever built. Hagia Sophia (holy wisdom), which was finished in 360 and is now a place for Islamic worship, was the world’s largest cathedral for over 1,000 years. It’s also a model for the legendary 17th-century Blue Mosque.
Known as Byzantium and Constantinople before, Istanbul today is not what it was in the early 70's when we visited .It was a wild place then  .Think of the movie "Midnight Express"...that explains what Istanbul was like when we arrived there.It is the only city in the world with roots in Asia as well as Europe-divided by the Bosphorus River.

Istanbul and the Bosphuros River with the two Mosques in the background.

The flight  from Athens to Istanbul on Hava Yollari was a frightening experience.
The plane was filthy with papers all over the floor and the seats were dirty.I had holes in my wrist as Elsa's nails dug into me during the flight.It was a rough ride!

Arriving in Istanbul some more chaos awaited us.They were working on the airport and it was bedlam.South Africans could get a visa on the airport, so we met three girls from Benoni  that was also waiting for visas.They were rather frightened  so they were pleased we were around. The five of us decided to stick together.They were staying at the famous Pera Palas Hotel and we all shared a taxi there.We could not afford the Pera Palas but decided to find a hotel close by.

Pera Palas Hotel

 The Pera Palas Hote was built in 1892 for the purpose of hosting the passengers of the Orient Express.
It holds the title of the oldest European hotel of Turkey.Along with politicians, artists and writers, kings, queens and heads of state all have also strolled along the halls of Pera Palace Hotel.
King Edward V111 ,Queen Elizabeth 11, Emperor Franz Joseph as well as Sarah Bernard, Alfred Hitchcock and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to name a few.

We found a third rate hotel close to the Pera Palas .It was a big mistake to visit Istanbul on limited funds...We stayed in Istanbul three nights and moved every day to a new hotel
The area around the Pera Palas Hotel was full of night clubs as well as more reasonable hotels.
The clubs have belly dancers and they use a "metal" castanets that they clank to the rhythm of the music while they dance.Needless to say this went on all night and we did not sleep a wink the first night!

Belly dancer with metal "castanets"

The second- and third night- we had to move out ,as the hotels were so dirty.Even after we asked to see the rooms we discovered  that we could not deal with the filth.It was a nightmare -one felt like standing in the middle of the room and not touching anything. Needless to say we spent a lot time with our friends at the Pera Palas hotel.

Istanbul Bazaar from the air.

The Bazaar

No visit to Istanbul is complete without going shopping at the Bazaar.It is a very large market place and one can buy the most beautiful Turkish carpets and other stuff. The vendors speak every language under the sun and even when we spoke Afrikaans to each other they understood us, as they knew Dutch and Flemish.Neil bought some  beautiful alabaster cups there.We were on such a tight budget that we could not spend much but there were some beautiful things to be had  at very good prices .With Elsa being tall and blond she once again attracted  a lot of attention from the Turkish men and she had her bottom pinched in the bazaar more than once.

Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi Palace- on a hill next to the river - was the official and primary residence in the city of the Ottoman Sultans for approximately 400 years (1465-1856) of their 624-year reign.The palace was a setting for state occasions and royal entertainments and is a major tourist attraction today, containing the most holy relics of the Muslim world such as the Prophet Mohammed's cloak and sword.

The collection of emeralds are magnificent- and the biggest I have ever seen,

The harem and interior of the palace was beautiful and gave one a good idea of the luxurious life style the Sultans had....

As we came out of the palace I was not looking where I was going and as I turned around I walked right into a bear.......yes- a dancing bear.It was quite a frightening experience as it was the last thing I expected in a city! It was a large bear -more like the one on the second photo.I am six feet three inches tall and he towered over me- as he was on his hind legs.

We also walked down a street with old wooden houses  in Istanbul. Wooden houses were very popular and typical.Unfortunately there are only about 250 left in the city today.

There are two famous Mosques in Istanbul .The oldest of the two is  the Hagia Sophia.
It  is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum.
  From the date of its dedication in 360 until 1453, it served as the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople , except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral . The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931, when it was secularized . It was opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.

Hagia Sophia Mosque

The blue Mosque was built two hundred years later 1609-1616 Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah (school) and a hospice. While still used as a mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque has also become a popular tourist attraction.

Me and Elsa in Istanbul.

Blue Mosque

We had to take our shoes off when we entered the Blue Mosque.The floors were covered with very large Persian rugs for the men to pray on .There were a lot of pigeons flying around inside and we kept stepped in their dropping that were all over the carpets.
Muslims wash their feet before they enter a mosque ,but we needed a foot bath when we came out!

Elsa read about a trip up the Bosphuros River all the way to the Black Sea.
The ferry  crosses the river and stops in Europe and then Asia zig zagging all the way up the river..
It sounded like fun as it would take a morning.

Bosphuros Palaces

There were some magnificent homes all along the river closer to Istanbul .
Once we boarded we realized this was a local, and we were going to spend most of the day on the ferry.It was not such a great experience.The boat was used by the normal population and the facilities on the ferry was horrible- dirty and smelly.
On the same trip was an American couple .They could not stop scratching as they picked up some bed bugs and was not having fun at all!
When we got to the Black Sea we could see some grey  Russian War Ships .Being in the early 70's it was not a very comforting sight.

When we got back to the port in Istanbul we had a good fish meal at a restaurant on the river.

The day after I big splurge at the fish restaurant we discovered that we had no more money!
Elsa and I use to give money to Neil and he would pay for everything .The day before we gave him the last of our money and we thought that would cover the rest of the stay in Istanbul.This tour to Turkey was a stretch, as we planned only to visit Greece. We barely had a enough for the taxi fare to the airport the next day so we decided to go to one of the street restaurants to get something cheap to eat.

We decide on some Donner Kebab.While we were waiting for him to prepare the food we watched in horror as a mouse got onto the table climbed  into the plate with sliced tomatoes and started nibbling away.When we alarmed the guy about all this- he just smiled and shooed the mouse away.That was it- we left him screaming when we decided to pass on his food. We ended up buying some fresh fruit and had that for dinner.

The next day we got to the airport a few hours before our flight had to leave for Athens .There we would catch our connecting flight to London and Amsterdam .The Istanbul Airport was still chaotic and even worse than when we arrived. There were no signs and one would stand on line for half hour and then be told this is a Sydney flight and that the Athens flight was 50 lines further down.
People were screaming and crying to get to their flights on time.After we booked in  Neil and I was separated from Elsa as we had to go through a security check.We moved through and went to the bus waiting on the tarmac to take us to the Athens flight.We waited and waited but no sign of Elsa.Eventually I get into the bus but Neil is standing with one leg on the bus and one on the ground refusing to get in until we see Elsa.Eventually she arrived and told us that the lady that was doing the security check had a run in her stocking and borrowed some nail polish from Elsa to fix the run in her stocking..........When that plane took off were so relieved to see the end of that trip.

A few days later back in London Neil discovered the roll of money we gave him in Istanbul.
 He changed his pants and forgot to take the money out of the pocket.....All is well that ends well.....

Istanbul has changed since the 70's and both Neil and Elsa have returned to visit again.
 They both enjoyed their experiences there.