the running of the donkeys

Returning to port after our drop in the ocean (and getting into trouble for not anchoring our boat properly), we arrived back into Jelsa to a carnival-type atmosphere. Stalls were set up along the water, and barbecues and umbrellas lined the street. People swarmed everywhere, munching on grilled prawn skewers, fried calamari and fairy floss. Small children clung to Spongebob helium-filled balloons. Other children screamed at the sudden loss of their helium turtles, dolphins and princesses, who now floated high above the town, on their way to a life suspended in space above the earth.

We were thirsty after our traumatic adventure on the seas. We made our way to the nearest bar with a table for four.

Making our way through the throngs of tourists and locals alike, we heard the sound of ringing bells. And suddenly, from out of nowhere, there appeared a herd of donkeys. Six or seven large grey donkeys, with sad, old man eyes, followed by three or four smaller donkeys, and, running up the rear, two tiny donkeys. So small and unsteady on their legs, it looked as though they’d just been born.

Kids surrounded the animals, hitting their rumps with small twigs. The donkeys looked nonchalant. They looked sad and hot and tired. And maybe they knew what was to come.

We certainly didn’t.

A table, big enough for four, was located and beers were ordered. A bowl of chips arrived, with tomato sauce and mayonnaise. We sat back, rehydrated. Relaxed.

Until. The same ringing bell started up again, this time more frenetic than when the donkeys were making their way through the town.

“Clang-a-lang-a-lang!!!” The bell dully shrieked.

I have never seen anything like what I saw in that moment. A grey donkey, being ridden by a 12 year old boy, charging down the street, with twelve other donkeys hot at his heels. The boy started to slip, I gasped, and the boy fell from the donkey onto the road and was then trampled by the animals’ hooves. I covered my mouth. Had it been a horse, it would have been curtains for this kid. But, given the donkey was running full speed at about 11km an hour, and given the donkey itself would have weighed around the same as the chubby kid riding it, both parties remained unscathed.


The other donkeys hurtled by, some ridden by kids under 10, slapping their rumps with their hands; others ridden by GROWN MEN whipping them with olive twigs. The behbeh donkeys ran startled alongside, not knowing what was going on.

Buddy, you're too big for the donkey

After the onslaught of donkeys had passed, I realised I had been holding my breath. The excitement of witnessing a donkey race was almost too much.

Minutes later, the winning donkey walked back past us, proudly displaying his ‘Winner’ blue sash.

The winning donkey

"No pictures til you clear it with his agent, lady!"

And then we heard it again.


And off they ran, again. Same donkeys, different kids. And adults. I waited for the biggest donkey to rear up and whinny and throw its rider off its back and hurtle wildly through the town, upending tables and tearing through balloon stalls and turning over barbecues, but it didn’t happen. The donkeys continued to patiently trot through the town full of onlookers.

After five or six races, an announcement was sounded and the overall winning, best in show donkey paraded past the masses of people, the kid on his back beaming wildly.

We returned to our beers and chips, shaking our heads at the madness just witnessed.

deep blue sea

Have you ever jumped off a boat into the ocean, before you’ve considered how you’re going to get back in? There was a movie that came out a few years ago about a similar situation: young, hip peeps on a yacht, sailing the high seas, much drinking and debauchery going orn… A few jump in, but a young mum decides to stay on the boat with her behbeh. But then the larrikin of the film decides “Wouldn’t it be funny if I body slam her into the water?” and does it and then ALL the adults are in the water and ONE little behbeh is on the boat and then somebody realises that no one has put a ladder down and there’s no conceivable way to get back on board. It’s a pretty big yacht. It’s the sort you might go to a party on in Cannes. Or Cancun. You can’t throw your bikini top into the air hoping to use it as a rope to climb up the boats’ slippery sides (even though topless babes makes for great viewing in a Hollywood schlocker). You can’t get a boost from your mate. You can’t ask your screaming infant to lower a ladder. Pretty soon sharks start circling and they all die.

Sorry to give away the ending. I didn’t tell you what it was called though.

Fortunately things weren’t so dramatic on Saturday, but shiver me timbers, they could have been.

Rich and I arrived in Jelsa, Croatia on Thursday evening and met our friends Sarah and Ben at the dock for a beer. Our time here has been filled with a whole lotta nothing. Reading. Sleeping. Eating. Swimming. And that’s been about it.

On the weekend we decided we really oughta kick things up a notch and have an adventure. Jelsa is full of dinky little tourist centres hiring out bikes and kayaks and boats. Little boats. Not big scary yachts like the one in that movie. Just a little boat with an outboard motor and a shade cloth and some buoys attached to the sides. We thought we’d try our hand at boating to a secluded bay for an afternoon of swimming and reading.

After a quick lesson in how to drive a boat (how to start it, speed up, reverse, when to lower the gas, when to drop the anchor) and some very relaxed directions on which way to go, we were off. Sea breeze in our hair! Smell of petrol in our lungs! Splash of the ocean on our arms! It was bumpy and scary and fun!

We put-putted our way past several inlets with swimming Croats and anchored boats, but none of these sand-less bays were for us.

On we went.

As we neared the end of the peninsula (and the furthest point on the map provided) we said “What about here?” – no one else was around. We were close enough to the rocky shore for a quick pitstop if we needed a break from swimming and some sun. And it seemed like a nice spot.

We downed anchor.

Rich jumped in first, then me, then Sarah, then Ben. The water was juuuuuust right – refreshing, but not cold, and clear and YES – this was it! The adventure we’d been looking for!! We swam and laughed and splashed and frolicked.

It was the perfect setting for a Hollywood shark movie.

As I swam around the back of the boat, I was careful not to swim into the rope attached to the anchor. Yup, there’s the rope. And the water was so clear, I could follow it down and down and down and down and… holy hell, how deep is this water???? It was REALLY deep. Like, really, super, dooper, into the abyss deep. Suddenly I started thinking about what else was in the water. Like sharks. Are there sharks in the Adriatic? I don’t think there are, but in that moment, I convinced myself that we were surrounded and that a pack of sharks were plotting their attack. I’m pretty sure that sharks are generally fairly solitary creatures, but not in this nightmarish fantasy – no siree. These Croatian sharks hung out in packs of 10, 20, 100.

I swam back to the boat and clung to the side. For a moment I actually had Jaws-eye-vision of myself: a hungry shark below me, looking up, seeing the dark, triangular shape of our dinghy with two pasty legs silhouetted in the sunshine.

I shuddered.

“I think I’m going to get back on the boat now”, I called to the others, keeping my death-by-shark premonition to myself, “Yep, I’m just gonna climb on in. You guys just keep having a good time though”.

And with that, I grabbed onto a peg on the side of the boat and pulled myself up and… promptly splashed back into the water. Having no upper body strength whatsoever, and not being the most agile of dames, this was going to be much harder than I had initially thought.

“Hoooiiikkkkkkk” I groaned, trying once again to pull myself up.


Rich came over to give me a hand.

“Stand on my leg and push yourself up” he instructed.

But he had nothing underneath him to ground himself, so as soon as I put my weight against him, he sunk, I sunk, we were no closer to getting me aboard.

Ben volunteered to get back into the boat so that he could pull me in.

Ben is a whole lotta things I am not: a man, for one thing. A strong swimmer. Rowers shoulders. Wily and strong. And when I saw HIM struggle to get back on board, I started to worry… My hopes of being dragged aboard in a graceful fashion was fading.

Needless to say, I was not dragged aboard. Rich could not push me and Ben could not pull me and I worried that my arms would be ripped from their sockets and I splashed back into the water…

I started to panic.

Then, I saw a solution. The rocks. OF COURSE! I would swim over to the rocks, the boat would sidle up beside me, I would jump spritely aboard and be saved! Hurrah!!

The perfect plan.

I doggy-paddled my way to the smooth flat rocks in the distance. Heck, it looked so nice over there I might even sit on a rock for a while, while the others continued their swim!

The closer I got, my eyes focussed not on smooth, sun-bleached boulders, but jagged, craggy, mollusc covered shards of pointy hell. This was not going to be easy. But I was damn well going to do it. I could NOT leap into a boat from the water, but I could possibly get in while precariously balancing on a sharp-as-glass rock.

As Ben brought the boat in, I realised that this plan was not as fool-proof as I had hoped. The rocks were jagged, yes, and they weren’t just on the shore; they were UNDER the water as well (that’s surprising, isn’t it? That rocks can be all around?). When you combine a boat with lapping waves and a rocky shoreline, that’s usually not the greatest recipe for safety either.

The motor was cut, and the boat drifted closer. The rock I was currently perched on was not going to be close enough, so I slid back into the water, careful not to step on any anemones (that’s a funny combination of words), and hoisted myself onto a platform closer to the boat. With pain searing through the palms of my hands, my knees, my feet and my bum, I quickly scrambled aboard our trusty dinghy. Which was now stuck on aforementioned rocks.

Slowly and with expert precision, Rich and Ben eased us off using our emergency oars, and…. SUCCESS! We were off. Yet again. With frayed nerves and bleeding hands, we sailed into the sunset, ready to enjoy cocktails in the evening heat.

my part in the 10 million

The day after the best birthday ever, Rich and I embarked on another Slovenian tour – this one touted as the ‘Alpine Fairytale Tour’. Micah, unfortunately, was not our guide. Our guide (whose name escapes me) was a young, single guy and spent the entire day talking about ‘the ladies’. Ladies he had taken on dates, ladies he wanted to take on dates, ladies he took to French restaurants who would not kiss him at the end of the night, joking with ladies about marrying them and then not doing any work around the house, ladies he took out in his dad’s Audi, which he pretended was his. What a catch.

I digress. We took in such sights as:

The Vintgar Gorge (amazingly beautiful clear blue river, crazy twisting boardwalk above it, good ice-cream at the end, lots of dogs)

The castle at Bled (which was a little bit boring, to be honest… but had an amazing view of the lake and the town)

A traditional Slovenian restaurant on the side of the road in a quaint little town (I ate a ridiculously inappropriate-for-the-30-degree-weather veal goulash with bread dumplings – delicious, but not the greatest choice on a boiling hot day)

And finally, the piece de resistance, Lake Bled.

Our luvverly friends Ryan and Mel, when asked last year where in the world we should go on our world tour adventure, immediately answered “Lake Bled – go to Lake Bled”.

It is indeed a beautiful place. Castles, churches, forests, geraniums (I am LOVING all the planter boxes in Slovenia!!), and the lake… It’s breathtaking.

The rest of our group went on a boat tour to the island, while Rich and I lay on the banks of the lake, reading our books, swimming a bit, soaking in the sights…. So luvverly….

When the group returned, Ol’ Batch (aka Bachelor, aka our tour guide) took us to a nearby cafe for a famous Bled Cream Cake. Along with the fairytale castles and lake, Bled is famous for having these crazy cream cakes (a bit like a vanilla slice, only creamier). EVERY cafe and hotel in Bled claims to make the best – I only sampled one, so I can’t attest to a winner, but I can say that the cakes we had were pretty flipping good.

I can’t remember the name of the cafe, but there was a sign above the bar, announcing that this establishment has sold over 10 million cream cakes since 1953. 10 million. In 60 years. That’s like… 170,000 a year. 14,000 a month. 450 CREAM CAKES A DAY!!! For one cafe. That’s a lot of cream cake. Yikes!

While Rich went to order coffee, and I enjoyed my cream cake, Ol’ Batch tried putting the moves on me, poking me in the belt (yes – a poke. In my belt area) saying “What is this? Crocodile skin?” to which I replied “Umm… no… just leather” to which he replied “Looks like crocodile. What you think of cream cake? What you boyfriend think of cream cake?” and then he rattled off some nonsensical weirdness about ‘women’ while I polished off my cake  and moved my chair a little further away.

Bled – Go for the lake. Stay for the cream cakes. Avoid sleazy tourist guides.

into the woods

And now, as promised, we step back in time – to a few weeks ago, when Rich and I spent a few nights in the forest and had no electricity and certainly no wifi!

While in Goteburg, Rich and I had the fortune to stay at a hotel that was built right on top of the main train station AND bus depot. It was very convenient and meant that there was no excessive amounts of stress/train fever and that we didn’t hafta grapple with any maps. You know how I am with maps!

So at midday on Monday, we checked out of our train station hotel, got on the bus to Odeshog (yes – Ur-des-herg) and away we went. Knowing that there would be no pit stops along the way, and no vending machine in the woods, we stocked up on Copacabana Sugarless Fruit Drops, a salty-licorice chocolate bar called Plopp (how could ANYONE resist!!) and a chocolate-y wafer-y type of bar called Kex. I think. Along with our sugary treats, I also got us my favourite new drink: rhubarb flavoured mineral water!! On his first sip, Rich screwed up his entire face and declared “That doesn’t taste like anything!! ESPECIALLY rhubarb!!!” but I love the quirkiness of MFND and refused to partake in his criticism. All the more for meeeee!

After bussing past trees and red houses and supermarkets that seemed to have a silhouette of my dog Gus holding a picnic basket in his mouth as their logo, we arrived at our destination. Odeshog. Population: very few.

It was cold. And raining. Quite a lot actually. Fortunately, our host Ulrike was waiting for us and we were soon on our way to her property, Urnatur.

It really is a sight to behold. Urnatur is a large property on a lake, with rocky paddocks, and forest, and fruit trees and sheep and a dog and chooks. And a fox. And trolls. Yes! Trolls!

She drove us up to our hut, deep in the woods, about a kilometre away from the farm house on a rocky track. Our hut, built by Hakan, Ulrike’s husband, was surrounded by about six other huts (all empty for the time being) and lots and lots of trees. And trolls. And a huge bathroom/sauna. And trolls. And all the trees. And no electricity. And… trolls.When we got to the hut, we had a quick lesson in lighting gas lanterns and heating up the sauna, and before we knew it, Ulrike was gone and it was just the two of us, alone in the woods, just us and our thoughts. And our gas lanterns. And the trolls.

The rain started to ease and we decided to head into town to get some things to make for dinner. Donned in our raincoats, we grabbed some bikes from the barn and off we went, down winding country roads for the most part, and along highway for a bit, and through tiny villages with perfectly cut grass and apple trees in their front gardens.

Did I mention that my bike didn’t have brakes? It didn’t. It was touch and go there for a while, careening down steep hills, along streets ridden with pot holes, but after 6kms of furious pedalling and agility and squeezed shut eyes, we made it to Dinners, Odeshog’s answer to… well…. Sizzler, I guess.

I ate a fried egg sandwich and had a Coke. I felt like I was Jack Kerouac in ‘On the Road’ only in Sweden, and me, and not a beat poet. Rich is my Sal Mineo. Having a pastrami and cheese roll.

Realising that there were no fresh vegetables at Dinners, and that we were quickly losing the vibe to cook in an outdoor kitchen over a fire, we settled on some roasted vegies and salads and some traditional Swedish cakes. Which weren’t, of course, traditional in any sense of the word, because we had bought them from a roadhouse (yes, a ROADHOUSE!! On a highway!! I’m sorry I wasn’t honest right from the start…) and not a quaint bakery on a cobble-stoned lane…

Back on our bikes, laden with take-away containers and cheap Swedish servo beer, we rode back to Urnatur and again, I managed to avoid being thrown from my bike and into the bear-filled woods.

Home again, we toasted with our large cans of beer and ate salad by the lake as the sun set above the trees. How’s the serenity?

The next morning we were up bright and early – 6.30am – to trawl in the nets and the cray traps in the lake with Hakan. We met him on the jetty at 7am and clambered into the tin boat, which, by the way, was leaky, and which, by the way, Hakan made no secret of. My job was to scoop water out of the boat when it got too full and we were at risk of drowning.

Polystyrene markers bobbed at intermittent intervals atop the lake; under each homemade buoy, a trap was awaiting us, filled with crayfish.

Swedish crays are a little different to Australian crays – they are much smaller, mebbe a little bigger than a prawn. But no less pinchy; these guys still have huge pincers, ready to nip you if you make a wrong move.

Fortunately, we upended all our crays (and wayward fish) into a large bucket on the boat without mishap. By the time we were back at the jetty, the bucket was filled with about 40 snapping crustaceans.

Hakan pulled out two of the biggest fish from the catch, cleaned them and filleted them, and put them in the gas-fueled fridge for our dinner (which, when we fried them up later over the fire, was possibly the greatest meal I’ve cooked in a LONG while!).

Ulrike was waiting for us by the jetty, to let us know that breakfast was ready. Fresh bread, cheese, jam, eggs, juice, coffee and weird fish spreads were laid out on the bench. 

We loaded up our plates and filled our cups and ate and talked and listened to stories of racist Swedes, and a survival course Hakan did in the early 80s in the Australian outback, and the time they found a dead body while travelling in New Zealand. Twas definitely an interesting breakfast conversation.

Full and satisfied, Rich and I made our way back to the clearing by our hut and spent the rest of the day lazing on the grass, reading our books, avoiding the trolls, and feeling a long way from anywhere.

** I’ve mentioned trolls quite a bit in this post. We fortunately didn’t encounter any Hoggle-like dwarves during our time in Sweden, but I have no doubt that they’re there. On our second night in our log cabin, I could have sworn I heard one tap-tap-tapping on the outside wall of our hut…

the best birthday ever

It was my birthday on Sunday. Our first full day in Slovenia. Happy birthday to meeeeeee!

I set my alarm early – not because I was filled with excitement at the prospect of turning 32, but because I didn’t want to miss out on breakfast (7.30am until 10) and we had an 8.30am bus to catch for a day of sightseeing.

There were a few hiccups.

Firstly – breakfast didn’t actually start until 8. In my eternal quest for eating as much as possible, I had imagined the 7.30am start time. I had just enough time to chow down a jammy croissant and a coffee (and pack a banana for the road). Rich took a more leisurely approach.

Secondly – we had trouble finding someone at the B&B we could check out with. It’s tricky to do a runner with 20kgs of luggage, and we’re honest peeps, but waiting around for someone was a little bit stressy…

And then… After we finally checked out, with about 4 minutes to spare after arriving at the bus stop, we realised we hadn’t packed our sightseeing vouchers.

As Liz Lemon might say: “What the what?”

Rich ran back to the B&B while I anxiously waited at the bus stop.

8.28am: No Rich. No bus.

8.30am: No bus (due now). No Rich. Probably a good thing.

8.31am: Rich is back!! With our vouchers!!! But no bus.

Minutes pass.

8.40am: No bus.

8.45am: No bus.

I said to Rich “We must be in the wrong spot. The bus must have left without us. The bus must have forgotten to get us. This is the worst birthday everrrrrrrr.”

Rich said to me “Calm down derbrain, it’ll be here soon.”

8.47am: No bus. I get a little welled up…

8.48am: A bus!!! Hooray!!!!

All anxiety and stress and angst vanishes like a swiftly eaten croissant, and we pile into the bus. Well, minivan. We are the last people to be collected, so we get to sit up front with the driver, Micah. Up front is the best place to be because you are less likely to get carsick, you get the full benefit of the airconditioning, and you get to ask lots of dumb questions about Slovenia (like “What should we eat while we’re here?” and “Where are the best cream cakes in Bled?”).

Micah was hilarious. He said “Have you heard of dark sausages?” and I said “Yes, I think so – what’s in them? Bits of guts and offal, yeah?” and he said “Best not to think about what’s in a dark sausage until AFTER you eat one.” We laughed.

Our first stop was Predjama, which is a crazy castle built into the side of a huge rocky mountain, and has a backyard (so to speak) of a bat-filled cave. It also boasts geranium planter boxes on all the windows and a torture chamber – quite lah-di-dah. An obese beagle wandered around with a bone in his jaws, adding to the illusion of ‘much death has occurred here….’

The castle, with geraniums and a backyard cave

Torture chamber : "Halp, I have rope burn!!"

"Now where did I put my bone?"

Next up was a visit to the Skocjan Caves; around 6kms of chambers and winding paths and huge canyons right under our feet. I was half looking forward to the 2 hours in the cave (I’d seen a LOT of pictures of happy hikers smiling under stalactites and putting their arms around stalagmites) but I was also half dreading it. You may already be aware of the fact that I am a bit of a sissy and the closer we got to the mouth of cave, the more I thought “I’m going to fall into the canyon; I’m going to get stuck in a narrow crevice; There’s going to be an earth quake and we’ll all be trapped like the Chilean miners and it would fall on me to sing Elvis Presley songs – and we’re going to trapped with all these screaming children and rude peeps who talk over the top of our guide.”

The thought of being trapped with the rude peeps was actually most terrifying.

In we went. Down a dark, twisting corridor, deep into the bowels of the earth. Constant temperature of 12 degrees. Everyone around us started putting on jumpers and Gortex vests. And they all had hiking boots on. And they all looked at us in dismay: no jumpers. Rich in thongs. Me in Keds. I’m sure I saw a few headshakes…

The first chamber had a steep, downward slope and was referred to as The Silent Chamber. I would have thought this would be the time when everyone stopped talking, and kids stopped screaming and crying and hitting their siblings. But the cavernous space and echoes it created made peeps wanna talk and scream and cry and hit even more. Just to hear the echo.

We learnt the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite and I started thinking about those monsters in The Descent. *shudder*

Down and down, deeper and deeper, we entered the second chamber, which was twice the size of the first, and even more astonishing. The ceiling was covered in shards of knife-like stones, and crazy clam-like rocks and formations covered the floor. I grappled with the notion that a space like this could be anywhere… That is IS anywhere. And everywhere. That below the surface of the earth, there’s this…

No panic attacks now. No palpitations or shortness of breath. Just sheer amazement.

More steps down and around and through and we found ourselves in the third chamber. If I was amazed and astounded before, no words can even describe the feeling I got in here. Huge. Absolutely. Positively. Totally flipping. Ginormous. With a river in it. And the river was 140 metres below us. And there was 100 metres of space above us. And we were, at this point, about a bajillion metres* below the earths surface.

Ah. May. Zing.

No Elvis required...

How could the day get any more spectacular than this?

Maybe not a natural wonder of the world or UNESCO heritage listed site, but our next stop was probably my favourite of the day…

Micah dropped us off at the top of a steep hill in the seaside village of Piran for lunch and a swim. Rich and I hot-footed it straight to the waterfront for lunch (remember I’d only consumed one tiny, jammy croissant and, given it’s my birthday, I have the perfect excuse for non-stop eating, right?).

We sat down at the first place we saw. Rich ordered two icy margeritas, and we discovered that this was a BAR, not a restaurant. No food here. Just beer and cocktails. Which, on your birthday, or any day when you’re on holiday, or any day when it’s above 30 degrees, kinda makes sense.

Halfway through my margerita, I made the most of the bars wireless internet and skyped my bestie back in Melbourne…. Bliss…..

While I was chatting up a storm with Wa, Rich moseyed inside and ordered… TWO MORE MARGERITAS!!! Flaps up, homies!!!

Feeling refreshed, rehydrated, albeit a little wobbly, we headed off in search of food. A seafood platter, to be precise.

In a town like Piran, it aint hard to find.

A short walk later, there we were. A waterfront restaurant, full of people, shady and cool. Noice.

Two giant beers, a seafood platter for two, a green leafy salad. My fella. Me. Twas absolutely perfect…

Birthday noms...

We agreed that lunch would actually be dinner today (we didn’t end up eating until about 3.30pm) and that we’d have a special birthday dessert once we got back to Ljubljana later that evening. Rich asked what my ideal birthday dessert would be, to which I replied “Tiramisu, I think. It seems like a good day for tiramisu”.

Rich replied “Tiramisu? Slovenia doesn’t seem like a very tiramusi-y kind of place…”

No less than 5 minutes later, a tiramisu, covered in heart-attack-inducing whipped cream, arrived at our table. With a candle in it.

Again. What the what????

Rich hadn’t left the table. The waiter hadn’t been over. Yet here was this creamy, ridiculous tiramisu with ‘Happy 32nd Birthday’ piped on the plate with chocolate sauce.

Amazing man, is Rich… He’d teed it all up when we arrived, and had taken a punt on the tiramisu angle. What a good egg…

After lunch, we had a quick swim in the Adriatic (holy cow, so heavenly), which may not have been the wisest choice given we were full of fish and dessert and beer, but we managed to stay afloat and it was kinda the most perfect way to end a pretty amazing day.

We met Micah in the town square, and made our way back to the city.

And that, my friends, was the best birthday ever. Adventures with my fella. A chat with my bestie across the seas. Amazing food and drink. And a surprise tiramisu.

*Not actually true. More like mebbe 300 metres…

tardy tardy!

Yikes!! The adventures of Wembolina have really stepped up a notch, with many adventures and not enough wifi (I’ve been a little short on time as well!!).

So for the next few posts, things will be jumping around a bit, methinks. From Ljubljana to a castle to the Adriatic, then back in time to Stockholm, then FURTHER back in time to our little log hut at Urnatur (no electricity!! Deep in the woods!!! There were trolls aplenty!!!). Rest assured though, more adventures are on the way!!

Here’s a little sunset shot, over the lake at Urnatur… And more posts soon, I promise!!

midnight forest sausage show

Yesterday I ate so much food I couldn’t sleep. As I lay in bed, tossing and turning and bemoaning the second bowl of rice consumed at a Malaysian restaurant at dinner (after I polished off a massive bowl of salmon linguine, salad AND tiramisu at lunchtime), it occurred to me that I hadn’t mentioned the midnight forest show we went to in Olso a few days ago. And as I was pondering this, I thought “how great would it be if I titled that particular post ‘midnight forest sausage show’?? Geniusly great!!!”

Clearly the chilli tofu I had for dinner and fried banana dessert had made me feverish and delirious.

But I couldn’t let it go. So here it is.

At midnight on Friday, after a long day of strolling, cherry-eating and festival-ing, the Oya delegates (Rich) and tag-a-long-er-ers (me) were herded into a bus and driven into the dead of the Norwegian night.

Our destination? A forest, just outside the city, for a secret live performance.

The moon was full. Tis a wee bit scary being in a supposedly troll-filled forest at midnight while a full moon hangs low in the sky. There was talk of a showdown between the trolls and the werewolves. Our guide, Siggi, warned us “If anyone starts to get itchy palms or notices hair where there wasn’t hair before, please let me know immediately”.

Sounds like puberty to me, but also a sure sign you’re having a Teen Wolf moment – arrrooooooooooooo!!!!!!

We walked along a candle lined gravel path, deep into the forest, until we were met by three Norwegian folk musicians (guitar, a drum, and a bit of a witchy-poo singer) standing around a bonfire. With a glass-like lake alongside, it was quite a magical moment.

After a short set of four songs, a BBQ was lit and sausages were cooked over the open fire. I am dubious of meat cooked in the dead of night where the only light comes from the flame and the full moon – how can you see if it’s cooked properly? The light of the moon is not really strong enough to detect any salmonella-y pink bits in the middle, is it? It’s not really, but I bit the bullet (well, sausage) and did not really enjoy it very much, but hey, when you’re in a forest in Oslo in the middle of the night, you’ve gotta take what life throws at you. In this case, a sausage.

After the BBQ, a few brave souls swam in the lakes’ trolly waters, before we all got back on the buses and zzz-ed our way back to Oslo in a smoky, sausage-induced haze… I slept well that night. Maybe I need more meat at midnight? Perhaps I went wrong yesterday by going down the fish and vegetable path…



some observations about sweden

1 – Swedes are exceptionally stylish and good looking. The ‘no shopping’ rule we set ourselves before embarking on this adventure is tres hard in a town like this, where fashion is exceptional and EVERYONE looks amazing.

2 – When it rains in Goteborg, it really rains. Teeming, straight-down, saturating rain.

3 – Dogs are allowed everywhere. Especially in shops. (I’m kicking myself for not taking a picture, but earlier today I saw two long-haired Afghans going for a walk and they both had hairdos! Braided ears!! Twas amazing…)

Here is a nice sign I saw on the train:

A nice sign on the train - dogs & cats sitting together in harmony

4 – Converse hi-tops are making a comeback. Like dogs, they are everywhere. Fluero pink cons on grans, red cons paired with flowing floral skirts on teens, dirty white cons on handsome men in dinner jackets.

5 – There are a lot of Volvos here. A lot.

6 – Facial piercings. Who woulda thunk it? O, and leg tattoos as well. On the most unassuming looking peeps. Vines around calves, massive flowers on feet, skulls on shins. Yes indeed.

We arrived in Goteborg yesterday after catching a bus, a train, and another bus from Oslo. After checking into our sauna-inspired hotel (all the walls are wood-panelled), Rich headed off to spend his birthday at Way Out West festival while I spent the afternoon doing handwashing. What an exciting way to spend the day. For the first time, I wondered what it would be like to be a Morman with a sister-wife or two, so the task at hand could have been halved (or quartered). But alas, Rich is no Bill Hendrickson and I am without a Margene, a Barb and a Nikki to assist with menial tasks, rivalry and bitchiness. Probably for the best…

After washing my smalls (and nearly pulling a muscle in my shoulder after some vigorous wringing), I read some book, watched some Swedish TV (and saw an ad for IKEA), did some emailing, and then ventured out into Goteburg for a walk and some dinner.

I have realised on this trip that I am no good at reading maps. The concierge at our hotel drew a line on my map, leading the way to the great restaurants of Goteburg (very straightforward as well – turn left out the door, hang a right at the canal, follow the water and you’re there) and I still managed to get lost.

But in a good way. You always hafta make the most of getting lost, right?

After twisting and turning my way through several cobble-stoned streets, I ended up at an outdoor Thai restaurant opposite a river lined with beer-drinking hipsters. And a barge (with a dog on it) that was a bar/restaurant/nightclub-type affair. A balcony in the distance was adorned with two life-sized horse statues. Fo real!! The food was good, the beer was better, and it was lovely to have a bit of time out with myself and my book (The Information by Martin Amis – you should read it!!).

Tomorrow we head north to a place called Odeshog (how do you think that’s pronounced? I went to the bus depot and asked for “Two adult tickets to Oweds-hog please” and the guy at the ticket counter looked at me blankly, then said “Ur-der-herg?”).

Yes. Ur-der-herg. I think that every time I attempt to speak Swedish, I need to channel a bit of Swedish chef from The Muppets.

Anyhoo, we head north to Ur-der-herg for a few nights in a wood hut with zero electricity. But there are canoes. And bikes. And crayfish in a lake. And a SAUNA IN THE WOODS!!! I plan on taking 800 photos and will give you a full report when we get back into a wifi zone later this week in Stockholm.


Until then, I’ll leave you with this nice snap of a pooch I met at the station earlier today.

young dreams

If you need some more music in your life, you should check out Young Dreams. They played in Oslo a few nights ago at Bla (I don’t think it’s pronounced ‘Blah’ – I think it might be ‘Blor’ or ‘Blew’ or something – it sounds better if you flick your wrist a little as you say it) as part of Oya Festival’s club night – we were told that EVERY band in Oslo, regardless of talent, plays on club night, because they can get free tickets to the festival. With this news in mind, we were not holding out much hope for seeing anyone particularly good…

But Young Dreams were totally surprising. In a great way. In a pretty fabulous way, in fact.

A bit Beach Boys, a bit Fleet Foxes, a bit Kanye, a bit Vampire Weekend. Good-lookin’ fellas, smily yet broody, dishevelled yet preppy, baseball caps and flatcaps, checks and tees. A violin. A big weird percussive coconut thing. Instrument swaps after every song. Cute, catchy and fun.

Bla is a crazy venue that, along with the band, I wasn’t holding much hope for. Described as a ‘jazz venue for jazzy bands’ I was expecting a dark room with lots of velvet and black & white snaps of trumpet players and smokin’ (and smoking) babes. But. Bla is a warehouse on the river, seemingly in an abandoned carpark.

A deck with lights strewn about the place.

Lots of killer graffiti on the walls outside.

A huge outdoor chandelier on your way down the lane to the entrance.

Inside is dark (tick) but spacious, with a low stage (but not too low) and amazing sound. At times it felt like I was having a Milli Vanilli moment and the band were actually miming, but no, twas definitely the real deal.

After Bla, and Young Dreams, we picked up some fellow music peeps and moseyed down the way to Revolver for some dinner. Along the way we passed a park, and of course, it had a treehouse in the middle of it…

Oslo, you crazy town – what will you throw at us next??