A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: tomik

Twin Peaks

fear, darkenss and wilderness

At the end of last year I snapped the opportunity to visit Norway. Thanks to the budget airlines operating now to many European destinations I flew to Bergen where I started exploring the Viking's land. That was my next trip to Scandinavia as I have visited Finland, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden before. Before setting off I always try to contemplate for a short while to realize what my destination country makes me think of. Thinking of Norway I thought of their sportsmen first, mainly ski jumpers and downhill skiers, the country natural beauty and its fjords. There were two other ingridients that followed: severe climate and its position as important peace negotiator in many parts of the world. Here you go - that's the label of Norway.
Wait a minute! Does Henrik Ibsen and his 'the wild duck' tell you anything? He is one of the greatest names in the world literature and he was Norwegian.

The route was set before my departure and it was from Bergen to Oslo so basicly it lead me acorss the country and enabled to sightsee a city of Bergen, take a cruise to explore the longest Norwegian fjord and walk on a glacier. Great adventure!
What was even more adventours and a bit scary that was a feeling that accompanied me all the time. The feeling of being watched.

When you open the door to Norway you enter the world of greyness with overwhelming silence that is only disturbed by the rhythm of a flowing river. The weather is cloudy and a light mist hangs in the air causing your eyesight sense a lot of trouble to work efficiently. You seem to see some houses in a distance nicely built on a slope of the hill that might probably be uninhabited or neglected as there are no people on the horizon and no sign of life. There is no doubt you experience a surplus of trees and a lot of extremly green vegetaion that cover hilly and rocky areas cutted by fjords into long pieces. It rains day and night so you don't pay attention to that anymore not even expecting the rain to stop falling becuase if it does it is just a question of minutes when it starts again. There is a feeling of mystery and unexpected occurences that you might face every second as though you would be a part of 'Twin Peaks' film.

I am slowly walking towards a hotel I booked before my departure that unknown Internet user had recommened to me. It is dark around but I manage to see the wooden house painted white in front of me that could be suitable maximum for two families of 4 each. There is a burning fire in the portable lamp hanged on the porch to make the place be visible from a distance and facilitate people to walk the stairways and reach the door easier. I am totally wet but happy approaching my safe and warm shelter destination as all of the sudden I heared somebody's steps behind me following me in relatively quick rate. The sound of steps seem to get closer building an insecure feeling inside of me so if I had turned my my head back I would have seen a monster at my arm's lenght but my inner fear does not let me to turn back and face the danger! My walking pace turns into running but once I understood that my effort was sensless I stopped. In a split of second I turned my head back. At that moment the thunder stroke and to my surprise I saw a large stone in front of me. It was absurd to think that that stone got legs and followed me a long way.
I entered the hotel and felt relieved closing the door behind me. A few minutes later I would have known that I was the only guest in this tiny hotel.

Trolls - giant creatures inhabiting caves or hills in Norway (and other Scandinavian countries) with supernatural power, looked frightening and being melicious. Sunlight would either turn them to stone or make them explode.

Posted by tomik 06:36 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Fairy tales and global village

Europeans vary very much. Well, I think that's really remarkable that in a relatively small continent if not the smallest one in the world there are so many substancial differences among people (surely there is nothing wrong about that). My theory is that there is no other continent in the world that on such a small piece of land the differences among nations are the most significient. I refer to all kinds of distinctions among Europeans like cusine, human temperament, the way we look and act, punctuallity, cultural manners, holiday celebration etc. Certainly if I were to name all the differences I am aware of in topical order I would have to write that story for a very long time but that's not my purpose to name them all.

If I wanted to focus on the reasons why we differ that would be a massive work adequete for a serious university assignment. That's not my intention either however there is one aspect or factor I would like to touch upon and elaborate on it a little.

A fairy tale ! Magic story featuring imaginary creatures with superhuman power living in the wonderland that is one type of a fairy tale. We can read them in books or watch them in TV. We all had our favourite ones and those we easily agreed our parents to switch a channel while they were on.
Do fairy tales help to understand each other better in Europe/world?

Fairy tales are hot and loveable topic to discuss among people no matter their age, political preferences and the football club their follow. Besides they always play the same role in people's life eventhough that life is far more mature and serious. They were written and then adapted to be produced as TV programmes or the other way round to amuse and to teach children - to make them sensitive for human misery and to tell them that giving and sharing is of far more value than receiving etc.
Below you see the fairy tales book of Hans Andersen I have bought in Odense (he is considered by many to be the best fairy tales teller in the world)
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There are at least three times in our lifetime we extensively watch cartoons and read fairy tales and tales right for children. First when we are children, then we get back to them after a few yeagrs when we become parents and our children put a constant pressure on us to keep the tv children channel turned on. Finally when we reach the point when our children have their own children and as a result we become grandparents. I think, well, I assume that in that case our grandchildren have always a final say with a consequance of fairy tales/cartoons being read or watched most of the time :-) People sometimes say that grandparents are to spoil their grandchildren not to give them proper manners and education - that's the job for parents!

When I was a child Poland was still behind the iron curtain and the fairy tales I read and watched were mainly locally written/produced. Well, there were number of tv cartoons from Czech Republic/Hungary and Russia on Polish television that we all enjoyed very much. Certainly we also listened to our parents reading us Hans Christian Andersen, Tove Jansson (below you see the book I have bought in Helsinki) or the brothers Grimm tales with great pleasure.
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Travelling the world is the way to get to know a history and herritage of each country. To me fairy tale writers contribute very much to the process of bulding country's image abroad but what is even more they help to understand various aspects of social life and hierarchy, customs and their local meaning and many, many more. In a longer run the fairy tales might fight sterotypes and make people united one day (maybe that was be too optymisitc to say).

Over last 50 years or more the fairy tales travelled the world helping us to learn more and understand better our neighbouring countries being a serious factor to diminish the differences between cultures and nations.
Do you know the easygoing Moomintrolls or a cartoon featuring advantures of a small mole? What about 'The snow queen', 'The ugly duckling', 'The wild swans' or 'Cindirella'? Yes, we know them all.
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Wherever I go (Finland, Denmark, Czech Republic) I always try to buy a gift for myself that is a book with local tales or a masqute representing a key fairytale character. If there is an opportunity its really worth to visit a museum of a famous fairy tales writer (below you see me o the doorway to the museum of Hans Christain Andersen) - that would be my recommendation.
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As I have become a father recently I noticed one more phenomenon regarding cartoons and fairy tales. If we say that 50 or 40 years ago fairy tales traveled from one country to the other to amuse children around the world that would be true for sure. However nowadays we are familiar with global cartoon productions. 'Teletubbies' is a unique cartoon that is broadcasted worldwidely and always being received everywhere with great attention and addiction by some children. Well, I think that example supports my theory that fairy tales/cartoons help to create a global village and mutual understanding in the world :-)
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Posted by tomik 06:44 Archived in Denmark Comments (0)

To keep promises or not

When I come back home from my trip to the country I have visited for the first time people always keep asking me weather I liked the place. What was the most striking experience I had? Were there any interesting people on my trails? Was the country adequate either for solitary or family travelling? Many kinds of questions I face when talking to people and if I know the answers I give them true ones however, there is always the last question that comes at the end. 'When are you flying back there?' or 'are you going to visit that spot again?'. As I am always certain that that kind of question comes up sooner or later I am certain to the same extent that my answer is always the same. Having very confident face expression my reply is 'I never visit the same place twice'. People nod their heads with understanding and if not I add a short comment to my statement 'well, there are so many beautiful places around the world so it would be a waste of time to go the same place more than once'. Those who did not nod their heads with understanding at my first reply do nod now hearing that comment.

However am I really right saying that? Is that promise really worth and clever to make?

Last June I flew to Iceland for a few days. I was extremly lucky to experience a full week of sunny and unwindy weather and these who have been to Iceland know what I am saying. It is a beautiful country night and day and I am saying that on purpose as at that time of the year you leave a bar after midnight and it's still bright outside. Iceland has a lot to offer to visitors from its unique natural wonders and ancient heritage to omnipresent tranquillity.
Visiting mainly Southern part of the country I finally reached the place considered by many to be Iceland’s finest waterfall - Gullfoss. What really striked me while I was on my way to see Gullfoss was the landscape that doesn't reveal its greatest wonder whatsoever. I mean you could not simply expect to see the waterfall there - to me it was so surpising that all of the sudden and from nowhere the great Gullfoss waterfall appers in front of you to appeal to your visual senses.
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When I was leaving the place my attantion was drawn to number of small stone towers. The towers made of small stones that people placed one on another. The maximum tower hight I observed was the tower made of five stones. 'What's the point of building such towers' I thought to myslef and when that question was running through my head I saw a person who approached the spot where those towers were built and started building his own. As you might assume I could not resist myslef from asking the guy the sacramental question 'what those towers are for? and what's the point in building them?'.
The guy gave me a short explanation to my simple question. The custom says that if you wish to come back to this place / vist that place again you have to build a tower like that.

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Well, having not known why I approached the spot naturally (without even thinking of it) where the towers were built and I built my own one. With a great care I placed four stones one on another I got up then and stared at my tower with a smile on my face.
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Since that time I have thought more of going to the same place more than once. I have thought of the way we all build our memories while travelling. There are many factors that influance the way we see the world and for instance our two vists to the same place might bring absolutely contradictory memories.

PS. I have also encountered the same stone towers in Norway

Posted by tomik 13:19 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

Happy 2008

Yesterday we all celebrated the end of 2007 and start of a new year. At my party I talked to people about how good or bad was the passing year and what we expect from a new. Not suprisingly there were number of people who made their new year's resolutions to start taking up sport regulalry, go for a diet, get married and travel the world. The list of resolutions I heard yesterday was undoubtfully a long one and certainly I have my own as well.

I wish the 2008 be the most adventurous year in your life so you could explore the places you have always dreamed of visiting and meet the people who could enrich your life with their experience, views and creativity.

I think the most beautiful and unforgetable travelling memories we have, we have because of meeting intresting people on our way so I wish you to find them on your trails as often as it is only possible.

Posted by tomik 10:52 Comments (0)

Yes, in fact the views can really kill you

Living in a township means you can not leave your house the way you are got used to. There is no way you can go for a walk or stay outside of your property either during the daytime or nightime (I don't mention high walls with wires on top of them around properties as this is a standard safty infrastructure in South Africa). Therefore my priest friend arranged a driver for me so I could easily get to the center of Cape Town or any other places I wanted to get to. Her name was Margaret (the woman dressed white on the photo below) and she was locally born so she knew the area very well.
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Without my priest friend knowledge she brought me to the most dangerous places in the township to let me see the real life of blacks and coloured living together in their shacks. It was an eye opener to me and I will never forget the scenes of volience on the streets, the poverty and ever present dirt (even in the air).
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The time came I asked my friend driver to take me to the Cape of Good Hope. Well, being in Cape Town and not to witness the meeting of the Atlantic and Indian Ocenas and the fairest Cape in all circumference of the globe would be unforgivable.
So we three got in the car. We were three because Margaret took her neighbour's daughter as she was never there in her life. There was no problem from my side.
We drove the way and I looked around through the windows and admired the beauty of the landscape, wathing carefully all the passing details that were absolutly new for me. In the meantime I took the opportunity and overwhelmed Margaret with hundreds of questions regarding politics, aparthaid, football as South Afirca is going to be the next world cup host etc. Well, honestly speaking within this two weeks I made her life very diffucalt by asking her always hundreds of questions driving with her to school and back again everyday . This time it was not different despite the fact that it was weekend :-)

Suddenly, I noticed in a distance a nice, colourful view on my left hand side! I was not sure what exacly it was by then but once we got closer I refreshed my memory. Well, that was the view I had seen a couple of times on postcards after my arrival in Cape Town and in books and internet sites before leaving my hometown. Beautifuly placed sandy beach with number of wooden cottages/cabins painted in various colours flooded with people searching for sun and ocean bath. I asked Margaret to stop a car and parked it on a left side-space of the road. As she did we took a long second to stare at this beach as we were hypnotized.
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I got out of the car and slowly crossed the road to get to the other side. My idea was to take a photo from the closest possible distance. I was seduced by the view! There was one meter high wall I had to climbed on the other side of the road that did not stop me from moving futher towards the beach and then the view was perfectly shaped so I could easily find the right photo spot. I was walking on the railway tracks back and forth with my camera and yes, I eventaully got the spot. My little skills of taking photos made me busy for some time to set the camera properly so my dream come true landscape would be immortalized. While taking a few first shots I heard Margaret calling me but because she stood by the car and the traffic was relativly high I could not hear her at all. Besides I thought she had wanted to hurry me a little so I did not rise my head to let her know that I was just about to finish it. Suprisingly her voice was getting lauder and lauder by that time and then I clearly heard her calling my name. Well, it would be unkind not to react any longer so I raised my head in her direction. I saw her chaotic and cofusing geastures she nervously made to me. I realized she had wanted me to look behind so I turned my head. To my surprise I saw the train coming towards me. The distance between me and the train was that long as I only could look at my left hand side to see what was there so I could jump out from the train rails I stood on. There was a high cliff on the left and my way was a long way down. It could be a three meters high cliff or so with a sidewalk made of concrete at its bottom. Yes, so I jumped out of the rails and flew down to touch down the conrete with a terrible pain in my legs. My body rolled a few times on the side walk to stop finally on the lawn.

The day after my whole body was full in colourful bruises, my legs were in terrible pain so I could merely walk without a help of others. By then I knew how stupid I was and how much luck I had !!!

Posted by tomik 05:29 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Views can kill

Have you ever seen that beach view? Is it a beautiful view? Yes, it is! Tomorrow I will take some time to tell you how beautiful views might first seduce you and shortly after cause a deadly danger !

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Posted by tomik 11:00 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

A fishing-rod and the magic sequance of development

I am always glad and very much impressed to see people helping others out gratuitously. Why? It is a way of showing others the magic abilty to share. It's an extraordinary ability. I am very much a supporter of giving the world good examples of those who possess that magic power so others can follow them. In business/marketing language people use the term 'best practicies' and that reflects all kinds of well done work and remarkable people's performance so in many cases you don't have to kick the opened door and just apply the good experience of others. Theoreticlly speaking if all people would follow those who help others our world would turn into paradise, well, it sounds well but needless to add that this is an absurd or at least imaginary ideal state.
However, if we come to a point one day that it would be nice to help somone/some people without asking anything in return I wonder how we could things get started. Well, it's not a banal question, however, at the first sight it indeed seems very easy to answer, isn't it? Omnipresent mass media delivers 'the dark side of the world' message 24 hours a day. Intiuitonally I would say that there is far more negative communication compared to promotion of postive people's performance in massive media. Poverty, unjust and human's tradegy are all around us. Who should I help first to make my efforts as effective as possible?

I transport myslef back in time to 2006 and those two weeks of mine I spent in Republic of South Africa when I met a young South African English teacher. He was 5 or 6 years younger than me. He wasn't a proffesional teacher but you know at the high season the demand for people who are willing to teach English to foreigners is so high that it is quiet easy to get a temporary job. He was one of the temporary / seasonal teachers in the school I went to.
He did not impress me because of his teacher's skills or the way he could test my skills, evaluate them and finally help me to improve my language gaps that needed to be improved. As I took individual tution with him we gradually moved the gist of our conversations from very formal to private topics. I think we managed to find a mutual ground for private conversation.
He was a charity worker responsible for fund rising in London. He worked for one of charity organization settled in England to make fresh and clean water availble all around the world. Water was according to him commodity of first neccessity and should be put as a number one priority to all charity organizations worldwide. He gave me a lot of examples and evidence that clean water supply is fundamental for human's life.
I was sceptical first but then slowly I thought he had been right.
Can you imagine a child walking everyday in the morning a distance of 40 km one way to get a bucket or two of fresh water. Have you ever walked a distance of 40 km with a heavy backpack, if you did you know how tired you were arriving finally in the destination and how cheerful you were to see a pint of beer on the table in front of you. However, this boy while arriving home with water he has a long list of futher duties like doing homework etc. In most of the cases lack of fresh water availability limits the families to develop and move higher in social hierachy because what they utmost care is water.
There are a lot of charity organizations delivering aid to people by sending them cows or sheeps so that they can breed them and live on them. However, the problem is that if there is no water supply the animals won't survive long.
To me my young SA teacher was right that water goes first and if no water there is no next step in the development sequance.

The Republic of South Africa as a relatively new democratic country deals with so many problems like poverty, low level of education and illiteracy, rasizm and very high crime level. Well, surley I could easily continue to mention more problems people of South Africa face in their everyday life but that's not the point. You see my young teacher would have his hands full of work in his own country that was my first impression after hours of conversations with him. Nevertheless, I am still far from being critical on him. On contrary, I realized that my teacher had a unique ability to look at the world globally (most of us still look only locally) and to focus on primary and fundamental problems if they continue to remain unsolved there would be no further development possible. Today I very much support the efforts to secure a supply of fresh and clean water all around the world and to put clean water avavilbity on top of the agenda of all charity organizations.

What if we try to help people by giving them a 'fishing-rod' so that they can sit by the river and catch a fish by themselfs. If we give them a fish first they will just eat it and the day after they will feel hunger again.

If you feel like helping others think well what's fundamental for people to let them improve their daily life so your effort / time will be rewarded with long term effect either you see the world locally or globally.

Posted by tomik 08:08 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Africa

impressions and considarations

I have been to Africa once. I flew to Cape Town in 2006 and spent two weeks living in parish house in a township. Townships were created as living areas for non-whites in old political system of Aparthaid. The one I stayed in was not even recommended for guided tours as the crime rate was one of the highest among all townships around Cape Town. To give you a picture how unsafe the area was I have got two examples at hand.
Firstly, when I was out to have a few drinks in the downtown with people I met at school ( I attanded an English course to improve my English) and it got late, well, it was midnight and I wanted to find a taxi to take me back home. Everytime I got in tha cab and told the driver where I want him to take me they all at once refused saying that that is the part of the city they don't drive in. Eventually, after 10 minutes of talking to cab drivers, I found a young guy who agreed to drive me there only because he said he had known I was not a local citizen otherwise he woundn't have dared to go there.
Secondly, at the last day or one day before last day of my departure the rector of the parish I stayed in (the only white in the township) took me to vist one of his closest altar servants to have a cup of tea and show me what is a middle class standard of living in the South African township. The conversation flew nicely and I found this family as very clever, intresting and open people. Just before we left the house a man (the altar servent) asked me weather I knew the nickname of this township. I did not have the foggiest idea so I enthusiasticly encauraged him to tell me and you might imagine how surprised I was to hear the answer. 'Kill me qucik' he said shortly. I was luckly I was leaving soon and I looked with far more respect to the priest who was a guide of unknow world to me. His mission was to live there and until now it has not been complited yet.
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Last week I watched two great films featuring Africa and Africans and their everyday problems. I refer to 'The last king of Scotland' and 'Blood diamond'. Both of them impressed me a great deal and left me with so many questions its hard to find clear answers. I feel so sorry for people living in the South African townships, those being killed senselessly in Uganda and abused, tortured and injured in Sierra Leone diamond conflict.
To generalize I could say that the modern history of African countries and their independance is very bloody. Is it because their leaders are not ready to take a moral responsibility to lead their nations towards democracy or the blame game we should start pointing a finger at the former colonial powers like Great Britain and others. Are there any other factors that influance the reality of Africa ?
I am sure there are.

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Posted by tomik 13:57 Comments (0)

At home - introduction

semi-overcast

I am sitting at the kitchen table now and thinking of sharing my work-life observation with you. Travelling is part of my everyday life and I enjoy it either being on business trip or entirely privately with my family and friends. That's my first attempt to sit and write a few sentenes that perhaps might be of some value to some people. There is no real pressure coming form deep inside of me to write this blog where the source of this pressure is in my wife who thinks that my observation and remarks are very accurate and reflect the reality well.
I hope you are going to enjoy the way I see the world.

There are a lot of aspects of travelling but there is only one that always suprises me. I am sure most of the people who love to travel the world (if not all) admire the time before setting off, the time when one plans the route, books accomodation and searches for the best available flight offers. You go to a book shop to buy a tourist/traveller guide to find out as much as you only can about your up-coming destination and in most of the cases that's only a first step in building your know-how before leaving your hometown. Certainly the internet comes with a helping hand of hundred or thousands sites where you can hang-out for hours. All in all, no matter there are weeks or months before you get on plane to explore the world you are always busy in planning your trip and this time is like you were studing the taste of a chocolate cake without tasting it and the time of tasting is just around the corner.

When the moment comes the enthusiasm that had been a part of my life over last few weeks just flew away. Why? The advanture is at my arm's lenght now and no one can really spoil it.
I am on the plane but from now on a thought of missing my home and family accompany me permanently.

The only cure for homesick I have found is to take my family with me :-)

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Posted by tomik 10:55 Comments (0)

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