I’ve officially figured out my plans for the end of 2013! I was originally going to go home to Kentucky and possibly spend December traveling around the Midwest, visiting my friends at college, but my new plans are 1000x more exciting!
I’m going to Scandinavia and Russia!
My friend Tracy, whom I went to Iceland with, both realized we had nothing to do for the first three weeks of December so we decided to go on a trip! I’ve always wanted to go to Russia, ever since high school, and I’m so thrilled that I can finally go. I really don’t know what to expect other than FRIGID weather. Since Russia is so tight on security, we decided to book our lodging and transportation far in advance, so we got everything squared away last week. We have a general plan of what to do in Scandinavia, but we are trying to keep it flexible. After all, life is what happens when you are busy making plans!
Our tentative schedule is as follows…
Nov 29: Flight from Cincinnati to Toronto to Frankfurt, Germany. Nine hour layover in Frankfurt, so plenty of time to see the sights!Nov 30: Arrive in Bergen, Norway, at 11pm.
Dec 1-2: Bergen, Norway
Dec 3-4: Oslo, Norway
Dec 5: Gothenburg, Sweden
Dec 6-7: Copenhagen, Denmark
Dec 8-9: Stockholm, Sweden
Dec 10-11: Helsinki, Finland
Dec 12-13: Tallinn, Estonia
Dec 14-15: St. Petersburg, Russia
Dec 16-17: Moscow, Russia
We are going to get the Scandinavia Eurail Pass which covers all rail transportation in the first 4 countries. After that, we only have to pay for the ferry to Tallinn, the bus to St. Petersburg, and the train to Moscow! Tracy has several friends in the region so we plan on staying with a few of them in addition to hostels. But for most of the nights, we plan on taking the overnight train, so our fare covers our lodging, too! Killing two birds with one stone. Basically, our route will look something like this…
It’s a shame that we won’t be able to go farther north, but we didn’t want to miss Thanksgiving or Christmas, so we only had three weeks. After planning the itinerary, we looked into visas. Most foreign countries, especially in Europe, have lax visa requirements that simply allow you to buy it at the airport when you arrive. Some don’t require one at all! Russia, on the other hand, requires you to have the visa already in your passport upon arrival, so we had to send our passports to the embassy. This is where it was tricky. You can apply for it on your own if you can physically travel to the embassy to apply in person, but the embassy and satellite offices are NO WHERE near Denver! The only other option is to use an intermediary company that you send it to and they apply for it on your behalf. I talked to my roommate who is a world traveler and she said she has had to use this company before, too, for a visa into China. They say it takes 15 business days not counting sending it back to you, so I had to mail mine FAST. Today is the third business day that they have had it, so at the latest, I should receive it back by Monday the 25th. I sprung for overnight return delivery to the house in Kentucky, so I should definitely have it before I leave.
Brent is letting me borrow his large backpack that he took when he went to Germany, so I plan to take that and one purse-type bag to carry when we go sight seeing. Living in Jordan has really taught me to live simply, so I have no worries that I won’t be able to survive just from one bag. Plus, the weather will be so cold that I’ll probably be wearing every layer I pack everyday! Plus, I now have an excuse to reuse the super warm clothes I bought to take to Iceland!
I think the cities I am most excited to see are Bergen and Moscow. Two completely different vibes. Bergen is known as the picturesque Scandinavian coastal city. We passed it on our ferry from the northern coast of Denmark to the Faroe Islands, but it was too far away to see. All of the pictures I have seen are gorgeous and it is even stunning on Google Streetview which usually makes cities look unappealing. Moscow, in contrast, is known to be the dark, unfriendly economic capital of Russia. Every Russian I have known has said that Moscow is dismal and no one goes there unless they are in engineering or banking or some sort of mathematical profession. It should be interesting!