wtorek, 15 września 2015

On CS spirit and sleeping in strange places

Our Japanese trip seems to be like Hitchcock's movies: it starts with an earthquake which is followed by rising tension.

In Tokyo we spent great two days with our Polish CS host, Zachary, who turned out to be a perfect guide, when it comes to explaining some nuances of Japanese culture. Such as why people change seat on the subway when we sit next to them. On our second, and last day with Zachary, we went for one last beer and somehow we ended up in the middle of Shibuya district, a bit inebriated, with equally inebriated supercool Japanese people who have learned how to say "I love Poland" in Polish. (See, being drunk helps a lot when it comes to learning Polish). And then there was an earthquake. A small one. So small that we couldn't even feel it. 

This is who you randomly meet in Shibuya's street

After Tokyo we went to Kawagoe, where we tried to be adventurous, sleeping in a bush, but we were found by a very concerned and confused young man, who said with broken English, that it's very dangerous to sleep here (and then called his aunt, who said the same thing six more times with excellent English, for a change). We ended up in an internet cafe, which in Japan is an institution.


Kawagoe was also our first experience in hitchhiking. We have found a couple who was going 30 kms south, but they decided to go all the way to our destination city, Fujiyoshida, which was 80 kms further than they planned to go initially. We reached a small mountain town, Yamanakako, where we planned to find a campsite, perfectly present in Google Maps, and enjoy the view of Mt Fuji on the next morning. Instead, we ended up in some abandoned campsite facilities in the middle of a spooky, dark forest full of very noisy crows. Now I know why I never watch Japanese horror movies. Next morning, instead of a view of majestic Mt Fuji, we enjoyed a view of a majestic campsite janitor, who charged us 800\ each. 

Mt Fuji, being majestic for 30 mins before it got cloudy

We hitchhiked from Yamanakako to Nagoya and had some creepy-as-fuck experiences on the way, so when we met our CS host Paul, it was like coming to a safe haven. If there is such thing as CS spirit, it's surely embodied by people like Paul. He fed us, he let us wash our clothes and sleep as much as we wanted. He also took us for karaoke, where we discovered that we share a sentiment for Counting Crows and "Hey There Delilah". 

Now we are in the best ryokan ever in Kyoto. It's actually too good to be true. It has hairdryers, AC, kettle, shower that looks like a time machine, and we are still looking for a catch.

czwartek, 10 września 2015

Living in a drawer, surviving a tycoon and curry with cat hair

After way too long flight from Warsaw to Tokyo via Duesseldorf (including 4 hrs delay aka 250 € refund from Germanwings, yay), my sister and I have finally reached Tokyo. It looks like 5000 ¥ can give you a room in a size of a drawer, so Paulina and I got more intimate than ever in the last 21 years of being sisters. 

Notice the amazing view on the other building's wall.

The first thing she got at the reception desk was a leaflet "Easy Japanese for women", including useful phrases, such as "I don't want to go home tonight", or, for the least decisive ones "I like you/love you".

On the first day Paulina had a close encounter with the weird Japanese bathroom culture. It turns out that every toilet here is an effect of Japanese rocket science, has lots of buttons and functionalities, and if you press all the buttons without sitting on it, the bidet feature may send a high pressure water stream right into your face.

In the morning we went to a market near Senso-ji temple, where we met Jedrek, a Polish hardcore backpacker with a particular interest for free accomodation (staircases, people's couches, tent). He travels the world, spends peanuts and earns millions of Australian dollars on blowing huge soap bubbles for kids. We have spent the whole day getting lost and finding the way, mostly when the wall of rain was becoming a bit more see-trough (Forget I ever complained about weather in Bergen, that was before I actually experienced tycoon). Finally we ended up in a cat cafe, trying to give love to pretty resistant cats. 980¥ for rice with curry and cat hair.

They come to you only during the feeding time

sobota, 5 września 2015

8 Reasons why Bergen is #osom

I am heartbroken. Yesterday I got back from Bergen after almost 4 months of one of the best holidays ever, full of swimming in the fiord, climbing the mountains, partying like there is no tomorrow, trying to ignore seagulls' mating habits at 3 am, trying to ignore my flatmate's mating habits every weekend night, just behind our paper-thin walls. I'm trying not to be sad and be awesome instead, frantically packing stuff for Japan, but then I look at the stuffed moose in Norwegian sweater, I got as a goodbye gift from my boss, and I melt. Bergen, it's not you, it's me. We need some time apart, but we'll be back together soon, I promise. Can we still be friends? I think you are #osom, and that's why:

#1. Parades. Parades everywhere.
You see, I have a thing for uniforms and brass bands and parades, so whenever I see a miltary orchestra having a parade, I'm hyperventilating. Bergen happens to have an extraordinary amount of parades, like every sunny day (and sometimes on rainy days as well), there is Sjøforsvarets Musikkorps (Norwegian Royal Navy Music Corps) marching along the Fish Market. Add Buekorps, ancient, paramilitary youth defence organisation, with their drums, and occassionally a whole bunch of other parades and here you go: a Bergen parades' frenzy.

#2. Spoons in yoghurts
I know that it's an all-Norwegian idea, but still, there is a tiny foldable plastic spoon added to every yoghurt. Whoever got this idea, was a genius. In some miserable central European countries you have to carry your spoon with you.

#3. Sea AND mountains
I was able to go for a 6 hrs hike, and if the weather was good enough, I could cool down by jumping into the fiord, from a pier called Balastbryggen. And then try to get out of the water, climbing the ladder covered with small broken seashells. Whoever stepped on Lego doesn't even know half of the pain of stepping on broken seashells.

#4. Foghorns and seagulls
You are woken up by foghorns, you can't sleep because of the aforementioned seagulls. Bergen is all about sea, and for someone born 400 kms away from the seaside, it's magic. It is, and it always was, a window to the big, wide world. There are tall ships with weather beaten seamen, there is Royal Navy, there are traders from faraway countries. You can spend the whole afternoon sitting at the wharf and imagining what it used to be like in the time of Hansa. Probably there were less tourists and more bubonic plague. (At least we know, that Crusaders, who visited the city in 1191, were impressed: Stockfish, also known as dried cod, there is in such large quantities that it cannot be measured or counted. Ships and men come sailing in from all four corners of the earth.)

You may also notice, that someone has casually parked a big ass cruise ship in the end of your street. #justbergenthings

#5. You can get everywhere just walking
Bergen is tiny, especially if you live in Nordnes. It takes 20 minutes to get to Lone's commune in Mohlenpris, and 10 minutes to reach Elena's and Laura's place in Fjellet Nord. Torjus lives 5 minutes from our house in Hennebysmauet. This is the main accelerator for the local social life. It must be the only place, where when you invite people for a party on Facebook, 20 people confirm and 40 people come.

#6. You will never appreciate sun as much as Bergensers do.
With the annual precipation of 2250 mm Bergen beats even London (594 mm). No wonder that every time when the temperature rises above 20°C and there is a slight chance for sunny weather, Bergensers take their engangsgrills and occupy all possible green areas in the city. The whole city changes, people smile for no reason, you may even have a chance for a chat with a stranger, a truly heretic idea under the usual atmospheric conditions.

21,5 degrees! Whoa everybody! Grab your sunscreen!

#7. It doesn't seem to change much
Legendary Hennebysmauet:

Hennebysmauet A.D. 2015...  
...and 1914

#8. It's lovely
Someone took that extra effort to carve the window frame. Someone else takes care of the flowers. your landlord re-paints the house every year, your neighbor's window panes are in a colour corresponding with the house on the opposite side of the street.  It's neat, it's harmonous, it's tidy, it's pretty, it's pure kos.