Destination: Oslo, Norway

Oslo: A quick look

Language: Norwegian, English spoken fluently by most people

Currency: Norwegian Krone

Drinking Age: Norway has a minimum purchase age of 18 for anything less than 22% ABV, and a minimum purchase age of 20 for anything 22% or higher

Public Transportation: Oslo has an intricate metro, tram, and bus system that makes moving around the city very easy

Passport: Yes, but US citizens can stay in Norway up to 90 days without requiring a visa.

Vaccines: Routine

Oslo_Waterfront1

This post may contain affiliate links.

Before you leave:

Situated at the end of Oslofjorden in southeastern Norway, Oslo is the political and financial capital of the country. Founded as a city in 1040, it has gone through many different revisions and changes throughout history. In modern times, Oslo is a multicultural city that possesses a large sphere of influence throughout Europe and the world.

Similar to the rest of Scandinavia, Norway feels quite expensive to most people. Even when compared to Sweden and Denmark, Norway takes the spot as most expensive. The Economist Intelligence Unit ranks Oslo as fourth in the world for cost of living. That doesn’t mean you can’t get by on a budget! Check out our Stockholm post for tips on how to do it cheaply, as many of the same rules and tricks will apply.

We spent a total of about 4 days in Oslo, which was a good amount of time. For onward travel, the train system is very efficient and makes numerous trips to the other major cities. Although we were there in the fall, we actually think summer or winter would be the best time to go. In summer, the weather will be warmer and walking around outside will be nice and pleasant. In the wintertime, skiing and other winter activities become the main draw. Despite Oslo being a major metropolitan area, skiing and other outdoor activities are easily accessed just outside the city. Many ski resorts even have beginner classes if you don’t know how to ski, so here’s your chance to learn!

At The Globetrotting Scientist, we always recommend learning at least a few words in the local language, even if you can get by entirely in English (like you can in Norway). If nothing else, it shows an observance of the fact you’re a guest in someone else’s country, and you’re attempting to learn more about the culture and language. When Norwegians hear that you’re not a fluent speaker, they’re likely to switch to English, but it’s definitely worth trying! Norwegian is a pitch-accent language, so you really need to hear it to imitate it properly. Norwegian is also considered one of the easiest languages for English speakers (even easier than Spanish) to learn, so here’s your chance!

Oslo_hammer

Once You Get There:

Where to stay: Airbnb is rapidly gaining popularity in Oslo, but we stayed at Citybox. Citybox is a budget hotel right in the city center. By cutting away all of the excess associated with hotels, it feels like a cross between a hotel and a hostel. It’s definitely worth checking out if you prefer hotels, but don’t want to spend a fortune.

As with our Stockholm post, we recommend trying to limit how much you go out for food and drinks. In a place like Oslo, this can be hard because there’s so many good options! Kiwi is a good, budget grocery store to get most everyday food items. Vinmonopolet is the state run liquor stores in Norway, and you’ll have to go there to get anything stronger than 4.75% ABV. Both Kiwi and Vinmonopolet are easy to find throughout the city.

  1. Oslo Opera House

    Oslo_Opera_House

    The Oslo Opera House is an architectural work of art. The building itself is beautiful and you can walk onto the slanted roof, from which you’ll see the stunning views of the city and the waterfront. Of course, you can also go inside and enjoy operas and plays, but unfortunately when we visited we did not have the time or funds to do so.

  2. Karl Johans Gate

    oslo-Karljohangate

    Karl Johans Gate (Karl Johan’s Street) is the main pedestrian street in Oslo. It stretches from Oslo Central Station (Sentralstasjon) at one end, and runs to the Royal Palace (Slottet) on the other. There are many events that happen on or near Karl Johans Gate. It’s definitely worth an evening stroll, especially in the summertime, or shopping any time of year. If you’re there in May, try to catch the May 17th (Norwegian National Day) celebration on Karl Johans Gate.

  3. Oslo city hall

    Oslo_CityHall2

    Oslo city hall is not just another government building. It’s essentially a museum that’s open to the public, where you can view government conference rooms, artifacts, and historical setups. You can even take tours. When we visited city hall, we got there not too long before closing, but I enjoyed it so much I went back on my own during our short trip.

  4. National theater

    Oslo_NationalTheater

    While we didn’t go inside, the outside of the building is cool. Located in central Oslo, it’s in a cool area too with lots of easy access to greenery. If you’re interested in seeing the inside, there are multiple tours done in both English and Norwegian. To see some Norwegian dramatic arts, there is also shows done fairly often. For a current list of shows and events, check out Oslo’s tourism site. 

  5. Walk around the water

    Oslo_Waterfront2

    When I first visit a new city, one of my favorite things to do is to spend a little time walking around. Norway in general, and Oslo specifically is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. Walking along the waterfront or up and down the pedestrian streets is highly enjoyable. Aker Brygge, near central Oslo, is a good place to walk around and see the waterfront restaurants and coffee shops.

  6. Day trip to Lillehammer

    Lillehammer

    The 1994 winter olympics were held in Lillehammer, Norway. Luckily, it’s a short train ride from Oslo. If you visit in the winter, you can ski the slopes like an Olympian. We visited in the fall, so we were just able to walk around and take some photos. We spent a whole day in Lillehammer, which would be great if the weather was appropriate for skiing, but if you visit when there isn’t snow on the ground, I’d recommend a half-day trip, as there isn’t much else to do in Lillehammer. If you’re familiar with your Norwegian Netflix TV shows, you’ll see plenty of places from the show Lilyhammer!

  7. Akershus Fortress

    Oslo_Fortress

    Akershus Fortress is a fun part of Norwegian history. Originally built in the 1200’s, it has held numerous roles throughout history, including serving as the royal residence and as a prison. In modern times, it functions as a military base, but tourists are allowed to freely walk around much of the fortress during the day. This is also the location of Norwegian Armed Forces Museum, as well as a small museum commemorating the Norwegian resistance movement during World War II.

Oslo is a hidden gem in the European travel scene. It’s definitely worth a visit on your next trip around Northern Europe. From beautiful natural scenery to high culture in the Opera House, Oslo has something for you. If you liked this post, check out some of our other Destination guides for our favorite out-of-the-way backpacker destinations like Stockholm, Sweden, Pristina, Kosovo, Rishikesh, India, and San Ignacio, Belize.

About the authors:

David Anthony is a recent graduate of NC Central University’s School of Business. He is an avid traveler and an enthusiast of all things Scandinavia. He speaks Swedish and Norwegian and was co-organizer of a local Scandinavian meetup. He also enjoys hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing.

Allegra Anthony is who you know as the Globetrotting Scientist. She is a scientist at a small pharmaceutical company in NC. She has visited every Nordic country except Finland and is an avid traveler. She prides herself on being able to predict the outcome of sitcoms. She also enjoys reading, writing, and (very) amature photography.

A special thanks to pixabay.com and Allegra Anthony for providing the excellent photography in this post!

 

Advertisements

Destination: Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm: A quick look

Language: Swedish, English spoken fluently by most people

Currency: Swedish Krona

Drinking Age: 18 to purchase alcohol in a bar or restaurant and to purchase low strength beer at a grocery store. 20 to purchase wine and liquor at the government run “systembolaget.” Many bars and clubs will set a higher limit, usually 20 or 23.

Public Transportation: Stockholm has an excellent system of buses, metro stations, and even ferries that are used to travel around the city. If you plan to use public transportation often, purchase an unlimited access pass at T-centralen (central station). Here’s the website for Stockholm’s public transportation system (in English).

Passport: Yes, but US citizens can stay in Sweden up to 90 days without requiring a visa.

Vaccines: Routine

KIMG0010-edit

This post may contain affiliate links.

Before you leave:

Being the capital of Sweden, Stockholm is the political and economic center of the country. Roughly two million people live in the metropolitan area, spread across the 14 island archipelago on the edge of the Baltic sea. The area known as Stockholm has been inhabited since the Stone Age, and it was founded as a city in the 1200’s. As such, there is plenty of history and culture in Stockholm.

Stockholm, and all of Sweden, can seem quite expensive when compared to much of Europe. To cut cost, try and stay in an AirBnb and buy your food at ICA (a grocery store similar to Aldi). I had a studio apartment for $37 a night, and purchased sandwich ingredients at the ICA down the street from me. Not exactly fancy, but it’ll do the job.

Go in the summertime. Seriously, don’t be me and go in mid January. If you don’t like cold wind, snow, and rare daylight, just plan to go in the middle of summer. Swedes love to be outside, so there’s a lot more going on in the summertime.

At The Globetrotting Scientist, we always recommend learning at least a few words in the local language, even if you can get by entirely in English (like you can in Sweden). If nothing else, it shows an observance of the fact you’re a guest in someone else’s country, and you’re attempting to learn more about the culture and language. When Swedes hear that you’re not a fluent speaker, they’re likely to switch to English, but it’s definitely worth trying! Swedish is a pitch-accent language, so you really need to hear it to imitate it properly.

KIMG0014-edit

Once You Get There:

I can’t stress this enough, but if you’re trying to limit your spending, the easiest thing to do is to avoid restaurants and bars. I would recommend buying alcohol duty free before you enter the country (I bought a liter of vodka for around 10 euros in Munich) and shopping for food. Stockholm has a varied nightlife though, so I’ll give some recommendations below on where to go to meet people and make friends.

In contrast to above, bars are an easy way to meet Swedes. Swedes tend to open up a little easier when there’s alcohol involved. In fact, there’s a bit of a joke in Sweden that if a stranger smiles at you, they’re either American, insane, or drunk. Here’s your chance to make Swedish friends!

  1. Kungliga Slottet and Drottningholm Palacedrottningholm-palace-2419776_960_720

The Royal Palace is just plain cool. As the name implies, this is the royal palace of the Swedish monarchy. Inside the palace, there are several museums including the “museum of antiquities” and the Tre Kroner Museum. Like any proper palace, another common attraction is seeing the Royal Guards. Although pictures and such are fine, they are an actual military force, so follow any posted signs or instructions.

Like many European palaces and castles, there are rumors that Drottningholm Palace (the one where the royal family actually lives) is haunted. Several rumors and legends tell the story of various spirits, including a “gray man” and a “white woman.” Don’t worry though, Queen Silvia says the ghosts are friendly. 

2. Vasa Museum

vasa-museum-1260536_960_720.jpg

Being a city near the water, it makes sense that Stockholm would have an entire museum dedicated to a 17th century warship. In 1628, the Vasa sank on its maiden voyage, but that didn’t stop them from beautifully restoring this ship. It’s 130 SEK (about $15USD) to get in, and children under 18 get in for free. Tours are offered in both English and Swedish. It’s a fun place if you want to nerd out about Scandinavian nautical history.

3. Kungsträdgården

Kungsträdgården

This attraction definitely falls into the category of things that are better done in the summer. It’s a beautiful park that’s great for an afternoon stroll after walking around downtown Stockholm. In the wintertime there’s an ice skating rink, which I didn’t partake in (despite how hilarious that would’ve been for everyone involved). In the summertime, there are many concerts and events. Summertime is also when the trees come into bloom, and the warm weather and vibrant colors are a welcome end to the cold and gray winter.

4. Nightlife

StockholmNight

And where would a European capital be without a decent nightlife? Stockholm has a wide variety of clubs and bars, but I’ll list off a few unique places that are worth checking out just for their cool factor. Nightlife in Stockholm is broken up into two main areas: Stureplan, and Södermalm. Stureplan is right near the financial center, and subsequently is incredibly expensive. If you’re looking to splurge, hit up Stureplan. On the other hand, Södermalm is the trendier hipster neighborhood where things aren’t quite as bougie.

The Ice Bar is a cool place to visit. Conveniently located near T-centralen, Drinks are served in shot glasses made of ice, and there’s often an interior design theme that gives the place a unique feel and look. The interior is kept below freezing, because most of it is made of ice, so bring a jacket when you go! Kids are also welcome, as the bar serves non-alcoholic mocktails as well. Ice Bar definitely falls into the more expensive category, due to its unique atmosphere and tourist presence.

Aifur is ridiculous. Located in Gamla Stan, It’s a viking themed bar and restaurant that steers into every viking cliche and stereotype imaginable. There are horned helmets and wooden tables and viking decor. The menu includes mead and reindeer hearts. Airfur will be a bit expensive compared to other non tourist-y places, so keep that in mind if you’re on a budget. It feels goofy, but it’s fun in a tourist-y way. It’s definitely worth stopping in for some mead.

On the cheaper end of the spectrum, two bars come to mind. Restaurang Mosaik, located in Södermalm, has an “afterwork” special from 1-6PM where beers are 29 SEK (around $3USD). They also have seats that overlook the water, making this a nice evening place to grab drinks.

Bar 08 is also a solid contender, being far enough away from the touristy places to have a good mix of locals. Beers can be had at Bar 08 for as little as 25 SEK.

This is just a tiny list of all the options in Stockholm. As you can see, nightlife in Stockholm can go from unbelievably expensive to on par with what you’d pay in the US. Shop around, do your research, and you shouldn’t have a problem grabbing drinks on occasion. Many people will pregame before hitting the bars to save money, so this is where buying alcohol in a store cheaply will help.

5. Gamla Stan

KIMG0018-edit

Gamla Stan, meaning Old City, is a fun place if you want to see old architecture. It has the cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways, and old buildings that are always fun for a casual walk. Gamla stan also has the Nobel Museum, which has a lot of artifacts and information about the Nobel Prize, and Alfred Nobel. A fun activity in Gamla Stan is to try and find Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, the narrowest alley in Stockholm which is only 90 centimeters wide at its narrowest point.

6. Stockholm Pass

museum-history-stockholm

Pro tip if you like museums: Stockholm offers a Stockholm pass that gets you into many different attractions, museums, and tours. It can be a bit pricey, but if you’re into doing a lot of museums and tours when you travel, it can save you quite a bit of money. There’s even some suggested itineraries on their website.

There are so many things to do in Stockholm, I could just keep listing things indefinitely. Hopefully this post will help you get an idea of some of the more popular things to do in the city, and help you plan out a fun trip while minimizing cost. The Stockholm tourism website has a ton of info for planning a trip. If you want any more info on Stockholm or travelling in Sweden, ask us in the comments!  If you liked this post, check out some of our other Destination guides for our favorite out-of-the-way backpacker destinations like Oslo, NorwayPristina, Kosovo, Rishikesh, India, and San Ignacio, Belize.

About the author:
David Anthony is a recent graduate of NC Central University’s School of Business. He is an avid traveler and an enthusiast of all things Scandinavia. He speaks Swedish and Norwegian and was co-organizer of a local Scandinavian meetup. He also enjoys hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing.

A special thanks to pixabay.com and David Anthony for providing the excellent photography in this post!

Destination: Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India

Rishikesh: A quick look

Language: Hindi

Currency: Indian Rupee

Drinking Age: 21 in Uttarakhand (the state), but alcohol is banned within the city itself

Public Transportation: Rishikesh is very walkable, but taxi and shuttle services are available downtown. The closest airport is in Haridwar, about 20 km away.

Passport: Yes, US citizens are also required to obtain a tourist visa prior to arrival in India. For visits of fewer than 60 days, an electronic visa is the easiest and quickest to obtain

Vaccines: Routine, plus Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Malaria medication may also be necessary; visit your primary care physician prior to leaving your home country to receive vaccinations and recommendations for additional medications based on your specific trip itinerary.

rishikesh

Before you leave:

Known as the “Valley of the Saints,” Rishikesh occupies the beginning of the Ganges river in the Himalayan foothills. In addition to being a very important area in Hinduism, Rishikesh is also a very popular spot for yoga and other spiritual education.

Remember that Rishikesh is a sacred city in Hinduism. Because of this, alcohol, drugs, and meat are banned in the city. Although alcohol and drugs are not hard to find if you know where to go, please be respectful of the culture, and do not use within Rishikesh.

Hostels are usually the best places to stay in Rishikesh. The one we stayed in was on top of the hill, which gave a wonderful view of the Ganges and the surrounding mountains. Many have AC, reliable Wifi, and breakfast included. In addition, a popular activity is studying yoga and mindfulness in an ashram, which often includes lodging.

20170714_163851

Once you get there:

Don’t be afraid of the street food. Classics like chaat, samosa, pav bhaji, and pani puri are all extremely cheap at street stalls. Be careful and ensure the food is hot, and you shouldn’t have any trouble. The best way to find the good stuff is to go with a local.

Use common sense to avoid scams. Scams are incredibly common in touristy parts of India, and Rishikesh is no different. Do some research beforehand on the most common ones and tips to avoid them.

  1. Beatles Ashram

    beatles-ashram-rishikesh

This is probably what Rishikesh is best known for in the United States. In 1968, the Beatles traveled to Rishikesh to study transcendental meditation. At the time called Maharishi’s International Academy of Meditation, it’s now simply known as “Beatles Ashram.” There is so much myth, legend, and controversy surrounding the Beatles in India that I can’t cover it all here. Everyone knows where Beatles Ashram is, and it’s definitely something to see when you’re in the area.

2. Trekking/Outdoor activities

Outdoors

Rishikesh sits next to the Ganges river, and right at the foothills of the Himalaya. This puts you in the perfect spot to enjoy activities such as trekking, rock climbing, white water rafting, and plenty of nature tours. You can find guides for these activities at the guide services downtown.

3. Mussoorie Hill Station

Mussoorie

Okay, so this isn’t technically in Rishikesh, but it’s close enough you can do it from the city. Hill stations are small towns that sit atop high mountains, mostly to keep them cool in the summer. It’s a really nice experience looking down the steep mountains into the valleys.

4. Kunjapuri Devi Temple

Kunjapuri temple

Kunjapuri Devi sits high atop a mountain, about a half hour drive from Rishikesh. You can charter a car to take you up there for about 1800 rupees, so try to go as a group to split the cost. The view from the top is *amazing.* A popular activity is to make it up there early in order to see the sunrise. On a clear day, you can see as far as China and Nepal. Culturally, it is the temple to Sati, the wife of Shiva. The super abridged version of the story is that Sati ended her own life after her father humiliated Shiva. After this, her father carried her body throughout the Himalaya, and pieces of it fell throughout the mountains in 52 different places, known as Shakti Peethas. These Shakti Peethas are found throughout Nepal and India. Kunjapuri Devi is where Sati’s chest is believed to have fallen.

5. Neer Garh Waterfall

neer-garh-waterfall

This is a great place to go to get out of the city and enjoy some beautiful Indian nature. After a steep hike, you’re rewarded with beautiful views of the waterfall and surrounding mountains. The water here is nice and clean, and it’s a popular place to jump in and cool off. All in all, it’s a fun place to explore for the day.

6. Visit the temples and bridges

20170714_185642

There are *tons* of temples in Rishikesh. Far too many to name in a short blog article, but I’ll rapid fire off some names to get you started. For temples, the popular ones are Badrinath, Parmath Niketan, Neelkanth Mahadev, and Tera Manzil. Even though it’s not a temple, the Lakshman Jhula bridge is a fun thing to see. A long suspension bridge that connects the two banks of the Ganges, it’s a cool place to get photos of the city and river.

Rishikesh is a great place to get out of the Golden Triangle and see what the rest of northern India has to offer. It’s a great stepping off point to go deeper into the Himalaya, head west into Punjab, or as a weekend jaunt from Delhi. It’s a must see for anybody traveling around northern India.

Disclaimer: I am far from an expert in Indian culture and Hinduism, so I apologize if any cultural facts are incorrect. Let us know in the comments!

Many thanks to David Anthony for creating this guide to Rishikesh, India.

Did you like this article? Have you visited Rishikesh? Tell us about it in the comments! Share via Facebook or Twitter, and as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Sources:
Beatles Ashram photo: http://www.haridwarrishikeshtourism.com/beatles-ashram-rishikesh.html

Rappelling in Rishikesh photo: https://www.thrillophilia.com/rappelling-in-rishikesh

Mussoorie Hill Station photo: https://www.euttaranchal.com/tourism/mussoorie.php

Rishikesh photo: http://industrips.com/rishikesh/

 

 

How I Moved to India for 2 Months with Only a Backpack

A big thank you to David Anthony for sharing his packing skills in this post. If you would like to learn more about packing light, check out my posts: 6 Tips for Packing Light,  A Backpacker’s Guide to Packing: Winter Edition, Essential items every traveler needs before the next big trip, and Travel Mistakes I Made (So You Don’t Have to).

“Ounces make pounds” is a phrase that’s often thrown around in an infantry platoon, often by your team leader when you start trying to pack another hokey gadget. Spend enough time carrying around your life on your back, and you get a first-hand feel for the consequences of not packing light. In so many aspects of life, overpacking causes grief for a number of reasons.

USA-India.png

This past summer, I completed the US State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship in India. Besides goals like learn as much Urdu as possible and eat my own body weight in chaat, I had another specific goal: successfully survive and thrive in India for two months with only a 38L carry on sized backpack. To do that, I had to be very diligent in which clothing and gadgets I took. I didn’t skimp though. I had my computer, clothing for a week, a towel, business casual clothing, and space for souvenirs. Sure, I didn’t have eight pairs of shoes or a personalized bathrobe, but you don’t need that stuff to travel. Trust me.

Backpack.jpg

For clothing, the best advice I can give can be summed up in a few key points: make it interchangeable, bring lightweight stuff, and roll it up. Lay out all the clothing you plan to take with you. Now, close your eyes, mix it all up, and pull out a random shirt and a random pair of pants. If they don’t go together, your stuff isn’t interchangeable. This rule should apply for everything you bring. Every single thing should work with everything else. This will give you more options with less clothing. In India, I had about four button up shirts, two or three t shirts, four pairs of pants, and a single t shirt and shorts for working out. You’ll have to do laundry, but you probably do that about once a week anyway (right???). I also took a comfortable pair of running shoes I could use for walking around the city and a pair of flip flops (sandals are very common in India). The final tip for clothing is to roll it instead of folding. For my grunts out there, we all know the Ranger roll is superior to folding. The same applies to packing for travel. Linked is an instructional video about rolling clothing.

roll-your-clothes

In India, I knew that I’d be spending most of my time in class. The city I was in was also not exactly known for its thrilling adventure, so I knew I would need something to keep me busy. For me, that was my phone and computer. On my phone, I kept the Amazon Kindle app, which had several books for reading while trying to adjust to the jet lag. For a computer, you want to take something lightweight and durable. I personally had a Chromebook. While big PCs and Macbooks are nice, they aren’t always light or easily replaceable. Chromebooks, being tied to your Google account, are a snap to replace if they break or are stolen. Simply log into a new computer with your Google account, and it will instantly start to backup your stuff. They’re also cheap. For my coders out there, it’s easy to install a custom Linux distro called GalliumOS on a Chromebook, really allowing you to unlock its potential. Light, durable, flexible, and easy to replace. No computer is perfect, but for those who are planning to travel light, the Chromebook is close.

chromebook.jpg

The fact that I was moving to India made things much simpler than if I was backpacking from city to city every few days. I could afford to spread out a bit and get comfortable. Knowing this, I intentionally packed very light in terms of toiletries. I really only took some travel sized items to use if I got stranded in an airport for the night. The best thing to do is buy most of your toiletries once you get to your destination. Not only will this save room in your bag, but exploring the shops is a great way to get to know a new city. I also only packed a small microfiber towel, and upon arrival in India, I bought a larger bath towel for everyday use. Many sundry items are also going to be cheaper abroad than they are in North America. If you’re concerned with having to throw it all away when you leave, look into donating them to an NGO or non-profit. My classmates and I gathered all of our unused toiletries as we were leaving the country and donated them, meaning there’s no issues with having to use up an entire bottle of shampoo before you leave.

toiletries-for-minimalist-travelistas-2.jpg

The principles for longer term stays are the same as the ones for short jaunts: be a fanatic about weight and space; always assess and reassess if you really need the things you’re packing; try to pack items that are as multipurpose as possible; and trim down the items you can buy once you’re in-country. It’s that simple. So get out there, start paring your stuff down, and enjoy the simplicity of lightweight travel!

Did you enjoy this post?  What are you hacks for packing light?  Share them in the comments below!  Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Disclaimer: if you follow the Amazon link in the body of this post and make purchases through it, I will receive a small compensation from Amazon. This compensation comes from Amazon, not from you, and the price you see through my links is the same as the price you would see otherwise.

Shout-outs:
Microfiber towel link: http://amzn.to/2DCHvdv
Ranger roll video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cq07hyTlrcU
Rolled clothing image: http://forum.expeditionportal.com/threads/57992-Clothes-Storage-for-travel
Travel-sized toiletries photo: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/5-tips-to-travel-size-toiletries-for-minimalist-travelistas/

 

Destination: Pristina, Kosovo

Pristina: A Quick Look

Language: Albanian; Serbian spoken by a minority
Currency: Euro
Drinking Age: no minimum legal drinking age
Public Transportation: Buses and taxis are common in the city, and between cities
Passport: Required for US citizens. US Citizens may stay in Kosovo up to 90 days without a visa
Vaccines: Routine vaccines, plus Hepatitis A. Hepatitis B and Rabies recommended for some travelers

Before you leave:

  • Pristina is the capital city of Kosovo, a small somewhat disputed nation in Southeastern Europe. It would be wise to do some research regarding the Yugoslavian civil war, which is still in very recent memory for many Kosovars
  • Avoid discussing Serbia if possible. Serbia’s control of the region for many years is not a pleasant memory, and no matter what your opinion of the conflict is, it’s best kept to yourself.
  • Kosovars are very warm and friendly. You will find that many are genuinely eager to be your friend. It’s not uncommon to be invited into someone’s home shortly after meeting them.

Once you get there:

    • The easiest way into Pristina is to fly into the international airport, or to rent a car and driving up from either FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) or Albania. Keep in mind that in the past, people have had trouble crossing the border between Kosovo and Serbia due to the border not really being formally recognized by Serbia. It’s possible to drive across, but research the immigration practices before attempting or you could end up with fines and unneeded hassle.
    • Public transportation can be a little hard to figure out in Kosovo. The easiest way to figure it out is to ask a local! You might have to try a few people before you find someone that speaks English, but they will point you in the right direction. Pristina is also rather walk-able, if you so choose.

1. Bill Clinton Boulevard

This is always my go-to fun fact about Pristina: there’s a 10 foot tall statue of Bill Clinton along “Bill Clinton Boulevard.” It was built in 2009 to commemorate Bill Clinton’s support of Kosovo during the Yugoslavian civil war. I remember being caught totally off guard when I was driving through Pristina and happened across a giant Bill Clinton statue next to the road. Good times…

2. Newborn Monument

The Newborn Monument is a must see. Unveiled on 17 February 2008, the day that Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, it symbolizes Kosovo’s status as a new nation. The coolest part about it: It’s repainted every year, with the new design being unveiled on February 17th.

3. Skanderbeg Square

Skanderbeg Square marks the beginning of the pedestrian streets in Pristina. It’s also the site of a statue commemorating Skanderbeg, an Albanian hero. There are plenty of nice hotels in this area, and when the weather is good you can see lots of people out and enjoying themselves.

4. Kosovo Museum

The Kosovo Museum is full of artifacts found throughout the country. Its mission is to preserve the history and culture of the country. It is also the headquarters of the Kosovo Archaeological Institute. They’ve carefully preserved thousands of artifacts, some dating all the way back to the Ottoman Empire. It’s a good way to spend half a day if you’re into museums and history.

5. Natural Beauty

Travelling in Kosovo is not complete without also taking in the natural beauty. If you’re used to travelling in North America or Western Europe, Pristina might feel a little run down. If the city is getting to you, there’s tons of things to do in the surrounding countryside, oftentimes these things are also not in any guidebooks. All of the following are not more than a few hours by car from Pristina.

  • Summit Mt. Ljuboten
    At 8196 feet, Mt Ljuboten is the tallest mountain in Kosovo. Climbing the mountain takes most of a day unless you’re really fast, and in the summer it is nothing more than a steep walk and a casual scramble. In the winter, however, you’ll need proper climbing gear as it’s covered in snow and ice. The summit sits right on the border between Kosovo and FYROM. On a clear day, you can see incredibly far from the top. It’s a good place for a #kosovo photo op.
  • Mirusha Park
    Pictured above, exploring Mirusha Park is a great summertime activity. It’s a large canyon with all sorts of waterfalls and lakes to swim in. It’s a great place to cool off in the summer and meet other people. Don’t miss this one.
  • Brezovica Ski Resort
    Called “the most delightfully dysfunctional ski resort in Europe” by the New York Times, Brezovica is a fun place to learn to ski. If you’ve ever been to a ski resort in the United States, you might want to forget about that experience, as Brezovica Ski Resort is nothing like that. The lifts are rickety, the rental skis are well loved, and the kids will literally ski circles around you and laugh when you fall backwards on flat ground. If you don’t know how to ski, my recommendation is to just rent a pair, go up the slope right outside the hotel, and start riding down. You’ll figure it out!

In summary, Pristina (and Kosovo in general) is a good place to start if you’re looking to get off the beaten path in Europe. It’s safe, the people are nice, and the countryside is beautiful. Espressos and wine are fun, but there’s a whole other side to the continent most Americans never take the time to get to know. Kosovo is incredibly unique, you won’t find anywhere quite like it. After having lived there for 9 months, it sorta grew on me in a weird way. If you’re looking to break out of the old Paris-Berlin-Budapest route, hop on over to Pristina for a few days.

Many thanks to David Anthony for creating this guide to Pristina, Kosovo.

Did you like this article? Have you visited Kosovo? Tell us about it in the comments! Share via Facebook or Twitter, and as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Links:

Bill Clinton Boulevard: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Clinton_Boulevard#/media/File:Bill_Clinton_statue.jpg

Newborn: http://pages.kiva.org/node/10892

Skanderbeg Square: https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g295385-d2476250-i131836377-Swiss_Diamond_Hotel_Prishtina-Pristina.html

Kosovo Museum: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosovo_Museum#/media/File:Muzeu_i_Kosov%C3%ABs.JPG

Mirusha Park: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirusha_Park#/media/File:Unseen_Mirusha.jpg

NYT Article about Brezovica: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/travel/kosovo-ski-holidays.html?mcubz=3

Pristina photo: https://sk.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pri%C5%A1tina

Learning a Language Part 3/3: Putting it All Together

Welcome to the final segment of our 3 part summer series on learning a new language! Part 3 puts together everything you learned in parts 1 and 2, and includes more tips for mastering the basics. Like parts 1 and 2, this guide was written by our guest, David Anthony. I hope you enjoyed our summer series!
(Catch up with part 1 and part 2)

Part 3:

So now you’ve got a language to learn, and the resources to learn it. Great! How do you go about putting it all together? Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today. If you only take away one thing from this article, it needs to be this: You can’t learn to speak a language without speaking it.

I know, it sounds very intuitive. Many people put off speaking for as long as possible, and this isn’t going to get you very far. Don’t be nervous, just go out and speak. Speak as much and as often as possible.

people-talking.jpg

The very first thing you need to do when you start out is start to learn the most useful vocabulary first. Ignore grammar, ignore learning the writing, just sit down with a phrasebook and learn how to say greetings. Learn how to ask about prices, learn some numbers, learn any culturally relevant phrases. This gives you the bedrock that you’ll build on. By ignoring grammar in the beginning, you can get to speaking sooner and learn some whole sentences. Once you move on to learning grammar, knowing these sentences will reinforce the grammar concepts. As you get more familiar with the general structure and sounds, start to incorporate more grammar and vocab into your study. Here’s a list of the 625 most common words in everyday communication. This is a good place to start, as it gives you the most bang for your buck vocabulary wise. When used in conjunction with a good overview of useful grammar, you’ll make fast language gains and quickly find yourself being able to make whole sentences easily.

As you move past the simple vocab and grammar into more intermediate territory, it’s time to get a little more creative. This is also the more fun part of studying a language, as you can understand much more than you could at the beginning. Now’s the time to start really getting into some more higher order vocabulary and grammar. I like to use news articles, tv, music, and any other media in your target language. Find something that’s interesting to you, and start reading or listening. When you find a word or phrase you don’t understand, look it up and try to make a note of it so you can work it into your study rotation.

Reading-Newspaper.jpg

There’s a widespread misconception that young children learn languages better than adults. This is false. The reason it seems that way is because children constantly practice, and they get a lot of repetition. To apply this to us as adult learners, this means that you need consistency and intensity. Consistency is the most important study tool you can use. Try to study every single day. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes before you go to sleep. A few minutes every day is better than 5 hours a day once a week.

The other half is intensity. Although 20 minutes a day is better than nothing, becoming fluent with that little study is virtually impossible. That’s why many people have “studied” a language for years, and never make it past the most basic phrases. To reach a B2 on CEFR, which I personally think is the lowest level one could claim fluency at, you need anywhere from 600-1800 hours of study, depending on the language you’re learning. Basically, you need to be willing to put in the time if you ever want to reach fluency. Don’t let it discourage you, you just have to be willing to put in the work. People who learn languages quickly don’t do it because they’re doing anything differently, they’re just studying consistently and speaking as much as possible. There’s nothing wrong with dabbling in a language. Plenty of people just want to know a few words, and couldn’t care less about fluency. I’m not telling you to not do that, just be aware of what your goals and aspirations with the language are.

The last thing you need to do is push yourself. Find things that are challenging to read or listen to. Try to express a controversial opinion in conversation. Discuss politics and religion, even if you don’t feel ready. Learning a language is like exercising. You need to push yourself to see results.

People-talking-2.jpg

All of this might be a little discouraging, but it’s not meant to be. In fact, it’s quite empowering. All you need to do is put in the work and practice as much as you can. The rest will fall into place. Study every day, speak as often as you possibly can, and push yourself. You’d be surprised by how quickly you can become conversational in a language just by doing some hard work. There’s a million other things out there that are much more in depth than this article. If you want to get more detail about how you should go about studying, I would check out Gabriel Wyner’s book Fluent Forever. He goes into much more detail about some study techniques and tools that I personally found very useful. He’s also the guy who put together that useful 625 list! I hope this article helped you out. Feel free to contact me with any questions you have about language learning.

Thanks for reading! Are you multilingual? What are some of tips for learning a language? Tell us about it in the comments below! Did you enjoy this post? Share it via Facebook or Twitter. And, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Disclaimer: if you follow the Amazon links in the body of this post and make purchases through them, I will receive a small compensation from Amazon. This compensation comes from Amazon, not from you, and the price you see through my links is the same as the price you would see otherwise. However I have no association with Wikipedia or Gabriel Wyner. In an attempt to bring you the best content, we linked to the sites that we felt were the most relevant, compensation notwithstanding.

Images:

http://ods.matera-basilicata2019.it/en/open-talks/iaconesipersico-education-and-communication-open-source/

https://www.rhodes.edu/content/multicultural-affairs

Learning a Language Part 2/3: Essential Resources

Welcome to part 2 of our 3 part summer series on learning a new language!  Part 2 covers some of the resources you should use to effectively learn a new language on your own.  You won’t see expensive courses like Rosetta Stone on this list–it’s designed for your average 20-something backpacker.  Like part 1, this guide was written by our guest, David Anthony. Look out for new installments on the last Sunday of every month. Enjoy! 

(Catch up with part 1 here)

PART 2:

Whew! So you’ve finally whittled down the language you want to learn. Let’s use Turkish as an example. You just love Turkish coffee, the language sounds beautiful, and you’re just dying to see Istanbul. Perfect! You have a specific passion about Turkish culture and the language. Now what the hell do you use to actually learn? Rosetta Stone? Textbooks? Passive listening of internet radio? I’m going to give you what you need to really get started, and it’s probably going to cost you less than 50 bucks.

For resources, I would recommend you start with 3 things: A phrasebook, a grammar book, and a dictionary. I also like to buy a textbook with audio when I can find a good one, as it gives you dialog examples you won’t usually find in the other three. Below I’ll list some examples of each, and where to get them.

PHRASEBOOKS

  • Berlitz: These are the best bang for your buck in my opinion. Packed with thousands of words and phrases that are organized by topic, they really are a good starting place. The best part: You can find them on Amazon for less than $5 used in most cases.
  • Lonely Planet: Lonely Planet has a better selection than Berlitz from what I’ve found. They have phrasebooks for smaller languages like Nepali, Thai, and Croatian. This makes them an invaluable resource when trying to pick up a less commonly taught language. These can also be found dirt cheap used on Amazon.

GRAMMAR BOOK

  • _________ An Essential Grammar: I like the essential grammar series because they present “conversational grammar.” Without getting bogged down in nuanced rules you’ll barely ever use, they just teach what’s necessary to make yourself understood. Short and to the point, they make learning grammar much easier than you remembered in school. I used this series for most of my languages with success.

DICTIONARY

  • Langenscheidt publishes easy to use, pocket sized dictionaries for a number of languages. Don’t be fooled by their size, these are serious references that you’ll be able to use at virtually all stages of the language learning process.
  • Hippocrene dictionaries are also an option for some less common languages. They can be a bit hit and miss, so look around until you find something that works for you.

Now, those three are really all you need if you’re looking to get away as cheap as possible. With the internet and a patient native speaker for practice, you can make an incredible amount of progress. Personally, I like to find a good “textbook” or course book with audio for extra practice, and it can also show you what real world conversations feel like and sound like.

TEXTBOOK

  • Personally, I’m a fan of Teach Yourself/Complete series. Some people love them, some people hate them. They have books for close to 30 languages, which vary widely in quality. Look carefully into the reviews and see if the Teach Yourself book for your language is any good. They often come with dialogs as well, which for me is one of the big pros. They’re easy enough to find on Amazon, just search “Teach Yourself _____” and they should come up. Pro tip: They were recently rebranded as “Complete ____,” but the older “Teach Yourself” editions are virtually identical. The older editions are much cheaper, so grabbing those can save you a bit of money.
  • The Colloquial series is another good choice. Colloquial is a well known resource with a surprising number of language options. Much of the same rules for the Teach Yourself/Complete series apply to Colloquial.
  • Assimil is an option I haven’t had the chance to try yet, but I’m very interested in doing so. Published in France, Assimil has the largest variety out of all the series I’ve talked about. They have offerings in 70 languages, including Creole, Ancient Greek, and even Egyptian Hieroglyphics! There’s two big downsides to Assimil: First off, getting them is often expensive. The courses are not cheap to start with, and they’re usually shipped from France. A friend who uses Assimil recommends ordering several at once to cut down on overall shipping price. The second downside (depending on how you see it) is many of their courses are published in French. If you speak French well enough to understand the instructions, it’s probably one of your best options. Don’t worry if you don’t, since they have about 14 courses published in English, most of which are for more popular languages.

DIGITAL

There’s thousands of digital resources you can use, but I’m gonna touch on three really quickly that I think are great

  • Duolingo is a completely free resource that’s great for getting a good base in a foreign language. Standing alone, it won’t do much to develop your conversational abilities. When mixed with other resources though, it’s a great introduction to another language. The general consensus is that finishing the entire course brings you to an A2ish level on the CEFR scale. They’re constantly adding new languages, so I only see Duolingo becoming more popular as time goes on. Give it a look.
  • Italki is another essential digital resource. Using it, you can find language partners to practice speaking with, which is 100% essential to learn anything beyond simple phrases. I’ll get more into how to learn a foreign language in a later post, but one thing you need to know right now: you will not learn a language unless you practice speaking with other people. There’s no way around it. Italki is great for finding a tutor to teacher if you choose that route (oftentimes you do have to pay them for this time, but the rates are reasonable). I find myself using Italki less nowadays, and focusing more on Hellotalk for language partners.
  • Hellotalk is a free app that is set up exclusively for finding language partners. It’s easy to use, and they go through a lot of effort to filter out spam. I personally like it better than Italki, because it’s less focused on getting you to pay for a teacher. It has an in-house messaging and search function, so you can be up and running in minutes. Check it out

This is just a 10,000 foot view of all the resources out there. I could write an entire book about everything that’s out there. Spend some time searching and asking around, and you’ll definitely find what you want. In the next post, I’ll start getting into how to actually put all this together and start learning and speaking quickly. Good luck!

Thanks for reading! Are you multilingual? What are some of your favorite resources? Tell us about it in the comments below! Did you enjoy this post? Share it via Facebook or Twitter. And, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Disclaimer: if you follow the Amazon links in the body of this post and make purchases through them, I will receive a small compensation from Amazon.  This compensation comes from Amazon, not from you, and the price you see through my links is the same as the price you would see otherwise.  However I have no association with Duolingo, Berlitz, or any of the companies mentioned above.  In an attempt to bring you the best content, we linked to the sites that we felt were the most relevant, compensation notwithstanding.