Saturday, 25 July 2015

Reaching the end... A perfect and tiny bit of Berlin.

We took the train from Prague to Berlin, crowded; I had to stand most of trip as it was difficult to find places for us to sit together.  We survived the last train journey, we were tired, and soon ready to go home, but we arrived in Berlin to enjoy two quiet days, with no intention to do tourist stuff.  We stayed at my friends flat in Simon-DachStreet in  Friedrichshain, a vibrant neighborhood in the East side of Berlin, full of life, cafes, restaurants, and eccentric  and alternative looking people. I enjoyed immensely going to the shopping market, making food, sitting in a living room and hearing the wind touch those big trees behind my friend’s flat, the afternoon thunder, lightning and rain that came to freshen up our overheated backpacking experience in the other parts of Europe.  

We felt home in Berlin, in the way it allowed us to fit in, in the way people spoke German at us assuming we could speak it despite our looks, and in the kindness  given to us once we disclosed we were tourist and just passing by.  How refreshing I thought, how wonderful experience just being there, to see no landmarks and just observe life among these eclectic mix of people none of them wearing straw hats.

We spent the following  day at one of the Berlin lakes, something I wished to do very much and Berliners seem to greatly enjoy. We took the efficient metro and tram system to the other side of the city in search of lake Muggelsee,  it was a great experience and we spent most of the day there, swimming and lying under the sun. My friend Sam invited her friend Karianne from Stavanger, who also lives in Berlin, a very down to earth person who both Aleksander and I enjoyed meeting. Seldom it is in fact to meet a woman so kind and fun to be around that seems so unaware of her physical beauty, the tall Viking woman from Rogaland with her long strawberry blond hair, piercing blue eyes and freckles like grains of sand splashed all over her made people turn their heads to catch a glimpse of her.  

Despite our age difference, I can still recognize something about me in both Karianne and Sam, and the similarities of our lives, both of them are young women in their 30’s, looking for meaning elsewhere; I have walked longer than them, and I have found my place for now, the place where I can tap from my reality in Norway a greater meaning to my life, but the seeker of new experiences that lives inside of me is neither dead or dormant. I feel alive and vibrant.

The days since we arrived home in Stavanger have been hectic with visits from Namsos and Bergen, my home is full of life, there has been no time to sit down and digest in silence the end of this journey, find a thought, a small but personal meaning in which this trip has redefined me.

As to us, a son and a mother, the journey was unique, busy, it was hard work and it was also fun. We learned to trust each other more; we learned to compromise, we both have grown much individually and as a family. I have seen sides of my son that have made me very proud. I have seen sides of him that also tell me we are doing something right in the way we both, his father and I are raising him.  I have also seen the sides of me that need to improve as a parent, but for those sides I have apologized to him when necessary, and have corrected my ways.

To forgive is to love, and to love is to live. There is no doubt, we are living! And that is perhaps the greatest realization of this trip.

With a special dedication to Geir Arne Aarre father of my #youngbackpacker and supporter of our adventures.

 Thank you Sam for the perfect and tiny bit of Berlin

Distre Backpacker Europe
From Stavanger 25.07.2015


Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Prague: Kid, friend and a missing lover.

By the time we entered Prague my ability to keep patient and focus on finding the way had been largely reduced to the bare minimum. The trip until now had been stimulating but also challenging for the mind, body and any other virtue that makes us civil.

As we entered the train station, I had no money, so we withdrew from the mini bank at the station, the notes were 1000, and 2000’s notes, no one wanted to change us money to responsible buy our metro ticket, and with the stress of it all I didn’t see that one of the metro offices was open just behind me, and selling tickets. I managed to buy a bunch of crap in a convenient shop in order to get change and get my money thrown at me by the shop clerk, she realized her rudeness when all the coins she gave me back landed on the floor, then she sincerely apologized to me, I didn’t speak or get angry, I picked my money and I dismissed her with my seldom used but ultimate arrogant hand gestures.  The frustration I saw in her eyes was easily recognizable, she hated her job but I was not going to make her hate it more.

If it wasn’t for dear Aleksnader, my ten year old, we would have continued searching for line B going in circles that only accentuated my mental state of stupidity, me cursing words in Norwegian and he telling me to stop.  At the end he managed to solve my directional myopia and found the way to the right Metro.  It seems that the lessons I thought him in the cities before Prague were absorbed properly. Good!  I thought after we sat finally in the Metro and I held him, whispering thank you to him and telling him how proud I was of him helping me gaining control and helping me see what was impossible for me to see.

We arrived to our hostel, Downtown hostel Prague, as backpackers it was a dream of mine to stay in one and having the experience. The hostel had amazing reviews online and with reason, the staff was great, the place was funky and it offered accommodations for three, as my friend Sam was joining us from Berlin for the weekend.  According to my travelled hostel experienced friend Sam, the hostel standards were very high. We settled in the top floor, the room and toilet were specious and were very clean. We had a few windows we could climb out and stand at the edge of the roof; we spent a lot of time there, enjoying the views of Prague, enjoying the cool breeze of Prague and catching up with the past (my favorite spot this holiday was that roof).  

Prague was full of children and I surprised Aleksander  with a 2:30 hour tour of Prague on Segway, we were too tired to walk and he loved the experience, and we saw a lot of places in a short time, it was money well spent.  As any other major famous city, there is nothing new I can contribute that hasn’t been shared, plenty of things to do and experience with kids, here is the article that helped us identify some of the activities we did.

My favorite place during the stay was Petrin Park, we returned to it twice, the views of the city are very pretty, and is not crowded, one can take a picture without having thousands of people in view; the nature is beautiful and one can find pear, apple, plumb and cherry trees. As we walked down slowly from the top of the hill to the city, absorbing the undeniable magic of a city, I could not help but to think, that Prague can make anyone long for a hand holding lover and not the insisting clinging of a child and an accident prone chatter box female friend whom Aleksnader adores.

Nevertheless, both Sam and Aleksander  brought  me back to my relaxing self and sense of humor. I could not wish anyone else to see Prague for the first time, as for the second…


From Berlin, 22.07.15

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Vienna with kids - prepare to spend money

Ariving to Vienna felt like a breeze of relief from stressful Rome. The noticeable organization and order can be perceived from the moment we boarded the Austrian train to Vienna, arriving to the station and using the metro.

We settled in our accommodation, a functional and central Airbnb with good facilities. The only issues was sharing the toilet and the lack of a fan. The two nights we spent there were the most uncomfortable ones due to the heat. Vienna is an expensive city, but  is full of options for children and adults. 

This is what we decided to do with our two days in Vienna:

My son wanted to take the horse carriage sightseeing tour for 80 Euros (40 minutes  ride) this was out of our budget, although it broke my heart to say no, life is not about getting what you want but understanding that not getting it is not the end of the world. We then took tram no 1 which allowed us to orientate ourselves and  see some landmarks in a charming old fashion tram for less than 4 euros for both of us.

Haus der Musik

We visited Kunsthistorisches Museum Armour and Weapons collection which my son really got engaged with and I also liked it a lot.  Then visited the State Hall at  National Library open to the public area, a magnificent building, and later on, we visited the House of Music in which we spent a good amount of time enjoying the not so crowded and fun museum, finalizing with conducting an orchestra, we both tried several times until we managed!

We visited t ST. Stephen’s Cathedral  located only 2 minutes’ walk from our Airbnb, great opportunity to see a gothic masterpiece, in addition we paid  7 euros for both of us, and took the elevator to  one of the towers,  great views of the city. 

Choosing a concert was based on reviews and length, we attended a quartet concert in StAnne Kirche, a beautiful baroque church with amazing acoustic. A short concert of 1:10 minutes that is easy for parents to persuade children to try to enjoy. It was a beautiful concert and great experience for me, as my son fell asleep.

We visited Damel coffee shop to have a look at the cakes with the intention to return if my taste and sense of smell were to recover. I took my son to eat Sacher cake at the Sacher café,  and used the afternoons to  walk the streets of Vienna, absorbing  its vibrant, organized life and its grandeur. We concluded our days in Vienna with a walk around the museum quarters, continuing to walk to Naschmarkt and dinner at a restaurant recommended by the owner of our Airbnb called Neni. The Naschmarket gave us the very much needed change of scenery of the tourist crowds, and we enjoyed very much seeing the Austrians enjoy their Friday evening among friends. The food was also very good.

From the train to Prague and a hostel window in Prague

Friday, 17 July 2015

Postcard from Vienna

We are in Vienna, we arrived yesterday morning with the night train from Rome. One of the highlights of the trip for my son. He climbed the bed bunk over and over from the moment we arrived, to the moment we left. It was exciting for him, and for me it was exactly as I remember wanting to be as a child myself, I would have climbed once or twice that bed bunk before my father would have put an end to it, when it comes to patience, mine tends to be very big. We arrive in Hauptbahnhof central station, and from there we took the metro to our Airbnb accommodation which has been the most central of them all, one minute away walking from Stefansdomen, in fact I can see the tower of the cathedral from our bedroom.

We are tired, I am sick and today a couple of rude people we have encountered during the day have managed to crack me down in tears, erasing the good feelings of kindness felt from the dozen others who have been nice to us. I say to myself it is ok to cry, travel is learning to live as well, living can also be hard when we brush ourselves on the invisible sources of hardness rulling others life, the world is a harsh place, it carries beauty while it carries misery at the same time, all visible to our eyes and senses, we can't avoid it.

Crying helps to cope with life, but the question remains, was this trip too ambitious,  putting oneself and one's child through a trip like this meaningless, irresponsible, unnecessary? Well is too late to regret and in fact I don't.

I have come to Vienna, here were my great-great grandfather  and great grandfather lived, the place they loved, the place where they probably also cried a few tears after leaving Reichenberg Germany for a better life. Of Joseph it is known that he was smart, accomplished in languages and sciences, and over all restless and adventurous. Of his genetic good material, other family members have inherited his intellectual capacities, I have inherited the restlessness and adventure spirit that took him to Egypt and then to the Americas chasing  Mayan gold, that lead him to Paula, my great grandmother, a Mexican woman who made the Austrian fall in love with her and with whom he procreated eight children. I am in part the result of that union, that we exist in this world, and in knowing his story and the essence of his spirit, I  can start to comprehend the parts of myself that I could not otherwise understand or  justify.

From Vienna, 17.07.2015


Extract from the book "  El Destino y sus Silencios" of Margarita Nettel Ross (Genealogy book)

Unauthorized translation by me

I see myself as a child holding my father Jakub’s hand, we are in Vienna, there we settled after my mother’s death; my father was a merchant and I, kept busy studying and learning many things. God had given me the gift of languages and sciences.

I was raised as a Christian by my mother, mi father always identified himself as a German Jewish. I never knew if my mother was also of Jewish background or assimilated. I became a quiet boy and with the pass of time a feeling of adventure and freedom started to germinate in me, that with time became a reality and that finalized by establishing myself in Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico.  I thought what to do with all these memories that crowded my head and my heart? I know, I will try to gather and convert them into a diary of my life.

My name is Joseph Nettel, I was born  in Reinchenberg Germany in 1872, my parents were Jakub Nettel and Maria R. Nettel. My father was born  on the 29th of March 1853, I do not know if it was in Konignhof today Dvur Kralove or in Grossbock today Velka Bukovina, places located up north of the Bohemia Czechoslovakia. It is likely that my mother was born in Reichenberg today Liberec.  


Thursday, 16 July 2015

The night we left Rome

Musei Capitolini
Finally! I could not wait anymore, I was glad to leave Rome, the inferno, the overwhelming heat took almost the best out of us, and other tourist around. It was easy to witness the vacation stress with other mixed factors in people’s reactions, the way they discussed publicly about which direction to go, the way a woman left her man standing saying “ I'll see you later in the hotel, I am not going with you” in a very angry voice,  or a child crying in desperation asking to be carried by the brave parents who obviously could have used a stroller.
I have been to Rome several times and  I know is vast, rich,  beautiful and there is a lot to do that I have not seen yet, but it is crowded!   I decided to come here because Aleksander had it on his wish list. I hope that this short visit of  highlights leaves Aleksnader with a good impression for him to return alone, for I do prefer Paris if I am going to get to know a capital well.  

Using public transport was out of the question, being in the metro stations and in Termini was like being in tank full of sharks ready to bite, pickpockets everywhere, we witnessed one event with violence, enough to put us on guard, enough to make Aleksnader skeptic, enough to take a few taxis.

But we tried as best as we could to live as budget travelers, seeing the things Aleksander wanted to see, and the things his mother wanted to see (churches) and we walked long walks, this time we avoided the hop on – hop off and we used our backpacker legs.  We used the budget for a ride on a bicycle taxi that Aleksnader had been asking since we started our holiday. The happiest smiles the boy gave me once I said let’s take one.

We took an afternoon in Trastevere and enjoyed the change of scenere and pace very much. If there should be a next time I will stay away from the tourist area and stay in an area like this.

Our last day was spent waiting for our night train counting the minutes for our departure, we met my cousin Francisco who is working in the University of Rome with something related to his field of physics and mathematics, and quantum physics. He has been in Rome for one year and he hopes  to finish his work in one more year. He is one of the “babies” of the Nettel family that I am so fond of. Francsico met us at Termini, we had coffee and a long chat catching up, we said goodbye to each other, but he returned again and surprised us to say goodbye and to make sure we came safely to our train. I was glad someone carried my backpack.

Our Airbnb accommodation was interesting, an old cistern, converted into an artistic basement with several private rooms with bathroom, spotless, nicely decorated, convenient in term of location but the only issue was the lack of windows. More than two nights I could not have coped. The host Domenico was really good, friendly, and responsive. The Airbnb provided daily cleaning. I noticed that the price of the accommodation today had increase to the double I paid. Artist studio in the center of Rome

Musei Palazzo Massimo
Now we have left Rome, my son has enjoyed very much climbing the bunk bed of our little cabin place in the train, he has opened and close all the compartments and I have not seen him so happy and engaged with something since we started this holiday. As for me, I welcomed the silence and privacy of our compartment if only for a night.

Tomorrow we will wake up in Vienna, the land where my ancestors lived after they moved from Bohemia. There will be family stories to tell.

From the train Rome – Vienna 15.07.15
From Vienna, waiting for our Airbnb chck in. 16.07.15

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Hiking in Cinque Terre with kids.

Arriving in Cinque Terre.
How wonderful it must have been to travel the world and discover something unseen or unheard before, although during those times the circumstances for travelling were others, and we should be thankful to belong to a group of people who have the luxury to travel for pleasure, nothing that is pleasurable is really left to discover that hasn’t been seen, photographed, and written about with the outstanding ability of those who were born to do so. So, while the world is divided between those who flee in need of safety, work, or basic necessities, the beaches and cities in our hedonistic world are full of travelers who know how to enjoy themselves. I am no different than them, but I do in a certain level despise myself for it.  For the emptiness my travels in the overall scale of importance carry… none. But in the smaller scale, in the center of one’s existence and meaning they carry the hope of a deeper understanding of oneself, and the transmission to our children of something more important than teaching them how to seek pleasure of life, the possibility of awaking  in them the hunger of knowledge, discovery, sense of adventure, and even the possibility to reflect about life at a young age.

From Corngilia, to San Bandolino, to Vernazza

As I walked the historical trails from Corniglia -San Bandolino- Vernazza-Monterosso with my ten year old, in the silence of our strenuous walk we stumbled into sceneries that no video, photo or text could really ever pay an honest tribute to. Beautiful landscapes of sea, villages, and vineyards that despite the intense pain of heat, makes the traveler stop and admire. For the first time in 11 days of our trip my son took control of the motivation between us, for the last part of our trip between Vernazza and Monetrosso was really challenging for me, perhaps he carries the hiking genetic material of Arild his grandfather who is a great hiker. Aleksander motivated me the last 1.5 hours of the trail; I am after all an asphalt middle age walker, who discovered the pleasures of mountain walking in her not so early adulthood.

From Vernazza to Monterosso

Walking off the tourist paid trail was the best mistake we ever did, it took us to higher ground providing greater view of the sea side, villages and inland of the valleys full of vineyard terraces. We concluded our hike in 4 hours, taking around an hour and a half break in Vernazza where we walked and had lunch in a restaurant while we observed the multitude of tourist taking selfies and saw group after group of organized tours arriving to the tiny village following their guide. We continued to Monterosso, where we greedily drank water from the fountain in the little plaza and then did the last effort to walk to the sea to wash away the sweat and gain some energy before going back by train to the quiet, charming and beautiful village of Corniglia.

Going out for dinner to Manarola, Cinque Terre

We had the intention to take the train to Manarola and Riomaggiore in the evening and try a restaurant in Manarola, but due to train delays we had to drop the trip and stayed in Corniglia for the night. We had a nice dinner in another restaurant close to our accommodation. Next day Lidia the charming owner of the Il Carugiodi Corniglia came to say goodbye to us, we were very pleased with the accommodations, the best of the  six Airbnb we have tried during this trip. Her friendliness, helpful manner and the great accommodation in itself only makes us want to come back and recommend her further. We loved our stay in Corniglia.

Stay more than two days if you want to hike and see all the villages.
Walk the Corniglia 365 steps from the train station to the town, they are comfortable easy steps and the views are very pretty.
We did the mistake of doing Vernazza – Monerosso from 12: 40 onwards, I would have enjoyed it more early in the morning or later in the evening.
The trails are safe and there were children hiking as well, the best "Wow’s" so far from my son came from our walk in Cinque Terre.

 Corniglia, Cinque Terre

From Cinque Terre and Rome  15.07.2015