...and finally, Germany

I am finally back in Germany. The transfer was not easy though, since I spent most of my time in Iceland working on my thesis, that I finally finished not long before I left. Last Saturday afternoon, after I had the last meeting with my supervisor, and spent all my day working on it, my word processor miserably broke down. I closed it and went home, thinking that I had lost only the last 10min of work; but I had the bad idea to click on "repair", which brought the status of the document back to what it was the day before, so basically deleting all I had done on that day. There was probably a way to undo the repairing, but instead of wasting time on finding the way, I just did all the work again, which I remembered quite well. I even went out to get some fresh air and see the crazy Reykjavík night life still blooming as dawn was approaching at around 3 a.m.. Then I went home, i.e. to the "hole in the wall", made a pdf of my work, and packed my stuff. My flight (yes, I flew this time, unfortunately - the ship was too expensive this time, because the cheapest couchettes were already fully booked) had been moved to Akureyri, because eventually, after over 1 month of volcanic ash trouble, the airport in Keflavík was closed. After a tiresome bus ride started at 7 a.m., I reached Akureyri again, and in the evening, Copenhagen. On the train to Hvidovre I fell asleep for 3 minutes or so, which made me miss my stop in Nørreport. So it took me 2 hours to finally reach my dear Icelandic-Greek friends, at whose place I spent an awesome night.No need to say that the following day, when I was supposed to make it to Berlin, I overslept. I really needed a good sleep, but the delay seriously jeopardized my trip. I stuck out my thumb at a crossroad in Hvidovre at around 11:30, where I waited for a good two hours. The first ride was good, as I covered almost half of the way to Gedser, and I was dropped at a lovely service area with German cars. While I was looking for the right one, a nice Danish guy approached me and offered me a ride south. I told him that I was looking for Germans, but he insisted, so knowing that most Germans drive cars filled with kids and stuff, I accepted. He dropped me in the countryside close to Nykøbing (Falster) at a toll area with a lot of trucks, that looked good. But always the same story here: German truck drivers are not allowed to take people on board. And the other ones, they weren't going to Germany. So I tried a couple of rounds, with no success. Then I walked up the road (a good 2km or so) and stood next to a sign saying "Rødby - Gedser". I stood for hours with my sign to Gedser, but everyone either played tricks on me, or ignored me. Eventually I went back to the truck spot, for another round with the trucks. No success. So after wasting all my afternoon like this, I walked up the road in the other direction, to the next village. I tried to hitch a ride anywhere, with no success. Just one car stopped to tell me that the highway to Gedser was closed... So eventually, at around 6 p.m., I took a train to Nykøbing (I was only 2 stops away), and took the cheap bus to Gedser (the railway was not working either!). At around 7 I was at the ferry terminal, where I saw that the next ship, the last of the day, was leaving at 9.I had heard that the ferries to Germany are free after 9 p.m.. It's not really like that. It's just that the ticket sale is closed, and nobody really checks your ticket, so it's easy to sneak in. Also, the ticket is actually valid for a round trip, so at that time of the day it's clear that most of the passengers are going back and don't need a ticket. I was with a German guy that was asking around how he could buy a ticket, so eventually I had to buy one too, because the ticket counter opened just for us. The ship was nearly empty, so I didn't find any cars to take me on board. The price is great though, 7€ for a 2h ride, that you can take both ways. At around 11 p.m. we arrived in Rostock, where I started to look for a suitable place to crash at the harbour, but couldn't really find one. I decided to go downtown then, because it would take some time and just in case, I could easily stay awake until 5 or so, when I could have started looking for early birds driving to Berlin. Meanwhile, I had called my girlfriend to ask her if she could find me a place to stay in town. I stood for half an hour waiting for a bus that didn't come, unlike the shuttle bus driver had told us. Eventually, I realized it was not a bus that was supposed to come, but an "Abruftaxi", a taxi-bus that you need to call at least half an hour in advance. It was too late to call for the last one, so we were stuck at the harbour, 10km away from the city centre. My girlfriend told me that, incredibly, she had found a last-minute couch. I texted the guy that there was no bus and I was going to walk downtown. He replied that it would take me 2h to walk downtown, and that he was going to bed, but I could just call him and wake him up any time I'd be there. So me and the German guy started walking somewhere. We first got to the main road, which is in fact a motorway, and a nice sign was standing on it warning that it's forbidden to walk on it. I proposed that we should walk anyway, because the spotlights were good and the few cars driving by could have stopped for us. If the cops would come, they would have given us a ride, I said, and probably keep us busy for the rest of the night, which wouldn't have been as bad as sleeping in the cold. But the other guy didn't like this option, and since he kind of knew the area, I followed him. We ended up at a house were rail workers were staying. We asked a guy watching TV in there how we could walk downtown "legally". He said we couldn't, so ganz unoffiziell, unofficially, he showed us the way along the rail tracks (that were obviously forbidden too). We walked on there and ended up in another place, where we were supposed to go over a fence. In that moment, a car came and opened it. We asked for the way, and then for a ride, which we got, after the man had had a shower. He drove us to the tram stop, where the very last one came after 5 minutes, at 00:30.At 1 I had finally reached my couch, and woken up the guy, of course. He welcomed me with a big, sleepy smile, and introduced me to his cat and to the fragrant, ready-made guest bed. I slept like a baby until 10:00 the next morning, when my host and his girlfriend greeted me with a Na, mister CouchSurfer? I had breakfast with them, and within half an our, I hitched a ride to Berlin. If there were a golden couch or some prize like that, these people would have won it, if it were up to me!Berlin was cold. It was colder than Reykjavík and colder than Denmark, don't ask me how. When I arrived in Lichenberg, where my girlfriend was waiting for me at a friend's, she told me that the next day we would have had to leave with her at 5:30. It was like a curse then, I thought. The "friend" had decided to go away for 4 days straight after work, and didn't even think of letting us take care of the apartment. At first, I was baffled; then I calmed down, and realized that although I spend most of my time with perfect strangers that welcome me into their homes in the middle of the night, feed me, give me rides, and in many cases left me the house keys for several days without even knowing me, there is still a great deal of the world around me and these people that is not like that. My lifestyle isn't "normal", although when one lives deep into it, you may come to believe that it is, and than out there it's just a minority of people that are paranoid and ideologically refuse to be nice. We still have a long way to go.

See original: Lost in the North ...and finally, Germany

On my bookshelf: The Vegetarian Myth

One of the reasons why I loved living in Iceland was that I always had some great books in my hands. It happened this time again, since I was given The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith, who spent 20 years of her life as a vegan.By reading it, I wanted to challenge myself and my (political and nutritional) vegetarian beliefs, and sure this book is great for such enterprise. This is the reason why "everyone that eats should read this book", as stated on the cover. But thinking that I was reading about politics and nutrition, in fact the book surprised me as an authentic piece of neo-primitivist theory, ultimately stating that veg(etari)anism vs. meat is not the problem and it is not what will save the planet. The real critique is against our idea of civilization centred on agriculture. While on one hand it shares all vegetarianism's abhorrence of animal factory farming, on the other it is our diet and ultimately our society built on the cultivation of annual grains that is the problem, and the facts speak for themselves. After 3 years of vegetarianism and several thoughts about going vegan, I am now prompted to become an adult vegetarian, meaning that there is so much more that I, as a vegetarian, need to consider, first of all the destruction of huge ecosystems for supporting a grain-based diet - this being a common issue for everyone who eats grain and products of modern farming techniques, regardless of the meat intake.Here are pluses and minuses about the book. Comments are welcome... :)<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />+ the true problem of modern, "civilized" diet is not meat eating, but grain production, especially in monocrops. Large parts of such grain is fed to animals, but even if nobody ate meat, this huge portion of the earth destined to annual crops would in any case imply topsoil destruction and the disappearance of pastures, forests and complex ecosystems for human exploitation. Even a plant-based diet can imply mass killing.- true, soil needs animals, their manure and the corpses of dead animals, too, in order to be fertile. But not all soils are pastures: there are ecosystems that thrive without being fertilized by faeces of animals domesticated and/or hunted by humans. Animal farming is not so easy to justify in such terms. Plus, saying that the earth needs the corpses of dead animals doesn't really imply that it is our duty to kill and grind up cows or chickens (and why not dead humans?) and spray our fields with their blood and bones, or using manure from domesticated cattle and that that is the only alternative to fertilizers from fossil fuels. Permaculture (the cultivation of perennial, interacting plants) and especially the Fukuoka method proved that green manure and permanent mulching work just as fine for keeping the soil healthy and productive, and that even large-scale grain production is possible and productive with little or no human intervention. Masanobu Fukuoka demonstrated that rice fields almost don't need to be flooded, sprayed or weeded, and that a single field can support two different kinds of grain growing side by side, being thus much more productive than monocrops and if the stalks are returned to the field as green manure after harvesting, at the same time it improves the soil. Why is he still ignored?+ that adulthood starts with acknowledging death as a natural process is for me the most valuable point of the book. Our problem nowadays is that carnivores and many vegetarians alike seldom know where and how food comes from. Regardless of our diet, most of us are ignorant and kept such. Some people embrace vegetarianism like a new religion, others see it as a way to widen their given horizons, in a process that should never end. For me, giving up meat was a way to try something new, question what I held to be unquestionable, learn about food and the world around me. What I ate ceased to be a meaningless, automatic act, and became a meaningful, conscious choice. I discovered new foods, preparations, combinations. Began reading labels, and seeing through a steak or a piece of bread everything that lay behind it. Yes, everything dies and is born again in nature's endless cycle, and for a living being to live and thrive, someone else has to die, either by human hand or not. Like many others I believe, of course I considered this when I turned vegetarian. I am fully aware of this and that is why I would never think lions should eat grass, or that Inuits should eat salad and not whale, or I wouldn't really mind killing (or eating, why not) a swarm of snails threatening my garden. I am not against killing for food, I am against pointless suffering and a sick industrial system of food production that is just morally, environmentally and economically unacceptable. One needs to draw the right conclusions from the book. I don't think that the ultimate point of the author is that the reader should close the book and start wolfing on meat and diaries, but rather to fully understand how food and nature work, free of whatsoever ideological barriers. Although I mostly agree with the author, I am not going to run to the butcher's shop after reading this book. I will simply keep on thinking that if I ever will live in a successful organic farm, where absolutely no topsoil is destroyed, and where I act as a natural regulator of the animal population on the farm, or if I was living in Greenland or among some semi-nomadic tribes living the life of our ancestors in an unspoilt landscape, I will consider eating meat. But for the time being, I am not in any of such contexts, nor are many other people.- embracing neo-primitivist philosophy doesn't mean being or acting as a hunter-gatherer. It means acknowledging the validity of (some) hunter-gatherers' societies as an environment-friendly, natural, and fair societal models. Adopting a grain-free diet is a possibility, but a diet largely based on game or even organically farmed meat is less possible for all mankind than a complete plant-based one, because the premises for it are just missing right now. Not everybody lives in the ideal environment for feeding on grass-fed animals. And even if Mr. Keith does, she misses a big point: what is she going to feed her animals during winter? Domesticated cattle and goats (the main source of milk for human consumption) don't naturally stay in the same spot all year around in a temperate climate, but they either need to be fed hay (from annual crops fields) or, in case you're nomad or semi-nomad, be moved to a winter pasture. Agriculture is not only about grain, it is also about animal farming, and if you criticize or refuse agriculture, you can't leave anything behind. Even assuming that a farmer rotates his fields and lets animals graze in a different one in turns, he'll still need a monoculture of alfalfa on one of them that is not grazed but turned into hay for the winter. He still remains an agriculturalist, with all it implies. I am not sure how this fits into the author's primitivist or anti-agriculture mental scheme, or how much land you'd need to feed how much meat to how many people. In other words, I'd like to know how many people per acre her friend farmers can feed with their grain-free farms, and if they are really self-sufficient and 100% grain-free... but that, she doesn't say.- milk. The author is a big fan of cow milk (called liquid meat, by extremist vegan propaganda). Too bad that the greatest part of the world population is lactose tolerant, and nobody really was originally. Those who are not can keep fooling their nature by taking diary pills, but is that not even less natural than feeding a complete plant-based diet to an omnivore? The reality is that our bodies neither want nor need milk. Most of the world's human population has made it so far without milk, which is but a recent innovation. In the America she dreams of, there shouldn't be any European-imported cows, and the bison-hunting natives who (or at least whose legacy) should inhabitate the region are naturally 100% lactose-intolerant. Like millions of other people, I grew up without cow milk and I'm perfectly fine.- the nutritional argument may make a lot of sense in evolutionary terms, but only until the industrial revolution and the advent of modern cities. Except for some pathological cases (such as the author's personal history), experience clearly shows that a vegetarian or even a vegan diet is not necessarily more harmful than eating meat. A wrong veggie-based diet can be as harmful as a wrong meat-based diet. It is just common sense. I suspect that the serious health problems she developed can be ascribed to such cases, plus additional causes that may have been aggravated by a wrong diet. She can blame soya for a cancer, but millions of Asians eating soya in all possible forms (beans, tofu, tempeh, soya sauce, sprouts...) simply prove her wrong. This is a huge controversy that cannot be solved by the personal clinical file of one single individual. 60% of all Indians are vegetarian and have been for centuries, maybe even millennia; some of them suffer from malnutrition, true, but how much of that malnutrition is due to actual poverty and how much to vegetarianism? Just as much as our progenitors changed diet and started hunting big ruminants because their landscape had changed (rainforest shifting to savannah), today our landscape has dramatically changed again and we have to cope with this in terms of nutrition. Vegetarianism may not save the world, but at least to a certain extent, I believe some version of it does make more sense than irresponsible meat-based diets in a time of overpopulation and overexploitment of natural resources. Maybe in some thousands of years, if humans will still be here, the brain mass of vegetarians will have shrunk, just as much as it grew from eating animal fat; but considering how much we use of our brain today, I don't see big dangers upcoming at least for the next few millennnia. Fighting annual monocultures is not on the veggy movent's agenda, true; we can start with reducing that, and doing it differently, more efficiently and less destructively. But by converse, can eating more meat really be a solution? I can concede that in some cases, it may well be (when grain and vegetables have to be imported at high costs from far away and ultimately damage domestic food production). But how much does that apply to those of us living in modern urban conglomerates that produce no food at all?- so, what should we really do? The last point concerns foodstuffs that has been completely forgotten by the author: so-called superfoods. In these last months, I read a lot about them and I came to believe that it will be neither mainstream veganism nor meat to save us and the planet, but (less known) foodstuffs that are extraordinarily rich in some nutrients. Some of them are very easy to obtain, like spirulina, a seaweed that contains more than 60% complete protein (more than beef), and like all seaweeds, is exceptionally rich in minerals. Also, the way seaweed is farmed does not have anything to do with conventional farming (nor with animal manure): all you need is a water-filled vat or transparent pipes, sunlight and just any plant waste as its "feed". This combination yields the most amazing food on earth, that can provide so much nutrition in exchange of such little effort. Seaweeds can also be used as an easy, cheap and sustaibable source of oils to burn as biofuel. And this is but one example. The benefits of many lesser known seeds, berries, nuts, sprouts, unrefined bee products, raw cacao, and much more (even insects!), many of which are already found locally in many places, are huge, and none of these really requires conventional farming in annual monocultures. But as long as we keep on ignoring them, we'll be stuck in this situation, thinking that either chickpeas or meat alone will save us.This is what I learned from this book: giving up meat is not enough. There is so much more to it, and nobody holds the truth: there is always more to learn, as many things as there are diets. Mediterranean, Arctic, macrobiotic, vegetarian, vegan, Ayurvedic, raw foodist, "paleodiets", urinotherapy (!!), even fasting and cannibalism... they all make sense to some people and situations. They are all ways humans have found to adapt to some contexts. Many of them are anthropological, i.e. they are indicative of a culture, or a sub-culture, like veg(egetari)anism, plus of a certain time of human history, and environment.The next post will be on paleodiets and extinctionism.

See original: Lost in the North On my bookshelf: The Vegetarian Myth

Velkominn heim

Yesterday, Wednesday, April 14th, at 6:30 p.m. I got off a car at Hlemmur bus terminal. After 10 days on the road and at sea, my thumb had brought me all the way back to Reykjavík.I really don't feel like writing, I am totally overwhelmed by this weird feeling of being back home without having a home.On the way from Voss, I dropped more than half of the things I had with me in my bag, trying to be as light as possible. I even gave up my tent and sleeping mat, and as the events soon proved, I didn't really need all that stuff. Of course, hitch-hiking in Iceland means accepting the possibility of getting stuck in the middle of nowhere, maybe overnight. But it didn't happen.Short before I left Århus, I contacted Eleonora in Tórshavn. She is vegan and I wanted to meet her and her German boyfriend Hannes during the 8 hours I was going to stay in Tórshavn. What she told me was that her boyfriend was in Århus too at that time, and could give me a ride to Esbjerg, because he was going to catch the same ferry. He drove me there, spent a nice time together with him and another French guy on board, and then he invited us over to their place to have an awesome vegan breakfast. His girlfriend made delicious chocolate-coconut waffles, and then we went on a city tour. They also invited me to stay over with them longer and take the ship later, but I really had to go.Two immediate rides from Seyðisfjörður and Egilstaðir, off I go. The weather was great, the people, fantastic. Although our second ride was all the way to Akureyri, I decided to get off at Mývatn and look for jarðböð, natural baths. This didn't have anything to do with the so-called "Blue Lagoon of the North", which is just a swimming pool with a 2000kr entrance (provided that the water is free, and the building around it costs as much as any other swimming pool, I don't get why it costs more than 360kr). I am talking about caves with hot water inside. My driver had been there as a child, and didn't quite remember (of course, it's free, they don't advertise it), but he managed to find out and drove me all the way to the caves. You have no idea, but you will have as soon as I will upload some pictures...However, I couldn't really enjoy the bath after I realized that I had left my bag with my laptop on the roadside in Egilstaðir. I grabbed my phone to call the police, but my battery was dead (and my charger was in the bag). Hitchhiking with a laptop is not recommendable, but if you're still pretending to be a student, like me, you're gonna need it. So I walked about 4km to the next town Reykjahlíð and called the police from the post office (why use a payphone when people have at the post office have nothing to do?). They didn't know about it, meaning that nobody had reported the bag yet, so it could have been stolen. I decided to hitch further to Akureyri with my French and Belgian travelmates, and waited 4h in the cold for our ride.We got to Akureyri at 8:30 p.m. and I was driven to the doorstep at my host's, a nice Polish girl working as a researcher at the university of Northern Iceland. When she welcomed me, she asked me aren't you missing a computer bag? Now, how could you possibly know about it? I said. A Dutch couple hitch-hiking from the ferry had been standing after us at the very same hitch-hiking spot, found my bag, and although we hadn't exchanged names, because of the Italian text on the bag realized it was mine, and remembered that I had said I had a couch in Akureyri at a Polish girl's. They logged in, found her profile, and told her about it. In 1-2 days I'll have my bag back.Yesterday, the Belgian guy and I got stuck in Varmahlíð, 100km West of Akureyri, after a long wait to get out of the city. It was just in time to meet Caroline, a nice German girl that seems to be everywhere I am or I want to be (she was with Eleonora and Hannes in Tórshavn too). She made food for us and stayed all over her lunch break. If we hadn't had luck, we could have even spent the night there. Now, isn't this awesome. You are in the middle of nowhere in Iceland, and you find out that a friend is temporarily there for a very short-term job. No matter what happens, I know something crazy is going to happen to me, like when I got forced to accept a 50€ banknote by my ridegiver last summer in Germany. Or getting there at exactly the time I need. When you start wandering where you'll spend the night, there comes your ride.I am staying at a friend's now, but in the house where I was living in a whole in the wall until last October there is a vacant room, so apparently I'm even gonna get a room all for myself, for free, in house full of dear friends of mine.Welcome home.

See original: Lost in the North Velkominn heim

Farvel, Norge

Hvor skal i hen? I asked when I opened the door of the white transporter that dared to pull over on the on-ramp close to Hjørring. The girl at the wheel threw a weird glance at me, but then she got it and replied in Norwegian Vi skal mot Tyskland, we are heading to Germany. I hopped in and we set off. To break the ice and start a conversation I asked them, so, you're gonna load on some booze? Then I noticed he was talking on the phone. He said ssh, the cops are on the phone. Fuck.I didn't even stand 10 minutes waiting for this ride, and I had soon put away my Århus-sign, thinking that it might get hard to hitch and so I got ready to accept nearly any ride south. I burst in a big smile when the two Norwegians pulled over, thinking that finally I was in Denmark and getting rides would get a lot easier than in Norway. So my surprise was even greater when I realized I had hitched a ride with two Norwegians... in Denmark. I got more scared at their request to make me drive than their stated intention of smuggling stuff back into Norway (why on earth do you have to tell me about that?). Thinking that the car was empty so I was not in any trouble yet, finding myself at the wheel had the uncomfortable inconvenience of being legally responsible for everything going on in the car; but on the other hand, I had the situation under control, and regardless of them drinking and smoking hash and talking to the cops who wanted to know where they were because of a witnessing business, which they wouldn't say, well, at least I could trust myself. The time was soon over and yes, I "dropped myself off" at a lovely gas station, where I was soon picked up by my Danish friends.Certainly a luckier day than Wednesday. That was definitely not my hitch-hiking day. I knew that hitching out of Oslo was hard, if not impossible. I had a hard time to calculate distances, find the right spot and the right bus going there, and eventually didn't make it to the bus on time. In Denmark, it took me 1:30h to drive 150km, but for the same distance from Oslo to Larvik it would have taken me 2-3h instead and unpredictable waiting time. The train was way more expensive than a 4h ferry ride to Denmark, which I really didn't understand why, and once in Larvik, I walked forever to get to the ferry terminal. Larvik's ferry terminal is one of those places that clearly aren't thought for pedestrians (read: hitch-hikers). It took me over half an hour to get there from the train station, and almost walked in through the car lanes. Spring had come before me, so my Icelandic sweater did the job it was actually called so for. But I made it eventually. Next to me was sitting a whole family of Danish gypsies who, judging from the women's red-painted hand palms, had just come from a beautiful marriage in Norway. Certainly not the kind of thing you experience on a plain...My host in Hjørring was great, and she saved me from sleeping on the beach in Hirtshals. I was totally pampered. And once at my friend's place close to Århus, we went to the garden and welcomed spring by harvesting nettles, which were soon transformed into a delicious nettle soup... and finally I got my new traveller's guitar!

See original: Lost in the North Farvel, Norge

On the road again

Finally, on Easter Sunday, 2010 I left Voss after the longest two months since some time. I left with the winter, since snow was melting everywhere, and the lake in front of the hostel, that was my only balcony view for the whole time, was half defrosted, and some bold ducks had already started dipping their claws in the icy water.I left a job that I had long thought was one of the best I ever had, without turning back. I made quite a lot of money (about 3500€ netto, if you really want to know) for having worked only 2 months on minimum wage, and I am happy to leave with some cash in my pockets. If I had been smarter, though, I would have taken a month trip during the dead period after Easter, and come back to work in the summer, where there is a lot to do and a lot of money to be made. But after several years of nomadic training, my daily budget is as near to zero as possible, and I am quite happy with the money I have now, and can now spend the whole summer travelling. Why work more to spend my money on travelling, when I can travel with almost no money now? Why wait for travelling, when everything you need to do is loading your backpack and stick your thumb out?Keeping your budget low must involve a lot of hitch-hiking. I had tried it before around rainy Bergen, and worked quite well, although as I wrote before, I had never stood so long amidst so much traffic, without being picked up in a reasonable time. This time it was even worse, and it took me about 13h to get to Oslo. And I couldn't have been luckier! The day before leaving I have been observing the traffic along the E16 Bergen-Oslo, hoping that there would be enough cars. Unfortunately though, this doesn't mean much in Norway. Actually, if there are many cars around, you're very likely to be completely ignored by nearly everyone, while if there is less traffic, people will sooner notice (and maybe pity) you. Of course on Easter Sunday at 8 a.m. there were almost no cars around Voss. But the night before I got to talk to a guy at the local café, that told me he was gonna drive to Geilo with his girlfriend the next day, and asked him for a ride. In Voss there was no longer any snow, and Geilo - which is half way to Oslo from Voss - had just got 30cm the day before. So I gave them half of the huge pizza that I had baked with my last groceries the night before, and we set off on good time. But instead of taking 3h, we had to wait long for the ferry across the Hardangerfjord, and then 2 hours because of a snow-blocked mountain road that had to be driven through in a convoy. So eventually I was dropped off in Geilo at 2 p.m., got two small rides to Ål, and there I waited forever. I watched an endless row of Audis and Mercedes pass by; unlike other spots, here most drivers seemed to be alone at the wheel, and looked extremely bored. But instead of accepting the company of a lone hitch-hiker, they sped away without even noticing me. I have seldom felt so transparent before.When I was already thinking about finding the nearest train station and/or a place where I could spend the night, I went to some trees to take a leak, and when I came back to the highway, there was a car parked next to my backpack, the driver trying to fix something in the dashboard. I looked in, and saw a happy family of four and lots of luggage, so I didn't want to bother to ask them to squeeze me in (I experienced a couple of times before, that people with kids sometimes seem to reply quite kindly to my requests, although saying that they would take me aboard if they only didn't have their kids with them). So I picked my sign and stuck out my thumb again, thinking that if they really wanted to take me with them, they would have called me in. And that was what they did! And as it was already past 5 p.m., I got my ride to Oslo. The guy at the wheel had been a hitch-hiker himself in his youth, and thought - probably because of my weird moustache - that I was from the Ukraine, Eastern Europe or something. For some reason, Norwegian hitch-hikers are an extinct breed, and nobody would have thought I was a local. Considering that you're likely to be driving an Audi Quattro at driving school, and that one driving lesson here costs 5 times the price you'd pay in Italy (which is already extremely expensive!), you'd understand why.The queues on the highways were pretty long, but the two kids had quite a nice time interviewing me. Another little girl on a short ride I had hitched, asked me whether it was not skummelt (scary) to hitch-hike. It depends who picks you up, I said. But after hitch-hiking in 7 different countries since last summer, I never met anyone scary. Not that the world is free from scary people, of course; but they just don't pick me up, it seems. If the people who stop are somehow revealing the amount of nice people in a country, then the number of those in Norway must be scary low. With some people, everything you need to do is to break the ice, confirming the stereotype of the cold but under-the-surface-friendly Scandinavian. But I don't think that anyone in those Audis and Mercedes would have let me do it. And my experience in Denmark, Iceland and the Faroes says that there is a huge difference between Norway and its neighbouring countries, and that the lack of sunlight and cold-argument are plain bullshit. People are rich, don't need help, and don't give help.I came to Oslo at around 9 p.m., after 13 hours on the road and about 500km. I got dropped off at Majorstuen.Tomorrow I'll hitch to Larvik and get the ferry to Hirtshals. Hopefully I'll get a ride on board to my couch in Hjørring, as I'll be there after sunset.

See original: Lost in the North On the road again

Time for Vegan Potato Gratin

Today I was desperate. I was desperately in need of something to eat, and why not, something to blog...I always forget to go to the store before everything closes on Sunday. Willingly forgetting about shopping slowly became an automatic reflex during the past few years, triggered by the need of saving money instead of buying unnecessary things. That is to say, there is most certainly something hidden in your kitchen or in your fridge that you can recycle into something tasty. These days it is not bad at all, since I have a whole hostel kitchen for myself. But of course I can't use everything I want (especially when I'm not working), and my commitment to eat the least possible diary products and eggs has already been tried hard by the nearly endless availability of such delicacies. That's why I dumpster-dive in my kitchen!Well, I don't really "dive" into any dumpster, but the kitchen bin is always full of tomatoes that the diligent breakfast staff throws all the time because of nearly invisible wrinkles. Sometimes, they are even thrown because they are ripen... it's almost worse than in some stores! So, just stretch your arm, and you'll find organic ripen tomatoes waiting for you...Another thing my kitchen is teeming with are bread crumbles. There is a bread-cutting machine and a brush to clean and collect the crumbs. I had about 1/2kg of organic local potatoes on my shelf, so what could I do? It's time for potato gratin!Ingredients:1/2 kg potatoes1/2 zucchini1/2 red onion2 slices of veggy hamsome bread crumbsolive oilsalt & pepperPreparation:Boil the potatoes with the skin until they are soft. Then remove the skin and mash them in a bowl. Cut the onion and slightly pan-fry it, and then add it to the mashed potatoes and some more oil. Put salt & pepper in the mix.Then cut the half zucchini (you can also use other veggies, if I hadn't had that I would have used the sliced skipped tomatoes!) and pan-fry it too. Take a gratin pan and oil it. Put half of the mash potatoes and level. Then add the two slices of veggy ham - I used it because I had it, but you can use seitan slices (when I make seitan at home, I always slice it for sandwiches, etc.) or tofu or other veggies, or just nothing. Then put half of the fried zucchini on top, put another layer of potatoes, and the rest of the zucchini on top. Cover with bread crumbs and a little bit of oil, and grill it in the oven at 200C for 10 min.This meal has probably cost me about 1€ maximum (and don't forget that I'm in Norway). I ate half of it for lunch, and I'm gonna eat the rest for dinner, so that makes my day (the potatoes fill you up quite nicely). Almost all ingredients are vegan and organic, and it took me about 20min to prepare.

See original: Lost in the North Time for Vegan Potato Gratin

Weekend Hitchhiking Trip

I finally got a long weekend off, and I quickly grabbed the chance to do some hitching in Norway. This is the first time I tried to hitchhike systematically in the country, as last time I was here, back 3 years ago, I wasn't yet a hichhiker. Hitching rides was a bit harder than I had thought, as a couple of times I had to wait for fairly long at spots that looked very good - but it went pretty smooth in the end. I started on Friday from right in front of the hostel - the E16 going from Oslo to Bergen stretches across Voss, and trucks even stop to rest in the hostel's parking lot - and after 2 rides I was in Bergen, almost as quickly as with the train.Spring is on its way and Bergen was as rainy as it's famous for, and as in many modern cities, free toilets are a mirage. Even along the way, at gas stations and kiosks, it costs as much as 10kr to use the toilet. In these cases, waiting for someone to pay and sneak in after the door has been opened is a good option (if someone looks bad at you, you can always use the excuse that you don't have the only coins required and it's troublesome to change a banknote, which is very plausible). Another option is looking for a university building, although even at the University Library for Humanities that I often visit, you have to ask for the key at the counter (weird). Again, this is not a question of stinginess - if I have to take a big one and am looking for some comfort in a clean and nice toilet and soft toilet paper, I am more than willing to pay (especially because it doesn't happen too often); but 1okr for taking a leak is outrageous.Hitching out of the city from the centre is nearly impossible, as there are tunnels and big roads where car drive fast and don't have space to pull over. There was almost no information about Bergen on Hitchwiki, so I had to find out myself. I took a bus to Åsane Senter, a huge mall North of Bergen, very close to the juncture of the motorways going North and East. I used that spot twice, first on Saturday to hitch North, and then on Sunday to go East back to Voss. It was great. The first day I had a small sign and it was pouring like hell, so it wasn't that pleasant. But my drivers were great, and already at 3pm I reached Førde, 176km further North.This year Førde won the prize as the ugliest city in Norway for the 3rd consecutive time (I wonder why having this competition at all, if the outcome is already known). The city wasn't that special indeed, but the landscape around it is great and confirms its importance as fjord hub. But what was special was the reason why I got there: I was invited to surf a couch by a 46-years-old awesome crazy CouchSurfing lady, and I was crazy enough to go there. Her house was amazing, and I was treated like a prince. We spent the whole evening talking about hitchhiking, peace and love, hippy communes, naturism, and crazy CouchSurfing experiences. The world is still a great place as long as people like these are around!I talked so much that it eventually exhausted me. I talked to the CouchSurfing lady, and to all my drivers (it was a big exercise in Norwegian, but I soon started to like it). I told them the story of my life, and soon wanted more. Like last summer, when I started hitchhiking in Iceland and the enthusiasm caused me to hitch all the way to the Netherlands, enjoying it in an endless climax. Switching language after crossing a border and starting telling the same stories again, first in Danish, then in German, and then in English - that's something that is more valuable than all the free miles that I was given. This summer is going to be even better, because I'm going to hitch from the Netherlands to Portugal, and I'll need to refresh my poor French, Spanish, and improvise some phrases in Portuguese (or something that resembles it). When the location of the Hitchgathering was set to Portugal, at first I thought no way, it's too far, it's gonna take me ages to get there. In fact, I'll need to be in Copenhagen 3-4 days after the gathering. But in fact, it's very feasible: by hitching 500km a day (I hitched almost 300 on Sunday in about 4h, and this part of Norway is not that easy), I can get to Portugal in about 4 days, and starting early in the morning could even allow some sightseeing. Hitching back to the North will be harder, but it'll be all about finding one of those Spanish trucks carrying tomatoes to the rest of the world.One of the biggest surprises I got this weekend is the typology of people that pull over. I expected that at least some Norwegian women would pick me up, because Norway is (or at least says so) the world's leading country in women's emancipation. But no way, only one lady gave me a short ride to a better spot, but the rest were all middle-aged men driving alone. I got rides from women and even girls (17 years olds on the Faroes) in several countries, but not in Norway. One possible explanation is that women in Norway tend to use public transportation more then men, who are more eager to drive their expensive cars.

See original: Lost in the North Weekend Hitchhiking Trip


I am going back, aftur, to Iceland (it's a good word, because it both means 'back' and 'again'). Until last week I had no idea about it. Iceland caught me, when I least expected it. It'll be just a small detour from my trip from Norway southwards: instead of hitching Jutland down to the Netherlands, I will turn to Esbjerg and take my beloved Norrøna to Seyðisfjörður. This time, hitching backwards to Reykjavík along the North Coast. One day to Akureyri, and another day to Reykjavík. It's the best decision, because I was planning to go to the Netherlands 3 times before the end of the summer, but two is actually enough - once for my favourite summer course in Leiden at the end of July, straight after Slovakia; and once, for good, when I will move there at the end of August after the Hitchhiking Festival and the manuscript course in Copenhagen. The perfect plan has formed itself, without even the need of thinking too much about it (which I did already, though).I know this will break my heart, though. There are just a few people left there of the many that made last year the most awesome year of all. It's not the same place, Hljómalind is a fucking fashion store, and even those who are still there are planning to leave. I have the impending feeling that during those two weeks I will dramatically realize that the time of me in Iceland belongs once for all to the happy bygone days. But how can I resist the need to go and bid it farewell personally?This is today's picture of Voss, my immaculate snow sepulchre. And today I finished one of the best books I've ever read, One Moonlit Night by Welsh poet Caradog Pritchard (original title Un Nos Ola Leuad). I wish I could read more books like this. It almost made me cry, which is not common for a book. Tells the story of the journey of a boy into the grown-ups' world, taking place between the two world wars. Childhood friends leaving or dying, a mother that suddenly becomes mentally ill. So much poetry, inundating the page through the lyrical but simple words of a 10-years old. I only wish I could have read it in the original Welsh...

See original: Lost in the North Aftur

On Freud and Orpheus

Today my head aches more than usual. Yesterday I worked my usual 7 hours non-stop, and had my 12 hours of sleep that I usually need during the Mighty Nordic Winter. But today, there is something wrong. After sprinkling some water on my face, I get my laptop and as usual, come down to the eating room for reading the news. And what do I find?I find a post thread on the far best group on CouchSurfing, called "Alternative Ways of Living & Consuming". This group really rocks. I learned so much stuff just from random posts on this forum, than probably anywhere else in life: from no-shampoo lifestyle, to healing with plants, and living up a tree. So, this time there is this post about the Uberman Sleeping Cycle. And I have a sudden enlightment: yes! That's what I've always needed! And I suddenly realized that I might be neither lazy nor a long-sleeper, but that I might rather have a sleeping disorder, that in the middle of the Arctic winter reaches worrying proportions. And that I can actually heal that disorder by means of a polyphasic sleep cycle.Apparently, there are several methods. The best-known ones are called Uberman and Everyman. The former consists of splitting your monophasic sleep into many naps, distributed over the day. The latter consists of a core sleep of 3 hours, plus an extra hour during the day, split into 3 short naps. After a while, your brain gets the training it needs to fall immediately into REM phase, without actually wasting most of the night waiting for it, as usual That's more or less how babies sleep, and maybe how humans used to sleep in primitive times, when they needed to be awake during the night in order to stay alert of incoming dangers. Another great advantage of polyphasic sleep is that I will probably be able to always remember my dreams. I've always had a great interest in dreams, and oftentimes I had great ones, where I have foreseen scenes that then actually took place. But I usually sleep so long into the morning, that I always forget my dreams, except when I have deja-vus (and I happen to get a lot of those). This is the right time to change something about it.I am going to try Everyman, because as this awesome blog explains, it's much easier, much more forgiving if you screw up, and it takes less time to train your brain. So I am going to sleep 3 hours from 1 to 4, and then three naps at 8am, 1pm and 9pm. From 4 to 8 I am going to read books, something that I never do these days. My alarm is going to have some extra work. But I have great optimism and I know I can make it.And yesterday I finally decided I will move to the Netherlands next autumn. I am going to remain a nomad for as long as I can, but at the same time take another degree. And with this current degree pending, this is the time I can actually use some extra time awake during the day.

See original: Lost in the North On Freud and Orpheus

Room with view

OK, I will cut that BS that in Norway it's not cold after all. Now the wind isn't blowing, but it's freaking cold. About -18°C during the night. I barely go out, it's good enough in my new, tiny little room in the attic. But even going out, there is almost nothing here, which makes it the ideal place to concentrate on work, and spend the rest of the time with a nice warm blanket and a good book. Like a peaceful winter retreat for worn-out travellers like myself. And take a trip on your days off. It's definitely about time to learn how to ski, too...

See original: Lost in the North Room with view