Study Abroad Blog by Pavel Vassiljev

Monday, June 6, 2011

Traveling outside of UK part 1

Previously I wrote about my travel experience within UK and that there is a lot to see. However, I also loved living in England because of how cheap and easy it is to travel to other European countries. And if you have great friends that would let you stay on the floor of their apartments (At least :)) Then it pretty much does not cost you anything as you eat and drink like usual... (Great point, yeah!?) 

Amsterdam 2008
It was the first time we got out of England and it was not a trip to Tallinn. The city of Amsterdam is amazing, all right!? The city is full of bikes and I mean FULL of bikes. The bikes are actually very dangerous in Amsterdam as we almost got hit by the bikes thousands of times during our 3 day stay there. On our last day we met our friends from Rotterdam, who actually showed us whole Amsterdam, which we thought was ending around the Red Light District...

Unfortunately, we did not get to visit the Heineken factory, but went to the ice bar instead. Which was also a pretty cool experience, especially for the Greek guy... (You know, three of us were from Estonia, so we are used to ice, snow, cold and blablabla) Overall Amsterdam was a great experience and a getaway from academic life for the first time. In terms of costs it was pretty ok as well, return flights were around 30 GBP, hostel for two nights was 50 EUR and it was in the red light district. I mean how more Amsterdamish you can get? 
Dublin 2009
One day we were randomly checking Ryanair flights and stumbled upon a flight from Luton to Dublin. We just decided to go there for a Friday-Saturday. It was very spontaneous, which made the trip even more fun. We didn't even book a hostel. 

Once in Dublin, we met up with a guy we knew from Estonia (Well only one of us knew him) And walked around the center for a bit. When he asked: "So guys where are your staying for the night?"  With no hesitation we said: "Well we were thinking that we are staying at yours..." He smiled and said: "Ok!" Which we are still grateful for. After settling down with accommodation for the night and walking around the center it has been decided to get a bit closer to the culture and go for a pub crawl... The following night was full of adventures around Dublin and especially the Temple bar district. Which is just beyond cool. We had to walk back home in the rain for I don't know how long but I felt it was at least 1.5 hours. 

Next day we met up with other people from Tallinn. Of course we went into a pub and spent most of the day talking to each other and trying to understand the bartender's Irish accent. Overall, the trip was great and return tickets to Dublin cost us only 10 GBP (EPIC WINNING) 

Oslo 2009
I decided to visit my friend in Norway for the weekend. It cost me around 30 GBP return, which is again EPIC. It was funny and sad at the same time that bus tickets to Oslo central cost 2 times more than the plain tickets. I liked Oslo and had an amazing time there, however the prices and the cold (Yes, it was a bit too much even for me) were killing me. My jaw literally dropped when I had to pay 40 GBP for 5 shots of Jagermeister in a bar. But lets not talk about that :)

In Oslo I met a lot of cool people and even though it was only a three day trip it felt much longer as it was packed with action. On the last day we went snowboarding with Jamal and his friends, and that was cool. However, I'm not sure whether snowboarding was more extreme, than me driving an old Renault Laguna 150km away from Oslo. Plus the blizzard never stopped. So I probably lost half of my nerves on the way to the spot...

It was my first time snowboarding so Jamal's friend was kind enough to tell me how to stand up and start, but never told me how to steer and break... Thus, when I first stood up I started to slide down with absolute no idea of steering and just had to grab some random person to stop with an idiotic look on my face. The whole day was followed by ups and downs (literally) but the scenery was just gorgeous. You could see frozen lakes, forests, houses on hills and other mountains around. At the end of the day I still managed to drive the car back to Oslo and YES, it did hurt a lot... But Norwegian dinner and Texas Hold'em were relaxing and fun. 

Going to places and meeting your friends or course-mates is beyond great. You have the chance to experience the place from a resident perspective. You will get to know the best places to visit. And it is just nice to see a friend that you haven't seen for a while. Always use the opportunity to go traveling!

p.s. Stay tuned for the second part.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Transportation Hell...

After all these happy posts I just have to write something bitter... During 4 years abroad I had several problems getting to my destination in time or at least getting there at all. I am pretty organized with coming in advance to the airport and I usually wait for the check-in to open, while playing my Nintendo DSi XL. (Yes this is advertising :)) But sometimes even starting a journey way in advance can be useless.

Icelandic Mayhem
When being home for Easter holiday 2010 I had a lot of fun. But when it came to getting back to Portsmouth it took me 2 weeks. You heard me, 2 bloody weeks thanks to Eyjafjallajökull (Thats the volcano name). My first easyjet flight got cancelled, while I was on my way to the airport. The text message I received advised me to go online and rebook a flight. When I got home and opened, flight were only available in 10 days. I was shocked as I had to work on Monday and also finish and hand-in my bachelor's thesis in a week. I decided that 10 days wait is impossible and booked a flight with Estonian Air that was in the next 4 days. (Hey, the eruption just started I didn't know it was a stupid idea). My second flight never took off as well. I had only one option to postpone it for another week. I had to call up work and tell them all about it. Luckily for me they understood. So my main problem was my thesis, which I had to finish in like 5 days. But it is extremely hard to do such stuff when you are at home and everybody is calling you and want to party, since you are still in town. However I managed to finish it and my friend handed it in. After that me and my friends had a third farewell party for me (This was the fun part) and my third flight took off and got me to Heathrow (Tallinn-Oslo-Heathrow o.O). 

I was happy to get back to Portsmouth and back to work... Even though for the next half a year I was teased for being two weeks late for work..

Christmas Horror
Christmas holiday 2010 had an epic start. I was supposed to fly home from Copenhagen Airport.. Getting to CPH was a big problem starting with the first train being 25 minutes late.. However I had more than enough time to catch my flight. The train ride from Lund to CPH takes around 40 minutes the first stop is Malmo and takes only 15 minutes to get from Lund. I was stuck for a bit more than two hours.. How is that even possible?? I know that the snow was pretty bad but COME ON, it is Sweden. They got to know how to cope with the snow. We were just stuck like 5 min away from the train station and they did not let us out.. They refused to let me out when I said I want to walk there as I see the station.. After 2 hours I got to Malmo… the train terminated there.. so we had an option of a taxi and a bus.. the taxi driver wanted 1.500 sek for 3 people to drive to CPH which is like 30 minutes away.. So we took the bus to CPH…eventually I was 20 minutes late to get my flight… Pretty frustrating! At SAS ticket office I had to stay in a queue for another hour.. and I found out that the only available flight for tomorrow.. would cost me 265 EUR extra and it was business class… He also noted I was eligible only for direct flights and couldn’t take any of the ones connecting in Stockholm. I don’t see a point there… So I had to book airbaltic for 201 EUR.. And my flight was at 7AM.. but that was not the worst part.. After sleeping on the floor I woke up and went to the check-in desks. However, the lady there said I should go to the information desk as I do not show up on the system… Imagine that!? At the information desk I talked to a lady who called airbaltic and advised me to return back to her in 30 minutes saying I don’t have my ticket yet. “But I will be late to check-in”…”Sir, I have too many other customers, come back later”. You just got to love customer service like that. NOT! After calling airbaltic myself they confirmed my ticket. And I checked-in. It was the best feeling ever! However, when I arrived in Riga I had to wait there for 9 hours to connect and fly to Tallinn… 32 hours without proper sleeping and 24 hours in airports was bad. But I got home at least..

After sending a complaint to Skanetrafiken I have received a one day ticket for Skane region. Which is not even worth the money paid to get on that bloody train in the first place. So I would say Skanetrafiken FAIL both customer service and service recovery.

These two stories are definitely not the only ones I have. However they are the most nerve-wrecking.