How I almost died

Just stories of me being stupid when travelling.

Oslo – Visiting a friend that I don’t have and missing my flight

The first time I went to Oslo was during my 25-day long Easter holiday. Of course I wasn’t planning to spend the entire period in Norway because it would be so darn expensive. Instead, I was going to take a plane from Oslo to Brussels and visit Belgium. As a student in Europe, I was looking at cheap flights and I booked a Ryanair flight that would be flying from Oslo Rygge, which is 65km from central Oslo but easily accessible by train. My hotel was right next to Oslo sentralstasjon so I didn’t worry too much the night before my flight.

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Oslo Central Station

Still, I got up early and arrived at the train station 3h beforehand, feeling I would have pretty sufficient time to chill at the airport. I looked at the train schedule and there was nothing next to the item “To Oslo Rygge”. I checked again and still, nothing. I realised the train service to Oslo Rygge was suspended but they offered shuttle bus to the airport, so I found the shuttle bus boarding platform.

There were two buses. There weren’t signs at the front of the bus. All the travellers were with bags and luggage and were putting them in the bottom compartment one by one. There was a Norwegian lady escorting the travellers to board the bus. She was speaking in only Norwegian. I was approaching the buses and two officials stopped me. They asked for my ticket and I showed them the one I bought beforehand. They told me “No, this ticket is expired. You have to buy another one.” and I responded “No. I bought it beforehand, but I have never used it. Down there it says I can use it today.”

The story didn’t stop there. So I entered the shuttle bus platform and I thought the two buses were going to the same destination – Oslo Rygge. It is an airport, there must be many travellers to the airport, that’s why they need two buses.

I boarded on a bus. The bus driver didn’t check my ticket. The bus started moving. I was in the moment to settle down and enjoy the view. Half way through the bus stopped and many people left. Some people live in the suburbs, I thought. As the bus started again, I looked at the time and found that I only had less than 2h left to reach the airport. I wasn’t too worried because buses are slower than trains, and if they provided shuttle bus services, it wouldn’t be too much slower than trains so people won’t miss their flight.

I kept looking outside the window so I would know when would the bus approach Oslo Rygge and I could get off the next time the bus stops. I started to panic a little bit as time is running out but the bus still hasn’t had any sign of reaching the airport whatsoever. I opened my GPS but it only showed that I was far south Oslo without my exact location. I didn’t have a good gut feeling. My stomach literally started to growl and I felt really sick. I wanted to poop which happens all the time when I feel like I am getting lost. Finally, the bus stopped again and everyone was preparing to get off. I looked at both sides of the bus, but there just was no such thing as “Oslo Rygge” anywhere around !

I went to the bus driver and asked “Is this Oslo Rygge ?!” and he looked at me with a grumpy face “No ! Oslo Rygge was another bus ! This is Halden ! You go to Halden train station and go back to Rygge !”

At that moment, I said to myself, “What the actual fuck.”

oslo

halden.jpg
Halden was actually pretty nice, I would visit there actually if I have a friend from Halden

Eventually, I got to the airport 30 mins before my flight. I entered the security area, I shamelessly crawled to the front of the line of 50 people, asked the lady to kindly let me go first, took my boots and jackets off as quick as possible, said to her “thanks !” a few times, gathered my stuff, ran to the gate, and boarded the plane at the very, very last minute.


Tromsø – Jacuzzi with drunk Vikings

I went to Tromsø with my Aunt and we specifically chose a hotel with an outdoor Jacuzzi. We enjoyed it once and I fell in love with it. It was an ice-fire experience as your body below head enjoys warm water but snow was hitting your face. On the days when the weather was too bad to watch the northern lights, I would go to the Jacuzzi and hope to enjoy some alone time just admiring the view from the top of the hotel.

One evening I was hoping to go to the Jacuzzi before having dinner in the hotel restaurant (they offered food, noice). There were already a few people in the Jacuzzi so I waited indoors in the gym. The 3 men and one lady all looked like Vikings and occupied already 80% of the space. I really didn’t feel like entering it alone, sitting there with 4 strangers and worst, having to speak to them wearing just my bikini. I was hoping that they would leave in 20 mins or so and I would be just as happy to be in the Jacuzzi even for only 10 mins.

They were drinking, chatting, laughing and didn’t seem to have any intentions of leaving after 30 mins. One of the vikings looked at me through the glass door between the Jacuzzi and the gym, and gave me a hand signal to go join them in the Jacuzzi. I smiled and shook my head to refuse. He got out from the Jacuzzi, opened the glass door and entered the gym. He walked to me and said, “come join us, don’t be shy, we don’t eat people” for a few times. I thought, alright. I have been standing here long enough and I want the warm water bath. They might actually be nice people and I could make some friends. There is a woman and they couldn’t do anything to me in front of her.

I entered the Jacuzzi and the Viking presented themselves. They were from Northern Norway and are salmon fishermen spending their holidays in Tromsø. The rest of the group mildly smiled for one second and went back to their resting bitch faces. He asked where I am from, I answered. He asked what am I doing in Norway, I answered. Basically, he did all the talking being aware that because he was drunk, he had the guts to talk to strangers.

Then he started to propose to me. In front of his sober friends, he said he could take me to see the northern lights on his fishing boat. He also offered beer and said I could try his  salmon. I looked at his sober friends and they didn’t seem to have any facial expressions at all. They didn’t think his action was funny or stupid, they didn’t think I was confused, they were just like watching a show.

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Polar Museum, Tromso

That was the moment when I said to myself, “What the actual fuck.”

The water flow stopped in the Jacuzzi. I had enough of the bath, got up and wanted to leave. He said, “You are a pretty girl. You are very nice and kind pretty girl. Stay, please.” but of course I insisted and left. He tried to followed me to the gym by himself and then his sober friends tried to pull him back. (Thank you, faceless Viking friends. Thank you!) I went back to my hotel room, had my dinner and never saw them again.


Istanbul – Breaking through Turkish border control

When you are travelling in Europe, it is very easy for you to forget that there is something called “border control” or “visa”. I have had absolutely no problems in any of my previous trips because my destinations were all within the Schengen Area. There were a few times when my flatmate, a South African passport holder, told me that he would only visit Turkey because it is the only country in Europe he could visit without applying for a visa (and beforehand). I didn’t think too much about it because I wasn’t thinking of visiting Turkey until I was in Budapest.

Apparently, I should have. As the flight from Budapest arrived in Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen (SAW), passengers were lining up at the border control in order to enter Istanbul. “Visa”, though, wasn’t the first thing I was aware of, as I still thought I didn’t need a visa to enter Turkey. It was the huge zic-zac line that shocked me so much for one moment I thought I would never be able to see the sun outside this airport again. There were at least 200 people in line and some more scattered around the line (children whose father was in line and would join once it’s their turn). The line was mostly black in colour – there were plenty of Muslim women wearing niqabs. It was also very, very chaotic because there were only 4 immigration officers and they didn’t feel like speeding up at all. As planes kept arriving, there were more and more passengers and some men just didn’t feel like respecting the rules and fucking cut in from the sides.

I waited for at least an hour in that mess under heat and minimal air-conditioning. When it was finally, finally my turn, I handed my passport without giving more fuck and the officer flipped through the pages and asked “Where is your visa ?!” and I said “Do I need a visa ?!” and he said “Go get your visa at the counter there !” and threw my passport back to me. I felt like he almost muttered “Fucking Asians wasting my time”.

At that moment, I said to myself, “What the actual fuck.”

I went to the counter, the lady asked for 20 pounds. I only had 25 euros on me and that was literally all of the cash I had. She took them all, put a sticker on my passport, and sent me back in line. My poor friend Betül was waiting for more than an hour and panicking if I got lost inside. While I was in line the second time (which was much much shorter apparently) she even went to the broadcast and called for me and I could here it inside the immigration restricted area. When I eventually got out of that hell, I took my turn to go to the broadcast and called for her. We united and I told her the entire story again.


Helsinki – When bike meets car, down the hill 

The accident in Helsinki inspired me to write this post because I was closest to death at that moment.

One evening after dinner we decided to ride bikes to the Linnanmäki amusement park to enjoy a view of Helsinki on top from the Panorama Tower. Linnanmäki basically means “Castle Hill” so we had to ride or push our bikes up. The view was great, when we finished the Panorama Tower “ride”, we got back our bikes and were ready to leave.

At that point, I had two options: either I rode the bike downhill or I walk with the bike because the slope is steep. I was wearing a dress but for some reason, I didn’t choose the safer option, I got on the bike and just fucking rode it downhill. At the bottom of the hill awaits me straight ass roads with cars moving every second. Of course, in the middle of the ride I realised that I am basically running to the cars but I just couldn’t stop the bike. Laura and her boyfriend Tuomas were screaming: Kate stop !!! Stop the bike !!! and I looked at the traffic light and wished it would be green for pedestrians so the cars would stop I could cross the road and stop. It didn’t turn green for pedestrians meaning the cars were still moving on the road. Of course, me and my bike hit straight to a car. I fell off, my flip flops and glasses flew away and the first thought that came to my mind was “Fuck ! This is so embarrassing. I am blocking the road !”

Apparently, the driver saw me running from the hill on the bike and sensed that something wrong was about happen. He stopped his car immediately so I wouldn’t be rolled over and die. I was so lucky and I was absolutely conscious after the accident. I wasn’t even wearing a helmet but my brain didn’t get hurt at all. (If it did that would either be fucked up as my brain is so brilliant, or I could magically speak fluent Finnish after a coma. It’s all about the odds.) Only after 3 seconds, I sensed some serious pain on the side of my hip:

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The day after the accident

Now that I think of it, it was funny because all that I thought of was “this is so embarrassing” but Tuomas was absolutely shocked and really thought that I would die because he saw me crashing to the car in front of his bare eyes. (I am very sorry Tuomas.) I definitely learnt many lessons and one of them is to always get a good insurance ! Car accidents can be expensive. And sorry again to Laura and Tuomas for causing this panic. I believe I am their most mindless guest.


Alright now that we are at the end of the post and there won’t be more scarier stories. In fact most of them are just me being stupid and aren’t really accidents. I am sorry that I didn’t have plane hijack or lost in the wild stories to tell. I have almost died only once but the shameful list of mistakes goes on forever because I am just kinda stupid sometimes. I have definitely learnt something but I try to take the embarrassment lightly, and that’s why I am writing them like stories and just let everyone have a laugh. (In case you couldn’t laugh at all and became serious worried about me, thanks but you don’t have to, you are supposed to tease me for being such a clumsy traveller.) I did have a fabulous time in Europe and I hope next time I go on a long trip I will still have stupid stories to tell afterwards. Because, after all, who doesn’t want some self-mockery? 🙂

P.S. The background photo wasn’t taken in Helsinki. I was in Lille and Auksė took it. (In Lille I had a fairly successful bike ride experience).

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