7 Ways to Spend A Day in Bruges

Bruges, Belgium Travel Scout Kate Swavely

Bruges, a beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of Brussels. If I had a repeat button, I would have liked to stay in Bruges and skipped the crowded noisy city altogether. Brussels has its charm. Much resembling New York, the capital city is a melting pot of culture and history. People have been wondering if I feel safe in Belgium. The answer is – it’s complicated. Brussels has been one of the few places where I diligently keep my head down and mind my own business. Could something happen to me if I were traveling alone? The level of risk seems high. Am I letting it bother me? Of course not. However, I’m glad not to be alone. My Aunt and Uncle traveled from Pennsylvania to visit! We decided on a week of day trips to pass the time. First stop Bruges.

Bruges is a traditional, medieval and UNESCO protected example of true Belgian culture. Magnificent red brick homes, cobbled streets and the smell of family-owned chocolatiers welcome adventurous tourists. The easiest way to visit Bruges without a car is by train. In my case, I traveled from Brussels Midi at 10AM and arrived in Bruges Central by 11AM. Perfect travel time for a day trip. Fill up your day with these awesome stops:

  1. Take A Cruise

Getting around on foot in Bruges is ideal. The roads are narrow, crowded and parking can be complicated. My Aunt, Uncle and I kicked off our tour with a canal trip. Thirty minutes cruising the deep-water ways proved to be the best way of getting into the spirit of Bruges. For 8€ you can pile into a boat of about thirty other people. Once you get over sitting on someone’s lap and others in your lap – the ride is enjoyable.  The captain spoke in about four different languages – French, German, English, and Spanish. It was fun trying to make sure he said the same things in all the languages!

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That could be you!

2. Have A Bite in the Market Square

Watch horse carriages trot by as you enjoy a hearty Leffe and a side of Flemish beef. There are many Italian places but, if you look hard enough there are little restaurants that feature local cuisine.

3. Get Lost

Put that map away! Wandering is made easy because the town is so small. Take strolls down cobbled alleys and quiet streets. You never know what you may come across.

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My Aunt Toni and I at a brewery.
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More canals.
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Hay barn castle? Hell yeah!
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Cathedral for days!

4. The Salvador Dali Museum

The fact that I myself do not understand the meaning of my paintings at the time that I am painting them does not mean that they have no meaning. -Dali

The Dali museum is not quite for the faint of heart. We all know Dali for the melting watches and spindly elephants. Think precursor to Tim Burton. My brother is a fan of Dali so, I felt I needed to check it out for him. Little did I realize the extent of the man’s strangeness. I may have traumatized my Aunt and Uncle. It’s probably not a great place to take kids – the showcase is rather explicit and you may be in the awkward position of explaining scheisse related art *shudders*. I thought the museum was informative and showcases the lesser known pieces of Dali’s extensive portfolio.

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Least explicit art…
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Don’t skip this!

5. Beer Tours

You don’t have to look very far to find beer in Belguim. Be sure to sit outside and enjoy a cold one. The brands that are harder to pronounce are usually the best so give it a go! Just note that their ‘large’ beer is like an American large soda so, just know that I warned you.

6. Chocolate Wasted

Belgium does two things better than everyone else: beer and chocolate. Bruges is dense with chocolatiers who have been in the business for generations. I opted for artisan truffles but, you can choose from a wide arrange of anything chocolate or even homemade marzipan. Not my favorite – yuck.

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7. Climb the Belfort

After all the chocolate and beer it might be a good idea to try climbing the Belfort tower. 366 stairs up and down is the best work out you can ask for! The reward at the top is a view that overlooks Bruges and beyond.

Let’s talk beer and chocolate. Who rivals Belgium?

Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate

Bruges, Belgium Travel Scout Kate Swavely

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday Thoughts and A Very Long Train Ride

Leaving Split was difficult. History hung at every door and I was just getting used to the labyrinth of the ancient Varos district. The sun was hot but, it cooled down at night so the windows could be kept open. The air was fresh and salty. Fishy at times, duh Split was right on the Adriatic. I was comfortable and felt safe. The food was good, the wine was better. Alas, I had to move on. Brussels, Belgium is my next destination. Tomorrow I meet up with my Aunt and Uncle who are flying out of JFK to come and see me!

I think I found my travel groove. Up until recently, I felt some anxiety about leaving my apartment. Mostly because it was tiring to be on point always and relying solely on myself. Did I lock the door? Do I have my keys? Where am I going? Shit, I’m lost. Well, I should eat! Where is my wallet? Keep my purse in front of me. I never skipped a day of adventuring but, the internal checklist was tedious. Somewhere towards the end of the Prague stay I think I finally felt I was holding my own. My stay in Split felt like a breeze!

I flew from Split to Zagreb to Amsterdam. Zagreb airport was magnificent and empty, boy, was it empty for a Friday morning.

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See? Empty.

Long travel day but, it doesn’t stop in Amsterdam. A Thayls train will take me into Midi Station in Brussels. Here are some not so glorious bits of traveling. Those minute details us travel bloggers neglect to tell you. Not only was I queasy from the Burger King Whopper that I just scarfed down but, I’m writing now simply to avoid a germophobic mental break down. This train is filthy. The seats are oily. There was a used dirty tampon at the cabin entrance. Dirty tissues litter the seat pockets. What sent me over the edge was the toenail (or fingernail IDGAF) clippings on my seat. Literal internal meltdown. Is this normal? Or am I on an exceptionally dirty train?

I got to my new apartment and threw my clothes in the washing machine. All of them. Then I jumped into the shower. All good now! Tomorrow I take on Brussels!

What’s your grossest travel experience?

Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate

How to Chase Waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes National Park

Travertine – a lime stone deposit from mineral springs.

Situated three hours North of Split, on the Bosnia-Herzegovina border is the mesmerizing natural wonder and UNESCO protected  – Plitvice Lakes National Park. Over thousands of years, deposited Travertine build-ups have formed dams which gave life to over sixteen natural lakes. The iconic turquoise water is so brilliant because the lake bottom lacks mud and contain minerals which form the Travertine.  The park protects about 73,000 acres worth of untouched wilderness. A wilderness so dense that the park is home to wolves, bears, lynx, and polecats (wild ferrets).

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No idea who this kid is but, he totally thinks the photo was for him 🙂

How to get here:

 As I was staying in Split, I actually booked a tour which worked out better in the long run. It’s about a three-hour drive north of Split. There are many options to get to Plitvice: buses, tours, car rentals. It depends on how long and how far you would like to hike.

Prices and Such:

If you go during the slow season the entrance fee is about 55 kuna or $8. Sounds great right? In peak season be prepared to dodge crowds and pay up to 180 kunas or $26. If you drive, parking is $7 per hour. Be sure to keep your ticket on you at all times and handy if you wish to take a ferry. The wooden bridges are fairly wide but, be prepared to negotiate space.

Bring water and a snack. I wouldn’t spend money in the park unless absolutely necessary. With that said, there is a bar located in the center of the park.

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Swimming is STRICTLY prohibited. Just like touching stalactites in caves, skin oils and acidity can harm the natural process of Travertine forming. As tempting as it may be, keep out of the water.

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Some of the deeper lakes are about 44m (144ft) but, its hard to tell because the water is so clear. The creation story of the lakes tells of villagers who experienced a terrible drought. They prayed to the Black Queen (or witch, depending on the storyteller) to help them. She sent rains and storms to fill the river beds back up. She then told them to protect the area and guard it from being destroyed. In 1949 UNESCO protected the area!

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Here is my happy spot of the day! Peering over a railing you can see how the river snakes through the valley and the terraces that the Travertine forms.

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There are many fish to see! The most common being Brown Trout. They float calmly in the shallows and feed on food that travels down the river.

Nearly all of the trails are bridges to take you through the complicated system of waterfalls and streams. Pay attention: there are no rails and sometimes it’s hard to see steps. Especially, hard to miss while taking in the beauty.

All in all, you don’t have to do much chasing. Rather the waterfalls chase you. Please go see Plitvice Lake National Park. Nature lover or not, the area will get your attention!

Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate

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Visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park

11 Questions To Ask About Your AirBNB

Planning a trip is multifaceted. I need airfare. I want to rent a car. A place to stay would be nice. What is my budget? These are all topics to consider when puzzling together a trip. Air BNB is a company that has made it easier and cheaper to find a place to stay and live like a local. Think Uber but for a living arrangement. Basically, you rent out someone’s home while they are away or home depending on what you opt for! Staying in a Air BNB listing is easy pick your place, pay through the website, meet the owner and BAM! happy travels. What happens when you plan to stay in a listing for an extended stay? Or in a foreign country? More research has to go into your planning. I’m here to help. Listed below are questions I would ask myself to ensure an unforgettable location which is both safe and practical.
Take your first adventure, sign up with my LINK 
1. Where can I buy groceries?
Cooking at home is going to cut your food budget nearly in half. Psychologist Abraham Maslow suggests that meeting physical needs are the highest priority to establish a simple lifestyle. By physical needs, I’m talking food, water, shelter etc. How few of us travelers protect our diets when we travel? As lovely as it sounds to indulge daily in Foie Gras and wine, one needs to consider the budget and one’s own health. A kitchen is imperative when browsing Air BNBs. A fridge, sink, and range are bare bones and just enough to cook a fresh meal.
2. Is the tap water safe? Or should I budget for bottled?
Don’t get trapped in the bathroom for the entirety of your trip after picking up a parasite. Water is a need right up there with food. I swear by water while traveling. It aids jet lag, mood, health, and overall feeling. Do yourself a favor and research, research, research. Some states in the U.S. although fully developed even have issues, mostly due to the mineral content and industrial pollutants.
3. Is my location safe at night? Or in the daytime?
When traveling to a new city or abroad safety is imperative. It’s impossible to predict the safe and not-so-safe neighborhoods. Take some time to confirm sure that adorable flat is in a safe location, especially for a solo woman or a family trip. Research daytime and nighttime crime.
4. Are weekly or monthly discounts offered?
Depending on your stay, it may be more economical to stay in a home that offers an extended stay discount. Tight budgets love discounts right?
5. How close is public transport?
If a car rental isn’t in the budget, consider the availability of public transportation. I remember Dublin having a great bus system. I hardly drove the rental car for the first few days. Consider the availability of rideshare businesses too. I would count on Uber in a major city but, if the plan is staying in the French countryside it may be wise to rent.
6. Where are the attractions?
It is probably impractical to stay in Venice if visiting Rome is on the docket. When in Rome – stay in Rome. Are attractions, walking distance? Will it require a taxi or a rideshare? Create an itinerary for specific museums to visit and attractions that are on the bucket list.
7. Does the room meet personal needs?
Refer to question number one. What are your basic needs? I know my needs require amenities such as a kitchen, Wi-Fi, maybe a washer/dryer.  Traveling with kids? Pets?
8. What are the reviews?
The biggest risk is staying in a home without reviews. Anyone I know who has used Air B&B and neglected to check out reviews had been disappointed. Not to say that they are all suspect, however, chances of a dud increase.
9. Is my host a Superhost? Verified?
A Superhost on Air BNB is an experienced individual who offers a comfortable and helpful experience. A Superhost can be identified by a badge emblem blow their online picture. I also recommend checking for verified pictures and descriptions as well as becoming verified yourself. Air BNB works both ways. Guests can also be reviewed by hosts!
10. Can I contact my Host?
Yes! Introduce yourself. You are a person who will be occupying another’s home. Shoot them an email! It doesn’t hurt to explain your travel situation ie. Planning on a late arrival? Questions about location? Have pets? Nine times out of ten they will be more than willing to accommodate.
11. What is the cancellation ratio? Cancellation policies?
Watch your emails for an updated house schedule. Hosts have the right to cancel your stay with as little or as much notice. Becoming stranded is scary. Do them the same courtesy, if you choose to cancel, review their personal cancellation policy to ensure you are available for a refund.

What did I miss? What do you look for in a good stay?

Marjan Forest Park: Split, Croatia

Make a day of hiking in Marjan Forest Park. Experience history, feeling-inducing panoramic views and quaint beaches for swimming and soaking up the rays. It’s the ultimate outdoor day trip just minutes from Split center. I asked the girl running the apartment building where I could find hiking and history fixes. She looked surprised “nobody has asked me for those recommendations, I’m usually asked about beaches and drinking”. In other words:

nerd

#sorrynotsorry

Day 1: The first trip into Marjan I rented a bike for a few hours. I picked my way around the peninsula stopping occasionally to peer into the tide pools. The goal was to find an octopus. The sea came up empty-handed but, I did score another Abalone shell! It’s about seven times smaller than my California Abalone but, it’s incredibly iridescent. The entire park takes a leisurely 45-50 minutes to bike so, be sure to stop at all the beaches. Each one has unique features. Don’t forget to bring a lunch.

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Where I wanted to be was on the upper terraces, from one of the beaches I spotted caves? Bunkers? Whatever they were my interest was peaked. There was no chance in hell I was hauling my bike up the steep incline so, another day.

Day 2: Bound and determined to explore those caves, I started on foot back up the hill. Marjan Park is terraced so, the summit is a much higher elevation than the peninsula where the beaches are. Switchback paths lead you back down the cliffs. The dense forest at the top of the terrace was shady and offered fantastic views of both Split and nearby islands.

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There were a curious amount of rock walls that lined trails and were randomly in the woods. As I grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch-land so, walls like this are appealing. I wonder, why?

Finally, I found the path to the ‘caves’. Turns out one is a 16th-century church (St. Jerome) and the other is a hermitage built into the rock face. You can imagine my frustration when I realized all of the doors were locked. Ugh.

Upon further research, the churches are rarely open and only used for special Catholic holidays. Don’t be dissuaded. These sites are spectacular and the view is even better!

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Quick Tips:

Bike Rental: 60 Kuna for 6 hours = 9 USD for 6 hours

Pack a picnic!

Remember to bring water, it’s hot in the middle of the day.

Have you visited Marjan?

Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate

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A Day With the Dead: Sedlec Ossuary and Melnik Bone Chapel

A road trip in Czechia lead to a rather morbid day. Prague itself has a macabre taste with dangerous looking tower spires and haunting cemeteries at every turn. The UNESCO recognized city of Kutna Hora is about 75km outside of Prague. What peaked my interest about Kutna Hora was the Sedlec Ossuary or The Bone Church. You can’t visit Czechia and miss The Bone Church! The legend or history, what have you of Sedlec Ossuary states that over 40,000 bodies were buried on the property following plague and wars in the 15th century. To manage the property in the 16th century nearly all bodies were exhumed and stored in the lower chapel of Sedlec. Here a monk who was possibly insane, erected pyramids and stacked bones to create his vision. The Skeletal art is nothing I have ever been exposed to. I suppose the Mutter Museum in Philly would be the second strangest collection I have ever visited. Sedlec Ossuary quickly taking a seat in first place. The smallish chapel was damp and musty but, it was difficult to feel the full effect due to a chatty tour group. As they filed out the chapel became silent. The doors shut and there was nothing but whispers from the remaining travelers.

 

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 I took as stroll around the church which due to structural issues was undergoing full reconstruction. There was a deep trench surrounding the church as architects were tending to the foundation. The structure to the underground chapel was visible. There was something that gave me the willies in broad daylight. The sun was shining on a warm spring day and the birds were chirping happily but, I had goosebumps. In the trenches, more skeletons were visible. Un-exhumed, layers of skulls, rib bones, arms and legs. Layers and layers. Which means I was standing on countless numbers of bodies…
Sedlec Ossuary and Melnik Bone Church - Czech Republic
If one Ossuary wasn’t enough. I decided to head north to a town called Melnik where there is another chapel of bones. It also happens to be a damn fine wine region! A plague in the 1520’s demanded a place for the dead. A crypt below St. Peter and Paul’s church is the resting place of roughly 10,000 people. The crypt was bricked up for hygienic reasons in 1780 and the deceased laid undisturbed for a century. In 1913 it was reopened by an anthropologist and he conducted research. Unfortunately, photos are strictly prohibited. I wasn’t about to be haunted by 10,000 plague victims so, I didn’t risk sneaking a shot. However, the chamber has some key features. As you walk through the entrance you are surrounded by a wall of skulls and bones at least six foot tall. Within the walls, you can find a heart, cross, and anchor designed in skulls. Another fact: any skull facing inward to the wall was identified as a person of German decent – according to anthropologists.

 

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What are the creepiest places you have visited? I do enjoy a good ghost story.

Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate
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Sedlec Ossuary and Melnik Bone Church - Czech Republic

Stories of Prague Castle

“Am I that easy to read?”
“No, you just look like the type, pretty and by yourself in an ancient city.”
How did the Uber driver simply know that I’d be into a strong, monk-brewed stout and a musty book sniff? I suppose, my fondness for wandering around in museums and stalking cemeteries is starting to show. It’s easy to let your inner wander-luster loose in Prague. The streets are safe with just enough edge to make you feel like a badass. My favorite element of Prague is how it echoes. The maze of lanky buildings meets at an acoustic sweet spot. Even when children are screaming it hums like a symphony. There is a vibration here that is both olden and present. A newborn down the hall from my flat screams out in the middle of the night until his mother hums a loud operatic tune. Sad and soothing, I don’t even mind.
I’ve made up my mind. An application for a work visa is on the horizon. Not too soon, maybe not even in the next five years but, I vow to come back to the medieval paradise.
Today, I visited the magnificent Prague Castle. I probably should have gone earlier. I know, I preach earliness still, there are tasks that are essential when you travel long term. Like refilling a saline solution stash or finishing laundry. It’s imperative that you can see and have clean undies, right? Anyway, there were school field trips and tour buses galore. My worst nightmare. But, like a shining savior in the distance, I wandered into the Prague National Gallery. The gallery has several buildings throughout Prague, three of them all located in the castle area. Here I waited out the un-amused teens and overly enthused elementary kids.
 I can appreciate art. Majority of it anyway, possibly due to my own lack of artistic skills. My brother inherited all that fancy stuff. Art in the National Gallery are grouped into sections: Medieval Art of Bohemia and Central Europe 1200-1550, Rudolphine Era to Baroque Bohemia, 19th century art (Neoclassicism to Romanticism) and finally 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Other locations showcase rotating exhibits. Early art is where it is at. Fire and brimstone of Catholic art and sculpture is haunting and entrancing. The artists and sculptors of that time wanted to constantly remind the people that God was watching so, sin was not an option. If one did sin, it would be scared out of you. As you pray in front of the emaciated reminder that Jesus died for all sin – the Crucifixion. Visit Klaster sv. Agnes Ceske (Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia) to learn the full gist. Here resides the medieval art as I mentioned.
Another great movement to study is the Baroque era. The lighter form originated in Italy – again a Catholic artform. The movement focuses on angels, saints, biblical and Roman mythological images. The scenes are often vivid with several different facets that end up creating an entire story within one painting. Be sure to visit Schwarzenberg Palace for a full lesson on Baroque.
Salam Palace focuses on 19th century art. After all the darkness from the Catholics, you will probably welcome a serene nature scene. Much of the art in Salam Palace focuses on images of prominent aristocrats and nature scenes.
The time had come to approach Prague Castle. I bee-lined for the Cathedral of St. Vitus as the draw is so powerful it beckons you from Old Town. The grueling spires and monstrous arches draw you in. The ceilings and inner chapels are less remarkable than you would think but, the magic happens in the smaller surrounding chapels. Here you see examples of alters dedicated to various saints and individuals.

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The places not to miss within Prague Castle are the Basilica of St. George and the South Tower of St. Vitus.
The Basilica of St. George is dedicated to the dragon slayer himself. The chapel has a personal and quaint feel to it. The oldest part of the building is the eldest of the entire castle built in 920.

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 The summit of the South Tower of St. Vitus rewards you with a 360-degree view of Prague in its entirety. It is not accessible for everyone. The way to the top consists of a steep, dizzying staircase. Be prepared to negotiate two-way traffic in tight quarters, but, just like hiking etiquette, remember stay single file and down yield to up.
 Prague castle is a necessity. Layover in Prague? Go to the castle. Limited time? Go to the castle. There is plenty  to explore, in fact, it may be impossible to see the entire property in one trip.
Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate

 

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Stories of Prague Castle (1)

What You Need to Know About Schengen Laws

Please, please, please. For the love of the travel gods. Know the visa rules required for
your stay. Don’t be forced to change your travel plans – mid travel – like I did. It was an amateur mistake. I can’t even defend this oversight. Luckily, the slip up was caught on day 28 of 90 so, changing my itinerary was relatively painless. Likeness to a wart and less like a disembowelment. Here is what happened:
Schengen Law – a pact made between twenty-six European countries to allow borderless passage among Schengen nations. Sounds wonderful, right? That’s why you miss out on some passport stamps. However, this turns twenty-six countries into one conglomerate much like individual states in the U.S. This poses a problem for long term travelers as stays are visa free for ninety days for every one hundred and eighty.
Schengen Countries (26 total): Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Non-Schengen: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom.
Is there a way around it? NO. Repercussion for overstaying can be quite brutal with wiggle room only if luck is on your side. Consequences include:
1. Hefty fines – research concludes anywhere from 700 to 1200 euros depending on severity.  That’s equivalent to about $800 to $1300 USD.
2. Trouble applying for a visa in the future. Schengen countries are all linked so, information is passed between each other. The record is permanent and no getting around it.
3. Banishment from Europe for about 1-3 years. Yikes.
4. Immediate deportation.
5. A giant, red ‘illegal immigrant’ stamp on your passport. This can cause terrible problems in the future.
OR
1. Nothing. You could slip between the cracks and go on with life.
Why on earth would you risk it? Chances are slim so, do yourself a favor and properly research how long you can stay in an area. Most likely this won’t affect the casual vacationer. However, the new wave of digital nomads should have this done before they fly off into the sunset. Whereas there is no way to cheat the system, there are ways to mold an itinerary so everything fits:
Easiest: Alternate Schengen and Non-Schengen countries. This takes some planning, but, use this Schengen Visa Calculator to help keep track of your stays. Remember you can’t just leave the Schengen for a week and restart your 90 days. You only have 90 days in Schengen, you MUST leave for 90 days.
Involved: Apply for a long-term stay visa. You must pick a host country like France or Spain. Apply for a visa and you could be granted for up to a year.  Proof of residence, a notarized promise not to work, bank statements to prove that you can support yourself and a valid passport are the common themes in the application process. Be sure to visit Visa or Embassy websites to check for requirements.
Difficult: Apply for a work visa and enjoy living in your new town. For this visa, likely you will be required to lock a job away immediately so, again. Do the research.
Just silliness: Marry that sexy, French guy you met in the bar last week. It comes with its own hoops to jump through, but, you can to stay!
Hope this is helpful. I’m glad I caught this when I did. There is no sense in getting sent back home with a temporary banishment. Oh, the shame! I should probably mention that I’m no expert despite pouring over websites and articles in a panic-stricken fury. Please, check requirements, rules and regulations when planning a trip.
If you believe that you may have accidentally overstayed contact the nearest Embassy immediately and follow instruction. Logic would suggest that it’s better to come clean than be caught at the airport.

Anyone have any near overstays or Schengen nightmares? How did you handle it?

Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate
What You Need To Know

5 Day Itinerary Oslo, Norway

An organized traveler is a smart traveler. So says, I. There is no planning for some events but, itineraries are clever ways to make sure time is maximized. Here is a compilation featuring my ideal itinerary for Oslo. I don’t think it needs or should be followed to a T. I’ve grouped places that are in similar vicinity as to minimize bus/walking/driving time. Let’s face it transportation is what takes the most time when it comes to travel. I stayed in Oslo for a week. A week supplied ample time to get accustomed to everyday life and to mosey around as I pleased.
Day 1: These must sees are located on the Bygdøy peninsula. Nearly all of Oslo’s main attractions are here. Make sure you pay attention to grouped museum passes. Locations like Kon-Tiki and the Fram museum can be bought together at a discount!!
Norwegian Folk Museum – a museum dedicated to the preservation and reenactment of Norwegian life from past to present. Visit homesteads and peek into home furnishings and fantastic displays of everyday accoutrements. Here you will also find the iconic, relocated Gol Stave Church.
Viking Ship Museum – a museum for, you guessed it, Viking ships! The superior ruminants were taken from archaeological digs in Tune, Gokstad, Oseberg and the Borre mound cemetery.
Fram Polar Ship Museum – explore the Arctic and Greenland with Norwegians in the late nineteenth century. The museum covers everything from the expeditions to everyday life for the sailors.
Kon-Tiki Museum – in 1947 a crew of five men left Peru on a raft made of balsa wood. Their captain Thor Heyerdahl had a goal to make it to Polynesia. This museum houses the actual ship that arrived in Polynesia one hundred and one days later. This is a must-see museum.

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 “ONE CAN’T BUY A TICKET TO PARADISE. YOU HAVE TO FIND IT WITHIN YOURSELF.”
– THOR HEYERDAHL
Day 2: Make sure the sun is shining today! There will be much outdoor exploration.
Frogner Park & Vigeland Museum – welcome to the whimsical yet deeply disturbing park dedicated to Gustav Vigeland. It could be just me but, I had a weird feeling about this place. It shouldn’t stop a visit but please, tell me there isn’t an ominous vibe here.
The Munch Museum – ladies and gents, my favorite painting resides here. The Scream. Visit this colorful horror and other work by Evard Munch.

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Day 3: Relax or Catch Up on Places You Missed. Go get lost in a city park or hang out in the social coffee shops.

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Day 4: Today is a day for history. Stroll around old town Oslo and admire the cobbled streets.

Akershus Fortress & Akershus Castle – wander the grounds of Akerhus Fortress built to protect the port of Oslo. Mind your manners, the Norwegian Armed Forces still use the fortress as a base. The grounds are free and in the summer months they offer tours for a fee.
Nobel Peace Center – at the foot of Akershus is a tribute to amazing people. The architecture alone is enough grab your gaze.

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Day 5: If you play your cards right, get into the next two locations for FREE. Thursdays only are free days for museum goers!
Oslo National Gallery – This gallery features artists from the likes of Warhol, Munch and others which exhibits change often. Free on Thursdays!
Historical Museum – a museum featuring history, simply put. The maze of a gallery features art and artifacts from all over the world. Free on Thursdays!
Norlis Antikvariat – An antique book shop I found right across the street from the Gallery. TWO floors of glorious, musty books. 10/10 would recommend.
Some tips for getting around Oslo? I got you covered: CLICK HERE
Anywhere I missed? Let me know below:

 

8 Outfits I Wore in the Arctic

The Arctic is associated with Polar Bears, icebergs and Santa. Freezing, right? Imagine my surprise as I stripped down to a long-sleeved tee. Envision witnessing a local Norwegian in a tank top and shorts. Vikings *insert eye-roll*. Temperatures were tricky. Mornings were cold but, normally warmed up as noon approached. The layering technique is a must.
As I’m traveling for the year I packed more than a carry on however, the clothes that I wore in Tromso, Norway could easily fit into a small case granted you wear the heavy-duty coat on the plane.
 2 Pairs of Pants
1 Pair of Leggings
1 Base Layer Leggings
2 Long Sleeved Tees
1 Tee
2 Sweaters
2 Jackets (one heavy duty and one light winter jacket)
1 Pair of Doc Martens
4 Pairs of Wool Socks
Typical Wintery Weather Stuff (gloves, hats, scarves)
Let’s talk footwear. I chose Doc Martens because the boots are slip resistant. Lord knows, I need slip resistant shoes. Docs are leather and trap heat inside aiding wool socks. Your feet will keep toasty. Promise.
Socks, gloves, hats, etc -stick with wool. There is a reason why the Vikings used wool. Wool is resistant to water. Should a snowball fight break out or if you fall in a puddle, rest assured you will keep warm.
 The key is layering. When it’s cold bundle up. As the thermometer rises strip down.
Lastly, chasing the Aurora? Pack a headlamp! Don’t get stuck in the dark.

Velamsunds Nature Preserve – Sweden

My first video – be gentle 😉

7 Tips for Visiting Oslo in Spring

There are some bits of knowledge one must learn for themselves, but as a sharer of travel tips here is how to get around in Oslo, Norway:
1. Bus Tickets – Use Ruter. Depending on the stay choose between a 24 hour, seven day or month bus pass. Load a pass onto a traveler’s card at Oslo Central Station or head to a nearby 7-11. The travel card is 50NOK (about $6USD). The kiosks at bus stops won’t accept non-Norwegian credit cards so, it’s super important to obtain a bus pass as soon as possible. The card is reloadable and does not expire, therefore, keep a hold of the card for future use.
To activate the travel pass, scan the travel card as bus is boarded. It will be a scanner immediately to the left or right. If the pass is not activated, risk a hefty fine should tickets be checked.
Public transport is included in the Oslo pass. Just watch, the Oslo pass is only redeemable for up to three days of travel. Depending in the visit length it may be more economical to only use the Ruter pass. Do the math, a week pass is 240NOK ($28USD). A single ticket is 33NOK ($4 USD). Ride the bus at least once a day and the fare pays for itself.
2. Wear Sturdy Shoes
Oslo is incredibly pleasant, especially on foot. The terraced streets provide a perfect up-hill/down-hill work out. Do be aware of the cobblestones and prepare for proper footwear.
3. The Oslo Pass – Purchase the Oslo pass to gain access to free museum passes, public transport and discounted tours. Choose 24, 48, or 72 hour passes. To name a few museums included: Viking Ship Museum, Kon-Tiki Museum, Munch Museum and more. This pass is excellent for someone who is in town for a few days. In town longer? It may be wise to skip the pass and see the city at your leisure.
4. Bikes
Scandinavians love their bikes. Who can blame them? Bikes are eco-friendly, cheap (compared to a car), and pedals the rider to their location in a timely manner.
5. Coffee, coffee, coffee
Coffee seems to be the prima social stomping ground. There are noticeably more cafes than bars. Be sure to stop in and pull up a stool – if there is one around. Pick up the phrase “Kan jeg få en stor kaffe?”. Coffee shops are often open all day and are jam packed – all day. Be sure to ask for cream and sugar or end up drinking it black. My favorite.
Note: Don’t panic, it’s perfectly normal for parents to leave their babies outside as they grab some magic bean juice.
6. Pedal to the Metal
The cheapest way to navigate Oslo may be walking, but, if time is an issue pick out a city bike. For a fee, ride a bike anywhere for forty-five minutes. The rider doesn’t have to return the bike to the same parking station. Either return them if the journey is over or add more time to keep on biking. Oslo is bike friendly, as is Scandinavia.
7. Useful Apps – Available for most Smart Phones
Flytoget – an app to buy train tickets to and from locations (including the airport) departing from Oslo Sentrum. This app is handy since it also shows the train schedule.
Oslo Bysykkel – shows locations and number of bikes available to rent. For a fee, rent a bike and tour around Oslo for forty-five minutes. There are options to return or extend the rental.
RuterBillet – the bus app. This app, if your card works, can be used to purchase tickets and passes.
Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate
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