The Red Star Special is in my personal opinion, the best trip in the brochure. You get all the great bonding experiences that come from a camping trip, living in each others pockets, eating outside, great campsites for playing sport and taking walks as well as of course the great food that comes with an On Road Chef (me!) but with one little difference. There are no tents to set up! You get all the beauty of living in nature with the bonus of an actual mattress. Who could wish for more? The other reason I love this trip is its itinerary. You get to spent ten whole days in Norway, driving north through some of the most spectacular scenery you have ever experienced. Snow capped mountains will fall from the skys to land heavily, sharply and suddenly on either side of the road. Rivers will carve their way under bridges built to cross the wild rapids too headstrong to tame. Some days your view will stretch out to snow covered tundra and on others it will be a blanket of wildflowers. Depending on the time of year and your luck some nights will never come and the sun will hang in the sky for endless days and on others you might be treated to an early display of the much hunted aurora borealis. This trip is unpredictable and always individual.
This year I was lucky enough to do this trip in July with two beautiful crew members, Bec and Adrian. I couldn’t have wished for better crew to have fun, explore and work with every day. We implemented things like daily dance parties in the front seat of the coach. Dance parties in the cook tent and dance parties basically wherever there was space. Why would you ever want to work somewhere you couldn’t dance at the same time? Honorable mention goes out to Gerard who showed us our favorite move of the trip. The balloon man.
Highlights of the trip for me were visiting the ABBA museum in Stockholm. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of ABBA but can still hum along to their songs I think you would enjoy this museum. It is bright, colourful, musical and interactive. There is so much going on in it from back stories of the band members before they were famous, the stories behind the costumes, how they produced the music and the affects of the music on the world. There is also a section showcasing other swedish talent and I learnt that many more artists than I had previously known are Swedish!
The walk to Svartisen Glacier on our 14th day was a huge highlight for me. When I did this trip last year it was still too early in the season for the glacier to be open and so this was still a first. We started with a 20 minute boat ride across a lake to the beginning of the walking track. It was only 3km but with all the stopping to take photos it still took me a while to reach the Glacier itself. The walk was across this beautiful layered rock in hues of gray, rust red, deep purple and in some parts an almost dusky pink. The glacier wasn’t visible until the last half a kilometer and then all of a sudden it was there, staring at you from across a milky green lake just crawling through the mountains like it has been for the last few millenia. It took my breath away. The closer I got the more intimidating it became until all of a sudden I was standing in front of this huge wall of ice several stories high. The ice was blue rather than white and the deeper the hole or crack in the ice, the bluer the colour that came from it. It was a really awe inspiring experience that I wish I had had more time for but as it was I needed to hurry back to catch the first boat so that I could prepare a hot lunch for everyone back at the coach.
This trip ended with three nights of madness. Our first stop in a city since we had left the last one 10 days ago was Jyvaskyla in Finland. About half the group was itching for some city nightlife and so we headed in after dinner. Our night was a whirlwind of different themed bars. The English bar, the finish rock bar, the strip club (by accident I swear) and finally the karaoke bar where we waited through some very heavy and emotional finish rock and pop songs before we brought the roof down with total eclipse of the heart and some blink 182 until it closed.
The next night in Helsinki was supposed to be more civilized. It was Dana’s 30th and some of us went to a nice restaurant for the fanciest meal we had had for a while before moving on to a shot bar where tens of shots were ordered and quickly consumed. An outdoor bar in one of the big squares of the city was our next stop where we met up with some friends also visiting the city and from here the night gets blurrier but we definitely made our way to a club with three stories. We were very confused to start with as the bottom floor was so quiet we wondered why we had been recommended this place. It wasn’t too long until we went to the second floor to find it a bit fuller and so we stopped there to see if the place would pick up as it got later. After a while we noticed that people seemed to be heading in a certain direction and we followed them to find the final set of stairs up to the rooftop. There it was packed with people dancing in the fresh air and we laughed when we realised our mistake of waiting downstairs. The final part of the night for me was in yet another bar where we were all up on the tables dancing. Don’t ask me why, I do not remember. But we were definitely not the only ones.
The next day we took a ferry across to Tallinn in Estonia where our final big evening began with a medieval feast at Peppersack in the middle of old town. We even got a sword fighting performance during our dinner! We went straight from there to a shots bar (our group quite liked these) where again shots could be bought in wooden planks of 10 and came in grades of ‘Advanced’ ‘Skilled’ and ‘Brave’. Our final stop for the night was just up the road at Hollywood. I’ve been here twice now and both times it has given me the best night of any trip I’ve had. The music is on point, the passengers are in the mood to farewell half of the group who are leaving and I am in the mood to spend the rest of my energy on the last night of the trip. The moment our two trip songs came on, ‘lean on’ and ‘Runaway’, our group went wild and the atmosphere was electric. I felt on top of the world that night, safe in the knowledge that I could get up to wave the coach off the next day and then crawl happily back in to my bed for the rest of the day.