TePe Sigeman & Co Chess Tournament

I was standing in the bathroom braiding my hair and thinking about the upcoming event. Nils had asked me to join him for the opening ceremony of the TePe Sigeman & Co chess tournament, and I had been so excited about getting a chance to wear a pretty dress that I had talked about it for days (more than a month of backpacking had limited the opportunities to dress up). Nils of course did not care at all about how we looked, but some female guidance never hurt anybody, and I was of course looking magnificent… I mean we were.

Wonder why I cut Nils out of my profile picture...  Photo: Calle Erlandsson

Wonder why I cut Nils out of my profile picture…
Photo: Calle Erlandsson

Toothbrushes and glamour
The opening ceremony was hosted at Malmø City Hall, a stunning old building with lots of detail and decorations. I especially enjoyed the huge paintings of Danish Kings hanging all over the walls. It was nice reminder that Swedish and Danish history is tied together. I would say that the Danes have always made the Swedes stronger! Furthermore the opening ceremony consisted of some nice speeches, a little live music from a string quartet (the guy playing the violin… not sure it is a violin… could probably have been a chess player. He was so committed to his breathing that I could hear it and his veins were pulsing – the music was lovely) and the drawing of starting numbers for the tournament.

It is the guy to the left.

It is the guy to the left. Is it a violin? 

I joked with Nils that he would probably get the worst number (three blacks against the top seeds) he did… and answered:

“There is no such thing as a bad pairing. No matter what pairing I get I will be happy, because I get to play chess”

I wish I could relate in any form of way, but we have not all been raised by Bob Marley’s spirit. Anyhow food was served and I definitely felt that I fitted in between the huge chandeliers, baroque carvings and white tablecloths even despite of the fact that Nigel Short was sitting to my right. I have to admit though; he is hiding his dubious opinions and questionable behaviour towards women pretty well behind that charming British facade. All in all I hope Nils gets to play more tournaments of that kind.

And dinner was served!

And dinner was served!

The little red riding hood
In the first round Nils was playing with the black pieces against the rather controversial Baadur Jobava. He is quite a lot of fun, which is probably the reason why he is always wearing those sunglasses. I have to say I like his down to earth way of greeting everybody before the round, it gives a really nice vibe and makes the spectators, sponsors, judges and so on feel like somebody actually care. You get a long way with being friendly and I think that a lot of the better players have a hard time finding the space for that, since their ego takes up most of the room. On the other hand it is hard to tell if Jobava is actually sober when doing this. In Reykjavik he was also playing Nils and the first sight that meet us when entering Harpa (the playing hall) 5 minutes before the round, was Jobava holding a big beer and an even bigger slice of cake. As Nils said: “it is hard to take serious”. But why does it always have to be that serious?
The game was finished and we were on our way out of the playing hall, when Jobava pointed at my hat:

Jobava: “I like your hat”
Me: “Thank you! I bought it in Kosovo”
Jobava: “It is red, so Nils must be a wolf”

Referring to the story about “The Little Red Riding Hood”. If anything I would claim that the roles should be reverted. Nevertheless I think Jobava is a nice kick to any tournament and he makes sure that something is going to happen, whether it is a spectacular game or bringing pizza trays into the club and getting kicked out is 50/50 chance. Also I have a hard time disliking him after he referred to me as “pretty lady”.

Baadur Jobava white against Nils Grandelius

Baadur Jobava white against Nils Grandelius

Eat, sleep, play, and repeat!
I think that Nils would probably agree to the statement: “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, he would add that coffee is also necessary and I agree. Nothing is going to happen before coffee is served so Nils woke up every morning and placed a cup beside my bed. Then he wet to work and I went to the kitchen. Every morning this was my routine:

  1. Make him a big omelette with some new filling
  2. Pick his clothes
  3. Iron the shirt I had picked
  4. And polish his shoes

I felt like a real housewife but on the other hand, he would have done exactly the same for me, if I had been the one playing. At least I hope so; otherwise he will be in grave trouble.
They played 5 rounds and 4 out of 5 I was there almost all day to “support him”. I am not sure what to call it since I just become extremely nervous when I sit all day and follow his game. I do not trust his play enough to relax, unfortunately. I have commented one game from the tournament, so you can get a feel of how I think when Nils is playing: http://www.viewchess.com/cbreader/2017/6/12/Game37312.html
To ease my nerves I made sure to sit right in front of Stellan Brynell while he was doing his commentary, just to make sure somebody would suggest the right moves. The annoyance in his voice when I pointed out something he had missed was completely worth it. I had even suggested that he needed a sidekick and I would be happy to help him out and elevate the commentating from Sahara sand to Sunny Beach. He thought it was the worst idea ever, but I think the audience would be happy to hear all the good stories/gossip I can tell from the chess world.

I think he could need some extra spice in his life. Maybe... a Co. commentator!

I think he could need some extra spice in his life. Maybe… a Co. commentator!

A little detour to Copenhagen Chess Challenge
Do you ever get tired of pretending to be housewife? Yes. I am not suited for that role and I already decided to do something else the day on the 3. round. In Ballerup outside of Copenhagen some of my friends were playing the Copenhagen Chess Challenge and I thought it would be a good idea to go and be a supporter somewhere else than at the Tepe Sigeman. Martin Lokander had played a quite dubious tournament and I had made myself ready to step in and show him the way. First I bought a chocolate gold medal with the text “you are the best” and forced him to wear it during the round, and then I brought him and his friend Deniz to a Bodega (a bar with cheaper beer) in the centre of Copenhagen. As Martin had said earlier that day:

“I played this tournament 5 years ago and concluded I was never going to visit Ballerup again. 5 years later I had forgot everything about it and indeed Ballerup is the most horribly boring city I have ever been to”

In the tournament they have also applied the rule that you cannot make a draw before move 30, which is completely outrageous when there is already 4 double-rounds. What are they trying to achieve… get people to hate chess? Martin is definitely completely right about the city and therefore our night out also contributed to lift his spirit. Actually he did not loose one game after he received my guidance. Never forget: You are the best, Martin!

At first Martin thought the medal was embarrassing... that opinion did not change

At first Martin thought the medal was embarrassing… that opinion did not change

The tournament in general (OBS. serious text)
The playing venue was Malmø Statsteater (the theatre) and once again they really managed to make the surroundings enjoyable for the eyes. I personally believe that it is a big pleaser for the spectators that they experience this professional vibe, when there are 6 players in a nice looking room with cut of sections for the judge, spectators, players and a accessible room with a commentator. The tournament was well organized and except for the lack of posters and advertising in general, they did everything right. The rest of the entertaining is up to the players and despite of the fact that one victory and 4 draws was enough to win the tournament, there was enough drama on the board to keep the spectators attention. This also has something to do with the choice of players. I find the idea of having women (one or more) in the tournament very interesting; since it appeals to a broader audience (both commercial wise and chess wise), and it is not seen that often in closed tournaments. Rating average is not everything, interesting chess and players I am a bigger fan of (not to forget Nils). Maybe, they should also consider a co-commentator for next year. I got a suggestion 😉

The playing area

The playing area

Something to celebrate
In the end Jobava Baadur and Nils Grandelius ended up sharing the victory with 3 points out of 5. As Nils said: “what he had learned from being a second for Magnus Carlsen, only +1 is needed”. Their shared victory was celebrated together with the rest of the participants (Harika, Eljanov, Erik and Nigel), the sponsors and people who had helped during the tournament. All in all it was a small party who enjoyed dinner at Sigeman & Co’s lawfirm. Jobava was very eager to go to the casino but nobody wanted to join him. Nils and I had planned to go and it was very hard to explain why we could not. You see, in Sweden you have to be 20 years old to go to the casino, and I am not. Once again Nils avoided having to stay up late and waste his money, maybe Nigel was right, when he called Nils a slippery bastard. Instead of the casino Nils, Erik, Finn (a tech guy) and I went to a bar and grabbed a beer before closing time. A nice finish to a strong tournament.

Some discussion after the last game.

Some discussion after the last game.

   

I came, I saw, I conquered

Margaret I was the first female ruler of Denmark and the founder of the Kalmar Union. Her reign lasted from the 3rd of August 1387 to 28th of October 1412 and her dominion stretched across both Norway and Sweden. Already back then the Scandinavian countries needed a Danish woman as a leader who could guide them towards greater accomplishments. As we all know, history often repeats itself and indeed here we are with a Danish Nordic Champion.

1.Round I take Scania
I had just arrived in the airport and was pretty confused. I had been up at 3 in the morning to catch my flight from Reykjavik and was basically still half asleep. The first round of the Nordic Chess Championships for Girls u-20 was going to begin soon and I had no idea on how I would get there. Luckily for me I got the best friends and when I stepped out of the airport I was meet by Martin Lokander, a sign saying “Ellen Kakulidis” (I probably would not have noticed him otherwise) and a freshly brewed cup of coffee. The rest of the Danish team had already announced that they had left me on my own and I now completely relied on my Swedish helper.
We were walking through the old part of Stockholm, had just grabbed some food and were now on our way to “Stockholms Schacksalonger” the playing venue:

Ellen – “What opening should I play?”
Martin – “Who are you playing and what colour do you have?”
Ellen – “I know nothing”
Martin – “At night in this spot you can eat the spiciest hotdog in the world”
Ellen – “…What”
Martin – “What…”

The round started and I was pretty nervous as always. I used a great deal of time just focusing on staying awake. The clip from the movie Mr Bean’s vacation, where he is putting toothpicks under his eyelids to keep them open, played in my head. Already after the opening I was low on time and the move Bf4 (she moved her bishop to a square where I could just take it) was like sent from heaven. I went straight to bed.

2. Round I challenge my friends
15 minutes late Sara and Ingrid walked through the door. Apparently Ingrid had to do her makeup and it took longer than expected. At least she sat at the board looking better than the rest of us, when she slowly got a worse looking position. The stakes were high since both Ingrid and Sara were my classmates at NTG and Simen was probably going to analyse the game at their next lesson. Overall I was satisfied with the game except for the move g4? It does not improve much and just erases the possibility of playing f4 later on. Nils would have described the move as a “criminal move” and I am sure Ulf would not have been proud… but a victory is a victory and the show must go on… when you play double rounds.

To play 33.g4 is just... ugly

To play 33.g4 is just… ugly

3. Round I conquer Norway
I have had a lot of fancy preparations since Martin started to tell me what to play, but I have to say, that this prep from Peter Grove blew the socks of Martin, my opponent Sara Næss and myself. It is very rare that we see talent in this pure form, but to play 3..h6 in the French should from this day on be called the Grove-variation regardless of who it truly origins from. When I decided what to play I almost felt sorry for Anton who tried to prepare Sara, but they loudly spoke about some master tactics like 1.h4 and 2.Rh3 when I tried to “spy” on them and therefore I had no mercy. Furthermore I did not even castle the whole game and it ended up being a masterpiece. Poor Sara was now on half a point out of three and as the good friends we are, we all laughed when Ingrid came up with the joke:

Ingrid: “What is the different between Sara and a joke?”
Ingrid: “The joke got a point”

I have commented the game in Danish on Aalborg Skakforenings webpage if you are interested: http://aalborgskakforening.dk/klubliv/kommentarer-og-parti-fra-nm-for-piger/. I also have to mention that I believe Sara will make a comeback next year! I personally have scored 0 of 4, 0 of 5 and 1 of 5 in the Nordic Championships and we have all forgotten that now… I hope.

Naturally we went out on the local chess bar “Krukan” to celebrate that I had scored 3 out of 3. We were probably going anyway but it is always good with extra excuses. Ingrid, Sara, Erik and Martin were some of the people joining the party. A couple of beers a little Bang! some lies about the Norwegian girls age and then we decided to go home. We did not exactly reach the hotel before midnight, but that had more to do with the fact that Ingrid had to jump out of the Metro and find the nearest bathroom. Sara and I enjoyed a couple of chilli-cheese-tops and had the chance to discuss how reasonable we were while waiting.

Haha I love the expression in Erik's face and the fact that Lokander is completely read

Haha I love the expression in Erik’s face and the fact that Lokander is completely read

4. Round I kill all resistance
I am a little disappointed that Erik Blomqvist did not come to support me during this important battle. He came Saturday, but seemed more interested in going to the bar than cheering for me. I would in particular have found it funny if I had the support of the three best chess players in Sweden Nils, Erik and Martin when I played the Swedes; I had to settle for 2 out of 3, but I think that is good enough. Nevertheless I was super nervous about this decisive match and the only thing calming me down was the encouraging words from Peter Grove: You are to bad for the game to matter. Thank you very much then I do not need to worry. I again used some time in the opening but only because I tried to avoid playing the whole game against Stellan Brynell (who were the team leader of Sweden and definitely prepared the players). Nils had (almost) for the first time tried to help me by sending a file!?!?! But I just concluded that I was too dumb to understand the point of the moves and I did not want to play it (if you do not understand the amount of question- and exclamation marks after file, I can explain. When I played in Runavik last year, Nils helped all the others to prepare and so on. I asked for help and his answer was “you are not good enough to understand it”… He was right). However the time in the opening was well spent because she definitely struggled when I deviated from her plan. I had some very nice tactics towards the end and you are welcome to play through the game and comments here: http://www.viewchess.com/cbreader/2017/5/31/Game199141421.html

I already knew that this victory meant that I had won the tournament and therefore Martin and I went out to celebrate with a round of sushi! The champagne we saved for later… much later! I also have to say that I am really sorry. I had promised Martin to play 1.g4 if I had already secured the victory before the last round, but I chickened out when the better part of my said it was bad sportsmanship. Of course he is absolutely right. 

Mmmm, sushi was a great way to celebrate

Mmmm, sushi was a great way to celebrate

5. Round and the time to surrender
The nerves had definitely gone away but it is hard to say that was a good thing. She played directly into my favourite opening, the exchange slav, and I could have gotten an advantage at once… but missed it! The game was the least pretty of the tournament and it took some time before I woke up and finished the job. A pretty 5 out of 5 and probably the biggest win streak I have ever had.
Peter Grove tried to lead the rest of the Danish forces into battle, but the resistance was though. We have to remember that it was not only the Danes who were Vikings. Nevertheless I am also pretty sure that the rest of the team were saving their full strength for next year when they have to defend our title.

The time had come and Stellan could no longer postpone the award of my victory. I got a firm handshake and maybe (just maybe) a little smile. It could have been the light or his Swedish politeness, because I have a hard time imagining Stellan giving any kind of recognition. What can you expect from a man whose favourite show is the Antiques Roadshow. The prize giver even tried to take some of my credit by saying I was “half Swedish” and give some to Norway “because I had lived and trained there”, but no no, if you do not want me at my worst, you do not deserve me at my best!
The prize giving was followed by a fun night with Ingrid, Sara, Martin and Anton. First we went to the cinema and saw Beauty and the Beast and then we strolled through Stockholm. Ingrid of course with her second place trophy in hand. She even convinced an old couple she had won a step tournament. I also came up with some funny stories when I took the train home. But it is actually kind of nice that people congratulate you.

Last but not least I threw a party at my place last Saturday and I finally got the chance to drink champagne from the trophy. On that note I think it is time to move on and play a new tournament, I cannot live on this victory forever. Next goal is the double, when I play the Nordic Women Championship. The Kalmar union is great but Denmark is best!

Probably the last time I try that, but it was kind of fun

Probably the last time I try that, but it was kind of fun

   

I got a different opinion

I was sitting at the local burger joint with Aman Hambleton and Dagur Ragnarsson, who had just picked me up at the airport. This was my 4th time in Iceland, and once again I had the chance to enjoy the view of the beautiful landscape. Not even the fact that Hambleton was pouring his ketchup all over his fries, like a true Canadian, could ruin the mood. After 3 weeks in Eastern Europe, the only thing on my mind was Nils and the chess tournament, Reykjavik Open.

The tournament also featured some modern legends like Anish Giri, Baadur Jobava and Ellen Kakulidis!

The tournament also featured some modern legends like Anish Giri, Baadur Jobava and Ellen Kakulidis!

Back in business
Reykjavik Open was once again played at concert hall, Harpa, with a stunning view and a little bit of live music during the weekend. The tournament had visitors from chess enthusiast, musicians, mayors and one day around 1.000.000 kids (at least it felt like this amount) who had an event in the same building. A little schoolgirl even performed the 1st move on board 1, where Nils was playing. She was a little nervous, probably because she realised what a great honour it was to stand that close to Nils, when I gave her the killer eyes down from board 79… I am just kidding, she was actually very cute and I am sure that Jobava was a little jealous. I enjoyed the different twist before the opening of every round and as last year the only thing I can criticise about the whole event is my lack in abilities regarding chess.

“One ticket for the elevator please. Yes I would like to stay for 9 days”

The sentence above describes my whole tournament. Not once did I manage to make a surprising result – in a good or bad way. Instead I kept on losing to the higher rated opponents and winning against the lower rated (in a very solid and confident way!). I knew that the solution probably was to take a bye and step out of the uncomfortable situation, but I was too stubborn. Luckily for me Nils was doing pretty well, and I could just focus on other things like the good company and beer.

Here you can se a commented game by Martin Lokander. The only game I am proud of. First round against Tania Sachdev: http://www.viewchess.com/cbreader/2017/5/19/Game314906.html

Sue is missing in this picture, where we are investigating an interesting sculpture

Sue is missing in this picture, where we are investigating an interesting sculpture

We are getting late!
One thing that I definitely noticed is the difference in routines when I compare Nils and me; I have come up with the 10 holy rules of Grandmaster preparation before the game:

  1.                       It does matter for how long you sleep (at least 10 hours!?)
  2.                       You should always complain in the morning, about not sleeping enough
  3.                       You should never arrive at breakfast more than 10 minutes before closing time
  4.                       Any clothing is acceptable to wear to breakfast
  5.                       You cannot prep without prepping what to prep (making a list)
  6.                       One hour before the meal you walk – it does not matter where
  7.                       It does matter when and what you eat before the round. Burger is a NO-go
  8.                       Before the round you should brush your teeth and take a shower to feel fresh
  9.                       No matter result, always complain, that you did not play well enough
  10.                       When dinner is done, your anger must be gone

Usually we always met with some friends for both the daily walk and the two meals. Our most common company were Gawain, Sue and Erik and we were often joined by others. The selection of restaurants was great and we tried every restaurant where our food coupons were a legit payment. Some restaurants were more surprised with the coupons than others, apparently the other chess players did not want to walk to far, and since some of the restaurants could reach the great distance of a whole kilometre, they where not used to being paid in pieces of paper with “Reykjavik Open” written on them.

A very nice view from one of the many "Grandelius-walking-tours"

A very nice view from one of the many “Grandelius-walking-tours”

I am to young for that stuff
As usual my main focus was on the side events and during Reykjavik Open they gave me plenty of chances to get my mind of chess… or at least the chess in the main tournament. It all started with Erik Blomqvist having a rather unlucky start of his Reykjavik adventure, when he lost to two lower rated opponents in a row. Since we are a very experienced group of people, we all suggested the blitz-tournament as the cure for this illness. Gawain could even assure Erik that the blitz in Dubai had been the turning point for him, when he went ahead to win it all. After I promised to buy the first beer, there was nothing more to talk about; it was also very hard to make it any worse. Additionally it has to be said, that Erik would do anything it takes to be on top of the game… but more about that later! Anyhow the blitz tournament was played and as expected Erik went on to win and I had to get another beer to forget everything about it. I had great support the first couple of rounds before the serious players had to go to bed (I need to mention that they all placed below Erik in the main tournament. Wonder why), but I need to figure out how to win on my own, when I do not have the possibility to bribe three strong players into staring at my opponent and make him uncomfortable.
A small party at a hotel room naturally followed the Harpa Blitz, but it was a short pleasure with some hand-and-brain (Hand-and brain is a chess game where you have two teams of two players: one who says a piece and one who makes a move. And I really need to mention that I won all of my games on the board in hand-and-brain… but lost all of them on time) and unknown bottled liquids imported from Japan. When the party was on its way to town, possibly the casino, Erik came up with the second brilliant idea of the night (first one was choosing me as his hand-and-brain partner):

“Maybe I should go to sleep”

Always quit, while you are ahead, and the others still had not reached the lobby.

A very intense first game. I won, not the game but the trash-talking!

A very intense first game. I won, not the game but the trash-talking!

My favourite happening during this tournament was the pub quiz. In general I really enjoy quizzes and games like Trivial Pursuit or Bezzerwizzer and to combine it with chess, some friends and some beers is just brilliant. I did not expect much of myself and that was the right thing to do since I had very limited knowledge. My partner however was a good supplement and we went on to get the highest score with 25/30 questions. They did not believe us at first, we are a very suspicious couple, so they had to tipple check our answers. Obviously we were just better and their only choice was to hand us our prize! All in all I am very happy about the fact, that I at least won something in Reykjavik. Here is one of the questions from the quiz:

“What did the 28 games Sämisch played in Busum and Linköping in 1969 have in common?”

A very nice view from one of the many "Grandelius-walking-tours"

How far are you willing to go?

Now more about what I meant, when I said Erik would do anything it takes. I had one very interesting question that I asked about 10 different players the last day of the tournament:

“How many fingers would you cut of, if you got an additional 100 elo point in strength per. finger?”

I got a lot of different answers that I find very curious. All of the Indian players and Nils answered “none” they did not think it was worth it. Gawain and Erik were instead discussing if they would settle for two or also go for the third and thereby make sure they would be the best players in the world. On the other hand (pun intended), they had also been discussing if they should go pro in the board game Bang! And skip chess, so maybe their confidence were not on top. I do not now if this says anything about willingness to sacrifice to become a better player or the faith in your ability to become better on your own, but I know that Mikhail Tall only had three fingers on one hand and was an excellent player!

The Hallgrímskirkja. Is that right?

The Hallgrímskirkja. Is that right?

As we say in Danish “The road to hell is paved with bad excuses”
The tournament got wrapped up with a nice party with free meatballs! We played some Bang! And enyoing the braindead fun of spinning a lucky wheel 20 times for the prize of 20 euro a spin. And NO we did not win anything big, maybe 4 beers if we combine the prizes… However it was a great night and my only regret was booking a flight that left 6:30 in the morning. Great job, Ellen.

I know this blog might be a little late, since the tournament was played almost a month ago, but I have been busy… I promise. There will soon follow a blog about my performance in the Nordic Championship for girls U-20. I hope you have not given up on me 😉

   

Ninja turtles, Jedi’s and naked baby aliens

At some point the fun has to end, and both of us have to go back to our regular lives at home. When I say regular life I talk about the flight I have to catch the 18th of April from Copenhagen, so that I can play Reykjavik Open. Anyhow we had only planned 12 countries on our 20-day trip, and since we managed to do all of them, it must now be the time to go “home”… my 15 hours bus ride awaits and here comes a blog post about our last three stops in central Europe: Vienna, Bratislava and Prague!

A funny sign

A funny sign

Huge Wiener Platz
We had just had a huge schnitzel in a nearby restaurant and were getting ready to leave:

  • Lokander: “Should we tip?”
  • Ellen: “I can barely afford the food and much less to pay for someone else’s!”
  • Lokander: “We should tip”
  • Ellen: “Fine I will leave the 8 Leks and 5 Kune I have in my pocket”

Lokander later referred to that as: “the cheapest tipping he had ever experienced”. I just explained that it was tipping on budget and something is always more than nothing! Nonetheless Vienna is not a cheap city to stay in, and I had a hard time adapting to the fact that a meal and a beer no longer was cheaper than a pack of gum bought in Sweden. What to see in Vienna:

  1. The National Library is really worth stopping by. The whole building is wonderful and both Martin and I enjoyed a long relaxing pause in the park (approximately 10 minutes, we did not have time for more). I have to say, that I could really see myself sitting on a bench with a book outside of this library the whole summer… If I lived or studied in Vienna.
  2. The Historical Art Museum: “Three hundred years ago Maria Theresa was born in Vienna. In 1740 she succeeded her father, Emperor Charles VI, the last male Habsburg ruler, in what were difficult times. Almost all the European powers waged war against her, believing that the young woman would not be able to hold on to her crown. How wrong they were: Maria Theresa became one of Europe’s greatest rulers and mother of sixteen kids”. The Historical Art Museum in Vienna was more than just a museum; they had signs all over the museum marking important women through history and called for feminism. I love it. Here I also had the chance to shine (bore Martin to death) with my extra knowledge from ancient history classes about ancient sculptures from Greece: Archaic, Classic and Hellenistic sculptures and their features… I probably only remember this because my teacher refused to give me the highest grade at my exam, and I subconsciously still know that I f***ing deserved it! The four Ninja Turtles also became a topic, but I gave up when Martin said he did not know what “The Ninja Turtles” was or who they were named after. Come on, how should it otherwise be possible to remember the most famous renaissance artists: Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Rafael and their work!? Nevertheless the whole museum is stunning both on the inside and outside. In the end, Martin did not even regret paying the 15-euro entrance fee.Archaisk, Classic and HellinistikArchaic, Classic and Hellenistic 
  3. The Votive Church you cannot miss even if you want to. This neo-gothic church really wraps up the city and once again underlines how spectacular the architecture of Vienna is.

I ended up getting the most amazing dress at a random store we passed by on the way home. As mentioned earlier I was on budget, but once again I was happy to have the love and support from family and friends, when I needed it the most (it is referring to the dress) 😉

The Historical Art Museum. Theres is an exact copy of the building if I turned the camera around. That would be the The Natural History museum.

The Historical Art Museum. Theres is an exact copy of the building if I turned the camera around. That would be the The Natural History museum.

The garden in front of the National Library, which can be seen in the background

The garden in front of the National Library, which can be seen in the background

The city hall - this is also the place where Vienna Open is played!

The city hall – this is also the place where Vienna Open is played!

Naked baby alien
Wow, I really do not know what to say. I barely remember the city of Bratislava since the people we met were so strange. I mean the beautiful castle completely faded in the light of the weirdness being emitted from the “Downtown Backpacker Hostel”. Before I tell this story I have to say, I am not a racist and I have a high weird-tolerance:

  • Martin and I had just received our keys for the room and were preparing to leave the bags and go out and see something. When we walk through the door to the “Van Gogh” room we were met by the sight of a Muslim man from Senegal who was praying. We both said hello and sorry for disturbing and walked past him in silence. The man did not say anything but just starred at us in anger before he continued praying. At this moment another person who lives in the room walks in and accidently steps on his prayer rug (the rooms at hostels are very small, it clearly was an accident). The Muslim man gets extremely angry takes his mat and continues praying outside of the room while watching videos of people screaming??? I later learned that this man sold wood (voodoo) figures for a living. At first I felt bad for being scared of this man, since he was black and Muslim, but as Lokander said, it had nothing to do with his skin-colour or religion, but the fact that his behaviour was extremely strange, nevertheless all of his brothers were nice! I ended up changing room, but mainly because everybody said he snored awfully loud. I left Lokander behind.

This was just the beginning. After we both had quickly walked down the stairs and outside the hostel, we decided to grab some food, see some sights and maybe take a beer. The first two ideas were great, the later… I do not know what to say:

  • I had talked to an Italian guy, who wanted us to have a beer with him and his American friend. Lokander and I agreed and went to the hostel bar. At first everything seemed quite “normal”, but as the conversations went on, it really took a surprising turn. The American guy became completely obsessed with psychoanalysis and chess players and started asking the weirdest questions I have ever heard:
    “If chess players had to play naked in a tournament, do you think it would affect their performance?
    “Imagine chess players holding a baby while playing. How many would drop the baby, when seeing a winning move and having to perform it?”
    “Aliens are arriving at earth. They cannot communicate in language or writing. Do you think chess would be a suitable game to use for communication?”

I was completely speechless. The last thing he said to us when we left the hostel in the morning was:

“Naked, baby, alien!”

I have to admit; I am probably going to use these questions for my blog, when I make player profiles during Reykjavik Open. It is definitely going to be interesting.
Yes the castle was interesting, the war memorial nice, the old city beautiful – but I think it will take some time, before I stay at a hostel again, or mention the fact that I play chess…

A war monument in Honor of those who where killed by the Red Army

A war monument in Honor of those who where killed by the Red Army

The castle

The castle and one out of many Chinese tourists… 

The castle

The castle

Last stop: Prague, Prag, Praha?
Our journey took an unexpected turn when we realised that we were going to Prague during the Easter. Why you ask? Basically the city is full of tourist partying and celebrating. Danes and Swedes everywhere and everything was booked. The only available place was “Gay Hostel” for 250-euro a night… well luckily I am an interracial breed and have family everywhere, which we really could benefit from this time. Central apartment for free, yes please, and thank you to my fathers cousins daughter!
Since it was Easter we had the pleasure of some Easter markets and a completely people packed city. Prague is amazing and instead of recommending something to se (which would be basically everything: take a guided tour or just walk around for a couple of days. Martin have been here… a lot, and still got things to discover) I am going to tell you some fun facts we got from the “free”-walking-tour:

  1. In the Czech Republic they on average consume 142.6 litres of beer per person per year (infants included). This is on average 80.7 litres more than an ordinary Dane! (We personally did a beer tasting with 15 different kinds. Martins favourite was cherry-beer).
  2. The biggest “religion” in the Czech Republic is atheism and it is one of the least religious countries in the world. Since the percentage of atheist is so high, Jediism is an official religion in the Czech republic. More than 1500 people wrote jediism, when they were asked what religion they belonged to by the state. (Jediisme is basically based on the Jedi’s way of living in Star Wars).
  3. The president of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman once said that he wished death upon all vegetarians. A little harsh if you think about how hard it already is to be a vegetarian in this country.
  4. The enormous castle on top of the hill gets illuminated every evening. The president at that time was a friend of Mick Jagger. The state itself could not afford to pay for the lighting but Mick offered to do so. The lighting is officially sponsored and paid from his personal pocket.

And do see the clock, but do not expect anything. It is the biggest tourist trap and has been voted the second most disappointing tourist attraction more than once. The Mona Lisa wins every year. Anyone who has been in Prague knows what I talk about.

Prague Classical Music and Opera.

Prague Classical Music and Opera

A great view from the other side of the river of the castle

A great view from the other side of the river of the castle

 

St. Vitus Cathedral in the castle area

St. Vitus Cathedral in the castle area

I definitely also recommend the Chocolate Museum! You can eat all the chocolate you want for a very small amount of money. I am pretty sure I got value… but I also had nausea the rest of the day. Martin do not even like chocolate anymore.

And then there were one…
The last step on the journey was in a bus with 70% Danish teenage girls from a basketball team (that really liked talking loudly the whole ride) and 20% Danish teenage boys (that have a vodka they share). I took a great picture though, that really illustrates that the Danish youth is no better than the Albanian average person when it comes to queuing. I can also conclude that I basically have taken the bus from Albania to Sweden… not in one sitting, but I think it counts!

The bus ride from hell

The bus ride from hell

This is my last official post about this trip. My head is now pointed at Reykjavik and the game of chess once more. The tournament starts the 19th of April, and a short teaser will soon be posted!

Thank you very much Martin for a remarkable journey, and I am so sorry that I had to end our friendship today because you confessed you like pineapple on pizza.

   

The climb

The days are quickly passing by and Martin and I are desperately trying to keep up with the fully packed schedule. Now we have moved from Bosnia and Herzegovina, where we strolled around the old parts of Sarajevo and Mostar, to Croatia, where we enjoyed the sun and ocean in Split and Zadar, to Slovenia where we only had time for a very short visit in Ljubljana. City girls, beach boys, castles and dragons, there is a time and place for everything.

Bingo!
Our hostel was owned, ruled and controlled by an older woman. Young people were walking in and out, while both an unknown man and a child were screaming at her from different stairs in the building. We had barely given her the money for the room, before she stuck a full map of Sarajevo with 50 different marks on it in our hands.

  • “Now go out and see something”

The woman screamed back at the stairs while a Turkish man walked into the room. I was looking at the map, at Martin and then back on the map again:

  • Ellen “We should be able to see all of this tonight”
  • Martin “It will be a long walk and evening”
  • Ellen “Uhhhh, lets play bingo and cross of the marks as we go!”

We were going to leave for Mostar early in the morning, so we only had the rest of the evening to do all of Sarajevo, however we had a lot of experience and had already concluded, that there is not a city, which we are not able to see in a day! Good walking shoes, strong legs, a map and acceptance of the fact that you are not going to drink, eat or sleep are the keys.

Me crossing of the last sight

Me crossing of the last sight

As expected we managed to see all of the 50 marks on the map and even get a Bosnian beer at a bar. We were both completely exhausted and when we were finally home and done, I eagerly climbed the stairs to my bed in the hope of some sleep before the early morning. As I dropped my head on the pillow and closed my eyes I became aware of loud chrushing, ratteling and whimpering noices. Apparently the Turkish man was snoring, and I was not ment to get any sleep that night either…

We managed not to break a bridge, shoot a prince or start a war
Which makes both me and Martin successful visitors of Bosnia and Herzegovina. When you also take into count that we ate Cevapi, drank local beer, drove through the mountains, saw the bridge in Mostar and the 50 sightseeing point of Sarajevo, I think we did a pretty good job! Things you have to see:

  1. “The yellow fort” on top of a really steep hill is a must. On the way you get to enjoy the beauty and emotions of a cemetery filled with white gravestones as a monument to the people fallen during the Siege of Sarajevo, and if you you manage not to give up due to exhaustion and get to the top and the fort, you are rewarded with a bench and a gorgeous view of the city.
  2. Benderija’s house also known as “the spite house” is really a sightseeing point in my taste. This house is meant as a pure example of the stubbornness of the people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The story goes that when the Austrian-Hungarians occupied Bosnia, they wanted to construct a lot of buildings and where this man (Benderija) had his house, they wanted to place the city hall, but Benderija refused to move. After long negotiations he said “fine, you can get this land, if you move my house to the other side of the river, brick by brick”. They did and here it is.
  3. Mostar is a small city located about 2.5 hours from Sarajevo and is definitely worth to pass by. Here you really have the chance to sit by the river and enjoy a mighty cevapi, stunning nature, old architecture and the fun of tourist-spotting.

We went through most of Bosnia and Herzegovina with bus and managed to visit 2 cities in just a little bit more than a day, but I could definitely spend some more time here!

The view in Mostar

The view in Mostar

The famous bridge in Mostar

The famous bridge in Mostar

The view from the "yellow fort" in Sarajevo

The view from the “yellow fort” in Sarajevo (the white pointe things is the cemetary)

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you are ice cream
After thorough observation Martin and I have come to the conclusion that all people in Croatia exclusively live of ice cream. If you had to buy one ice cream at every place it was possible on the Croatian coast, there would be a distance of approximately the width of 3 British tourists. Both Split and Zadar definitely attracted tourists in a way, that we had not experienced a lot in the former places we had visited. Especially Split was fully packed with British tourists and kids who wanted to party even though their age should have been a limit to their drinking.

We had almost three full days on the Croatian coast, and the rides were at least as beautiful as the destinations. Here we did not rush around with a map and a tight schedule but strolled around on the piers with a ice cream in our hands. The weather was perfect, and it is really easy to understand, why many people go on vacation on these locations. In Zadar they even have a perfect spot to watch the sunset, so of course we also grabbed that chance… together with 200 other people who had the same idea.
I know these cities have a lot of remains from old times, and we did also have time to visit these sights, but I would always prefer a capital and full city experience over a sun vacation with beaches and sea.

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Martin enjoying the sunset, probably thinking of Anton

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Castles and dragons but the knights stay in chess
How do you approach a city, when you know you only have half a day to see it? No idea, you just panic and walk around in circles. Due to easter we had some minor changes in our plans and realized we had to leave for Vienna in quite a hurry. Luckily Ljubljana is not the biggest city, and we at least had time for a few stops like the opera, the castle and a walk on the bridge with dragon statues! I would recommend something to see, but since I barely saw anything, it would not be a qualified recommendation. The city felt somewhat like a hidden gem, and I could definitely see myself coming back to explore further!

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Dragons are cool

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The opera

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But it’s just the price I pay, destiny is calling me
Mr.Brightside is playing of the speakers, and I am singing with no regard for the 3 other persons on the bus:

  • Martin: “This is probably the first song you like, that is not aggressive”
  • Me: “My music is not aggressive, it just prepares me to figtht”
  • Martin: “Fight? Good, then you can protect me when I continue to listen to Beyonce”

I have tried to argue that my music is not aggressive, but Martin refuses to listen just because my playlist is called “rock when you don’t give a fuck” and contains two songs from a band called the “Foo fighters”. The word ‘fighters’ is too scary when you are used to songtitles like “Let your heart hold fast” and have routines that take more than 45 minutes in the morning.
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Will be continued…