Chapter 4: And the Sky Full of Stars

I made over ten return trips to Israel between 2006 and 2012. I often photographed a lot of it, videotaped some of my travels as well. While the destination was always what I was looking forward to, I often found the travel itself an added bonus. I loved flying. The photos on this specific blog post are all mine. Often taken with a low quality cell phone camera, standard of 2007-2008.

You can decide to hate airports and air travel, or you can decide to embrace it and make your journey a bit more fun. An airport is the modern day roadcross. From airports, people will travel to all destinations of the world. Being at an airport made me understand that I can travel to any of the destinations on the board. It is a feeling of freedom. It is at an airport I feel I am most in touch with the world.

My journeys to Israel took about 15 hours, give or take. That included all legs of my travel. It would often start with getting a lift to the bus stop by my parents. From the bus I would often send my girlfriend a notice I was on my way. I often seperated my journey into four parts; bus to airport, flight to Prague (I often used Prague as my transfer), flight to Tel Aviv and the train ride up north.

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Blurry photo of boarding a CSA flight in 2009

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Gate at Oslo Airport

From the bus going to Oslo Airport, I would often gaze at the outside surroundings of often melting snow, a foggy landscape slowly waking up to spring while knowing Israel was already in full summer mode (I rarely did the trip in summer or fall). At the airport I would check in my bag at a counter still manned by people. This has now for the most part a disappeared from most airports with all the self-service check-in counters popping up. I would often study people around me, I spotted Israeli-Norwegian couples, business travelers or holiday-makers simply off to Prague. The Oslo-Prague-Tel Aviv route with Czech Airlines was at the time (a decade ago) one of the cheaper and easier options of routing down to Israel. I could often identify people going all the way and seperate them from those only flying to Prague. Nowadays, the route is operated from both Arlanda and Kastrup by SAS and Norwegian, but theres still no direct flight from OSL. Other carriers I flew (with transit) were KLM, Austrian, Swizz, or a mix of carriers within Star Alliance. Other carriers with a connection somewhere would be Lufthansa, British Airways and Air Baltic which I never tried.

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CSA dirty 737 wing flying over Norway

Having good time at an airport is essential for me. I often settled down somewhere with a pizza slice or two and looked at 737s arriving and departing from gates. Perhaps going for a pint of beer if I had the time. My flight departed around 15:40 and arrived in Prague two hours later. From there, there was a good six hour wait for the midnight departure at 23:55 to Tel Aviv. I never thought of those hours as boring as most people would have. I used to sit down in a pub somewhere with my laptop, a Czech beer in hand and surfed the web while the aircraft were passing by outside. During the last years I often used www.flightradar24.com and track incoming traffic on my computer while keeping an eye out for the aircraft outside. On a budget, I often used the KFC restaurant in the departure area for a late dinner. Czech Airlines operated a check-in counter inside the departure area for connecting passengers to Tel Aviv. Here, to handed out boarding passes.

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Laptop and a Czech beer makes for a good time

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Prague Airport getting more and more quiet as night falls

All through the evening, the airport got a little less crowded as each flight left to its destinations. I noticed Prague often had obscure destinations for holiday goers. For example Bournemouth in Britain. It was obviously meant for Brits to come to Prague to party. By 23:55, the airport was usually entirely empty except for those people going to Tel Aviv and the security guards walking around.

The flight to Tel Aviv was usually never fully booked. I could often use all three seats to stretch my legs and sleep for most of the time. One time, I woke up after a short nap, and looked straight down at a major European city, shining in the night. I believe it was either Vienna or Budapest. I often used my MP3 player and tunes in to whatever FM signals it recieved – and by the language I could pinpoint where I was. However, Czech Airlines often used a rather new Airbus on this flight with small screens for each row with the complimentary live flight tracker.

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KFC to go at Prague Airport

After having done several flights, I knew how to ask for certain things to get the most out of their service onboard. Like two cans of Coke and extra water, or other gems they might offer but you need to ask specifically for. Later on, most of Czech Airlines trolly service went all “pay”. Too bad.

The most interesting part of the flight was the last 20 minutes or so approaching Tel Aviv. I could clearly see the lights from the shores of Israel from some distance away. If I was seated on the left side, I could almost see as far as Haifa. Coming in to land, the highways below were often empty, but for a few cars and trucks.

Already slightly jet-lagged, I had to stand at passport control in front of a young Israeli girl in uniform asking me questions she had done thousands of times before – totally uninterested in her line of work. “What is your purpose of your visit?” “Where do you live?” “What is your girlfriends name?” Regardless of these young girls unimpressive approach, I found Ben Gurion Airport very safe due to all the checks they did. Especially when departing.

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Czech beer for this first flight down to Prague, ca 2007

Sleep deprived, I found my way through the final checks, picked up my baggage, and met up with my girlfriend waiting in the terminal. The clock was often around four or five in the morning which meant she had been taking a train down to Tel Aviv in the middle of the night to meet me. Both lacking sleep, we often hurried to the train for the last part of the journey up north. Usually, we went to sleep at eight in the morning. A long travel, but I always enjoyed it. I was traveling the world, had a girlfriend from abroad and had stars in my eyes.

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One interesting incident in 2008; the captain of this CSA PRG-OSL flight forgot to add flaps before take-off, subsequently aborting take off halfway down the runway

Chapter 3: The Parliament of Dreams

She got in touch with me first. Rumour said she had run out of Finns to talk to, so she turned to Norwegians. Her country was under siege, being bombarded with deadly rockets from terrorists in the neighbouring country up north, striking her city.

She had gone further south, away from the attacks, to her cousins place. There was little left for her to do than to stay online. Our chats were often disrupted by air raid sirens which meant she had to take shelter just in case any of the rockets reached her area inland. I wasn’t thinking of a relationship because she was so far away from me I didn’t consider it to be anything serious. Until she said she would meet me in Prague. Visiting Prague was a week-long trip I had planned with my brother and a few friends months prior to meeting her. The trip wasn’t meant as anything to do with romance. I didn’t even take her seriously when she said she would go. But she did. We met in the square of the old town of Prague in lovely sunshine in October of 2006. At first I had an eerie feeling about it I couldn’t shake. Perhaps it was my intuition warning me of what was to come 10 years later. I can’t explain what it was, or why.IMG_4892

After Prague we met in Finland in November. She had a thing for Finland. I don’t know why many foreigners seem to do. Norwegians have absolutely no “thing” for Finland. I flew out on an early morning Finnair flight. We spent a few days in Helsinki before going to Norway. I took her to see my parents. We were already acting as a couple and I had no strange intuitions any more – it had disappeared after the first hour of meeting her.

As for Norwegian girls I could not talk or impress enough to go out with me, it was a feeling of leaving them behind victorious. Through most of that first college year I had a huge crush on a girl from my study group – which turned out to be a subsequent failure of me trying to date her. Of course.

So a foreign girl being much more direct about what she wanted – and completely honest in being attracted to me, felt so much easier to deal with. It was easier. My devloping prejudice towards local girls had been confirmed as true. They didn’t like me, but foreign girls did.

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I went to her home country in February 2007. For a whole month. Not only was the final destination of my journey worth it, but I got to travel. I simply love flying and traveling. Even transits at airports in Europe fascinates me. I was suddenly a world traveler, I was doing well in college, and I had found an absolutely smashing, exotic girl. It was also a bragging right that I was going to what Norwegians looked at as a “semi war-zone”.  It was too good to be true. I was suddenly racking up flights like a madman, spent tons of money doing it, but yet managed to save up a considerable sum between 2006 and 2010. We traveled her country extensively, got to see all the sights, and I plastered everything about it online. I was proud. We even had our photo published online by the biggest online (and offline) newspaper outlet in Norway under the headline “we are traveling all over the world!”

I talked her into opening a Facebook account so I could change my relationship status to “in a relationship with”.

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She wasn’t only pretty, but took whatever I had of low self confidence away and pulled me up to her level. She was one of the reasons I had no hesitation writing a book in 2008-2009 (the first of many). After acing my bachelors degree and ending up dating a beautiful foreign girl like her, there was no stopping me. My untraditional ways had paid off. I was right, everyone else were wrong. I had no hesitation investing all the time that it took in a long distance relationship. Why wouldn’t I? I got travel, and she adored me. Besides, I did not understand Norwegian girls, and they did not understand me. My crush the previous year was proof of that.

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The last part of 2006 was absolutely a smashing time. So was 2007. In retrospect, It was like I could only think about something, and it would come true. If I wasn’t flying to see her or she was off to see me, I was flying to England for air shows and beer. I had been dreaming of going to England since I was a child. Now I was doing it every year.

Things had finally turned around.