Category Archives: Scandanavia

Tallinn and Helsinki 2005

Originally posted Sept 22 2005 on em411.com

At the end of February 2005 I played my first ever solo gig in ESTONIA of all places! There were no direct flights so the trip would be Glasgow > Amsterdam > Helsinki > Tallinn.

I went with my (then) girlfriend, after sorting the problem of stupidly putting my name of both sets of tickets – which usually incurs a change of name fee – KLM kindly waived this when they realised that it was a pretty dumb mistake by someone who doesn’t book flights often.

I had a half-day at work, taking my luggage in with me I left at 12 noon in a bit of a rush to catch the flight. I made my way to the train station where (my then) girlfriend phoned me to tell me the flight was delayed by 2 hours. I caught the next train into town anyway then caught the airport bus.

I was sitting at the front of the bus and the driver was tearing it down the motorway when his phone rang, he answered and the conversation went like this:
“Hullo”

“Aye, we got banned at tha’ weekend”

“We got caught goin’ in tae a cubicle tha’gether”

So I arrived at the airport and met up with my girlfriend and found out that the flight would be delayed by a few hours more. We passed the time by playing cards.

I was flying from Glasgow to Helsinki; changing at Amsterdam. We were told that we might not make the connecting flight and may have to spend the night in Amsterdam, and that’s what happened, when we arrived in Amsterdam the last flight to Helsinki had already left, so we booked ourselves on the first flight to Helsinki the following morning and were given half-board in one of the airport hotel’s for the night, unfortunately we couldn’t get near our luggage but we were given a toiletries bag each.

I phoned my friend Jorma in Helsinki, who I had planned to stay that night with, but he would be leaving for Tallinn before we arrived so we’d have to make our own way there, but he gave us instructions on how to find the port. The hotel room was incredibly hot and neither of us slept well.

The following morning we almost missed the bus back to the airport and almost got lost in Schipol airport is a big place! When we checked our tickets, it seemed that our seats were in business class! A mistake surely? Nope, as the airline had screwed up they upgraded us and it was the most enjoyable flight I’ve ever had, we had 1 hostess specifically attending to about 6 people, we had a 3 course meal with numerous free alcoholic drinks, while the rest of the plane got a sandwich.

We landed at Helsinki airport where it was snow-covered and freezing (– 15!)
We got a bus into town; on the way we spotted a KKK supermarket (no joke!) look here link
I saw signs for ‘Technopolis’ and a bus called the Trivia bus that made me chuckle.

Once in town we headed to the port but thanks to me reading a map wrongly we ended up at the wrong port but we found our way to the right one eventually, once there we followed the signs to the Tallinn terminal, where we found an empty locked building. Panic set in! We walked along to the busier looking Stockholm terminal, which was actually where we would board the Tallinn boat. Unfortunately it wouldn’t be leaving for some time, meaning the event I was playing at would have already started by the time I got there! To pass the time we played cards again and bought 2 standard beers and a large pack of peanuts, which cost 12 euros!
The boat was massive; it had 10 floors and took almost 3 ½ hours to reach Tallinn, traveling slowly over the dark ice-covered sea. I took a few photos of the icy waters, it was the first time I’d ever seen anything like it. I also booted up the laptop and attempted to put the finishing touches to my set.

We arrived in Tallinn around 10.00pm. I tried phoning Jorma to tell him we’d arrived but my dodgy phone was acting up (I’ve since replaced it)
We got a taxi to the hostel. On the website the hostel looked cute and picturesque, in the cold dark night it just looked creepy. We rang the bell.
It was a Russian couple that ran the hostel, and they didn’t speak much English. The woman showed us the breakfast area, which was right beside the reception desk, then she showed us our room, which was er, right beside the breakfast area, which was right beside the reception…basically she was right outside our door and in our room we could hear everyone talking in the reception, the man was always watching TV, so we got loud blasts of the Russian edition of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’
We asked for a double bed, we got 2 singles instead. We unpacked, I went to close the curtains and the curtain rail fell knocking over a vase full of twigs!? I dunno, it must’ve been some weird Estonia plant but to me it just looked like twigs in water. So anyway the curtains and curtain rail were now lying on the floor and the carpet was soaked. I got a towel to mop up the water. I returned the vase to its original position, which still had a small amount of water to keep the er, twigs, alive. So after much effort I put the curtain rail back up and attempted to close the curtains again, only for it to fall once more and knock over to the vase again. I was now in an uncontrollable fit of laughter.

Eventually I did manage to close the curtains and so we got ready to head into town. It was now almost 11pm. The event I was playing at started at10pm and was on till 3am. The address was No.1 Townhall square.
Now, with a name like No.1 Townhall square, wouldn’t you think it would be easy to find?
I asked the woman at the reception, who pulled out a map and studied it carefully…
“Townhall square, townhall square, townhall square…” she repeated, while her finger glided over the map.
The man came over and looked at the map too, she circled something and pointed at it, “niet” was the response…she made a few lines with her pen and circled something else “niet” again. They had a lengthy conversation together while I stood there watching. Eventually the man told me to follow him into one of the rooms here he pointed at a window “Townhall square, 10 minute straight! 10 minute straight!”
And so we headed off in that general direction…and got lost.
I tried phoning Jorma again but my phone switched off. I tried to make sense of the map, while my girlfriend stopped a few strangers and asked them for directions. It seems that no one had heard of this fabled “Townhall square”
Then we found a sign that pointed to “Raekoja Plats” Underneath was the English translation “Townhall square” We followed to the sign to a square of sorts, I assumed this must be it. No it wasn’t. It took us a while to realize there was another sign pointing North from here. Eventually we found the “Townhall square”
So you would think that now that we’ve found “Townhall square” finding “No.1 Townhall square” shouldn’t be too difficult right?
I could see no.3 and no.8 but no sign of No.1! The numbers were a bit random and didn’t make much sense. The place was called Saicang café but I could find no mention of it either. We wandered from one end of the square to another and down numerous back streets.
We asked a few people where the café was, no one knew, we even bumped into an English guy, he didn’t know either. There was a group of guys we’d wandered past a few times and so my girlfriend decided to ask them if they knew were it was. They did and took us right to the door; it was a small almost unmarked doorway through a lane just off the square. It was now around midnight. I played last. It seemed to go down well with the crowd. It turns out that the actual room were I played looked right onto the Townhall square, but from the outside the window was dark and unmarked. I met Taavi from the site afterwards. I considered going to a drum n bass club night, but really I was exhausted and so went back to the hostel for much needed sleep.

The following day we visited the market where I was cajoled into buying a pair of mittens. We then ate lunch at a medieval style restaurant, in a dark candle lit basement where the waiters dress liked musketeers! We also visited a pub just behind the Townhall. A cauldron sits outside, all the staff are in medieval dress and minstrels play music, the cinnamon, honey and herb beer’s they sell come in old clay jugs. Touristy yes, but far cheaper than any tourist area in any other European city I’ve been to.

Tallinn’s a really beautiful place, with a well-kept medieval old town; I recommend a visit, and although it looked beautiful in wintertime I suggest a summer visit as it was absolutely freezing!

My photos of Tallinn here:
link

My photos of Helsinki here:
link

And photos from the event (taken by Ivan) here:
link

And I even had a track played on Estonian Radio!

Where it all began: Sweden 2004

Stockholm, It's over there...

Originally posted Aug11 2004 on em411.com 

Recently I went to the Norberg Festival in Sweden, before I left I’d never been abroad, apart from a 3-day trip to Ireland (for my gran’s funeral, which wasn’t exactly a happy affair). I had never flown and I hadn’t met any of the people I was going to the festival with! They were all people I’ve known for a few years, who have similar taste in music, who I met over p2p file sharing networks!

Here’s how I got on – firstly, flying is fun! One of my friends hates take-off and landing, another just hates being up in the air, personally I thought it was all a buzz!

My plane arrived at about 9:00pm, I got a bus ticket and then had to phone my Swedish friend Caspar (who I was staying with) to arrange to meet at the bus stop. My phone had tapped into the COMVIQ network but decided that it didn’t want to function! Every number was greeted with a warning about “barring settings” I couldn’t phone within the country and I couldn’t phone home either! Crap, the phone was supposed to work abroad! I asked the Swedish couple beside me if I could borrow a mobile phone, they gave me that precious look, as though I was from another fucking planet, never mind another country! Apparently they both had phones but neither of them were charged…I don’t think they realised the seriousness of the situation…if I couldn’t get access to a phone I was sleeping rough for the night! Ok, so I could have used a pay phone…but I didn’t have any coins so I’d probably need to bum some change…(besides I can’t remember seeing a single pay phone while I was there), so just as well I realised that I could change the network on my phone, up until then the phone settings option on my phone was a mystery! So I switched over to the Telia network and hey presto, it began functioning as a mobile phone…so I phone Caspar, he tells he’ll leave immediately and meet me at the station…

So the bus arrives at Södertälje Syd, an interchange bus and train station on the edge of town at about 10:20pm. I walk inside, the place is open but no one’s around, after sitting on my own for 15 minutes I see the bare-footed duck woman. This girl just waddled in off the street with no socks or shoes on, walked up to a ticket machine, hit a few buttons and left, a few minutes later she returned with who I assume was her boyfriend, they went up to the machine together and soon duck woman was screaming “YEEEEESSSS!” She got a ticket! Wooh! Yeah!

So anyway, the couple disappeared, then a guy with a lot of chains around/all over him wandered in a door of the station and walked out the opposite end. Some time later another guy did the exact same…I guess there’s not a lot to do in this town! Time is passing, I give Caspar another call, no answer, I try again a few minutes later, turns out he left his phone at home and I’m talking to Dan, one of the other guys I’m meeting, who came all the way from Sydney and is at Caspar’s place right now!

45 minutes pass and then Caspar finally appears, he says he was late because he missed the first train so we go to get the train to his place, but we end up on the wrong platform and the train leaves without us…and the next train isn’t for another hour!
So, we get a bus instead, which drove for about 10-15 mins and then we realise that the bus has just passed under the bus station where I started…the bus has just went around in a circle, it took about 15-20 minutes to finally reach the stop, and it could have gotten there in 5 if it had the decency to just go in a straight line!

We still need to catch a train and there’s one in the station, it’s the end of the line, there is only one way the train can go…so the train starts and a black man with horrid fashion (his track suit bottoms said “Jamaica” in colourful letters) comes over and sits with us, he was speaking in English but I haven’t a clue what he was talking about…other than that he asked if I was happy or sad…i think I should have replied that I was very fucking scared!

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So the train comes to its first stop and does a very curious thing, it goes backwards, as I said the train could only go one way…by this point I was thinking that I’m never going to leave this place! It was like something out of a David Lynch movie!

But the train was just switching tracks, so we finally reach Caspar’s house after midnight. The following day everyone else arrived, Erik from the Netherlands and Jorma from Finland and we set off to Norberg…

Lake just outside Norberg

We were staying in a hostel just outside the town of Norberg, beside a lake, lakes are bloody everywhere in Sweden! The countryside reminded me of Scotland only flatter! There was a sign pointing to a town just along the road, on the main road it said the town was 13 km, turn the corner slightly and another sign says 12km, must be the shortest kilometer on the planet!

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Onto the music festival itself, it’s quite a small festival with a maximum of 1500 people (I believe) but I don’t think they sold all the tickets. The camp site was pretty small too. The main stage is probably the strangest venue I’ve ever been to, it’s actually a disused mining refinery. It reminded me of the Crystal Maze’s Industrial zone! Being dark and dusty inside, I got some good photos of light coming through the buildings windows…and there was a strange home-made musical device in the bottom corner…just behind the erm, wrecked car!

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The festival was a good laugh, especially with some of the language problems, like when I asked for “2 cola” thinking “cola” was an international word and got 2 beers instead! Philip Jeck was the best performer, I’d seen him once before and he was more impressive this time around. The most entertaining act was Je M’appelle Mads…2 sometimes 3 guys…complete with “filthy” by my prudish-Brit-attitude visuals comprising lots of nudity! There was even some audience participation, I have no idea what was said…but I think the gist of it was “guess what’s under the foreskin!” and I was disappointed that I only caught 5 minutes of the Europussy band, with their “is that a man with tits or a girl with a beard grinding his/her crotch!?” :O

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There was an open stage and spaces in some of the venues for anyone to play. Daniel, from Australia played a nice mp3 mix set in one of the tents. Overall though not all the music was great, a lot of it was just background music, nice to listen to but not all that great to watch someone twiddle a few knobs or fart about with a laptop. Most of the acts in the main stage had visuals though and you could pretty much lie down and go to sleep if you wanted! I wasn’t so sure about the guys in control of the PA/mixing a lot of the stuff seemed too loud and distorted…luckily I brought along ear plugs!

Dreich

Stockholm was really nice, very picturesque, so I’d like to go back again, though there were too many McDonalds in and around Stockholm for my liking, there was though some guy on a street corner ranting, he had a sign that said “Fuck McDuck”.

McDonald's: I'm hating it!

I’m a fan of the Swedish metal band Meshuggah and I figured while I was there I’d look for a Meshuggah T-shirt…I tried a few stores, even one that was dedicated to music t-shirts but no luck, of course it wasn’t a problem finding a Marilyn Manson or Linkin Park T-shirt!

I went to the modern art gallery and IMAX cinema and watched an enjoyable though cheesy movie about coral reefs and I shat myself during the trailer when a giant lion appeared on screen!

I had a funny encounter in a Chinese restaurant too. A dish was described as having “meat” so I asked:
“what meat is it?”
“meat”
“but what sort of meat?”
“meat meat”
“I mean from what animal?”
“yes, meat from an animal”
I still ate it whatever it was.

The modern art gallery was interesting…(I swear these aren’t homicides)
Gone Commando

Gone for a swim

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Mad Hatter's Tea Party

This wasn’t in the Modern Art Gallery but a creepy discarded shopping trolley on a main street. It is surely worthy of inclusion at the gallery though!

A shopping trolley discarded on a busy street

A car almost hit me while crossing a road, I said to Caspar, “Hey! I had a green light!” he replied “but he had a green light too!” So that was my introduction to how traffic works outside of Britain.

I noticed lots of Swedish flags on buildings while I was there…are the Swedes a patriotic nation then I wonder?

Swedish + points:

• cute girls who speak alluring and far better English than most Glasgow girls!
• power saving escalators, which only operate when you stand on the pressure pad thingies
• toilets with 2 flush settings
• Free maps of towns in bus stations etc.
• Foodstuffs called Plopp, Japp and Nogger
Don't Plopp some Kex on your Japp

Must i fart again?

• The language:
slut = finished
fart = speed
fartyg = boat / ship
infart = entrance (for vehicles)
utfart = exit (for vehicles)
bra = good
fukt = damp
hiss = elevator
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Swedish – points:

• Shops & cafes only stock light beers (under 3.5%) pussies!
• Big insects, big grasshoppers, big slugs, big dragonflies, big flies!
• Those horrid “salt” sweets/candies
• cafes/bars play all the same shite music they play here!

Overall:
Good Fun. A very enjoyable holiday, I want to go back to Norberg next year, only I want to be playing there instead!

Sidenote:
WTF is it with life!? In the past three years the only place I travelled to was London for just a day and then in the space of 3 weeks I was in Edinburgh, Fort William, Durham and Sweden…and after being unemployed for months, without any luck I have 3 interviews in 1 week! And as for the interview I had yesterday, the interviewer told me there was only 1 other guy interested in the job, so it was between me and him, so I was talking to one of my friends today…turns out he was the other guy and he got the job! D’oh!