Stockholm

The adventures of my trip to Stockholm started before I’d even got to the airport here in Berlin. The day of my flight I checked my schedule and made sure I had time to pack after work then catch a regional train (larger than the S-bahn, not quite the big inter-city rail) to the airport. I wanted to be at the airport about 90 minutes before my flight so I could kick back and do some reading before my flight. Unfortunately the BVG had other plans for me.

The view of the royal castle.
View of the royal castle.

I’d checked my route with Google Maps and double checked with Öffi, but somehow the regional train to the airport was completely canceled. Not late, and not a wrong route; all the scheduled routes were displayed on the screen at the station with a nice big strikethrough. I had to make a panicked backtrack to the slower S-bahn that would take me out to Schönefeld, and fortunately my flight was delayed by 20 minutes – were it not for the delay I could have been spending my long weekend in Berlin!

I landed in Stockholm just before midnight and went to buy my Stockholm Card (for transit, museums, and other attractions) but the airport shop closed minutes before I arrived. “No problem, I can get it in town”, I thought. Then I got in line for a kiosk to buy a ticket for an airport shuttle bus. Literally as I was approaching the machine the screen went a bit dimmer and a nice message came up telling me that the kiosk was now closed. Seriously?! I managed to get a bus ticket online on my phone and had an uneventful check-in into a quiet hostel room. In the morning was another quest to closed shops to try and get a tourist card; apparently tourist offices are closed on public holidays but eventually I got my card and headed for the Vasa museum.

The Vasa museum, from outside.
Vasa museum, from outside.

The Vasa museum is a museum about a big boat that sank. Sounds thrilling right? It’s actually one of the best museums I’ve been to. Because the Baltic sea has very low salinity, the boat was well preserved for over 300 years at the bottom of Stockholm’s harbor before being raised in the 70s; the restored boat is over 95% original. The museum goes through not only the construction of the boat and the reasons behind the shipwreck but also talks about life for sailors around that time, displays of skeletons that came up with the ship, and some European maritime history. I also indulged in some Swedish meatballs at the museum cafeteria and made my way off to Gamla Stan, where I went on a walking tour that meandered through the narrow (and car-free!) streets of Stockholm’s old city. It was interesting to see the German influence in the buildings and hear about the history of a city that’s been around for over 750 years.

A runestone built into the corner of a building in Gamla Stan (Uppland Runic Inscription 53)
A rune stone built into the corner of a building in Gamla Stan (Uppland Runic Inscription 53).

For dinner I made my way to a pub for some delicious reindeer stew and was pleasantly surprised by a choir singing spontaneously in the pub. Every now and then they would start singing what I assume were traditional Swedish songs, followed by some applause from the pub. It was a nice warm up before heading from the pub to a bar called Debaser in nearby Medborgarplatsen to hear Solen, a Swedish rock band, and spend my hard earned money on way-too-expensive beer until late in the night. There is also an island with the Modern Art and Architecture museums which were very cool – the architecture museum went through Swedish architecture all the way from early Viking longhouse to modern Swedish buildings. I also spent quite a bit of time just meandering around the city, enjoying the fresh sea air.

The Swedes got it right - explicitly stating no selfie sticks.
The Swedes got it right – explicitly stating no selfie sticks.

I decided to spoil myself with a train ride out to the airport from the central station. I checked departure times and figured I would leave myself a lot of time to get out; I needed to purchase a ticket at the train station, unfortunately online was not an option for a late ticket. When I got to the train station, I got about 30 paces from the ticket office when a buzzer started going in the building. An announcement came on in Swedish and most people started moving to the exits. As I was following people out, an announcement came on in English stating that the fire alarm had gone off and everyone needed to evacuate the building. Sweet. I went into a bit of a panic – if I can’t get the train out, the bus takes at least twice as long, and I’d still need to get over to the bus station. I considered taking a cab right away, but it would be crazy expensive due to the length of the trip so I started asking a few people if they were going to the airport and wanted to split a cab. It seemed like most people were just taking a normal train to go elsewhere in Sweden, so eventually I decided to buck up and grab a cab. As I approached the taxi stand, people started going back into the train station so I jostled my way back inside the station and caught the train and my flight home without any further incident.

 

Helsinki

On my mission to hit all the Scandinavian countries this year, Finland was the first on my list. Although perhaps strictly speaking it isn’t a Scandinavian country, I didn’t let that deter me from packing a bag and heading to one of the other real winter (see: “hockey playing”) countries in the world.

Way too many letters for not enough words.
Way too many letters for not enough words.

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UK Touring with Diatessaron

Better late then never I suppose! Back in August I spent two jam-packed weeks touring all over the UK with Diatessaron playing bars and pubs from bustling London all the way up to beautiful Gourock, Scotland. The best overall summary has already been written (in reverse chronological order) by Flick, one of our lovely accomplices.

For me, it was a real thrill to meet up with friends I hadn’t seen In a couple months and perform songs we’d written on the other side of the world to new audiences and get to become familiar with Captain Horizon, an amazing British group that were phenomenal musicials and great dudes to boot! It was also a real privilege to get to work with Sue, Stu, and Flick as our friendly guides for both the countryside and the British musical landscapes. The hope is that we can come back again next summer and play a festival or two and maybe get a bit more of an international fanbase. In the meantime, I’m anxiously waiting for the recordings we made in June to materialize into an album!

Classic Remise Berlin

In West Berlin there is a nondescript warehouse that, once you pas through the doors, is a paradise of classic cars, meticulously maintained mechanic garages, and classic car dealerships, with a café and a smattering of watercraft thrown in for good measure. It’s a real hidden gem of a “museum” that is really just a place where a bunch of rich people store their cars in a place where people can come gaze and dream. I spent a few hours walking through the aisles and saw some real dream cars up close, and some through the glass (unfortunately providing a lot of reflections, making good photos difficult).

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The Little Monster

Naturally, one of the biggest things I missed after moving was the sound of music. Not through some garbage earbuds or even a nice set of cans, I needed some real volume. Naturally I couldn’t pack my amp and pair of tower speakers, nor did I want to use valuable luggage space hauling around an iPod dock. Within a few days of moving out of the hostel and into a place to call home, I realized that nowhere is home if I can’t pump out my jams. I needed to get something small (because I’m inevitably going to need to move it again soon) and loud (because… because). Fortunately for me the German word for “the speaker is “der Lautsprecher” (loud speaker), so I knew they didn’t mess around.

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Istanbul

Let me just start by saying that Istanbul is the most massive and busy place I’ve ever seen; the city has around 14 million inhabitants and covers over 5000 square kilometers. As a Canadian I needed to make a conscious effort to significantly reduce the radius of my personal bubble – trains and buses seem to always be packed, even though they arrive constantly.

Istanbul at night. See here. Note that “only about half of the European side is visible”

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Ankara

Ankara is all hills
Ankara is all hills

I spent a few days in Ankara to celebrate the wedding of two amazing people: my friend Ben and his lovely (now) wife Ceyda. Ben and Ceyda’s father Erdinç were kind enough to come meet me in the evening at the Ankara airport (ç is pronounced like the “ch”, and ş is “sh”). We drove back to Ceyda’s parent’s place on an army base so I could drop off my stuff before heading to a bar with Ben to meet up with the rest of our crew. At first I thought Erdinç’s driving was a bit fast and erratic, but after a few days in Turkey it became very apparent that it was necessary to do whatever you want; that’s what other people do, and if you don’t then you’ll just be perpetually stopped waiting for someone to leave you some room. Painting the white lane-dividing lines smms like a bit of a waste of effort. Same rules go for pedestrians too; do whatever you want, and don’t get hit by a car. But I digress…

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The House Hunt

Finding a house in Berlin is certainly no easy task, as I was warned by anyone who already had one. People working at the hostel and internet strangers at a reddit meetup were all very confident that finding a reasonable place to live in Berlin is something that takes some time and dedication. I had quite a bit of time and a reasonable amount of dedication as well, but searching was still frustrating. Most of my week was spent cruising websites for a long-term apartment, but realistically there was not enough time to find one that I could settle into right away. It was time to make some compromises.

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Iceland – Part 2

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Following my brush with Iceland’s history I cruised around the town for some more live music to soak up and walked past Dillon’s, a rock bar that had some insanely loud and heavy music going on inside. I grabbed a pint and headed up to the loft where the band was playing. It was the heaviest metal I’ve ever heard live and was pretty great, but they were just doing their sound check so it was over before it even really got started. Once the soundcheck was done I headed to a place called Bar 11 that had another band playing later. I ran into a bunch of tattoo artists from around the world who were there for Reykjavik’s tattoo festival over the weekend in a small tent out behind the bar, then checked out the band in the basement. They were a solid 4-piece rock group that played some originals as well as some cover tunes in English – I picked up their CD and then realized I don’t have a CD player in my computer so I’ll have to figure that out later.

Continue reading Iceland – Part 2