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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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…
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.
Being that I was going to Iceland and had heard about hákarl, one of their “delicacies”, I figured I should give it a whirl. For those who don’t know, hákarl is essentially shark meat that is poisonous when fresh but after rotting for a few months it becomes edible (I’m not making this up).
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.
I arrived in Reykjavik bright and early, 6 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, and was blown away immediately. The landscape is like nothing I’ve seen before. Black lava rock lining the runways and and very Scandinavian looking architecture for the airport; angular, metallic, very stark and functional. I had about an hour and a half to admire this scenery since the Keflavik airport requires a second security check for North American travelers after landing and it was not exactly a rapidly moving lineup. Oh well – I was in no rush and had nothing planned for the day. Made my way to the shuttle bus and tossed my bags into storage at the hostel and started wandering the city.