Of course there's lots of ancient rubble and history oozing out of every corner and it's nice to finally set foot on the Akropolis and behold the Parthenon, but kinda to my own surprise I found it much more interesting to see how people are coping. Youth unemployment is at some 51% and rising and it shows. Lots of poor folks wandering about, taking all kinds of measures to score at least a meal. We've seen kids being loaded up onto a pickup and driven trough the city to play accordeon and what not. Old folks offering every last piece of crappy toy or old book they had on the pavement, selling napkins or pencils. Yesterday we've been waiting for the bus next to a park where everyone (it was a lot of people, mostly under 30) was busy either getting the supply, preparing their poison, shooting up, being straight up on cloud ten and half or already strung out wasted. Shit, man, the future sometimes really feels bleak around here. But luckily on the other hand there's a lot of vitality and uplifting spirit in most of the Greek people. They love to be outside, drinking their coffees, eating souflakis, chatting loudly and enjoy the summer. A bit weird that everyone looks like he's on vacation, though ;D So apart from the regular When-In-Athens-You-Can't-Miss-X-Itinerary we've been to the museums of Ceramics and Kykladic Art - both very interesting - topped all the mountains of the city proper, met myriads of dusty stray cats and went to Schinias Beach near Marathon.
That is, we tried to, really. We've been waiting at our station for the Attika regional bus to pick us up, but this being Greece, of course the destinatinis not written properly on the bus, the driver's door doesn't open and if you knock to ask if it's the one … nah dude, they won't open that door and give you any information. We tried three buses, same shit. Let me tell you that was really something pissing us off every now and then here. Not even on the operator's website is it possible to find any numbers or stations. Athina 7:30, that's as much as you'll get. In the end we asked someone working at the subway and headed to where the busses started just to make sure we'll be able to ask. That cost us two freaking hours and more asking, asking, asking the same person again thrice, because nobody's actually listening to your whole question. Some people here really need to get their shit together, even more so when tourism is really the single readily available opportunity to get out of the debt spiral. But hey, i'm only visiting, who am I to give advice here …
Finally on the bus we couldn't tell neither why it takes two people to operate a bus (one drove, the other sold tickets and shouted out the next station) nor why it takes anyone two hours to cover those 40km in a motorized vehicle. Anyhow, despite some drawbacks we had an awesome day at the beach, super warm water, an island in the far background, mountains all around and a pine forest growing right up to the beach. It's actually supposed to be part of a National Park with wetlands, where rare birds and other species dwell, but sadly it was just as piled up with cars, cig butts and trash as the gutters in central Athens.
Sometimes I just don't get it :(
My girlfriend's brother picked us up at JFK and we drove straight through the whole of NYC to his apartment in New Jersey. That was really cool, riding through Brooklyn and Queens, crossing the Queensboro Bridge and all the Avenues, watching the towering façades running through the car's roof window. Upon our arrival in the Garden State we rested in Hamilton Park and enjoyed the awesome view of the whole of Manhattan right from the southern tip up to The Bronx while getting to terms with the 30+ degrees.
Today then we went out for a quick morning walk around Suburbia. We were surprised by the amount of wildlife around here, does grasing in backyards, squirrels practically all over, raccoons, cicadas, birds and whatnot. Even saw a vulture feeding on a small deer's corpse right on the middle of the road. The houses all look the same, the villas all rock the same fake stone-but-actually-wood walls and look like they've been spewn out by a 3D printer. Nice yards and front lawns but surprisingly few people outside. No bike lanes whatsoever, everything only reachable and doable by car.
Today we went down to Nyack, enjoyed a nice breakfast and drove down to Liberty State Park opposite of Manhattan's skyline. It looks amazing, but it's like being in a movie at the same time, a bit like watching a painted ,staged scenery. Hearing everybody around you speaking like you only know it from movies and music only adds to that experience.
I'm enjoying it very much so far and I'm all the more looking forward to moving over to Brooklyn tomorrow where we'll spend the next five days.
It was Pentecost and Norwegian Constitution Day which gave us a long weekend to leave the city and explore the Northern end of this country. We flew to Tromsø where a rented T4 awaited us. Our plan was to drive down to Lofoten, right to its eastern tip at the village of Å before heading back to check out the world's northermost larger city.
On our way we crossed countless islands, islets, bridges, sounds, fjords, tunnels and passes, traveled the Vesterålen archipelago, drove along two of Norway's esteemed tourist routes, were greeted by lots of reindeer, watched an otter being chased off by seagulls teaming up with a magpie, spotted two elks, a seal and an eagle. And of course endless amounts of cod hung out to dry - that smell, though :O All the islands display incredible landscapes changing from each angle. It's like passing through different micro climates with every corner taken. Think sandy crescent-shaped beaches with azure, crystal clear waters in front of rugged, sharp-toothed mountain cliffs and stormy rain pouring over the harsh Atlantic ocean in the background - all in one view. Of course that's also what makes the region a tourist favourite, but we didn't feel there were too many people underway and always could find a sweet spot to spend the night by ourselves. We were in luck with the weather and enjoyed totally fantastic weather mixed up with the odd short shower every twenty minutes. Only one day was completely grey but that gave us some time to drive some more and even make a quick detour up into the highlands of nearby Finland, totally worth it.
Tromsø then was not that spectacular in itself. The city is distributed over several shores and features a underground road system to help people cope. We arrived in midst the celebrations for Norway's 202nd year of independence from Denmark with folks roaming the streets in the traditional clothes called bunad and an endless train of students of all ages progressing through the inner city. That was interesting and also funny to see so many Norwegians at the same time :D
These are now my new favourite parts of Norway.
Short epilogue on my trip to Belgrade.
I attended loads of talks/lectures at Resonate, saw folks (some of them even people who's influence touched me since times ago) showing off their wicked works there, giving insight into their processes, sharing some good thoughts and discussing the current course of events in the new media world. Some weren't totally gripping, but several really pushed my synapses on how to go about things, switched some angles in my perspectives and sparked lots of ideas. My favourite were these right here:
Shane Walter from onedotzero, awesome guy
Memo Akten - most inspiring talk ever
Then I also attended a workshop called The Sound of Matter led by Italian artist Rudi Punzo. The subject was to combine electronic components and assemble them into a sound sculpture of sorts. Some of the 15 registered people didn't show up and we didn't get solderless bread boards from the start so things got delayed a bit and we didnt end up with robots, but it was super fun nonetheless. Finally 'learned' to solder and built a trippy oscillator - only that mine didn't work in the end because the audio out was broken :0 (I'll fix that soon and deliver a video, promise). We hooked that up to some LEDs and solar panels and had a lot of fun tweaking the knobs, I'm sold.
We also means I met some awesome people during that workshop and the conference itself. I read that there were a bit over 2500 attendees and my guess is that a third of those were locals, another third from Central Europe and the rest from all over. Lectures started relatively early, 10-ish, relative as the nights were long due to plenty performances going on in several locations. I didn't have the energy to watch them all, though, cause I really wanted to get the most out of the lectures. But still it was so good feeling a proper bass wave running through my body again, can't even begin to recall when was the last time (already feels like I write that out a lot ...). The best of those were definitely Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith with her superb live synth performance at 10A.M. featuring visuals that made me double check if I was sober, Belgrade local producer Jan Nemeček usually doing awesome ambienty stuff (copped a nice tape of that), who was playing a proper techno set opening for Squarepusher. Man, let me tell you that I've seen a heck of a lot of performances and I love this dude's music down to the bits, but his latest release didn't quite take off with me so I was unsure what it's going to be doing with me. Dude straight up delivered. He showed up in a fencing suit, set up his gadgets in front of two massive LED walls, which probably dismembered themselves in the second the set was over and totally wrecked it. The sound was unbelievably crisp and he went full-berzerk-mode, going all out with everything the gadgets had to give. Not much of the dancings, but since the optics were also outright spasm-inducing-fantastic it was an fulfilling, awe-inspiring experience. The last 20 minutes or so Mr. Jenkinson did us the favor of pulling his 6-string bass out and turning things a bit more to the mellow side by virtuosing out some of his classic themes. 10/10 would go and see again at any time!
So after my first hours of being a bit sceptic of where I landed my reception totally changed over the days while I strolled through this charming city. It does play by its own rules and doesn't give its hidden gems away for nothing, but that's kinda the thing about it. I did a short excursion out to nearby Novi Sad with the bus (haha, would give a lot just to watch myself trying to figure out how to get the proper tickets :D), it was nice there, but surprisingly intact and seemed more like it could be located in Poland or Czechia. That was alright, too, but can't compare on any scale. I've had some great eight days down there and tanked up my inspir-o-meter to the fullest.
Yes, I would come again and I recommend anyone getting the chance to pay Belgrade a visit.
The sky hasn't cleared up and the drizzle went on and off today. I opted to walk a route eastwards of my quarter visiting some orthodox churches, parks and plazas, casually strolling through the neighbourhoods. Man, this city is really something. Everything is so run-down, outright crumbling, it makes me wonder how long it will last. 50 years tops if no one does anything about it, a hundred Dinar on that. But it totally has its charme, people don't seem to give too much fucks, street lights only count for vehicles - if at all - no one really bothers to be looking/appearing overly stylish (one of the things bothering me most about Scandinavia) and you feel like you're absolutely free do roam anywhere you wish and do anything you set your mind to. That's uniquely awesome, but it couldn't hurt to have the walkways paved with cobblestones instead of dog shit and cig stubs once in a while ;)
I got used to look out where I tread quite fast and enjoyed the different facets of Belgrade's quarters. Some are chill-oustide-at-the-comfy-cafe, some folks-just-and-only-live-here, some go all we-offer-exquisite-junk-why-nobody-do-the-buy? and some people-hang-out-at-night-shops-are-open-all-day-round-ish. It's very gripping soaking up the atmosphere and watch people go about their doings. Best place for that is one of the markets open each Sunday and whaddayaknow I accidentally stumbled right into one. So many people, so much eatable stuff pulled right out the ground and wherenot. Everybody and his dog had a stand and who couldn't afford placed himself on a chair in front of the entrance gates and offered freshly cut lilacs and the likes. Or a single pair of shoes worn for fifteen years plus (and nothing else) Really, though? :|
Didn't overdo it with the walking to give my joints some rest, grocery shopped food and pivo for the next days and fixed myself lunch at my HQ before I went out for another walk. This time I headed to the Sava river, got caught up in some detours, accidentally attended a photo exhibition that is just about to open in two days and crossed the bridge to Novi Beograd. But that part of the city can wait for another time and it was getting to dark for my camera to handle anyways so I returned to the appartment.
Can't wait for the sun to show up tomorrow, I bet it will give this scenario a whole new perspective.
After a very pleasant flight with a short layover in Schipohl (remarkably organized and quiet for its size) I arrived at the Nikola Tesla Airport next to Belgrade this afternoon. I'm here to chew gum and attend the Resonate festival. The festival will kickoff with a workshop on Tuesday so I've got some time to make myself familiar with the surroundings so to say.
My first impressions were that of a trip back in time, the bus took me through several Plattenbau neighbourhoods, nothing looked post-2000, camouflage wear hasn't gone out of style. From what I've read about the hastily built part of town called Novi Beograd that houses some 200.000 people everything west of the Sava must look like this. Got off the bus to walk to my home-on-time in the center and suffered some severe Budapest-flashbacks: No public money to keep a single façade intact and Roma folks making their home on plazas and parks. But then I found that there's lots more greenery around here, the terrain is hilly and all the small streets and alleys seema bit more inviting. It rained a bit earlier today and it's considerably warm (23 fucking °C, I need new clothes!) so there was fog rising everywhere which spoiled all the views (and therefore photos, see beneath). I also got tired early, because I got up at 5 so I just kept to taking a walk around the city center and exploring the old Kalemegdan fortress for today. So far I really like Belgrade, I'm super curious what else it has in stock for me. One thing's already for sure, though:
Slept so cozy even when the ground around the tent froze over night. Rose early again and drove an hour to the ferry station with the sun rising in my back. There were lots of doe grazing on the fields, some even right in midst the villages. The region I went through is relatively close to Ålesund but I've never been there before. It was the perfect ending to this trip, taking me throuh a couple of fjords and over numerous small islands connected by several distinct bridges all set alight by beautiful golden sunshine. After travelling some 3000 km I safely arrived back home and gave my sturdy car a well deserved wash - I can look out my back window again :D
To anyone considering getting out his place for the weekend or so who doesn't know where to, I can only recommend to simply get going, hit the road and see where it takes you. I'd totally do the whole thing all over again anytime, but I'm kinda fed up with ice and snow for now. While it holds its beauty I'd like to be able to get out and walk around the scenery a bit more and access some of the parks and stuff. Also camp more instead of staying in cities. And I'd love to be the passenger for once so I could lean back and just enjoy the view. Hit me up if you're in, there's still lots of places out there ;)
Had a good breakfast and left the hotel early to scratch some bits of of ice from my windows. Off I went again, straight up to the popular skiing area of Tärnaby. The hills became steeper and the forest less thick, finally giving way to beautiful vistas. Driving over the Norwegian town of Mo i Rana like I'd planned would've cost me over two hours detour and crossing the Arctic Circle above it over two more, but I slowly grew a bit weary of driving all day so instead I took a shortcut on the bend to the south.
The weather was incredible again, guess I can count myself really lucky. Besides that terrible episode in Finland I didn't have any moment to complain about. And I can only recommend to get underway on a holiday like Easter, the streets and roads were considerably empty. That's turned out an even greater advantage as there aren't much opportunities (0.1 compared to mainland Europe) to overtake here and I found that Swedes and Norwegians have a hard time predicting a good time to do so safely - or let the one behind overtake for that matter :| (Props to the Finns, they left a better impression). So cruising along the paths in those conditions was great fun, Colin McRae type shit, I soared onto the high plateau, over the border down into the valley again.
Unfortunately none of the national parks I passed is accessed easily this time of year, did not expect that. Even when Nordland is located basically directly at the Gulf Stream all the liquids were still frozen and only some 200km further down, around Trondheim, did the snow begin to disappear. On my way I could watch the rivers crack up more and more, t'was so nice simply driving out of the winter right into spring :)
An hour after Trondheim then I decided to set up camp in a beautiful valley via the tent my awesome boss lent me. Of course I didn't bring a shovel to burrow into the knee deep snow so after scouting around a bit the parking lot turned out to be the only viable space. Still awesome, though. :D
Spent virtually the whole day on the road. Left Umeå early on and went further north. The weather was awesome, clear blue sky specked with fluffy clouds, but the scenery became a bit dull. I basically spent four hours passing conifers and birches on hill-less plains - let's call it taiga. It wasn't quite possible to just hop out and go for a walk or take a break on some resting place because sadly there are no such amenities in the provinces of Västerbotten and Norrbotten. There's some towns that but don't spark much of interest to me and the rivers are getting a lot wider. So wide in fact that the citizen of Kalix organized some kind of race on a large course on the ice.
After I passed that the Matrix seemed low on RAM and I hit the white wall of fog again. Even thicker than yesterday, blocking out the sun completely. I arrived at the border town of Haparanda just at the northernmost tip of the Baltic Sea. Let me tell you, that place is a fucking crackhole! It totally felt like Silent Hill or some the-end-is-nigh scenario. I asked myself this oftentimes, but here it really, really applied: Why would anybody want to live here? Everything there seemed so desolate and sad. Maybe people can't leave this place so I made sure that I could still nope out and went right over the border to its twin city Torneå/Tornio. The atmosphere wasn't much better, but it was interesting to see how much it's like a bastard child of Sweden and Russia. I get why people resort to get shitfaced drunk all the time around these parts ...
So initially my plan was to go further around the Gulf of Bothnia to the city of Oulu but as I continued my journey the weather went really bad. That wasn't any fun anymore and since I found that the Lapland region didn't have that much to offer (at least at this time of year) and I only had to track back every kilometer I drove further on the way back tomorrow with nothing gained I decided to just ditch that, head back to Västerbotten and cut the way back home a bit short. Starting from Oulu would also have meant driving ten hours for the next two days - and that's in good weather. So eventually I drew back to Storuman in Västerbotten, checked into a hotel (first time for me myself) and saved myself a good couple of hours. Quite nice being flexible like this. A huuumongous shout out to my trusty companion Monti at this point! He's still in shape albeit dirtier than Redman and X-Tina now.
Saw some reindeer mom with its calf chilling on the road to the hotel, by the way. But that's the only sign of non-airborne wild life I came across so far. And not a single photo today. Tomorrow will deliver, I promise.
What the flip? To me coming straight from Ålesund the goings on in this country raise some serious questions:
Where do all these countless humanoids come from and what purpose might they see in being outside?
What strange contraption propels them forward, running not on four but only two wheels?
This tingling sensation on my skin, have I not felt this before somewhere ages ago? Could it be linked to that strange bright sphere in the sky that hurts my eyes so much?
These glyphic signs next to the roads, how can it be possible for them to hold up to three numerals at once?
I shall investigate further ...
Ahem yeah, today I strolled around Östersund a bit before heading over to the city of Sundsvall. On the way I incidentally came about a large dam in midst a forest when I wanted to find access to a river I'd seen from the road. That was really something. Plus the weather unexpectedly cleared up and it got so nice and warm that for the first time in like five months I had to turn the A/C off. Upon arrival in Sundsvall I immediately went to the waterside of my beloved Baltic Sea which I haven't seen in five years or more. The part forming the harbor of the city was still frozen solid, so unfortunately no sounding waves. Went around the city a bit, found it was fairly similar to Östersund, quite nice, very rectangular, but still inviting. Next stop was the Skuleskogen National Park which is a patch of forest located at the coast. I had to drive over several small roads leaving me to guess if I'm still on the right track but I managed to find it without problems eventually. It's a beautiful forest and I'm all about forests, but it wasn't really easily accessible, because most of the walkways were still covered in ice which made it kinda difficult to maneuver. So I only went in for an hour or so before driving further to Umeå.
And this is where I'm at right now, the place where infamous bands like Meshuggah, Refused and Cult of Luna originate from. Right before I entered the city a huge wall of fog appeared on the highway, but the White Walkers had not the slightest chance getting to me. Still I couldn't really see shit. Even walking in the city wasn't really fun because it also got dark, will retry tomorrow morning. And my super nice Pakistani host offered me delightful homemade curry and fruits, which totally made up for that :D
It's Easter season and in Norway that means no work from Thusday through Monday! So after being incarcerated by the grey and wet winter I didn't feel like spending those days on the couch and went out on a road trip instead.
The first leg of the tour took me through the already familiar Trollveggen (Europe's tallest vertical rock face) with its sharp, raggedy edges into South Norway's central fylke Oppland which until now I found to be quite boring as it seemed an endless u-shaped valley filled with a string of village that just serves as a conductor for people going further south to Oslo. But I took a turn left this time, went up the U to access the highlands and immediately felt the undertaking payed off. You might have noticed that I totally fall for the tundra biome with it's shapes, vegetation and color palette. Well I got everything I could ask for - even when the sky was completely overcast the whole day. I had to keep myself from stopping every ten minutes to get out of the car, because it was early afternoon and I still had some four hours of driving ahead, but at one point I missed a sign and suddenly found myself in the Dovrefjell National Park. The whole landscape seemed to have changed in a matter of minutes and it was super serene. I went out to get a couple of shots before heading back to take the right turn. And then, right before that turn I'd missed there was that magical sign indicating Snøhetta Viewpoint ->. Jackpot!
Everybody and his dog knows the architecture bureau of Snøhetta does some awesome shit plus my company works very closely with them, so there was no way I wouldn't go and look what's going on there. Ruggedy rough sand road, great, now that sucked. Strange parking lot with a handful of parked cars, a toilet building (closed, damn!), a map saying this has been a military areal for some time so one has to watch out for remnant duds, and some random people wandering around. Mmmkay, maybe I got this wrong. Alright, while I was there I might just follow the folks up that hill, the view was already quite nice so I might get some cool shots from up there. Half an hour walk later I stood in front of a small Cuboid that looked familiar. It really was that famous wooden room that Snøhetta built, sweet! Closed. :[ But nevertheless, the detour was more than worth it, the surroundings were spectacular, one could see right over to the mountain that gave his name to the archtitects.
From there I drove further to the town of Røros payed its World Heritage Site of an old copper mine a visit and went over the border to that other kingdom.
Wow, skiing, man, it's all over the place here. I drove for like 300km and all I could see was families on cross country skis, people standing by their cars prepping their gear, snowboarders, kids on snow scooters, fucking annoying snow scooters jumping right out the forest crossing the road like some fucking train, snow scooters on frozen rivers, Norwegians coming in packs to endulge in the icy feat, snow scooters on frozen lakes, snow scooters for four people, snow scooters on cars, snow scooters for rent ... you get it. What the heck? Ah yeah right, almost forgot: there is nothing else to do around these parts. With a little imagination the regions on both sides of the border might well be the location of Europe's largest meth lab. Everything looked a bit crappier than before/after that. Or maybe it's just the winter tourist area thing. Think Molde ;)
So now I've arrived in the neat town of Östersund, took a shower, fixed me some pasta and went to have a look at some of the pictures i took. Oah faen, are you serious? D: I forgot to re-enable the RAW image saving on the camera after I turned it off yesterday to do some timelapse testings. That means I only got the JPGs and all the contrasts are crapped up and I can't work on them really well. Bummer.
But I edited some nonetheless and uploaded them, just so you know what I'm rambling on about ;)
Nonkeen - Chasing God Through Palmyra
What a ride!
Cinnamon Chasers - luv deluxe
I'm glad I found this one again, saw it somewhen last summer but totally forgot about it. Nice tune, awesome video.