Festival experience

If you ever thought that the life of a rockband is only made of drinking, playing music and then hanging out with all the naked babes around, you might wanna wake up to the reality of the current time and date. Now there’s a lot of hard work involved in those 30,40,50 or 120 minutes that your favorite act is on stage. Of course, some bands have it a lot easier when they are surrounded by a swarm of staff/crew who does most of the things for them. But below is what I experienced during a trip to Hellfest festival in France, together with a band famous enough to fill the two tents of the festival, but not famous enough to have an army of roadies to work for them.

It started Friday morning. Wake up 5AM, leave for the airport so that you are there sometime 6AM. Check in, waste time, go to the flight. Catch some sleep.
Land in Paris, Charles de Gaulle, a place that looks like you’re part of the Jetsons cartoons. Wait for luggage, meet the others, wait for the special luggages (instrument cases) together with another band who has plenty of instruments to pick up. The bag with the cymbals doesn’t arrive though so extra time is spent going to the SAS office, asking for it, getting it delivered. There goes probably half an hour if not more. Our group consists of 4 band members, the road manager, me as journalist and the sound/tech guy who actually arrived from Lisabon and he’s waiting for us outside
Once the luggage issues are solved, we exit airport, go to the car rental office, they handle in some papers and send us to the garage. We get one of the two cars delivered, start loading up some stuff in it. The big van is not ready though. We wait. They change the small car as well since it didn’t have a full tank. Big van gets delivered after lots of waiting. There goes some more hours, most of them at the expense of the nerves of the road manager who always has to go around with her printed papers and agreements and sit and talk to people to eventually get to the desired result…After we get out of the garage, there’s also an extra hour – I guess – just to circle around Paris and be on our way to Nantes.
We drive for what, 4, 5 hours? I’ve lost track of time. Reach Nantes and find the hotel we were booked by the festival. We were supposed to be 8, but we were only 7. This confuses the hell out of the girls at the reception who hardly spoke English. And this brings plenty of joy to the road manager’s patience skills. The confusion was of epic levels when we found out breakfast is not included, so then we had to pay for it for two nights. Dialogue was something like
“So, you are only seven? Does it still mean four rooms?”
“Yes, we still need for rooms. But only seven breakfasts”
“Seven breakfasts and four rooms. For two days?”
“Yes, two days”
“But then you only pay for seven breakfasts?”
“Yes”
“And three or four rooms?”
….
They calculated it wrong anyway and had to be corrected. Whatever. We finally had a place to drop our stuff in. 5 minutes later we meet at the reception.
We try to figure out the transport to the festival area, but it turns out it’s only by cab and not covered by the festival, so we end up driving there ourselves.
Luckily at that hour there was hardly any traffic. We followed the signs for Artists and eventually reach a point where a guy was guarding the way. The driver rolls the window down and when asked says ” We are Band X from Norway”. The dude is confused, looks at the printed mails, starts talking in his walkie talkie, comes back to check again the band name…Probably not too used with bands driving in by themselves. Plus we didn’t have anything but those printed mails to show who we were. It’s probably a bad idea to have the accreditation thingy be picked up after two control zones, rather than having it somewhere on the way, and then it makes the life of those control people much easier. But it was somewhat fun.
At the festival area, the manager gets our wristbands and fixes everything with a designated hostess.
Despite the fact that it was specified in the contract, it turns out that the festival ran out of shuttle buses for us for the next day. And then it again takes a while to debate and fix something. All in all, the time is somewhere past 8PM, Twisted Sister has switched places with WhiteSnake and there goes my main point of interest for that day. We get to walk inside the festival area, watch a bit of some shows, buy food, have a drink and 11:30 PM we all gather and drive back.
Next morning awaits with the French breakfast: croissants, bread slices, Nutella, Fruit Jam 1, Fruit Jam 2, Honey, Cream Cheese, Normal Cheese (luckily very non smelly) and cereals. And no meat. But except the cream cheese and regular cheese that tended to vanish really soon, everything else was a sugar bomb waiting to be spread on the bread.. I recently found out it is common for the people there to eat such things for breakfast. Oh well. Energized and in good spirit we get a (paid) shuttle to drive us to the festival. A bit more crowded on the way, but we still get there in good time, get a designated room to drop our stuff and to change and then start exploring. I think most of us actually went for a more decent food in the backstage area and then everyone went to check out the stage. Not to forget, we found a bottle of wine on the table in the room. It was a festival wine. Probably fertilised with lots of remains from the festival goers.
At festivals, there are pretty tight schedules. If you, as a band, play at 4PM, then you can start loading in at 1PM maybe, but at max 3 you need to be ready to get your shit on stage. It’s more or less that as soon as the previous band ends playing, they start packing their instruments and pedals and whatever, someone pushes out the drumkit and then the reverse process starts: the drumkit that you have set up is being pushed on the stage, banners are set up, cables are plugged, things are tested, a soundcheck is done. In case you understood that the band members are the ones who do these actions, then you’re wrong. First, there’s a stage manager guy who supervises everything. Then there’s a lot of local festival crew who helps with the drumkit (the drummer only sets up his own cymbals and adjusts everything to his size). There’s a lot of actual stage people who take care of cables and such details. And then there’s a huge amount of work from the band’s own sound/tech guy. His actual job on the stage starts from the moment the load in begins. He already has a big list of requirements from the band on how he should set up the various channels. A lot of these requirements have been sent to the festival in advance. And now his job is to talk to the local techies to see that everything is in place as per the request, and to get an overview of how stuff looks like. Then he goes around and checks the cables and all the set up. Then he runs back behind his sound board and starts doing soundcheck. And every now and then he runs back to the stage to adjust a bit of this and of that. Not to mention his focus during the concert and his big contribution to actually removing everything from stage and making sure no piece of equipment is left behind.
Once all preparations are made and each detail is taken care of, it’s time for action. Intro music, people on stage, crowd cheerings, lights, photographers in the pit, black metal, spikes, crowd surfing, and so on. For about 50 minutes.
Then you’re done, say goodbye to the fans, leave the stage, greet your mates, wipe the sweat off your face, go back on stage to pick up your stuff, put it in boxes, take some photos, pack some more and then go back to the dressing room. Then we went to the artists restaurant to use our food coupon and we can’t really complain about the quality of the food. It was funny to see that every Norwegian a the table ended up with a burger, while the rest of us had anything else but burgers. Once we turned into happy stuffed pigs, we left to watch some more of the shows from that day. It all culminated with KISS on the main stage and to my excitement I found a great spot to photograph the band for the entire duration of the show. Now I only need the time to go through those photos, hopefully before the year ends. 
We had a shuttle back to the hotel booked at 2AM. We got thrown out of our changing room at 1AM, so we spent a while in an idle state, with the legs on the guitar cases and the asses on the chairs we took outside the room. Close to 2AM we go to the main entrance/exit and one of us calls the driver. She says she’s on the way. We start waiting (or go on with it, as it was our main activity for the last hour or so). We see another Norwegian band who had been waiting for way longer and they were quite exhausted. Then we witness a lot of other bands coming out from the festival area and being picked up, but our bus is not arriving. We call again, she’s still on the way. Thank God. Which way now, it’s a mystery. A guy responsible for stuff find a shuttle bus for the other band who had been waiting for like forever. They’re jumping in instantly. He also disappoints us even more saying that he heard from shuttle bus drivers that they’d be there in 10 minutes. That happened 40 minutes ago. It looked like transport that evening was not their main success.
Eventually our white van arrives and we find out from the driver that it all got messed up due some superstars at the festivals. They even needed police escort (not sure if on their way in or out). I think after this point everyone must have felt asleep. I seriously can’t remember how I got to my hotel room. Early alarm the next day, the same sugar bomb breakfast, we check out, split in two, as a part of us have an earlier flight and they have to leave in good time. The rest of us drive back to the festival to drop a person, then we driver back to Paris for some more 4 hours or so, with stops on the way and small sightseeing moments when the driver would misunderstand the Tom tom. Deliver cars, checking, meet the others at the gate since they leave from the same area, get checked for drugs like every other metalhead who passed the security gates. Gotta love French stereotypes. Then fly to Oslo and have the whole trip ending with the discovery of the festival wine bottle that got broken into many many pieces inside a big boot. It must bring a special flavor next time those boots will be used on stage.

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Romanian adventures Sept 2010

You know you have landed in Romania few seconds after the wheels of the plane have touched the ground. Perhaps Romanian mobile phones are so advanced that they automatically turn on at that moment, so that even before the plane has finished breaking, you hear the sounds made by phones turning on. And even more surprising is the fact that by the time the airplane has reached the gate, there are at least 3-4 conversations on the phone going on. Busy people.
I landed at the end of August, apparently after a period of extreme heat. And two steps outside the airport I felt like I’d happily crawl somewhere under ground. But with a bit of luck, the coming week was a bit windy and without extreme highs. First night was quite difficult though, both due heating and due the noise on the street. Bucharest is a noise polluted city, if that term exists. Dogs are barking, cars engine are supposed to be heard at the max, not to mention motorcycles. Plus, I live across the street from a hospital and it feels like there’s at least an ambulance per hour leaving with the siren on. Drunk people or some who are just mad and decide to scream and have a verbal fight at 2AM are hardly worth mentioning.
I type this while flying back from Bucharest, in a KLM flight to Amsterdam. And we’re being served a small pack with two tiny sandwiches. One of them having cheese in a bread with raisins. Altogether it ends up tasting like salty raisins. Beah.
Back to Romania. I grew up and lived there for many many years. Yet, now coming back like twice a year, the things that were part of my daily life are somehow seen through some different filters. For example stray dogs. I love dogs. I always stop and talk to them or pet them if they seem friendly enough. But now I really notice each and everyone of them and wonder what system they use for sterilisation since they simply seem more and more. Living there, you don’t notice their amount. My mum didn’t even know there were at least 3 of them around the block where we live.
A nice surprise was the visit at the local zoo. I recall that I saw this zoo back in ancient times and I have memories of a camel and some of the felines who hardly had any fur or meat on their bones. Not to mention the smell. But now the animals looked really good. Shiny hair, well fed, etc. A bit too well, considering that most of them were having a nap in a funny position and out of the 5 or so beautiful ‘kitties’, only one was bothering to move around. All the others seemed sedated (which I heard might be the case), including the bears and for a while, the lion and his lioness. The rackoons were the main attraction and all in all, it was a nice Sunday afternoon and no longer a depressive experience. Bins everywhere, wide spaces for animals, pretty clean on the alleys, hardly any idiot trying to feed them. There was indeed one guy with the bored neuron syndrome who kept knocking on the fence of a cage where the animal was asleep between some branches and couldn’t be seen. Disturbing was also the fact that they needed so many guards, almost one for each alley. It must mean that either there are way too many idiots visiting the zoo overall and they really need ‘trained’ guards to tell them not the put the fingers through the cages (for God’s sake, let them do that please. Help them with the other hand as well) or the zoo has too much money to spend. Whatever, I’m happy overall with it.
Speaking of guards, I was also surprised to see so many of them in the subway. Felt like one per wagon. They just stand there all day long and…look at people I guess? As far as I heard, if the louder the incided might be in the train, the harder it gets to spot one of these many guards. But I actually saw them in action when one big dude caught a teenager and was holding his arm behind his back and pushed him into a certain direction. Ah, how cool, someone farted in the airplane. They should have oxygen masks for such occasions too.
Another nice surprise was the record time (under 3 hours) required to change my drivers license. You go there with all required papers, they take a photo and tell you to come back in 3 hours. I did it in 2.5 and it was ok. The only problem is actually getting there. There is a new building dedicated to the police issues related to auto stuff and it’s in the middle of nothing and some buildings. They are working on building stuff where the nothing currently lies, but this involves either a lack of sidewalks or a sidewalk full of cables and dirt. So the 500 meters you had to walk were a challenge to keep your balance, walk/jump like a ballerina and avoid being soaked by the passing cars and buses.
One of the days I went with my mum to visit her father, my grandpa, at the countryside somewhere in the South and then we drove up to the mountains to visit my aunt. I’ve never been on this Rucar-Bran route and it is indeed, beautiful. Lovely landscapes with the valleys between the hills and the beginning of the Carpathians, I also saw a bit of the Bran castle (Dracula’s headquarters, pictured before) and the Rasnov fortress (due lack of history knowledge, I have no idea what it is famous for). I drove all the 500+ km and was really desperate we should leave early in the morning to avoid the early traffic jams in Bucharest. From this point of view, it all went ok. But if you consider other points, such as the quality of the road after you exit the highway and the road gets so wavy that you’d probably end up with a nice shake at the end of the trip if you happened to carry a bottle of milk with you. On the way back it got dark and for a good hour and 30 mins or so I drove on a road with no side lights and hardly any lines on asphalt. I am still thankful to the red arrows placed in the crazy hair pins on the way, but it’s quite creepy to drive and not to know where the road ends. But before getting on the bad road, we stopped for some shopping at a big supermarket. I had just purchased a big bag for my camera and I wouldn’t dare to leave it in the car, so I took it with me inside. Surprise, you have to get your bag sealed at the entrance and my bag wouldn’t fit that sealing machine. The woman happened to have a bigger plastic that could be wrapped around my bag. But I keep thinking, how many thieves must there be in that country that shops are forced to come up with such preventive measures…Sigh.
The pic here shows how people in the countryside in the region where my grandparents live like to decorate their walls.
One evening I was supposed to meet some friends. They couldn’t make it since he had a motorbike accident as in his bike slipped on the wet tram line. And she was telling me on the chat that he was due to get a fine from the police for self injury (!). Then she also told me a story of some friends who passed away after hitting a … whatever you call those round covers on the streets while they were driving a motorbike. But he has an opened lawsuit for murdering himself. After this story I told her that we have to stop talking for that day since that was enough for that time. That evening was doomed to be full of somehow unbelievable stories though. This last image is the orchard from m grandparents. I spent so many moments of my childhood playing or working there. Now it looks so ruined..

Friendly plane company

In the flight from Frankfurt to Oslo, I had the unluck to meet such a person. She was on the aisle sit in the plane, me had a seat in the middle. I put my backpack up but kept a plastic bag that I put under the chair in front.
She sees it and starts ‘ you are not allowed to have anything there’. I explain I have been flying for more than few times and I believe I know the rules as well
She started saying my english is bad and can’t understand me but she was talking over my sentences so obviously she could hardly hear what I was saying. Or maybe I just didn’t have the British accent like she did. Tsk. So i ignored her
Then I was putting the jacket behind my back and the sleeve fell on her chair. She looked at me saying ‘I don’t want this in my chair’. I told her I wouldn’t want my jacked on the chair either then she called the attendand and asked her if I am allowed with the bag under the chair in front saying she has been in a crash and she is uncomfortable with it. The attendant asks me if I mind moving it and since I was pissed, I said ‘Yea, I actually do mind’. So they told her to move. She didn’t want to…
The end!

USA

Let’s try to put my fantastic trip over the ocean on paper (or well, screen since we’re saving trees). It probably won’t follow any logic since it’s been so full of amazing stuff and I simply can’t recall their order. It was just a rush of great moments coming one after another.

Speaking of saving and enviromental stuff. Here in Norway I am quite pissed at all these organic shits out there since the stuff on their market is so damn good that it makes absolutely no sense to come up with the organic blah blahs. Not to mention you lose all you saved growing plants organically by transporting them.  But there I understood that the usual stuff is actually full of younameit and itkillsyoufaster. I was surprised actually that coke was less sweeter but I was told it contains some sort of…sweetener that’s more damaging. And yea, if you pay attention to some of the labels you see how insane it is with the use of colors and sweeteners and flavors.

The flight over the ocean is insanely long. I know there’s longer flights, but still 9 hours…Luckily in the initial flight they offered these seats with mini screens and you could watch whatever you wanted from their offers. And they feed you many times, you can walk around and stretch and talk to the stwerads. That was fun and made time go by. And actually they also offerend internet and I so regret I didn’t try it. Woohoo, wifi at 10000 feet. Hell yea!

Arizona is HOT. No, didn’t meet any chick called that. Talking about the state here. I recall that after the trip, on the last day when we went to shops, I was considering melting as a way to escape the heat coming from the asphalt. And the cacti (plural for cactus, btw. Sam way you form the plural for octopus). And the sunsets. They’r elike in movies. And it probably influences people as everyone was quite laid back there and made oyu feel welcome. I mean, I met some amazing folks there. My hosts were way greated than I expected and on Friday night when Kristin’s family showed up, that was absolutely fantastic sitting down with all those…strangers afterall, but feeling so welcome there.  I actually had a bit of a christmas feeling.

The itinerary was something like Scottsdale, Kanab – visit the bestfriends animal sanctuary, escalante from where we visitd bryce canyon, boulder, calf creek falls, antelope canyona and horseshoe bend, grand canyon, sedona and back. I feel too lazy to write about everything as it’s too much. I took over 2000 pics…after I deleted at least half of them trying not to flood people with images. The canyons are unbelievable. I saw the pics before but I always thought it were only lucky shots. No. That’s what they really are. And stuff like Antelope canyon that not everyone knows of… I have no words and no way to repay my hosts for arranging the trip in such a way that in included these wonders.

The Grand canyon, one of m life time dreams is fuckin’ huge. As ugly as it sounds with that word, but that’s all you can say about it. And whistle when you see it. And when you know you only have few hours, you get really pissed and depressed and wanna leave. Really, that’s what I felt. I realized I need to get back for at least a week and with money to go rafting, take a helicopter ride and hike and stay overnight down in the canyon. It’s a beauty.

Nature is pretty well preserved, even if the places are quite full of visitors. I saw some garbage thrown by morons, but when I recall the romanian mountains…Heh.

I went horseriding. In Scottsdale. And the girl who led the way was amazing. She was totally in love with what she did, she was studying horse related stuff and it was a pleasure to listen to her stories for an hour and a half. I drank margeritas, Pumpkin ale, spicy pumpin ale, yellow and pink marguerita, I ate mexican food such as quesadilla and enchilada, drank some Alaskan ale, arrogant bastard…and something else, a mexican beer.  Tried stuff like Butterfinger I think (was funny that I asked Brent to explain what it is and the saleswoman heard him and said she’d never know how to explain that chocolate to anyone). New flavors of yumme Ben&Jerry icecream. Some Californian wines that were pretty decent. Cactus jelly. A yumme drnk with pina colada or daiquiri flavors. Oh, some yumme tea, liquorice like flavor. Think it was in the range of Chai. And some coconut flavor I think. Some really god macaroni and cheese prepacked.

Oh, the danes. First day in Escalante, which is a city with less than 1000 people I think, we go to the shop and my card doesn’t work. Brent tells the clerk it’s a Norwegian one and the guy starts asking me in Norwegian (I thought) if I speak Norwegian. Turned out he was speaking danish since he lived there 2 years. The next day, at one of the scenic views, I heard people talking and told Brent it sounds like Danish. He went and asked if they were Danish and told them I live in Norway. They went like ‘Oh, Denmark used to own Norway’. I replied ‘Yea, Sweden too’. And they said they’re glad they got rid of it. I told them it’s their loss.

Street signs are full of bullet holes in some places. Since that’s what kids like to do. I saw cowgirls actually riding around the cattle and trying to sort them. Harleys…mmm. A guy with a really old Harley explained us how they used to pain them. But it was impressive to see people on bikes riding on those neverending steep roads.

Etc, maybe will make a part 2, but there’s just too much to write…

Edinburgh

Since I’ve been quite busy lately and didn’t get to share the experience with anyone, I’ll try to write a short review here while memories are still fresh.
There’s way too much to say about this city, even aftr only 4 days. Its center is so full of old buildings but not the depressive kind. Or well, just the buildings themselves are probably depressive due their dark greish colors. But alltogether with the streets, some colored house inbetween, the shops, the pubs and especially the monuments make it so pleasant. p1090158It feelt like a trip back in time, somewhere like2-300 years ago. Yet, the cars and supermarkets wake you up to reality. One thing I liked is that I haven’t noticed the classical gypsy beggars that fill up all touristical places I’ve been to. Maybe it’s not their season.

My first impression of Scotland actually was in the train from Prestwick to Glasgow. First 10-15 minutes the train lines were crossing through golf courses…I amnot a fan of golf, but just to be able to walk on that grass right by the sea would make me a huge lover of this ‘sport’. And the Scottish green is…different. Or at least it felt like.
In Edinburgh, my nice Aussie/Tasmanian host waited for me at the Weaverly station and walked me through some streets going upwards, paved with stone and then through a huge park (The meadows)p1090139 up till a very silent british looking street and up to a cool messy appartment where she rented a room. I slept in a top room, on the floor, among a dozen or more instruments and abillion of papers that belonged to the owner of the place – a teacher at the Uni.p1090109

Friday started around 10 I think as Melanie offered to guide me through the city. She showed me where witches used to be hanged, took me to the entrance of the palace, went to the gift shop there and bought Whiskey flavored tea. Seeing the castle I had an even stronger Harry Potter feeling (I’ve been obsessed with these books lately).And they have built a mini stadium right at the entrance that they use for their Tattoo festival. And it felt like a quiddich game is about to begin.
p1090174
Then we stopped by the weavery where they expose a lot of wool&others made products, of course kilts and lots of their squared materials. Also more gifts and pottery and the interesting thing I noticed is that a lot of stuff can be bought in a clan’s colors. Cups, cards, guess clothes too. And a pro bagpipe was more than 1k Pounds.
At some point we stopped by Scott monument. A 60m tall amazing monument that you can climb up using some spiral stairs that grow smaller and smaller and you can stop at various levels and admire the lovely views on all sides. So you get a 360 view over the city and it looked amazing. They have regulations for building heights so there’s nothing that really bothers your eye. Except some greek columns 🙂
Anyways, I am in love with this monument. p1090264

I was by myself in the afternoon, dropped my stuff at Sherwood guesthouse – a nice and cozy place – failed to start the water in the shower and had to call the owner. They have this weird system that you must spin a wheel counter clockwise and it starts from very cold to very warm. But when you think you found the right temperature, colder or warmer water starts pouring. Guess it explains the term scottish showers. Oh and for water they have separated taps for cold and hot. And separated pipes. So if you want warm water in your sink, you have to fill it and wash in there – toothbrushing for example. Eek.
At lunch I found this place where the tours through city undergrounds started and I was really curious. But they needed at least 2 people and as I don’t eat enough…I couldn’t take it. Twice 😦
Wandering on the streets, I found some shops where they sell witchcraft stuff like skulls, wands, etc. One where they sell fossils. One where they have a collection of 3000 hats or so…And god, a billion souvenir shops. And there’s a lot of tempting stuff in there actually.

I left for a walk up to Arthur’s seat. Oh my god, what a lovely thing to have such a hill 20 mins outside your city…You climb for about half an hour up 200 meters, either on rocks or on the long formed paths and end up in a windy dream place from where you can again, see the whole city.p1090352 I had a snack up there and would have stayed for hours if it hadn’t been for the wind. I went down as
I spotted some ruins and encountered a rabbit who was eating orange peels. Or well, smelling them at least. It was cool to see many people jogging on the way to the hill and on the hill as well. That’s quite some training. Ah, about snack.When I stopped in the shop to buy something to eat, most of the bakery stuff was filed with meat. Sausages and such.

I moved on and since I couldn’t feel my feet I decided to walk some more and see what the heck are those greek columns. Surprise, greek columns…Apparently a monument built to celebrate something related to Napoleon. They are up on Calton Hill for those of you who are curious to read more.p1090800
In the evening, the gang arrived (Carmen from Romania, Thor, Danne and Stänk from Sweden). I drank a strawberry flavored beer – interesting. The guys went to a moretrditional pub but we, the girls, went to zzz early.

Next day only 4 of us made it to breakfast (thank god they had normal stuff for breakfast) and then moved along and visited the castle (might bother to write about it later). Afterwards, we stopped for a drink and I tasted one of the best beers ever – produced by Innis&Gunn brewery some oak aged beer. Mmm.p1090571
We walked around the city, mainly shopping at suvenir shops and actually 4 of us ended buying kilts. Then due some SMS deal, I bought a kilt for my boss as well. In the evening we took a Terror tour or something like that where you hear a little about how the city was built, how wooden top floors fell off due wind and storms, how the term shitfaced was invented etc. Then you are taken underground in some haunted old streets as they say. And were wiccans practice their…whatever they do. Nobody fainted or felt fingers around their hands. But then, we couldn’t visit the room where the poltergeist was encountered as rocks were falling in there. And ended up in a shitty pub after the tour.
Moved on from place to place, ate in one, drank in another. Took a cab to some rock pub with ’24’ in its name. It was EMPTY. Thhey just had a power cut and crowd left. But the power just came back so the music was extremly loud as they were probably testing. We ordered some stuff but the power went down again so we had to leave after some friendly words exchange between a drunk Thor and a girl from the staff.
Was nice to walk back to the hotel at around 3AM. Quiet, fresh air. Ah yea, there’s such a fresh air in that city. And nobody picked on us, nobody was yelling too much…Simply enjoyable.

Next day me and Carmen visited Camera Obscura p1090671– I’m in love with that place where you can see a lot of optical illusions and play with all sorts of mirrors and nice objects – and next time I go back half of my money will be spent in its shop. Then we went to the Whiskey experience where we learn about whiskey making and we get to taste a Single malted type. Might go into details into another post.
The guys joined us later and we went to this pub called Royal oak where I saw the best jam session ever.It started out with 2-3 guitarists and a guy witha violin. I took Carmen back to the hotel and then returned and there wree few more guitarists, a girl on the violin, a cello player and a girl with a flute. And at the end a guy plaing the washboard joined. It was amazing. One of them was starting a tune or a beat or so…another one was joining, the 3rd one joins too then all of them are singing a nice song. From country to jazz to irish/scottish. Absolutely full of joy. I’d love tohave such a pub here. Videos taken mainly there

I had to leave at 3:30 AM…took a cab at 3 and it took 5 mins to take me to the station so I had to wait a while. It drove for like 2 hours…Glasgow airport is rather small and despite the fact that Ryan air keeps telling you to only have 1 luggage,max 10 kilos, I had a HUGE backpack – twice the size of a normal hand luggage – plus a plastic bag in my hand, pretty full. But I made it through, hihihi. I don’t recall what happened on Monday…I had been awake since 8 AM on Sunday and had very interupted few hours of sleep. Then I went to work and well, think it all went well.
Conclusion -MUST go back to Edinburgh. And YOU must make sure to visit it. And don’t be surprised if you encounter flying witches. It feels so natural for them to be there.
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Bergen

All the pics are in this folder: http://chimaira.yagr.com/~lake/Oslo/?path=./bergen/ but below I referenced some of the subfolders.

So, I come to this city with the initial idea to see Meshuggah live and do some sightseeing then go back to Oslo and have the memories of a nice first trip in Norway (outside Oslo). But the days before departure, I looked up some photos on the web, the things to see there, I was told about its beauty and that I could have the time of my life there. So, welcome high expectations and I was like a bunny in a Duracell comercial the day before the departure. But it was aaaaalll worth it. Big times.

I think I had a pretty lucky day on Friday. Maybe I should have played the lottery as well,hm. It started at Oslo S where you have to buy those tickets for the train to the airport. There are sepparate selling machines and I chose one and when I wanted to pay with my Norwegian bank card (not a Visa yet) it wasn’t accepted. So I tried my Romanian Visa and luckily it had enough money on it to pay the 160 kr.

Flight was nice – as usual when I sit by the window – and I was even more excited to see all those mountains on the way, some lakes and SNOW. Not a lot of it, but enough to cover few peaks and valleys and make me feel like jumping out of the plane and just go hiking. It was gorgeous. See here

Airport in Bergen is pretty small and there is a shuttle bus taking you from there to the city center. I sat in the queue and at somepoint I realized I didn’t take any cash out and the bus probably doesn’t take cards. So I start searching my pockets and all the coins I found summed up to exactly 80 kr (what the bus costed). So luck number two. In the bus, the driver spoke so slowly in Norwegian that I understood almost everything. I thought it was because he was an old man, but lately I was to find out it is the local accent. Guess I should go there more often and practice my currently inexistent Norwegian skills.

I stepped off at one of the stations in the center. The driver explained nicely where each station is located and the next one was at the tourist information (probably the right place to start a visit) but because of the nice view, I took off earlier than that. Then, after taking the first few photos, I watched where the bus went, so I walked in that direction and ended up at the Info office. But before going in, I was astonished by the looks of the city. There are hills all around, with small Norwegian (or Scandinavian ?) houses scattered all over through forests and making you feel happy just to be there and get to see them. I was wondering how is it to wake up in one of them and look upon the city and the harbor and luckily again, I was to find out later.

At the tourist office, like in any other civilized place I’ve seen in Norway where people have to be in a queue for something, you get a number from a machine then wait till your number appears on top of the desk and you go there and get the stuff solved (hopefully). They give away free city maps (my best friend in bergen), sell postcards(first items purchased there), give information on the city, places, fjords, whatnots (though a queue for information should be separated from the one where you only need stamps). And all over the place there are tons of flyers with things to do in bergen and the surroundings. Fjordtrips, here I come next I hope. And another desk helps people to find accomodation.And if you make a bit of effort to read the stuff on the ‘walls’ you end up knowing some of the city history (effort that I didn’t bother with, obviously, as I had such a long day ahead).

There I go, armed with the tourist weapons (camera and map – actually I was just thinking that a combination of a GPS system and a camera to blink or yell or jump around when you are next to some important place to checkout would be quite handy. Let’s not go offtopic) and start my journey through the city.

Bergen more or less resembles a fork with 3 very inequal teeth. So, after checking the map, I plan to see the King Haakon’s place on the right tooth, the aquarium on the middle then see what next. But before going along any of them, since I was across the fishmarket, I just went there. Not a big market, but still fun to walk around it and see all sort of fishes sold there and prepared in more or less specific ways. As I was taking photos of the stands, a guy asked where I was from and when he heard Romania, he asked why do we speak so many languages in Romania (?). He met few people from there and they were all speaking differently. Not sure what he meant, but in the end I was offered to try anything there was for sale. But at 9 AM I didn’t quite feel like giving my stomach a hard time so I passed. I left after I taught him to say ‘How are you?’ and ‘I’m fine’. Later on I heard that if you want, you can end up having a good meal for free there just by trying out various stuff that people sell.

From there I decided to go to the funicular first, before the other tourists wake up and make 2 hours long queues (dunno if it happens, but was too early to fight paranoia). Once up there you come to think if you’re still on Earth and why can’t all of it look like that. I better let the pics do the talking.

Back to my plans, I walk to the castle (walking in this city feels a lot like walking back in time. Even if there are cars passing by, MacDonalds and boats around, the small paved streets, the look of the houses, the forests around don’t say anything about the 21st century. This I felt everyime I walked but it’s useless to mention it often and again, the pics will explain it). Another lucky moment, when I enter the yard and I go forward to see what a sign says (pic here) the tower that was mentioned in the sign just opened its doors. Well, not magically, but a guy dressed in a…some suit specific to castle servants, no idea what the word for that is…opened the door. I guess that if I had been there earlier, I might have missed it. It was a nice museum showing pieces of the tower’s history and evolution and you could walk all the way down and up and see all sort of chambers and even nicer, they explain what made them think that chamber X was used as a guard room or as the throne room, etc.

Once outside, I cross the street and end up at a sign saying Ferry to the aquarium. Well, going back on this ‘fork tooth’ and then taking a walk on the next one to the aquarium would have been around 20-25 mins as a woman told me. But what the heck. Let’s spend 20 kr on a trip across the water since I think I am starting to be on water. It was a very very tiny boat going every 10 mins and ‘drove’ by an old man. It took like 3-4 mins. Using the map and the nice signs telling you in which direction the aquarium is, I got there. And hey, lucky me again. They were just feeding the penguins and doing a bit of ‘trainings’ with them to the delighment of the children around. There were two nice ladies doing that and the good thing is that they both had microphones and were explaining to the crowd about the animals and what and why they do this or that. Both Norwegian and English. Then we moved to the seals pool where I got to see some tricks. Sweet creatures and even nicer, one of them is a movie star. Inside the aquarium, they have a pool where you can get your hand inside the water and touch and feel whatever’s there (plants, fishes, crabs). One guy caught a crab and showed it to his kid. But I think my fingers look still ok so I didn’t make an attempt. And since petting a fish seemed pointless, I just tried to see how few plants feel. Guess wet and slicky.

As I was leaving the aquarium, I got an SMS from the couchsurfing guy I was going to stay at.So there I was running back to the fishmarket even if ever 5 meters I felt like stopping and taking other pics. So later I had to return. He met me, told me he has other 2 surfers at his place, an Aussie guy and an American girl. He lives pretty close to the funicular place in a Norwegian looking like house (and quite welcoming as atmosphere). See pics. The other guests were supposed to leave by then, but they both changed plans. Only thr Aussie was there though. And he, the host, had a tone of DVDs with lots of series and movies so those two days, they pretty much spent them watching Entourage. On the way to his home, pe wassed through a street which according to the panner hung at its entrance says it is the oldest street in Bergen. The guy had no idea though. Guess not everyone is born to be a guide. Some are just hosts.

After 30 mins of interacting with people, since I was too restless, I took off (yea, it felt as if I was flying) to see the rest of the city. A guy called stomach though kept yelling at me so I had to make a pit stop at the fish market because since I was there first time I really wanted to try some of those salads or sandwiches that they served there. I bought a plate of sea fruits(?) or whatever the generic name for these creatures is. It was actually a plastic box, maybe the size of McDonalds’ salads. It had shrimps, a slice of salmon, black roe, some white unidentified fish meat, lots of salad, tomatoes, a sliceof lemon and one of egg). That plus a loaf=100 Kr. Scump, dom’le, scump. But well, not everyone sees Bergen everyday. I grabbed my salad and bread, the dressing and a fork and went and sat on a bench close to the water. A japanaese guy came and sat next to me. He bought himself a sandwich and before eating it started to take photos from various angles. The other sandwiches must have been really envious for this one was such a superstar. Oh well, I take enough pics so I shouldn’t actually comemnt on other habbits in this regard. Back to my food. I only ate half of it as it fills your stomach quickly so I started to throw breadcrumbs at the pigeon that landed next to me. Yey, happy guy. Then another one joined, and another, and another. Festing! Then a crow showed up, but was kinda shy and it was stealing pieces of bread then going a bit down on the rocks to eat. But when a big seagul came, the show was over. The big guy looked like a lion guarding his prey and he was more or less trying to bite all the other birds around him (or her…maybe. Makes more sense).

Off I am again with the plan to go back towards the aquarium and take pics. But, I had a show stopper on the way. An ad inf ront of a book shop having an offer that sounded like ‘Discworld series, all books at half price’. I wasn’t quite sure I read it right, so went in and asked a lady if it’s true. She told me it is and it’s about the end of the promotion and I’m pretty sure she didn’t lie, considering the number of books left on the shelves. So I did what crazy people do, and bought me about 15 books for about 700 Kr. And next time I buy books from these shops (Outland) I get two books for free. Cool.

Back to the guy’s place (he’s hosting so many people that he is used that the last person who leaves the house puts the key into the mailbox. Not sure how sfae it is, so far was ok). The American girl was there so I get to meet her as well. I get the appropriate comments for the books I bought, then I leave again.

Guess this is when I took most of the pics from the city. And on the same walk, but later on the day, I took the nighttime ones. To add few words about it… it’s such a friendly and warm and cozy place. Those small streets, most of them not having asphalt but pavement, with small houses painted in nice joyful colors and overall fitting well together, the flowers all over the place (windows, balconies) and the silence. Broken by some boat’s signal occasionally or a car driving by, but mainly silent. Think I am starting to learn again this word and what it really means. For me it was just enjoyable to take one step after another and simply turn right or left if I felt like, take a new pic…more steps, change direction again.

All that led me to the venue of the concert (see all pics from it here and I decided to check it out. There was a bus with Swedish plates outside and I was telling myself ‘hm, what if this is Meshugga’s?’. I go in, I end up in a room where people were arranging all the merchandise that was to be sold. Tons of tshirts and jewelry. No idea if there was media as well but I couldn’t care less. I was already done shopping for that trip. A girl with lots of blue stripes in her long dark hair and lots of piercings. Oh well, I decide to move further and see what’s in the next room. Hmm, I hear drums. Speeeeedy and heavy. And there was my luck again. It was Haake trying out the drumkit. Too bad it was at the end so I only heard few minutes but still enough to feel lucky. Then, the sound engineers took over and everyone started to move around me, carrying stuff, fixing wires etc. I even started to laugh since I was the only one not doing anything. And since I was feeling bad about it, I started taking pics. The funny thing is that nobody asked me anything. So in order to solve this communication issue, I went to one of the technicians and asked what’s the number of people expected at the festival and he said there were 700 tickets sold. And since the feeling of being useless there started to be overwhelming, I left.

Went back to the guy’s place as my legs were going on a strike and chatted with the American girl for a while (the Aussie left to stay somewhere else for the night) as she wants to start working in Norway and I shared some of my experience. On the way though, I stopped to buy few supplies and at the supermaket there was a gipsy man begging and asking for money so he could go back to Romania. If only they used the money for that…But eventually later I got an SMS from Lars’ brother and he and his friends were already at the concert so I left again happy that I won’t be alone at the festival.

On the way to the festival, I was asked by some drunk young guy how much do I take. I was thinking to reply that I don’t take, I give but well, it was safer to just keep quiet and play deaf.

I met Ola at the fest place called UTF. From what I noticed, I was the only one not wearing black. I actually had a light blue hoodie on me and a red jacket around my waist. But later on there was a guy with white jeans. I felt no longer so unique 🙂 And few minutes before I left, a guy in a white costume like the one worn by those people who see for radioactive stuff, except the face mask, showed up. He even had white rubber gloves.

A while after I arrived, I got a call from the other couchsurfer i know in Bergen, Andre, so went out and met him, esp as I was curious how his trip around Baltics went. He showed me the vase made by one of A-Ha members, took me to a nice and cozy bar where I drank a coke and told me of his adventures. Then he had to catch a bus to a party but for me it would have been useless to go since I wanted to be back to the festival in like 1h and it would have meant only 10-15 mins at the party. So I returned, took more night pics, and got there in time to see Behemoth. Nice energic show, but I am not so familiar with their music. But I like to see bands who play with passion like they did. Then, Meshuggaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh. 20 mins before if started or so, Ola’s friend, Ola and I went in front. So we were in the 2nd row on the right of the stage. We were talking about how I’d see on the stage and they told me that eventually I can ask the girl in front of me (who was about the same height as me) to move a little so I could see. And the girl turned around and said ‘I’ll do anything you ask me to’. I told her that I am flattered by the offer and it is a very interesting one.

Anyways, MMMMmmmmmmmmesshugggggaaaaaaahhhhhh. So I started in the 2nd row. But after the first riff was heard (actually Haake teased us a while before they started, but I guess they also had some issues since there were too many sound guys on the stage checking the monitors) I felt the crowd falling on me from the left so luckily – again – I could move right next to the guy who was next to the girl with the above offer. In the first row that is. It was straight in front of the speakers, but they were not too tall so I could see perfectly. Actually I stared almost all the concert at the guitarist and bassist and the drummer since I could see the incredible way they played all night long. Haake lost a drumstick at the beginning and he was kinda hillarious till he got a new one, but overall, I think not even an octopuss can beat that guy. From the playlist, I mention Bleed, Pravus (mmm), Rational Gase, the Mouth licking what you’ve bled and at the end, Future Breed machine that set everyone on fire (including me) and I headbanged so heavy I thought my neck would break. Luckily it didn’t. They said they’ll put up pics on metalshots.com so I am looking forward to that now.

I only stayed for 2 of Carcass songs. Could hardly stand and I had to walk back. Got a bit confused on the streets at some point, but made it perfectly safe and all I remember was laying on the mattress. I think the American girl came back a while after me and I told her a little about the concert. But dunno what else (and not because of the beer since I hardly had 3 that day).

Wake up, pack stuff and since the guy who hosted us had to leave to play football then to a party, I took my stuff to the train station then left to see the remaining places according to the map. I saw the botanical garden, too bad the tropical house was closed. So I enjoyed watching the fishes in the water lillies’ water and a cat watching them but being to scared to try the water. From there I walked a little and got to the Naval museum or so. They had a lot of ship models, of old ships pieces and as usually when I’m in a museum and wonder what kind of stories those things can tell, I find it fascinating.

In the end, before leaving, I stop at a supermarket and buy me something to eat. I think pasta and chicken with rice.

You can embark on the train 30 mins before if leaves. It is really clean inside, I had a seat right in the vagon with cafeteria. When I sat down, I was a bit confused about the seat number, and since I wanted to look out through the window, I sad on the one next to the window, obviously. A 20 year old or younger guy came and asked me ‘Are you sitting there?’. I was puzzled for few seconds since to me it was kinda obvious that indeed, I was sitting there. So I replied with a long yes. Then it turned out I took his place. Oh well, luckily there were other empty places around there for few hours so I could just sit by the window and get enchanted. I mean, I knew from before that this part of the world has some extreme beauties when it comes to landscapes, but when you actually get to see them with your own eyes, you are incapable of understanding how can there be so many of them one after another. Words are totally useless unless I invent some new ones to combine all the superlatives for beautiful, amazing, awesome, magic, incredible, etc. Yea,limited vocabulary. So enjoy the pics.