Friday, August 21, 2009

European Tour 2009 part 1: intro, setup, landing

What follows is a transcription of my notes from my vacation of 2009 to central Europe. There has been some cleanup and editing, but the original structure and nearly all of the original content is there, hence the "you are there" style. This particular trip covers from 24 July to 10 August 2009, a total of 18 days. As expected from nearly 3 weeks on the road in foreign countries, there are a lot of pictures, well over seven hundred, and a lot of scribbling in between.

In the course of this trip, I ran through about four full charges of camera batteries, three pens, and something like 200 notebook pages, which required the purchase of a backup notebook. Shaking this all out into digital form also took a while, but hopefully will be rewarding.

A note on pictures: I am not a professional photographer and for this trip was using a four-year-old camera with accordingly limited capacities, and a lot of the shots from festivals were done at night, unbraced, and tend to look like crap. Don't use this as an authoritative source for band pictures, or complain that there's too much frame shake in the low-light shots. Most everything came out, but there's still a few that didn't, most of which are still included here for historical reasons.


Day 0
24 July 2009
Boston - MA - USA

For the next 17 days, I'm going to disappear. Off the map, off the radar, into a shadow life as part tourist, part missionary, part bum in a north-south corridor from the Øresund to the Thuringian hinterland. I have only the barest semblance of a plan or an itinerary, but I do have a definite mission to fulfill in several parts.

1) To explore and note points of interest in the Copenhagen-Malmö-Øresund area.
2) To investigate the feasibility of a paddlecraft crossing of the Øresund at Helsingør-Helsingborg.
3) To celebrate the 20. Jubiläum of the W:O:A and see as many bands as possible.
4) To explore Party.San and see as many bands as possible.
5) To evangelize the New England metal scene to the greatest extent practical at the foregoing festivals.
6) To investigate points and events of interest in Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, and the German transit system.
7) To record physical, intellectual, and cultural observations in the course of the above objectives in words and pictures, and to publish them for the edification of those who couldn't come along, or who not being me do not have the same experiences of the same places and events. There are going to be 70,000 stories of Wacken this year, and about 10,000 of Party.San. This one is mine.

000. Imports not declared. This is nearly everything; CDs and stickets from Parasitic Extirpation, promo cards from Composted, pins and stickers from Dysentery, pins and sticks from Autumn Above, and some additional stickers for Parasitic Extirpation and Goreality. How these were disposed -- and nearly all of them for distributed -- will be covered on later days.

001. The journey begins... It's just the train station in my hometown, but every travelogue has to start somewhere, and this is where I stepped off the map from. Additionally, Aaron had been pressuring me to make a better record of these endeavors, suitable for RTTP linkage, and I'd also been unduly influenced by Forbidden Railway, which is of course the king of the DIY travelogues. Seriously, go read it. Helmut's pics of the transition from the orderly Vienna suburbs to the USSR-echoes of European Russia and then the wilds of Siberia and finally he austerity and barrenness of North Korea are effective because he starts the station shots in somwhere relatively normal for his audience; the reader starts in the ordinary with him, and then goes off with him over the edge of the world.

This, of course, is going to be nothing so adventurous or awesome, but just as every adventure is fundamentally "there and back again", every time you step out your front door can be an adventure if approached correctly, and this trip, changing continents to see some rather epic lineups, is admittedly a little more epic than many.


Day 1
25 July 2009
Keflavik - Reykjanes - Iceland

If you're for some reason keeping a "bucket list" or something, on it needs to go "fly in to Iceland at dawn". As that rose-and-purple glow starts to light up the terrain below you, you look down and see spots and stands that remain black poking up through the white, alien and inscrutable. You ask yourself, are those volcanic rocks poking up out of the sea, crags in a glacier field? But the white is too unevenly leveled for the first, too uniformly contiguous for the second, and presently it becomes clear that you are still too high for either, and what you are seeing are the tips of mountain, pushing up through the blanketing clouds.

Later, if you're coming in to Keflavik (and being Iceland, country of few people and fewer international-capable airports, you probably are), you land on an airstrip carved out of a lavafield, with most of the original terrain intact. Unfortunately, because the plane got a wicked late start from Boston, all this purple prose boils down to exactly zero pictures, due to spending less than 10 minutes in Iceland and not in a flying tin can, and much of that either waiting in security lines or quick-marching in stocking feet, and occasionally both. I'm going to have to come back here some time and put boots on the ground; zero time past passcheck with shoes on due to zero time to make the next connection. Amazingly, my pack made it through as well.

002. The only souvenir of Iceland. As a language geek, I had to get a picture of something with a thorn (funny crossed D or Đ) in it. Additionally, if I ever finish that late-Ildjarn-ripoff record with Coelem, I'm using the latter sentence in this pictue as the title. There will be massive lulz when the meaning is discovered, so no translation now.

København - Hovedstaden - Denmark

003. Street near the hotel.

004. Ok, no more bitching about gas prices ever. Yes, these are to two decimal places in kroner/liter, but still: about 4 L/gal, 40 kroner ~= $10. Eight to ten bucks a gallon when we're barely short of three in the states, and a 180% sales tax on cars? It helps to explain the comfy metro (pictured a few days on) and the racks and racks of cycles, but people still drive here regardless.

This hotel is in a pretty good place; a decent neighborhood with easy metro access and good local services even apart from the hotel. This means said gas station, with a wide variety of local foods and beers in addition to relatively liberal hours open; this is the great virtue of gas stations in Europe, reliably providing 20-hour minimarts in nations where most shops tend to close around 8pm.

005. Stormclouds cover the kingdom. Some impressive weather over the street by the hotel.

((006. Not germane.))

All of the pictures I took are numbered consecutively for personal archiving; some are published in some contexts but not others for various reasons, but in order to keep me from going insane writing them up, the consecutive numbering system has to remain constant. Those pulled from here have zero novelty or historical relevance and are usually, like this one, more of pure personal messages.

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