En route to Sweden and party boat in my head.

Somewhere in Helsinki I overheard a conversation in English about a daily ferry that goes to Stockholm and though the trip would be a few hours long, it sounded like an interesting idea and thus, I got me a round trip ticket.

Hauling over my shoulders 35 lbs of luggage plus another 15 or so of photography equipment over my chest, as I was closing in to the ferry terminal, some other backpacker dude, very friendly and jolly fellow (as opposed to me) stopped to asked me if I was headed to Sweden and offered to give me his Stockholm card since he wasn’t going to use it anymore.

Normally this card goes now a days for about 765 Swedish Krona (89 USD) but I was going to get it for free. Had it been in NYC or in South America, this exchange would be done through either a reciprocal exchange of body fluids / hand job (NYC) or coercion via mugging or a knife to the neck, so I wasn’t sure which one I would have had to chose if that were the case. But no, the guy was a nice American fellow who was nearing the end of his travels and was kind enough to offered me the rest of his unused card.

I wouldn’t have minded if he’d offered his unused Swedish money or Euros as well since they tend to be uncomfortably big on your wallet, but I couldn’t be too greedy. Of course this would have been in exchange for a thank you and good intentions for the rest of his travels, nothing else.

The big red boat named Gabriella was big enough to fit in its vowels a shit ton of trucks, buses and cargo and several floors of people, mostly tourists and young plebeians. I had heard during the week that on certain days, this becomes a party boat with mostly young Swedish men and women in several states of intoxication and undress. I missed those by a day apparently, so my general apathy for the younger generation in varying degrees of foolishness was unhindered until we set sail at 4pm and the sun started setting a few hours later.

DSC_4677-2
This pic is mine

The trip to Stockholm was close to 17 hours so I had plenty of time to roam around the labyrinthine corridors of the boat and enjoy the lazy rocking over the choppy, foamy waters.

In some of the common areas, I saw many back packers and locals set up shop there and for what I was told, they only paid a very basic price, which for the non spendthrift (which I should have been), was a pretty good deal, except for the uncomfortable 17 hour ride sleeping on the first unoccupied bench. In my case, I had booked a cabin with a window to the water which was rather pricey, but for the experience in itself and the fact that I did not know when I’d be back to that part of the world, I forked out the extra for the comfort. Besides, back then I had a good job and I could afford that shit. Of equally great importance in booking the fancy room was the fact that it had wifi and I wanted to be in contact with the Canadian I was dating that time. And just in case some sexting would have happened (maybe it did, maybe it didn’t, I won’t disclose), what better way to commit impure acts have a private conversation with her than in the comfort of your own room with a view to the ocean.

My rounds on the boat came to a halt once I went to the bar/restaurant/stage to check things out and sip a bubbly while watching a nice, quiet sunset. This didn’t last long as a barrage of people in their 20s, made their way in for dinner and drinks. Less than an hour later, Gabriella started taking on its reputation as party boat, while I was slowly starting to inwardly fume and utter obscenities at the rowdiness and the people involved. But I was rather surprised at myself that I ended up enjoying most of the foolishness, especially watching the drunk Finns sing karaoke to American songs in Finnish while shooting the shit and laughing banteringly with a few of them.

Right before getting kicked out of the venue, I attempted to walk back to my royal chambers. My head was rocking back and forth and the boat felt like it was listing to both sides at the same time even though the ride itself was over smooth waters at the moment and completely upright. My brain was like: “it ain’t the alcohol, it’s this damn boat that doesn’t want to stay still.”

I felt like a dishrag and I immediately passed out in my room looking as such, but with a smile plastered on my face. At 6:30 am was my scheduled time to show up at the main dining area for a nice breakfast with a gorgeous view.

DSC_4777
This pic is mine too

Sitting next to strangers who did not feel like socializing and looking more hungover than I was, was not my cup of tea. But the amount of good food definitely was and so I focused my energy on looking down at my plate and chomping absolutely everything that landed on it except squishy and weird looking sea dwelling creatures.

An hour before reaching our final destination, I sat down in one of the common areas with a hot cup of coffee. Feeling the heaviness of the night before with the few hours of sleep, made me feel a comfortable languor while staring at the beautiful bright mounds of greenery of Sweden. The boat wafted very quietly along a narrow channel as cute little wooden houses scattered along the banks slowly woke up to this lethargic and crisp morning.

DSC_4627
And so is this one
DSC_4629
And this one. 🙂

Tears welled up in my eyes while watching the palette of the Swedish country side pass by and wishing my mother, more than anyone, were experiencing this with me and hoping too that this throbbing headache would dissipate once and for all.

Welcome to HEL. Helsinki, Finland, short and sweet. Part 1

In 2011 I went to Finland just because I fucking felt like it. Period.

I had been visiting way too many countries on the eastern and western parts of Europe and decided to give a try to the northern parts, and Finland was the first.

I’ve been fascinated with this country for a very long time. I grew up playing drums and listening to metal music that came from this part of the world. Since then, it’s been one of those countries that grew in appeal as a result of the music it exposed. Not coincidentally, a while back I read about the influence this type of music has had in my generation, to want to travel to Finland or be interested in the language. I fall into both of these categories.

Arriving in Helsinki, the first thing I learned, out of hearing everyone repeat it when performing an action for someone else was Kiitos.  Basically, thank you.

Not content with just being a royal freak, but also a language freak, I decided to learn some of the vocabulary. However, by the time I headed off to my next destination, all I could remember were 3 very important phrases, which are indeed very essential to social survival when you don’t know fluently how to speak the language.  Or if you are from New York, it’s basically the Finnish equivalent of how you’d express yourself in public:

Vittu tätä paskaa: fuck this shit

Mitä vittua?: what the fuck?

Paskiainen!: Son of a bitch!

Or you can colorfully combine them, just like we do with Spanglish and instead say, what the vittu?

Being that I didn’t find proper and cheaper accommodation in the city, mostly because my lazy ass failed to reserve a hotel / hostel well in advance, I ended up having to pick the cheapest one at the last minute during my stop over in Amsterdam. It was in Espoo, west of Helsinki. Being the second largest city in Finland, you’d think a lot of activity goes on but for a Thursday night, it was eerily quiet as shit.

At the hotel, I remember watching a tv show, where Monica Lewinski was the presenter and her bubbly self was showing the hottest spots around NYC and flirting with men that looked nothing like Bill Clinton. I decided to change the channel so as to not bore myself to tears and actually fell asleep watching a show on the mating life of bugs. A topic rather similar to what I wanted to dig in further with a Canadian I had started dating back in North America around that time.

I had a limited time in Helsinki that first round before heading over to Sweden. The day started with typing into Google “shit to do in Helsinki when time is limited“. A 50 minute bus ride from Espoo later, gave me plenty of time to day dream of breakfast instead of planning what the hell I was going to do that day. By the time I arrived in Helsinki’s city center, hunger and lack of caffeine had gotten a hold of my mood that fed the monkey on my back; making me blind with lust for something beefy and greasy.

I couldn’t help launching death stares at people who crossed my path as If I wanted to punch things or bipedal creatures, but it was already noon, hadn’t found what I was looking for and the lack of coffee was making me irritable, thus turning me into a sour woman. Macdonald’s delivered me from all evil, along with the sought after wifi to check the map for the tenth time and guide my ass properly to the opposite direction of where I was initially going.

Square 1Square 2

(Sorry again for the lame picture alignment.)

Belly full and the monkey off my back, walking quietly by my side, I managed to find Senate Square. This is one of the busiest places for first timers and non whites alike and my happy ass meshed along the throngs of annoying tourists. I wasn’t one of those, however because I am simply special. 🙂

Market Square

I spent about 8 hours walking around, starting with Helsinki Cathedral, which for us tourists, marks the very Senate Square spot from the map and can be seen from the distance. Along with the surrounding buildings of the Government Palace, the University of Helsinki nearby and 2 blocks down, a crowded market square, it’s a nice place to hang out and see the diversity of cultures,  the richness and historical beauty of this city.

This first/second day was rather mellow and walking around a 2 mile radius, enjoying the cloudy day and listening the locals yap away in Finnish, made me excited enough to want to learn the language aside from the bad words. Early evening, my body clock and my old bones wanted to shut down shop, so I headed over back to Espoo, with a cold cut in my bag and accompanied my dinner with a re-heated coffee in the comfort of my room.

I gently dozed off to the ad nauseam cackling and toothy grin of Monica Lewinsky and her pseudo whatever ass show, before waking myself up later by my own snoring.

More of my pictures of Finland here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/35364537@N07/sets/72157646474299453

Finland review to be continued….

Cologne – Carnival 2014

Part of my destinations in 2014 during my spring backpacking expedition did not include Germany. A good friend of mine had convinced me to go visit her in Luxembourg and I had planned a few extra days to visit that very nice and small country. I also planned on visiting other friends who are living and working there and I wanted to explore the possibility of me setting permanent shop in Luxembourg.

At the very last minute, however, as soon as I arrived in Lux city, my friend texted me and told me she was in Germany instead and to come over for carnival and there was plenty of alcohol.

So I went.

The train ride from Lux to Germany was fun and interesting, and after my transfer point somewhere In Germany, shit started to get real. The trains were full of people in costumes and passing by villages and small cities, everywhere you could see parades going on, and people in costumes, along with many drunken idiots, which never fail.

Upon arrival in Cologne, after sharing the train ride with more drunken people I had ever wanted to see in my life, the amount of humans that flooded the station was beyond overwhelming. Sure everyone was dressed up and in party mode, but once you see people drunk and being loud, you know there is going to be some sort of rowdiness. And there was, mostly in the form of guys screaming, pushing and shoving other people and throwing cans and glass bottles on the street or into the crowds.

DSC_0919

The amount of shit I was hauling around with the luggage and camera gear had me in the worst possible mood. Add an entire city crammed inside a station doing stupid shit and my level of misanthropy skyrockets. At that moment it had me doubting why in the hell did I agree to come to Cologne for this foolishness. But I hadn’t seen my friend in ages so I shut the hell up.

The baggage lockers were actually automatized via kiosks where you pay up, drop your shit in a little elevator shaft thing and it is then sent along cavernous little tunnels on conveyor belts and laser guided GPS chips with security cameras for each piece of luggage and… (I’m making all that up, I don’t know really how all that works) securely placed in the bowels of the train station, somewhere. So that relieved some pressure from my shoulders and a cup of coffee next, helped to lessen a little my level of dislike for people in huge crowds.

A few minutes later and with just my camera gear, which by the way usually consists of more electronics than I  could possibly have, I managed to meet my friend in the middle of all that craziness, along with a better disposition and determination to enjoy my short stay there.

The rest of the day was spent in good company with my friend’s friends and a ton of American expats. Drinking, partying and watching a lot of the madness going on in the different areas of the city where there was nothing but people in costumes. I was the only one dressed like a “normal” person, but that in itself made me look like a sore thumb. In order to remedy this, my friends decided to pimp me up as a girl, complete with fake eye lashes, eye liner, make up and all and a smurf hat, just to make sure I looked pretty enough and got some attention.

DSC_0857

(Sorry about the picture layout, I’m still trying to figure this wordpress crap)

Complaining that I did not want to be out there looking like this was not getting me anywhere, as my friend vowed to drop me off in the gay area of the city, which was right next to where she lived. Walking past small groups of people did get me more than enough unwelcome looks. If it weren’t because I had women next to me, I would probably be approached and manhandled. In my tipsy state and level of exhaustion who knows, I may have liked it.

Next day was spent at the house of one of the couples that I met the day prior. They live right in the epicenter of where the carnival was taking place. With huge windows and plenty of food and drinks, we enjoyed all of the craziness that took place that day.

A lot of characters and floats were made very political and poked fun at the United States issue with Snowden, the NSA, Obama and in general how the United States is viewed in other parts of the world; quite deservedly so.  Obviously it wasn’t American satirical expression only but from other countries as well and not only political.  Ok maybe yes, mostly political. Upon reviewing some of my pictures, I did notice that pattern.

DSC_1132

Carnival time is usually held in many places around the world at the same time, usually before Lent. However in Cologne, it officially starts the November before but the “crazy days” as it is called, don’t start until Thursday before ash Wednesday, which is when the street version of the carnival actually starts.

There is a sort of love-hate regional rivalry between Cologne and Dusseldorf for carnivals, soccer and booze. So each other try to pull off the best and biggest, loudest, rowdiest carnivals and the type of beer that they may drink. For what I was told, people in Cologne would make fun of you for ordering a certain kind of beer that you’d only drink in Dusseldorf. Not sure how true all of it is, but I hope to experience the Dusseldorf carnival next time I want to go and let women dress me up as a girl.

DSC_1231

All in all it was a great experience. The drunkenness and the misbehavior reminded me of after party hours in New York city on a Saturday, multiplied by 1001 times

More images here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/35364537@N07/sets/72157648394640928

Das Ist Berlin ♪ ♫ Das Ist Berlin ♫ ♬ – Part 1

This post  was on my previous blog a couple of years ago before I stopped writing on it:
After some pondering, short bouts and arguing with myself regarding this blog, I’ve decided I won’t be blogging about a location in any particular, chronological order. Or any order whatsoever, for that matter.  Whenever I feel like blogging about a place, I’ll just look at my pics and rant about it.
Tonight (Saturday night, because I lack social life in the winter months), I picked Berlin, Germany.
A few months ago, I took my mom to Europe and showed her some of the places I’ve already been to. Berlin was our first stop. For someone who never traveled when she lived in South America, my mom was very open and curious about the new culture and life before her eyes. Not just because of how complicated their language sounded, but also, the cleanliness, diversity and beauty of this gorgeous city.
A friend of mine, whom I had befriended online a few years ago during my first visit (nothing shady to speak of.. will explain more later), was kind enough to take us on a little tour of the city and show us the most interesting and colorful places (obviously). First on the list, the gigantic Central Station.
Our rendezvous point was McDonald’s. After the long overnight trip and few hours of sleep, I was in no particular mood to find for a place that I could not pronounce, and I was starving. Therefore, McDonald’s seemed like an obvious choice. Mom was happy as a little kid. Hungry? Tired? Sleepy? Screw that! She was in Europe and was sure to enjoy every bit of it.
From the main train station we walked a few hours, passing by low rise buildings and plenty of open space areas, such as where the German Parliament is located. The architecture, in my opinion, is a great mix of the cold, gray government buildings from the end of the 19th century and an open and modern touch, such as the dome built atop the Reichstag building. Unfortunately, there was not enough time for us to go and climb up and check out the panoramic view from this location. I wanted to get it over with and catch some sleep.
                      DSC00742
The Reichstag dome – (Left pic credit http://www.galinsky.com)

Potsdamer Platz

The good thing about having a local show you around his/her city is obvious. They know what the hell they are talking about, and my friend in particular, knows the history of his country incredibly well. He also disclosed to me that he was part of the crew, pushing down the wall blocks at the Pink Floyd concert in 1990 (Roger Waters, actually, with music from PF), where, if anyone old enough remembers, towards the end of the show, an 82ft high wall is knocked down, giving it a climaxing energy to what was an awesome show and to the fact that the Berlin wall had come down a few months prior. I know that some of the younger folk wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about this event in particular, or the significance of the Berlin wall, from a historical and cultural point of view, but when I saw that concert on TV back then, it was an incredibly elaborate display, which also showed the  new unity of this city.

What we knew from Berlin, back in the day, was not exactly all flowers and happiness and I developed a growing interest in this part of the world. Thus, with the concert that greatly caught my attention, I loved it and the city and it stayed in my mind for a very long time.

Before this though, as a young pup, I pictured places like Berlin as a cold European city with a perpetual shade of monochromatic gray clouds, of the likes of London. The language alone didn’t allure me to venture into places like this, but time went by, I got out of my hole, moved countries, matured (kind of) and decided to travel. Realizing too that Berlin is a very happy and colorful city under a vibrant sun and blue skies.

Anyways, a second installment should follow, or perhaps of another location. I don’t know yet. Everything with me is random and unexpected.

More images here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/35364537@N07/sets/72157622459545468

Prolegomena

 

This blog shall be dedicated exclusively to traveling and everything related to not being in one place.

At the moment, this is a pilot project, for what has become now my fourth blog presence. However, it may or may not include as much tomfoolery I have portrayed in previous appearances. Additionally, this blog used to be on Blogger, but that platform is like Google’s abandoned ugly child with no appeal.

Being that I do photography and decided to travel extensively over the past few years, I’ve managed to catch  moments, not only through the camera, but also capture experiences through emotions that are “lived to tell the tale.” The title, however, pertains more to the characteristic of my personality which tends to incline on the cranky side, involuntarily more than by choice. Though the latter is rather my favorite. And it’s not my fault that people generally piss me off. 🙂

This blog, perhaps will be guided in a completely new direction, as opposed to what I’ve written before in the archives of my other personal blog. I will see how the niche is felt in the corridors of this new endeavor, by means of what I spew forth with my words.