2012-01 – Malmo and Copenhagen

Posted by jswt | Posted in Denmark - Copenhagen, Sweden - Malmo | Posted on 29-01-2012


Hopped back over the ocean and flew into Copenhagen, where I met up with a couple good friends from the UK who were popping out to join us for a few days… We grabbed the 20 minute train to Malmo, Sweden and set into catching up.

Met up with Chris at the hotel, freshened up, and went out to grab a bite and a few beers while the four of us caught up on 1.5 year’s worth of stories, and missed gossip – hadn’t hung out with them since Field Day in London a couple years back… C&J had been together for quite some time, and I’ve known J since we were wee lads and he came to Canada on an exchange trip (“I’m in Regina. Please tell me there’s more to Canada than this?”).

Malmo was cute, clean and full of gorgeous people, but overly polite, expensive, and uptight in proper Swedish form, so the next morning we woke up slowly and just after noon caught the train back over to Copenhagen for some more interesting wandering in one of my favorite cities.

It’d been almost 3 years since I’d been in Copenhagen last (spent 2 weeks there), and I wondered if my rose-colored memories would be changed with a lot more euro-tripping under my belt, but I was happy to find that it still resonated in my heart and made me feel well at home almost immediately. I’ve always described Copenhagen as feeling like Vancouver in 300 years – when Vancouver stops being uptight and trying to force itself to be something, and just relaxes into itself, gets comfortable in it’s strengths, and realizes that it’s all good just as it is… Unbelievably hot people on bikes filled the “second sidewalk” bike lanes, and scurried about on their way to fill their heads with knowledge, have beers with friends, or design fantastic home accessories that are both functional and cozy… Seriously – the danes have a word, “hygge’ (pronounced hewge) that loosely translated can be considered “coziness” and includes the presence of and pleasure from comforting, gentle, and soothing things. Hygge is described as a deep sense of place & well-being; a feeling of friendship, warmth, contentment and peace with your immediate surroundings. I dig large on a culture based around being cozy.

We had a good day wandering the city, with some time spent in the Danish Design Museum and the archeological museums (that had fascinating egyptian and roman collections), strolling along the canals at sunset, wandering shops, and having a great dinner at a little cafe (where we got the last non-reserved table for the evening).

After dinner, we ended up doing some sleazy bar hopping, and had a blast doing shit-pop kareoke to backstreet boys in a jail cell in some weird fetish club, making friends with random danes and their girlfriends, impromptu navel lint competitions, and being generally much too silly while having an exceptionally fun time. Greasy kebabs on the way to the train, and it was back to Malmo for some sleep in Sweden.

The next day, Chris was off but we let C&J have the day to wander while we lazed about and took it easy while Chris shook off work and I worked through jetlag. We met up with the guys later that afternoon, went for some tapas at a great spanish place, and then took them to their very first hockey game where they were confused at “rugby on skates”, but got quite into it.

Chris worked the next day, so I wandered some shops with the guys and had some lunch before they had to catch their train, before which some sad farewells were hugged out and plans to meet up again somewhere along the road were laid.

Back to the hotel, and I finished up the week in my standard work/gym/sleep routine while doing my best to avoid overpriced swedish food ($40 for a ramen and 4 pieces of sushi! seriously!), and saving my energies for more exciting places along the way.

Malmo would have been a pretty boring place, but thankfully the proximity to Copenhagen and the company of good friends made it a more than tolerable week…

Home is where your cat is.

Posted by jswt | Posted in Canada - Vancouer | Posted on 20-01-2012


So once again it was time to pop into Vancouver and spend some quality time at home: see family, hang out with friends, catch up on all the in-person things we have to do in a blitzkreig compression, and try to rest a little in between all of that (never successful).

Highlights of being home were a few decent days snowboarding up on Cypress, getting to hang out with our friends C&S on the day that C became an offical honest to goodness Canadian (Congrats, mate!), double late Christmas dinners at both sets of parents, a hockey game (thanks M&D!), and a fantastic dinner with M&A where we could finally repay them for their hospitality in Adelaide.

Chris flew out, and I stayed home an extra week for a big night out with the boys, some extra snowboarding, paperwork and accounting catchup, and going with C&F to J’s album release party (!!!METAL!!!). Some quality time on the couch with my cat, a cup of tea and a blanket while watching waves of snowstorms roll over the city was the icing on the cake.

As always, the time was short, and it was hard to see everyone and do everything we wanted, but soon enough it was time to go once more and I was catching a flight back to Europe for another leg o’ wandering…

New Years in Estonia

Posted by jswt | Posted in Estonia - Tallinn, General | Posted on 03-01-2012


With Lithuania and Latvia behind us, it was off to our final Baltic stop and we rolled into Tallinn, Estonia late on Christmas day. This was by far the nicest of the three Baltic cities we’d visited, and their old city centre was one of the nicest we’ve ever visited; it was a vacation spot for Hitler, so it didn’t get bombed out during the war and still has the city walls and old-y world charm completely intact.

The city was pretty quiet in the lull between xmas and NYE, so there was a little exploring and eating out, but again, it was a bit of lockdown making use of the fantastically reliable internet to finish up a project before…

Just after midnight on December 31st, my good friend S showed up at the airport in Tallinn! She’d been at a nerd conference in Berlin for a few days, and had decided that rather than flying all the way back to Vancouver for a jetlaggy NYE there, she’d just hop over to Estonia for a wee rockout with us instead! After having extended invites to people to come visit for the better part of 3 years, she was the first N.American friend to come visit us on the road, and we were super excited to see her, not just because she was a familiar face, but because she’s super fantastic, likeminded and ultrafun (womp womp). This was her first time outside of North America, and she’d kept a weird sleep schedule from the conference that fit well with my hacking-till-6-or-7-am pattern, so when Chris went to bed around 3am, we decided to pop out for a wander into the old town which was hopping. We found a nice little 1000+ year old lounge, and settled in for some beers, snacks and killer campy tunes provided by DJ DrunkBrit. A wander back to the hotel as a light snow fell, sent us off nicely to sleep to gear up for New Year’s Eve…

Back in November, I’d been hunting around for something to do in Tallinn for NYE, and had laughed my ass off when I realized that the Vengaboys (with such mid-90s classic cheesy pop anthems as Boom Boom Boom Boom and We Like To Party) were playing a NYE set in town. Funny enough, it was S who’d laughed the hardest at this, as we’re both known for getting obnoxiously drunk while DJing and working that rubbish into our sets. Through some connection of dots, we ended up with 4 VIP passes for the club, and after a disconap and some lobby eats, we rolled out to the club around 11:30. Of course, we were thinking about it thru N.American filters, and when we got to the club there was no one there, and the bouncer who was setting up the ropes looked at us like we were insane – “Vengaboys. 3am”, he said in a thick accent. This worked out well, as we walked the short bit back to the hotel, grabbed some bottles from the room, and settled in with a bunch of friends and their hookah, and popped a few bottles of champagne amongst familiar faces to ring in the New Year. (Note: Estonians like their fireworks. From the stroke of midnight, and for at least half an hour, the city exploded into a display of light and ka-booms and sounded like a warzone, except with more cheering and less dying.)

Around 2:30, we rolled back to the club, and were happy to discover that the VIP area served free vodka (I will give credit to the Russians for this positive influence!). At 3am, the Vengaboys took to the stage, and it was absolutely, exactly what we expected – a tongue-in-cheek camped up rockout of glitter and sequined outfits that haven’t been quite fit into for at least 5 years. There was no room for seriousness or attitude on the dancefloor, and we tore into it with a vengence.

After their “rousing” 30 minute set (during which they ran out of repitoire, so they played their opening number again as their encore), we had a couple more drinks and then Chris had to head back to the hotel as he worked the next morning. S and I were nowhere near done, so we headed off to another club where we were guestlisted, and power-euro-tranced around that dancefloor while S toyed with the sharks. Around 6 we headed out, had some greasy food, ended up with fireworks, made sure a girl passed out in the snow was ok, got hugged and danced with strangers, and admired greatly an entire city was *shitfaced* at 7am, but smiling, singing and being merry — stark contrast to granville street at 2am. As S yelled out: “You’re doing it wrong! You should be fighting and puking! Learn from Canada!”… Arm in arm stumble back to the hotel where we fell asleep for the first dreams of 2012.

The next day was lunch and a sauna before we started packing and prepping for our flight home the next day. S was very helpful as we finished the partial bottles of vodka we didn’t want to take home with us (russian pepper vodka – gadzooks!!), and busting into impromptu happy hardcore dance parties. Our flight left the next morning at an ungodly hour, so we hugged S and said our farewells and thanked her for coming and making NYE memorable, and for being a fantastic familiar face to have around…

I would go back to Tallinn again, especially since you can take a ferry from there to St. Petersburg, Russia where they’ll waive the visa requirement for 72 hour visits. It’s got a great old town, more strip clubs and brothels than you would ever expect, and the nightlife is small-towny, but really good fun.

So that was the end of our month in the Baltics — Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn…. Added onto months through Russia and the Ukraine (with a week in Spain to keep us from going insane) we were really really excited to be going home to Vancouver for a couple weeks to see family, friends, and our homebase.

And to not drink vodka for a while.