All entries for Sunday 26 June 2005

June 26, 2005

Brandenburger Concerto à la Laura

I’m now on my own in a little room in Berlin. The room is located in the top floor of a massive ugly post-war concrete house, which is colonized by a bunch of 50-year-old balding men. The course of events which has lead to this peculiar situation is the following:

Over the last few years it has come really popular among Finns to buy a car in Germany. The prices are considerably much lower and german cars are respected and well-built. So, since I was going to travel in Germany anyway, my brother Verkku decided he has to come over and buy a great german car. Verkku just passed the driving test about 32 days ago and was extremely excited about the task.
Katrin’s family generously helped us and accommodated my brother. They put us in touch with the previous owner of the car and helped with the daunting german law regulations involved in the international car registration. Without their help it would not have been possible to the car business sorted.

On Wednesday night 22.6 at 1.19

My brother Verkku arrived at Nuremberg railway station having flown first to Riga, Latvia and then to Munich. Me and Katrin were really knackered after a few active days and late nights and still went to Nuremberg already 2 hours earlier. It was a struggle to stay awake till my brother came. When we eventually found him and set off to go back to Katrin’s, we realized we don’t know the way. We spent about one hour zigzagging on the dual carriage way leading to Krottensee thinking that we’ve gone wrong somewhere. The lack of road signs is a serious problem in Germany because we were all the time on the right road but the road signs were so confusing that we thought we should go elsewhere. But we got back in the end, after 3 o’clock.

In the Thurday morning 23.6

we got up late – lovely – and had early lunch at Katrin’s grandma’s. Katarina is so sweet, I told her that my grandma in Finland died recently and she said she is now my grandma in Germany. When I went to greet her a few days before(that’s 3 years since I had last seen her) she had the biggest smile on her face and she said “Meine Enkelin ist zurückgekommen!” (My granddaughter has returned!) “Meine deutsche Oma” made us a beautiful lunch with the vegetables from her own garden. We had vegetable soup with Kohlrabe, then lamb and Knödels and salad. We were extremely full after the meal and headed to Schwimmbad, a outdoor-swimming pool as it was really hot once again. At around 4 we went to have a look at the car my brother wanted to buy. That was actually Katrin’s cousin’s car, a 10-year-old BMW which is still in a nice condition. He did a test drive, was happy with the car and decided he wants to buy it. Then we started a battle with horrible German laws concerning the car registration etc. We made so many phone calls and were really stressed on Thursday night, thinking that we are not even able to get the car to Finland. The biggest problem was the hectic timetable as Verkku had to be in Finland by Monday morning and had already booked the ferry tickets from Rostock for the Saturday night. The registration offices are only open till 12.30 on Fridays. In the Friday morning me, Katrin, Verkku and another grandmother drove to Eschenbach with the registration plates of the car, and amazingly managed to get all the paper work sorted by the time the office closed. My brother was really the happiest person on the Earth when he was given the keys of the car and it was confirmed that he can take the car back home.
It was also an experience to do business with Katrin’s cousin’s family. They live in a farm house in a tiny village called Zirkendorf in Bavaria. Just picture a perfect country-side image: lots of cows, the cow smell, dogs running around, women with scarves in their heads. The also spoke with a strong Bavarian accent and knew only a few words in English which made things very interesting. Even better is that my brother doesn’t speak much German either. So my brother was speaking English to them and the replied in German. Occasionally they got stuck and I interpreted the best I could. It was really interesting as my german vocabulary regarding cars is not extensive. Amazingly, it all worked out really well.

Then on Friday 24.6

Katrin had her college-graduation at school and me and Verkku wandered around Pegnitz, ate some beautiful ice cream and bought “a ufo lamp” for Katrin’s brother David as a birthday present. We can’t thank their family enough as it was such a major effort from them and we would not have been able to buy the car without their help.
We had a fantastic time on Friday night, everyone was pleased the car business worked out well and we grilled at their patio which overlooks their garden and lovely fields. We also tried playing a little bit of music, I did the keyboard, and we also had 2 guitars and the drums. David and Philip are really talented and I felt a bit stupid for making so many mistakes when playing the keyboard. The main thing was anyway that it was good fun. We had the gorgeous food: grill steaks and chicken breasts with Chakalaka sauce and then we had “Eiszäppchensalat”, a salad made of this white, carrot-shape vegetable which grows underground (I don’t think we get it in England or Finland). We had Weissbier and cocktails and talked for hours and hours. They are so great people we did not want to leave them at all!
Everyone else went to bed then and me and Katrin stayed at the patio talking. Suddenly we heard a shriek and then some loud music. Then Katrin remembered that there is a big midsummer celebration in Neuhaus that night with Johannisfeuer, a big bonfire. This is similar to Finnish Juhannus, which we also celebrate in the end of June with the bonfires. Since we felt it was such a shame to go to bed, we decided to walk to the party. It was interesting because we left the house at half past midnight and had no idea where the party was – we were just trying to follow the music. Eventually the party was maybe 3 kilometers away but the area is so quiet that we could hear it clearly at the patio. We were really tired when we got there and people were already packing away all the stuff so we only stayed for 10 mins and then walked back.

Today, on Saturday 25.6

got up around seven, packed our stuff, said goodbye to the family and sang David a bday song in Finnish. Then we had to leave to Berlin by my brother’s new BMW. I can’t wait to see the Gradls again as they are just fantastic!
The trip went really quick until we reached the ring road, Berliner Ring. The road signs were rubbish once again and we ended up somewhere outside Berlin. We had to go back and then ended up in east-Berlin we hadn’t been trying to go.
However, it was a funny experience and we were completely lost and Berlin is so huge that the city map we had didn’t even cover the area where we were. Then saw a cool ancient Trabant, which was smoking so much that it definitely would not pass its M.O.T because of the environment damage. I didn’t know that there are still those classic DDR cars around because I think their manufacturing was stopped maybe 30 years ago. Most cars on German roads are brand new or a few years old, so this amusing little vehicle really stood out.
Having driven all around Berlin for 90 minutes we eventually found the house where I’ll be living the next 5 weeks. The house vaguely reminds me from my trip to Belarus since it’s extremely ugly from the outside. My room is really nice though, and I have a little balcony, 2 warderobes and a shower. Toilets are …interesting. I just had a look and the paint is peeling off the walls and there is no toilet paper. The kitchen is also interesting, and pretty filthy. I think I’ll be eating a lot of take-away when I’m here.
Food is really cheap, me and Verkku had original Döner Kebap as soon as we got here. And indeed, Kebap is very good in Berlin. Now I can also finally understand why there’s constantly a debate about the Turks in Germany. There arve hardly any Turks in Bavaria, but Berlin is different and e.g. where I live it feels maybe half the people on the street were Turks. But that also means that you can buy really tasty kebap in Berlin.
It is very strange to be on my own again after having such a great and social time with a lot of people over the last 2 weeks. I seem to have some interesting neighbours, mainly they are old men, but I’ve already seen a woman as well and one younger asian guy.
Also some dude just came to my door and was just like “Oh cool, there is someone living in this room now. I’m living upstairs. Bye!” How random is that!

Adventures in Pegnitz and Prague

Monday 20.6

We got up early as Raimund had lectures. It’s almost criminal they have to do Uni still till the end of August in Bavaria, and they always tend to have the exams on weekends. Anyway, I had to say goodbye and head to the train to travel to Krottensee.
3 years ago I did a student exchange for a month in Germany and stayed then in a host family in Krottensee. Their daughter Katrin is roughly about my age and it was fantastic to see her again! We had a good time also at the time I did the exchange but I think it was even a hundred times better this time. I think on the first time we had a bit of a language barrier as I could not follow most things in German. Now we just couldn’t stop talking and because it was a hot day we went to a Schwimmbad in Auerbach straight away. Schwimmbads are outdoor-swimming pool areas and typical for Germany. We also went to Auerbach and had a walk around and bought some ice cream. Many of the little ice cream kiosks which make the ice cream themselves, and it is really nice.

Tuesday – Prague 21.6

We visited Prague and Pilsen(officially Plzén) in Czech Republic. It was a long and exhausting day but it was well worth the effort. We got lost all the time and the road signs were absolutely terrible in Czech Republic. Also it was fun as we didn’t know any Czech apart from “Hello” and that obviously doesn’t get us very far. Most people knew neither German nor English. I could tell the difference in houses and the scenery as soon as we crossed the border. The houses are not as nicely maintained as in Germany and in many of them, the paint was peeling off and the gardens hadn’t been looked after. They had some Finnish shops in Prague like the furniture shop Asko and Rannila, which sells everything needed for building houses etc.
The centre was really beautiful. There is the River Vltava in the middle and then lots of bridges and beautiful buildings. Unlike the other buildings we had seen on the way, the ones in the centre were in nice condition. There were a lot of tourists and I spotted at least 4 Finnish groups just in the centre. We climbed up the hill which overlooks the city and had a stroll in the garden.
We had had to park the car in an indoor car park as we were scared it will be stolen. We got a slip from the machine when we drove in and were supposed to pay at another machine when going out but the instructions were in Czech. Also the machine was presumably broken as it didn’t accept our money which was even in the right currency. So we pressed the emergency button on the machine and after a while a scary tall security man came to us. He was wearing a big bulletproof vest and had a walkie-talkie in his hand. We tried to explain the problem but he didn’t understand English or German and constantly kept talking to us in Czech even if we obviously didn’t have a clue what he was saying. After about 5 minutes another man came there and luckily he knew some English and was able to help us.
We visited Pilsen on the way back and that was an experience. They had a big Street called America, apparently because the city was liberated by the U.S forces during the World War. Also they had lots of electric buses which drive on rails and therefore there was a big rusty rail network above the streets. We went to a bar in Pilsen, and instead of buying Pilsner, the beer that gets its name from this city, we bought some cocktails. They also had Swiss Cannabis Ice Tea, which they were eagerly advertising, but we thought it’s better to stick to the cocktails. I guess cannabis is then legal in Czech Republic because otherwise they wouldn’t be able to advertise like that. The road signs very incredibly difficult to interpret and it took about 6 hours to drive from Prague back to Krottensee.

Wednesday 22.6

Katrin had the Abischertz, the show organized by all the students who leave the college. Everyone had water guns, with which they were shooting the smaller students. Apparently earlier they used to gather all the small ones together on the schoolyard and make them completely wet using buckets and water balloons but now the principal had forbidden it. After that they had a special show in which they were making fun of their teachers. The teachers had a dancing competition and the principal had dressed up as Elvis Presley and 2 of the teachers as his security men. The principal even sang Elvis, and actually was pretty good. And I once though the German were so serious!

Proset, Proset, Proset, Gemütlichkeit

…eins, zwo, drei… ZUFER!

Saturday the 18th of June

Munich is absolutely brilliant!
I had a memorable day and a half in this great city of Munich and had the pleasure to stay in Raimund’s massive mansion (also known as Raimund’s home but it looked like a palace!). I arrived in Munich after 4 pm after an interesting train journey. Fortunately the German trains are reliable and really nice. However, this does not mean that all the passengers are. I spread my considerable amount of luggage all over the car hoping that nobody else will come there and disturb my journey but “luckily” a loud group of chavs found their way to the car and squeezed in. Conveniently, they also had a lovely 20-year old radio which played German rap. Brilliant! It was a unique journey.

Raimund picked me up from the railway station and as soon as we had left my luggage in his car we headed off to a Volksmusikkonzert. We walked through the centre and I was surprised to realize that I even reconised some places from my visit 3 years ago. We took the U-Bahn(the underground) to the Olympic Park, where a Volksmusikkonzert took place. The place had been built for the Olympic Games for 1972 and was massive compared to the Finnish Olympic Stadium.
The artist was Ambros, an Austrian singer who sings Volksmusik, quite traditional and very different from what I’m used to hearing in Warwick Students’ Union.
The concert tent was boiling hot and really packed with people. The concert was a positive surprise and the music was honestly really fun. At the start I was pretty suspicious if the music is going to be any good. However, I enjoyed the music so much it was hard to believe that the concert went on as long as for 2 and half hours. The most famous song from Ambros is Ski Fahren, which apparently is always played in the ski resorts in the Alps. Quite a few Raimund’s friends were around as well and I had a good chance to practice my German. Everyone was really hungry after jumping, singing and dancing in the hot tent for a couple of hours, so pizza and kebab was more than welcome. Unfortunately they don’t sell my new favorite drink, Almdudler(the Austrian herb lemonade), in Germany so I had to have an apple schorle. That consists of half a bottle of apple juice and the other half of sparkling water.

We soon headed to the centre to meet Raim’s sister and her friend. The concert had gone on for so long that it was already dark and Raimund only had his sunglasses as it had been really sunny at the time we went to the Olympic Park. It must have looked unusual to see someone wear sunglasses in the middle of the night.

We went for a cocktail in the centre and I started feeling really tired after having such a late night and a hectic day. I noticed it’s probably the time to go to bed when I was speaking German, English and Finnish all at the same time and was making no sense whatsoever. We were supposed to go to a night club but then all of us were feeling so exhausted that we decided to take an U-Bahn to the car. I passed out at the U-Bahn station when we were waiting for the last train of the night.

We got off at the Marienplatz and as a “pleasant” surprise discovered that we only have the escalators to one direction and of course that had to be down to the station rather than up, where we were trying to go. Crazy German design! We concluded that we have no option but run really quick up the escalators even if they were moving down. We started running but the escalators were moving really fast and it was much harder than we thought. Also I felt I was moving nowhere because as I was running up the escalators were coming down. I felt absolutely dead because I was so tired and also tipsy because I had just drunken a cocktail 15 mins before. Amazingly, I made it to the top and a random German guy was so amused with our task that he was following my struggle in the escalators and cheering. After running I could barely walk and I had to sit down for a while.
We got to Raimund’s house which is absolutely huge with marble floors and stairs. It was very dark and as soon as we had dragged the mattress and sleeping bag to Raim’s soom I just collapsed.

Sunday 19.6

We woke up after a good night’s sleep and had a lovely breakfast in the patio in the sun. There is a stream in the back garden and they even had some pet ducks like in Warwick. Sweet!
We walked around in the centre and climbed up Peter’s Church tower where we had a lovely view over the city. We also went to a river where they had surfers.
We visited Hofbräuhaus, a famous brewery in Munich and I tried some Weissbier. I was a nice surprise as normally I don’t particularly like beer. Weissbier has a sweeter and milder taste than lager, it is darker and unclear unlike lager. We tasted also some Weisswurst, ”white sausage” which is unique for Munich. These sausages are first boiled in water and there are certain manners how you need to eat them. For instance when you pick the sausage from the boiling water you should not pierce the skin but lift it so that it remains intact. The taste was really nice and unfortunately you can only buy Weisswurst in Bavaria so I’ll have to handle the rest of the summer without it. There also was a camping equipment shop called Napapijri, which is very close to the Finnish word for the Arctic Circle. Weirdly, they had Norwegian flags everywhere.
After walking through the English Garden Park we drove to a Bergsee, a “mountain lake”. We went to a lake in Kochel, and the scenery was absolutely beautiful Water was really cold as these mountain lakes are typically very deep. It was relaxing just to swim and sunbathe. There was a tiny village at the lake and the lake was surrounded by the Alps.
We were trying to work out what a bumblebee is in German but we didn’t get far. Raimund suggested it must be Bienemayer, which I doubt.
After coming back to the house, we went to a Biergarten near the house and had big Radlers. I wish we had those also in Finland! There are always some nice trees like chestnuts or similar and Biergartens have a special atmosphere.

Salzburg – Almdudler, Bosnas and tropical heat

Montag 20.6.2005

I am sitting on the train from Munich to Nuremberg so it’s a perfect moment to sum up the events of the past 6 days in Austria and Germany. I’ve had the most amazing time and become a friend of Almdudler, Weisswurst und of course the heat of central Europe. German politeness and hospitality keeps astonishing me – I just struggled to this train with my heavy suitcase, rucksack and 2 massive plastic bags and was generously helped by an older German gentleman, who was well worried if I’ll be able to carry them all and if I’ll find a place to keep them during the journey.

My European adventures started when I left Stansted Airport on last Tuesday 14.6, which feels like it was centuries ago! I was pretty knackered after the restless night at the airport and slept all the way until we landed at the Salzburg Airport in Austria. As soon as I stepped off the plane the tropical heat and the beautiful snow-covered mountains welcomed me. The Salzburg Airport is amazingly located almost in the centre of the city and is surrounded by the Alps in every direction.
My cousin Riikka’s fiancée Flo picked me up from the airport. Flo is Austrian, and I got my first culture shock when trying to speak to him with my German, which had deteriorated considerably since my last visit in Austria.
Riikka and Flo live in a beautiful house right next to the airport. The whole Austrian architecture is incredibly different to English. The house was in 3 floors and had wooden stairs exterior to the walls. Flo’s cousin Markus lives upstairs in this house and Flo and Markus skillfully attached a hammock to Markus’s balcony on this first night when I was there. The experience on the balcony was breath-taking – firstly because the balcony was in the 2nd floor and really high but also because the view was really beautiful. You could see all the way to central Salzburg and also die Festung, the fortress, which is on one of the hills.
The city is really beautiful, if it was not for the immense amount of tourists it would have a lovely village-like atmosphere. There is a river, Salzach, in the middle and the houses are high and quite decorative. The gaps between the houses are absolutely tiny, and therefore the city feels more like a village than a metropol. Also there are numerous churches and an open-air market. Many stalls sell bakery products such as Brezeln, rolls, buns and cakes.

Tuesday went really quick as I was so exhausted from the trip to London. Me and Riikka started to watch a German talk-show and it took about 5 seconds for me to fall asleep.

On Wednesday 15.6

me and Riikka visited Europark, the shopping centre nearby the house. My camera decided to stop co-operation with me just when I left London – as a result I did not get any pics of Piccadilly Circus and some other places. While my camera was completely kaputt, we tried to get it fixed but we didn’t get far. Apparently it is dead and I’d have to get a new one. Luckily, the memory card was still fine, and I managed to save the pics from London. Bought some jeans as had to leave the old ones in London. We had a lunch in Ikea, which was positively really Scandinavian. They even had a shop where they sold Scandinavian food items, such as cloudberry and lingonberry jams and meatballs. And Princess tårta, princess cake. At lunch I also had an Austrian speciality, Almdudler, which is fizzy herbal drink – really really good. I tried to order it in Munich on day before yesterday but was laughed at. Almdudler is only sold in Austria.

In the evening we went to Biergarten called Augustiner Kloster-Bräuerei. Biergartens are really popular here. There are open-air “bars” – there are lots of tables typically under some trees and if you drink anything else than a beer-related drink, people look at you funny. In Austria and Germany there are numerous different variants of beer. I came to Europe thinking I hate beer and just discovered it is absolutely gorgeous! Especially Radler is good, it contains half a glass of beer and the other half is some type of pop(typically lemonade or Fanta). Also Cola-Bier is popular, that is Radler with coke. Kloster-Bräuerei is a name for a monastery where they brew beer. My friend from Munich, Raimund, gave me an explanation for this queer combination of religion and beer. Apparently the monks had to earn some money to maintain the monastery, and when in some countries herbs and medicines were produced and sold by monasteries, the Austrian and south-German monasteries brewed beer instead. Apparently it was drunk pretty much every day and during the fast before easter the monks obviously weren’t allowed to eat but they were still allowed beer. I just can imagine what went on in these monasteries, it must have been cheerful…
In the monastery Biergarten the drinks weren’t served to the tables but we had to go in. They only have 2 different sizes of glasses: 0.5 l and 1.0 l. The bigger one is what we call a jug in England! Also they don’t do smaller volumes of beer than half a liter, so when you want a Radler, you have to take the bigger one.
It was a really good night and we sat hours under the chestnut trees of this Biergarten drinking liters and liters of beer. However, I find the drinking habits here relatively sophisticated(if they can be that with several liters of beer…) while there were no drunken, aggressive or impolite people, which could be expected with this amount of alcohol. I think the beer is drunk so slow that people only get a bit tipsy and cheerful but not properly drunk.

Afterwards we went to Flo’s brother’s place for a chat and football match. This country is almost as crazy about football as England*huoh* I find the Austrian German at least twice as hard as the Bavarian dialect, which again is regarded as hard to understand. Luckily, I had my cousin Riikka around to explain the oddities of the language.

On Thursday 16.6

we went for a long nice walk with Pilvi, Flo’s mother’s dog. Again it was really boiling hot and we were trying to sunbathe in the garden which was full of ants. Eventually after a quarter of an hour we had to give up as we had the ants everywhere and Pilvi was constantly lifting its legs and managed to kick a bag of sweets all over the garden when trying to get rid of the ants.
We visited Germany in Freilassen, which is only about 10 minutes away from Salzburg. We went to another Biergarten, called Drei Hasen = Three Hares. I was really tired again and almost fell asleep at the Radler glass. And understood even less about Austrian German.

On Friday 17.6

we did some walking on the beautiful mountains of Salzburg and had a little picnic in Augustiner Biergarten. We are trying to stay away from the centre the best we can. The main road, Getreidegasse, is absolutely packed with tourists and Mozartkugels. It was cool when I visited Salzburg for the first time 2 years ago but this time I felt annoyed when walked over by the Japanese tourists. Getreidegasse is also expensive and I cant even imagine how much money they make with those Mozartkugels(Salzburg is the birth city of the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and they have created a big brand with his name. Nowadays everyone buys these chocolate-marzipan balls names after the composer)
Another thing I noticed is the Austrians’ obsession with the energy drink Red Bull. Apparently some rich dude has bought now the Salzburg ice hockey and football teams, which are called Red Bulls and they are promoting this drink everywhere. They even had Red Bull ice cream!

In the Saturday morning 18.6

we visited Das Museum der Moderne, the museum of contemporary art. They just opened a new exhibition that morning and it was really interest, though a bit surreal. After the exhibition we headed once more to the centre and had some Bosnas, really spicy and delicious hotdogs. Tasty

Luggage problems, theathre and sleeping at the airport

Monday 13th of June

Was woken up by Adam who was off to the States in a few hours and wanted to have the Full English Breakfast before that. Suvi was too tired to get up and stayed in bed. Adam decided to carry me on his shoulders in a gentleman-kind manner and we got people on the street staring at us and saying how strong he is. Had a great English breakfast and then Adam flew off to LA and I went to wake Suvi up.

We put our stuff together and we had a brilliant plan on leaving our luggage in the coach station storage lockers so we woudnt have to drag it late at night. The London underground station design was a real pain(no escalators again!) and we were wandering around the streets of London desperately trying to find the the coach station. Logically, the station was located far far away from the tube station with the same name and there were no signs to direct us. Also people were either tourists or knew no directions, or in the worst case both of these. However, they were very eager to advise us on directions, and eventually directed us to a completely wrong direction!

Having finally found the coach station we went to the luggage storage service and found out they would close at 11 pm. This again didnt fit our plans at all because we were going to go to theathre later on and the show would not finish until 11.

And it gets better: apparently all the luggage storage places in London would close by midnight which meant that we would not be able to leave them anywhere! We were already worried we'd have to take them all the way back to Bounds Green and then to the centre again but luckily Selina came up with an idea to leave the stuff at a hostel. After a a few phone calls we were ready to head to a hostel "near" the station. We could also store our stuff for free which of course was great.

We were running really late because we had the theathre show at 8 and I had to buy a pair of shoes as the ones I wore on Saturday night were such foot-killers. We managed to find some shoes – the first high heels I tried on, 30 pounds and wouldn't have bought them had it not been for the extreme rush. Again we went to Camden town to get same sun shades for Suvi and have a quick lunch/dinner/whichever-meal-but-we-were-starving. Found some gorgeous Thai food for just 2 pounds a portion which was great.

Then rushed to Mark's house again. We had about 30 mins to take a shower and pack our stuff and regardless of the fact that we knew we are extremely short of time we managed to be too slow. On the top of everything else Selina called me and said we would have to be at the theathre at 7.25 rather than 7.50 which meant that we were even more late. And conveniently the line cut off just when I asked which tube station we need to go to so we had no idea whatsoever where we were trying to go. At 7.15 we finally left the house, carrying 2 massive bags each and our hair soaking wet. It must have been a hilarious scene to have us run with all this stuff, me in my 3-inch heels, trying to look posh but miserably failing in this attempt.

As soon as we got on the train, 3 horrible Turkish-looking guys, spotted us and got a bit too friendly.(Believe or not, I have nothing against Turks, just against sleezy guys in general! Good friend of mine is from Turkey.) We were extremely stressed anyway and the last thing we wanted was these horrible men staring at us and trying to touch our legs! We told them to stop and when it didn't work we changed the car. But they kept following us all the time and stood behind me in the escalators(Oh dear! Indeed they did have some escalators in London underground!) and tried to touch me up too. I swore at them and said I'm gonna call a police but nothing worked, it was well scary and I felt many times more uncomfortable than on Saturday night when we almost had our purses stolen.

We also discovered that we were on the wrong station. We had asked a lady on the train for directions, and once again we had been advised to go to a wrong place! I could not call Selina from the underground as there is no network coverage. Now Selina explained that we'd have to collect our tickets at the box office before 8 or otherwise we will only let be in after the interval. The time was 7.58 and we had to catch the tube again to go to Covent Garden. Having no idea where we were trying to go, we asked every other person for directions and everyone gave different one. Conclusion – is you ever travel in London, get yourself a decent map and never ask anyone for directions.

We just made it to the theathre! Looking dreadful and sweaty, we sat down to watch the show which was well worth all the effort and stress. We saw "Woman in Black" in the Fortune Theathre and the production was well-made, and really creepy. This was the first time I have been scared in a theathre show. Unless you count the times when the show has been so rubbish, that I've been scared I fall asleep while watching it. Honestly, this one was really good!

The show finished a bit early and we decided to go for a drink. Around midnight me and Suvi left to go to the airport.

Got changed, picked up the luggage at the hostel and then went back to Victoria coach station. By the time we got on the bus, I was so knackered that I just passed out and didnt wake up until the driver yelled "Stansted!" and we had to get off the bus. We had to spend the night at the airport and I slept surprisingly comfortably on the floor. This was probably due to the tiredness which had built up since the farewell bbq but however I only woke up hours later when Suvi was shaking me and speaking Finnish with a mad Estonian accent. Apparently her ferry trip from Tallinn to Helsinki had been cancelled and judging by Suvi's behaviour, she was not impressed with the Estonian customer service. Eventually she found another ferry and is now happily back in Helsinki.

I went to catch my flight to Salzburg looking forward to new adventures in Austria

The city of Bagels and Magic Mushrooms

Sunday 12th of June

Previous one was really long, so I’ll keep this one short(er).

We decided to visit Camden Town where they have an amazing market full of exotic food, interesting clothes, antiques and apparently magic mushrooms and cannabis lollies. I still didn’t understand how they are permitted to sell drugs there but there were quite a few stalls selling them and judging by the looks of some people in the market, the mushroom business was going quite well.

We stayed away from those but had some gorgeous Chinese food, really cheap as well, only 3 pounds a portion. The combination of all those shops is just mind-blowing, almost dream-like, because some them are so absurd.

Mark headed back and me, Suvi and Adam (a freeloader from Los Angeles) went to see some tourist attractions. We saw Big Ben and the surrounding buildings + London eye.

Adam must have thought me and Suvi were insane or at least on mushrooms because Suvi was constantly singing her Bagel song from the previous night. I’m sure he understood our appreciation for bagels though, since there are so nice and popular in the States. Besides, Adam had just eaten raw beef and egg yolk in Latvia on the pay before and bagels are surely nicer than that dish!

We went to an Internet café. Me and Suvi desperately needed a toilet and rushed into the closest one we could find. Only when we got inside we realized it’s a gay karaoke bar. Those gay guys were so good singers and most of them really good looking as well! Gays are so lucky! For some reason Adam didn’t want to join us and escaped to an Indian restaurant. We stayed in the gay karaoke for a while, then Selina joined us and after a while we went for a wander around China town and had a drink in an Irish bar.

Again the underground wasn’t running, we had to take a bus and wait in Wood Green for ages to get another bus to Bounds Green. Having learnt from the experience previous night we didn’t attempt to walk. When waiting for bus, we popped into a kebab shop and had some Turkish guys behind the counter saying “Theer are beeuutiful kirls in Finlaand” I’m kinda getting bored of hearing that in London now.

Hitch–hikers Guide to M45

Saturday, 11th of June

Both me and Suvi were absolutely knackered after the late night on Friday caused by overwhelming excitement and general nervousness about hitching. However, we managed to crawl out of bed around 9 o’clock. in the Saturday morning. I made a major discovery on Friday night about 5 seconds before falling asleep – I had given my Internet banking details to my friend Helen who generously promised to store some of my stuff over the summer when I’m not in England. I realized also that I have to pay the deposit for the newly-found next year’s house before arriving in the UK, and this obviously was made extremely difficult by the fact that I would not be able to access my bank account without those significant little codes. In addition, I also remembered I had forgotten to give my duvet cover for Helen to store and I want to keep it for next autumn and those horribly chilly October nights. So I would have to go and do a lovely extra tour to Helen’s before starting our journey to London.

“Fortunately” Helen didn’t answer her phone – fair enough, it was early Saturday morning – but I desperately needed to drop my stuff off and get my bank details asap. I decided to head to Kenilworth regardless. I got to Helen’s house – still no answer and the front door of the block of flats was locked. When peeping through the window on the door I discovered there was a back door open so I just invaded the garden and got into the house that way. Nobody opened the flat door even after a frantic door-knocking session, so I concluded Helen must be at her boyfriend’s, Colin’s, house. Luckily Colin was in and he even had the bank details I was after! So that was finally all sorted and I could eventually return to the campus and start the hitch.

A distinctive smell of a permanent marker-pen welcomed me at the door. Suvi had used our pillow sheets to make 2 tops for us saying “London” and “Suvi/Laura” on them. Also she had turned our bed sheet into a massive Finnish flag, which to be honest reminded greatly of a pirate flag or similar since the cross was black rather than blue. Oh well…

I returned the keys of my room and off we went!

It was a boiling hot day and we were exhausted by the time we got to the Tesco’s kiosk. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting the campus I can tell Claycroft and this kiosk are located less than half a mile apart. Bought some water and bumped into a nice guy who offered to take us to the Coventry railway station. So we got a lift before we had even properly started hitching!

At the station we realized however, that it was a very bad choice of the place. After being stared at by other people in traffic for about an hour an old guy came to us and told us to find London Road rather than using Kenpass Highway/A45 we had intended to use.

Bored of waiting, we decided to walk to London Road. Note, that we had heavy suitcases of weight of 20 kg each and in addition we both had 2 bags. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of getting perfect arm muscles by dragging these horrible bags around Coventry.

We only had been on M45/London Road for maybe half an hour when we saw a police car drive by. We obviously were terrified as hitching on motor ways is illegal in England. Conveniently, the police car stopped and the officers came to talk to us. This is one of the brilliant situations where is a big advantage to be a foreigner. Putting a barely understandable accent on we explained we are trying to go to London and pretended we don’t understand what a train is, when the police suggested that as a preferred mode of transfer. Anyway, they wanted to see our ID’s and then told us to get on the police car! Scary! I thought there are going to take us to the police station but they kindly dropped us at the train station where we had started the hitch maybe an hour and a half before. I did ask them if I can take a photo of them but they didn’t let me, surprisingly. It must have been pretty obvious that we were just pretending to be brainless and know no English…

Our arrival arose attention at the station. I presume it is not a very common scene to have 2 blonde Finnish girls be dropped there by 2 police men, even if it’s Coventry.

Scared by the encounter with the police, we decided to travel by train rather than hitch. There were 2 different ticket options and you are probably not surprised to read that we chose the cheaper one, 20 pounds, which is still a rip-off. This was supposed to involve 2 swaps, but when we got to Rugby, we just simply got on the more expensive Virgin train which took us to London in an hour and no-one noticed any difference. So eventually we ended up in London more than an hour earlier than expected.

We had sorted the accommodation earlier through GlobalFreeloaders website, where people from all over the world can contact each other and then stay at each other’s houses when they travel around. We found Mark from this website and headed to his house in North London, Bounds Green. The London Underground is Jurassic- they apparently have never heard of escalators! It’s great fun having traveled for 6 hours and then trying to lift your suitcase up the stairs, poooh!

We got to Bounds Green using Piccadilly Line and had a little shopping session at the Costcutters near the tube station(we are loyal to this chain and always use the one on Warwick campus even if it may be overpriced). We were supposed to give our infamous pirate Finnish flag to Mark but since we had been traveling for so long and the sheet was really scratty and smelled of sweat we somehow thought it might not be a good idea.

We got to Mark’s, had a shower and had some lovely pasta cooked by his French freeloader guest, Flo. We also had some wine. Mark was really funny and good at putting on different accents, especially the Chinese one sounded pretty authentic. We had a chat about Finland and I informed him about essential wacky competitions we have, such as a wife-carrying competition, mosquito-killing competition, sauna and ice-swimming competitions.

Soon it was pretty late and we got ready really quick to go out to night clubs. After being lost in the underground and desperately looking for my friend from Warwick, Selina, we ended up at Leicester Square where we also found her. Then we started a frantic discussion about which nightclubs we should go into and after standing there for about an hour, me and Suvi got bored and decided to choose a nightclub for just 2 of us. We went for Rouge, and I confused all the night club information people by saying that I had been promised to be let in for a discount price. Eventually we got the entry for 8 pounds, when it should have been 15 pounds. The night club information manager gave me his number and offered to buy me drinks but I was happy with just the discount price.

Rouge was good fun, though unreasonably pricey like any club in London. We stayed there till 4 o’clock when the club closed. It was already bright outside when we left the club. We were absolutely starving and wanted to get some food but a group of dodgy, Indian-looking people tried to steal the contents of our bags. Shaken by this, we didn’t want to eat and tried to find a night bus instead.

We didn’t have a slightest idea which bus to take and where it would depart. So we were just wandering around and ended up in Trafalgar Square where a kind bus driver took us on the bus. We both fell asleep on the bus and at some point I woke up panicking that we had missed our stop. We discovered that the bus wouldn’t go to Bounds Green but to Wood Green, which according to the bus driver was only “5 mins walk away”.

Just before the Wood Green bus stop Suvi saw a bagel shop and since we were both really hungry at the time, we have been craving for bagels ever since. We were really tired anyway, so couldn’t be bothered to walk back for bagels. It took us ages to walk and we didn’t know where we were going anyway. My shoes were extremely uncomfortable and I walked bare-footed. Suvi was singing about the gorgeous bagels all the way and tripping over her own feet all the time. Horrible foreign guys were stopping their cars, whistling etc. other annoying stuff and we told them to F* off in Finnish as we couldn’t be bothered to reply in English. We were back at Mark’s house at 6, 2 hours after leaving the club and collapsed to the bed.

My travel itinerary:

11.6 London

14.6 Salzburg, Austria

18.6 Munich, Germany

20.6 Pegnitz, Germany

25.6 Berlin, Germany

5.8 Finland

10.9 Back to Cov

Welcome to my travel diary

The year at Warwick is finally over and me and my insane friend Suvi decided to give a joined farewell party on Thursday. We started at 4 but did not actually manage to get any food before 6. In the meanwhile we had lots of lovely drinks . At some point we also discovered it is possible to eat jelly with chopsticks(Chris successfully fed James with them…)The cheerful lot headed off to Varsity.

Me and Suvi have to wake up in just 6 hours time before getting up and before that we'll have to produce a magnificent piece of art, namely the finnish flag we intend to give our host in London. Also we practised drawing on our legs with a permanent marker pen(realised after using it!) and had to remove it with washing-up liquid. So that's about having early nights*huoh*

Right, we are off to bed now. My last day at Warwick has been great as we finally managed to find a house for next year. It's much nicer to return to the Uk knowing I dont have to live in a bin!

June 2005

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  • Finnish food is delicious! I actually found this journal entry by trying desperately to find in onli… by Melody-Jane on this entry
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