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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Brussels to Tallinn in just 8 days...


This blog has been deserted for a few weeks because of too much action in our lives to be able to write anything online.  Sorry for that.  

Ok where were we.... leaving England? Through the Chunnel on a train we headed for our first transfer Belgium.

An overnight layover in a train station in Brussels. Everything in the station is closed. The building is mostly vacant, save for a few fellow travelers who are there for the next 6 hours as well.  Before the doors locked we all went in differing pairs to check out the area near the station.  A giant carnival fun park full of lights and rides and ugly toys on one side of the station and a "drug sales center" aka dealers row on the other. At one am we're all locked inside the station. A patrolling gang of armed and frightening cops, the glare from their eyes like prison searchlights march past. It would be a bit creepy to see this force with guns marching in formation if they weren't actually necessary. Thieves, perverts, and junkies are tucked away in the shadows waiting quite literally for the chance to commit some crime unseen by the Belgian guards. Parts of the station resembles a bad movie set about a post apocalyptic reformation and the smells of urine and trash wafting around reinforce this vision. Also you can get beer from a vending machine here too. Classy. 

We take turns on watch to make sure the stuff and each other are safe. We are also desperate for sleep as are two young fellow musician travelers from Holland. So like all good people trapped in a somewhat spooky scenario we circle the wagons or in this case three of us sleep on the floor in a semi-circle around the instruments and while the other two guard from an upright position.  

At dawn just as we head for our train the creepy pervs and freaky people are slowly replaced by fellow passengers just as we struggle to get our monds onto the platform.  To Berlin we go.

After a fairly uneventful train ride highlighting the differences between first class train cars and all others since we accidentally got on first class most of the ride we made it to Germany.  Due to our gear we had to take two cabs to get to our place in Neukölln.  The place we stayed was great, right next door to the Communist party headquarters funny enough and very near  Karl Marx Straße.  We found it on Airbnb and of the places we have stayed from Airbnb it was the best.  Exactly what it seemed like in the profile which on Airbnb is not usually the case.  

What door do you choose?  Door number three!

We stayed in Berlin for about a week and experienced just a bit of its culture, practiced tunes in parks and met a few nice people there as well as visiting our friend Holger who lives near. 
 Drinking Duff beer in a park with blue hair Bianka felt like a Simpson's character.
Nate resting while we finally catch up while strolling the neighborhood.




Our pitstop in Germany was too short for Gregory and too long for Nate and just right for Bianka.  Nate had his fill of Germany in the recents years when lived there. Bianka was happy to rest there in the pleasant little apartment listening to thunderstorms and sometimes singing Turkish men but Gregory was eager to see the city's other performers and artists which in Berlin could take a lifetime. But on we had to go to Estonia and the getting to Tallinn is half the adventure, well at least the way we go.  

We boarded another train that gets on a boat and got us to Stockholm. We actually sat where our tickets told us this time which turned out to be the one car on the entire train without working air conditioning. We joked with a lovely family from Eritrea that it was the sauna car.  Couple that with a very drunk Swedish man who decided he had something to prove to Bianka and the train ride was rather uncomfortable. Still it was wonderful to get to talk to a beautiful articulate woman from Eritrea and hear about her life, the changes and sacrifices since she had to move to Sweden on the long sweltering ride. Bianka ended up having to use her trusty umbrella at the final station to swat at the drunk Swede who decided he'd hover about trying to scare her.    
These two stupid signs at Interhostel in Stockholm were insulting and frankly not very Swedish.
Staying in a room with drunk travelers this is not the sort of thing you want posted on the wall. 


After staying in a fairly crappy hostel filled with the typical drunk traveling Australians and what Bianka thought was a pretty sexist atmosphere we were happy to at last take the Tallink Cruise to Tallinn. 

This cruise ship, the Baltic Queen, which Gregory and Bianka have taken before is pretty notorious for drunk Finns and Russians partying and carting off with shopping carts full of alcohol essentially like a sea bound liquor store. But it's actual quite wonderful and fun in other ways.  There's a sauna on the boat which is an Estonian and Finnish standard and there's even a little pool.  The pool we swam in shows a view from a camera on the ship deck so we could see the sea as we splashed. The cabin is better equipped than many hostel/hotel rooms in Europe... as Nate documents here.









This ship rides through the archipelago which so beautiful and makes the onlooker wish it made stop offs. No picture can even rival the way it looks so why try.

There are several floors of entertainment and bars having bands like Indigga to delight or at least amuse a mixed crowd of onlookers some there to dance some just to stare.  There's a super nice karaoke host who had a good time with Nate and Gregory trading songs with him and they nearly charmed the pants off some Finnish ladies who believed they must be brothers. Then it's off to the top deck disco to fend of Russian singletons and hear an crazy mix of typical club tunes combined with some decent choice dance tunes. We luckily had the company of a lovely Estonian lady, who had offered to help Bianka when boarding the boat since she had so much luggage, who we later saw and pretty much pestered her all night with questions since she takes this boat a lot now that she lives in Sweden.

After a night of sauna, swimming, singing and dancing we arrive in Tallinn at 10 am ready to disembark for our final leg of this trip.  Eesti!  And that is one long chapter.  More to come very very soon.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Venturing Out!

Considering the grand English tradition of "touristing" and going "on holiday," what trip to London would be complete without getting out of the city for a seaside jaunt? And so this leg of our journey at last found Bianka and Gregory riding one of the giant white ants of the National Express bus system to Margate and all three SOAC members taking the National Rail South to Brighton.

Margate, as any congenial Bay Inspector can tell you, boasts a clean and quite placid beach where the warm waters of the North Sea greet you immediately at the seaside bus stop. Alex, the aforementioned Bay Inspector of the area, is the local assurance against dogs getting onto this beach. He also recommends pubs such as The Lighthouse (which gave us front-row seats to the local classic cars rally) and has a masters degree in Songwriting . Alex also tells us that busking, while not frequently encountered in Margate, can be a lucrative endeavor in the right season.  Also we found this...

A concrete walkway at the base of chalk cliffs leads you from Margate to Botany Bay. Lights from the barges off shore bobbed against the sunset as Bianka and Gregory strolled in blissful holiday solitude.




At Botany Bay (England, not New South Wales) it is quite easy to imagine Viking ships ducking in and out of the windswept coves, emerging from behind one of the chalk cliffs to do battle…perhaps with the rival navy of the Giant Sand Fleas! Our overnight stay on this beach was a veritable recreation of the 1996 flick "From Dusk Till Dawn"…only instead of vampires our 10 hours or so were spent fighting locust-sized sand fleas which swarmed en masse. 

Brighton is a blond-pebbled beach experience just an hour out of London by rail. It's complete with a large district of boutique shops, a blond-pebbled beach, amusement park pier, and everything else you might image to fill in the spaces in-between with the exception of a massive royal palace built like an Indian temple. While none of us specifically planned to visit Brighton during a storm of sorts, the wind and rain was no deterrent to three weathered Oregonians such as ourselves.  In fact, for a moment we felt like we were home as this 360 degree video clearly depicts.




The harsh winds also brought us closer in spirit to the photographs of rugged mustached men in the free exhibit inside the fishing museum. The museum also featured an exhibit on Punch and Judy: the puppets were an institution of the Brighton street entertainment scene in its day. The throngs of tourists were steady enough that traveling Punch and Judy puppeteers would set up permanent residency in Brighton, getting money enough from their street shows.




There are allegedly several street performers to be found around the city nowadays as well, however the gentleman at the vegetable stand says that musician buskers are not as common and we wonder whether or not this town would provide similar obstacles as busking in Camden. 

If you ask any Londoner to estimate the transit time between any two Tube stations in London, their response will always be "about an hour" which actually means more than an hour. Considering this, the temptation to reside in one of these pleasant beach towns rather than in London proper is tangible.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

ARGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!  And land ho maties!





Looks like we're going to be playing aboard this lovely ship that we pass by on our daily commute to busk at South Bank.  It's just past London Bridge near the Globe Theatre and it's a replica of Francis Drake's Golden Hinde which circumnavigated the world from 1577-1580.  Drake called her the Pelican but she was renamed The Golden Hinde after Drake's patron Sir Christopher Hatton's family crest.  This particular replica of the Golden Hinde is berthed at St. Mary Overie Dock and once sailed around.  It was used in the tv mini-series SHOGUN which made Bianka swoon since that series greatly influenced her child mind with romantic dangerous adventure lust about that particular era of history.  The show will be as part of a regular monthly edition of the Tiller Flat Folk Club.  It's on August 2nd just before we leave London.  Wish us luck. South Bank has become our regular haunt since coming to London because it seems to be the only place with truly clear rules for performance and great crowds.

There seems a regular group of performers who brave South Bank's tourist population. Here's Gregory with two of his favorites 


We also have been having new song writing and rehearsal in this park in front of the Tate Modern Museum which might seem a strange place but we saw another band of three doing the same thing later in the evening too.  It's just too hot to be indoors and London homes being so close together make us practicing feel like we are in the neighbor's living room. Gregory also ended up playing for quite a bit of our tube ride home after some fun Irish fellows were pretty insistent that he should and they even polled all the other passengers to make sure it was ok with everyone.  It was a good way to break up the sweaty trapped feeling one gets taking the tube from central London back home. He wasn't busking but a very nice man gave him 20 quid just for playing.  

Our favorite set of buskers are these guys and that link is a video from them yesterday when we danced to them and watched them with glee that the crazy hot weather here had given us all a temporary reprieve. 






Friday, July 12, 2013

The Away Team (Star Date: 11/07/13)


LONDON!!!!!

"Captain we've landed the triquarter says that the air is breathable and the water potable but still I sense something strange..."  We feel as if we are the Portland away team in London. The Way to Eden episode of Star Trek is almost autobiographical to our experience in some ways Gregory is Chekov, Nate is Spock and I am definitely Kurk.

London has people from EVERYWHERE on every street corner of the city. Only about 45% of Londoners are actually British.  It is wonderful.  Londoners know Beth Ditto as the media Portland reference not Portlandia.  Those who have been to Portland, like the man we meet in Whole Foods (which is far inferior to the stores we have) talked as if it is Eden, because Portland is really.  Our beer is better than London, our coffee, our books, and our air, and our water.  The people in London is what makes London a really exciting place to be.  The beer isn't terrible like some places but it is expensive and well prepared food can be too.  Transit will cost you more than $300 a month just to get around.

Busking in London is a bit like playing hide and seek with really spoiled children in the group.  Many areas it is completely legal and even supported by the businesses and locals but it takes only one security guard or cop having a crappy day to want to "move you on" some where else.  In less than 2 hours in Camden we were asked to leave one stop and told a better one near by and then asked to move again by a different authority (working for the same thing) back to the original spot we'd picked.  Here we are playing just off Camden High Street. No one knows the laws or cares maybe, and the advice other buskers have given is don't fight for it even if you are in the right because they can nick you and take your instruments. A lad named Chris from Ireland had his guitar taken and had to borrow 50 quid to get it out for playing in what someone thought was the wrong area of South Bank when actually he was in the legal zone.   It is privately owned but there are public not private owned areas and though Chris was following the letter of the law an asshat decided to ruin his day and potentially his life for a while. If Chris had not found a kind person to lend him the funds to retrieve his one way of making a living he could have gone with out food by the end of the week.

At the same time that these areas will want buskers to "move on" they benefit from the tourists coming to the area to see the buskers.  They let coupon passing and sign holding husslers bother people all day but often pick on the very artists they need to thrive.  Luckily the response we've received has been really overwhelmingly positive both from the stall businesses and patrons in Camden and the passersby in South Bank but always looming in the back of one's mind is whether or not the next "authority" figure who doesn't know what the hell is going on will come over and "move us along" just because he can and because he has no other power in life.

We've made decent money busking when we are allowed to be in spot for a while and have met wonderful very encouraging people who are becoming good friends. London is a very expensive place in some ways.  It's not as scary as we were originally led to believe but perhaps those folks only stayed in Central London and didn't get out the boroughs where people actually live.  We're in South Harrow which seems a primarily Indian neighborhood though our hosts are from Sri Lanka by way of a 25 year stint in Germany.  They are a wonderful family headed by a positive warm pleasant mother who is always laughing. Near to us are stops where brand new beautiful temple competes with line after line of saree and lengha shops with food stalls in between.  Needless to say Bianka has found her fashion Shangra la for only 10 British pounds.

The city is filled with many wonders and strange things that would take a lifetime to see but here we do not mean the tourist attractions in a guidebook one might read. Nate is working in High Barnet by day and yesterday played football (soccer) with the German students he is teaching English.  He takes the children around to all the "tourist" attractions in London as part of his work so he'll be able to report back if any of them are truly worth the crowds. We've been in London for eight days now.  We seem to be as much a tourist attraction as nearly anything else on the street. At least 5 times a day we are asked in strongly accented English "may we take a photo with you" and usually they don't wait for an answer and usually expect us to stop whatever we are doing for the photo opportunity as if we are some sort of paid ambassadors but such is the way of most tourist spots in the world.


Recently Bianka discovered the true origin of punk rock hair.  Not a style rebellion against the norms as previously believed but a carefully construed blend of too much time on the London Underground and not immediately bathing.  No styling gel can compare to just one evenings lack of vigilance against the grime. Turns out punks were just not keen bathers and really who wouldn't want to shave off various chunks of locks imbued with city slime and dirt rather than touch it. Every Londoner would have punk rock hair in a week if they just stopped shampooing.

Gregory keeps exploring British Pubs as if to report back to the Tardis to store coordinates for to places to shelter from peak time travels.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

London Calling

Summer on the streets.... of LONDON!!!

As we, Gregory, Nate and Bianka are taking our show on the road (and by road we mean taking the show on a plane then a train, then another train that gets on a boat then another boat, then a car, then another boat and finally another plane) to Europe from July until October we thought it might be time to revive the dusty but trusty old blog we once used as a website.  This way we can tell you interested parties, and totally enraptured fans about our interesting parties with totally enraptured fans.

We will head to London on July 2nd and are looking forward to playing some street performance in South Bank and Camden. The buskers in London really do step it up so we are excited to see what sort of response we receive.  Spending a full month in England we should be able tailor our performance to seduce the British.

Bianka has plans to drink tea and solve important murders in small villages and of course, time travel because those things are all perfectly British.  Failing to destroy the daleks or save the Queen in a heroic fashion, or convince David Mitchell to marry her she will be found digging through stacks of books having just left a pub serving cold lagers or proper room temperature brews to keep any Portland beer nerds informed.  It's the least she can do for her native land.

Nate will be working the entire month with young impressionable minds teaching them English while touring its birthplace.  He plans to infect young German minds such lovely retro slang as  "gov" and "tickety boo"which we are told will make him wildly popular with native Londoners.

Gregory has promised to premiere his harlequin disco tights combined with banjo screaming wah pedal to keep Londoners confused about what American Banjo music can really mean.   video

All kidding aside, Covent Garden is one of the more famous places for buskers in the world.  Technically performers must audition but as we were not there when those happened maybe we could sneak in, or at least busk near by.  Camden will be one our first performance stops and there will be disco harlequin tights deployed in this battle plan.

After London we are spend some days in Berlin.  Then brief time in Sweden then to ESTONIA!  We shall do our best to show the whacky beauty and real life of all these places.  So stay tuned.

Of course, now is for the stressful part of travel -arranging passage across continents, getting on board with instruments and handing over our homes to trusted folks here in Portland.

As always you are invited to like us on Facebook and check out some tunes or videos on Reverbnation.    Wish us luck and love and we send the same to you!


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hello SOAC blogspot finders.  We mostly update things on our website now-www.soldonlyascurio.com or the youtube as well and the Facebook Sold Only As Curio.  So if you need to contact us or find where we are playing these are the best ways.

We don't want to give up this blogspot but it will be on hiatus as a main contact for a while. Wonderful little blogspot you were very useful to us when we had no website but now you must lie in wait until we tour in August and October when we shall blog about our adventures.

Wish us luck we tour NYC in August and New Orleans and the SE of the US in October!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Show at White Eagle tomorrow!

We will be joining the excellent Strangled Darlings tomorrow at the White Eagle Saloon for a set of great tunes just after 9:30. Click below if you need directions

SOLD ONLY AS CURIO at White Eagle.

See you there!