June 2004 Archives

Off to Norway again tomorrow, had a real pain trying to book tickets for stuff in Norway, still haven't got that resolved but heading there to sort it out directly.

The quite chilled (at least by day) hostel I have been staying at here in Helsinki is full tonight, but I think i've managed to squeeze a bed in there somewhere.

Mainly off to Oslo to see two old skool metal acts, Death Angel and Life of Agony, but don't have a ticket for that as yet, will be a bit of a last minute thing, oh well.

Roskilde (largest music festival attendance wise in Europe) starts the day after tomorrow, so that will hopefully siphon off a lot of the backpackers and travellers to Denmark (I have met so many people who are going to that festival, sure to be a great atmosphere), i want to go to the Norwegian equivilant a few days later - Quart festival, but the same atrocious ticket agency doesn't seem to want to let me buy tickets.

Well success and failure today on the first proper day in Helsinki since i arrived here, after travelling through eastern europe where the point was to escape westernism and save money, i desperately need to sort out a few things that are much easier to do in more western countries.

So this morning, it was off to the local apple centre and now I have two brand new albums on my iPod! the first new music in two and a half months!! The albums are: Orphand Land's Mabool and Rapture's Songs for the Withering.

Rapture are a finnish band I saw live on my first night in Helsinki, whereas Orphaned Land are from Isreal and Mabool is their first new album in about 8 years, sung partly in hebrew with significant use of middle eastern instruments and lyrics influenced by the biblical flood story it's not your typical heavy metal!

The failure came with trying to buy tickets, I was contemplating going to the Tuska festival, but of course, they have sold out, seeing as it's less than a month away.

hoping to be able to buy tickets for the Quart festival in Norway, but the stupid web site wants to mail the tix somewhere.

Last night I found the hostel suddenly went from being dead to full in an instant, i think this was due to an attack of aussies, as the common room was full of our distinctive twang.

Later we tried to go out to a club, the others were interested in a club here that has a bar made of ice and is kept at a constant -5 degrees, but it was closed for midsummer. We discovered the rigidly enforced 24 age limit on clubs as well, when I asked the bouncer he honestly replied, the younger ones can't control themselves when drunk!

This all made for a frustrating night, we ended up at the old standby, an Irish pub which was nothing special.

Here is the solitary picture I took in Krakow, I honestly had so much fun partying and soaking up the atmosphere (both good and bad) that I didn't take the time to photograph the city. This picture is taken from the tower in the main square.

The weather has been alternating between lovely and dreary rain during the period of one day. This pattern has been happening since I got to the Baltic area and is probably just due to coastal weather patterns, however yesterday evening it was nice and clear so I went for a walk and photographed the lovely and varied architecture of Helsinki.

I wish I had my camera with me later in the evening for the strange elongated sunsets of extremely pastel colours caused by the angle of the sun this far north, very beautiful.

06250005 (Blacksmiths Statue)
06250007 (Railway Station)
06250008 (Theatre)
06250009 (Tuomiokirkko - Lutheran cathedral)
06250011 (Tuomiokirkko and Senaatintori)
06250013 (Uspensky - Orthodox Cathedral)
06250017 (Uspensky - view from base)
06250018 (Uspensky -Tower/Turret)
06250024 (Contrasting architectural styles)
06250026 (Maritime statue near fish markets)
06250027 (Esplanade, the city's green heart)

This is the second time I have ended up in a Scanadanavian capital on a public holiday, thankfully this one is less dead than Oslo was over Easter.

I kept on hearing two different stories about this time of year, one said that everyone left the city and stayed in their summer homes (oh for the wealth to own two homes, one just for holidaying in) but the other side said that this caused a mad rush at the supermarkets and on the roads out of Helsinki which made it nicer to stay in Helsinki and celebrate midsummer here.

Regardless, my partying after Katatonia till about 5AM on thursday night/friday morning meant that I was in no shape to haul myself out to the lake areas north east of Helsinki which is where many have their summer houses. Nor was I organised enough to make the 4-5 hour trip to the middle of nowhere where Nummirock (a two day finnish heavy metal festival) was being held.

So I stayed in Helsinki, caught up on sleep and just managed to get to the supermarkets before they closed early for the long weekend.

In the evening, I wandered down to a pennisula where the hostel staff told me that they would have some music and a bonfire. Aside from one guy with a piano accordian playing folk songs, I heard no other music, but there was a small and welcomingly warm bonfire lit at 11PM by the enthusastic staff at the nearby cafe where I had sat waiting and chatting with a german doctor who was also staying in my hostel.

I think if we had chosen the other option which was further away and cost 12€ then it might have been a bit more impressive but still midsummer seems to be a low key thing, with most people just happily getting drunk and enjoying the gorgeous skies, referred to by the residents of St Petersburg as "white nights" with the sun barely setting somewhere around 3AM

Last night I saw Katatonia for the second time, it was great, much more intimate than the previous show in Milan.

I was second row dead centre all throughout the gig and really enjoyed it. The place was so small that I got a mix of foldback sound and sound from the gig itself, regardless it sounded a lot better than the milan show, particularly the guitars.

After the show, I hung around and made new finnish friends, eventually I heard that katatonia were talking to fans at the other side of the room, near the toilets so my new found friends headed towards there.

The rumor was true and I ended up speaking at length to anders and daniel and briefly to jonas and fred. All lovely guys and I don't think you will wipe the grin off my face as a result of this meeting for quite some time

Support were local Finnish band Rapture who impressed but I found their sound lacking considering they had seven people on stage. The aspect I enjoyed the most of their performance was the dual vocalist, with one only growling and the other alternating between different pitched growls and clean vocals. However there were 3 guitarists on stage and I could not always discern each guitarists contribution musically from the mix. Drums were also very uncreative, prefering to stick to basic rock phrases rather than try some more unusual fills or phrases.

arrived in helsinki by ferry yesterday afternoon, the ferry ride was short but a bit more expensive than I had expected, mostly because the cheap fares are very early in the morning.

Was miffed when the ferry staff told me off for making my own sandwiches on board. I was only allowed to eat food sold on board, I retorted with - I'm a vegetarian, I can't eat the food you sell on board! The prospect of dealing with a grumpy vego scared them off, but I think it's bad form regardless.

I was a bit annoyed to go from one country's midsummer holiday to another's thus giving me a solid 5 days of limited opening hours at shops, which is frustrating as although the prices are high here, I am really finding I want to buy a new digital camera.

Thankfully, there was a period yesterday afternoon and this morning where finland's midsummer holiday had not yet kicked in, so I at least got groceries and did some research on camera prices.

Helsinki's city area is quite small and low rise, but beautiful in its own way, not much is really old like Tallin was but Tallin felt very touristy, with tour groups being led in the rain the morning I left.

I'm safe and sound, if quite tired and in Tallin, Estonia which is the most westernised part of the baltic states from what I can tell.

Took a 25+ hour bus ride from Krakow to Tallin, the route was new, until about 5 days ago they only went as far as Riga, Latvia. I was the only pasenger at the first stop, Krakow, the bus drivers managed to find their way to the next stop Katowice but things went downhill from there as the drivers had no idea about navigating in Poland and got lost, they ended up relying on a Polish passenger who also spoke russian (the common language for most older people in this part of the world). She spent the best part of the trip to Riga navigating with various maps, I joked at one point that she should have got her ticket for free as she was effectively working!

Despite being late due to getting lost in Poland these crazy Latvian/Russian drivers made up the time somehow overnight and we were over an hour early when we arrived in Riga, so I took the opportunity to walk around and see at least a small part of Riga before the bus continued on at 9AM this morning.

The later part of the trip was quite boring, and I'm amazed by how bad the roads were in rural Estonia.

Tallin is nice in the old town, but due to my plans being changed due to staying longer in Krakow, I am in a Scandanavian/Baltic capital on a public holiday again, something I said I wasn't going to do after easter in Oslo

Today is the longest day and conversely the shortest night, later I am hoping to go to a place near Tallin where they light the largest bonfire in at least Estonia and possibly in the world all as part of the midsummer celebrations that predate christianity all throughout the baltic and scandanavian area.

Probably should try and get an hours rest and hopefully some nice food before hand. Off to Helsinki tomorrow to see Katatonia & Rapture perform then probably onto another music festival in the middle of nowhere in Finland to continue the midsummer celebrations (the Finnish delay their celebrations till the first saturday after midsummer)

Krakow has to be one of the highlights of my trip thus far, it is a wonderful city. Over the past few days I've had such a contrast of experiences and in some way enjoyed them all.

Auschwitz was an amazing contrast, there were actually three concentration camps there by the time they were liberated by the Soviet army, the first was the Auschwitz complex and the second Birkenow, which was much larger and where most of the large scale Jewish massacres occurred.

At the original Auscwitz, all the buildings are intact and on the outside are completely original, interiors have been mostly turned into museums each dedicated to a country or religion which were sent to these death camps. A few of the more horrible buildings were preserved completely intact to show the horrid conditions where these people lived, slept and more often than not, died.

Outside of the buildings, if one ignores the barbed wire, the place is so serene and in a way beautiful. Its hard to imagine outside how horrible the environment must have been for the poor people who were forced there, but once you go inside and see the photos or the original furnishings the reality becomes apparent.

It was an extremely sobering and emotional day, but I was disgusted by how many people were taking photographs and using video cameras in a context that I found quite inappropriate, like filming inside a gas chamber. It's just disrespectful towards the thousands who died there.

I spent 5 hours at the two camps that are preserved, Birkenow has a very different vibe to Auschwitz as this camp was purpose built for mass execution and the whole environment is much starker there, it's also nowhere near as well preserved as the retreating Nazis attempted to blow up much of the mass murder infrastructure there to hide the atrocities they had been committing.

One of the things that upset me the most was that the allies knew about Auscwitz for much of the war due to efforts by prisioners to smuggle out evidence of the atrocities committed there, yet they did nothing until the Ukranian troops of the eastern front reached it in the last few months of the war. It could have been possible to bomb the rail line leading towards auschwitz or try and target the gas chambers. This may have saved the lives of many many people as the Nazis would not have been able to efficently mass murder them.

After such a harrowing day, which I think everyone needs to see, just once so they understand why the world should really say "never again". I got very drunk, and partied till dawn as my brain was not ready to deal with the overload of emotions that the day brought up for me.

Today, with a slightly sore head, I eventually found my way to the Salt Mines, we had a tour guide who was straight out of a Bond film, the russian baddie who Bond will inevitably bed. She was an excellent guide and the actual mines were amazingly beautiful, another UNESCO heritage site and totally unique.

Unfortunatly, despite having my camera with me, being underground and poorly lit, there was no way I was even going to bother trying to take photographs.

The most impressive room was one that they had just reopened, it was so tall, but obviously not very stable, as the entire cathedral sized space was filled with wooden supports that looked like a mecchano set on a grand scale. I was expecting the other really impressive rooms like the underground cathedral carved entirely out of salt, with biblical reliefs and a newly added life size statute of pope john paul the second in the corner.

I'm in Krakow, Poland, after a long 8 hour rail journey made more enjoyable by the company of two Norwegian backpackers.

Prague was fun, but three days isn't really enough. Also despite being an oasis of rest, the place I stayed in was very disorganised, which kind of slowed me down whilst I was waiting for others in the hostel to finish up with various services.

Also, despite offering to pay the local Mac shop wouldn't let me touch a mac to update my iPod.

Tomorrow will try and go to Auschwitz and then maybe the next day the salt mines.

Here are some pictures I took of Budapest and Bratislava, as my camera is still a broken pain in the neck, the pictures are rushed and not that great. It will blow my budget but a new digicam is kind of starting to feel essential.

Budapest: near City Park
Maygar Horsemen
Budapest: City Park
Budapest: City Park
Parliment: Budapest
Old town: Budapest
Old Town: Bratislava

Being well over two months into my travels, there has been plenty of opportunity to reflect on what I should have/have not brought with me.

Mostly, I wish I had taken a smaller bag, to ensure I took less in total.
However little things can make all the difference, like my USB card reader for my digital camera, it came with a USB extension cable, back home that went straight into a box in the cupboard, here when I find a PC that has accessible USB, 50% of the time, the card reader is too large to fit into the cramped space where the USB port resides.

The thing is either way, if something is forgotten, then it's more expensive to rebuy it over here and if something becomes unecessary, sending it back home is prohibitively expensive

Arrived in Praha (Prague for us anglicised types) last night after a failed attempt at relaxation in Slovakia, the hostel I was in had some great people staying and on my last night in Slovakia, we partied at the hostel for most of the night.

Seen very little of Prague, the weather is not so good at the moment but planning on doing a heap of walking later today, seeing all the sights.

Had a lovely conversation over dinner with a Sydneysider who is over here visiting family (she was born in Slovakia) last night, we ended up talking about the nuances of accents and languages and other esoteric topics!

Later, two americans arrived in the dorm room and I was glad to see that I'm not the only backpacker who had the experience of getting caught in a downpour, lost whilst trying to find my hostel!

Spent a lot of brain power today trying to make the incredibly difficult choice between the upcoming festivals.

Now we are really into summer, festivals are popping up everywhere and although I originally swore off them, citing the poor outdoors sound, ridiculously short sets and scheduling that always means you miss something you really want to see. I was preferring to try and see bands play standalone gigs, as the festivals are approaching its becoming clear that this standalone gig thing is less a part of the European festival scene than it is in Australia. Many bands are just playing a festival every day, leaving no space for other shows.

There are so many good festivals coming up, however the ones I am seriously considering are: Rock The Nations : Istanbul , Graspop : Belgium and if I were to extend my stay in Europe, MetalCamp: Slovenia

Despite it being more for the atmosphere, Roskilde festival has some interesting acts playing, mostly just as a result of the diversity available from the biggest (attendance wise) European festival. I would enjoy the reformed Pixies, and I have been listening to the twisted dancehall of The Bug a lot recently would love to groove to this live. Strangely enough Morbid Angel are also playing Roskilde. What is it with older school metal bands playing headline sets at predominatly alt-mainstream festivals? Metallica at the Big Day Out and now Morbid Angel.. and playing a 90 minute set to boot.

I'm sure that I would discover quite a few new gems as well.

However quite a few of these acts are playing every European festival and many even played this years Big Day Out back home, these bands of course will please the masses who are only there for the party atmosphere but will probably put me off having already decided they are not my thing in January.

Mostly the festival only acts I really want to see live are Death Angel and Orphaned Land. I am also keen to see Anathema, Enslaved, Katatonia and The Gathering as many times as possible whilst I am over here.

My budget is starting to get a bit more limited and flights around Europe are nowhere near as cheap and plentiful as I was expecting, it's all making the decisons so much harder!

Was planning to go to the castle of Elizabeth Bathory today, but could find little information about it, talking to the locals here they say it's just ruins, so I think I'll give it a miss. It's a pity they don't seize on the opportunity to make more of this, maybe the locals aren't proud of their serial killer countess, but at the same time, she even more so than Romania's vlad the impaler (more well known as count dracul) formed the foundation for the vampiric myths of this area.
I'm quite over castles, but was more interested in the history of this and also the odd punishment that was given when her serial killer activities were exposed, possibly due to the superstitous nature of the times, but primarily as she was royalty the local laws prevented her excecution. Instead she was locked in a closet in her own castle and fed through a hole for four years until she finally died.

Ahh Sunday, the day of rest, and I quite need it, have been being a bit too social the last few days.

Still in Bratislava which is another eastern european gem, albiet not Lujbljana but with a high standard of living, clean streets, few tourists it manages to be relaxing and yet still have a vibrant and friendly social life.

I have been travelling the last few days with an American girl, I wasn't really enjoying Budapest until she showed me the brighter side of the city, it also turned out we both wanted to go to Bratislava, but this morning we parted ways, she's off to Innsbruck, which i'd like to visit if it wasn't the wrong direction for me.

Also met another atmospheric metal fan, who had seen a different Anathema gig in Czech Republic a few days back. Atmospheric metal is still quite underground, and it's always strange to see how spread across the world the fans of this genre are, this guy was from Argentina.

The hostel here in Bratislava is not in the guidebook and as a result was full of really nice people, met another Australian who put my quite neutral accent in it's place with his outback queenslander drawl.

Took a very short train journey to Bratislava today, going to spend a little while here and then head north to Prague. I really like this place, not as nice as Ljublana but very chilled and not anywhere near as touristy.

Budapest was fun, but dirty in many places there was a lot of rubbish on the streets and a faint sewage smell. Kept my visits to sights to a minimum but was very impressed by what I did see, particularly the House of Terror, which was a museum built in the building that had previously housed Hungary's secret police, the whole thing was realy well done with lots of different media and engaging presentations, the content was chilling as not much of this gets a lot of exposure in the west, aside from the Nazi WWII atrocities, however the secret police operated until teh fall of the iron curtain in the late 90s.

I also indulged in a thermal turkish bath and wallowed away a relaxing afternoon.

Had trouble finding Budapest's much fabled nightlife, we wanted somewhere to drink outdoors without the smoke and blasting electronic music but all these much more pleasant places closed a lot earlier than we were expecting.

Had some irritating party animals in my dorm room, US college students who had just finished their degree and were in Europe to party, they got me very offside by their selfish/spoilt behaviour hidden behind an overt friendly nature.

Was originally going to explore a few smaller towns in Hungary, but have decided to try and go for some hiking in either Slovakia or Poland instead, I'm getting really sick of cities and worried I am going to despise Prague in a similar fashion to how much I disliked Vienna.

I heard earlier today that Quothorn, the man behind the pioneering band Bathory has passed away at the age of 39.

It's odd that in death we finally find out more than we ever have in life about this quite mysterious man who can lay fair claim to being one of the handfull who started the ball rolling on black metal. In particular, despite much speculation, it wasn't until he passed away a few days ago that his real identidy has been revealed to the world, recording under the name Quothorn & Bathory since the early 1980s he is finally revealed to be the son of the owner of the record label Black Mark Records which was Bathory's lifetime home and in itself a legendary underground metal label.

I still recall the first time I heard Bathory, as a teenager I was given a copy of "Blood Fire Death" which was the first of Bathory's Viking trilogy, probably his most famous era, where the overt satanism of the early albums was replaced by a more pagan focus. It was this moment, really that set me on a path musically that has taken me far beyond my schoolyard peers who only ever got as far as the bay area thrashers Metallica.

Without Bathory, there would be no Emperor or Enslaved nor Immortal & Satyricon.

Quothorn was obsessed with the classical composers, particularly that favourite of those from a nordic and germanic background Wagner and his work from the Viking era onwards really showcases this. Partially because the recording techiques improved from god awful to just above that over this period. This focus on lo-fi garage recording techniques ended up becoming a trademark part of the asthetic for all true underground black metal releases.

Even accounting for the atrocious production and recording equipment, Quothorn was not a great musician or singer, yet his rough and ready music balanced by a serious take on satanism and later the forceful conversion of scandanavia to christianity inspired a generation of youth to rebel against the deeply entrenched protestant christianity which exists across scanadanvia and to re-discover their wilder pagan roots.

I am quite seriously considering making a visit to wherever his final resting place will be in Stockholm and paying him the respect in death he earnt in life.

Originally Posted by blabbermouth.net Legendary video director and founding BATHORY member Jonas ┼kerlund has spoken to Sweden's Expressen newspaper about the passing of BATHORY mastermind Thomas "Quorthon" Forsberg from what is believed to be heart failure. Forsberg, who was known to have been battling heart problems for years, was found dead in his apartment in Stockholm, Sweden on Monday (June 7). He was 39 years old.

"It's so sad. He had much more to offer," ┼kerlund said.

Jonas, who formed the band with Forsberg in the early '80s, went on to have a successful video-directing career, having worked with the likes of METALLICA, PRODIGY, MADONNA and U2.

"[BATHORY came onto the scene] extremely early," ┼kerlund said. "People like Marilyn Manson, Billy Corgan and the members of METALLICA have all come up to me and have told me that they listened to BATHORY."

According to ┼kerlund, it was Thomas Forsberg's creativity that made the band such an influence on so many younger metal acts.

"[Quorthon] had a high cult status," Jonas said. "He wasn't interested in attention, he just wanted to play his music."

Budapest is such a contrast to Vienna, both were stinking hot today and after wandering around heaps trying to find the spirit of Vienna (faded glory of a dead empire is all I could sense) I gave up and decided to just leave.

Despite changing into shorts, I found it a huge struggle to walk to the metro station and was thouroughly dehydrated and totallly over Vienna by the time I finally got there.

Train journey was uneventful, they even had power points so I took the opportunity to re juice my iPod.

Arrived in Budapest at 7PM, info office was closed best I could find was a german brochure which I ripped the maps out of and tossed away. After all these years of getting money out of ATMs I should know better than to accept their default "fast cash" values, the bloody machines always like to give out notes that are way too huge to be changed on the street. I ended up with 10,000 FT notes, which is kind of like $50 or $100 in oz

So lacking any small change to take the public transport (which would have been like 150 FT) I decided to walk, my hostel is called Red Bus, but when I get there aftera good 45 minute walk, I discover I am actually staying in Red Bus 2 which is 2/3rds of the way back along the path I just trod. Of course it starts pissing down as soon as I start walking back, and by the time I get to the hostel 30+ minutes later I am soaked with dirt, pollution and salty foul tasting water.

Oh well, a hot shower and some dry clothes later I'm feeling fine. But was more worried about some of my possesions that aren't so into getting wet like my iPod.

Despite the option looming as a very pleasant opportunity, I ended up staying the planned two nights in Vienna rather than heading straight to Budapest to see Anathema again, partly this was due to the difficulty I had finding decent net access to confirm I had a bed in Budapest, I only found out I did when it was too late.

I think one of the things that puts me off Vienna is how damn expensive everything is, including internet access. I've been told that a few bookstores have free internet, but in my wanderings i've yet to find these, also I'm really frustrated at how many machines are locked in boxes so I can't get at the USB ports to download my nearly 200 pictures I've taken since I was last able to post some in I think... Pisa. Got two quotes, one was $17 and the other $25 to download and burn these to a blank CD, absolutely outreagous!

All the locals here exploit hungary & czech for cheap shopping, so maybe something as basic as cd burning will be affordable there.

Vienna does however look majestic at dusk and later in the night, with all lovely architecture lit up and the locals lounging in the many parks drinking and chatting whilst later the streets fill with the usually older crowd flowing out of Viennas many Opera and music houses.

The weather continues to be quite hot and I'm wondering why I didn't decide to wear shorts today, I've tried to dress less casually as it really marks you as a tourist in many of these places (more so in Italy) and in the current political climate, I'd prefer not to be mistaken for an american tourist at this juncture.

Arrived in Vienna last night, been travelling for so long that my routines have become set. Head for tourist information and get whatever half decent map they have, usually still manage to screw up trying to find my accomodation and if I'm lucky I end up asking some pretty lass for directions.

Was so whacked from lack of proper sleep that although I contemplated going out and wandering around the local area, however once I'd found my bed for the night, it was just too compelling and i slept like a log.

Vienna isn't the magical city many have made it out to be, at least for me. Yes there is some nice grandiose architecture, but I've seen plenty of examples on a smaller scale in cities that were once part of the Austrian empire.

Unlike the past few days in Slovenia, where it was raining and overcast, Vienna has been damn hot, and I decided to make it even hotter by rather than visiting the endless museums and galleries on offer to instead see a Butterfly House, which was beautiful with heaps of colourful butterflies fluttering around living their short but fruitful lives, and to round things out, there were little king quails dartinga round my feet, when you included the very warm temperature and humidity I almost felt like I was back home.

Needing to cool off and stay indoors after this sweat inducing experience, I decided to take advantage of a rarity in Europe, earlier I'd seen a cinema dedicated to showing films undubbed, so it was off to see The Prisoner of Azkaban! What a difference the change in director has made, if only they had got someone half decent for the first two, but i'm glad they did the best book justice. The highlight for me was the really delicate colour grading job, rather than take the attitude of pushing the saturation to the limits like most films do these days, some scenes were bleached of colour adding to the bleakness and desparation of the film.

Many in the small audience complained that the story differed significantly from the book, but it was more that all unnecessary flab was cut, making a film that barely scrapes over two hours.

Of the teen cast, Emma Watson really shined acting wise and the new director seemed to get more out of the others but aside from Emma, the rest will probably go the way of Mark Hamill when the series has run it's course.

With the local Austrian cusine really quite unsuitable for a vego (or anyone health conscious) I decided to opt for something from my region and had yellow curry with tofu, which seriously disappointed, mostly in the measly portion and some of the ingredients being not too fresh. I guess it's hard to get this kind of stuff in the middle of europe, but this is a heavily touristed city and I found all kinds of great Asian ingredients in Amsterdam for example, when i cooked for Mendy. I comitted a bit of a faux pas by telling the waiter how disappointed I was with the food though! Seriously though, I felt angry paying for something that wasn't even cooked consistently.

Right now I feel quite seedy, but it was as a result of a lovely night, so definitely worthwhile.

After waiting far too many years I finally saw Anathema live last night, it was hands down one of the best shows I've ever seen, all the factors were right, great band, great sound in a decent venue and a small but friendly crowd who really enjoyed the show.

My only criticsm is that it was far too short, being a Sunday night they had a curfew that was ridiculously early and meant by the time I wandered down to the venue at around 9PM all the support bands had already played. I was disappointed as the supports in Europe seem to be of much higher quality than back home.

The Sunday night factor also contributed to the tiny crowd, only maybe 250 people, which was kind of disappointing but redeemed by the fact that those who were there were serious fans and their enthuasism rubbed off on the band who really enjoyed playing to such a responsive and intimate crowd.

Playing a couple of songs off each album all the way back to Eternity, the setlist was well balanced, but I was disappointed they did not play what is possibly my favourite Anathema track, Lost Control. What they did play was hypnotically good, I was simply blown away by how glorious they sounded live, as many other bands suffer with poor mixes or find it difficult to replicate some of the guitar treatments live.

After a far too short show, they closed their encore with a nod to one of their influences, playing "Wish You Were Here". The small crowd all sang along and at the end I could tell, that I wasn't the only one who wanted more, the whole crowd was chanting and clapping for a second encore, but the venue wasn't going to let that happen and brought on the ugly lights.

I splurged on the merchandise, mostly on behalf of my absent friends Bron and Andy who I wished could have seen this gig with me. Ended up having a good conversation with all three of the Cavanagh brothers at various points and particularly Danny was enthusastic about possibly playing in Australia some day.

It's a real pity that these guys haven't ever had the breaks that Opeth, who are signed to the same record label have. Their music has appeal well outside of the metal genre where they started so long ago.

The local Austrian fans were very friendly and I had a couple of beers before being dragged off, firstly in search of a pub still open and then when that failed back to their pad for a late night of nattering in broken english lubricated with some decent local wine.

Also got a drunken night walking tour of the sights and history of Graz, but can't recall much of that.

As my camera is still broken, no pictures from me, but the lovely lass Caroline who I ended up chatting to after the show should post some great pics on her site: photopit at some point.

Off to Vienna shortly, but am tempted to cut that short and head for Budapest tomorrow so I can see Anathema again!!

Another productive organisation day, now june has arrived, peak season has started in full (despite the weather still feeling like early spring) so I have to plan a lot more than the two days in advance I was doing in Italy. Which necessitated the calendar update and locking in of accomodation in various places.

Tonight i'm staying at hostel Celica which is where I was originally trying to stay when I was planning last weeks accomodation. It's now a hostel, but was previously an art gallery and prior to that a prison, as a result it has a real character. I've been blowing money far too quickly with staying in hotels in Italy and the expensive accomodation in Ljubljana last weekend so now that more hostels are opening for the summer crowds (and universities are about to break for summer, offering even more beds) so i'm going to take advantage of this to try and keep the costs down and already have booked hostels in the backpacker meccas of Prague and Budapest.

The car and I both emerged unscathed from my little road tour of Slovenia, I've returned the little beastie and am back to travelling on trains, which is relaxing but so slow... especially here where the trains go at like 60km/hr

Bled was picturesque but the contrast between the extremely helpful tourist agencies in other parts of slovenia and the rude and overpriced crap I got from the various places in Bled says a lot about how over touristed it is.

Despite this I got a decent place in a quieter part of the town and haggled breakfast for no extra cost. The woman who ran the place was lovely and very friendly.

Ran into a couple of brits when I was eating out and watching the beautiful sunset over lake bled. Can't escape my industry as they both worked in the mobile telco space. Nice conversation though, managed to avoid too much shop talk.

With the weather really crap in bled, I decided to forego any plans of hiking and left pretty early, stopping at Radovljica for a few hours to visit their Museum of Apiculture which was fascinating, definitely worth a trip to see the many examples of folk paintings (18th to early 20th century) that traditionally were created to uniquely identify and brighten up each owners beehives.

Much of the rest of the day was occupied by a long and boring drive to Novo Mestro, was trying to get to a small monastery just past novo mestro where they managed to grow pears inside bottles which later also get filled with pear brandy. Had lots of frustrating delays due to roadworks and ended up giving the monastry a miss. Stayed overnight in Novo Mestro and found the locals friendly but a bit light on nightlife for a Friday night! Pity it isn't a university town and doesn't have some kind of temporary population that can support a more vibrant scene.

Back in Ljublana now, just updated my calendar significantly so people can see what I'm up to over the next month or so.

In the short term, i'm off to Graz tomorrow to see Anathema, which should be a great live performance.

Survived to day three of my car hire experience, driving on the highways is fine, a lot of them are divided roads and the biggest problem is worrying about the damn drivers with german numberplates who think divided highway equals autobahn and no speed limits, hope the slovene police got a few of those buggers!

I slipped up last night, going down a one way street fine, but when it turned into two way, there were no cars around, and I instinctively headed for the left, which was fine until a car appeared going the other way, quick reactions and much cursing of my ingrained habits followed but thankfully no expensive collisions ensued.

Firstly, I drove to the Őkocjan Caves and came about a minor problem with my booking accomodation in another town called Őkocjan on the other side of Slovenia. Ended up staying above the local pub in a nearby town called Divača.

Visited the caves first thing in the morning, they were amazing and it is easy to understand why this is Slovenia's sole world heritage site, it's phenonomal to think much of the region I have just driven through is dotted with similar cave systems.

The following day, I drove all the way to the Croatian border along the short Istrian coast of Slovenia, all along this area they have been harvesting salt from the sea for millenia, industrialisation stopped all of this earlier this century unfortunatly. However recognising the importance of this heritage, the government has turned some of the remaining salt farming areas into reserves and partially restored one of the farms to partial operation, turning it into a museum which I visited at Sečovlje, within spitting distance of Croatia.

Was a wonderfully serene environment, even with a few school tours, and as most who know me, would already know, it makes me incredibly happy to see traditional farming practices like this continued, as to use the vernacular, sea salt is the bomb.

Last night I stayed in Postojna but not to visit their once impressive but over touristy caves. Instead after getting lost, I eventually found my wayto the Predjama Castle which was impressive visually, and has an amusing backstory.

Back in ljubljana for the afternoon, but hope to head for Bled tonight

Rest assured, photos will come when I find a computer that is capable of uploading them...

Today being the first of June also marks a milestone in Metal, finally what I consider to be one of the most groundbreaking albums of 2003 is finally available in the US, which really means it's now accessible to the world as the infrastructure for buying European metal imports directly from their home market is quite poor.

It also means that I will be placing an order for an album I've had in mp3 since last November but been unable to realistically legally procure until now.

The release I am referring to is the opus "The Work Which Transforms God" by french one man band "Blut Aus Nord". I seriously encourage all to give this release a listen, it is an amazing exploration into modes and harmonics that have been shunned by conventional music since at least the middle ages. I could rant for ages about this album, but I already did a review when I first got the mp3s

Kudos to Candlight Records for signing this act for wider distribution, continuing the tradition this label set with releasing early albums by Scanadavian pioneers Enslaved, Emperor and Opeth

Following much indecision, I hired a car this morning, plan on driving around slovenia over the next few days.

Not counting a small amount of very bad driving in Spain, this will be the first time for me driving on what we aussies would refer to the wrong side of the road. All I can say for any slovenes who might encounter me on the highway is: watch out!

In other news, I am the proud owner of a slovenian prepaid SIM, which will probably be the best way to contact me whilst I am travelling through central europe. Email me if you want the number.

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