Wacken 2019: To Germany!

While Wacken is off to the west of the country, near Hamburg, I’ve never been to Berlin despite hearing many great things about it. Time to fix that.

I’d checked flights, but worked out that train was about the same price, about the same time, far more comfortable and dropped me off 50m from a hostel. So after waving bye-bye to Joy, I headed to the international terminal at St Pancras and jumped on a Eurostar to Brussels. Then promptly fell asleep. I woke up briefly and the cars we were zooming past were on the wrong side so I assumed we were in France (or the police in Kent were in for a bad day). I nodded off again and my phone told me I was now in Belgium.

After a minor panic getting my 4G to work even though I thought I’d set it all up before leaving, we pulled into Brussels and I located the first of my German trains. A short while later I made a final change onto the one which would take me to Berlin.

I got talking to a nice German lady (who’s near-opening shot was “What on earth is that Boris Johnson doing?”) for most of the trip, and she helped me decipher the conductor’s instructions that we change carriage as, due to an electrical fault, the aircon was borked. Sadly this meant being moved to first class.

We pulled into Berlin Hauptbahnhopf a shade over 7 minutes late which isn’t bad for an interrupted journey (they had to make an unscheduled stop to get everyone to move carriage) and my hostel was ridiculously easy to find. I’m currently ensconced in the Meininger by the train station and it’s pretty much like a budget hotel only with two bunks in each dorm room.

Berlin is like the UK a while ago – it’s hit and miss if people will take card payments and everywhere closes around 9-10pm, but after some hiking I managed to find a place called Curry-One which sold me a “Berlin Menu”: currywurst, chips, mayo, ketchup and beer for €6.50. Very nice it was, too!

Job done, back to the hostel and asleep on top of the covers in the top bunk as it was so bloody warm!

Wacken 2019: Acton and Bloodywood

Long story short as I’ve got a lot to get through! Up, breakfast, met Joy at Victoria station (11 years since we last crossed paths, apparently!). We headed to Backpackershack in Acton where I’d managed to find space for two bodies. A bit of a hike but a nice enough place above a pub. The lady who let us in and sorted the room was from Glasgow!

Back east and a stop off for brunch to catch up with Andy, Shalene and the not-that-small-any-more Alex (and also Shalene’s dad, who was visiting). Lovely to see them, as always, and as a bonus I had my first ever Macedonian beer.

After that, up to Islington to locate the ridiculously well-hidden Academy2 and Katie who was doing photos for the gig tonight. Burgers, chips and drinks and then off to the gig which you can read all about on The Moshville Times once the review’s been proofread and published!

“Home”, tea, bed and an early start in the morning…

Wacken 2019: Wandering London

As is my habit, I like just… walking. I’ve been to London umpteen times (nice place to visit, don’t want to live there) and there’s always something new to see and do, usually for nothing. As well as the other stuff that’s stupidly expensive.

This morning at 10:30 (after a £2.50 breakfast that absolutely stuffed me) I left Clink-261, turned left, walked to Kings Cross, turned left onto Euston Road… and kept going. Well, I stopped at the Wellcome Trust that I’d missed on many occasions. I was just in time to get a little tour based around “what happens to our bodies in space?” before wandering around their current “Psychology of Magic” exhibition on the ground floor. Great stuff and all free.

My aim was to head down to Westminster as it’s been a long time since I walked past the Parliament Buildings and the Cathedral. It took me a good while to get down there, passing through the Magnum ice cream shop that’s opened up on Leicester Square, down a few smaller streets because the looked interesting and so on. I dodged the people giving out free cold cans of Pepsi Max because it tastes like stale money piss (why don’t you give out cans of proper Pepsi? Oh, that’s right, it’s because people actually like it so you don’t need to foist it on them to get rid of your excess stock), and finally made it to Downing Street which has a lot of security for what is now effectively a literal monkey house. Ook, ook, Boris. You mop-headed gimp.

From there to Westminster where I’m still impressed by the scale and architecture of both the political and religious structures, though both are currently largely shrouded in scaffolding which is a shame. Democratically elected morons and people who believe in fairy tales aside, they’re both fantastic buildings visually. A shame they’re both inhabited by those with destructive egos.

Down to the River and over one of the many bridges to the south side as I wanted to pass by the Shard. No reason other than I’ve not been there before. Again, a nice wander looking at nice buildings, and a quick stop in at a museum of art and science where I again lucked out by arriving when a little tour had just started. The exhibits were pretty cool – mainly focused on the current topic of dark matter – if more arty than science-y. There was a woman in our little group who had two children with her, a boy of around 8 and a girl maybe 4 years old. He was very observant, and his little sister asked incredible questions. I passed a little comment to her mum at the end and told her never to stop her doing so – a little girl with a mind like that has the makings of being a brilliant scientist in her own right!

On past a large railway carriage covered in gigantic ants (yeah… I know, odd) and then to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London itself. I crossed here knowing, because my memory remembers shit like this from 20 years ago, there’s a KFC in an underground location near the Tower that sells beer! Well. Budweiser. But hey. I found it with not trouble, but was disappointed to find that they no longer sell beer. Boo! I was hungry so ordered a meal… only to find that they also didn’t sell any drinks with sugar in! So, erm, no. Order cancelled, I walked off and looked for a McD’s instead.

I didn’t find one. Seriously, I walked all the way past the rear of St Paul’s (there’s a joke there somewhere) and all the way back to the hostel without passing one! Incidentally, I’d aimed to get from where I was back to the hostel by 5pm. I walked through the door at 17:00. On the dot. I also hadn’t stopped for anything to eat or drink since I set off in the morning. Oops.

As it happens, there was a McDs a 2 minute walk up the road so I splurged £1.99 on a Big Mac and chips before meeting Jonathan for dinner (well, his dinner) and drinks round the corner. Jon, I checked – it was 2001 the last time we met! Bloody hell.

A great night was had between two bars and several pints before he headed off and I collapsed into the 18-bed sweat-pit.

On an additional point, I’ve found London very pleasant on this visit especially given the hot weather which normally makes people short tempered. Sure, the drivers are all dicks (what’s new), but everyone else has been lovely and polite. I even had two people compliment me on my (pink rainbow Death Metal) t-shirt!

Wacken 2019: London first

I’ve not updated this blog in bloody ages so I’m going to use the trip to Wacken as an excuse to put up some garbage that none of you will read.

Wacken may be in Germany, but as usual I decided to head through London for a day or two to chill out and to catch up with old friends as I do most years. The sweet spot for train tickets (£30) this time was the Thursday evening. Unfortunately this was Niamh’s birthday but at least I got to see her in the morning when she woke up where I’d missed the entire day last year as I was in Slovenia covering Metal Days.

So, come 2pm and I started packing in the knowledge that I had to be out of the house by just after 3… Fortunately I travel light. Courtesy of EasyJet (and every other budget airline) now saying you can only have one tiny bit of carry-on luggage without paying £30+ for another bag, I’d picked up an appropriately small wheeled suitcase and ensured it had enough room in it to stuff my daybag for the flight back. Journey out: denim jacket in suitcase. Journey back, that space taken up by backpack while I wear the jacket.

Beyond that, one plug bar, a foreign plug adaptor, 5 t-shirts, 8 pairs of socks, 5 pairs of undies, a spare novel, a lightweight pair of trousers and my trainers. I chucked in some chocolate bars and peanuts I could snack on throughout the week and some toiletries I could throw away before the flight (because heaven forbid I try to down a Boeing 747 using 10ml of toothpaste).

Time was getting tight for my train to London, so I hopped on a bus into Glasgow (which turned out to be almost twice the price I expected – I’d have been better off getting the train), and went through my usual mild panic waiting for it to get to Glasgow Central. Just as Google Maps was telling me to stand up for the final stop, the bus hung a sharp left and kept going. And going. And going. Eventually dropping me off at the wrong train station.

I belted through the heavy crowds in the hot sun, knackered a wheel on my suitcase, sprinted into Central Station only to find… my train had been delayed by 50 minutes. Turns out that the overhead cables in London don’t like 40-degree heat and melt or something. Bizarrely this had caused problems with the rail network.

Well, I eventually made it to London over an hour late (which means I qualify for my ticket to be fully refunded) and I only got soaked a little bit as the aircon in the carried crapped itself having to deal with heat and leaked profusely from the ceiling several times. I mean, it’s not like it’s actually what they’re built for or anything.

Thankfully Clink-261 (10 mins walk from Euston) has a 24 hour reception. My 18-bed dorm, filled with very sweaty yet considerate people, had an air conditioner the side of a hair dryer in the corner which was making apologetic noises for how ineffectual it was. Thankfully months of acclimatisation in $3 per night Bangkok hostels came back and I slept moderately well despite one cohabitant snoring like a pig oinking underwater. Through a megaphone.

Metal Days trip: Day 2 (London to Trieste)

Not a hugely eventful day today. Up at a reasonable hour to thank my kind hosts Katie and Nick for putting me up (and putting up with me) for an evening, and then Nick escorted me to Liverpool Street Station before the trains got too busy.

Better photos tomorrow, hopefully

I was an hour early for my coach to Stansted, but as it was almost empty, the nice man from National Express told me to jump on the earlier one rather than sit on the pavement for sixty minutes. A short journey later and I was at the airport and going through security. Belt off, shoes off, waving my arms in some scanner things… the usual.

There then followed three hours of sitting on my arse wondering why the airport put about twelve plug sockets on little seating things outside Burger King when not a single one of them works. I’m just glad I have an additional battery pack for my phone.

Then there was the usual stampede for the gate when it was announced. Followed by people standing and queuing for ages when everyone has an allotted seat anyway. It’s not like getting on first makes any difference at all. I sat until the queue vanished and pretty much just walked straight to my seat.

As we were taxiing I noticed that the chap next to me was just a little bit nervous. Well, very nervous. He was gripping the (cheap plastic – this is RyanAir) headrest in front of him so tightly I thought he was going to leave handprints. It turns out he doesn’t fly well, and when most of us are making our ears pop, he gets incredibly dizzy and feels like he’s falling. Very much not a pleasant way to travel.

He also was heading for Slovenia, to play at a rockabilly festival. We talked for the entire flight, keeping his mind off things, and I hope I made the ninety minutes or so slightly more bearable for him!

On arrival at Trieste, the passport queue took an age to get through, and my phone data wasn’t working. This was an issue as my only means of communicating with my couchsurfing host and navigating to his flat required internet access… With the help of my lovely wife (because the phone bill’s in her name, so BT wouldn’t speak to me), we managed to get it sorted and normal business was resumed.

The train into the city was less of an issue, only €4 for the half hour journey.

Of course, I was flustered to had to stop for a drink at the very nice Hop & Rock café, where I chilled for a bit as the sun began to set over the ocean to the west. Lovely. Trieste at first glance, is typically Italian. That is to say, gorgeous and full of too many nice places to drink outside when the weather’s this nice.

I made it to Alessio’s at around 8:30pm, only 2 1/2 hours late. Like many before him, he’s proven to be a wonderful host and – after a pasta (of course) dinner – we sat up to the early hours talking about… well… stuff!

So, after keying around 350 combinations into my luggage lock to open it (it changed combinations – the one that eventually opened it was one digit out on each of the wheels in various directions, so I’m not impressed with that) I was able to get my phone charging and rattle this off.

Tomorrow I will mainly be walking. A lot. I’ve got a handful of sites I want to see and a lot of local food and drink I want to sample!