Friday, September 25, 2009


Hej då Stockholm!

Tervetuloa Helsinki!

September 22, 2009.
Same trip - different country.

On Tuesday morning I said goodbye to Stockholm and hello to Helsinki, Finland's gorgeous capital located by the Baltic Sea in the south of the country. The weather was blustery and the wind smelled of the sea. I spent my evening wandering through the dark streets listening to The Smiths. Soooo amazing!

Me pre-Smiths listening...

In Helsinki, the signs are mostly bilingual Finnish/Swedish, or trilingual with Russian:

Needless to say, I got a bit lost. Finnish is unlike most European languages and so I found myself relying on the little Swedish that I did know to get around - when there was any Swedish to be found!

Helsinki is beautiful. The rainy weather just gave it an added touch of mystery. Here are some of the pics I managed to snap before it got to dark and wet:

While I was walking around downtown I kept running across these gangs of brightly dressed young'uns drinking out of flasks and making a lot of noise. I was worried that they might try to force me to join in their revelry like some sort of enforced Finnification. I kept my distance but took these pictures...

September 23, 2009.

Day One: ANTI Festival

The next morning I packed up and headed to the train station. On the way I stopped in front of Helsinki's cathedral to take a picture of it in all it's sunbathed glory!

My train left at 11:00am, and me being my usual self showed up 40-minutes early. I wasn't the only one:

The trip from Helsinki to Kuopio was long and sorta boring. The Finnish landscape that we were moving through was very much like the Laurentian forest I grew up surrounded by in Rawdon, Quebec. I read most of Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club while trying to stretch my legs in preparation for my big performance. I was getting very nervous, as my performance started from the minute I got off the train.

When I arrived in Kuopio I unrolled the carpet from the train and touched ground on it's red velvet surface. I was greeted by a man with a blue, two-pronged mohawk (think the guy from Prodigy... you know?... "I am the Firestarter!"?). He introduced himself as Ville. He was to be my personal assistant for the week.

I walked the red carpet around town and then to my hotel, where I had a shower and prepared to go out for an opening party at a local gallery. Much to my delight, La Pocha Nostra were performing at this event and I got to meet the members that night at the bar. So exciting!

Night-time carpet walking.

La Pocha Nostra.

La Pocha Nostra and Ville.

Me with Guillermo-Gomez Pena of La Pocha Nostra.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sverige (Part 3)

September 19, 2009.
The Cute & The Creepy

My friend Minna had Swahili lessons in Uppsala (about 40 minutes north of Stockholm, so I got to spend the day wandering the city. Uppsala is cute in the quaint-mediaeval town turned tourist attraction kinda way. Uppsala is creepy in the reflection of dark Swedish culture, history of Black Death and epic cathedral filled with skulls sorta way. I spent the day feeling both cute and creepy.

For example, Minna said that my outfit (black leather jacket and cataract protection sunglasses) made me look like a member of a bad 80s synth band -- cute. I spent the afternoon walking around a cemetery reading gravestones in said 80s synth band outfit -- creepy.

Here are some other examples:

Flowers = cute!

Skull-pture = creepy.

Yarn bomb bowtie = cute!

Headless statue = creepy.

Bear rolling in the grass = cute!

Life-like wax statue of the Virgin Mary = sooooo creepy.

Boyish good looks = cute!

"Have you seen this boy?" = creepy.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sverige (Part 2)

I forgot to mention this on my list of things that I like about Sweden: Stockholm is a bicycle thief's Heaven! Here a few examples of bikes that could easily be nabbed by even the most poorly equipped pilferer of two-wheeled transportation devices. These bikes aren't even locked down to anything. All you would need to do is to pick it up and carry it off back home. Montreal bike thieves take notice...

And because I'm a gay horse:

My love of signage continues! My friend Lise pointed out from my earlier blog post that I missed the infamous "SLUT" signs, which translates to "END" in English but I didn't see any on this trip, at least not when I had my camera ready. I hope "Bad" & "Restaurang Ho's" will suffice.


Compost Bart.

Fargat glass.

O! Fargat glass.

Mmmm. Bran Bart.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sverige (Part 1)

September 15, 2009.
Day one of my trip.

It was a 45-minute flight down the Hudson River all the way to JFK airport from MTL. With a 6-hour layover ahead of me, all I could do was stare longingly out to the Manhattan Skyline across the tarmac.

My flight to Helsinki was long, sleepless and boring with my in-flight entertainment system on the fritz and really, really bad air plane food. I read a Margaret Atwood book on the subject of debt and took frequent trips to the the lavatory, if only for the brief walk up and down the aisle.

September 16, 2009.
Day two in transit.

Arrived in Helsinki and had to wait another four hours for my flight to Stockholm. I wanted to scratch my eyes out I was so bored/tired!

By the time I reached downtown Stockholm I was quite delirious with sleeplessness. My friend Minna met me at Central-Station by a place endearingly nicknamed Spotkoppen which when translated means "The Spittoon."

September 17, 2009.
First day in Stockholm.

I spent the day wandering the city and getting my bearings. I found the Sverige Huset ("Sweden House") which contained a tourist information centre. Armed with a map and list of wireless-hotspots (few and far between... at least the free ones) I set off to rediscover my favorite city in the world.

For supper, Minna and I made a yummy Swedish meal that consisted of a baked bacon pancake, cabbage salad and lingonberry jam. On a side note that there seem to be a thousand different types of cabbage which translates to kål in Swedish - röd kål, grön kål, savoy kål, ad infinitum. Even the staple of my diet back home - frizzy kale - would be lumped into the kål category. Gotta love your leafy greens!

And for desert Minna made kanelbullar -- cinnamon buns! Mmmmmmmm.

September 18, 2009.
Things I like about Sweden/Swedes/Stockholm.

- many people dress very well and have nice shoes and/or pants
- architecture/design/infrastructure = functional
- Södermalm
- Gamla Stan
- Östermalm
- Kulturhuset (free internet!)
- Stortorget
- kannelbullar
- Swedish cheese
- fil (like yoghurt, except... tingly)
- the Swedes general love for multiple dairy products in a single meal
- lingonberries
- sunny weather (at least for most of the time I have been here)
- in Swedish "kiss" means pee and "puss" means kiss
- in Swedish one swears about the Devil rather than their sexual parts
- there seems to be a song for every occasion, especially when drinking is involved
- the street signs!


Utfart all day!

These are a few of my favorite things...

Pripps Blå beer = Labbat Blue of Sweden

The (gay) chocolate cup.

Except not really.

So cute!


This Simone de Beauvoir mural makes me think of all the homework I should be doing, which means that this will have to be a two part entry. So much to see and so little time! I will post more later on this week. Hopefully in Finland I will more regular access to the internerd.

Until then: Hej då!