Sunday, April 18, 2010

Crossing the Atlantic: Part Six

When I heard we were going to be in Denmark for another day, I decided I had to go and do SOMETHING exciting, so I went to Sweden (it's only half an hour or so away by train). The train was PACKED - full of people trying to get home any way they could.

Arriving at Malmø Central Station, I knew I wanted to go somewhere else, but I didn't know where. I've been to Malmø before (see June 2008 in the right-hand column), and although I really like it, I spent an entire day looking around it and I knew there wouldn't be much more to see.

Walking into the information office at the station, I saw a huge map of southern Sweden on the wall. I had a quick glance round to see where else I could go and still be able to get back to Copenhagen in good time. As I scanned the map, my eye caught the name "Ystad". Hmm. Ystad is the town where the Wallander books and films (by Henning Mankell) are (set/filmed). I'm a big fan of the series, but Ystad (or Oosh-tard, as Branagh and his buddies call it) did seem rather a long way away... I looked around and saw that the train to Ystad was about to leave the staion. I had to make a decision there and then. Oh, what the heck. I went to Ystad.

Arriving in Ystad (and still feeling like a bit of a geek), I sought out the tourist office. That wasn't actually hard, because it was opposite the train station. Although it was shut, they had left a lot of leaflets about the town out. One caught my eye:

I decided to jump on the geek bandwagon altogether and go with it (I hadn't got anything else to do, so why not?).

Ystad is a lovely looking town actually - with little cobbled streets and small houses (OK, this street isn't cobbled.):

I didn't go to EVERY place my guide suggested I should go to, but there were a couple I did check out:

Wallander's street:

Wallander's favourite café (where you can apparently buy a Wallander police blue pastry. Whatever that is. It doesn't sound particularly appetising. I never got to find out because by the time I got round to having my Wallander police blue pastry, it was shut.):

One final thing: what is it with this crazy continental tendency to shut every thing at about 2pm on a Saturday? To keep my spirits up, I decided it would be a nice touch to buy a Wallander book from Ystad. Could I find anywhere selling books at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon?


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Crossing the Atlantic: Part Five

When I was in the Faroes, I heard that the Danish Queen, Margrethe II, was due to have her seventieth birthday soon, but I didn't think much more of it. However, once stranded in Copenhagen, I realised I was going to be around for it and saw that it was a pretty big deal for the Danes.

AC told me that there was going to be a parade through Copenhagen, but after checking the internet we realised we'd missed it. Bummer.

(AC reading from the newspaper) "But John, she is going to wave from the Town Hall just before 2 o'clock".

I stopped and thought about it. I had about fifty minutes and didn't even know how to get to the centre of Copenhagen from the hotel. I was sure I wouldn't make it. But then I hadn't got anything else to do and it could end up being an experience... After umming and ah-ing for a few minutes (whilst losing time), I decided to go for it. Why not?

So I did a quick Google Map check, memorised the route to the station and rushed off. There were reminders about the birthday all over the place. Every bus had two Danish flags flying and most buildings were adorned with the Danish red-and-white (The last part of that sentence is a little more poetic than mitchenstein usually gets. Apart from when I wrote that ode to Aldgate Station):

I got to Copenhagen Town Hall (I made it!) and there were a LOT of people there:

A large screen was relaying the proceedings from inside the hall to those of us waiting on the square. Royalty from Sweden and Norway was there, but a lot of the guests hadn't been able to make it because of some volcano or something ;) So it was good that I had made the effort to go, as I now saw myself as the United Kingdom's official representative.
And then she came out to see me!
This very short video is just to give you an idea of the scenes as she came out. I warn you now, it's loud. You were warned. Just there. And then there again. There.

She wasn't there for long, but it was pretty cool. I'm a bit of a royalist and I've never seen our Queen, so it was kinda cool to see Margrethe on her special day :) But the fun didn't stop there! As soon as she'd left, they unveiled a massive load of huge Danish pastries, enough for about two thousand people, they said (not quite enough). But it was free!

The crowd rushed off to get a piece of the action/cake:
But I was a little too cool for that, so I didn't get a piece. And I went off on my way.

Only joking!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Crossing the Atlantic: Part Four

Well, this wasn't quite how I had expected today to pan out... Up at 5am this morning, I managed to get to Copenhagen Airport on time, get checked-in, and get all set for my flight to Greenland.

Kangerlussuaq, here we come!

At 9.00am we were told about a volcano eruption in Iceland and that they weren't sure when we'd be able to leave. At 10.00am they told us the flight had been cancelled. So, I'm not going anywhere today (apparently the airport's going to close tonight). Argh.

So now I'm sitting in the Transfer Centre, waiting for my number to be called so I can go and find out what they're going to do with me... If I'd realised they were using the number system, I would have been a little quicker in getting here! I have number 099, and they're currently on 059. Hmm.

My View.

Number 077.

Glad I'm flying with Air Greenland. The guy from SAS just announced over the system: "My colleagues are doing all they can. We didn't have any control over the volcano. We're not masters of nature." The mood I'm in (just tired), that would have made me angry!

Number 099! (The last bit went quickly as they told all the Danes to go home!)

There's something unsatisfactory about arriving at an airport, going through check-in, customs, etc. only to leave the same airport again 4 hours later.

Fortunately I managed to find my case!

Well, I'm lucky because they've put me in a hotel for the night - from what I've heard from England, that's not happening over there. I'm sat on a bus full of Greenlanders and being taken somewhere. Well, this is an adventure in itself. Although I wish I'd learned more Greenlandic, because an old man just started singing a song and all the others laughed.

I've just decided I'm going to treat myself to a bag of Haribo fried eggs tonight. Still on the bus...

The hotel is very nice, but absolutely in the middle of nowhere. So there probably won't be any Haribo eggs. And check-in isn't possible until 3pm. Right.

But all is forgiven! Lunch AND dinner all thrown in! And I don't know what have the stuff is, so it must be good!

Waiting... So I took a photo of myself.

Well THIS is an interesting development! The hotel doesn't have enough rooms, so we have to share... Not great. Another traveller, AC (that's the name, not me being secretive) came and asked if I had anyone to go with. Which I obviously didn't. So, in a rather awkward situation (for both of us), the two of us went to find our room and get to know each other!

We're getting on really well, and we're going into the centre of Copenhagen tonight. It looks like we'll be here for a couple of nights, so it's great we've hit it off (I keep imagining how it could have gone...).

A weird day. And one that hasn't quite finished in the country I'd intended it to!

But this card in the hotel room cheered me up (I'm shattered - that's the only explanation I have. It means 'speed' in Danish):

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Crossing the Atlantic: Part Three

(Yes, this post is out of sync, but I had to wait for the photos. I'll put it in its right place in a little while. So now, you have to imagine I'm back in the Faroe Islands. Which, if you're located anywhere other than the Faroe Islands or Denmark, where I actually am, you might actually think I was anyway).

Once a year, sometimes more often, the Salvation Army in the Faroe Islands is responsible for one television meeting. Every Sunday, at four o'clock, there's an hour long service on the TV from one of the churches on the islands. Nearly every time I go the Faroes I just miss being able to take part in the TV meeting. But this time (I actually didn't know), I managed to be there for it!

I was pretty excited about the whole thing. Fortunately I wasn't doing anything high-profile (other than singing in the choir/playing in the band, so I'd just be able sit back and enjoy it. Which I did for about the first twenty minutes.

We were really getting in to it: the choir had sung twice, we'd had the introductions, a Bible reading and thought, a congregational song - and then the sound guy came in and said: "Sorry we need to do it again. The sound's wrong". We thought he just meant the congregational song we'd just done. But no. He meant the whole thing so far! I felt very sorry for the people who had already spoken really well of the cuff - that's very hard to repeat!

All in all it was a lot of fun in the end. And watching it was pretty cool too - and there were a couple of unintentially funny moments. Hopefully somebody watching it got something from it.

So this can be a picture blog. Enjoy:

The choir kick things off. Again ;)

When these four girls sing together in Faroese, it's stunning. I'm a big fan!

Me giving it some on my euphonium. Concentrating a little too hard here... (but the manuscript was handwritten - that's not easy! That's my excuse).

Me singing away. You may not believe me, but I didn't know the camera was looking at me. If you were to see the full programme, you'd be able to tell that I definitely wasn't able to tell when the camera was looking at me.

Good fun, all round.

In other news, I wanted to find a Faroese book to read in the evenings when I don't feel like reading anything particularly challenging. I've heard a lot about these Twilight books. I'm roughly 100% sure they're not aimed at me, but they've been such a phenomenon, I thought I should have a look, before I can say I don't rate them. When I arrived in the Faroes, I saw that the first book was now available in Faroese, so I'm giving it a go! I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Crossing the Atlantic: Part Two

Well it's great being back in the Faroes. It's only been five months since I was here last, but a few things have changed...

One thing you learn when you visit the Islands regularly is that business names never stay the same for long. Every time I go back, something will have changed its name. Last time, all the Shell petrol stations had become "Magn", but this time, it was the turn of the Statoil petrol stations (now "Effo" - which actually sounds like someone struggling to say "Esso") and the post office (Postverk Føroya has become "Posta". Catchier, I suppose, but I can never really see the point. Do you remember when Royal Mail became "Consignia"? That didn't last long. Because it was stupid.) and apparently, by the next time I go back, one of the two main banks, Føroya Banki, will have become "BankNordik". Just Weird.

The only other thing I noticed is that everyone has bought a silver car. I don't mean they've all clubbed together to buy a single silver car, I mean that silver seems to be the colour of choice for new cars for just about everyone. Oh, and now the Faroe Islands have a sushi bar.

Anyway, my first few days were spent in Tórshavn, seeing everyone again and catching up (and working!). But then I was off to Tvøroyri, the biggest town on the South Island (but still about fourteen times smaller than Tórshavn, so not a massive place.


I'd not really spent much time in Tvøroyri before, so it was great to have a look around there and get to know it a bit better. The following day I had to visit a school on the island, which was a really interesting experience. Following on from that I had three hours to spend on the island before I could get the ferry back to Tórshavn. I decided to travel to the other main 'town' on the island, Vágur, as I didn't really think there was anything left to look at in Tvøroyri. Vágur is a really nice little town, with some great views and nice little shops, but it does only have a population of like 1,500, so entertainment is somewhat limited. And, not surprisingly, it started to rain. Fortunately - and this is when I really began to feel I'd made it in the Faroes - I bumped into someone I knew on the street, who invited me back to their place to sit and watch TV and wait for the ferry back in the warm. (And they actually drove me to the terminal!)


Speaking of that, when I was walking in Tórshavn and met with two cars (we were all trying to go down the same street) and I saw I knew the people in both cars, I realised I was becoming much more of a local. When I'm out and about in the city, I almost always see someone I know now. Which is pretty cool, but it means you always have to make your hair look nice before going out.

Finally, the cinema on the South Island is a little different to the Odeon we generally go to...

Friday, April 09, 2010

Crossing the Atlantic: Part One

It's been a really long time since I updated this, although I have written a few posts I haven't got round to, well, posting yet. But I really enjoy this blogging malarky, and it's been a great way of keeping a record of the non-academic side of my PhD travels, so I'm going to stick with it!

I'm just about to set off on a very exciting, if slightly nervewracking trip to Greenland, via the Faroes. To make up for my blogging slackness, I'm planning to blog a little bit every day during the Greenland leg of the trip, and a few times from the Faroes (as I've written rather a lot about the Faroes already!).

I'll add the earlier posts later on, but for now, happy reading!

PS. By the time I posted this, I was already in the Faroes. I thought I'd just leave this photo with you!It might look like a fairly regular photo of Faroese landscape, but there's something slightly weird about it. Undortunately I didn't have my camera with me, so I took this on my phone. If you look at the zoomed-in photo, you can make out a dark patch on the roof, which, believe it or not, was a sheep. No idea how it managed to get up or down, but when there's grass on the roof, I guess it can get a little confusing!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Eleven Hours in Iceland...

When I was booking my flight back to the Faroes, I was pretty excited when I worked out that, this time, it would actually be cheaper to fly via Iceland than via Denmark, That meant I'd get to see my Icelandic friend, Jóhanna, who I hadn't seen for a couple of years, and, well, Iceland is just a pretty cool place anyway!

There's something I love about a country where people use a beautiful, ancient language to discuss pizzas, clubbing and cinema times, where the scenery looks like something from another planet and where the cleanest people smell like egg.*

The only downside was that I'd just get eleven hours there. That would give me time to get to Keflavík Airport, get to Jóhanna's place, sleep a little bit, get up and get back to Reykjavík City Airport - this wasn't going to be a big sightseeing trip!

Fortunately, we actually managed to spend about half an hour in the city centre - and the fact I was limited to half an hour was probably a good thing. Due to the economic situation, Iceland has become MUCH cheaper than it was when I was last there, five years ago (for now - and Icelandic cheap still doesn't mean cheap cheap), which meant that books, clothes, etc. seemed pretty tempting. It was good for my own economic situation that my shopping spree was somewhat limited. And then it was straight off to the airport for my flight to the Faroes (on which there was an Icelandic AND a Faroese popstar!).

So this photo is the only proof I have that I was in Iceland at all:

And here's a rather nice photo of me and Jóhanna:
And, the way we were - the two of us back in 2005:
* I should add that this is due to the amount of sulphur in Icelandic water, I believe. The smell does go away very quickly, but anyone just leaving the shower will have the beautiful smell of egg about them for a good ten minutes or so...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Summer of 09

And another summer has been and gone - and it was a great one this year. I managed to cram loads of things in. If I tried to write about everything, it'd just be boring, so I thought I'd just choose ten pictures which more or less cover what I got up to. Obviously I got a lot of work done too, but that isn't really fun to write about. Or take pictures of.

1. At the start of the summer I took part in my first ever car rally. And it was a great day - although unbelievably tiring! None of us had expected that the rally would take us all over South East Essex. Or that there would be so much walking involved (it was a CAR rally). But Fiesta Resistance and the Poddington Peas did their best and finished up in second place. (Robbed, I have to say).
2. Hayley Westenra came to Southend as part of her tour and I went along with the family. It was a great night - and she was a real professional, especially when the torrential rain came into the auditorium. Due to my contacts :) I was able to meet her afterwards, and she was very cool. Here's the proof!

3. Still in July, my brother went to a music camp in Swansea, Wales, and, as I have a bit of a thing for all things Welsh, I didn't pass up the chance to tag along with the parents. Swansea is a strange town - roughly divided in half, with half of the centre (around the train station) being not so nice and half of the centre being really nice. Mumbles and the Gower Peninsula were, however, stunning, and Gower reminded me a little of the Faroes...

4. I took the opprtunity to brush up on my Welsh and buy a few books, having my first ever proper Welsh conversation (admittedly only a few lines) with the lady in WHSmith (she started it!). Just a warning to anyone who ever visits a part of the world where they speak a different language with me - I have an incredibly annoying tendency (I'm sure) to read every single sign I see out loud.

5. Music Camp. What can I say? It's ALWAYS a major highlight of my year, and this year rocked, just as I knew it would. I won't say much more, because it's only really fun if you were there, but I just love the time spent with great people, in a great setting. With great ice cream.

6. After Music Camp, I got to hang out with my friend Grit (on the right) for a bit. Great catching up!

7. And then Katie used a large courgette as a telephone.

8. And the final few photographs are from Portugal, where I went with the family for a few days in September. A great view over Lisbon, just up from the Marques de Pombal.

9. Now I'm not really a fan of zoos or anything like that, but Lisbon Zoo is fantastic, and I got some pretty cool pictures.

10. A real highlight for me was when I went to the Salvation Army in Lisbon. It was great as I was walking through the streets of Picheleira alone (understandably, my parents didn't feel they would get much from a Portuguese service), it was very cool to hear the sounds of a brass band playing 'By the Pathway of Duty'. It was an excellent experience: the little band of about 6 or 7 that played really well, the joy and the relaxed atmosphere, the very friendly people, including those that helped us understand everything that was going on. I've said it before, and no doubt I'll say it again, but that's one of the things I love about the Salvation Army - I can go practically anywhere in the world and instantly find a group of friends. Immense.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Oh! What's Occurring?!

Dear Readers of Mitchenstein and Mitchenstein 365,

What's going on?? There hasn't been an update on here or on the mitchenstein365 picture blog for months! I can tell you now that I haven't given up at all - I'm still a massive fan of the ol' blogging and I'm planning to keep it up. It's just been a very manic time. Although you haven't seen anything new for a good long while, I can assure you that all the photos have been taken, the blog posts are in my mind and new stuff will be coming soon!

Thanks for checking by - keep on doing so, and maybe the next time you check in on mitchenstein (providing it's not like later today or tomorrow), there could well be more to read!

All the best - hope all's well with you!

John :)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Walthamstow! (Part Two)

One of the teams had the task of sorting out this:

And it's always amazing what sort of things end up in a place like this:

This rather fancy coat:
Chris with a corps flag from Chingford - anyone know when the corps in Chingford closed? Anyway, I'm a firm believer that there'll be another need for a Chingford flag at some point in the future, but I think we'll let them have a new one...
I REALLY wanted to take this crest home...
And quite a few stepladders...
(And obviously the usual supply of Salvation Army bonnets and mannequins were there).

And the day was rounded off with an excellent barbecue (seriously, seriously good food).
It was a fantastic day - great to be hanging out with a good group of people, and great to be doing something really worthwhile. Here's to a great future for Walthamstow Corps!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Walthamstow! (Part One)

OK, so it's been a little while since I blogged (but as I took so long to get all the Faroese stuff up, you've had a nice lot to read over the summer!), but here's something a little more recent...

A group of young people from The Salvation Army in our region went to Walthamstow for the day (can anyone hear that name without thinking of East 17?? Or am I just showing my age there?). The Salvation Army there stopped having Sunday meetings a couple of years ago, but efforts are being made to get the place up and running again and turn it into a real centre for the community. The plans I've heard for it sound fantastic. It's a massive building and in a great location.
Anyway, it needed a little bit of a face-lift - hence our journey for the day. I for one had an excellent day - it was great to meet new people, catch up with old friends I hadn't seen in a long time, and spend the day doing something really worthwhile (although a lot of hard work was involved!). So here's a few pictures from the day:

The upstairs team (which included me) await their instructions:
And then it's off to work!
I really got into this painting malarky (But it's hard work!).
But then all work and no play would have been boring...
The kitchen team:
Beth and Katie did quite a lot of this during the day...
The toilets team:

More to follow!