Éire – Ireland

Last year I befriended a lot of Irish people, supported Ireland at the European Football Championships in Poznan, saw Ireland get beaten by Italy 2-0, drank like an Irish man and yes, even sang like an Irish man (although mostly football songs). Having gotten to know the Irish culture a bit, I hadn’t had the chance to actually visit the green island itself, that is until last weekend.

It took me 2, not pleasant, hours on-board a Ryan Air aircraft to get my Finnish Ass to the land of Guinness and supposedly Leprechauns. Now, I could go on and on how much I dislike Ryan Air, but that seems to be rather pointless, but at least they’re affordable…  What struck me initially as I got off the blue and yellow coloured “cattle” carrier, was definitely the weather. I as a Finn hear often that I shouldn’t complain about it being cold somewhere, but in Ireland I complained like Dudley in Harry Potter(which is a lot). I already had a bit of a cold as I flew to the birthplace of Bono and sure as Summer follows spring, my flu didn’t get better…even with the help of Guinness.

I had the pleasure of staying throughout my whole trip at my friend Daragh’s place as well as having him as my personal guide to the city founded by Vikings in the year 840. Having met Daragh basically the last time at the Euros in Poznan (and a bit after that in Berlin) we had a lot of catching up to do, so the first day went by fast,  just talking about things that had happened in the past months. We had previously met in the Spring a couple of Slovenians who had now also traveled to Ireland to explore, like me, the Irish culture. It was no accident that I happened to arrive in Ireland on the 26th of September. The next day was a day that has in the recent years received a nearly national holiday status, due to excellent marketing, it was the birthday of Arthur Guinness.

On Arthur’s day we headed down to the downtown pubs to enjoy a drink derived from roasted unmalted barley, a drink that is almost synonymous with Ireland… Guinness. To be honest, before I moved to Berlin I wasn’t a big fan of the dark strong flavoured drink, but as I got to know the Irish, I got to know their drinks as well, and now I can honestly say that I am rather fond of the beer that is thought of as one of the original stout beers. “Sláinte!” Was heard on the 27th day numerous times as our Pints went up to knock on the pints of others as if to say “we’re in this together” and indeed that is how it was, from pub to club the dark pints found their way in groups onto our tables and as if by magic the content of the glasses vanished nearly as quickly as it had been poured into the glasses.

After a few “casual” drinks, we made our way to a bar/club called the Village, which had a nice atmosphere and seemed to be popping. Last year my friends had introduced me to an Irish comedy/rap group the Rubberbandits, whom I had been listening to also before I left for Ireland and as if by the luck of the Irish they happened to playing at the Village that very same night. I couldn’t have been more pumped, I was with my good mates enjoying Irish beverages and now I was even going to see the guys who’ve made songs like  “Horse Outside” “I wanna fight your father” and more!  (If you haven’t heard of these lads, at least peep them on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljPFZrRD3J8 , they’re grand!)  As we walked up the stairs to the room, where they had just started playing, I could already recognise familiar lyrics ” …I wanna fight your faaaather…”  and I knew that this was definitely a great night!

Those of you who might not know Guinness ,alongside having a strong taste, also contains alcohol, which can tend to cause “sluggishness” the following day after being consumed. Having slept a bit longer we decided to continue with the Guinness theme of our visit and head to the St. James’s Gate brewery, or as it is better known as, the Guinness Brewery. Our housing was rather far away from the brewery itself, thus it would take us sometime to make our way there, which meant we had to be swift with our moves and cut our “breakfasts” short and head towards the bus.

As we made our way to the brewery, I could see a clear change in scenery, from pubs and houses to more industrial style buildings with a main colour of gray. After numerous walked blocks, we made our way inside the brewery area, where we were greeted with the surprisingly friendly ticket staff. I have to seriously tip my invisible hat off to the whole Guinness brand for doing such a great job of ensuring that each and every guest felt welcomed to the brewery, as most transactions started with the phrases “where are you from?” following the staff small talking and even in my case switching to German to serve me (after which I did say that being a Finn, English’ll do).  As mentioned earlier, I had a ongoing flu which basically took a lot of my energy out of me and at times it was really hard to stay concentrated during the tour of the home of the dark nectar of the Irish. Having survived to the end of the self-guided tour my energy was restored by seeing the amazing view over Dublin from the Gravity bar on top of the brewery (whilst obviously enjoying a complementary pint of the Arthur’s world famous stout). We spent a good while taking pictures and enjoying the view from the extraordinary glass bar packed with other tourists after which we headed home like boring old men to heal up so as to still be able to do something the following days.

The last day we decided to go check out the seaside of Dublin (to be honest can’t remember what area it was), if I had thought the inner areas of Dublin were windy, boy was I in for a treat. Yes, I should know that on the shore of any sea it is going to be windy, but still, you never really are prepared for it. I felt like I had someone pointing a hairdryer at me constantly, blowing out nothing but chilly seawind, nevertheless I had a nice day with my friends and was able to take a couple of nice pictures as well, before heading back with the DART train to the city. As it was our last night in the Irish capital, we decided to go out with a bang and head to the clubs, ensuring that my flight the next day would be one of the worst in my life… I did indeed survive the flight and am now happily back in Berlin writing this blog. I will for certain visit Ireland again in the future, but I will first have to rest for sometime to recover fully from this trip to the island that is Éire.

Sunday Walk

In the modern world work is often associated with stress, however for me the past few months have been everything else than stress! I have enjoyed my work a lot to be honest. Now even though I cannot say I share the stress phenomenon with my fellow workers in the world, I can still say that I have become a nine to six worker, meaning that most of my days are spent at the office. Those rare days, sometimes referred to as the weekends, when I do not find myself drinking coffees at the office, I try to make the most of my free time i.e. spend it with friends and perhaps enjoy the night life of Berlin. This is a rather fun lifestyle, have to admit, however the lack of spare time has led to my camera feeling (if it felt anything) lonely on these cold autumn nights. Like a bad lover I had neglected my camera for a long time, but luckily for my Sony, I had enough energy on Sunday to actually go and take a walk in the city and try to take some decent memories of the darkening September nights.

After meeting a couple of good friends for a Sunday drink at Alexanderplatz and having a must have Döner at Mehringdamm (Mustafa’s to be precise), I took the U-Bahn towards the RingBahn which I would normally use to get home a bit quicker. This time however as I reached S-Bhf Tempelhof, I decided to walk outside the ring (funnily enough probably the first time in a month that I step outside the ring) and see if there would be anything of interest to take images of.

Having walked for 15 seemingly long minutes, I hadn’t seen anything that would have sparked my interest…that is until I saw a van, an old neglected delivery van. Perhaps it’s the fact of seeing too many shiny things that made that rusty old van seem like a cool target for snapping a couple of quick photos, or then it was just the fact that I wanted to photograph just basically anything so that I wouldn’t have to go back home empty carded (see what I did there..) . Snip Snap went the shutter and back went the camera into the bag, I was done with the van and moving forward like a determined bargain hunter at post-holiday sales destined to find something cool.

I came to a seemingly normal looking crossroad and just for the fun of it took a couple o’ images to go, before continuing to the normally crowded, but now what was like a wasteland, parking lot of Ikea. There wasn’t a lot of things to take photos of, since the tumbleweeds were moving too fast for me, but I managed to get a couple of pics of the empty lot that belonged to the Swedish Adult-Lego store.

As I came closer to the highway, I already knew that I wanted to take a couple of images having the shutter open for a longer time, and even though it is in nooooo means original to take pics like that… I still think these few highway photos turned out to be the nicest of the bunch, making my Sunday worth while. Having no other pedestrians bothering me as I set up my camera to capture this chilly September night in the form of a couple of flashing photos; it was perfect.

I could now simply put my camera back in my messenger bag and head home, knowing that I at least had one decent pic to take with me. So as to not overwork your imagination, I have attached the photos of the night in a chronological order below so that you too can  take a short virtual walk between Tempelhof and Südkreuz on a fresh autumn night.

A Day at the Ballpark

I found myself on Saturday evening feeling a bit tired after a going away party for one of my Finnish friends. The scorching heat of 30 degrees Celsius did not aid in anyway to get me up and going to actually do something on a Saturday night. As I sat at my desk, browsing mindlessly through different sites, I glanced at my camera and turned my attention towards the beautiful, nevertheless hot, outdoors and decided that I’d take my chances with the hot weather and go walk around the neighborhood to see if I could catch anything interesting onto my memory card.

I felt the heatwave immediately hitting my face as I walked out of my building and I could not help but think that this was not the Germany I was used to. Like an explorer in the Sahara desert, I walked for sometime without seeing anything of interest. I had long planned to go and take pictures of the old Tempelhof Airport, basically next door to me, and seeing that the sun was starting to head under, I ran to the nearest train station and took a train….the wrong train. I ended up back where I had started from, at Schöneberg, only to enjoy a 20minute wait for the next train to Tempelhof, needless to say with the ongoing sleep mode and the oven-like climate, I was not happy.

After fighting my way out of a train that felt more like a cattle transport, due to the amount of people fitted into a single train, Iwas happy to be at my destination, the former airport of Tempelhof, now one of the largest parks in Berlin. Recently, I’ve been trying out creating HDR picture, with success and at times with no success. This Saturday was to be yet another chance for me to learn a bit of HDR photography. As I traveled towards the old Hangars and Terminals, I was excited by even the mere thought of walking on a runway that had once received at peak times a plane per minute and had helped the people of Berlin enormously during the Berlin Blockade.I mean, I know I am a history nut, I get it. On my journey towards the terminal building I also stopped to take  pictures of the usage of the airport nowadays:People having picnics, parties and doing different kinds of sport activities.

Even though I had envisioned that I would get cool pics from the Airport itself, I have to say, the Terminal building was rather hard to photograph, being that you couldn’t really get too close to it and thus the angles for pictures were rather limited. Nevertheless, I took a couple of photos and continued my way along the runways, running into an old reminder of the time when the U.S. Army was present. Some plane enthusiasts probably know the model of this troop carrier, but for me it was merely a nice shiny plane accompanied by some stairs belonging also the U.S. Army. It’s sometimes really interesting to think how much of U.S. influence Berlin has throughout the times had, having so many troops stationed here during the Berlin Brigade times, the Americans also partly brought parts of their culture into the melting pot of Berlin.

For most Europeans Baseball isn’t that familiar, which is why  the two rather old Baseball fields (ok, one was a softball field) caught my attention. Wearing often baseball fan apparel (especially Redsox gear, go Boston) and having tried to understand the sport more and more, I have to admit that this was my first real encounter with a real Baseball field. Now when I say real, I have to clarify that I had seen these fields earlier this year but not yet looked at them more closely. I couldn’t get too close now either, seeing that both fields were fenced thus making it understandably hard for non baseball players to access the fields at night time. I walked around the fields trying to find a place to get my zoom on and perhaps try and take a couple of nice pictures. I managed to stick my camera through a couple of holes in the fences, so as to have a less obstructed view of the diamonds and the field itself.

Having managed to take a couple of decent pictures I left home in hope of trying out HDR editing on photoshop during the late hours of the night. I know that Berlin has a couple of Baseball teams and seeing that I want to learn more about the sport, I have to definitely look up some of their game schedules. Funnily enough, I left my place in hopes of getting a couple of pictures of old historic places and I managed to do so, however I had not thought that the most interesting place to take pics would not be the old airport, but the sport facilities of the people who used to work there, a long time ago.

The Rooftop

Wars and conflicts are never a good thing directly, even in the case of a city like Berlin, one can still see some indirect implications from the city being divided for such a long time.  Now, often the implications of war and dividing cities and countries are obviously not good, but the one thing that can be indirectly linked to the city being divided is that the rent prices and living expenses have not risen as fast as in some other areas of the country. Why I bring this up is that I have recently gotten the pleasure of enjoying rooftop parties at my friends place, or their “commune”, if you will. For some people rooftop parties might be an everyday thing, more common than the usage of “like” as a substitute for commas in the speech of some unnamed nationalities, but for me they are still a rarity.

In Finland the only people that can afford rooftop apartments with massive terraces, are usually the people who do not have to look at the floor level shelves at the supermarket when going shopping. Here in Berlin, “regular” people can afford to enjoy the luxury of seeing the sun set far away, creating silhouettes of the city on its way down, atop your own apartment. Even though, it is still very possible to live in a rooftop apartment, there are not enough of them to go around for everyone. However, with good luck you might know someone who has a rooftop terrace place, as I did.

It wasn’t the first time I visited my friends pad, but it was the first time I remembered to bring my camera with me. Even though the night started to fall upon us nearly immediately as I had arrived to the rooftop, thanks to my swift moves and fast camera handling, I was able to capture a couple of these “rooftop moments” onto my camera, before the fat ball of fire that we nickname the Sun could fully dive behind the skyline.

We noticed with my friend,after jumping a fence to another rooftop (for a better pic) that the party seemed to follow us and that we had unintentionally created a gathering of amateur photographers on the roof of a curious neighbour, probably wondering why he hears noises of shutters clicking and people laughing through his roof. Nevertheless, everyone behaved and did the same as we, took memories of this great city that one cannot buy from a gift shop at the Brandenburg Gate.

Once again this Saturday had given me yet more reasons to contemplate on staying in Berlin even longer than merely till the end of this, seemingly short, year.

IamJPR

IamJPR

IamJPR

Landscape VS Roofscape

IamJPR

IamJPR

Berlin I’m Back

Even though I had mentioned in the previous post that I would be posting pics of my time in Finland, in the next few posts, I have to break that promise. You see, Berlin is just too tempting to capture on a memory card (wouldn’t it be so much nicer to say on film), meaning that I had to go and take a couple of pictures of the capital of the country that I myself have dubbed the economic lungs of Europe. Oh and on another note, last week I finally started my internship, here in the big B. Having hunted down internships like Robin Hood the rich, I am so happy that I ended up where I did. Each day so far has been filled with humor, fun and even work, which has felt more like my thing than padding down people at the airport (ref. to a previous job).

During the weekend I tried to go and take some pictures while the sun was up. My task was seemingly difficult, seeing that it was often rather cloudy and thus the sun was starting to at times feel like a distant relative who never visits, even though you might like to see him/her. I ended up taking a couple of “quick” photos and to my surprise some of them seemed to have turned up to be rather ok.  Do check them out and I’ll be adding some Finnyland Fotos (had to continue the F- theme) later on.

IamJPR

IamJPR

IamJPR

IamJPR

Buda to the Pest: Part 2 – Quick Recap

Our Bus journey accompanied by the exotic movies and loud neighbours went surprisingly well, although at times it did feel like a never ending journey.  Alongside the rising sound volume of our fellow passengers we had the privilege of enjoying stunning views from the bus as we passed cities such as Bratislava and others that I cannot for the life of me remember at this stage.

From the bus whilst crossing a river in Bratislava
Night falls for the travelers

As we began to get closer to our destination the foreign “adventure” films switched to children’s movies, which continued to baffle us, seeing that by glancing through the bus and its passengers there was nobody of that age who could have requested “the adventures of the random German speaking polar bear” (I’m guessing that was the title of the film). Not only had the movie selection seen a change, but so had the status of our neighbours. From that of speaking a hundred words per second, they had gone to the “laid back”- mode, meaning that they were leaning their seats on top of our knees, thrusting the seats to recline more, not seeming to realise that what stopped their seats from reclining any further were my bruised knees. It seemed as if they cared as much of our thumping on their seats as we had cared for the movies shown on-board.

After coming to terms with the fact that our fellow travelers had no interest in our well being, as if a sign from above we heard the on-board speakers tell us through a lot of words that we were indeed only a few short kilometers from Budapest. At long last, with bruised knees, tired bodies and minds we had arrived at some station in Budapest. Having thought previously that the station would be centrally located, we had not cared to browse through maps or make route plans….we should have.

Tickets Köszönöm
Local Metro/Ubahn/Underground/Subway

We found our way in the middle of the night to a metro station, hoping to find a map and clear guidance towards the center. After following a herd of people, we merely crossed our fingers in hope of jumping on the right train which would at the least take us slightly closer to our hostel. I am not a superstitious person per se, but I believe it was the luck of the Irish (or better yet my Irish mate) that enabled us to manage our way through all the crossroads and alleyways safely to our hostel, where our two Slovenian friends awaited us with cold beers, that we had most definitely deserved.

The first night went by quickly as we caught up on missed conversations and had a few pints at a local tavern. We did also have time to acquaint ourselves with the local law enforcement. It is pure commonsense that what goes in must eventually come out as well. As we were browsing around the city at night, one of our crew had the sudden urge to relieve himself and seeing that there was not an open tavern nor a portapotty in sight, he ran to the nearest bushes in a nearby alleyway as the rest of us waited for him on the mainstreet. We found a nice bench on the sidewalk and decided to hang there for a moment. It was not long as we saw our friend appear from the alley, hinting to us that “we should move”. We only realised what he had meant, when we saw two officers appearing from the alley with a batman like serious face on. “Passports”, yelled the older one of the partners, and as if trained dogs we did as told and whipped our proofs of nationality and identity out for them to collect our data. Once they had gossiped our numbers and info to their colleagues via walkietalkies, they left us with valid advice “this street, not a toilet”. Needless to say we kept their advice in mind during the remain of the trip.

The next day we decided to be true tourists, eating a continental breakfast (prepared by ourselves) and heading out to explore the city. Now as most people hopefully know, Finland is not a beach holiday destination ergo we do not have extremely hot weather, aside from the summer time. In Budapest already in the Hostel I had noticed that the weather seemed to be awfully warm, but it did not cross my mind that we would be seeing the sights of Budapest in 36 degree weather (Celsius). As I left Berlin, I had foolishly thought to not even pack my shorts with me. I tried to make the best of my situation by pulling up my pants, trying to desperately make them become the shorts they clearly were not. At this stage I have to be frank and admit that there was not a lot of talking done during the sightseeing day, everyone was merely trying to survive the hot weather, thus I will let the pictures do the talking for this day:

Shorts would have been nice..
Statues and Houses
View from Buda towards Pest
Going to Buda

We spent the entire next day laying motionlessly at a lake we had made our way to by car, only returning to Budapest in the evening to change hostels quickly (due to booking issues) and immediately embarking on a pub crawl as we arrived at our new party hostel. Before we had even really settled at our new residences, we were already enjoying beverages in numerous local bars and pubs, being led by a baywatch-style chilled out Aussie, who seemed as calm and cool as a Koala. Enjoying the comparably affordable drink prices we spent the night touring the nightlife of Budapest, which I have to say was extremely good.

Air conditioning, AC, whatever you want to call it – I love it. The first thing that hit me once I entered our room in the new hostel was the wonderful breeze of fresh COLD air, not coming from the window, oh no, but from our airconditioning. No, it did not remind me of home, being cold and chilly, but rather it gave me the possibility to enjoy a good nights rest, without sticking to my bed linen and becoming dehydrated due to the overwhelming heat. Apart from our room, we also took advantage of the round shaped balcony at our hostel, getting to know other travelers from all around the world, sharing stories and beverages with each other. For me the best thing about travelling and living abroad is the social interaction with other people from different cultures. It is always fascinating to hear about different customs and habits or personal experiences of the people I talk to.

The Legendary Balcony of the Party Hostel

We enjoyed one full day on our multicultural balcony, full of hockey,travel, lifestyle and other random talk. To cut things short I’ll just summarize the last few days with a few sentences. We continued to tour the night and day of Budapest (mostly Pest) for another couple of days, before embarking on our loooooong bus-ride back to the big ol’ B. We said our goodbyes to our Slovenian friends and hopped on the coach, with refrigerated coke bottles. My Irish mate was in luck apparently, since he managed to get a bottle that actually contained liquid, whereas I apparently got a limited edition coke bottle that was full of Ice, rather than cola in liquid form to quench my thirst. The journey back was as long as the way to Budapest, but far more enjoyable thanks to the numerous romantic comedies (not my favourite genre) that were played on-board for our enjoyment in English. As a combo breaker among the films was the more than fitting film “Hangover” which seemed to give a perfect ending to a trip that was to be felt physically for a couple of days to come.

Buda shines nicely
The same Palace without lights
Apparently they have some sort of arrangement in Budapest to turn off the lights at midnight…which was not such a good thing for my photography.

Berlinist

It’s been a while since I wrote a post, mainly because I’ve been occupied by my University studies and the seemingly never ending task of finding an internship for the second half of this year.

Although I have not written here, I have still been actively carrying my camera around with me, trying to capture pictures of this wonderful city that is the big B. aka Berlin. During the past few months I have tried to do some “tourist” stuff, usually without success, travelling around the city with a s-bahn,u-bahn, tram or bus to take me further away of the areas where normally even my own two feet would carry me. Even though I’ve spent literally weeks crisscrossing this city, I still have not seen most of the common sightseeing attractions, which might be my task for the summer. For now I’ll just consider myself as a “Berlinist”, being a tourist within this city seeing sights that no one else actually might think to see.

Without really rambling on too much in this post, I’ll just sum up one of my numerous weeks spent here in a couple of words and pictures: I went to an old Stasi prison, a football match and ended up witnessing a fire.

Phew, that was concise wasn’t it? Now for the visuals ( you can prolly link each picture to the appropriate event mentioned):

It's OK

IamJPR

I did actually make one trip even outside of Germany during this spring already, but more on that later on.