Travel situations

Written by Herra Honkonen on Monday, February 27th, 2006

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Yesterday the morning came all too fast. The mounting exhaustion made me sleep like the dead even though we were in a train, and getting up was very difficult. There seems to be a water heater in every Russian train car and you can get coffee and tea for free. The instacoffee made my brain start enough that I managed to gather up my luggage and head out to another cloudy and sleety Russian day. We decided that we’d need an one hour nap in the afternoon, but as it turned out, we didn’t have the time for that until very late in the evening.

Our first stop was the club Platforma, where we were supposed to play in a jam session later in the evening. We ordered some breakfast and ate it, slow and bleary eyed. Then Gosha went once again “maybe a little vodka?” and dashed out and across the street to buy a bottle from a nearby shop. The food and alcohol pushed away most of the tiredness and exhaustion.

At that point we heard that a nap and a shower could not be arranged because Juri and Elena, in whose apartment we were staying again, weren’t at home. Either Gosha or his girlfriend suggested that we visit a local public sauna instead, which was a terrific idea. So, we left most of our worldly possessions at the club, including cell-phones, wallets and passports. On the way to the sauna we stopped in an internet cafe so Mr. Vuorensola could upload an entry to the Star Wreck blog. Then it was the time for the Russian sauna experience. The place was extremely street credible, it was a sauna for Men. It was the kind of sauna where you bathe, then go and practice sword-fighting naked and do bench presses with Hetians, with and without chariots. The washing room had long benches made of metal and stone, there were large metal pails with birch and oak vihtas in them, the shower booths were also made of metal and the water jet was so strong I could use it to massage my sore shoulders. There were rusting, scalding hot pipes that bled steam into the room and in a corner there was a tall but small pool filled to the brim with ice cold water where people were jumping in. The hot room was large and the sauna stove was built into the wall. We didn’t have any kind of slippers and the sauna floor was very hot. Actually hot enough that when I took a few steps towards the stove to check it out, I managed to burn the soles of both of my feet bad enough that I got a blister.

That kind of sauna was just the thing we needed. After washing ourselves and drinking some beer and water we were feeling refreshed and marginally more awake. From the sauna we walked to Nikolai’s apartment to relax for a moment, before heading out once again to see an art movie in a massive soviet era cinema, which was like a dance hall. The movie was very interesting, it was basically free association about mining, video effects and a noiseish soundtrack. Although I really liked the movie, I had incredible difficulties with keeping my eyes open. I simply didn’t have the willpower to keep myself from nodding of every minute or so. After the movie Mr. Haapanen went to intercept the director of the movie. A very elegant, beautiful and businesslike woman came to talk to us, asking who we were, what we thought of the movie, what kind of music do we play and so on. The whole situation was unreal and weird in a positive way.

After the movie Gosha bought a little bit more vodka and we finally headed for Juri’s place to sleep. When we got there with our stuff, it was eight in the evening. Elena made us some tea and we crashed into the bedroom. Well, at least Mr. Paalanen and I did, since Mr. Haapanen couldn’t sleep and Mr. Vuorensola spend the time playing Grand Theft Auto on his laptop.

An hour of sleep felt like too little, but combined with some more green tea and vegetable stew Elena made it helped us to perk up. After the light dinner we spent some time watching Elena’s art, which were these surreal and incredibly detailed black and white drawings with some coloured ones thrown in. Watching them made me want to try drawing once again. About ten years ago I did try to draw comics, but I didn’t have the self discipline to cross the first plateau I reached with the learning process. I think that it might be the time to try and cross it again.

When we got to the club, the other bands had already stopped playing. Gosha said “maybe a liter of vodka” and ploinked a big bottle on the table. In the bar some girls recognized me and Mr. Haapanen from previous night’s train. Like so many other people who came to talk to us spontaneously, they were fans of 69 Eyes, HIM, Apocalyptica and other well-known Finnish heavy and rock exports. We rigged our stuff on the stage, helped by an extremely cute girl tech of the club. I don’t know what it is, but girls who know their way around tech or play electric guitars get extra points of sexiness in my eyes.

The jam-session was interesting and it went reasonably well. Nikolai came to play his electric jouhikko-like instrument with us and Gosha played stuff from his laptop in the mixer cage on the other side of the room. I don’t really know how long we played. I enjoyed constructing all kinds of loops I can’t do in our proper songs. An extra layer of difficulty and at the same time interest was brought by the fact that it was a dark ambient jam, not a noise one, so loud and raw sounds were out of the question.

The evening took a turn for the worse after that. We had ok time talking to the girls from the train and a very flamboyant and talkative glam rock guy who attached himself to our group. When we started packing up our stuff, Mr. Paalanen realised that his Apple PowerBook was missing from the backstage. There was only the empty bag, but no computer. We searched every possible and impossible place in the club, but there was no sign of the machine, so the only conclusion was that someone had snatched it from the backstage. I have never seen Mr. Paalanen that angry.

Being in somwhat low mood we carried our stuff to Juri’s and Elena’s apartment. I had drank only a few pints of beer and a couple of vodka shots, but I was feeling strangely drunk. After discussing the laptop situation for awhile we turned in.

This morning waking up was very difficult for me. I wasn’t feeling hangoverish as such, only extremely exhausted and completely spaced out. Mr. Vuorensola and Paalanen went to register our visas and to buy us the train tickets. I had promised to do that in the previous evening, but I was simply unable to stay awake or even think straight. Skipping on a promise made me feel shitty, but I would have done more harm than good trying to negotiate my way around Russian bureaucracy feeling like that. The weird feeling didn’t seem to pass and I started realising what it was about – we had been eating very lightly in the previous day, while walking and exercizing a lot and ending the evening with alcohol. I ate half of a chocolate bar we had in the room, and in ten minutes I was feeling much better.

We packed our stuff, said our goodbyes and Gosha grabbed us two cars from the nearby road. We had barely some time to buy us some food before it was time to board the train, which is where we are sitting now. We are in between countries, on the way from Viaborg to Vainikkala. We just passed the border formalities and one of the guards was very interested in our band. He asked for a CD, which we of course gave. Everybody is tired, smelly but happy. This has been simpy an amazing week. We have seen pieces of country that was mostly unknown to all uf us, met a lot of friendly and very talented people and got to know new interesting music. Special thanks go to Gosha for looking after us through the week, his beautiful girlfriend for acting as our translator and guide, Juri and Elena for letting us stay in their cool apartmen, Liza and Vanya who were our hosts in Moscow and Nikolai for a great jam session.

I think almost everyone in Finland has certain preconceptions about Russia, even though one doesn’t take them seriously, but this visit challenged many of them. I certainly want to go back, either for a sight-seeing holiday or to play more gigs. Ideally, both of the previous.

One Response to “Travel situations”

  1. I also must thank the wonderful new friends we met during our stay in Russia.
    Hope to see you all again someday, cheers!

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