Thursday, January 28, 2010


After Berlin I took a bus to Hamburg, where I once again had two shows in two nights.

The first night was a show in a trailer turned music venue, the Mobile Blues Club.  Located in an alternative part of Hamburg, this was a super unique venue.  Unfortunately, it was the one sleeper show I've had so far on this tour, probably due to it being Sunday night and freezing cold.  My only audience was the bartender and her friend, but it was fine, because the three of us sat around the stove to keep warm and chatted in between songs.  I can't complain about only having one sleeper show so far on this tour, and at least I had good company!

Hamburg's city hall.  Impressive, no?

The ruins of a church that was destroyed in World War II.  It has been left this way as a monument against war.  Its amazing how much of this you see in Germany.

Apartment buildings on Hamburg's canals.  Hamburg is a port city in the north of Germany, located on a river very near to the Baltic Sea, so there is lots of water everywhere.

This is an entirely new part of the city that Hamburg is in the process of building.  A futuristic business center and downtown, within twenty years this should be an ultra-hip commercial area rivaling just about anywhere else in Europe.

The Berlin House Concert

I am very fortunate and honored to have the privilege of playing house concerts in people's private residences.  The idea of a house concert is that a host will have a living room space or somewhere that would suit an acoustic concert, and then invite friends.  Most of the house concerts I do are set up through couchsurfing, and so they become also couchsurfing meetings for the local hosts and traveling surfers to attend.  I already had played a wonderful concert in Prague at my friend Rolf's place, and this one in Berlin was the second of the tour.  I still have two more to do, one tonight in Antwerp, Belgium, and in two nights in Bordeaux, France.

While I was honored to have such a great audience for my concert, the best part of the evening, for me, was meeting all of the locals and travelers from so many different countries.  Enjoy the pictures from the after party...

We decided to have an international guitar exchange, and so everyone who could play anything at all was required to show everyone else something from their country.  This crazy Ukrainian guy sang some rowdy Russian songs.  Other nationalities I can remember sitting around this circle: Indonesian, Bulgarian, South African, and of course, German.

Hearing some German children's songs!

Sophie packing some strawberry flavored tobacco into the hookah, while Alice watches in amazement.

At the end of the night, and Fachreddin is ready to pass out.

Thanks, Berlin!

Sightseeing in Berlin

One of the new cities for me that I was looking the most forward to  on this trip was Berlin.  I had two nights in the city, playing one show each night, and also was able to do some sightseeing with my couchsurfing hosts, Alice, Sophie, and Fachreddin.  The pictures from those city excursions are below.

As far as the shows go, both were amazing, and I was astounded with the Berlin audiences.  The first night I played at a place called Cafe Hilde.  For some reason, I had a really bad feeling about the gig beforehand, really felt it was going to be a bust.  The place ended up being packed with people who listened intently for the entire two sets.  And during set break and after the show, everyone I talked to said that they came out specifically because they had seen my name in the local music rag and took the time to listen to the music online beforehand.  It is a seriously amazing feeling to be in a gigantic city in a country you've never played in before, and have that sort of crowd, I felt very fortunate.  The next night was also an amazing gig and audience, and the venue was my couchsurfing hosts' flat.  More on that in my next post, for now enjoy Berlin...

Potsdamer Platz.  Before World War II this was Berlin's vibrant downtown, and became a no man's land afterwards as the Berlin Wall ran through the middle of it during the Cold War.  Since the fall of the wall, it has been transformed into an uber modern business and entertainment area.  This is the "ceiling" on the outdoors Potsdamer Platz, it kind of feels like you are in the middle of the Death Star or something.

The Brandenburg Gate.  The only one of Belin's old city gates still standing.  Napolean carried the equestrian statue on the top back to France with him, but it was later returned to Berlin.

The Reichstag, Germany's "capitol".  It was nearly burned to the ground in 1933, and this fire helped Hitler rise to power, as he blamed his political enemies, the communists.  Most historians think that Hitler himself ordered the burning.  It sat abandoned from the end of World War II until it was resurrected in the last decade or so, and now once again houses Germany's government.  It has a very elegant glass dome, but unfortunately I couldn't get a good vantage point to capture the whole building.

What is left of the Berlin Wall has been transformed into an art gallery.  Walking along the east side here would have been impossible 25 years ago, as guards and machine guns guarded its entire length.

A check point between east and west.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Unna, Germany

So I admittedly didn't plan the German part of my tour so well.  My excuse is that I took gigs where they fell, which is sometimes the best you can do, but it meant criss-crossing the country in a nonsensical fashion.  After leaving the eastern side of the country and Dresden, I had to take 4 different trains to get to the far western edge to play a show in Unna, a town of about 60,000 near the bigger city of Cologne.  After Unna, I would have to catch a train back to Berlin on the eastern side again.  And, I underestimated how expensive the trains are in Germany, as they are much cheaper in the east and in Italy.  So the money got a bit tighter, but luckily I was making enough at every show to cover the next days' train ticket.  Anyways, though Unna is a much prettier town than Chemnitz, it is also not a touristy area, so here are just a few pictures I took of the quaint town, which does not seem as big as it really is.

A church tower that greets you at the train station.

Entering the pedestrian central area of Unna, full of stores (mostly chains, many that we have in the U.S.A.) and restaurants (not chains).

Lively shopping area at dusk.

The central town square, it looks very new, but distinctly German.

My show was at the Spatz Und Wal, which means "Sparrow and Whale".  It was another well-attended concert with yet another great listening crowd.  I'm beginning to feel spoiled in Europe...


After the gig in Chemnitz on Tuesday, I had Wednesday night off before crossing the country for a show in Unna on Thursday.  I decided to spend it in Dresden, which is only an hour by train from Chemnitz, and is the capital of the region of Saxony.  I set up a last minute couchsurf with the help of my friend Rolf (Prague), and had a lovely evening.  My host Maria invited some other cs'ers from Dresden over for Poker, and I even taught some of them how to play Euchre.  It turned into a bit of an impromptu house concert, as well.  After getting the hell out of Chemnitz asap I did a bit of sightseeing around Dresden before meeting up with Maria, and so below are some pictures from that.  

Dresden is a beautiful city in the eastern part of Germany, and is still rebuilding and re-inventing itself.  Towards the end of World War II it was the target of a massive bombing campaign by the British and American air forces, and the city was pretty much completely destroyed.  It remains a very controversial military operation, as 3,900 tons of incendiaries were used on a town that was not a strategic military target, and resulted in the deaths of an estimated 24,000 to 40,000 innocent civilians.  Kurt Vonnegut wrote about the firebombing of Dresden in his book, "Slaughterhouse-Five", and the author actually witnessed the attacks first hand as a prisoner-of-war at the time.  All of the buildings in the pictures have been rebuilt since that destruction, even if they look old.

The domed building in the background is the Frauenkirche (church), a proud symbol of Dresden's re-building.  More on that in a moment.

A piece from the original dome of the Frauenkirche, which has been set in this main town square as a memorial.

Ok, so the Frauenkirche is an important symbol for Dresden, because it was almost completely destroyed in the bombing and was only recently reconstructed.  Only one wall remained standing after the bombing, and the ruins of the church sat untouched under communist rule for nearly 50 years, and the ruins became a sort of memorial to the city's destruction.  After the fall of the Iron Curtain and the reunification of Germany, the city began to plan to rebuild the church.  It was only finished in the last few years, opening in 2005.  The few darker blocks you can see are the few usable pieces from the original church.

Intro to Germany: Chemnitz

I left Prague in the morning by train, and left the familiar eastern European countries and friends I had visited the year before, and headed into Germany.  Now when I was younger I visited Germany twice with my family, and I am mostly of German ancestry, but I wasn't going anywhere we'd gone on those trips, and my destinations were based entirely on where I had gigs.  This meant that my first destination was far from a tourist haven, and its very name caused most people to laugh when I said thats where I was headed: Chemnitz.  Formerly Karl-Marx-Stadt during the Soviet-run East Germany days, the town is known for being a dull, cold, industrial city.  I was playing a show at a place called Subway To Peter, which ended up being a very cool bar and a surprisingly awesome crowd for a Tuesday night.  I didn't take many pictures, and was pretty much in and out of this town, but here are a few so you get the idea.

The view upon walking outside of the train station.

The band apartment furnished by Subway To Peter.  I think its really cool that venues do this in Germany, it seems pretty standard.  Unfortunately, I didn't pack a blanket or sleeping bag due to lack of room in my backpack, and they didn't have any there.  I slept in my clothes and froze my ass off all night.

A courtyard behind the building with the band apartment.

I did enjoy this attempt to color the city a bit!


I left Vienna by bus for Prague, the beautiful capital city of the Czech Republic.  Prague would be the last familiar city I would visit on this tour, as I was there last year.  Like last time, I couchsurfed with my good friend Rolf, who works and lives in the Swedish Embassy.  Also like last year, I once again put on a house concert at his place, and this time the crowd increased from about 20 people to 30.  The concert was once again great, and I had a great time meeting a whole new batch of couchsurfing friends!  Below are some pictures I took while wandering through Prague.  I will say that it is very nice to visit a city for a second time, as you don't feel that need to see everything like you do the first time.  It was nice to just walk around with no pressure, and simply enjoy the people and the sights.

Walking down the street that leads from the Embassy down to the city center.  There was a good snowfall the night before, and the city was sort of digging itself out.

On the Charles Bridge.

The old town center, always lively, even when cold and snowy.

Looking down at a canal from the Charles Bridge.

My new Prague friend Ronja and I stumbled onto this "Christmas Tree Graveyard", as she named it.  It seems like people brought their old trees here and set them upright in the snow.  You could still find tinsel on some of them, and Ronja was looking for some candy, to no avail.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Vienna (Wien) - Austria

After leaving Budapest I took the train to Vienna, Austria, where I couchsurfed with my new friends Jascha and Nora for two nights and played one concert.  The concert, at a cool DIY underground venue called Subterrarium, was amazing, and there was a very nice crowd of intent listeners.  I felt very fortunate to have such a great audience, since I am a nobody in Austria!  Below are some pictures I took while wandering the city in my spare time.

One of the main city center shopping streets, very alive in the early evening.


Part of the Imperial Palace, lovely at night.

My hosts took me to an art exhibit opening my first night in Vienna, and it turned out that the artist was Milwaukee, Wisconsin's Matt Cipov, who had just flown in to set everything up and be there for the opening.  His stuff is really cool, so please check out his website and catch some of his work back in Wisconsin if you get the chance.  Really great guy, as well, had a lot of fun talking to him, and I think we were both equally shocked to run into fellow cheeseheads that night.

A park with a giant statue of Maria Theresa, Austria's only Empress.

Serious Budapest

My host Adam had seen "Avatar" in Hungarian, but wanted to see it again in English, and I had never seen it, so we went to a real Budapest shopping mall and donned our 3D glasses.  The movie looked really cool, though I can't say much for the plot or the dialogue.  Too bad I couldn't keep the glasses.

My gig in Budapest: at iF Kavezo, played here last time as well.  Adam took this shot from a balcony up above.

Adam has a studio built in his basement (Budabeat Studios), and so we did some recording there for an EP that I hope to release sometime this spring.  We recorded some brand new songs, including one that I started writing in Slovenia and just finished that very morning before the session, "Julija".  Also, a Neil Young cover, "Long May You Run".

Recording vocals and guitar together.  You can already check out a demo version of the new song, "Julija" at Adam's website,, so take a listen if you wish!  The song is about a famous Slovenian muse I learned about last year when I was in Ljubljana, and the name Julija is actually pronounced like "Yoo-Lee-Ya".  And the cheesy toy keyboard solos you hear in the song were made by...

...this cheesy toy keyboard!  I thought that the sounds were pretty cool.  I don't know that we will leave them in the final version, but it was fun for the session, anyways.  Let me know what you think!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Back in Budapest

Some pictures from my sightseeing in Budapest, enjoy!

The great market hall in Pest.  Wonderful place to come in the mornings and get some baked goods for breakfast.  They also have some really crazy looking meats here, many that I would be very apprehensive about (pigs noses, cow heart, straight-up pork fat, and many other unknown items).

St. Stephen's Cathedral, pretty sure its the biggest church in Budapest, but its not as old as it looks, just over 100 years old.  I went inside where they have the shriveled up hand of St. Stephen on display.  Its kind of cool, not sure if its really his, but cool to see a gruesome centuries old hand.

The Hungarian Parliament building, enormous and built when Hungary still ruled half of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Check out my posting from last year in Budapest back in the archives, I took some cool pictures from across the Danube.

This Hungarian flag with a hole cut out is a symbol for the 1956 revolution against the Soviet Union.  The Soviets placed their own communist symbol in the middle of the flag, and later on it became a symbol of the revolution to cut out the symbol in the center.  This particular flag is part of a memorial to commemorate the protesters who were killed by Soviet snipers when they amassed in front of Parliament in '56.  In that uprising, Hungary won its independence only for a few days, until Soviet tanks came rolling into Budapest and took over once again.

The Chain Bridge, Budapest's first bridge over the Danube.  It was destroyed in World War II, and I saw many crazy pictures of the city's destruction in a museum I visited.  One haunting picture was of this bridge, collapsed into the Danube, with only the towers standing.  

Wow, my blog post today was kind of a downer, huh?  Well, I assure you, Budapest is a fun place, and a lively city, and there are more pictures to come!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tour Opener: Ljubljana, Slovenia

The family is all back in the U.S. and the tour has begun.  Here are some pictures from my first tour stop in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

I arrived at Ljubljana right after/during a major blizzard, so this was the scene outside my hostel.  Notice the graffiti filled wall.  There is a lot of graffiti all over Ljubljana, and this is one of the things I love most about this city.  There isn't so much to see here in the way of history or major landmarks, but the town is very pleasant looking and the graffiti everywhere is awesome.

An abandoned bicycle factory, called Rog, where I played later that night.  People actually live here, and they are called squatters because they refuse to leave even though it is illegal for them to be there.  They have created a recording studio, music venue, art space, and many living quarters inside this old factory.

Ljubljana's main town square.  See what I mean?  Very charming!

Town square at night!

This one is daytime.  Just kidding.