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Discovering Europe

DS86DS

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A thread for discussion and media relating to European countries and their cultures, cities, landscapes etc.
 

DS86DS

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Spain

Some of my own memories of visiting Spain include:

▪️Madrid being a city which never sleeps with locals out at all hours of the night. The city's train station being like a miniature indoor jungle with ponds full of turtles and other reptiles. The bullfighting arena, watching a fully grown man thrown into the air by a charging bull as if he were a rag doll...the smell of cigar smoke everywhere in the arena.

▪️Barcelona's great location, aka. beside the Mediterranean, close to the Pyrenees and the wonderful Costa Brava. I loved the city's little theme park atop the hills bordering it with views over the city and out to sea. The efficient, affordable and modern metro system. The Medieval Gothic Quarter along with the eccentric new age art and architecture.

▪️Seville's blistering heat. From memory it was close to, if not 40 degrees on my day trip there from Madrid. The Gold Tower and enjoying a beer and tortilla on the beautifully tiled promenade at sunset. The tomb of Christopher Columbus and the city's connection to trade and exploration of the New World. The river tour.

▪️Taking in the harsh, semi-arid plains of Castille from the comfort of a train seat.

▪️The amazing rail network. Every city and large town is connected to it, trains and most stations are clean and efficient.

▪️Having next to no Spanish, yet still managing to get by.

▪️Beaches which would give anything in the Caribbean or the South Pacific a run for their money. Quaint fishing villages.

▪️Growing a fondness for Spanish beer and food - tortilla, paella and chorizo in particular.

Marimurtra Botanical Garden




 

Mowl

Member
Ah, here - that crazy fucker from Portugal's going to come back.

Spain: lovely country, lovely coastlines, great food, lifestyle, weather, etc.

The downsides?

I can't stand the sound of Spaniards talking, it sounds like machine gun fire. The accents, the language, the passion with which they speak. No thanks, I'd rather not go again.
 

DS86DS

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I'm not sure if Viriato was too found of Spain and Spaniards? I'd imagine there's some kind of rivalry between the two countries.
 

Mowl

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I had a girl from the Basque renting the spare room in my last apartment in Dublin. Beautiful girl, called Ana, highly intelligent, was learning English so I helped her along and we got on well even though she was lesbian. Her lover came for a visit and the pair of them would have these chats that sounded to me like they were about to slaughter each other. They'd commandeer the kitchen every evening cooking and drinking wine, and the food was out of this world. But the two of them never stopped the yelling and the shouting, and when I'd step into the lounge to ask if everything was okay, the two of them would laugh their asses off, telling me this was a conversation, not a row.

The Basque language and lifestyle are very intense, and as people they feel very much connected to Ireland through our historic trade on the Atlantic shipping lines. Ana was highly politicized and very very verbal about the Spanish/Basque issue.

She stayed for two months and when she left I was glad of the peace and quiet.

So it's not that I dislike Spain or Spanish culture, it's the sheer volume of their language. When animated by passion and delight, they go fucking mental with the shouting.

Still, I showed Ana a bit of Fawlty Towers to see Manuel in action.

She wasn't impressed.
 

Mowl

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I like how the shops in the shopping districts all have unique hand-painted signs. Different shapes and colours, the hand-painted lettering and calligraphy is a dying art. I was signed up by Fas as soon as I completed my Leaving Cert and given a position in the National Maritime Museum in Dun Laoire; I stayed there for fourteen months and replaced all the signage in the place.

Soon after, Xerox released laser-cutting for plastic - it did the calligrapher's job in short time, all but killing the trade. If the signage looked good I wouldn't have minded too much, but it's seriously fucking ugly. And plastic. Lots of businesses up here want real calligraphy, so I keep my hand in it, but not enough to make a consistent living.

I'm still waiting on the builders in that one restaurant in Kallio to finish the interior remodeling so I can get at the windows out front and the walls within. The Gandalf walking stick and several more like it will be used to frame the menu boards on the wall: that way the staff can chalk in the daily specials and hang them in place for the public. The theme will be white-painted driftwood frames and metal frames for the art pieces: it's a series of X-shaped lines of silver metal nails with light chicken wire loops running through them. A sort of nod to the industrial nature of the older aspects of the interior and the white driftwood frames to keep it clean and bright.

It'll be night work - starting after last orders and working through until reopening the next day. I'd give it three full nights to get everything I have in mind up and looking great with the correct lighting in the best positions. The client/owner Kare asked about large pieces of artwork for the main walls, something metallic and industrial, so I decided on three rusted Citroen Diane bonnets from the bone-yard which I'll drill onto the walls and mount off-white lamps underneath them out of sight. The bonnets are dirt cheap, around twenty bucks each, and I'll stress them and batter them with lump hammers to make them look radical and ominous.

Hard to put a price on the whole job plus expenses, but Kare's a good bloke and I want to help him out, as I need to have something original and in-your-face in that area to refer to other clients in the neighbourhood. Once I get his restaurant done, the others will likely follow.
 

DS86DS

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I like Rouen's quaint, medieval charm. I imagine it's how Paris might have looked before Haussmann tore that city up to make way for boulevards. I never really liked the whole bourgeois culture in Paris either, I prefer old world cities that aren't just advertisements for luxury and consumerism.

Come to think of it, Dublin is also increasingly losing its soul and spirit to bourgeois gentrification and globalisation. It's getting to the stage where a grilled sandwich costs in the region of €10 etc. Maybe it will only be a matter of time before the same happens to Cork and Galway.

Gentrification is a curse.
 

Mowl

Member
You should book a flight to Tallin, Estonia. RyanAir fly in to an airport near the city and the flights are usually dirt cheap. The old town has to be seen to be believed. It's just amazing how it transports you back over the centuries to an older Russian-occupied town.

This is my go-to restaurant if we cruise over for the weekend; Olde Hansa is a medieval themed restaurant where every attention to detail has been kept firmly in the 1600's. The food is amazing and there are items on it you won't find anywhere else in town.

Link: https://www.oldehansa.ee/about-our-house/

Come to think of it, Dublin is also increasingly losing its soul and spirit to bourgeois gentrification and globalisation. It's getting to the stage where a grilled sandwich costs in the region of €10 etc. Maybe it will only be a matter of time before the same happens to Cork and Galway.

Gentrification is a curse.

Dublin lost its soul when CIE started buying up the lots in Temple Bar to build a proposed new central bus terminal. The ten-year plan was routed by the fact that they had to lease the buildings out to stay within budget and the artists and musicians moved in and started galleries and studios.

After deciding that the area was a vibrant cultural quarter, they decided to shelve the terminal idea and rebuild it so that the artists and creative types had an actual center to show their works. But rebuilding it also saw the rents shoot up to astronomical prices. I did a few stores there: Eyecon, the stylish sunglasses outlet on the corner of the Central Bank, a little place ten meters away called La Caberna, Sun Studios in the basement around the corner, a custom holiday planning company opposite the Dublin Stock Exchange, The Bad Ass Cafe, and several more over the years I lived in Dublin.

It's a fucking dump these days, the smell of piss and vomit everywhere, drunk people all over the place, the living dead junkies and drunks, pick-pockets, you name it. Filthy run-down dive area that holds only memories for me. Its future doesn't look too bright either: plastic, steel, glass, terrible architecture, and the eye-sore that is Sam Stephenson's ugly and brutalist Central Bank.

I read recently they're planning on turning it into a shopping center with office space above.

I guess they'll fuck that up like they did the entire Temple Bar area.
 

DS86DS

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It's interesting how Tallinn's city walls are still so intact, which is rare. Cities elsewhere throughout Europe began losing their city walls as early as the 17th century.



Having looked through Google Images, I'd definitely say Tallinn is worth a visit. Would it be expensive to visit in general?
 

Mowl

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It's interesting how Tallinn's city walls are still so intact, which is rare. Cities elsewhere throughout Europe began losing their city walls as early as the 17th century.

The city walls are open to spectators, you can even stand on the ledge where Estonians were hung from up high on the walls for everyone to see. It's rather grim but very authentic. Google maps allows you walk around the city but for some reason there's no access to the main town square.

Having looked through Google Images, I'd definitely say Tallinn is worth a visit.

It's a fabulous experience, the Estonians have gone all out to preserve the old town. The area that was bombed in the first world war is still EXACTLY as it was after the blitz. I've been in those houses (I even got laid in one with a lovely Estonian girl) and the tables and chairs are where they were left.

Would it be expensive to visit in general?

It's a little more expensive now that Estonia is an EU member state, but your Irish euros are worth more there then at home. You can eat and drink at less than half the price of Ireland. The shopping is another boon: the further out into the country you go, the cheaper it is. Finns usually take the car and drive out to the suburbs and shop in the Estonian brand shops: you can fill the car with booze and high end foods for practically nothing.

The sooner you do it, the cheaper it'll be.

The old town is flanked to the south by the newly built city center, these two areas are worlds and centuries apart. When my passport and tickets were robbed from my dressing room at the end of a nine week tour, the cops put me up for two nights in a cell until the embassy sent someone to get a new temporary passport for me.

That's the only time I've ever been in a cell, and it was a weird experience.
 
I could I suspect handle living in the Baltic states but I don't think I could handle Iceland. Amazing place and that beach above looks like the beach used in 'Katla' a really rather intriguing sort of Stephen King style story about human changelings which ended poorly but was pretty good all the way through for various hat tips to Norse mythology.

There was even a raven, messenger of the gods :)

I like watching Scandi films and series in the original language because it is like listening to musical poetry in a way, you have the English language translation to follow the story but you can still hear the language of course from the actors which is pleasant and interesting to my ear.

The whole scandi noir thing is beautiful visually but I suspect I'd find Iceland outside Rejkyavik too much like a lowering burren in the winter and somewhat oppressive.
 
Come to think of it I have been spending a lot of time getting a business off the ground this year and had it in mind that because it is ideal as a digital nomad style business I can work anywhere there is broadband.

If Brexitland starts becoming too annoying I have an Irish passport so could just as easily work out of Station F in Paris or definitely Talinn as I heard they are very good on broadband and net services out of Estonia. They have an interesting private equity and venture capital sector out in Estonia and there is a lot of traffic in and out of there in the last ten to fifteen years by tech sector investors.

I was thinking I'd head to Madeira for a month and just work from there as I can work anywhere within the EU doing what I do with a laptop and decent broadband but I doubt I'll make it this year and can't be arsed dealing with airports as I've just moved house and want a few straight months building up the nascent business.

Do need to go to Spudland as well to see family as I haven't seen them since lockdown and I really need to get that off my back first.

But digital nomad is a real thing for me and I love the idea that I could in December and maybe July each year pick a different city to work out of and just rent a flat for a month in Talinn for example in the summer and maybe Madeira in December which would be bitty and quiet months as clients take holidays.

Station F, a major french push for a tech sector and start up incubator made out of an old railway station in Paris https://stationf.co/



It is much cheaper to rent an apartment for a month than pay for a tourist hotel rate and quite often these days the business hubs such as Station F do deals providing accommodation on short term lets with access to Station F incubators and so on.
 
Having said that the business is well off the ground and there is money in the bank, with the horizon looking good for future client work right out to next spring so she's off the ground alright and climbing to cruising altitude so I can start thinking of where the boss (me) wants to work from.

I moved as well to a bigger place where I have a good study/office space separate from my living space and I have room for the guitars to be at hand too when I want to do something different while pondering a challenge in my subconscious or planning ahead.

The area I live in is very decent too, bike trails all over the shop separate to vehicle traffic. Big parks and bike trails along a river to enjoy so life is decent at the moment.

Spent years working before the corporate mast and was beginning to hate the corporate side of life. Being my own boss is much better and in the last six months not once have I had some upright gooch trying to enrol me in HR related shite.

So nice as well working for myself and being the decision maker rather than trying to deliver other people's decisions and leading a team also trying to do the same thing. I'm working about five hours a day now, focusing on one project at a time and my productivity has easily doubled without breaking sweat.

The clients are coming to me now, mostly people who know me from corporate land because they know what I can do so hardly any marketing involved.

It only occurred to me recently that there is no reason why I can't work anywhere in Europe as long as I have email to clients and broadband.

Before lockdown I was in Budapest for some dental work and at the time I was working before the corporate mast and had a little netbook with me and was able to do a rush job for the boss and a contact of hers and neither of them knew I was in Budapest until I got back. Both had assumed I was working from home in the UK.

After lockdown I didn't want to go back into the corporate office and thought 'it is now or never' so took the jump. I was working straight away for myself with two early clients and have six now just on prior network leads.

I might have to think about closing the books on new clients soon, as it is going well and definitely providing a decent living even with cheap introductory rates which will go up as I sort out the decent clients from ones I may or may not want to work for by preference.

So the next thing really is with a stabilising business at cruising altitude is not scale up to employing others as I don't want to get into that, and prefer the one-man band show, but that doesn't prevent me from having a group of small businesses. Effectively I have two at the moment but the second is just an open to purchase section of the first, like a shop window for automated versions of what I do most of the time manually for clients so developing that second business is an offshoot of the first is interesting too.

But back to discovering Europe, all this means that my business is IP that walks with me to any internet access point so no stock, materiels, employees, premises to worry about and all they entail, which is a model which opens up Europe to me and not just in 'holiday time'.

You can rent a nice flat pretty much any where in Europe for about a 1,000 euros for a month outside of rip-off markets like Ireland and the UK so effectively I'd combine seeing and experiencing Europe while doing maybe four or five hours of the day keeping clients happy and they need not even know that last week I was in the UK and this week I'm in Paris and next month I could be in Tallinn, outside of client time I could wander around exploring.

Digital Nomads can experience Europe now in a way that tourists with two weeks leave can't.
 

Mowl

Member
Tallin and Estonia in general has come on in leaps and bounds over the twenty odd years I've been in and out of the country. The IT scene is red hot and loads of Finns work across the stream but they can sail or fly back home for the weekends for next to nothing - by ship being the cheapest model.

But even so, business persons will have to deal with the parties that never end on the cruise lines: every one of them is full of drunk people, party people, and other straight business types who would be better off in a cabin if they want peace and quiet to get on with work.

The two hour sailing would be the best for working people: it has everything you need regardless of how long it takes. Some ships sail out at early evening and dock several hours later, but don't open the doors until 0600. Those are the party lines, and a cabin is essential if you want some peace.

I've been keeping an eye on the music scene over there and another friend Oisin Lunny (Declan from Moving Hearts son) who's in IT and new directions with digital sales and marketing has been in and out over the last few years as the tech sector begins to soar. But for me it's the music and production end of things that are really taking off. I went to see this quartet back around two years ago at Juttutupa, Helsinki's current street level jazz club, and even though they're all under twenty-teo years old, their shit's red fucking hot. The drummer, Tonu Tubli, is outrageous. His free form jazz is totally speaking in tongues type drumming: give this a shot and turn the fucker up:



As regards the more pop end of things, he's the drummer in this cute little band I've posted before. What I like about Trad Attack is their use of the internet in everything they do from marketing to promotion, self broadcast, maintaining a connection to their base, and taking it from nowhere to the top of the Estonian charts straight out of music school. Even the music schools and conservatories are all over the net before the students come out with their product. These guys took it from zero to national prominence in a few short months and are now drawing crowds in the tens of thousands.

Their gig is sweet: they use all the elements of Estonian traditional music and historic elements from the last few hundred years in their songs. A lot like Moving Hearts using Irish traditional as a backdrop to the more political lyrical content and setting them up for fiery shows that serious move people and get them up on the feet for the performances.

This one's also kind of cool - plus she has these hips that just go on and on...

 

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