About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

24 September 2009


I was in Nancy for the ODRL WG and Virtual Goods 2009 conference (where I was the Program Chair). Getting to Nancy from outside France, without a car is difficult. There is no direct air link, and the only trains are from Paris, Starsbourg or Luxembourg. It took me 4 trains and some running to get there from Frankfurt. Luckily the way out was to share a car with a friend from Fraunhofer traveling to the same city in Germany, so that was easier.

Nancy's old town is stunningly beautiful, and mostly well maintained. Apart from the public buildings mostly shown on the photos, the private buildings are also well maintained and stunning. And at night, under various lighting effects, the city is even more stunning - especially Place Stanislas, seemingly the main square in the old town.

My hotel was orignially a mansion belonging to the "favourite" of a King or Duke of the region in the 1700s. Even though it was under refurbishment, the decor and general atmosphere was absolutely amazing, and fairly cheap too.

But for me the highlight was the food - and especially the food at "La petite Cuillere", a small restaurant near the hotel. The food was amazing and presentation and service was amazing. Now I really understand what good French food is all about.

Oh, frogs dont taste that bad either.

22 September 2009

Music: Apocalyptica and Nightwish

The reason I was in Helsinki, was actually to go to the last Nightwish concert on their "Dark Passion Play" tour. This tour was almost 2 years long, with close to 200 shows - and this was actually the only occasion where I had the possibility to attend a concert. Symphonic metal is my current favourite music genre, and Nightwish is, in my opinion, the best exponent of this genre. Getting tickets was in some respects fortuitious - the concert was sold out and I only found one offer for double tickets on eBay (for which I was surprisingly the only bidder). So I had double tickets, btu no one to share with - and there were no takers for the second ticket (although I did not try eBay).

Apocalyptica, the band best known for playing cellos to the music of Metalica, and a recent Eurovision entry, was the support band; playing a combination of covers (opening with Enter Sandman IIRC), classical music (their take of Greig's Hall of the Mountain King is amazing) and some of their own music. Apocalyptica were a great support band, and played a highly enjoyable 1 hour set.

Nightwish played the longest uninterupted set I have ever attended by any musical performance - close to 2 and half hours! They played most of their songs from their last album (Dark Passion Play) as well some of their older songs. What is most interesting in this regard, is the change of lead singers from Tarja (who gave Nightwish a very distinctive, operatic sound) to Anette (whose voice in my opinion is a lot closer to pop music) - and it is the old Nightwish songs where this really becomes aparent. The difference is not necessarily bad - but very diffferent.

The show itself was amazing - great stage show, brilliant lighting, nice set design, a big audience, fire with the usual smoke and a finale of fireworks inside an enclosed stadium! It was a great show and I really enjoyed it. Seats in a concert like this just does not make sense, and next time I hope to get better tickets. The organisation was slick and efficient and overall was a great experience, and definitely worth the effort (and money) expended! The only negative I have is that Nightwish didn't play "Eva", even after a big chant in the stadium ... but the encore was an equally special (but older) song.

Bear Steak and Reindeer - Reflections of Helsinki

I remember an ad by Investec, asking "Who goes to Helsinki" ... and while my motivations for visiting Helsinki for a weekend was fairly arbitary, it seems that the majority of visitors to Helsinki are Russians, Latvians, Estonians and a smattering of the older American globe-trotters.

Helsinki is a rather compact city, and to be honest not very exciting. While there are certainly a number of impressive architectural specimens with the highlight being Suomenlinna, an old fort built by the Swedish in mid 1700s to protect the city against the Russians, but which did not seem to stop the Russians in 1808 without much resistance.

There are however quite a few interesting cultural points - that were surprising to me. Firstly, fur, is openly traded in the market - not only in clothing, but also as blankets and scarves (one scarf made of a small fox still had the fox head ornamental as part of the scarf).

There is also the language - Suomi (the language of Finland) is very different to every other European language except for Hungarian, but the Finns are very multilingual and almost all speak Swedish (all signs have at least Suomi and Swedish) and English and many other languages.

And then there is the food, specifically the availability of rather exotic meats as part of the menu. Reindeer meat is available in many menus (and is rather indefferent to mutton in my opinion) - but one restaurant I came across also offered Bear steak - for a princely sum of 50 odd Euros for the plate.

Overall, I think Finland has a lot to offer, but more for hiking and wilderness exploration rather than Helsinki itself. And next time, I should save more to afford Bear steak :)