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).

10 March 2012

Nepalese Restaurants

There are lots of Nepalese restaurants in Helsinki, and I am surprised I didn't see them last time round (especially as two of them are next to the hotel I stayed at last time). I went to Mt Everest, which was closest to me, and I would highly recommend it if you are in Helsinki.

The food itself is not very different to North Indian food I have had before; though I am not sure what I was expecting to be different! The specific dish wasn't hot but did have a great combination of spices and tasted really good. Also on the plus side, the meals included both naan and rice, something most Indian restaurants I have been to, charge extra for.

Spiced Nepali Coffee was not as rich as I had been told by some, but definitely a different (quite sweet, with different spices, I think I tasted cinnamon and nutmeg) to traditional coffee.

Hints of Spring

With a slightly warmer weather, the snow and ice has started to thaw. In a combination of what seems to be poor drainage and the blocking of flow (due to the remaining ice/snow) the streets and pavements have become quite muddy and slippery. I had brought my hiking boots specifically anticipating this, but even then I have needed to be careful while walking, especially on an incline. I am not sure whether this warmer spell will last (the evening temperatures are still forecast to be negative, with positive day temperatures); but there is still a lot of snow to be thawed out!

Sibelius Monument

Dedicated to the famous Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, the sculpture resembles organ pipes of various lengths, and the pipes themselves are quite ornate. You can read more on the competition and the controversies around the sculpture on the sculptor's website. Although not in the city centre, it is quite easy to get to (bus 24).

Click on photos for a slight enlargement.

Frozen Waters

It isn't that cold today (the temperature is actually above freezing); but it is not warm enough. These are pictures of a canal and one of the port areas. The port is open, and one of the ships in the photos will be setting sail in about 3 hours

09 March 2012


So far, I had seen a bit of snow flying into Munich 2 weeks ago, but nothing on the way back on Wednesday.

Helsinki is covered with snow, stacks of it everywhere. Roads are clear though, and the temperature is a lot warmer than the past few weeks (well it is 0 degrees Celsius)

Rammstein: Made in Germany

The reason I came to Antwerp was to see Rammstein. It was a late decision, leading to a bit of a complicated itinerary (1 additional flight, 3 additional trains) and some expensive (i.e. bought from scalpers) tickets. I did get standing tickets (there is no golden circle, just standing and sitting; the standing is in the centre of the hall) and interestingly there is no difference in the price either.

A quick note on the venue logistics; getting in and out was a mess, with only a few entrances open. Besides that it was well organized especially with the seamless public transport links after the concert. Photos are taken mostly from a distance, so may be a bit blurry ... clicking will enlarge them slightly.

I am surprised that there hasn't been an older band that has used this name. They are a Swedish goth/industrial metal band, though their songs were in English. Their music sounded great, though their lyrics (which i could decipher) weren't that impressive. But then, I think most bands just treat voice and lyrics as a backing sound track, so I suppose it doesn't really matter. They were a great warmup to Rammstein.

A great performance is made of different factors - the music, the lyrics, the show, the lighting to name a few. Rammstein embodied all of these last night; starting with a spectacular entrance. The main stage was pretty standard, though a number of industrial effects (such as huge fans) would come in as the show progressed. There were no video screens, strange for such a large venue. In front of the sound deck, was a small cordoned off area( which I assumed was for fireworks) and this is where I stood.
As the show started a bridge dropped from the ceiling connecting the main stage with the small cordoned off area. It looked and sounded exactly like spaceship landing in sci-fi movies; and the band paraded through the crowd onto the smaller stage, before crossing the bridge. They would return later in the show to perform two songs, most notably Bück Dich; which takes their shows into the realm of performance art like no other band.
Being a "best of" show, all the hits were played (including my personal favorite Engel, which was not played in the SA show); accompanied by some spectacular fireworks. As with the South African show, the band didn't speak much with the crowd (no "we love you" or other chit chat) but there seemed to be a lot more engagement with the crowd; and the show was absolutely spectacular. At over 2 hours, it was also a long set for such a high energy performance.


The wider city is a business city, focused around the port and the diamond trade. The diamond district is neither flashy (except the glitter of jewelry off course) nor pretty - it seems purely functional.

The old town however is very pretty, with a lot of grand architecture, small alleys and off course cobbled streets. Most of the old buildings have been adapted for modern commerce and usage, with seemingly minimal changes. Even if you discount the churches, there are a lot of buildings to see in a stroll around the old town.

Getting around is easy (excellent public transport, and it is small enough to explore by walking around), people are friendly and most seem to speak English. It is the Flemish part of Belgium, so my little Afrikaans helped with reading text in Dutch, though understanding either Flemish or Dutch was a lot more difficult.

Click on photos for a small enlargement.

08 March 2012

Cathedral of our Lady

One of the largest gothic cathedrals in the world, its spire seems to be the tallest construction in Antwerp. Given that it has some of the best paintings of Ruben on show, I decided to go in here instead of Ruben-house. There was no one else interested in the English guided walk, so I got that a personal tour as a bonus; focusing on some of the history (mostly impacted by the numerous wars) and a brief crash course in art-history. There are some magnificent art pieces, such as marble statues with fantastic level of detail and off course the paintings (not only Ruben, but also other Belgian masters).

Sint-Carolus Borromueskerk

A beautiful interior with a rather plain exterior. There was a small fire 2 years ago, restoration still in progress.

Antwerp Train Station

Antwerp has a beautiful train station, feels like stepping into a palace.

07 March 2012

Welcome to Cologne

Cologne has the best landmark at a transit hub in my opinion, the main train station is next to the Dom.

Final thoughts on San Francisco

Now that I am on another continent, on my third flight (and different type of aircraft); it's a good time to put down some final reflections on San Francisco.

San Francisco feels "un-American", at least in terms of media portrayal. It embraces multi-culturalism, proudly supports homosexuality, has relaxed rules on recreational drug use and seems to accept all immigrants with open arms. I don't know of any other US city that has notices in three languages - English, Spanish and Chinese - across the city.

It is a melting pot of cultures; and there does not seem to be a dominant cultural group; but most of all it is highly integrated. You will find Mexican food in Chinatown, and vice-versa.

It is a beautiful city; but also expensive. It has a lot of tourist activities; but also a lot i leisure activities for the locals. It has amazing food places with a focus on organic and local produce. Overall, it seems like a great place to live, and it is easy to see why someone can easily leave their heart in San Francisco.

The Street Art of San Francisco

There has always been a blurred line in graffiti, between vandalism and art. Street art in San Francisco is well recognized - some are commissioned, some are used as an advertising medium, and some are actively protected and curated. They have had books published about them, some of the artists are very well known; while others are in decay due to the elements. Street art can be found across the city, but is especially prominent in the Mission District. The photos below are a selection across the city; across my stay, and some only reflect a part of the murals as they were simply too large to photograph.

Click on photos for a slightly larger version.

Bunny Chow in another form

Like the Bunny Chow, Soup in a Bread Bowl is a very similar concept, except the bread bowl is a bit more suitable then the hollowed out loaf used in Bunnies. I have not seen these outside San Francisco, and is traditionally (according to the restaurant) had with clam chowder. Since I am not a big fan of clam Chowder, decided to have it with chilli instead (making it closer to a bunny chow). Very tasty also!

The Steep Hills of San Francisco

San Francisco is built on some really steep hills, which led to the development of the cable car system. The streets are also steep (especially with the imposition of a grid system) with the most famous being Lombard Street, built in a zig zag fashion to enable cars to travel down safely. But there are a few others, which are almost as steep, where cars have to park perpendicularly and the pavements have steps.

Click on photos for a slightly bigger version.