Arcticterntalk.org

The blog of a travelling psychiatrist and football lover. Who happens to be a halfway decent photographer. Takes a cynical view of the world

Archive for the category “Cities EU”

There is a danger to all chefs in Paris and potentially France. A concerning menu for Chefs


Should I be a chef and that would be unfortunate to the whole population, I might not work in Paris. I am aware of food items eaten with regularity here that do not venture onto my shopping list . I am also aware of a few chefs who perhaps do deserve some sort of criticism. However are the French taking this too far?  I leave that to your judgement 

Edinburgh Tram System


In June 2014 Trams  returned to Edinburgh’s streets for the first time in almost 50 years, however, in the decade since the first money was allocated to the project, the price  doubled, the network halved and it took twice as long to build as was first thought.

img_2288Edinburgh’s tram “network” is now just part of one of the original lines, stretching from the airport to the city centre. It had been intended to reach the waterfront at Leith and Newhaven, and there were to be other lines too, but they disappeared as the troubled project rumbled on. This was the originally planned route.

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After many years of delays and procrastination the tram was finally completed and is now fully operational. Having a spare hour in Edinburgh I decided to explore the tram and see literally where it might lead me too along its 8.7 mile route that has cost at least 976 million pounds to contruct.

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Fifty-two ticket inspectors were recruited to prevent fare dodging. Edinburgh Council is aiming for a 3% fare evasion rate, lower than any other tramway in Britain. Thirty-two drivers were employed, after passing psychological tests designed to eliminate risk-takers

Tram lines are making a re-appearance in UK and for good reasons. They tend to be more reliable in timing than buses and can often be built right into the city centre. For a long time there has been a lack of direct transportation from Edinburgh airport into the city which when combined with the relatively narrow roads often meant delays in getting to the main city centre. The tram line starts at the airport and ends at York place past the end of Princes Street. There are many possibilities of ticket types that range from simple single and return fares through to day tickets. The day tickets, equivalent of the London travel card , are more expensive when travelling to or from the airport, than the city and its environs. There is also a conundrum in that outside of the airport zone there is a family ticket that carries 2 adults and 3 children, but for airport travel  tickets need to be bought individually. This might explain why the trams seem relatively unused at the airport, my tram was almost empty, as by the time that more than one ticket is bought you are into the realms of little less cost than a taxi. fullsizerenderfullsizerender-1img_2290

The line itself runs through a variety of shopping centres, a train depot ( only for staff), and joins with a number of other stations en-route. It also stops at the Ingliston park and ride. So the line is practical and within reason quite cheap. They employ cohorts of scary looking ticket inspectors who check each and every customer, and who really do remember who they have previously checked, like they have photographic memories.

During only its second year of operation 5.38 million passengers used the system. And for anyone arriving at Edinburgh airport on their travels this is a good option for the city centre.

 

Trilogy of Sonennallee. Part 3 and maybe final. The most wonderful Graffiti and Graffiti Art in Our universe.


Sonennallee is not the universal holiday destination of choice.Despite the label of Berlin it is more Croydon than it is London. the saving grace of this suburb of Berlin lies in its graffiti and graffiti art. Graffiti can be vulgar, damaging and criminal, but at the same time educating, amusing and visually improving on an otherwise unpleasant environment. Graffiti art sets out to do a lot more, sometimes achieving that aim and sometimes exceeding. Sonennallee has all these components and the graffiti and graffiti art deserve a place, the final place maybe in this trilogy. This is a photographic memory of what I saw.

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The reason why no obesity in Helsinki- The Cost of Food


There is little doubt that the Finnish are an attractive and healthy looking race. There was little or no sign of obesity anywhere in Helsinki despite the city having a plethora of the same restaurants that in UK seem to carry the blame for obesity. There were a few shocks however.

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A typical Helsinki couple. Element of distance between them.

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Helsinki Fashion

In all my travels I was not prepared to see a restaurant OLO Creative Kitchen in an ordinary central Helsinki street advertising a meal for 149 euros.

IMG_2783I stood there for 5 minutes pondering both my eyesight and my cognitive ability to recognise the currency, but in the end it was euros and the cost was 149 euros. The option of then paying a higher price 315 euros to have what I take to be unlimited drinks seemed a sensible one for the reason that drinking enough might allow one to forget the cost of the meal. Amnesia may have its benefits. But the maths are curious. 166 euros gives you these unlimited drinks, but wine by the glass is 21 euros , so essentially you need to drink 8 glasses minimum to get value.

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The food generally here in restaurants is expensive compared with many other European cities, and substantially so. Eating a dinner in the Radisson Plaza hotel in Helsinki would be a nice event, nice restaurant and good service in good surroundings. Until the bill arrives. A few examples. Fried sole 36.5 euros, grilled Reindeer fillet ( like beef actually) 34 euros. An average starter such as reindeer mouse ( yes that is average here), 11.90 euros, the same as a cheese salad as a starter. Desserts again look particularly attractive but you will not pay less than 9.50 euros for Creme Brûlée, and “old-time” ice cream does not have an old-time price tag weighing in at 11.50 euros. Should we decide that reindeer and cloudberries are too exotic for a chilly and rainy April evening then a Club Sandwich will set you back 18 euros. The same price as a caesar salad with chicken.IMG_2808IMG_2801

 

There are a few ways around this if you are prepared to eat a main meal at lunchtime. There are a plethora of restaurants with either lunchtime buffet choices, which was my option, and in the Radisson Plaza I ate a nice lunch of unlimited salads and bread, and various choices that included Pork and Elk stew, fried trout and plentiful roasted root vegetables for 12 euros. Many other restaurants had their equivalent.

Street food was however plentiful and delicious and available in many places.

 

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The real way to eat? Clearly sample The Reindeer hotdog.

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Could Reindeer hotdogs catch on at football?

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Helsinki street food.

Reflections on 24 Hours in Helsinki.


This is not a city that I find easy to enjoy. Maybe this is me and not Helsinki. Walking around the city seems bland in comparison with other Scandinavian and Baltic capitals. A kind of hidden vibrancy is missing, something almost invisible cannot be seen.

00003440There were few smiling faces. Many engaged with their headphones, music and phones and not so much conversation going on even in the cafes.

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The obligatory young persons uniform. Cigarette, headphones and phone. just dont let the world in

The harbour and marina areas looked tired and uninterested in visitors.

00003459 There were indeed many historical looking buildings, some grand and some not. But none enticed anyone inside.

IMG_2804Even the high steps did not seem dangerous or challenging  when walking down them. There were in fact few people around. Maybe at different times in the year the feel of this city will be different but in April this city seemed comatose. The only time it came to life for me was when sitting in a hotel bar and in the next room a private function was taking place , maybe a record launch, with a singer and her singing was amazing. Amazing enough to download Shazam and discover who she was. A rasping voice that oozed feeling. The singer is called Katea. The song was California Baby. IMG_2777

Much of the city centre is a melange of shops and shopping malls. There was little evidence of any pavement cafe society even allowing for the April weather. Few smiling faces. The architecture surely can be described as grand but is it beckoning? Even the trams looked sad as they slowly went their way through the city, with less self-esteem and grandeur than Amsterdam or Manchester trams, that would happily sweep you off your feet.00003429

The only sign of life was inside coffee shops and the one that caught my eye was Strindberg down near the harbour area where enough people were inside to give me a feeling that I was not alone on this earth. The other one that also escapes my criticism is the Neuhaus cafe shop, that sold the delicious chocolates but also functioned as a pleasant street cafe. A cup of tea (3 euros for a teabag, but served in a curiously interesting mug) and some homemade mango cheesecake, though no-one ever states in which home it was made, kept me occupied for the best part of an hour.

IMG_2829 The shop was run by a highly efficient  girl who gave the image of being an academic student ( like a Latin or Greek scholar maybe) who not only ran the shop, sold the chocolates , took and ordered the food, but also made whatever had to be made. Clearly not a British employee.

The boats looked sleepy and disinterested. As though waiting for a different week or month to attract people.00003391.JPG

In huge areas there were so very few people walking around. Part of the harbour area had some tents erected that were mini-restaurants selling mostly Finnish food, such as reindeer hotdogs and other more usual foods. IMG_2806FullSizeRender-1

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Restaurants  in the city centre of course there were many but often impossible to know if they were open or closed.  Food was expensive. In many restaurants, just average ones, the main courses were around 20 euros and with a starter and a drink that made a fairly simple lunch cost over 30 euros. It was easy to find set course lunch menus costing 50 euros or more. Lunch seemed curiously to start around 10.30 am and by 11.30 am ” ladies that lunch” could be seen sipping champagne and having important conversations in some of the more eloquent looking restaurants.

IMG_2784IMG_2782There was little evidence of the wonderful and artistic graffiti that adorns many European cities. In the central part of the city rather curiously the only sign of graffiti was on the door leading to the National Library of Finland. In short the best adjective to sum up 24 hours in Helsinki is Neutral.

IMG_2787IMG_2789As in all cities there were a few characters to be seen, together with some interesting takes on hair styling. The exceptionally tall man in the bowler hat I oddly passed twice in very different parts of the city. People observing us might conclude that we were both spies meeting for our assignments. Considering spies there was no evidence of a queue at the Russian tourist board office.00003414.JPG

A plethora of expensive shops abounded. Tumi, who some might recall I encountered at London City Airport, when finding a small carry on case there that looked good, then finding the cost was £675 ( and yes I checked the decimal point), was present. I saw one professional beggar in the same position on the same street, who started ” work” at around midday, and who incidentally wore better clothes than I own.

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There were sights to see of course, but even these were quiet and few tourists were visible. Maybe I need to go back here on a different day or different season.

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The People Of Helsinki


When travelling to other cities and walking around it is a fascinating experience to merely observe the denizens of that city. They do vary city to city. Factors such as age, smoking, fashion and quirkiness all define a city as being different from another. Helsinki is full of polite and very different people certainly from the UK and interestingly other Scandinavian and  Baltic capitals. In short a group of people fascinating to observe. Here are a few examples of the people of Helsinki.

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A typical Helsinki couple. Element of distance between them but managing to look cool.

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Cigarette and I Phone. A new Oasis song maybe?

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Smoking was maybe more common than in other Baltic and Scandinavian countries

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A very european image. Attention to the phone but not to where she is walking

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Helsinki Fashion

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A hard worker

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Tourists on the edge

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Tourists in their tourist uniforms. Maybe sometone told them Helsinki was freezing?

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Far more cyclists than London

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On Guard

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A hard working man

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Finnish fashion may differ from other countries? Again attention to that phone .

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The obligatory young persons uniform. Cigarette, headphones and phone. Just dont let the world in

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I really have no comment here. What did he ask for at the hairdressers?

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A very serious business this guarding

Stockholm Paintings By Vincent Van B


There are many things to do and see in Stockholm and many sights that lend themselves to being painted. Here are a few examples from the city centre. Stockholm is a nice place for sure but a little bit of colour does not go amiss. 00001907

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Trilogy of Sonnenallee. Part 2. Just When I Thought Sonnenallee could not get worse….


My little reading flock of this blog would have read my salient words and viewed my photos last night on exactly why Sonnenallee is not a first choice holiday destination despite its label of “Berlin” and in fact one of the large conference centres in Berlin. If Stieg Larsson can write a trilogy then maybe I can try a trilogy of posts from Sonnenallee.

https://arcticterntalk.org/2016/04/12/sonnenallee-district-of-berlin-a-very-contradictory-area/

If you have nothing seriously important to do, like deal with death/marriage/criminal justice system or are detained under the Mental Health Act, then maybe go read that post first before continuing.

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I had held some degree of excitement over visiting Berlin, but Sonnenallee is to Berlin what Tooting and Croydon are to London. Today I find things are worse than I had imagined. Immediately outside and within maybe 100 metres of the Estrel Hotel entrance lies the splendour that is a recycling plant complete with odours to match.

FullSizeRenderA little further brings one to a huge very industrial site that seemed to be making piles of sand and other aggregates. The road is dirty, dusty and has the usual affliction round here of vandalism style graffiti.FullSizeRender-12

With one notable exception. And that is the curious thing about graffiti here, it is a complete admixture of some of the nicest graffiti I have seen anywhere in the world and some of the least pleasant graffiti, looking like it was painted by a hooligan undertaking a degree course in how to obtain an ASBO ( Antisocial Behaviour Order,  a UK thing we do, where we send those who commit antisocial acts somewhere else to commit more, rather than lock them up. Don’t ask me to explain). A block had been painted on two sides with quotations from the literature including Oscar Wilde. So I can now truly say I have read Oscar Wilde, but have no idea what he is saying as it was written in I presume German.

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Decorating the road further were some huge industrial cranes and to complete the package there was evidence of a homeless tent camp on the top of essentially a pile of rubbish near the river. In this era how can we as humans allow people to live in this environment? In the frankly excellent Estrel Hotel maybe 300 metres away people spend £30 on a bottle of wine which could be more than my tent dwellers spend in a month. Not reasonable, not ethical and not right. 

This rapidly became a far more unpleasant area than I had presumed yesterday. Some halfway decent graffiti art on the side of the bridge next to Tent City was the only redeeming feature.

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Daring to venture a few hundred yards in the opposite direction  there were some nice smelling trees in blossom that gave the air a pleasant smell, and a single track railway line on which a tree had fallen and was blocking the line.

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Big leaves on the line

 

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Tree blocking railway line in Sonnenallee

 

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Estrel Hotel Stands Guard Like A Jurassic Monster Over Sonnenallee

So my three highlights of Sonnenallee are in order:

  1. The amazing graffiti art that pervades some of the roadsIMG_2916
  2. The superb Doner Kebab from Doner Haus ( the only German I know) IMG_2923
  3. LeavingFullSizeRender-5

 

The Great Graffiti Art of Neuss


Neuss is the other side of the Rhine to Dusseldorf. It it takes your fancy you could swim across in 10 minutes. You may meet a few Rhine cruise boats coming your way, or the sight of industrial plants there may equally deter you. Nonetheless a walk along the Rhine banks on an early summer late afternoon in the sun cannot be a difficult task.

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Over the Rhine there are many bridges, some carrying trains and others cars, but all decorated with fairly amazing graffiti art and a little graffiti too. It is a curious observation that those who choose graffiti as their communication tool rarely choose to deface the graffiti art. Even a burnt out mattress was to some extent “decorated” with graffiti art.

FullSizeRender-3IMG_3019FullSizeRenderIMG_3022IMG_3020IMG_3025IMG_3037Graffiti art is a real skill and there are too few websites devoted to the art of this.

For more of the best street artists and urban street photography visit ondulee.com

Trilogy of Sonnenallee. Part 1 . Sonnenallee District of Berlin. A Very Contradictory Area


When one thinks of Berlin, immediately  one visualises the Checkpoint Charlie or Brandenburg Gate, or even a plethora of beer gardens. That however is only one small part of Berlin.

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Sonnenallee is a suburb of Berlin, around 25 minutes by car from Berlin Tegel airport. In the middle of what looks like a derelict building site is the Estrel Hotel and Conference centre. This is a great looking building and indeed a nice hotel. But why build it here? The area is rundown and during the day dubious looking characters are in conference in the streets drinking and smoking various substances. In all aspects this is a downtown suburb, there are cheap looking bars and the occasional Cafe.

IMG_2910The shops that try to bring colour to the area are the discount supermarkets Netto and Lidl. Other shops sell such a curious admixture of things that it is not easy to fathom exactly their main purpose. FullSizeRender-8Next to the hotel is seemingly a derelict dockyard of some kind and the roads look like they have perpetual roadworks.

IMG_2897IMG_2896 In short this is a dubious kind of area and at night alcoholics sit on the streets shouting their rants, that only they can interpret and seemingly asking for money, to go and buy even more cheap alcohol. So a curious contradiction to have a nice hotel in really a very dubious area.

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More people seem to smoke here than in some other EU cities such as London with many people line the outside of the bars smoking. Graffiti is all over the place and again a real contradiction. There is some excellent graffiti on the front of buildings and structures and next food to this artistic work is the more vile damaging graffiti with paint strewn over doors and fences.

 

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