Songs for a North American adventure

These songs are necessarily amazing but I’ll be listening to them forever, because they’ll always take me back to particular times and places and highs and lows.

What songs remind you of places that you’ve travelled?

This was in my headphones when I was bouncing around the harbour in San Diego, at the very start of a solo Californian adventure.

This, alternating with economics lectures from Audible, was what I heard while navigating the streets and subway system of Mexico City.

Climbing hills on a hot day in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, wishing I didn’t wear stockings.

The aftermath of a fling in with San Francisco. Walking around hungover and sad in Portland.

The waterfront in Seattle – blue skies, tall buildings, sleepless nights, facing the long road ahead of me.

Have a guess!

Stressed and wandering in my first weeks in Toronto.

Learning French in a little room on Bloor St.

Thinking of my home and life (and community radio station) in Sydney. Also, I am convinced that this is as perfect as a pop song can ever be. Every note, every strum, every distant lyric, all falls right into place.

Berlin after 3 years, and Nachtdigital – dancing on a Sunday morning.

And finally, the song that will always remind me of my colourful and wonderful summer in Toronto:

Those falls at Niagara

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It’s fun to be a tourist sometimes. And it would have been absurd to leave North America in a few weeks without having seen Niagara Falls.

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Two hours from Toronto by coach, the falls straddle Canada and the USA and since the Canadian side is soaking in Americana (a Hershey’s store, Elvis impersonators, a Coca Cola milkshake shop and Planet Hollywood), I can only assume that the American side is covered in red and white maple leaves. (Unlikely.)

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Yes, the town is tacky and I didn’t bother seeing any of the wax museums – my only wander into a casino was a disappointment. But the falls themselves really are vast and loud and stunning, and on a hot day like yesterday, the cool spray felt a bit like a blessing.IMG_1614 IMG_1624 IMG_1629 IMG_1631 IMG_1635

British Columbia up in flames

Every year fires rage across Canada, but this year is shaping up to be extreme. More than 4 million hectares have been burnt already – that’s double the average. The province of British Columbia has exhausted all its resources, and those of its surrounding provinces, and last week around 80 firefighters from Australia flew in to help out.

As 2SER’s “Canadian Correspondent” I checked in with The Daily on Monday morning to fill Sydney in.

Festival review: Nachtdigital 17

I had the opportunity to attend the exclusive Nachtdigital festival in Olganitz, Saxony, from August 1 to 3.

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one-of-a-kind graphic design

It’s all electronic, held in the German countryside in the summer and I say “exclusive” because only 3000 tickets are ever released and the event is consistently sold out straight away.

Olganitz is a village not far from Leipzig and it made for a very lovely drive south from Berlin.

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Most people camp but there are bungalows available too, in the “Bunga Bungalowdorf”.

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My party was camping. We brought enough food and beer for a small army and divided our time between our little tent town and the main stage areas, which, owing to the petite size of the whole operation, was only a three-minute walk away.

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The stages (one main stage, one inside a big tent and a smaller one by the water) are set by the lake, and the weather was hot and perfect for swimming and splashing around. It was a really beautiful place to have a music festival.

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The music was minimal in general – the heavier stuff in the small hours of night and the more ambient at sunrise and during the daylight. Being Europe, music starts in the evening and goes right through until 11am, although a thunderstorm did make everyone stop for an hour or so on the second night.

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I think this is Siriusmo

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Around the grounds there were little hideaway places to party, like this miniature mirror booth.

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And at night the place was lit up by flashes of colour.

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I had no expectations for Nachtdigital but I had heard many positive things which all turned out to be true. The overall pace and buzz was warm and relaxed – everybody was in a good mood. There was something really exciting about beats echoing out through the fields at night, before it was time to see the early European sunrise.

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And no reason to stop dancing, except to soak up the rays.

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Music: The festival’s specialty is exposing lesser-known and underground DJs from around Europe. My highlights were Siriusmo, Robag Wruhme & Roman Flügel, Heatsick (who I have now seen on three different continents), the Doumen Records showcase and the very unique ROD, who unleashed his terrifying bass right after the thunderstorm.

Crowd: Smiley and relaxed. I didn’t see any “antisocial” behaviour at all. The majority of people were young and beautiful and seemed to mostly come from Germany and The Netherlands.

Food and drink: Guests can bring their own booze into the campsite but not the main stage area. The food for sale was actually pretty tasty, with lots of vegetarian options. Drinks were also not through the roof. But if you plan well, you can survive the whole three days without spending any cash at all.

Grounds: A lovely and unique location, in the fields near a small lake surrounded by woods. Toilets were nothing special (portaloos) and the “shower” was just a cold hose with some curtains around it. Luckily, the weather was really warm!

Nachtdigital has quite a following, and I can see why. I’m still listening to this kind of thing, reminiscing.

 

Majestic wind turbines of Germany

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Germany has a plan to meet 80% of its energy needs with renewables like wind power by 2050. Incentives for producers are now being scaled back but in the first six months of 2014, wind power increased by more than 60% (according to this article from TheLocal.de).

It’s a forward-thinking country and it was wonderful to see plenty of handsome wind turbines on our road trip from Berlin to Olganitz for the Nachtdigital festival. Joe Hockey thinks they’re a “blight on the landscape” but I think they’re pretty great.

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wind turbine lying down on the job!

Going back to Berlin

Two days before returning to Berlin I watched the aching and beautiful film Auf Der Anderen Seite (The Edge of Heaven). What I love about Fatih Akin’s films – besides their emotional depth and lingering sadness – is their keen eye for the “ordinariness” of life in Germany (and Turkey). Streetscapes, kitchens, university cafeterias – it’s as real as can be. It was the perfect way to practise my German.

I spent a year in Berlin as university student. I was young and free and my days and nights were, well, extensively documented on social media – why not? But some things don’t show up in Facebook photos: the smell of baking bread in the U-bahn stations; hands make sticky from drinking Club Mate; the first glimpse of early sunrise in the summer, when your night is still in full swing; the heavenly taste of Kristallweizen with a slice of lemon.

It was all like I remembered, but I’m (maybe) a real grown-up now. More inclined to enjoy organic ice cream than 50c tequila shots (grassy, sweet Zubrowka is another matter); more excited about eating Turkish food at normal dinnertime than at 4am. This time around, I was able to tick off the two activities that I somehow never found the time for in 2011 – cycling in Tempelhof, the vast empty space in the city that used to be an airport; and visiting the über smart modern art museum, Hamburgerbahnhof.

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Clärchens Ballhaus – a dancehall unchanged since decades

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I used to live on this street

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Club Mate is a soft drink made from mate tea. A acquired taste that every new resident has to get used to.

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Reunion with my dear Australian friend Kate

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Neukölln at night

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Kneipe

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“You pay 1 euro with your first drink for the DJ”

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The Tempelhof terminal is one of the only remaining examples of Third Reich architecture

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Some examples of food worth going crazy for:

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Bio-Eis (organic icecream, now everywhere in Berlin)

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Döner macht schöner

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Leberkäse im Brötchen

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I travelled around the world to find this Turkish dessert – it’s called Künefe and is made of shredded pastry, soft cheese and honey

I don’t think I could ever get sick of Berlin. It has a wonderful creative spirit and wears its history on its sleeve. Its citizens are interesting and interested in preserving its unique place in Europe and the world. It’s a crossroads for young people from everywhere, and in the summer, when gardens are growing out of control everywhere, it’s a real fairytale.

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Darkness and sunshine – that’s Berlin!