DiaryPosted by Anders Flodin Sat, July 12, 2014 14:35:14
Saturday 12 July 2014
A nice summer day, cruising through the northern ends of the
Stockholm archipelago. What to say? I’m not sure I want to step ashore in this
land. Can we please turn around and keep
going on this journey instead? Since
leaving Örebro three weeks ago we’ve been travelling 3500 kilometres, driving
through eight different countries (Sweden, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia,
Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) and also been to a ninth (Austria).
Thank you so much for these wonderful weeks, ever since I
joined the group in Bratislava. Thank you Beata and Josef and Roman, Maria and
her sons and the other teachers in Pribylina, the wonderful big group of Roma
children and adults in Pribylina, to Ausra, her mother Regina, her grandmother
and aunt in Ramygala. And it has been a
joy to travel with the FMT group; Simon, Emelie, Robert, Sepp-Raymond (the
spell check gives Seth-Reino as an alternative spelling though) and our
fearless leader, lektor Anders, organiser, travel guide. I’m still pondering upon the words of wisdom
from Anders a morning a few days ago and still wonder what it really means.
”Det gäller att se ljuset från den mörka sidan.” (It’s all about seeing the light from the
dark side.) That question might be solved
at a forthcoming journey.
DiaryPosted by Anders Flodin Fri, July 11, 2014 10:47:05
Friday 11 July 2014
Sorry for repeating myself, but it was another glorious
morning. I went for a morning run and
started by running up the stairs of the old Russian cultural house, just next
to the hotel. This must be one of the
most brutal ruins or houses you can imagine.
It’s lovely in its bombastic concrete way. Amazing.
A mix of an Egyptian pyramid and a Mayan temple, done in slowly cracking
concrete, at the very western end of the old Soviet Empire. Now all empty with a great view over the
Finnish Bay, the eastern part of Baltic Sea.
I ran over it, down the cracked steps with shrubs coming through the
cracks. Then I kept on following the
harbour side west and came upon endless old Soviet ruins, overgrown rubble,
steel watch towers and a very fascinating part of the history of Tallinn. Big factories and ruins, then old apartment
blocks and old wooden buildings. I ran
through Kopli-kolmistu park, up among more old houses towards the old customs
area. Then back along a long sandy
beach, very pretty and enjoyable. Up
along more parks with twisted pines, along streets with very nice old houses,
often unpainted or with flaking paint, up to below the imposing old town
walls. The Old Town is very extensive
and for a while I got a bit lost up on the western end and found myself on a
hig viewing point, overlooking this fascinating city.
The spa and pool area of the hotel was another planet twenty
DiaryPosted by Anders Flodin Fri, July 11, 2014 10:46:35
Thursday 10 July 2014
A wide open window and a hot morning, next to a major
highway with a never ending stream of trucks.
I wonder if they still are working on re-locating Finland to a more
southern position. This bed and
breakfast is right on the highway by the town of Uliunai. The room numbering is unique in this new
building, starting with number 0 (zero).
It’s room number 0, 1, 2, 3 and 4 up here.
”Welcome. You will
stay in room number zero.”
Everything is new, but they haven’t yet decided if they are
building a B & B business or an amusement park. Behind the dorm building there are small
wooden cabins, playground, wooden sculptures, a dam, a swing with a big sledge,
like it’s been hijacked when Santa Claus stayed here. It was strange to find that thy didn’t have
any breakfast, only the evening menu all day.
The breakfast – or morning dinner – would be more expensive than the bed
when you stayed here. We couldn’t face
the idea of a main course for breakfast, but headed off north instead. Up the road we came to the town of Panevezys
and bought breakfast to go in the local big supermarket and had it in a park,
overlooking a lake. A perfect spot for
breakfast and to plan the day.
The day turned into a Baltic odyssey, driving through the
remaining part of Lithuania, through all of Latvia and then up through Estonia
to Tallinn. We by-passed Riga, crossing a big river on a big dam wall west of
Riga, then up along the coast without seeing Baltic Sea at all. We crossed into Estonia and the whole road
trip has turned into a slow journey into landscapes, faces, houses and clothes
that more and more resembles Sweden.
That is not to say it’s becoming nicer, but actually more the opposite,
as it’s reminding us about the modern world, the global madness, the fixation
of the internet. We pondered upon the
wild thought of turning east into the unknown and forgetting about Estonia and the
ferry towards Sweden. The monotonous
landscape, the dark forest crawling in and blocking all view of whatever was
behind it, made the road rather boring.
The most interesting part came when we tried to find a hotel in Tallinn,
without a map, and relying on Anders’ mental maps from previous visits. His maps very perfect, the only problem being
modern road works and road blocks and detours and too much traffic in too small
a space. We did find rooms at the
Tallink hotel, near the ferry terminals right in town though.
Then we headed for dinner in the Old Town. Emelie and Robert picked an Indian restaurant
and later reported that the vegetarian dishes very really nice, extremely spicy
and hot, but perfect. Simon, Anders and
I headed for the Olde Hansa restaurant, an institution in itself. Made to look medieval, perfectly done in
every detail, but also a tourist trap and an Estonian Disneyland. It didn’t matter as it is a marvellous place,
great atmosphere, wonderful home made medieval type food, spiced beer in one
litre ceramic jugs, and a constant low playing of medieval crum horns in the
loudspeakers. Most lighting is by candle
and I fell in love with the place almost before stepping inside.
Through the evening, the beer, the warm schnapps called
Monk’s Bride, we were joined later by Simon’s old student friend Oliver, Emelie
and Robert and then by Anders’ old friend Helen. Helen is a pianist, whose father is a
composer. Oliver and Helen were both
good company and we shared many thoughts and laughs during the evening.
Later in the evening I wondered if it would be alright if
the customers – me – would stay the night and curl up on a wooden bench to
DiaryPosted by Anders Flodin Thu, July 10, 2014 18:27:30
Wednesday 9 July
”Det gäller att se ljuset från den mörka sidan.” (It’s all
about seeing the light from the dark side.)
Senior Lecturer Anders Flodin held a short lecture as he woke up. He is not sure what it really means, but we
are would be as excited as himself to find out.
Germany had crushed Brazil by 7 to 1 in the World Soccer quarter final
late last night.
As I didn’t watch the game I wa sup earlier than the others
and went for a morning run. The Old Town
and central part of Kaunas is circumflowed by the two rivers Neris (north) and
Nemunas (south). I ran up the hill to
the north as I was going to find Christ’s Resurrection Church. It was high on the escarpment, but the
Zaliakalnis Funicular, the railway, up there didn’t work. Just below the church on the southern side
was some dilapidated buildings and the closed up train station. The church was used as a weapons depot by the
Nazis and then as a communication centre by the Soviets. I followed a street down the hill in a narrow
valley and came to the river. The Neris
was like other rivers I’ve seen here, a green belt and sandy beaches, thick
greenery resembling a jungle and people fishing and swimming. I river right in the heart of Kaunas was to
be in the heart of Congo. The cracked
concrete gave way to a new bike trail under a big steel bridge.
I came to the Old Town and the fortress with its restored
walls. Below it there was river flats
and I loved the part where the river smet.
I went to the sandy spit of land between them, open and sandy. A ”labas rytas” to a couple of ladies out on
their morning walk. Something down
stream made me think of the Congo River and Heart of Darkness. I was following, or searching for, Mr Kurtz
and the Station, just like the novel by Joseph Conrad (who was Polish). My little morning run had turned into a run
through time and space and into foreign worlds.
Running as a drug and it takes a little while to find the way into
foreign worlds. Next I found myself in
the Latin Quarter of New Orleans, just befor the Mardi Gras. It looked like it along the main street in
the Old Town, with two storey buildings, low lamp posts and cracked balconies
draped in flowering geraniums. The low
houses, the cracked plaster and the flaking paint coming off just as the
geranium petals swirling in the warm morning air. A couple of churches in the heart of the Old
Town. I criss crossed a few times, met a
priest in a wall archway byt the St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral. To cross a major road and get to the Nemunas
River I found a small underpass, thick with incense. Ahh, from New Orleans to India!
We all met up for breakfast at the Ibis Hotel, before we
left at 10 am for the drive to Ramygala.
Concert day. We did some car
sightseeing on our way out of Kaunas, before getting to the freeway. It’s a big city, with big shopping centres and
new housing estates on the northern side along the freeway. The landscape was flat farming land all the
way to Ramygala.
Ramygala, a very big church in a small town. We stopped by a few small shops next to the
church and waited for Ausra, Anders’ colleague from the Music Department at the
University of Vilnius. The rest of the
day consisted of two very good things: a Dunja concert and Lithuanian
hospitality. That’s all you need to fill
a most memorable day. Ausra took us to
her Mother’s house. Regina, her mother,
lived there with her mother and her sister.
They served up a lunch that could last us for the rest of the day. A big serving of mashed potato (grown in
their own garden of course) and cold beetroot and onion soup (tasted like
Swedish midsummer) for entrée, followed by a bigger serving of mashed potato
with a big schnitzel and chanterelle gravy.
We got a guided tour of the church and its history after
lunch. The friendly priest quickly rang
the assistant organist who played us a private concert. The red brick church was about 100 years old
and had replaced an older wooden church in the same spot. More food followed – tea and coffee, piroges
and cakes and more cakes and fruit – and we felt very ready for a nap in the
garden. However, it was time to go to
the Cultural Centre to set up for Emelie and Robert’s concert.
What’s this? A
building site? A building that’s being
restored, with rubble everywhere and someone mopping a corner of the dirty hall
floor? It didn’t seem very promising,
but half an hour later it seemed the opposite and perfect. Or ”super”, as they
always said in Slovakia. Floor mopped,
Emelie and Robert on their way to set up their set, and chairs placed on the
hall floor below the stage. A percussion
concert certainly wasn’t something that happened often in the village. About 34 people came and the concert was a
complete success. A very good programme
based around new compositions written for Dunja Duo by Simon, Emelie and
others. The audience was most happy and
many of them came up on stage afterwards, eager to try out the different
”This was probably the most enjoyable concert I’ve ever
done,” Robert said.
Packing up the instrument and loading the car was much more
peaceful in Ramygala then in Pribylina with a big portion of the gypsy ghetto
children being helpful.
More food to round the day off. More
piroges, more cakes, more fruit, plus ”A very nice vodka,” as Simon called
it. No more mashed potato though. Upon trying to leave, Ausra’s grandmother
quickly offered us to take some potatoes and she went to dig some up. She gave us a big bag of potatoes to make
sure we would be able to enjoy proper Lithuanian mashed potato with many meals
in the forthcoming weeks.
Thank you, dear Lithuanian friends and dear Swedish FMT
group for another memorable day.
Typed up in a lovely bed and breakfast, 15 kilometres north
DiaryPosted by Anders Flodin Thu, July 10, 2014 18:26:46
Tuesday 8 July 2014
Labas rytas (good morning), Marijampole. A warm, slightly muggy, tropical morning in
south Lithuania. The town square next to
Mercure hotel is new, fresh, open and pleasant.
I woke up at early and went outside in the morning sunshine for a
morning run. I tried to follow Sesupe
River upstream or south. First
everything was new, then I came to a dam wall with a building on the city side. Cracked concrete, asbestos sheets, blocked
windows. I think the words cracked
concrete can be used to summarise the former East Bloc. The Communist East lasted as long as the
concrete, or one generation. I crossed
the dam wall, ran up a street with cracked concrete, up to a series of concrete
apartment blocks with cracked concrete.
Later on I came to some memorial with Hebrew writing, slightly overgrown
down by the river.
Overgrown tracks, a crcked concrete wall and rubble and
cracked concrete buildings behind, probably from old military barracks. The footpaths are cracked, overgrown and it’s
a culture – or ideology - that has ceased to be and walked out through the back
door of history. Maybe the same is
happening in Sweden? The million
apartment housing programme badly needs to be restord, streets cracking, shops
disappearing, trains not working well, and new mega malls are being built. A constant leaving of ruins and rubble piles
behind, be it communist or the market economy that was – before the new global
While driving through Poland and Lithuania it was still
obvious that the small towns still kept on going. I wonder though, ir
ideologies are as short lived as the cracking communist concrete? Leninism, Stalinism, the Swedish
”folkhemmet”, all abandoned and left among other cracked ideologies. The global market economy, held together by
the internet web, is that just another fad?
I only know that I have enjoyed this road trip through
Europe, from Bratislava in Slovakia, right on the Austria / Hungary border, up
through Poland and now in Lithuania.
On the train from Kaunas to Vilnius now. Next to the Zasliai train station a couple of
goats are enjoying the greenery along the tracks. The signal before the announcements of
stations is in the form of two tones from a church bell or deep, old,
grandmother’s clock in a giant ballroom with deer antlers above every doorway.
It was terrific seeing Vilnius again. It’s such a lovely city and I understand
Anders now when he’s saying that he could live here. A hot 30 degrees the whole day, but a short shower
with very big drops falling, making me take shelter by the Town Square in
Vilnius Old Town.
Back to Kaunas and a late evening walk to the enormous
Akropolis shopping mall to buy some food.
Simon had spent the day in Kaunas working, Emelie and Robert were back
and Anders was still in Vilnius. My legs
were tired and I was astounded at all the very attractive women in Vilnius and
Kaunas. They look friendly, natural and
good hearted and very few sport strange hair cuts or tattoos. I think I’ll stay here instead of continuing
the tour north.
DiaryPosted by Anders Flodin Mon, July 07, 2014 23:10:10
Monday 7 July
Do you know where Kafiristan is? It’s Christian Europe, meaning ”Land of the
infidels”. The description comes from a
travel book by Evliya Celebi, a 17th century Ottoman traveller. Our travels today were Warsaw – Ostrow
Mazowiecka – Lowza – Stawiski – Szczuczyn – Grajewo – Augustow – Suwalki –
Marijampole. All of it in Poland, except
Marijampole, which is in Lithuania. That’s where we are right now, at 11pm, and
darkness is falling, because we’ve also adjusted our watches by one hour
forward. Another good day, starting in
Warsaw, finishing warm and balmy at the outdoor restaurant in Marijampole in
Birds kept following us as we spent the afternoon counting
trucks. But before that we had the whole
morning in Warsaw. And before that we had breakfast. We sat there eating scrambled eggs and
sausages, talking Swedish. Next to us
three Chinese sat by their table having their breakfast. It was parents and an adult daughter I think. We talked about something and then the older
woman said ”Världen är liten” (The world is small) in perfect Swedish. They were from Stockholm and this was their
third driving holiday in Poland. A short
while later they realised they couldn’t get anywhere as their car battery was
flat, due to the lights hadn’t been switched off. We push started them and they could be on
their way. They were to fly home
tomorrow Tuesday and then go to Riga, Latvia.
”See you in Riga,” we called out as they headed off.
Bus to the City centre, across the Vistula river. We first went to the Old Town, which is both
old and new. After World War II Warsaw
was nothing but piles of rubble and the whole city centre has been rebuilt from
zero. They found old city plans archived
in America, which assisted them. It’s a
wonderful place with a very enjoyable atmosphere. The old city walls, churches everywhere and
to top Warsaw off, is the Cultural Palace, Stalin’s gift to Poland. Well, Poland had to supply materials and
help, but the building, modelled on the Stalin skyscrapers in Moscow is huge. A whole section of Warsaw had to be bulldozed
to give room for the 80 million bricks and the 30 storeys. The architectural term ”brutalism” is very
appropriate. Anders and I took the
elevator (with a lady working as elevator assistant or button pusher) to the
viewing platform. A really good spt for
a birds’ eye view of the city.
At 1.45 pm we headed north east. Warsaw kept on going for quite some time
before giving way to forests and fields.
Yesterday I’d seen some storks on top of power poles, but first thought
they were plastic decoys being put there (don’t know why though, to look nice
maybe). They kept on coming today and
suddenly a stork was moving on one of these nests. They were real. Then they kept on coming all through the day,
on electricity poles and also in the fields.
They were real all through Poland and into Lithuania, all the way until
we sat at the restaurant at Mercure Hotel in Marijampole to have a very late
dinner. Then we had swallows jazzing
around the square in the evening light.
I don’t know if swallows jazz, but the restaurant was called Pizza Jazz
and thought somehow the swallows jazzing gave the restaurant its name. Hmm, I don’t think so, really.
Otherwise the them was trucks, trucks, trucks, a never
ending flow of trucks from the north.
I’ve never seen so many trucks.
Mostly narrow roads made for dangerous driving byt motorists wanting the
overtake all these trucks. We speculated
if maybe they were carting all of Finland away, bit by bit. ”Look, that’s a part of the parliament house
in Helsinki.” ”Look, the Tampere train
station.” ”And there goes Kekkonen’s
Luckily the weather was good – and we had the guidance of
Sofia Rotaru singing the same songs over and over again. What more do you need?
DiaryPosted by Anders Flodin Sun, July 06, 2014 21:20:08Sunday 6 July
We all woke up at 5am and travelled all day long with the car. At Chopin airport in Warsaw Seth-Reino left the group and took the plane back to Gothenburg. After one hour of searching a hotel we found Hotel Arkadia at ul. Radzyminska 182. Delicious food at the restaurant and then an evening chat together. All are very tired but happy after yesterday's performance.
DiaryPosted by Anders Flodin Sun, July 06, 2014 18:48:08
Saturday 5 July
The day of the Romodrom concert. The day the government man came to experience
and see how his money had been spent.
The day that Maria, her two sons and the teachers did wonders to get the
children and the Gypsy band organised.
And the day started sunny and clear, with the excellent view towards
Emelie and Robert have had exercise sessions at the Cultural
Centre during these days and they were the ones to perform and should be the
ones being nervous this morning. The
children had rehearsals most of the day and then everyone was involved in
rehearsals in the afternoon. At 4 pm the
Cultural Centre was almost full and it seemed like everyone from the ghetto
were there. After initial speeches by
Maria and the government representative, the concert started with Emelie and
Robert, who did 20 minutes of percussion.
They did it really well and it was very well received by everyone.
Apparently about half their concert was improvised right there, something that
I certainly couldn’t pick.
Then a blonde woman was singing to pre-recorded music. She had been to our concert in Bratislava
last weekend too. From the response of
the audience it was obvious that many of the songs she did were really well
known by everyone and during a few songs all the children were up dancing too.
After that the Gypsy Band took the stage and it took about two seconds until
everyone was up dancing. The Roma
children did the pieces they had rehearsed with the Gypsy Band. They did it very well and when everything
turned into a dance party the children got all the Swedes on their feet too.
What to say?
Amazing. A day never to be
forgotten. A unique opportunity to spend
a few days working with and being with a group of children from a very
different culture. Thank you
everyone. Well done Maria, Beata, Josef, Anders, Simon, Emelie,
Robert, Zhet-Rejno and everyone else.
The Romodrom people put on a buffet party afterwards for
everyone involved, including all the children of course. This has all been for them.