My Second Month in Europe This Summer: Travel Blog
Written by Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen
I have always said that the only way to truly learn is to travel and experience things for yourself hands on. And that is exactly what I did this summer. Within two months, Grant and I took 4 flights, 9 Eurail Trains, dozens of trams, local trains and busses, several taxis, an overnight boat, and walked close to 200 miles. We visited 12 countries, switched languages 11 times, and currencies 8 times. We attended concerts at two Open Air Stadiums (Bon Jovi/Zurich, Switzerland and Rammstein/Prague, Czech Republic) and two Open Air Festivals (Graspop/Mol, Belgium and Wacken/Itzhoe, Germany). We saw a handful of local bands play dive bars and took laps through 8 different Hard Rock Cafes.
I’m sure this sounds like a LOT, and it was! Next time we will go to fewer places and spend more time in each place. However, this was a great way to explore northeastern Europe and figure out what our new favorite places are.
During the planning process, Grant got a bit flustered when we had some technical difficulties booking our trains. I gave him a pep talk and said, if you are going to get frustrated over this, we are never going to make it. I told him, we will miss trains or planes, things will go wrong, we will have good days and bad days, but no matter what, we need to stick together as a TEAM.
I am really glad that I gave that pep talk, because things DID go wrong, and one of us brought up the pep talk at least a dozen times, and it got us through!
The short version of it all… We walked around, we looked at things, we figured them out, and repeated. My “One Month in Europe” Travel Blog ended with Munich on July 14th, so I’ll start with Prague…
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
The second month’s adventures began with an incredible Rammstein performance July 16th in Prague, Czech Republic. It was my first time seeing them. The show was entirely in German and they didn’t play Amerika or Pussy, but it was AMAZING! They had TONS of black smoke, pyro, confetti, flames, and props.
We learned a couple morbid truths about the famous St. Charles Bridge and the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square (Staromestke Nam) that I don’t think the average tourist is aware of.
King Wenceslas’ was suspicious that St. John of Nepomuk was having an affair with his wife, so he had the priest thrown off the St. Charles Bridge with weights on his legs. After he drowned in the Vltava River on March 20th in 1393, five circles appeared on the surface of the water, and five stars shot into the sky from them. A statue of St. John of Nepomuk, complete with a circle on his head with five stars, marks this spot.
There was gossip in 1490 that the great clockmaster Hanus was going to create another clock somewhere outside of Prague. To prevent this, the councilors of Prague ordered that he was blinded with a hot iron. So he climbed INTO the clock mechanism and threw himself to his death. The clock is said to have been cursed for the one hundred years to follow.
It was fascinating to explore the underground during the Old Town, Medieval Underground, and Dungeon Tour, especially the inhumane ways they tortured and killed people. It was also scary fun to climb up the spiral staircase of Prazske Veze (Powder Tower).
The Metal Shop was THE store for rock and goth clothing/shoes/accessories, in addition to unique music-related memorabilia.
Since most of our swimming opportunities were behind us, we thought Prague would be the perfect place to get new tattoos, so we got tattooed at Blackhouse Tattoo. This was the first time either of us had been tattooed outside of U.S. The main difference was the healing process….They put a Tattoo Aftercare bandage on our tattoos and asked us not to take it off for five days!
Our first stop in Helsinki was Music Hunter, which is loaded from floor to ceiling with CDs, vinyl, DVDs, books, figurines, and more. This was definitely a highlight from our 2009 visit and we were glad to be back again. After two days of shopping, we were able to narrow our treasures down to a manageable pile of CDs and collectibles. Unfortunately we were unable to bring home vinyl, as we hoped… It wouldn’t fit in our backpacks, and shipping was CRAZY expensive. (We checked!)
My top highlights on this visit to Helsinki were karaoke, talking to Ville Valo’s Dad at his store, and hanging at Jussi69’s pub.
I thought it would be fun to try a couple new karaoke songs at Erottaja Bar and had a blast rocking the house with Violent Femmes “Kiss Off” and Faith No More’s “Epic.” Grant was a good sport, belting out two songs as well… Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Needle and the Spoon,”and “I Wanna Rock” by Twisted Sister.
Thanks to Rob Chevelle, I knew that Ville Valo’s (HIM) dad Kari owned a store called Arkuisyen Lelukauppa and that he was usually there. I was happy to see Heartograms on the door and posters/CDs from Ville’s latest project Ville Valo & Agents in the window. Kari was so friendly and personable! We talked a bit and shared stories of Ville and HIM.
I made a point to visit The Riff, which is a bar that Jussi69 (The 69 Eyes/The Local Boys) owns that has a really cool goth/rock vibe. We had a blast hanging out, taking in the decor, listening to music, and making new friends.
An interesting venture we had was taking The HSL Ferry to the Sea Fortress Suomenlinna (1748). We saw a beautiful sunset on the way there, and took in some history. Sending a big shoutout to Kati Rausch for her tips on visiting Navy Jerry’s, Base Camp, Helsinki Cathedral (1852), and Uspenski Cathedral (1868). All were GREAT! Especially the veggie dumplings at Base Camp!
We spent the day in Gamla Stan and lucked out by catching a set of rock covers from a band called Bonneville at Englen. We also did some shopping, and were glad to find rock shop Blue Fox and rave/goth clothing store C.U.M. Clubwear. I also fell in love with some super amazing star boots at Sko Uno too. (But, no room…)
Anchor Pub was a great find, all decked out with rock n’ roll memorabilia, TV screens playing metal videos, and amazing vegan food! Serie and Skivhandel is a cool music store with a nice selection of hard rock on both CD and vinyl. Of course, we had to go to Garlic and Shots for a couple Blood Shots, and did a lap at the Hard Rock Cafe. Thanks for the tips Sandro Johnston!
A fun way to end our last night in Stockholm was with a game of bowling and air hockey! Both firsts outside of the U.S. And…. To top it off, Grant beat me at BOTH! Go grant! 😊 Also, I had the realization that when you put your hand in a bowling ball, it is also EXACTLY how you do horn’s up?!? How did it take me my whole life to realize this?
We met our friend Morten Moen (who I’ve brought to the West Coast three times with his band The Roadkill) in Oslo at Rock In. After unwinding and checking out the Dio, Maiden, and other artwork, we drove two hours to his house in Hovin. Morten and Aina were the most gracious hosts ever! They opened their home to us, cooked us amazing meals, and took us sightseeing.
On the first day Morten took us to Guastatoppen mountain, where we took two trains THROUGH the mountain to the top. The second train was at a 39 degree angle! At the top, 1883 meters above sea level, we enjoyed the spectacular view of 1/6 of mainland Norway including many of its lakes. We also tried a Norwegian waffle for the first time. (It was good!)
Morten also took us to Rjukan, where we witnessed several daring souls bungee jump 84 meters from the suspension bridge in Vemork.
Since I love canoeing, Morten offered to take us to Blefjell Camping on our second day, where Grant and I canoed the entire circumference of the lake, taking in the breathtaking views and basking in the sunshine.
For a very special treat, we were able to meet three of my cousins (Anne, Lena, and Henrik) for lunch in Oslo. It’s hard to believe the last time I saw them was on their 1994 visit to St. Louis! It was especially nice that Anne returned to meet us the next day to show us some photos of my mom, grandparents, Aunt, and Uncle that I have never seen. I will treasure that memory always!
Sending a BIG thank you to Morten and Aina for going above and beyond during our visit! After backpacking, reading maps, following GPS, and figuring things out our own for five weeks, this was a much needed break.
The first thing I saw when I got off the train was that 7-11 had a salad bar with veggie buffalo chicken strips on it. My fave! (*Note: I wouldn’t eat at 7-11 in Los Angeles if you paid me. BIG difference.)
We took a walk through the Hard Rock Cafe, which had the MOST legit and authentic memorabilia I’ve seen at a HRC on this trip. Maybe ever… From there we found a fun place called Pinchos to share some tapas. It was circus-themed with a secret menu App. They gave us a box of popcorn when we sat down, played weird clown music, and had periodic automated shows.
We checked out Rock Baren, which played metal and had posters of local and national artists on the walls (including Gilby Clarke.) The Male/Female icons on the bathroom doors were pretty rockin’ too! Before leaving town, we picked up a few things at the local rock shop Shock.
The only time we were in Copenhagen was 10 years ago during a one hour train stop. I remember I was DYING for some Mexican food (Sound familiar?!?) and we got the “best nachos ever” at the Hard Rock Cafe near the train station.
This trip, we made some new friends and played the jukebox at Voodoo Lounge and bought some patches and rock ‘n’ roll garb at Sex Beat Records and Black No. 1. We made a couple more friends at Escobar and they talked us into trying a couple authentic Danish Shots. (In case you’re wondering, they mostly tasted like cough syrup. YUM! LOL.)
We went to the Hard Rock and ordered nachos for nostalgic purposes. However, it had actually moved in 2016 to a new location and it was too bright, most of the memorabilia wasn’t great, service was slooow, and the nachos were just okay. We should have just let bygones be bygones.
WACKEN – JULY 31ST TO AUGUST 3RD
VACKKKKEN!!!! This could be heard every few minutes, day and night. People would just belt it out as they walked The Holy Grounds… It was truly an honor to be one of the few Americans to experience the 30 Year Anniversary of this festival. Check out the September 1st issue of Sin City Presents Magazine for my full review of WACKEN.
After Wacken, we checked into a hotel for two nights in Hamburg. Turns out we weren’t the only ones with this idea. The line to check into our hotel was two hours long! When we finally got settled in, we enjoyed sleeping in a bed, having a roof over our heads, and sharing space with members of the Wacken community. Thank God I gave Grant that pep talk before we left, because he gave it back to me while I was waiting in that horrible line!
In conclusion, If I could pick ONE PLACE to go back to right now, it would be the Rudas Bath in Budapest. See you there!
Thank you to everyone who has followed my adventures on social media, read my blogs, read my articles on Sin City Presents, and supported me and Metal Babe Mayhem In any way. It really means the world to me.
If you would like to read about my first month in Europe, please click HERE.
See my full Graspop Review in Sin City Presents Magazine HERE.
Please keep posted for my Top Ten Wow Moments in Europe this Summer in Sin City Presents Magazine on September 1st!