Japanese Hospital Life

Let’s say this right up front, I found the Showa University hospital (Yokohama branch) where I stayed for five nights because of my sinus/jaw infection to be very good.
The sixth floor was for ENT plus “general” if that’s the word, including cases of very old people who are heavy nursing cases. How do I know that? Because all doors to the sick rooms are open 24/7. The building is laid out like a triangle. On the long side are five-bed rooms, on the angle sides are four-bed rooms. At either end the angle sides overshoot the long side and there are a few private rooms, which cost 25,000 yen per night instead of 5000 yen per night, and they are the only rooms whose doors are closed. In both cases, add another ten percent VAT to the price. All beds in all rooms are surrounded by curtains. The four-bed rooms on the triangle’s flanks have a very nice star layout which gives each bed a window. In the five-bed rooms only two people are lucky enough to have a window. I heard the five-bed rooms are cheaper than 5000 Yen per day but I don’t know how much cheaper.
In German hospitals no curtains. In hindsight I find the curtains great, because they give you a bit of privacy and you don’t have to be conscious of other people seeing you all the time. If you’re really sick you wanna be left alone anyway (on my first day for example). Once you are better, you can wander around and go to the so called day-room for visitors and for using the phone or getting a soft drink from the vending machine. The day room is at the tip of the triangle. In the center of the triangle are the two nurse stations for the wards 6a and 6b.
The heavy-care rooms are facing the nurse station, and some guys had their curtains open, therefore I know what was going on there. Except for the heavy-nursing cases, everyone else was still able to walk around. Average age maybe 60 and I was the only non-Japanese I saw the whole time.
What I found remarkable is that all nurses were under 35 or even under 30. My guess is the more experienced nurses are in other floors where the patients are sicker. A few male nurses were around too, but not so many. All ENT doctors I saw were also very young, all of them under forty. Only on my first day, three doctors came by to say hello who were older and who looked like the head doctors of the ENT department. All nurses were exceptionally friendly and careful. The young doctors were eager and ready to help, only one woman among them, but better than no woman at all. The nurses make their tours with their rolling wagons crowned with their almighty computers and scan the wrist band you got before every load of medicine. You are allowed to go downstairs to the convenient store and coffee shop even with your infusion stand, but you are not allowed to go outside.
Since all sick room doors are open, you hear a lot of what’s going on. One night one of the heavy-nursing cases was screaming a bit, the guy in the next room had a bad cough. There was one sad/funny scene in the corridor. An elderly male patient sat in a wheelchair, his visiting wife by his side and a nurse. He wanted to get up. The nurse told him he can’t, he’ll break his legs if he tries to get up. Grandpa still wanted to get up until his unnerved wife told him to do the bloody hell what the nurse was saying and grandpa gave in with a grumble.
I found this mixture of exposure to what’s happening around you and the curtain shield quite interesting.
When I was admitted there were two ladies in my four-bed room, one looked like a thyroid case, the other I don’t know. Except for greetings I did not communicate with them. After two nights one lady was released from the hospital and the other with the thyroid operation was moved to a cheaper five-bed room apparently upon her request. For a few hours I was alone, but then they brought in another lady and from the next day onward we actually started chatting to each other. I didn’t catch for 100 percent what was wrong with her, some heavy case of tonsillitis where her throat swelled shut? She was very eager to get out of hospital. She had no husband around but a 15-year-old daughter who was now alone at home, and she also had to work, (as a home nursing helper) saying she had no money to stay in hospital for long… I’m sure she is insured, since everyone here is, but it costs a couple hundred USD to stay for a few days after all and that’s tough especially when you are a single parent… life is hard, being sick is even harder! I wish my room mate lady all the best and that we don’t have to return to hospital any time soon because of a certain virus for example!

Bacteria – Part 3

Thursday 27th February
I arrived at the hospital around 11:00 in the morning and before seeing a doctor you need to get your shinsatsuken first, your registration card. It does make sense though, since everything about you connects to the magic bar code on your card. I handed over my recommendation letter and waited for my card. Then they sent me to the ENT section and I waited to see a doc. My doc was rather young, in his thirties and he surprised me by showing compassion, lol. He said several times, oh my that must hurt so bad, well yes, it did. He immediately decided I have to be hospitalized and sent me to get blood drawn and to be prepared for infusion. Next came an X-ray of the chest, my lungs looked very black = clean on the X-ray. I saw my doc again and he was going, why is there no CT scan yet? Maybe we have to emergency operate! He said that to the nurses, not me. Uh? Emergency operate? That didn’t sound so good but I was too phased out to ask.

They sent me to CT scan where you have to fill out a declaration that you are okay with the scan, since the iodine whatever they are pumping into you can actually kill you in rare cases. Then I sat there and waited and my doc came along again, concerned, angry even, “still waiting?” Me, um yes. I remembered the word emergency operation and asked what’s that about. He said if the bacteria have reached the optic nerve I could go blind and we’d have to emergency operate to try to prevent that. He turned away from me and ordered the staff to speed up my scan. He stayed with me and got me into the CT room. He joined the radiologist staff in the computer room while I was being scanned. He came out and looked much more relaxed. Eye is not yet affected, we don’t have to operate, you’ll be processed now into the hospital bed and be hooked up to antibiotics infusions as fast as possible. Funnily I was not in panic mode anymore at all. Probably just too phased out. The staff made me wait a little bit for more formalities, but it didn’t take too long and finally there was a hospital bed. Temperature 38.3, pulse 106, blood pressure 165 to something, I forgot, I wasn’t doing too well…

They gave me pain meds, which also push down fever and hooked me to the infusion rack. Finally pain meds that worked! Heaven! I thought I could rest, but nope, ENT called me down once more and tears around at the nose, jabs stuff into it and I heard myself saying fxxk once, which I think doc didn’t take so well, but c’mon, this was bad. He also told me my sinus is so crappy and so clogged shut it needs to be operated. Let’s fix a date, how about 8th of May? It didn’t sound like I had much of a choice. And by the way, the teeth need to get fixed before that too… then I’m finally allowed to rest and in the evening get the second antibiotics infusion and pain meds.
What I realized when taking these meds was, there is a reason for why you can only apply them in the controlled environment of a hospital. Every time I took the pain meds, I got very hot for a minute or so a little while after taking them. At the second round of meds I suddenly broke out into cold sweat from all pores and when a nurse checked the temperature some time that evening, my body temperature was 35.8 Celsius. Wow. Chemical hammer, thou art appreciated. During the first night I had another sweat attack, and once the shivers, but by morning my body had calmed down.

Friday 28th of February
Yeah! I could open my eye again! The swelling was still awful but it was very relaxing to be able to see with both eyes. They do keep you busy in Japanese hospitals. Three times a day I had to do some inhaler stuff, which goes by the fancy name of “nebulizer”, lol. After breakfast an ENT doc sees you, not “my” doc but whoever was on duty. I was in the ENT plus whatever general ward for the not severe cases. I saw several people who looked like they had thyroid surgery. But there was an ENT room with the respective equipment on my floor so that’s where they sent you, rather than the doc coming around to see you. I got to see an ENT doc every day, also Saturday and Sunday. But I’m getting ahead of myself. So after the ENT visit on the 28th, I got my next infusion, then they sent me to the eye doc to check once more if everything is okay about my eye. They asked me all the time whether I see things double, which seems to be a sign of meningitis, meaning bacteria having sneaked to the brain.
Fever was down meanwhile, pain was bearable, they also gave me ice packs.

Saturday 29th of February
On Saturday morning a highly welcomed decision happened during the ENT morning visit. The ENT sent me to the hospital’s oral surgeon. Meanwhile the swelling was much better. I dreaded the dentist chair and there was pain again, but the dentist guy did something badly needed, he took out whatever my regular dentist had plugged into tooth number 5 and then drilled a bit and poof! I bled quite badly and spit out blood into the basin. He had popped open the abscess at the top of number five. I could feel a fat swelling with my tongue there and later how it was retreating within hours. He released the pressure by popping it open and a lot of infected goo came out too. Phew. He then showed me parts of my CT scan for the first time, the right jaw and sinus being a goo filled mess, bacteria have done their work there for more than half a year. His recommendation seemed to be to pull number 7 and 5, maybe number 4 can be saved with root canal cleaning. So that was my homework… he promised to will write a letter to my dentist with his recommendations.

Sunday 1st of March
After the popping of the abscess, things turned better quickly and by Sunday morning the swelling had very much retreated.
Also the doc in the morning was pleased and said I’d get to do a blood test Monday morning and that would decide if I could be discharged on Tuesday, meaning, if my blood test was satisfactory, I could go home.

Monday 2nd of March
On Monday morning came the promised blood taking, then, at 09:00 they ordered me to the ground floor and for the first time since admission, I saw the doc again who was in charge of me. He jabbed around my nose again painfully. There was a rest of bacteria left around the teeth, but the sinus had cleared up a lot. He said a dentist appointment on Friday would be too late, I’ll be discharged Tuesday and am supposed to go to the dentist on Wednesday, I’m supposed to call him immediately. He said that if I’m lucky and the teeth stuff clears things up, I might not need that operation in May. So let’s see what happens on the teeth front.
In next week’s blog, I’ll report a bit about life in a Japanese hospital.

Bacteria – Part 2

I thought a bit about whether to put my medical troubles onto the blog or not, but decided to do so. First of all as a chronicle of what happened for myself, second as kind of a case study, which might one day help someone with similar problems.
It’s also a “study” of actually wanting to get into a hospital and finding it difficult to be admitted. I kind of wanted to be admitted around 36 to 48 hours before I eventually got hospitalized.

My just recently reported bacteria story took an unexpected turn for the much worse.
Mid of February the front pillar of that old tooth bridge (see previous blog entry from 23feb20) was starting to act up, hurt when eating and felt generally weird and appeared even a bit loose. I asked the dentist, he wriggled around at the tooth and said hm, let’s see for another week how it behaves. Fine by me, since he was working on the other pillar of the former bridge. In dentist terms he was doing the root canal cleaning on tooth 7. Number six got pulled maybe 25 years ago. So what was starting to trouble me now was number 5.

24th February:
Number 5 started to hurt massively and the tissue around it swelled a bit. Chewing on the right side became nearly impossible.

25th February:
I called the dentist in the morning, he agreed to see me more or less during his lunch time. He took an X-ray. Same story as with number 7. At the top of the root is a pocket with bacteria, bad news, also at tip of tooth 4. Number 4 is an old crown with former root canal action, but number 5 is/was the only molar tooth on the upper right side left with a living nerve. He drilled it open and pulled the nerve, having to give me five (!) dosages of anesthetics because it hurt like hell. He stuffed medicine into the root canal and closed the tooth and sent me home.
The tooth hurt more and more during the afternoon and the face started to swell. In the evening my boss said I look cute with the fattened cheek (friendly meant joke, I laughed at it). Back home it got worse and worse and even touching the area with the tongue hurt, any form of pressure was excruciating. I took the regular one pill a day antibiotics prescribed by the ENT doc and some pain meds from the dentist which helped zero. I couldn’t sleep from the pain and it swelled more and more. At 3 in the morning I freaked out and called the medial emergency hotline. That’s a pretty cool hotline, where someone listens to your story and gives you advise and judges whether to call an ambulance or not. I told my story and the advisor guy recommended to send over an ambulance and connected me to them. For the first time in my life I had thus called an ambulance. They came ten minutes later and looked at my swollen face, checked temperature, blood pressure, listened to the story. The emergency doctor said, that at this hour the next dentist is about an hour drive away and I probably have to wait there too and that dentist will probably only give me stronger meds and that’s it. They can take me there all right, but if I can stand it somehow I should wait till the morning and go to my regular dentist. The prospect of an hour in a car and all that let me decide to hold out until morning. I asked the guy what it cost that they came to my place. Oh, the ambulance doesn’t cost anything. I was starting to get back some of the health insurance I’m paying. I dozed off at about 5:30 in the morning for maybe an hour, that was it.

26th February:
I went to my dentist without an appointment and stood at his door when he opened, my face looked interesting by now. Dentist said he cannot drill around anywhere if it’s that swollen and slabbed stronger pain meds and antibiotics into my hand. Hm… I went back home and did some home office, several phone calls with Germany, while feeling worse and worse. The new pain meds helped for about an hour but that was it and I was only allowed to take three pills a day. At 17:00 I called the dentist again, asking what to do, whether he can’t submit me to a hospital, he says he can’t, I should check with my ENT. I called the ENT and he ordered me to his practice, so I’m on the train for the second time that day despite feeling terrible. He said, okay, forget the dentist’s antibiotics, take yet other stuff that’s stronger. Not being able to sleep is no surprise, I have to be patient. It’s already 18:30 in the evening, if the yet new antibiotics work, fine, if not I should prepare to be hospitalized on Thursday. During the night fever started, I dozed on an off but got up hourly to change ice packs, the only thing that kept me from freaking out. By morning my eye had swollen shut. ENT warned that this could happen, so I was prepared and didn’t freak out over it. Fever was at 38 Celsius.

27th February:
First thing in the morning was to call the ENT and he said to come over and he’ll decide whether to send me to hospital or not, which is likely and I shall prepare and bring stuff. I rode on the train hiding behind mask and sunglasses. ENT took one look into my face and said, he’ll write a recommendation letter and sent me with it to the Showa University hospital Yokohama branch, which is luckily in walking distance from the ENT. I staggered to hospital seeing only from one eye. Luckily I didn’t have to do initial explaining anywhere, I just removed the mask and showed them my face and everyone went OMG…

Bacteria Bacteria

I am writing this in the middle of the covid19 crisis and nobody knows yet where the journey will go with that virus. While people freak out about it I personally have another nasty problem not with a virus but with bacteria. I have sinusitis now for 6 months straight going into month 7. I’ve had problems with sinusitis my entire life, which seems to be in the genes since my mother and sister also had/have the same sinusitis story their whole lives. In the past I got sinusitis two times, sometimes only one time, sometimes three times per year. I cannot remember a single year where I had zero sinusitis. Depending on the severity, it was gone after 2 to 6 weeks.
Last year in August, while on that cruise in Norway I caught another sinusitis. It went along normally and seemed to get better. Then I returned to Japan and after a week or two it got worse again and suddenly for the first time in my life it was stinking inside my nose (very yucky, I don’t recommend it). So I went to the otolaryngologist – since that’s a mouth full, let me use the German word for it, which is HNO derived from Hals = throat, Nase = nose and Ohren = ears doctor. I had seen this HNO before for my “normal” sinusitis” and he gave me the usual antibiotics and slime loosening stuff. It didn’t get better, fever went down but all the rest stayed. He changed the antibiotics. It didn’t get better. I asked him what to do, he shrugged and said I was getting “the strongest” antibiotics already.
Frustrated, I turned to the Internet and started reading stuff about sinusitis (bad idea) and got scared reading articles about fungi in the nose and what not. I went to a new HNO, that was now in October, told him my story and he did an x-ray of my head. Funnily left side was okay (looks dark on the x-ray = air) right side was “white” = stuffed with stuff. New doc ranted about former doc who didn’t even take an x-ray. New doc told me considering that whiteness it’ll take three months or so until I get better. He gave me a different set of antibiotics.
Then started two months of taking some antibiotics, stopping, no improvement, again antibiotics, stopping, no improvement… although at least the stinky stuff stopped.
HNO always gave me the same meds and did basically nothing else. In December I decided to stop going and wanted to test whether the shock of warm weather in Cambodia would help. It didn’t, so in January I went to the third HNO and told him my story. Now this guy had interesting things to say. First of all it’s unusual that I have sinusitis only on the right side. There are two popular reasons for this, it comes from a bad tooth = teeth bacteria leak into the sinuses, or “cancer”. YIKES. Of course I do not like the latter word. But, when the doc said teeth, I almost screamed. In July I suddenly had bad toothache upper right under a 20 year old crown/bridge. I went to my dentist just before leaving for Wacken/Norway. He did not break down the bridge, since I’d be flying the next day or so and gave me antibiotics (only 4 days) and pain killers. The tooth became quiet, was not ideal, but not actively hurting and I let it be.
Because what third HNO said matches with right upper side tooth trouble, I got convinced that it’s that tooth indeed. HNO said, go to the dentist first of all and treat that tooth, then we see what comes next. So this is the stage where I am now, the bridge is broken down and I had four root canal cleaning sessions already. The second was really bad and painful = indicating an infection = bacteria. The third and fourth root canal sessions were less painful = infection is dying down as it seems. HNO is curbing the enthusiasm though saying it will still take two months or so to heal the sinusitis.
He gave me new meds for “widening” the stuck canals in my nose and also, guess what antibiotics. The thing is though that the doses is not so high and I’m supposed to take them regularly for the entire 2 months, not stop and go like from HNO 2. If the tooth action does not improve the nose situation, we have to look at other options, CT scan, exclude the scary cancer option, and maybe an operation to open a “window” in the sinus to drain the goo. HNO 3 seems competent (though I thought that of HNO 2 also in the beginning) but at least he has now a plan with various options that seem valid and there was/is an inflammation at the root of that cursed tooth after all as evidenced by the dentist. I am pissed though that HNO 1 and 2 did not even come upon the idea. While we have of course majorly advanced in terms of medicine to let’s say a hundred years ago, to me the field of medicine is still one great game of guesswork. If it ain’t obvious like a broken bone we basically have not much of a clue.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that HNO3 found the reason = the tooth and that I will be rid of this darn, nasty, bothersome sinusitis by spring! There have been two, three nights already where the right sinus didn’t swell shut completely, I see light at the end of the tunnel, hopefully!

Top Heavy Metal Albums of the Last Decade

The new decade has already started seven weeks ago but it’s not too late to talk about the best heavy metal albums of the past decade.
Such lists popped up here and there on my social media feeds at the end of last year and I felt inspired to create my own personal list 🙂
2010 – Fear Factory – Mechanized
Fear Factory does not even belong to my favorite bands but that album just fascinates me. The mixture of industrial metal, pretty damn dark sounds and that intriguing voice gets under my skin. I am listening to this album when I am in a destructive and angry mood and after that I feel better 😉
2011 – Insomnium – One for Sorrow
For me this is the pinnacle of the Insomnium albums. The title song can drive me to tears when I’m in the right mood. The power and anger of The Blackest Bird is just bloody awesome and Unsung has fantastic lyrics, a fantastic melody and enormous energy. And and and. I could rave about every song of that album.
2012 – Sabaton – Carolus Rex
Sabaton has a great sound, a great vocalist and is a fantastic live band. My “problem” with them is the topic of war. I’m kinda tired of all that war in their songs, thus Carolus Rex, which focuses more on the Swedish king than on war stands out for me as the best Sabaton album. The beat of the title song is simple but awesome for headbaning!
2013 – Amon Amarth – Deceiver of the Gods
Definitely my favorite Amon Amarth album. As Like Falls has the best riffs ever written. What a song. Also the Shape Shifter is one of my favorites. This is the album that got me into Amon Amarth. Old fans might find it too soft, but I love it.
2014 – Hm…
That year leaves me a little blank. There is Shadows of the Dying Sun from Insomnium of course, but I prefer One for Sorrow by a tiny bit. Another album that sticks out though it does not get my personal album of 2014 title is Titan by Septic Flesh.
2015 – Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud
I’ve been an amorphis fan for quite a while and my favorite album of theirs is and remains Skyforger (from 2009), but concerning the past decade Under the Red Cloud is my top runner. Bad Blood, Sacrifice, Dark Path and especially Enemy at the Gates are knocking my socks off 😉
2016 – Be’lakor – Vessels
2016 was a very good year for the kind of metal that I love. The pinnacle of it all and currently my favorite album of all times is Vessels by Be’lakor, it’s a concept album masterpiece and I’ve never heard a song yet about a photon, or a plant, or insects 😉 If you don’t know Be’lakor yet, check them out! Fantastic prog/melodeath metal from Australia, very sophisticated. Give them a few listens, not only one, their mastery needs a while to reach home. Also their 2012 Of Breath and Blood is more than special. But another two albums are also very much deserving of the best album of the year title. Atoma by Dark Tranquility. In my opinion their best album. Forward Momentum or Force of Hand or Faithless by Default are incredibly powerful songs. And then there is another concept album around Winter’s Gate by Insomnium – this 40 minute one song opera was/is one hell of an achievement
2017 – Hm…
Another year where I find it difficult to name a winner so let me mention two Finnish albums from not so major bands. There is Nicumo and their Storms Arise album. Clear vocal for a change and very nice clear vocals. They are an up and coming band and 2020 will see their next album coming out. Then there is Embers of a Dying World by Mors Principum Est, very good and solid melodeath.
2018 – Wolfheart – Constellation of the Black Light
The Wolfheart frontman Tuomas Saukonen is one hell of an artist. He produces a lot with various bands, kinda one album per year somewhere. He is one of the most prolific heavy metal dudes that I know. Wolfheart is bordering on death metal, but there is still melodeath to be found.
2019 – Rotting Christ – The Heretics
What a band name, what a history. Rotting Christ = the Tolis brothers from Greece are around for 30 years and have produced a lot of albums. I personally like their recent sound of the past decade with the three major albums Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy (2013), Rituals (2016 – another awesome 2016 album) and their latest The Heretics. They are labeled as black metal, but there are plenty of styles mixed into their music. Non Serviam!
Let’s see what 2020 will bring! I am expecting another Be’lakor masterpiece, Dark Tranquility is due to release something and Nicumo as well. It will be a good year for metal, I believe! 🙂

Cambodia Visit – Claimed Back by Nature

On the last main day of travels I hired a car with driver since I had no desire to ride the 57 km to the target temple with a tuktuk. A wise choice, since the drive went quite smoothly with the car. The target was the Beng Mealea temple, which is famous for its moss overgrowth during the rainy season. When I visited there were some remnants of moss left, but most of it had already been burned away by the sun. Nevertheless, the site is breathtaking. The temple is more or less entirely destroyed but how plants rank around it, claiming it back, make for a unique atmosphere which is mystic, bizarre and beautiful. It is well worth the ride from Siem Reap.

On the way back were another three temples to visit, all of them from the 9th century with Bakong temple being the most beautiful as well as best preserved one. The other two, Lolei and Preah Ko resemble the East Mebon and Pre Rup temples of the big circle tour, but Bakong is a gem of its own with its central lone tower. A very impressive site well worth the visit as well.

While all the temple glory makes you wonder who the Khmer were and how they lived and how they built all these sites, the Cambodian people of today have a hard life. Well, the people who actually toiled to built those temples on behest of their kings of course too. I chatted with the lady who brought me my dinner in the Siem Reap hotel every day. She has two sons, six and one year old. She works every single day. People in big companies have one day off per week, but people in small businesses usually work every day, because no work = no money. She has two jobs. She works at the hotel restaurant from 14:00 to 23:00 every day, then, twice a week, she also makes religious flower arrangements for people who go to the temple to pray. On those two days she has to get up at four in the morning.
I asked her about new year. Oh the Cambodian people don’t care. The fireworks and stuff on 31.12. are for the tourists. Khmer New Year is in June. That’s when people go to meet with their extended families to celebrate. The biggest deal is a festival in September though, which lasts two weeks. I understood it’s the Cambodian version of the all saints or Obon in Japan, when you think of your ancestors and honor the dead. There is a lot of fine clothes, fine food and dancing during those times and temple visits.
If you speak English, you can get jobs in the tourist industry, which is the best source of income around Siem Reap of course. Children go to school from 7:00 to 11:00 and then from 13:00 to 17:00. I suppose that’s why she starts to work at 14:00 to cook lunch for her kids. She comes from a small village further north and has never been anywhere else apart from her home town and Siem Reap, she has never been on a plane. Her mother and younger brother came to Siem Reap too. She didn’t speak of a father, maybe he passed away or left for whatever reason and then the family moved to Siem Reap. Her mother is the head chef in a nightclub and she works from 17:00 in the evening to 4:00 in the morning every day. Her mother wanted the son to “get a government job = official” because those are the best jobs, apparently, but he “was too lazy” and does internet commerce to the grievance of his mother. It’s a hard life under the tropical sun. In April it gets over 40 degrees… my hands were covered with heat rash, I got bitten by (only) three mosquitoes and luckily they didn’t carry any diseases. I sprayed an entire 200 ml bottle of insect repellent onto my skin and clothes and got bitten 3 times despite that.
But even though I am usually not in the habit of going to the same place twice, I might return to Siem Reap one day because there are still a lot of temples and sights that I couldn’t see and Angkor Wat and Bayon etc. are so beautiful it’s worthwhile to see them again 😉 let’s see!

Cambodia Visit – Sunrise at Angkor Wat

I am NOT a morning person, never have been, never will be, I suppose, but the first of January of a new decade was approaching and I decided to do the sunrise at Angkor Wat thing after all. Arrangements with the hotel resulted in a departure time of 5:00 in the morning. That meant getting up at 4:30. I tried to go to bed at 22:00 on New Year’s Eve, ignoring the countdown. But… across from my hotel was that already mentioned roof top bar. They blasted (louder than the other nights) live soft pop whining until midnight. I put earplugs in, didn’t help, I put my headphones over the earplugged ears, didn’t help. I played heavy metal. Finally the rest was blended out. At midnight there was a short official fireworks, which I watched a bit from my window. Then techno disco music thumping louder than heavy metal in Wacken let the house vibrate. I dozed on and off until three in the morning when the disco thumping finally stopped. I got maybe an hour of shut-eye until the alarm clock rang. Well it had been New Year’s Eve…
So, there I was at five in the morning riding with the tuktuk. It was pleasantly cool, almost cold, it’s dry season in Cambodia this time of year and that results in a whiff of continental climate with coolish nights of around 22 degrees and hot days with 34. I soon saw the next tuktuk with tourists and the next, all flocking towards Angkor Wat. There was a bit of a traffic jam even at the ticket control site. The stars were still out when I arrived and I headed straight for the lotus pond across from the temple. I was not the first one to arrive there, but not the last either and managed to get into the second row with someone short in front of me. There was already a hue of pink and blue to the east. The people in the first row in front of me were some people talking about finances and stock market exchange…. ahhhhhhh…. excuse me you capitalist fuxxs, don’t you have something else to talk about or can’t you just shut up? Luckily, they did shut up when it became lighter, but nevertheless they were tainting the enjoyment.
Angkor Wat faces west. On the spring equinox the sun rises exactly above the main tower in the middle, now it rose to the right of the complex. Strewn over the whole area surely several thousand people watched the first sunrise of the decade together with me. When the sun was up I ventured into the temple though not the uppermost gallery due to too many people and caught some sights in mild morning sunshine. It was very beautiful, all of it.

The rest of the plan involved the so called “big circle”, but I had requested another stop in Angkor Thom due to the confusion of the day before. I had not seen the terrace of the elephants and the Baphuon temple. At Baphuon I was suddenly more or less alone and enjoyed exploring that temple thoroughly.

On went the journey to the Preah Khan temple, which is huge and also has trees growing out of it. Since it was still before nine in the morning, there were very few people there and I enjoyed that temple immensely, also thanks to jungle birds singing for the new day which made the whole site even more amazing.

Next we went to a temple called Neak Poan or Pean, I found two spellings, which is in the middle of an artificial lake and in itself partially submerged, it’s very beautiful and mysterious site.

Next up was the Ta Som temple, which is small but very beautiful as well and it came along with two temple cats 😉

The East Mebon and Pre Rup sites are similar in style but completely different from e.g. Angkor Wat or the other temples in the area. They are more rectangular in nature and are dating earlier than the other sites, from around 950, while Angkor Wat is from the 12th century.

It was only noon when I returned to the hotel, but after seven hours on the road and not much sleep the night before I held a noon nap after a shower.
It’s been a magnificent first of January 2020!

Cambodia Visit – Angor Wat in Reverse

The ride to Siem Reap with an airline you’ve never heard of went smoothly. Lanmei airlines, apparently a Cambodian carrier, had the smallest distance between seat rows I have ever encountered on any airline anywhere. Interestingly the flight came in from Bangkok and unloaded passengers bound for Phnom Penh, but those bound for Siem Reap stayed on board, then they added those who boarded in Phnom Penh. Luckily, with those super uncomfortable seats, the airbus barely lifted off when it already landed again. At Siem Reap airport are no gangways, you walk over the concrete and some ground personnel tried to separate those who flew domestic from those who flew international to get the latter through customs and border control. Interesting system.
I had to wait a bit for my promised driver and was expecting a car, but then a tuktuk drove me and my suitcase to the hotel. I only walked down the road for a bit and it was the same traffic chaos as in Phnom Penh only with more westerner tourists dodging the traffic. At the hotel I sorted things out for the first day, the so called “small circle” with the three main sites of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm temple.

The goal of the journey was in reach! I boarded a tuktuk and off I went to the Angkor ticket center. The temple complex is about six kilometers north of Siem Reap. On the jungle road just behind ticket control my driver suddenly stopped and said Ta Prohm. Originally the first stop was supposed to be Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm was supposed to be the last, going clockwise. My driver’s English wasn’t the best and it was even harder to communicate with him than with my trusted driver in Phnom Penh. Ta Prohm, um… hm… well, I’m kinda at his mercy. I think he did the reverse tour because on the way to Ta Prohm he stopped at a road shop and had someone put more air into the rear tires. Well, okay, necessary I guess. At Ta Prohm the reverse was no problem, there is only one stop where many people unload from their whatever vehicles. Ta Prohm is amazing, those trees that rank around the temple are very impressive. It looks bizarre. Unfortunately the temple is quite narrow and the loads of people were worst at Ta Prohm.
The trees and their snake-like roots make for an atmosphere I have not yet seen. It’s spooky, beautiful and reminds of the fragility of human endeavor.

Then we went on to Angkor Thom, which is the old Khmer city. The outer wall is left, then jungle has basically taken over and in that jungle are whatever ruins, with the Bayon temple, the temple with the mysterious faces in the center. If we had gone the correct way we would have arrived at Bayon and done the rest later.

But now we arrived from the other side and the driver dumped me and pointed wildly into the jungle and said he will wait at Bayon. All right. I stumbled along and got pretty much lost in the jungle. It was insanely hot, just the peak of the noon heat. I had to ask other tourists for directions. I found Bayon, but of course approached it also from the wrong direction.
The central temple mount is so withered away it looks like a hill at times. The mysterious faces in the many turrets around the main mount are all a bit different and one is more beautiful and mystic than the other. Also Bayon is a rather small site and you are not alone. Looking at my pictures afterwards I am amazed how well I managed to blend out the people.

It was after 13:00 now and even hotter than at noon. I got out of the temple somewhere, having no clue where I was and there was no sign of my tuktuk. I waited in the shade, unwilling to go on walking in the heat and called my hotel, asking them to call him and go looking for me. That worked out in the end and at least I had a bit of a rest in the shade. Then we of course approached Angkor Wat also from the wrong direction. We should have been there at ten in the morning when it’s not so super hot yet, instead we were now at Angkor Wat at 14:00 or so when it was super hot.

Angkor Wat is fantastic. It’s in extremely good shape considering it’s age of over 800 years in the brutal tropical climate. I think everyone knows about the Pyramids in Egypt or Taj Mahal in India. Angkor Wat stands right next to them in size, grandeur and cultural significance, but is somehow still less famous (I think). I guess that’s because of the Vietnam war and the Khmer Rogue regime, which threw the country back into the Stone Age and tourism was only established during the past 20 years.
You can get into the upper half of the temple right under the five towers if you climb up rickety, steep wooden stairs, it’s every bit worth the climb though. It started as a Hindu temple but was partially transformed into a Buddhist temple and has several sites of active worship inside it now too. If Angkor Wat is not yet on your travel bucket list, add it. It’s worth the pain to get there.
The three sites of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom or rather the Bayon temple and Ta Prohm are so different and yet right next to each other. It makes you truly wonder what kind of people built those magnificent temples and in what kind of world they lived.
I’ve been to 36 countries by now but have never seen anything quite like the Angkor area. It’s just “wow”.

Cambodia Visit – Oudong and Zoo

On my third day in Phnom Penh, I escaped the reception desk and waited outside for my trusted tuktuk driver and it worked out. He was there at nine in the morning and I paid him directly and not the hotel. He was happy and promptly drove me north. The goal was the Oudong temple on top of the first hill far and wide outside of Phnom Penh. Later checking revealed it is around 34 km north of Phnom Penh. The road was a rather good highway for most of the way, which meant my driver pushed the tuktuk to its speed limit and dashed down that road with what felt like a 100 km per hour at times. It might have been 80 km, but in an open vehicle without seatbelts it felt horribly fast and I clung on for dear life. But as evidenced by me being able to write this, I survived the journey 😉
The goal of the journey was well worth the ride. Up some stairs were three stupas, one new, two old and you got a fantastic 360 degree view of the area. The wild monkeys on the stairs including a baby monkey were super cute but of course you are not supposed to touch them. They are far less cute if they bite you!

Of the two old stupas one was studded with ceramic ornaments and very beautiful. There were a few foreigners, meaning westerners, at the temple, but most of the people were locals or from neighboring countries.

On the way back my driver made a detour to the Phnom Penh “safari”, a zoo as I had come to understand the day before. All the more astonished I was as to where he brought me. We crossed the Mekong at some point and landed in a huge wasteland. It seems to be a new development zone as evidenced by two three buildings already around and a giant stadium under construction.

The stadium looked huge, surely holding 80,000 people or more. I seriously wonder though how those 80,000 are supposed to get there without public transport?? Next to the zoo was one lone hotel (perhaps) and an amusement park that looked also under construction. And then the zoo. It was finished, but pretty much devoid of visitors. It’s empty parking lot was laid out for hundreds of cars and looked spooky so empty.

The zoo was well constructed and organized and also designed interactively with the possibility to buy feeding material for e.g. birds, fish, deer and giraffes. I fed deer crunchy green leaves and bananas to the giraffes which they happily chomped down skin and all. There were so few visitors it seemed like some of the animals were even reacting to me, bears were getting up on their hind legs taking a look, deer were turning their heads when I walked past, and the highlight was an orangutan who came closer, sat down, looked at me and then seemed to smile at me.

I just hope they take good care of the animals there. And I also hope that the rest of the wasteland will be developed quickly so that more visitors will come to the zoo.
After the initial scare of asking myself how to get around I had a great tuktuk driver for three days, who brought me back safely every day despite the hair raising traffic of the city of Phnom Penh!

Cambodia Visit – Silk Farm

On my second day in Phnom Penh I got the same trusted tuktuk driver but he seemed a bit angry at me! Only when we arrived back in the hotel did I find out why. His English is not that good so it took a while to understand. I had said ten o’clock for today and he went “okay okay”. He seems to have been under the impression that I don’t ask at the hotel desk for the tour but him directly. I didn’t pick up on that the day before. So the second morning I asked the hotel reception again and paid them instead of him. No clue how much margin the hotel takes for giving him the job. But thus I got it that I was supposed to pay him directly and not the hotel.

As for the contents, the tuktuk ride led me to the shores of the mighty Mekong river. The plan was to get onto the Silk Island, its real name is Koh Dach, which is an island inside the Mekong river. The Mekong is a stunning 4350 km long and parts a little for this island, so what you see on the pics is only roughly half of the river.

There are no bridges to Koh Dach and you have to go by ferry, a very old and rickety affair. LOL. The pictures don’t express the age of these vessels or the noise of their sputtering Diesel engines.

Once on the island my driver brought me to a silk farm where a nice guy explained to me (and a group of Italians) about how silk is made. Of course I knew about the worms but not about the entirety of the process. The worms, or rather caterpillars are eating only mulberry leaves for about 30 days, then they turn from white to yellow and cocoon, once they become moths they mate, lay eggs and die. They live for around 45 days in total.

Now, if you want to get silk you have to balance your stock of worms to let some become moths to continue the process and the rest you throw into boiling water and cook them. The traditional process is then to take an eggplant leave and dip it into the hot water picking up threads. About twenty of them you twirl and then spin them into a thread. One cocoon yields up to 500 meters of thread. The outer layer of the cocoon is a bit rougher and used for e.g. rugs. The inner part of the cocoon is softer and spun into a thread for clothes. Then you dye the yellow threads into the desired colors and start weaving. A four meter sarong with a two colored pattern such as this peacock design takes a month to finish, two meter scarves with less of a pattern or none take ten days, they said.

Despite that they sold the scarves for 20 USD and I didn’t even haggle (I don’t like haggling). I’m pretty sure I’d pay double or triple or even more for that in Japan. The guy explaining things to us said he was a “volunteer” and was supporting his university studies with explaining things to tourists and was also improving his (already pretty good) English. The weaving ladies were all widows, he said, who are working at this place as a part of a support program for them. True or not, they make beautiful stuff and it was very interesting to see the process of silk being made the “old” way. I just wonder how the hell our ancestors came upon the idea to boil those cocoons and make threads out of them for cloth. That was quite some invention / discovery.
On the way back to town, I asked my driver to drop me off once more at the national museum, I really like that building and it’s garden and the day before stayed only thirty minutes during the busy day.

That day I stayed for an hour and also borrowed an audio guide and listened to some of the explanations for the artifacts on display. During that audio description, they also said that the museum, which came into existence around 1920 was closed during the four years of the Khmer Rouge rule, I’m surprised they just closed it and didn’t burn it to the ground. Luckily they refrained from doing stuff like that…

Cambodia Visit – Phnom Penh

Cambodia, or rather Angkor Wat has been on my travel bucket list for a while already and I finally decided to go. The Southeast Asian country I’ve been to most often is Thailand (3 times so far). Phnom Penh, my first destination, reminded me a lot of Bangkok in 1999 when I visited there for the first time. There is no public transport system in Phnom Penh except for busses and downtown there are always traffic jams. Last time I was in Bangkok was 2012 and they had an elevated train and had much evolved. In Ho Chi Minh city they were building a subway when I was there in 2016, which should be finished by now? Not sure. In Phnom Penh though it’s all busses, cars, mostly fat pickups, tuktuks and scooters, although less scooters than in Saigon. There is endless chaos in Phnom Penh, though the worst chaos I’ve seen remains the traffic in India.
On my arrival day I took a walk around the block of my hotel and was a bit spooked. There was no real space for walking and no people on bicycles either. So how do I get around town without being able to walk? To hire a tuktuk seemed like a scary prospect, not so much concerning traffic safety but concerning personal safety, what happens if the tuktuk driver takes me somewhere strange and demands more money to take me back and so on and so forth. The possibilities are plenty. I wrecked my brain about those during the night.
The next morning I asked at the reception of the hotel how to get around and the lady immediately suggested, oh we have a tour for 30 USD and you can visit all the major places in one day. Okay, fine, nice, let’s do that. I paid and was then brought to a guess what, a tuktuk. Lol. It turned out to be no problem though, my driver brought me to all the places, nicely waited and brought me back to the hotel 😉

Money… there is Cambodian money, called the Riel, but the preferred, harder currency is simply USD. If you look like you are not from Cambodia, they kinda expect you to be paying in USD.
Money… Cambodia is pretty poor, the hunt for money = better living conditions is present everywhere. As a foreigner you are seen as a source of money and they expect you to not be sitting on it. But that’s okay, since from a European, Japanese perspective stuff is cheap.
So, there I sat in my tuktuk with a driver who spoke only rudimentary English and the first thing he does is taking me to the Killing Fields.

Cambodia’s recent history is a tough cookie. Politically unstable it was drawn into the Vietnam war and extensively bombed, then the Khmer Rouge came along and “liberated” the country in 1975 proclaiming a communist utopia. They drove people out of the cities into the countryside forcing them to be farmers. They started treating everyone with “soft hands”, or glasses, as a traitor and within the four years of their rule, they killed a fourth of their own countrymen. Out of eight million people, around three million have died. There is not one family that was left unscathed I suppose. There are many killing fields all over the country, the closest to Phnom Penh is only a thirty minute ride by tuktuk away. Some 20,000 people were killed at this place. They built a stupa for remembrance and filled it with some of the skulls that were exhumed at the site. There is a tree where the guards smashed babies against whose parents had been executed. It is hard to comprehend how people can do such things.
The harsh part of the day-tour continued with the prison camp in downtown Phnom Penh, a former high-school, where prisoners were interrogated under torture confessing to “crimes” they didn’t commit and accusing others falsely in the hope it would ease their suffering only to be then transported to the Killing Fields and hacked to death anyway. Bullets were too expensive, most people were killed with axes, hammers and so forth.
After three hours of such harshness the rest of the day and tour felt like balm. The first thing after the prison in town to visit was befittingly a beautiful Buddhist temple and it was great to see something nice and peaceful.

Next up were the national museum and the royal palace. Both of them magnificent buildings of intricate beauty in their designs. What a day of the human spectrum. From the blackest possible depths to highest achievements in beauty.


End of 2018 I made a New Year resolution to do something for my fitness. On the 15th of January 2019, I started courses at a yoga studio and behold! I am still at it a year later! That, for me, is an incredible achievement, lol, because I really really am not a sports person. I never saw the appeal of moving your body without need, lol. Because sports is supposed to be good for you and because sports are a major interest of my Dad, I was forced to do sports as a kid. I tried a lot of things. I started with gymnastics, played basketball, went ice skating and I did fencing for a while. So fancy! My poor dad paid for all the fencing equipment/outfit, but alas… I left home, childhood and fencing behind me and at the university I tried another variety of things from horseback riding, over Kendo and Aikido until finally I simply stopped to do anything. None of the stuff could hold my interest. The only thing I did after giving up on sports for quite a number of years was ride my bicycle, but only for a few kilometers each day back forth from the station or to go shopping over the weekend, never for the purpose of “sports bicycling”. For me the bicycle is simply a form of transport that I like with the nice side effect to get me moving and sweating at least a little bit.

But alas, around ten years ago I got a lumbago and from that point on there was a steady decline. Nowadays my lower back is a mess and the upper back isn’t much better thanks to years and years of computer / office work.
So last year I thought, if I don’t do something about the increasing stiffness and pain of my bones and muscles, I’ll end up in ever worse shape and pain in another ten years. But what to do? Yoga is very popular in Japan at the moment and somehow I thought of giving it a try. There is a quite big yoga studio just two minutes next to the office where I work at.
Oh miracle, a year later I am still at it and highly motivated to continue! Progress is very slow, after all it’s only once a week (plus around 15 min almost daily at home before I go to bed, a mix of yoga moves and lower back pain moves prescribed by doctors), to more I could not persuade myself so far, but it’s better than nothing.

There are many forms of yoga. What I’m doing is “hatha yoga”, which is “basic” yoga where you strive to achieve several “ideal” poses/forms/postures = asanas and you stretch and bend and work towards being able to do and hold these postures. It’s relatively sporty and not very spiritual, even if we chant an invocation at the beginning of the class. Also after a year I am still the worst in my class, but there is some progress! I can stretch a bit farther, there is a bit of less pain in the back, there are some shadows of muscles under the fat of the thighs!
I had hoped for a bit of weight loss, but the amount of exercise and the amount of chocolate intake have only balanced out, and I weigh as much as a year ago, but hey, at least it’s not more.

I think I am very lucky, because I found a great teacher. Hana sensei (sensei is the Japanese word for teacher) is very experienced and exerts just the right amount of motivating us and challenging us. I think a good teacher/trainer is a big big factor in any sports. If you don’t like your teacher, the motivation sinks very soon. So thanks to Hana sensei, the miracle has happened that ever since I have been fencing as a teenager, I did any kind of exercise/sports for longer than half a year!
I don’t deserve the title yogini yet, since I am not managing a single one of the ideal postures, but one day, one far day I’ll get there! Thus the New Year resolution for next year and the whole new decade is to continue with the yoga classes and to let my muscles boldly go to where they have never stretched before! And a big thanks to Hana sensei! 🙂

You Have Been Assimilated

Last week, I had an eye-opening experience about to just what extent I have been assimilated into the high-context society of Japan 😉
The situation: I was attending a global telecon with people from Malaysia, Germany, France and Hungary and one of the presenters was presenting something that did not agree with me at all. I found this person’s (German) approach completely naïve and insensitive of other non-European cultures.
During the telecon I said nothing but emailed the organizer (another German) after the meeting with a hearty complaint about the stuff we had heard. The German organizer then wrote back to me angrily, why the hell I didn’t say so during the telecon and why I am bothering her now “offline” with my complaints. Oops… The thing is, I did things the Japanese way.

My intention: I did not want to destroy the harmony of the telecon, I did not want the presenter of nonsense to feel hurt. I did not want the presenter of nonsense to lose face in front of the other participants. So I chose the (in Japan totally legitimate and correct) way of contacting the organizer offline and expressing my concerns about what had been presented to us. This is how things work here! Lol. You deliberately talk offline to people behind the scenes – that’s called “nemawashi”. You keep the peace in front of everyone, you see to it that nobody gets hurt, loses face and that the harmony of the group is not destroyed. That’s the high-context approach. In the ideal case then, the meeting organizer gives a message to the presenter of nonsense, he/she corrects it and all’s well, everyone’s happy and nobody lost face.

Not so with the German presenters and organizers – they want the direct approach, they want the confrontation in the telecon, they want discussion in front of everyone. It does not even occur to them that there are other ways of communicating, because they don’t know about them. They are now pissed about my offline approach and think of me as an intrigue spinning, back-door using bitch who’s crossing people. LOL

OMG… this is how wars happen, ladies and gentlemen! This is how cultures clash! And I, after 20 years in a high-context country have been assimilated and act the Japanese way. The big thing is that only people like me get aware of this completely different way of handling things. The Germans who have never left Germany are not aware of the “nemawashi” style. In turn, the Japanese who have never left Japan are shocked to death by the direct way of low-context culture confrontation.
It’s the job of people like me, who were raised in one culture and are now living in another, to explain to either side what’s going on! Not easy, but I’ll continue to do my best 😉 

Average 97 Decibels – Part 2

Some words about the bands for those not so familiar with this world. Stam1na is a melodic death metal band from Finland, singing in Finnish. Mentioned Black Dahlia Murder is an extreme metal band from Detroit, USA. Insomnium is an English singing melodic death metal band from Finland as well. Silver Dust is a gothic, steampunk metal band from Switzerland, singing in English, Rotting Christ is black/dark metal from Greece, singing in many languages, mostly Greek and English, but also French or Farsi for example. Moonspell is a dark, gothic metal band from Portugal, singing in English and Portuguese. While most of the six bands are t-Shirt bands, Moonspell does a little bit with props and costumes, and Silver Dust does a lot. It was actually refreshing to see some effort put into clothing and makeup and putting on a „show“ with a video screen also, showing clips and bits fitting to the songs.

The audiences were all the same tribe, no matter in which country: metalheads! Moshing wise the French were most active and squeezed the first two, three rows pretty well, on all other gigs, I was safe in my beloved first row. The first row is just the best place to be. Despite creating a meter or two of space between the bands and the audience, I actually prefer a railing, since you can put your coat there, lean on it and use it as head banging support, lol. The unobstructed view to the stage is of course the best part of things. The sound in the first row is actually not the best, but that can’t be helped. Only after the Rotting Christ gig in Budapest, I gave up on the first row, because of the low stage, no place to hold onto and back pain and retreated to the back of the hall for Moonspell to have a wall for support. I didn’t see a thing anymore, but the sound was excellent.

Some people may shake their heads at crazy trips for heavy metal, but I’m proud of my passions, lol. It’s the adventures you make, the people you meet and the things you experience that define you. I met French metalhead friends in Lyon, I made a new metalhead friend from Brazil, I chatted with Austrian fans in Vienna, I talked to a lady from the Netherlands in a bus somewhere, a super friendly Hungarian grandpa helped me in broken English to find the airport bus, I met my sister in Dresden, where neither of us had ever been before. I managed to explore Lyon, Dresden and Vienna for a bit, I’ve been to Budapest again after nine years. I saw excellent concerts of bands whose music touches my heart and soul. All that would not happen without the passion. I hope it never dies and that the next trip will be around the corner soon! Cheers!

Average 97 Decibels – Part 1

Ahhhh, a sweet week is over, three bands four times (Stam1na, The Black Dahlia Murder, Insomnium) and another three bands two times (Silver Dust, Rotting Christ, Moonspell). It was a blast! Any time again please!
In the very good venue of the Pratteln Konzertfabrik Z7 (in Switzerland) was something I have never seen before in the plenty of concert venues big and small that I so far had the privilege to visit: a decibels counter. Insomnium and the other bands averaged out at 97 decibels. There was one spike cracking the 100 decibels mark, but most of the stuff was between 95 and 99 decibels. So that’s the magic number: 97 decibels 😉 In some venues things might be louder, but judging from the comfort level of my (earplugged) ears, the around 100 decibels seems to be the norm 😉

There is no debating about taste, but frankly I didn’t care for The Black Dahlia Murder at all. As stated by the vocalist, they are an extreme metal band and in my humble opinion did not fit to Stam1na and Insomnium, which work very well together. I have nothing against extreme metal, Meshuggha is an awesome band for example, but the Dahlia guys just didn’t do it for me, which made the hour of their set quite a drag.

I thought the three other bands of Silver Dust, Rotting Christ and Moonspell made a much better combination. Steampunk, ghost themed Silver Dust, then the black, dark metal of Rotting Christ and the dark, gothic metal of Moonspell, now that went down smoothly. I enjoyed those two evenings immensely.
The traveling within Europe went flawlessly, even the most challenging part of getting from Budapest to Dresden went well thanks to on time airplanes and trains. But, to a limited extend, I have come to understand the challenge of touring. These bands hop around from city to city in their tour busses, apparently also sleeping in them, taking showers at the venues. While I traveled about for fun, they have to give their best every night for new audiences. Well new audiences??? Lol there were people I saw three times, traveling around with the bands like myself, lol. But the majority of the audience is of course not doing the city hopping.

The best Insomnium gig was in Pratteln, Switzerland I suppose, thanks to an excellent venue and great sound. The best Rotting Christ gig was in Budapest, due to first row, no barrier, my hand on the monitor of the guitarist. The stage was very low, since the venue was on a fixed boat on the Danube river that resulted in a low ceiling. That gig was very close up and personal and earned me the pic that Sakis Tolis, the front man of Rotting Christ, played with 😉