Eurovision song contest is coming up soon and the old continent will draw its’ attention to the "Crap Song's Exhibition" in Norway. This is already a well known fact that in the west flank of the continent no one cares about the Eurovision, most of the contestants are unknown and sometimes retired musicians, when in Eastern Europe Eurovision is almost the most important event of the month. Thus the difference between East and West is evident and one can easily notice it while taking glance at the list of the winners of the past couple of years. Usually representatives of France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the UK, Switzerland and etc. are not even represented in the final and that indeed says a lot. Moreover, less and less people are interested in watching the contest and that can be deemed as normal while considering the quality of songs/performers.
          But definitely situation is different in Eastern Europe. Countries are furious about the Eurovision and spend lots of money for a “proper” performance. For instance, last year when I was residing in Tallinn, some of my fellow students got money from certain Azeri people to vote for their representative and I presume this is not an exceptional case. Not to delve into details, Eurovision recently got a connotation of a more political rather than a musical contest and it is easy to notice when the voting results are revealed.
          However the issue I wanted to touch upon initially is not fully related to the Eurovision song contest. The reason of writing this very post is caused by the Lithuanian song for the forthcoming event. Yesterday, I listened to some participants and frankly speaking most of the songs are crap, but one of them interested me with lyrics. Sort of sarcastic “Eastern European Funk” by Lithuanian band InCulto, is truly the best piece of the Eurovison 2010 (at least from my standpoint). Difference between West and East, cultural barriers which is still a case despite the fact of open borders, attitude –“Wild East,” cheap labour force and many, many other thoughts that might pop into our mind while thinking about the “European Unity” and still existing arrogance of some Western Europeans. This is the basic leitmotiv of the song and you will be assured while listening the song/reading the lyrics. 

InCulto - Eastern European Funk 

You've seen it all before
We ain't got no taste we're all a bore
But you should give us chance
Cause we're just victims of circumstance
We've had it pretty tough

But that's ok, we like it rough
We'll settle the score
We survived the reds and 2 world wars

Get up and dance to our Eastern European kinda funk!

Yes Sir we are legal we are, though we are not as legal as you
No Sir we're not equal no, though we are both from the EU
We build your homes and wash your dishes,
Keep you your hands all soft and clean
But one of these days you'll realize Eastern Europe is in your genes

Monday, May 17, 2010

Week end in Hayastan...

Visiting Armenia was a plan, I could never manage to implement. Procrastination is definitely a bad thing when it comes to travelling, but I usually love making spontaneous decisions. So, with my wanderer friends I've headed to the Bus Station. Certainly, I had expectations about the possible conditions of the Bus/Minibus, but what I've experienced seemed completely unbearable from the beginning. Although we had no choice in terms of transportation and I had to use that stinky and inconvenient minibus. Thus we bought our tickets and left for Armenia for the week end...

What can I say, when you travel to some place, you always have some pre-arrival thoughts and I have to admit that my expectations were rather low. Apparently, most of the people around me were not really excited about their memories after coming back from Armenia and they were quite cynical about my travel plans. In the beginning when we travelled through mountains, wasn't feeling excited about the cities on the way, but Yerevan is indeed a way more different story. Despite the fact of "Architectural Failure" as my friend called the city after glimpsing the panorama, we all agreed that the city is surpassingly better off in some extents than Tbilisi.

Cleaner Streets: The capital of the country and all the cities we have stopped or passed by were definitely cleaner than Georgian ones. Interestingly, streets are also more convenient for disabled people on wheelchairs. 

Seat belts: As our driver remarked, police is quite strict on using seat belts and I've not noticed any driver violating the law. Certainly Libertarians might claim that fastening seat belt is a personal choice of a citizen, but I do think it still should be regulated by the government.

City traffic: One of the most surprising parts of the whole trip was traffic. Unlike Tbilisi, drivers always stop when pedestrians cross so called "Zebra". One cannot even dream about that in Tbilisi, Georgian drivers are indeed the worst when it comes to the respect of pedestrians.

Open air cafes: The most amazing thing in Yerevan is a quantity of open air cafes. I'm trying to reminisce other cities in Europe, but I've never seen so many open air spots as in Yerevan. Seems like Armenians are fond of hanging out a lot and absolutely loved these sort of fancy bars all around the city. Also the fact that city center was full of people at 3 a.m. (then we went to sleep) was quite astounding. You can barely find anyone in Tbilisi after midnight, which is not a case in there. I should also remark that Armenians tend to be very gender divided... I was observing the chill-out spots all the time and barely saw mixed couples sitting and hanging out together. It is not even balanced in a way to be more or less equally occupied by female and male groups. What I've noticed was a very male dominated society, wherein one can see lots of guys sitting, talking and drinking coffee for a long and very few mixed couples. That was indeed a bit bizarre for me. It is certainly not deriving from the fact that there are too many openly gay men in Armenia, just I blame dogmatic culture in framing the society in such a way.

Gay friendly city? I do not have that much information about the LGBT groups in Armenia, but I was really surprised by seeing gay couple holding hands and walking down the street. One can never find the same in Tbilisi. (at least I've not seen that). As I've heard there is even an official Gay club in Yerevan and in this extent they seem to be more tolerant then Georgians are.

Envoy: Well, I should have probably started with the hostel as it was a first place we've stepped in Yerevan. Youth hostels are not common in this region, but the one, wherein we perfectly accommodated was truly the best I've ever stayed in. As I was told afterwards this hostel "Envoy" got some awards and if there is any international awarding group, it definitely deserves 4/5 stars.

That was more or less positive part of the trip and overall impression was rather good. However, I have to mention that most of the buildings in the city are tasteless, built up with grey materials. That is why my friend called it “A city of architectural failure” and I presume all these gigantic buildings and strong soviet influence clearly describes the mentality of the people. Country seriously lacks infrastructure and it is easy noticeable all over Armenia. Corruption is also a serious problem and first time in my life, I've experienced that on myself when the train conductor directly asked for bribes for changing a place in the train. But generally country is worth visiting and interesting enough to spend a week end in the streets of Yerevan

Sunday, May 9, 2010

From Lisbon to Tbilisi...

Wanted to write something about the Europe Day, but after going through pictures of mine, decided to post some of them I've snapped during the last couple of years.

Most of the pictures are taken by me and few of them by Ann Tsurtsumia.

Click to enlarge!

 Portugal - Lisbon and Porto, Summer 2008.

Spain - Summer 2008/2009

France - EU Presidency 2009 

Austria - Vienna November, 2009

Slovakia -Bratislava, February 2010.

Hungary - Budapest, November 2009

Czech Republic, Prague 2008

Poland - Summer 2009

Lithuania - Vilnius, May 2006

Latvia - Riga, Summer 2009

Estonia - My spiritual homeland!

Finland - Helsinki, Spring 2009

Sweden, Stockholm - Spring 2009

Belarus - Minsk, Winter 2006

Ukraine, Kyiv 

Albania - Winter 2009

Greece - Autumn 2009

Georgia - Tbilisi,  Spring 2010

Europe Day 2010, Tbilisi. Georgia