Umefolk festival report

OK, so maybe traveling to Helsinki and Tallinn and Umeå all in the same week is not the most restful possible vacation…

What a great little festival! Again, as at Linköping last fall, there were so many good concerts I wanted to go to that there wasn’t really any time left over for jamming. Favorites: Marin/Egeland/Molsky (the end of their couple-week tour; sadly no CD from this project yet), Limbohofvet (one of Lena Jonsson’s latest ventures; they played both concert and dance sets), Ahlberg/Ek/Roswall (of course), our classmates’ band Tvär.

Our late-night dance-set gig was a moderate success, I would say. We had put in a lot of work on our set during the preceding weeks — including a swath of that Saturday morning, since the festival didn’t start until midafternoon — and I would characterize it as sounding a little more like we’d been working hard and a little less like we were just up there remembering to have fun. But our friends who came to dance gave us positive reviews, and we did have a respectable number of dancers despite being scheduled opposite the insanely popular Nordic. Also my bow did not implode after all, though it had recently lost its ability to tighten/loosen — fortunately it was stuck at a playable level of tension.

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The ferry experience

Anni maintains that it’s an important cultural experience to take the overnight ferry between Finland and Sweden, and also to try out the gigantic dinner buffet onboard. I think the buffet price itself may even have been more than the share of the four-person cabin, but together they still worked out to only about $70 per person. Nothin’ like having the right travel guide!

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Not quite 24 hours in Tallinn

Tallinn is a popular quick-shopping-trip destination from Helsinki. In the off-season the ferry lines run specials together with the hotels they also own, such that it’s cheaper to go there and stay overnight than to take just a day-trip — or at least it is if there are four of you. Or six, if you add a couple of Anni’s friends from Helsinki. So, off we went.

It was Elisabet’s birthday, which she wanted to celebrate that evening with a big feast at the famous medieval-themed Olde Hansa restaurant. Our itinerary involved the 10:30am-12:30pm ferry in each direction. That left us with an entire afternoon for touristing in the Old Town(s).

It’s an interesting environment: one of the big industries seems to be the local knitting factory, and quite a number of the shops featuring those items appear to be under the same Russian management. So there was a particular feel to those places: a little edgy, maybe (understandably) a bit resentful of being a destination for presumed-rich tourists to pop in for a few hours. Even my initially cordial visit at an artisan’s shop, despite my careful appreciation of the traditional textile work involved, triggered a rant on the subject of underappreciated handwork. I don’t suppose I would enjoy working at a tourist destination either, but the prevailing winds did not make me feel welcome. (Speaking of prevailing winds, it was COLD! despite our many layers.) Though I did have a lovely visit to the creperie, with cheap huge yummy pancakes as promised.

Andrea and I each took a skazillion photos of picturesque medieval arches and cobbled streets and turrets and whatnot. Here are a few.

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Around town in Helsinki

Just a slideshow this time, with some captions.

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Island fortress

Anni took us on a little ferry excursion to Suomenlinna (Sveaborg, på Svenska). It was interesting to be doing a common summer tourist activity on a cold and blowy winter late-afternoon, kind of stark and quiet, pretty much just us and the locals. We walked around a little loop and took some dramatic photos and tried to keep our mittens on as much as possible. Now I want to go back during summer picnic season and see the museums and an open-air theater production. Though I’d miss getting to watch the icy sea from the ferry.

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Sibelius Academy

One of the things I most wanted to do in Helsinki is get to play for a little while with my friend Juha, whom I met at the Vendelstämman in 2007 when he was on his way home from ESI’s summer course week. His Karuna CD came out around the same time as Northlands and it is super-brilliant, almost entirely his own compositions.

Anni doesn’t currently have a key to the Academy (there’s a schmancy electronic locking system), but she seems to know pretty much everyone, so she borrowed us a rehearsal room and threw in a mini-tour of the school while she was at it.

Playing with Juha was so much fun that we did another round the next day — at his studio, which happens to be a few doors down from the apartment where Anni and Elisabet were staying.

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