Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Riding Wrongs

Some of you may know I'm jetting off to Europe in a couple of weeks, but I'm still not entirely sure where the trip will take me. I'm going for a friend's wedding in the UK, but will be heading over to Europe shortly thereafter. I've already organised Berlin and Prague, but am torn about the rest of the trip. From Prague, I have the option of heading north through Poland to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. OR I can go South, through Austria or Hungary to Croatia and perhaps Serbia. I desperately want to avoid the drunk-Boston-frat-boys-crowded places. Any tips?

One place I was thinking of visiting between London and Berlin (I have a week) is Copenhagen. I was reading about Denmark somewhere online and was informed that it's quite possible to buy a cheap bike and just pedal your way across the country. Is it strange that I found that incredibly appealing? Has anyone been to Denmark and confirm that it's small enough to just, you know, ride across? Somehow it seems a bit ambitious.

Bikes have been on my mind lately, having just gotten back on mine after an extended period of absence due to a lethal combination of flat tyre + general laziness (though I blamed the cold, too). I'd like to get a dented used bike in each city I arrive in, just so I can get around on the cheap.

Last week I was at the opening of Arena Theatre's Skid 180, a show based on bmx riders. Yep, it has real bmx riders doing real bmx tricks on a real bmx half-pipe. The tricks are great. The show was reaaaaaally mediocre. Now, as far as design, sound, even acting goes, there was nothing much wrong. The cast (from Manchester-based theatre company Contact) are sometimes a little amateur, sometimes a bit hard to understand, but they're young and some aren't actors by trade, so it's entirely forgivable.

I have to say, though, that the script was really disappointing. A show on bmx culture could well be a great one, especially if it managed to integrate the stunts into the show rather than just halting the story to throw a few action sequences in there. Skid 180, though, decides to offer us bmx riders as post-apocalyptic outlaws, bmx bandits playing at Mad Max. They rant and rave against The System as they cycle around the industrial wasteland of sewers and abandoned streets that make up the landscape.

Now, I like my post-apocalyptic scenarios, sure. But this kind of stuff was cutting edge about twenty years ago. It's now as dated as imagining the future as one defined by flying jet cars and everyone in identical silver jumpsuits. If you're going to give us a post-apocalyptic scenario, it really has to be kind of camped up these days, since this style has already hit it's use by date and is starting to whiff. I want to see jacked up dune buggies driven by mohawked mutants screeching through deserted shopping malls; I want an evil mullet-sporting overlord dressed in tight black leather chaps and a dog collar telling his henchmen to kill the hero but bring back the girl alive; I want people with names like Yor and Zontar and Damnius. I don't want to be expected to take the situation seriously.

(Is it wrong that I've seen this movie? Is it wrong that I own this movie?)

But Skid 180 really is too serious, and I might be going too far by thinking that this could be the result of the play being written by a poet. There are long slabs of lyrical, fragmented dialogue (or speechifying) that just don't work alongside real bmx stunts, and certainly don't have much place in a science-fiction genre setting. Not that poetry can't have a sense of humour but, well, we all know that too often it doesn't.

Neat stunts, though.


Dr. J said...

well, if Berlin´s on the list then you have the best already :). We just did a big trip around the Baltic Sea so...
Of the Baltic countries capitals Tallinn is probably the best (just be wary of the extremely touritsy streets), Riga second and I probably wouldn´t bother with Vilnius.
Helsinki and Oslo are fairly small and kinda ordinary, Stickholm is absolutely fantastic. Copenhagen is also small but cute and in summer is a kinda cool place to hang.
I´m not sure how you´re travelling but if it´s through the baltics I would recommend a car, simply because then you can get to mad places like Stalin World or visit the home of Crocodile Dundee or steal through a bit of the Russian border.
Anyway, whatever you do, have fun with it.

richardwatts said...

Go to Dublin! Or find out what Fringe festivals are on where, and go to them!

Born Dancin' said...

Mmm, a car would be great but I don't think I'll have the time. Only really have a week post-Prague.

I've heard great things about Dublin too but this trip seems to have a solid eastward direction.

Anonymous said...

I have recently returned from peddling around Amsterdam and understand your desire to amble across countries that way (if it is indeed possible to amble on a bicycle). I have a notion to one day weave along the canals from village to village down through the Netherlands and into Germany (which you can apparently do in the space of a week).
If you google 'bicycle paths' along with the country you are curious about I think you'll get a good idea of what is possible within X number of days. There are set paths that span countries all over Europe, such as you will find here:

Hopefully the weather will have cooled off a little for you... cycling is not so pleasant in temperatures over 30!

Ben Ellis said...

Two things. First, before going to Prague last year I asked a friend who'd been working there for some tips. He told me to swallow my pride and go with the tourist hordes. It's a kind of Disneyland for people who read.
Second, if you're going through Poland, Krakow is worth a visit. (There are bars where you have to walk through a wardrobe to get in.) If you can spare some cash, you can get a special "Goodbye Lenin"-styled tour of a communist-era flat kept in pre-89 condition along with a tour of the Nova Huta communist steelworks district, which the communists planned and built as a workers' utopia just outside of Krakow with the intention of showing the dusty Krakow people just where the future lay. The failed modernism throws the old city into relief.
Anyway. I also hear Wroclaw is worth visiting.
If you're planning on going South, be warned: the "hot" new town is Dubrovnik in Europe this summer. Which means that it could end up just as crowded as Prague or Krakow...

Dr. J said...

If you are going to hang around in Poland longer and you´re a history buff you could also try and get to Wolfschanze - although you´d probably need a car. It´s in the north-east near Ketryzn. Anyway that´s Hitler´s bunker complex, where he spent a few years and there was that little assasination attempt that went tragically wrong. You can camp on the grounds and have free reign to wander through everything, even in the middle of the night which freaked me out a little.