"Blogging isn't journalism, it's graffiti with punctuation."

travel

Watch my super short documentary on Sweden!

As many subscribers to my YouTube channel already know, I like to make short documentaries about my travel adventures. I’ve made really popular short and snappy films about Peru, Thailand & Cambodia, Mexico, Guatemala & Belize, India, and even places closer to home like Montreal and New York.

In any case, seeing as how I just spent a few weeks in Sweden, I thought I might try to capture the essence of Swedish metropolitan culture and blend it with my personal journey there to find simple joys and pleasures in unlikely places.

This is the result! A very short and quick watch. Only 2  minutes and 45 seconds. It will take you longer to finish a cup of coffee.

It kinda plays like SWEDEN! THE MUSICAL haha. I guess I just like making creative, visual pieces out of things that happen in my life. Enjoy!

I’m really pleased with the way it turned out. Especially since it took me 12 straight hours to edit less than 3 minutes worth of film. How do professionals do this?

Don’t forget to check out the official Christine Estima dot com for more of my short documentaries, my published works, my TV interviews, and more!

 


Stockholm Syndrome

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Travelling While Woman: Check out my latest essay in @vicecanada

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Travel for women is never simple, espesh when you require reproductive health care on the road. That’s the topic of my latest essay for VICE. Solo women travelers always need to plan for incidentals that men need not – whether it’s what we can wear in any given country, to what kind of health care we can access – and many times these services are priced beyond our budget, not covered by insurance, and require extreme measures.

Click the above image or here to read.

Don’t forget to check out the official Christine Estima dot com to read all of my previous essays for VICE and many other magazines, newspapers, and journals. TO THE TYPEWRITERS!

NewWEbSite!


Read my #TravelWriting piece in The Globe and Mail @tgamtravel #Travel section

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Two essays published in one week? I feel pretty spoiled. Head over to the Life-Travel section of The Globe and Mail (a national newspaper here in Canada) and read my piece about chasing the lost art of the Viennese Ex Libris! It’s online today, and will be published in the print edition tomorrow (Saturday, June 18, 2016). I will update this post once I have the actual thing in my painted-fingernail’d-hands.

Edit! Turn to page 5 of the Travel section!

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This has been in the works for a while and I’m super proud of how it all turned out. Working with the peeps over at G&M was really positive and I’m glad this went from pitch to published in a relatively short turnaround.  Read the piece by clicking here or the photographs!

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I’ve been really lucky over the past few years with how many editors and publications are willing to take me on, and who support my voice and writing style. Hopefully that can continue! Already, I have a few more publications that I’ve sold, slated for later this year, so when they come out, expect me to BLOG IT LIKE IT’S HOT.

Don’t forget to check out the official Christine Estima dot com. It’s got all my published works up there for you to read over a cuppa and a slice of cake. Enjoy!

NewWEbSite!


Prague doesn’t let go

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The Hipster’s Guide to Vienna

Okay, I get it. I listen to strange music, I own two typewriters, I spend my days writing in rustic cafés, I down lattes like they were Smarties, I wear high-waisted jeans and I don’t give a fuck what you think. I may, in fact, be a hipster. Whatever. Most people spend years running away from who they really are. I’m comfortable in my hipsterdom.

I just got back from spending a month in Vienna (with an extra couple of weeks on the side to visit friends in London, Prague, Amsterdam and Brussels), and while I was in the planning stages of the trip, I was Googling fun, alternative, creative things to do in Vienna, but came up empty. Apart from doing the museum-clusterfuck, or the Stephansdom-two-step, the internet was not very forthcoming with activities for the lumberjack-suspenders-bowtie-red-lipstick-thick-eyebrows crowd. Last name FAIL, first name EPIC. No TripAdvisor, I do NOT want to jump on an obnoxious hop-on-hop-off bus painted the colour of communist China. Yes LonelyPlanet, there are other places to get free wifi besides the McDonalds on the Graben, thanks.

 

So I decided to make my own Viennese Hipster guide so no one has to suffer my fate again. If you’re headed to the Austrian capitol and want to be a total WIENER (haaaaaaaaaaaaa), I did all the artisanal legwork for you. I’ve crafted The Hipster’s Guide to Vienna for all your ironic needs.  included in this post are helpful tips on:

Accommodation
Shopping That Isn’t Bullshit
Activities That Aren’t Lame
Cafes that Aren’t Touristy
Cafes To Avoid Like Herpes
Souvenirs That Aren’t Made In China
Hunting Vienna’s Dark Past
Museums That Still Profit From Nazi-Looting

and

German Phrases You Will Deffo Need.

BITTE SCHOEN!

Accommodation & Where To Stay

See this above photo? That’s where I stayed. It was a palatial flat in the area of Meidling with high ceilings, massive windows, glass chandeliers, antique furniture, a record player, and two Snugglebum von Cuddletummies (cats). And I stayed here for free.

Housesitting, I was. As usual.

If you’re a hipster, you COULD pay for an overpriced Air Bn’B on the Ringstrasse,  you COULD Couchsurf on some uni student’s couch that smells of patchouli, OR you could stay for free in a place all to yourself in exchange for giving the Snugglebum von Cuddletummies some lurve. It’s up to you. If you do decide to stay in a hostel or hotel or some other huge mistake, do yourself a favour and stay outside of the touristy Maria-Hilfer strasse. It’s just too gross, too uncultured, too bullshit. Meidling was a great area because it was only 3 uBahn stops away from Westbahnhof station, and only 3 stops away on the Schnellverbindungen to the Quartier Belvedere, or 4 stops to Landstrasse Wien Mitte.


A video I made of riding the trams in Vienna. Definitely ride the trams!

I could get anywhere within minutes, and I was within walking distance of the Schonbrun Palace and Gardens. Also, the homeowner left me her metropass and her bicycle so all my travel was free. I never had to pay for expensive meals (unless I wanted to) because I went grocery shopping and cooked all my meals at home. Comforts of home! I cannot stress Housesitting enough, people. You should get on that.

Shopping That Isn’t Overpriced FUBAR

Vienna is famous for its expensive shopping districts like the Graben and on Kartnerstrasse. There are tons of expensive jewelers, high-end clothes and shoe shops, and antqiue boutiques. BUT why blow all your money on the high streets when you can spend a couple cents on the same items at….

The Naschmarkt!


During the week, the Naschmarkt is a regular farmers market located just outside of Kettenbruckengasse uBahn station, but on Saturday mornings, it also features an AMAZING fleamarket. It mostly features antiques like chandeliers, home furnishing, bric-a-brac, and kitchen supplies, but it also has other amazing finds like historic photographs, Jugendstil jewelry for a fraction of the price on the high street, mobile phones, vinyl records, wall art, and SO MUCH CLOTHES. Here are three examples of some of the things I procured on the fleamarket. The above photograph is of a love letter I bought on the Naschmarkt for €2. It’s dated 1940 and sent from Switzerland by a woman named Grete to Salzburg to a man named Wolf. It’s in German but I translated it, it’s your standard love letter, full of hopes, longing, expectation and desire. But what’s interesting is that postal sticker on the back. It says it was OPENED by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht before it reached its destination, and you can clearly see the Nazi eagle and swastika. The other interesting feature is that it is addressed to Salzburg, which as we all know is in Austria. BUT the letter is addressed to the “German Reich.” Remember, this is 1940, so because of the Anschluss, Austria as a country had ceased to exist.

This above love letter I bought for €3. It’s a rare find on a Viennese fleamarket because it’s in ENGLISH! It was sent in 1947 from Vienna to a woman in Southend-on-Sea, UK. As you can see from the first line, the Austrian soldier has just been released from a Russian POW camp and is looking for his lost love Annie whom he hasn’t seen since 1939 before the war. Annie’s last name is listed here as Reifmann, which sounds awfully German to me. Or perhaps, Jewish? Maybe she had family in Austria and that’s how they met? But if it was sent to the UK, why was it back in Vienna for me to find? As the envelope indicates, it was Return-To-Sender. So either Annie didn’t live there anymore, she died in the blitz (or worse), or she was like, “You were a German soldier so fuck you.”

This above document I bought for €5. It’s a “Persilschein.” These were documents issued by the occupying Allied forces after the war to citizens who had proved they hadn’t been Nazis et.al. before or during the war. The document is in German, English, French, and Russian. Persil is a type of washing liquid, and schein means shine, so if you had this document, it literally meant your past was squeaky clean.

I also bought photographs, necklaces, and other trinkets and tokens on the Naschmarkt, basically at cost. Highly recommended for your Saturday mornings!! And you walk away with gifts and finds you won’t get on the fucking Graben.

Activities That Aren’t as Lame as Your Gramps

Cool Museums

So Vienna is all about museums. They love that shit. They eat that shit up. But sometimes it feels like if you’ve seen one museum, you’ve seen them all. There’s only so much goddamned art one can take in before it all starts to look the same. So here’s a selection of the museums and galleries I liked that weren’t too much of a gaudy tourist trap.

WestLicht

Westlicht is an amazing photography gallery that has a wicked selection of the best photographs of the 20th and 21st century. The place also has it’s own cafe and bar, and a selection of great photography books for sale. Only €10 entry. Also, it’s located in a particularly grimy (but also charming) section of Westbahnstrasse so at least the affluent snobs from Kennebunkport won’t be there.

The MAK (free Tuesday nights!)

The museum of design is free every Tuesday night from like 6pm until closing, which is when I went, but I would have gladly paid the entry fee, it was amazing! These are pics I took inside. Look at this awesomeness!

There were video clips, light installations, and they gave you bubblegum to chew as part of the experiment! One section was a bicycle that needed to be pumped hard in order for the light installations to work! I loved it all. And of course, there were also the more refined design aspects, like art deco furniture and an entire wing dedicated to the evolution of the chair, hahaha.

The museum is on the Ringstrasse so it’s easy to find, but it wasn’t really patroned by tourists, rather by design students, so it felt like an edifying experience amongst people who genuinely care about this shit.

And and and! ThERE WERE KLIMTS!

Look at that gorgeous thing!!!

Mumok (I was only charged €6 for some reason)

The Museum of modern art was great because it was one of the few museums in the city that actively carried and promoted the works of women artists (more on this later). The exhibits were engaging and interesting. It’s in the middle of the Museum Quartier so it’s easy to find, but again, there weren’t very many tourists here, it was mostly students and locals. I liked that.

And when you’re done museum-ing, they have their own cupcake cafe inside!! Also the museum has free wifi and also a free app you can download on site for a free audioguide!

The price is supposed to be €11 but they only charged me €6 for some reason. Maybe I look like I’m under 27. BITCH I’M 35.

Wien Museum (free first Sunday of the month!)

I wouldn’t have necessarily paid the full entry for this museum if it hadn’t been free the first Sunday of the month, but I’m glad I went just for the Klimts! Did I mention I love Klimt and I eat that shit up? This here is a portrait of his longtime mistress Emilie Floge. It’s part of his gold leaf period and when his style was so unique and more two dimensional than the other portraits of the time that aimed to give the illusion of 3 dimensions. The Wien Museum also does like this history of the Stephansdom gargoyles and a whole bunch of other relics from Vienna’s past as a walled-city and such. They also had an exhibit on two really important artists from the pre and post war Vienna, detailing the sadness and atrocities happening around them that was highly stylized and super engaging. All in all, me likey, but glad me no pay full price.


Here’s another Klimt!


And this is an interesting story tied in with Klimt. This is a portrait of Arnold Schoenberg, the famous composer. The portrait was painted by Richard Gerstl who was having an affair with Schoenberg’s wife Mathilde. She briefly left her husband for Gerstl but returned a few months later for the children. When that happened, Gerstl hung himself. He was never famous or well known in his own time, but after the war he became so popular and now I’ve found his works in every major museum and gallery in Vienna. Below is his self portrait. Anyway, the reason this is super interesting and tied in with Klimt is because, over 100 years later, Schoenberg’s grandson Randy, a lawyer in Los Angeles, was hired to represent Maria Altmann in her Supreme Court case versus the country of Austria. Why was she suing them? They were holding on to Klimt’s famed portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, considered the Mona Lisa of Austria, and Altmann was the heir to the painting. It was looted from her family home by the Nazis and never returned. SIX DEGREES OF KEVIN BACON. I found it rather fitting that the Klimts and the Gerstl portraits were hanging side by side. It’s like, hey guys, do you have any idea how much shit your heirs are gonna stir?

Also, they have works by Egon Schiele, whom I didn’t like 10 years ago, but I feel like he’s grown on me and I appreciate his stylized pain a lot more than Klimt now. Here’s him in a self-portrait, flashing us his west-side gang signs.

Resistance Museum (free forever!)

Now let’s not mince words. It’s not as if Austrians put up much of a resistance. When the Anschluss happened, the white anglo-saxon Austrians welcomed Shitler with flowers and a huge parade. They cheered him in the streets, the church bells rang out and the bakeries gave out free sweets. They welcomed it. They weren’t the “first victims of WWII” as they like to paint themselves. However, that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few conscious objectors. Individuals did indeed resist and attempt to circumvent the Nazis, but there wasn’t exactly a cohesive, organized resistance movement. The only real official resistance in all of Europe that was organized and widespread (although quickly quashed) was the tram-workers strike in Amsterdam in 1941. No one in Europe was able to mount a large, organized resistance (although major props to the Polish for putting up a good fight too). Anyway, the resistance museum is free for obvious reasons (as are all Concentration Camps memorial sites throughout Austria and Germany, and the like…) and their displays have really interesting artifacts from individual’s resistance attempts. I was super engrossed in it. Worth the visit. I like bad-ass rebels.

Space Invader Hunting, and other street art hunting!


If you’re an actual hipster and not some tourist, then you know who Space Invader is. Also, if you read this blog often, then you know who he is. If not, what exactly are you doing here? Anyway, by now you should have already downloaded his Flash Invader app and have flashed at least one of his thousands of pieces erected around the world in dozens of cities. And if you have, then you know, that there are many of his pieces up in Vienna from his visits in 2006 and 2008. I flashed 23 of them.


Like this gem.


And this one.


And this one at street-level. The great thing about hunting Space Invaders when you’re new to a city is it is a free activity that allows you to get to know the layout of the city better. I found all my ‘Vaders in my first week in Vienna. After that, I could walk around the city without a map, because I knew each quartier and platz from him. “Oh I know this area because I found a ‘Vader here.” OR I knew that something wasn’t far off because I had already walked the distance to find him. Sometimes I would go hunting and the ‘Vader was long gone, but you could still see the imprint from the tiles in the wall or building or bridge. That would suck, but at least I discovered a new area of the city through it. Hunting ‘Vaders brings you to new areas of the city that you wouldn’t ordinarily get to otherwise. Sure he puts things up in touristy areas, but he also goes to the quiet, dead corners of the suburbs as well. Those are always awesome.

And Vienna is great for hunting the works of other great street artists. This is a Roa someone had the gaul to partly cover!

I call this one, “Neeeeeeaaaaarrrrr…….. faaaaaaaaaaaarrrr!”

Ah, the women of Sonke. I love Sonke’s oeuvre so hard. Oeuvre on fleek.

You’re beautiful. It’s society that’s fucked. I KNOW RIGHT.


My German is so good now, I can read this without having to resort to google translate! When I found this I was like… FINISH THE SENTENCE, I’M BREATHLESS WITH ANTICIPATION!!!


…was the best/worst thing that ever happened to you.

Bike-Share Rentals & Bicycle Paths


Vienna has the same city bike-share program as other major cities like London, Paris, Toronto, Montreal and NYC. You can find the stands located outside almost every major attraction or uBahn stop.  You register with a credit card right there at the terminal and use the same pin number each time you want to take out a bike. They have large baskets, adjustable seats and 3 gears. And they’re super cheap compared to other cities! The first hour is free!  After that, it’s like one euro for the next hour and it goes up incrementally after that but I think four hours is like less than latte. AND if you put it back before the first hour is up, then wait 15 minutes, you can withdraw another bike and get another hour free! Renting bikes from a shop is for suckers and not a hipster like you. I used these bikes a lot. There are excellent bike paths all throughout Vienna.  One day I cycled from Meidling, along the canals, through the city, across the Ringstrasse, across the Danube, and up to the Prater, and that only took me 45 minutes! No traffic! Bike lanes are well-maintained and clearly marked. I felt super safe the entire time.

I also recommend you cycle along the Danube canal to check out some of the great murals and street art along the water. Great activity on a sunny Viennese day.

Before Sunrise film locations

Everyone’s favourite 1995 indie summer thinking-woman’s cult hit was filmed in its entirety in Vienna and after a month of being in Vienna, I would be walking down a small alley on the Molkerbastei, or I’d be at the Arena complex near Erdberg, and I’d be like, waaaaaait a minute….
Anyway, I found almost every location where they filmed their infamous scenes….

…from the bridge where they meet the dudes putting on the play about the cow…


…to the Riesenrad ferris wheel where they have their first kiss at sunset…

…to the street where they dance to the harpsichord then take mental photographs of each other.
I even found the record shop where they listen to that record in the listening booth. And Cafe Sperl where they pretend to speak on the phone to their friends…

…more on this place later!

Grave-spotting

It’s crazy to think how many famous people have come from Vienna. In fact, it’s crazy to think how many famous people were living in Vienna at the exact same time. Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Sigmund Freud, Adele Bloch-Bauer, Arnold Schoenberg, Gustav Mahler, Alma Mahler and ADOLF SHITLER were all living in Vienna at the same time. I like to think that if Klimt had passed Shitler on the street when Shitler was a starving artist, lugging his colours and palettes and brushes around and hoping to get into the art academy, Klimt probably would have felt sorry for Shitler. He probably would have given him a shilling out of pity. Anyway, with so many stars, it stands to reason their graves are here too. This is another free activity to do in Vienna that will get you exploring different areas, and you can enjoy the amazingly-scenic tram rides to get there. Also, don’t forget to Instagram them, you hipster douche.
First grave I found was the most important to me.

Luckily his grave was within walking distance from where I was staying. I found him pretty easily, and was pleased to see that the Jewish tradition of putting stones on the grave was being employed here. Klimt wasn’t Jewish, he was Catholic (yet he did some rather unCatholic things like fathering dozens of illegitimate children to poverty-striken young women), but many of his patrons were Jewish, and he wasn’t one of the many anti-semites running around the Austro-Hungarian empire at the time. He didn’t care, he socialized (and slept) with everyone. And perhaps his most famous patron was also buried in Vienna…

Well I say buried, but this is actually a crematorium wall, so I’m assuming her cistern is inside the wall. I must say, I am so glad Bloch-Bauer and Klimt passed away before the second World War. I can’t bear to think what might have happened to them had they lived…. Had they witnessed the destruction of civilized society, the murders and beatings on the street, their friends throwing themselves out of windows rather than be taken by the Nazis, their entire property be seized and then being forced into exile. Or worse, being deported to a camp. I’m glad they died of natural causes. I’m glad they have no idea what came next. But perhaps they did have a tiny inkling that their legacies would cause a massive shit-stir one day and turn the world on its head. Here’s hoping that thought gave them comfort.

Mozart was actually buried in an unmarked mass grave and it took decades for them to go in and try to find his remains. What lies in this grave could be Mozart, it may not be. But this was a super quiet experience, the cemetery was empty and I was the only one there. I told Mozart quietly that I enjoyed the marriage of figaro and the magic flute and his requiem and most of all, his piano concerto no.23 in a major k488. Grazie, Maestro!


Beethoven’s remains have been moved three times, but here he finally rests. Roll over! Haaaaaaa.

Photo-boothing

Using those old-fashioned photobooths is a HUGE thing in Austria and Germany (and France too, really). You’ll find the classic booths in most uBahn stations and places of interests. I found one inside the Museums Quartier. They’re only €2 for 4 photographs, and they come out looking super stylized in black and white. I love mine. It’s hanging on my wall right now.

Burgtheater Tour


For €7 you can have a tour of the imperial, ornate, illustrious Burgtheater near Schottentor, across the street from the Rathaus. If you like live theatre at all, backstage stories, and fresco paintings by Klimt before he was famous, then this is super fucking righteous and totally engaging (I majored in Theatre in university, so this was like a wet-dream for a hipster-shit like me). And if you’re lucky like me, you will be the only one to show up for the English-language tour, and instead of the tour being just an hour, you’ll be there for 3 hours and the staff won’t know you’re still there and they’ll turn the lights off on you and the guide and you have to find your way out of there by feeling the walls. It was super fucking cool and interesting, highly recommended!

The stage is set. The curtain rises.

Stolpersteines

I’ve found stolpersteines (which literally translates as “stumbling blocks”) all over Europe and of course they are here in Vienna too. This is another activity that is free and also loaded with meaning, heart, sadness, mourning, healing, hope, and all that other good stuff. If you walk around the city, pay attention to the ground. A German artist began installing these gold bricks into the ground, marking the spot where a person who was persecuted by the Nazi’s once lived. More of then than not, the person in question was killed, but sometimes the stolpersteine will note that the person survived. Most of these people were murdered in concentration camps or died in transit. So when you’re walking through beautiful and regal Vienna, and you find one of these stones, you immediately know the names of the people who once called that spot home and they were forcibly ripped from their homes and their families, then slaughtered like cattle. Don’t ever forget that every street, every corner, and every house has a dark and sad history to go with the good.


This family died in Auschwitz.

This family died in Auschwitz, Gurs, and Chelmno

Last Residences of Famous People

The internet is full of the former addresses of famous people. Sometimes their former residencies have been turned into museums, like Freud’s has above. Or sometimes there’s just a marker, like Kafka and Beethoven’s below. But more often than not, I would find an address, and there was no marker. Someone wonderful lived here and called it home, but no one who lives there now knows about it. Still, it was a free activity and it kept me exploring and full of wonder, so this was an A+ activity for a frugal hipster like me.

I made sure I found the homes of: Maria Altmann, Milena Jesenska, Adele Bloch-Bauer, and Klimt. Do you have some favourite celebs from Vienna? Maybe Michael Hanneke (you will only know who he is if you’re a hipster anyway)? Christoph Waltz? Google their addresses and go searching for them, you hipster-fuck.

Cafés That Aren’t Touristy Bullshit

A hipster without a cafe in which to drink and write is a hipster close to death. What would we do without our cafes? I DON’T EVEN WANT TO THINK ABOUT THE HORROR. Here’s my ultimate list of A+ cafes that featured zero tourists, only locals, and whose decor and drinks were top notch. I’m not including links here because I’m a carpal-tunnel hipster but all you have to do is google “Vienna + the cafe’s name” and you’ll find them easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

Liebling: good-looking people, rustic wooden tables great for writing, vintage furnishings, cheap lattes, a bit too smokey. Free wifi.

Café Nil: a kind of Marrakesh decor coupled with a 1950s green tile design. Adorable retro stands next to the tables carry the sugar, salt & pepper. Nice servers. Lots of natural light. Free wifi.

Café Pruckel: has been around for 100 years, and hasn’t changed it’s decor for 60. Unlike other massive centenarian cafes, this is populated solely with locals. Lots of newspapers on the wooden racks to read, free wifi, really good looking people abound.

Café Siebenstern

The above photograph is of a communal fridge inside Siebenstern cafe, where locals can put their unwanted food, and anyone is invited to take it, although I mostly saw the homeless and refugees taking advantage. Free wifi, large communal tables, open late for food and drinks, good-looking servers who speak English.

Phil

This is what it looks like. Cafe plus bookstore plus vinyl shop plus good-looking people. The wifi password is clapyourhands. You’re welcome! I came here so many times, I loved it. Great for writing and people watching.

Vollpension: designed like your grandmother’s sitting room, free wifi and lotsa communal tables but so difficult to snag a spot, this place is super busy. Brunch on weekends needs to be reserved in advance.

The Breakfast Club: only open until 2pm, great food, almost no place to sit. No wifi but you can mooch off of Vollpension next door if you already have their wifi password.

Café inside Leopold Museum (separate entrance): you don’t need to pay to enter the museum to visit this cafe. Free wifi, really nice view of the Museumplein, gorgeous long-bar, newspapers to read, open late, separate smoking area, gorgeous tattooed guy behind the bar. I WANTED TO HAVE HIS ABORTION.

Café inside the Kunsthistorische Museum (must pay entry): You have to the entry fee of the museum to gain access to the cafe but THIS PIC BELOW IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE. It’s like a bloody Russian novel up in hurr. Free wifi, and I chatted with a super rich grandmother and her grandson from NYC who sat next to me. They were charming in a myopic sort of way. The servers were marveled by how quickly I can type on my iPad. #hipsterproblems

Café Ulrich: free wifi, decent lattes, serves food and the tables after 5pm are reserved for diners. Creepy dudes can populate the long-bar, but in general, I liked this place.

Café Europa: I took the following photo inside Cafe Europa. Mirrors everywhere. Smoking section not properly secured, free wifi, decent lattes, lovely tall windows.

Supersense (EXTRA HIPSTER POINTS):

Okay this one I’ll link to because HOLY MOTHER OF GOD THIS IS THE GRAND PUBA OF HIPSTER. I wish I had discovered this place earlier in my stay (found it days before I left) because I instantly fell in love. Gorgeous Jugendstil Art Deco furnishings and large wooden high tables and stools, and free wifi. But the crowning jewel of this place was the attached shop that was a CORNUCOPIA of hipster shit that gave me an ironic stroke. There was an old wooden birdcage elevator upcycled into a recording booth that records you for 90 seconds and puts it on vinyl! They had wax and envelope stamps. There was a machine that put your thoughts/wishes/recipes/whatever on a scroll and sealed it in an antique bottle! I WAS ENCHANTED.

Kleines Café:

Also featured in Before Sunrise (the palm reader scene), it’s super small but is very charming and there’s lots of newspapers on the rack to read. No wifi but that’s good for writing.

Café Jelinek: early 20th century red velvet decor and lush window drapings, oddly shaped tables, free wifi, cheap lattes, a log fire, and lots of space. Surly and ornery servers but who cares. I’m just as surly. Hey! Surly only cares about one person. SURLY.

Hmm. Sorry Surly.

Shut up.

(Hipster points for knowing what I’m referring to.)

Café & Bar Warning

Even though the rest of Europe, and lo, the rest of the civilized world, has banned smoking in public establishments, Vienna is still behind the times. Technically there is some kinda no-smoking law, but it is either not enforced, or won’t really go into effect until 2017 (depending on who you ask). Thus, people will smoke in your face all day long in the cafes and no matter what kind of dirty looks you throw them, it won’t stop them. Some cafés have a smoking section (haaaaa! Remember Smoking Sections??!!) but staff rarely close the fucking doors to the smoking section, so all the smoke wafts over into the non-smoking section. You will walk out of every café or bar one minute closer to death and smelling like arsenic.

Cafés That Will Kibosh Your Buzz (aka AVOID)

Café Central: long-lineups, all tourists, loud, jerk waiters. I walked in to photograph the unusual inverted ceiling and then left.

Café Schwarzenberg: if you go here after peak hours, then it’s fine & kinda nice. Otherwise, it’s a shitshow.

Alt Wien: where 19-year-old university frat-holes go to piss on the floor

Skybar: just because you have a nice view of the Stephansdom doesn’t mean you’re cool. Also, FULL OF YUPPIES.

Café inside the Belvedere: €6 for a latte? Go fuck yourself, how about that.

Souvenirs That Aren’t Postcards or Tshirts

I wanted to get myself something that was quintessentially Viennese but that no one else would have. Something you can’t buy at those overpriced souvenir shops on KarntnerRing. I was reading a lot about Vienna and I came across the works of Secession artist and Wiener Werkstatte founder Koloman Moser. Aside from being an internationally acclaimed visual artist and member of Vienna’s intelligentsia of the early 20th century, he was also adept at the fine art of the Ex Libris.

For those hipsters not aware of the literati-snob practice of owning your own Ex Libris, let me explain:

Ex Libris is latin, and translates to, “Out of the library of,” or “Out of the book of.” It is a stamp, almost kind of like a Standard or a Coat of Arms, that indicates to whom a book belongs. You see, the socialites and intelligentsia of era’s past would of course own their own vast private libraries in their homes, and they liked to lend them out to their friends. But to keep track of all the books they had loaned and shared, they would stamp the inside cover with their own custom Ex Libris. As time went on, the design of the Ex Libris went from being a simple stamp with someone’s name on it, to a fashionable artistic expression of the person. And Koloman Moser was the go-to Ex Libris designer of 1900 Vienna. He fashioned them for everyone from Sigmund Freud to Adele Bloch-Bauer. Here are some examples of his work.


Pretty fucking sweet, right? So I was like, I WANT MY OWN EX LIBRIS! I’m a writer, I’m a literature-snob, I love Viennese-shit, and I’m a ridiculous hipster.

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.

So I found this shop on Siebensternegasse that only fashions stamps. That’s all they make! Nothing but stamps! I couldn’t believe something like that actually existed. That’s like having a milkman or a blacksmith. It’s so quaint! A stamp man! I walked in and asked if he could make me an Ex Libris. He asked if I had a design in mind, and I showed him the screencaps I had taken of Koloman Moser’s work. I asked if he could just take one design and plug my name in there. He said “keine problem” as they say in German, and 2 days and €35 later, I owned MY OWN FUCKING EX LIBRIS!

KNEEL BEFORE YOUR HIPSTER-QUEEN, BABYLON!!!

So if you want your own Viennese souvenir that wasn’t made in China or unravels in the wash, get thee to an Ex-Librisy (or something).

Hunting Vienna’s Dark Past

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having dark fascinations, like looking at photos of dead bodies, or collecting Nazi junk. Our fascinations aren’t inherently good or bad. It’s what we do with these fascinations that’s important. Using these mementos of humanity’s past to remind ourselves of what is good and evil, to remind us of history so as not to repeat it, I think, is a good thing. And Vienna is one of those cities that is responsible for a lot of shit. Namely: Shitler.

Of course you won’t find a single place in Germany or Austria that marks a place where Shitler lived or worked or was born or hung out. Obvi. Once you mark it, it’s turns into a place of pilgrimage. So not only are none of his former places of residence in Vienna marked, I betcha the current residents don’t even know. The internet is good for this type of thing (like I mentioned above in the Former Residences of Famous People section), so it wasn’t long before I found the site of Shitler’s first flat when he moved to Vienna from Linz circa 1906. It’s just around the corner from the Westbahnhof. The building itself is rather unassuming, kinda dank and under-maintained. However, when I found it one night when it was cold and windy out, I realized I needed to be discrete and respectful to the current residents. First of all, you don’t want to make a big fuss, and also, you don’t want to glorify things. So I looked at the place from across the street, I didn’t take any photos, I stared for a bit, then left. I don’t know what I was expecting to see or find, but it felt similar to when I’ve visited concentration camps. You reflect, you think, you move forward.

Also, I found out that after a couple years of living in flats in Vienna, and after being rejected twice from the Vienna Arts Academy, Shitler’s living allowance ran out and he became a homeless crazy beggar on the streets. He had to move into the homeless shelter in Meidling. I WAS HOUSESITTING IN MEIDLING. That was a total mindfuck for me because not only was the building I was living in pre-war, almost all of Meidling escaped Allied bombings, which means the streets and facades of Meidling probably looked exactly the same when Shitler was begging on the streets there. He probably knew my area well. When I would walk home at night, it gave the area an extra kind of layer of sadness and horror.

I also found out about one particularly sad detail of Cafe Sperl, seen in this picture I took below:

I mentioned Cafe Sperl above in the Before Sunrise section because this is where they filmed that scene where they pretend to talk on the phone. Cafe Sperl has been around for over a century and pretty much looks the same as it did then. In the early half of the 20th Century, Cafe Sperl was usually occupied by artists, both successful and starving. They had a practice where they would give starving artists a cup of coffee in exchange for one of their drawings or paintings.

One of those starving artists was — you guessed it — Adolf Shitler.

Naturally, Cafe Sperl doesn’t like to advertise this fact, so when you visit, just be mindful.

Just think of how different the last 100 years would have been if Shitler had just been accepted into the Art Academy. Talk about lack of foresight.

Another place to visit is the former location of the Hotel Metropole, which, after the Anschluss, was taken over by the Gestapo and became their headquarters. I found this place by accident because I found a Space Invader in the Morzinplatz (see! Hunting ‘Vaders leads to other discoveries!), and I noticed a huge empty green space with a large memorial stone atop it. People would disappear into the Metropole and would never be seen again. Interrogated, tortured, shipped off to a camp, never heard from again. The Hotel is long gone but being in that spot which overlooks a nice section of the Danube canal was a bewildering but meaningful experience.

Speaking of Vienna’s Nazi past that still haunts the present day….

Museums That Still Carry Nazi-Looted Art & Refuse to Give It Back Because They’re Blood-Profiteering Shitbags

I have mentioned many times in this post the infamous case of Klimt’s portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer and the fight to have her returned to her rightful heir. Last year in NYC I stood in line for 90 minutes to run inside the Neue Gallerie and stare at the portrait for an hour before closing. I’ve always loved the haunting portrait. It’s so famous, they even made a movie about it last year starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. It’s not a very good film, to be honest, but it gives you a good understanding of the legal battle (less about Adele herself). Actually, if you want an excellently-written study of Adele, her portrait, the cityscape of Vienna during Klimt and Adele’s time, and during the Nazi years, I would highly recommend reading Anne-Marie O’Connor’s book “The Lady In Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.” I bought this book while I was in Vienna and I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. MY HIPSTER BRAIN BLEW THROUGH CHAPTERS LIKE SOME PEOPLE BLOW COKE UP THEIR NOSE. Such a good read.

Anyway, the book goes into great detail about how Vienna and the German Reich systematically looted art from persecuted Jewish families in the city. Then, after the war, the very Nazis who had looted it were now in charge of restitution!! Many exiled Austrians didn’t want to return to Vienna for obvious reasons, but they wanted their paintings back. For this, they would need exit permits and visas for the paintings. Did they Austrians give them the permits? DID THEY FUCK. Of course they didn’t. Most of the time, the authorities wouldn’t even acknowledge that the paintings belonged to the families in the first place. They would fabricate or alter documents to claim the paintings had been “donated,” or “sold” to the state or to the galleries before the war.

Why? Because art is lucrative, and Nazis like to live like the prosperous despots they are.

Since Maria Altmann’s epic court case, where Austria had its ass handed to them on a global scale, they’ve tried to quash further legal battles with other heirs to paintings stolen by Nazis. They still don’t want to give up their paintings, even though they don’t own them, AND they’re profitting from the paintings. Here are just some of the museums that profit from Nazi-looted art and won’t give them back. Yes, I paid entry into these museums. Yes, I hate myself for it. Yes, I wanted to see the paintings. Yes, I sorta yelled at some museum attendants for having this art. Yes, I was almost thrown out. Whatever.

The Belvedere

The Belvedere is perhaps the most well known (and most fucking expensive) museum and gallery in Vienna. I paid TWENTY FUCKING EUROS for a ticket to both the upper and lower Belvedere. This is the very same gallery that had the Adele Bloch-Bauer portrait for almost 70 years before they had to give it back. Do they still have Nazi-looted art on their walls? YOU BETCHA.


Right next to Klimt’s famous The Kiss painting hangs another of his portraits. It’s an unfinished portrait of a young woman named Amalie Zuckerkandl. I found it rather interesting that the Belvedere’s audioguide had NO audio or information on this piece. HOW INTERESTING. I wonder why? Because they don’t own the piece and it was stolen by the Nazi’s, that’s why.

As the lawyer who represented Altmann in court, Randy Schoenberg, writes in this piece for MSNBC, the piece actually belonged to Adele Bloch-Bauer’s husband! The very man who owned the portraits of Adele! The very man who willed them to Maria Altmann!  The Nazis stole it, and sold it illegally to the Belvedere. The Belvedere doesn’t mention this anywhere on the plaque or in any documentation or guides, NOR does it mention that Amalie Zuckerkandl DIED IN BELZEC CONCENTRATION CAMP along with her daughter.

But the Belvedere DOES sell postcards, pins, books, bookmarks, magnets, and other capitalist bullshit with Zuckerkandl’s face on it. I need a moment to let the class wash over me.

Vienna Secession

The Vienna Secession began during La Belle Epoque to showcase works and artists who weren’t interested in the classical ways of painting dominating Viennese society. Klimt and Koloman Moser were founding members of it in the Wiener Werkstatte. In fact, the building was the place where Klimt’s famous Beethovenfries was first ever exhibited. The piece was meant to be temporary and torn down and destroyed, but someone convinced the Lederers (who were one of Klimt’s major patrons) to buy it. They cut it down and kept it. The Secession building was later destroyed during the war but rebuilt, and the Lederer’s art collection was stolen by the Nazis and they themselves were killed. Most of the Lederer’s collection burned in a fire, but not the Frieze. Erich Lederer, heir to the Lederer estate, and a Jew in exile, tried in vain after the war to get an exit permit and visa for the Frieze. Authorities said no, but they did acknowledge that it belonged to him, so they forced him to pay for its storage in a cellar underneath the Belvedere, where flooding  from the war had caused water damage to the Frieze. Unable to get it out of the country, he sold it in 1956 to the founder of the Leopold museum for a mere$1150. He would have gotten more if he could have gotten it out of the country, but he couldn’t and he needed the money.

The Secession building was rebuilt and the Frieze now hangs there. I took this below photo of it. You’re not allowed to take photos inside the Secession but THUG LIFE THUG RULES. I took this pic and I got yelled at. HAAAAAA.

Now the Lederer heirs are suing Austria to try and get their Frieze back, and I hope they do. The audioguide of the Secession literally makes no mention whatsoever of what happened to the Frieze during or after the war. They lie and say it was donated. It was not, you liars.

The Leopold (Although at least they acknowledge it!)

Inside the Leopold you will find a lot of Klimts and Schieles, perhaps the largest collection of Schieles that anyone owns. Like this famous Klimt of Death and Life…

and this self portrait of Schiele…

One of the Schieles on the wall is a portrait of his longtime lover and supporter Wally, a ginger beaut with fat red lips. The plaque next to the portrait acknowledges that the portrait was looted by the Nazis and hung in the Leopold for decades before the heirs of it’s rightful owner, a Jewish woman who had died long before, sued the museum and the country when the portrait was on show in the USA. Because of such ownership disputes, the USA seized the portrait until the case could be resolved. The heirs won their case. They sold the piece, got what they were owed, and now it’s back in the fucking Leopold. I’m not sure if the Leopold was the buyer or if they convinced the buyer to loan it, but still….sneaky fucks.

Kunsthistorisches Museum

Another fancy-schmancy museum, another looted piece worth millions that they won’t give back because who cares about Jews and persecution when there’s all that money, right? This is a painting by the grand Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. It’s called the Artist in his Studio. So basically, a self portrait. I took these pics inside the gallery.

This painting was owned by a man named Czernin who wasn’t Jewish himself, but married to one, so he and his family faced the same persecution. He sold the painting under duress. Guess who was the buyer?

ADOLF SHITLER HIMSELF.

He sold the painting under fucking duress the butcher of the 20th century. Does the audioguide of the Kunsthistorichemuseum make note of that? Nope. This piece hung in Shitler’s own private estate until after the war when Austria took it and placed it in the museum. Czernin and his heirs sued for restitution but where denied. Why?

Because Czernin’s wife was only one quarter Jewish,” aka they don’t believe he actually faced persecution and that he wasn’t under any duress.

That is some bullshit right there. The entry fee for the Kunsthistorische museum is €15 too! Super expensive. So they profit from Nazi-looted art with the ticket price, and then they sell kitsch with the Vermeer on it in the gift shop, AND to add insult to injury, they don’t even acknowledge that this was stolen by Shitler in the first place!!

WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK.

Subheader: Women Artists Need Not Apply Because Vagina

One glaring omission slapping everyone in the face who visits these museums is the lack of women artists on the walls of The Belvedere, the Leopold, the Secession, and the Kunsthistorische. There are literally no women artists on their walls at all. NONE. But! They do have a lot of paintings of naked women! Naked women in various unnatural, idealized, fantasy poses. There’s even Klimt and Schiele paintings of masturbating women! FUN. And what does the audioguide to these dehumanizing naked portraits say? “Look at the natural way in which the female form has been painted….” I’m sorry, but no woman’s boobs look like two upright cantaloupes with pink nubbins for nipples. What the fuck man. I understand that at the time these were painted, women’s sexuality was believed not to exist at all, so this was perhaps an act of rebellion. But was it also an act of objectification and exploitation? Yup. It was all those things. So listen up, women artists. The only way to get inside the Belvedere is to be naked. You’re not getting in there otherwise. Sorry, but… you know…. vagina.

Important German Phrases You Will Need

Ein milchkaffee bitte. A latte, please.

Kleine, bitte/Grosse, bitte. A small one, please/a big one, please.

Kann ich die zucker haben? Can I have the sugar?

Was ist das passwort fur das Wlan? What’s the wifi password?

Es gibt Wlan? Is there wifi?

Ist das Wlan kaput? Is the wifi not working?

Wo sind die Toiletten? Where’s the toilets?

Wo ist der schlussel fur die Toiletten? Where’s the key for the toilets?

Kann ich zahlen bitte? Can I pay please?

Wie viel kostet das? How much does that cost?

Nein, das ist zu teuer! No, that’s too expensive!

Kann ich die Rechnung haben, bitte? Can I have the receipt please?

Danke schoen! Thanks a lot.

Vielen danke fur deine hilfe! Many thanks for your help!

Das ist mein einziger Mantel und mein Reisverschluss ist kaput! This is my only coat and my zipper has broken! (I had to figure this out really quickly one day when this exact scenario happened to me on the street and when I finally found a tailor around the corner, he spoke no English. Also learned: tailor = SCHNEIDER!)

Schoen tag! Have a nice day!

Schoen abend! Have a nice evening!

Ich mochte ein Termin bitte. I’d like an appointment please (great for when you need a haircut or whatever)

Ich kann nur wenig Deutsch Sprechen. I can only speak German a little.

Mein Deutsch ist nicht sehr gut. My German is not very good.

Ich verstehe nicht. I don’t understand.

Sprechen Sie Englische? Do you speak English?

Sprechen Sie Franzosiche? Do you speak French?

Genau. Exactly.

Naturlich. Naturally.

Ja. Yes

Ausgezeichnet. Excellent.

Ich lerne Deutsch! I’m learning German!

Kartoffeln. Potatoes.

Das ist ein schoenen, perfekten Schwanze.   Nice dick, bro.

** I have omitted the umlauts from almost everything in this post because….reasons. 

I hope this Hipster Guide to Vienna has been somewhat helpful for your future visits to the Austrian capitol of cool. If you link to this post, or repost, please remember to give a sistah some credit. I took all these photographs myself and it was a lot of work putting this post together.

Just don’t be a ding-dong. Do the right thing.

AUF WIEDERSEHEN, MEIN LIEBLINGS!


MERRY CHRIST(ine esti)MAS: 2015 Year In Review

The essence of drama is conflict. I had a lot of both in the past few years, but 2015 was oddly light and serene. I hustled my ass off, pulled every string, worked and LIVED, and received very little flack from the universe. 2015 was THE YEAR.

I started the year in New York City where I was housesitting. On a chance invite from a friend, I attended a Moth Storytelling event. I had been listening to the Moth podcast for years, and this was a story-slam event, meaning I could put my name in a hat and possibly be called up on stage. I threw my hat in the ring, decided what I would say while I was waiting in line to get into the venue, and wouldn’t you know it….

SPOKEN WORD

Live Storytelling and Spoken Word means a lot to me and I continued to do it back home in Toronto at Raconteurs:

Storytelling is an extension of writing to me. It feeds my need to tell stories and also to be a ham. I also discovered that working out ideas on stage proved excellent for cultivating written story ideas. 2015 was also the year of–

Chris Writes All The Things

Editors this year were like, “Hey Chris, do you want to publish stuff? HERE, HAVE ALL THE PUBLICATIONS YOU LIKE.”

It was like payback for many years of only publishing maybe one or two pieces every 6 months.

Of course, this wasn’t by fluke. I busted my ass, I submitted and submitted and submitted, and got rejection after rejection, but my acceptance rate kind of skyrocketed this year. I actually found myself in the odd position SEVERAL TIMES this year where I had to reject one publication because another had already bought my piece. I was selling pieces so quick, in some instances, I had to turn people down! I ALMOST sent them the lame boilerplate rejections they had sent me for years, but nahhhhhhh.

SELLING STORIES

 

The first piece I sold this year was actually an academic essay which I sold to Palaver Journal based out of a southern University. I finished my Masters Degree ten years ago, but I can still flex my chops when I need to.

Then I sold my first piece to VICE, which was really exciting because I had been reading them since 1998 and am a huge fan, so it was great to see my pieces go across the VICE network and do really well.


vicecanada

Then I sold them another piece
vicesecond1

And then another
vicethird

And then a bajillion more…
fhritpheader

I found out one of my short stories made the long-list for the prestigious CBC Canada Writes Creative Nonfiction Prize, and they profiled me on the CBC website!
IMG_7218 cbc canada writes

Then I sold a short story to GRAIN when they wanted to buy another story of mine, but I had to turn them down because another journal had already bought it, so they asked for anything else I had, and snapped up this piece right away!
grain1

And then I cold-pitched METRO News Canada and they printed my piece in the centrefold:
metro

And then EVENT published one of my Nonfiction stories in this issue:
event

My bio is a BOSS-ASS BITCH
event2 (2)

Then I sold a travel writing piece to VERGE Magazine:
vergesnippet

And just a couple weeks ago, another one of my serious essays about sexual harassment and the experience of reporting it to the police was published by my old friends at AufBau:

And this isn’t even all of my publications! Just a cross-section! I also sold three more stories whose publication dates are imminent, like TOUTE SUITE, dropping in a few weeks soon! So expect to read more from me in the new year!

Speaking of HouseSitting

This year, I did back…

…to back

…to back

…to back

…to back

…to back housesitting gigs.

These pictures aren’t even all of them. In total in 2015 I did ELEVEN housesits in 12 months. Considering that 4 of them lasted more than a month, and one of them lasted almost 3 months, that’s a lot of housesitting with snugglecats and dogs and not having to pay rent.

Last name Win, first name Epic.

And it’s not over yet. I’ve been housesitting for years and years now, so why stop in 2016. Starting in January, I will be housesitting in VIENNA!!

I haven’t been to Vienna since that first European clusterfuck trip in 2005 (here are some posts about that trip…. gosh this blog is old). I was last in Austria in 2012 for my Eurail Extravaganza, but I missed out on Vienna, so I’m super excited to spend a lot of time there this Winter.

I want to to everything Viennese, like eating strudel served by Michael Haneke on a harpsichord.

I’ll also be swinging through London, Prague, and Amsterdam, so the great tapestry of adventures I’m trying to build can continue!

Hey, You Never Know

One of my main mantra’s of 2015 was “Ask and you shall receive.” In the past I’ve refrained from asking for what I wanted because I assumed the answer would be no, or, more likely, I felt pretentious for even asking. Like, who the fuck are you Christine? You got some balls asking for that.  That changed this year, when I realized that the worst thing that could happen was they’d say No. And if that’s the worst-case-scenario, it’s pretty surmountable. So with that in mind, I figured no-guts-no-glory. I’m a writer, so my income is limited (obvi). The amount of funds I can allocate to quality of life (movies, music, theatre, concerts, performances, dance, festivals, etc) is extremely limited. So what did I do when I wanted to go to an event but couldn’t afford it?

I asked for free tickets.

And I got them.

BOOM.

This year, just because I asked, I gained free entry to the following:

Once: The Musical
-National Ballet of Canada performance of Sleeping Beauty
Deadmouse: The Musical 
Basquiat exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario
-secret alt-J concert
-the Stars of the Lid concert at the Unsound Festival
Joel Plaskett Emergency concert
Bettroffenheit theatrical play
-several Toronto International Film Festival movies, including
Homesick,
Disorder/Maryland,
Bang Gang,
Summertime,
Son of Saul.

If It Ain’t Broke…

Everyone knows I’m a huge flea market person (and this year I joined the super secret but now highly coveted collective of BUNZ Trading) so this year I procured a lot of fantastic antiques at bargain prices, and sometimes, for a few tokens or a bottle of wine.

I already had a typewriter, but I still went ahead and got myself a second one. Because reasons.


My two bee-yoots, side-by-side

And then I got a rotary phone. It’s a necessity in the modern world.

And then I finally hooked up speakers to my record player, so I went on a vinyl-buying binge, and got some gems like Duke Ellington (click the little volume button in the bottom right of the vid to listen!):

and the master Django Reinhard!

With these new gadgets, I am now able to open a sassy new office… in 1979.

Speaking of Music


I went to some kick-ass concerts this year. In years past I had grown a bit tiresome of concerts (I had been a music critic for about 5 years and now I have a touch of tinnitus…) but, I guess… YOLO

This year saw me at:

-Kiasmos
-alt-J
-Chilly Gonzales
-Stars of the Lid
-Hauschka
-Joel Plaskett Emergency

alt-J!!

alt-J!

I want to stuff Kiasmos into a bong and smoke them.

 

And, my, the new music I discovered this year!

FAV SINGLES OF 2015 include:

-“Emotion” by BORNS

-“Carry On” by Coeur de Pirate
-“Landfill” by Daughter

-all tracks by Tycho
-“All Clear” by Aidan Knight
-“Let it go” by Saint Saviour

-“Black to Gold” by Dear Rouge
-“Them” by Nils Frahm

-“Pretty Pimpin” by Kurt Vile

And the Oscar Goes To…


I saw a lot of films this year, and even reviewed some during TIFF for VICE. Here are the ones that haunted me long after the credits rolled:

-VICTORIA

-The Daughter

-Son of Saul

-Homesick

-CitizenFour

-Disorder/Maryland

As you can see from this list, I am not really a mainstream/Hollywood/wide-release film person. I prefer indie cinema, the ones that make the festival circuit. They usually have no money behind them and therefore can take more risks or tell stories we don’t normally see. So you can take your Chris Nolan/JJ Abrahms/Michael Bay clusterfuck and order it on DVD. Yawn.

Get Busy Livin’

As I said, I started the year in New York (housesitting). I also traveled to my hometown of Montreal (housesitting), and just recently I went to Miami (housesitting). But I really wanted to exercise my passport, so I bounced down to Mexico, Guatemala and Belize for a Mayan Adventure!

I made a short film about my experiences, I figured it was more fun than posting a bunch of touristy photos. I call it GET RICH OR DIE MAYAN. Enjoy!

To thine own selfie be true

I’ll end this post with the one thing everyone really wants to see:
BEST SELFIES OF 2015


I don’t really post selfies anymore, but I do take them from time to time. Here are the ones I took and never posted!

Remember, you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.

Happy New Year 2016, munchkins.

SEE YOU IN VIENNA!

Check Out My official website

Don’t forget to visit ChristineEstima.com for more!


Video: Get Rich or Die Mayan

Get Rich or Die Mayan: Mexico, Guatemala & Belize from christine estima on Vimeo.

 

I’m back from my latest adventure across Mexico, Guatemala & Belize. I made this quick-paced short film to give you an idea of everything I saw, experienced & enjoyed. There were pyramids, hiking, jungle walks, cave canoeing, cave diving, swimming, snorkelling with sting rays and sharks, mosquito bites, and lots and lots of adventure! I think this short 3 minute piece gives you a good idea of what I saw, felt, smelled, touched and heard. Also, I edited it so that most shots are only a second long (we all have short attention spans, don’t we) so it moves quickly and at a fun pace! Please watch and let me know what you think!

I took some great photos as well, most of which you can see here on my Instagram, but here’s a short selection!

Get rich or die Mayan.

A post shared by Chris (@cestima) on

But my favourite photo isn’t digital or staged or even featuring me. I brought a waterproof disposable camera with me because I knew I would be exploring some cenotes whilst I was away. I took this pic with the disposable camera and I just developed it yesterday. I have no idea how a disposable camera was able to capture such a great composition and a scene loaded with so much meaning, but there you go. Digital isn’t always better.

mex9a

I’ve had some amazing adventures in my short life…. PeruThailand & Cambodia …. IndiaVancouver & WhistlerLondon…. NYC…. Montreal… and so much Europe over and over….and so many more! I hope to make more films about my adventures, and I hope the adventures never run low.

I already have some new adventures planned for the new year, more on that for another post. Also, I have more publications forthcoming in a few literary magazines and cultural journals. So stay tuned, there’s always something in the works with this-here pipsqueak.


Check out my #travel writing piece in @VergeMagazine + some travel news!

vergesnippet

 

My future’s so bright, I gotta wear shaaaades. Another publication, my little munchkins! I wrote about the benefits, the how-to’s, and the expectations/limitations of house-sitting for Verge Magazine, a wonderful, glossy travel mag. I’ve done lotsa travel writing before but not for the past few years, even though those years were consumed with crossing borders! So it was nice to flex the travel writing chops again. Above is a little snippet of the article to pique your interest. If you want to read the whole thing, the latest issue is behind a paywall, you have to buy a digital subscription… or you could ask for my password to my digital subscription … y’know, whatevs. (hint hint wink wink)

 

vergebio

Swag.

I just sold another story a couple days ago to another literary magazine, AND I’m currently working on a hard-hitting essay for my old friends at AufBau (wrote for them last year) which will be translated into Swiss German (Ausgezeichnet!), so I’m super excited for the future!

Speaking of my Verge travel piece on house-sitting, this blog will be quiet for the next little while because I’m going to be house-sitting in Miami for a while, and then directly after that I’m flying down to Central America so I can backpack across Mexico, Guatemala and Belize! All year Central America has been calling out to me. I’ve done South America and I’ve done the Caribbean but never Central America so I really wanted to make it happen. When I was offered the house-sit in Miami, I thought to myself, “Hmm, flights from Miami to Mexico are much cheaper than Toronto to Mexico…” And all of this really isn’t costing me much! Since I’m house-sitting, the Miami accommodation is free. And the home-owner is most graciously and kindly covering my groceries and metropass whilst I’m there. But most of all, my flight was FREE because I had enough Air Miles!!! And I have lotsa remaindered American dollars lying about from my month in NYC earlier this year, so any excess costs are covered! So all I’m actually paying for is the cheap $125 flight from Miami to Mexico, and whatever minuscule pesos I blow on my travels!

I literally am the Queen of Frugal Travelling! Adventures need not break the bank!

So while this blog will most likely go dark for a bit, my Instagram and Twitter will definitely light up so follow me there!

After that, preliminary plans are in the works for me to reunite in Amsterdam with dis guy:

Amsterdammage awaits.

Don’t forget to check out the Official Christine Estima dot commmm for all of my published works, appearances, performances, and more!

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Translating the Abandoned German Letters from 1946

Last year when I was living in Brussels, I was frequenting my absolute favourite flea market in the world Jeu de Balle, buying photographs and love letters and other trinkets. As usual, when the flea market is over, the vendors usually leave a whole trove of junk just lying on the cobblestone grounds that either they couldn’t sell, that broke, that was damaged, that got soaked from the rain, or that they just don’t want to transport back to their warehouses. The thing is, the street cleaners come in very quickly after the market is over to pick up all the trash and wash the square clean! So if you’re crafty, quick, and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you can get your hands on some amazing antique and vintage gems.

Seeing as how I’m an excellent scavenger (and I don’t like paying for things), I would always scour the cobbles (and in between the cobbles!), go through the piles of trash, kick over soaked boxes and rifle through all the discarded remains for whatever meant something to me. From my scavenges, I have procured monochrome photographs from the 1920s, gold-rimmed picture frames, and these two letters written in German in 1946.

As you can see from the very top picture, the stamps were ripped from the envelopes (probably because 1946 stamps are worth a lot!) but I was more interested in the contents of the letters!

Luckily, the internet loves to help! I tweeted out for help in translating them, and a wonderful follower of mine from Berlin, who wants to be referenced here as Resa Lamego, offered to help! She was able to translate the letters very quickly because her English is amazing, and even though she was busy travelling down to Heidelberg, she still did a fabulous job.

The letters mostly just contain mundane minutiae of these women’s lives from 1946, nothing mind-blowing or tragic or epic, but the language employed is quite nice!

Here’s an excerpt from the 1st letter (edited for content… really just the most interesting parts!)

Malmö, the 28-08-1946

My dear Mady,

Thank you so much for your lovely letter! I’m glad to hear you are in Switzerland. It is wonderful that they all who have been/ used to be in Germany gain such a trip. From the photo I can tell that the nature must be very beautiful. I hope you are completely recovered/healthy when you travel back home! Do you really believe you will be able to come to Sweden? I would be so happy if it was possible. Then you must come to Malmö. As before I got the children from (..)? Now we got the Karl-Jo-Haus-School back. Last year sick children from France and Austria were living there […] One always needs to be with the children, one needs to help them to eat, to play and to bathe. […] It is very hard to write in German and I make many mistakes. I hope you are able to read it? I have never been very good in German but maybe it is harder than usual because I was reading in English the whole winter long. I received my major and can now be a teacher of English. Half of my summer months this year I spent in an international school in Helsingor and there English was the conversational speech. Now my head is full of English words and phrases. So now I need to practice in this letter otherwise I will forget my German and that can’t be!

My dearest regards,

Anna-Kerstin

And here’s an excerpt from the 2nd letter, unedited because the whole thing was totally cool.

Malmö, 13-10-1946

My dear Mady,

Thank you so much for your letter! From the date I can tell that it has been already over a month before I received your letter. I can’t really understand why. Time has passed so quickly. Now you probably are back in Belgium? If so, I send this to your home. Have you recovered dear Mady? Oh, I hope you are from the bottom of my heart!

So, Mady, you think I am chubby/big? Oh well, that is possible. I love to eat and maybe I do it too much. The photo was from summer and then I am always bigger because then I don’t have my work. So I think now it’s better. One doesn’t like to be big!

I got from your letter that you are glad to be back in Belgium. Here in Sweden we have a saying: Foreign countries are good, but home is always the best. And I believe that is very true. I haven’t been to foreign countries, you know, except Denmark and Norway and that for us aren’t really foreign countries. For the next summer I hope I will be allowed to travel to England. I am supposed to have English classes with children, you know and of course it should be very good for me to spend a few months in England. That way one learns the language much better.

Dear Mady, you say that maybe you will come back to Sweden. How happy I should be if that was possible. Will you come alone or with other people? Oh, it would be wonderful to meet you again. Please Mady, if you can, so come, come! I am telling you my dearest welcome!

And now, Mady, to a quick ‘hear-you-again’, I hope!

My dearest regards!

Anna-Kerstin

P.S. May I also send my regards to your family?

Oh Anna-Kerstin, you sweet Danish-living-English-teaching friend! How wonderful and sweet you were to your friend Mady! And such a shame that someone saw fit to discard your beautiful letters into a trash heap in Brussels. So glad I recovered them and saved them!

As I wrote about for VICE, the main reason why personal items like this end up on the fleas is because the owner passed away and their family just wanted to liquidate all the belongings. Why? They probably weren’t on very good terms.

So Mady, I hope you had a good life. Your surviving family is shit.

To the flea markets!!


My Writing Space

I once blogged about my writing practice and process, and I feel this is a nice dovetail: my writing desk and space. We all need to carve out our own little nooks in this world, and this tiny corner is mine.


This where I do all my writing: all my short stories, all my blogging, and all my freelance articles are done here, including a little doodling and reading now and then. I decorated it like this because I think it reflects me and my personality best. Some people prefer really modern, sleek, office-y, stainless-steel-type designs, and others prefer a kind of non-descript, antiseptic look. But I wanted my space to be peppered with all of the things that inspired me, visually and spatially, and all the things that really mean something to me.


For example, these are my Lebanese grandparents making-out on their front porch in Montreal circa 1948. I typed out that Bukowski quote on my typewriter. All the picture frames were bought from London flea markets, but a few I found discarded on the sidewalk. Who throws out gorgeous picture frames?!


That photograph in the foreground of the two 1920s women pushing the pram: I have no idea who they are. I found them discarded on the flea market grounds in Brussels right before the sky opened up and an incredible tempest washed everything away. I feel like I saved them.


Those are Belgian telegrams, and also some French postcards ad German letters, which I bought from their respective flea markets. I typed out the quote at the bottom, and I found the image of the typewritten quote at the top online and then printed it out on photographic paper at a pharmacy in London.


I got the antique iron keys from a friend who bought them for me when I was living in Copenhagen. I typed out the Dumas quote, and it sits on a small blue photo album from the 1940s that I bought in Paris. The vase & saucer I got at a London flea market, and the typewriter ribbon tin I bought at the Brooklyn flea.


The pill bottles in the foreground I got at a flea here in Toronto. The red-cover books in the background are all travel guidebooks from the 1920s, 30s, & 40s. It’s so interesting to read about “where to find a public bathhouse in London,” or about how many Francs you can get for your Crowns, Half-Crowns, Shillings, and Sovereigns. There’s even a section on why French customs strictly prohibits British matches from entering the country, but you can bring your own cigarettes. Also, air travel was so new, that they don’t really mention it. They only mention taking the ferry from Dover to Calais! The guidebooks have fold-out maps and even photographs. Looking at Amsterdam then and comparing it to now is such a mind-fuck.


That’s a Bukowski quote.


I bought that cigar box from a flea market in Düsseldorf. I put all of the small monochrome photographs that I bought from flea markets around Europe in there. A note about the photographs: I don’t know the people. I am assuming they’ve all passed, seeing as how their personal family photo albums were for sale on flea markets. I buy them because they look so happy. I like their faces. Also, sometimes going through private photos reveals some interesting secrets, as I wrote in an essay for VICE recently … And if they’re not in the cigar box….


… they’re hanging on my wall. From left to right, I bought him in Brussels, him in Copenhagen, and her in Paris.


That babe second-from-right is my Mum when she was 18. The rest, left to right, Brussels, Brussels, Berlin, and the child on the right is from Amsterdam.


These ladies are so old, they’re beginning to fade, but I love them all the more because they’re so bad-ass. On the left, I bought them in Paris and on the back it’s dated June 18, 1929. On the right, I bough her in Brussels, it’s dated August 18, 1922. She’s so fucking cool, I can’t even. I’m all out of evens.


Bought both from Brussels. Street scenes and street photography from the early 20th century are so amazing to me. I love the composition of the left photo! Right photo on the back is dated May 1942 and it says they just returned from shopping.


There’s my gorgeous bee-yooot. Read this for the story behind the provenance of this baby.


Some of the books that really moved me that are resting on my desk are All That I Am by Anna Funder, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert, and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières.


I feel like I become a different person when I sit down at this desk. Outside, I’m gregarious and silly and hungry and moving and yelling and dancing and what not… but here, I am something else.


I have a lot more upcoming publications yet-to-be-announced, but now you know where I was when I wrote them.

Remember to update your links and visit the new home of ChristineEstima.com!
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Inside @Station16MTL’s Street Art Gallery

Recently I was invited on a personal tour of Station 16 Gallery in Montreal. I’ve been friendly with its founder Carlo for about four years now, ever since I facilitated an introduction between him and a local street artist. So when I told him that I would be back in my old Montreal stomping grounds, he took a couple hours out of his busy day to show me around the ever-expanding gallery.

Station 16 is located on Boulevard St-Laurent in the heart of le plateau, where the gallery’s presence has boosted the community’s economy and sprouted new growth and development for local businesses. Montreal was hit hard by the economic downturn, and there are still many empty retail spaces around. So Station 16 partnered with the annual Mural Festival to reinvigorate interest in this historical and trendy area.

The goal of Station 16 is to feature and promote local urban artists as well as international favourites. The great thing I noticed when I entered the gallery was how busy it was. Most art galleries are usually very quiet, with one or two patrons an hour, and the receptionists’ shoes usually cost more than your entire annual salary. For many people, visiting art galleries is an intimidating and perhaps snobby-elite experience that feels alienating and ostracising. Not Station 16. Kids, teenagers, families, tourists, street art enthusiasts, art collectors, and dealers abounded the ground-level gallery. It’s a very inclusive and welcoming experience, with a no-pressure enviro, and fosters a sense of community. I think that encouraging everyday people in the process of appreciating, critiquing, and collecting pieces of art is a good thing, and removes the exclusivity that surrounds the art world.

Huge, amazing pieces by Stikki Peaches, a local Montreal artist and personal fav!

Pure Maple Sizzurp piece by What Is Adam, like an Warhol-throwback!

Took me a moment to realize those are guns.

Dain! I’ve photographed Dain all over NYC! International fav!

Olek, my beloved guerilla-knitting-yarn-bombing babe with a clever turn of phrase here. This is actually a silkscreen of her work, but it comes out very 3D! It looks like there’s actual yarn in there! I’ve photographed her in Montreal, NYC, and London!

Le Diamantaire! You can’t turn a single corner in Paris without running into his street diamonds. They’re prolific!

More full-size Stikki Peaches!

Now this is my kind of toilet. The entire walls are covered in What Is Adam pieces, and what’s that on the loo?

It’s my boyfriend HANKSY!

BACK OFF HE’S MY BOYFRIEND. Get your own.

Enzo Sarto is one half of my NYC favourite Enzo & Nio!

This is the back of Carlo’s computer! I see WIA, Stikki Peaches, Enzo & Nio, Shepard Fairy…. “Never forget how awesome you are.

How could I?

Oh sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet.

Station 16 is located at 3523 Boul St-Laurent in Montreal, within walking distance from metro stops Mont-Royal or Sherbrooke. If you go, tell them Chris says hi!


NYC gets #IcyandSot

I first photographed Icy and Sot in Amsterdam, both on the street at at one of their gallery shows. They’ve become street art darlings since then, with major turns at Norway’s NuArt fest in Stavanger, and also, it seems, New York City. I literally couldn’t walk through a single borough without running into their work. Most of these were in conjunction with the Bushwick Collective, but also, they were part of the Welling Court Project. Even still, some of it just seemed to be good, ol’ fashioned illegal graff. Good on ’em.

This delightful mural in South Williamsburg just went on and on….

… and on….

This massive, colourful explosion in Bushwick seems to depict suicide bombers in Iraq, but it could also be the way protesters are gunned down in Gaza. Or perhaps it’s Tel Aviv. Syria? Tahrir Square? I’m not really sure, but then again, the goal isn’t to precisely identify what the artist is trying to say. The point is to make it mean something to you.

I love how his arm reaches up and hangs off of the barbed wire on the roof.

Apologies for not getting a close-up of his hand. I should point out that I took these photographs the first week of January when it was about -20 degrees and removing my hands from my mitts to take photos was a race against frost bite. I could only take maybe two or three pictures before my hands would sting and splinter and redden and become numb. Graff hunting in winter is so much different than in summer. Le sigh.

Their famous portrait here in blue was a massive mural up in Queens, as part of the Welling Court project.

I love this cop and his shadow mural off of Meserole in Bushwick. It must have been erected during the Black Lives Matter protests, as it seems to be a direct comment on Police Brutality, and appearance vs reality when it comes to New York cops.

Freaky.

 

You know what’s funny of this walking boy of theirs? If you go on Instagram, everyone thinks this is Banksy.

No, beebees, just, no.

Dream big!

I will do anything you tellllll meeeee toooooooooo.


Vexta Vixens


I had never photographed or heard of Vexta until this trip to NYC, but her work was everywhere and it was gorgeous, dark, haunting, emotive, and meaningful. I really liked her use of colour, and subject matter. And the pieces are just so provocative, you never forget them once you’ve seen them!

I found most of her work in Bushwick as part of the Bushwick Collective, but there were some pieces found in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, so just keep your eyes peeled when you’re walking around!


Word on the Street in New York is …

Post No Selfie.

Post No Bills, Give No Fucks.

Know Thy Selfie.

I Reeeally Dislike The Word ‘Artist.’

Fuck Your Phone – Keep Your Head Up!

I’m More Of An Internet Artist.

no more tears.

SOUP NAZI!

The Power Of Kanye Compels You.

All I See Are Naked Emperors. –Gilf

Never Let Go.

Loveless (I am not).

Black Is Beautiful – Jef Aerosol.

We’re all alone
Bound by fear
Seeking the mirage of love.

 

I photographed this three years ago. It seems the #FairyTalesfortheFatherless wheatpaste crew is still at it.

Sound familiar? Look to the right of this blog.

Aren’t we all.


What Remains of #Banksy’s Better Out Than In Project in #NYC

In October 2013, Banksy performed a month-long outdoor extravaganza in New York City. He called it “Better Out Than In.” (Har har har). Each day of the month, he erected a new piece somewhere in Gotham.  That’s a lot of pieces and a lot of work. I figured I’d see what remained a year and a half later. To my surprise, I actually found three pieces that remained. In street art circles, lotsa people really hate Banksy. With a passion. He’s reviled by most. I thought his work woulda been paint bombed or destroyed by now. I found three! I was delighted.

The first was this piece at 79th and Broadway on the Upper West Side. The owners of the wall put the piece behind plexiglass to stop people from destroying it, but that hasn’t stopped people from dropping their business cards down there. If you look closely, someone’s house key is stuck in there too.

 

Now I walked by this wall on Delancey near Bowery many many times as I was hunting street art and didn’t think much of it, until I gave it a good look. What struck me as odd about it was that the rest of the wall had been painted except for this perfect little square of what looked like random tags.

Ahhh, but look closer. Do you see the words “The Musical” embedded in there? Banksy did this thing where he added the tag “The Musical!” to random tags. For example, one tag had said “Dirty Underwear” and he added “The Musical!” This is New York after all.

For reference, this is what the wall looked like before it was heavily tagged:

Playground Mob, The Musical!

And I found this piece by accident 🙂


Finding this piece was a rare treat! It’s Banksy’s Geisha Girls and tree. I was searching for it in Bed-Stuy and couldn’t find it, until I came across one of those rolldown grate thingies on this wall. I figured the piece had to be behind it, so I went inside the business that owns the wall, an optometrist, and asked them politely if I could see the Banksy behind the rolldown grate.

They said sure, came out with the keys, rolled it up, let me take my photographs, and chatted pleasantly with me. And that was it!

Ask and you shall receive, people.

Check out my Banksy category for more of his work that I’ve photographed around the world!


2014 was the GIF that kept on GIFing

By the time you read this, I will already be out gallivanting through New York City, Brooklyn and Queens, hunting Space Invaders, Banksys, Hanksys, Swoons, and many more of my favourite street artists. I am here for a month, housesitting in the Upper West Side. I end this year the way I began it: on my own terms, and travelling. I have never been more free.

And I win.

Enjoy some of my greatest goofy 2014 hits, in GIF form!

Rolling my eyes at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, leaving Germany for the last time.


Dancing on the streets of Bonn.


Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science, built by… uh… Stalin.


The best Klezmer band in Brussels right outside my window!
(hit the volume button on the bottom right corner of the vid)


The Berlin eyes have it.


The ghosts in Shoreditch’s windows


Art imitates life imitates art.


Guns in Copenhagen are beating like hearts.


Brick Lane street art goes largely ignored. (It says, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”)


Where’s the Space Invader?


I like to call this one, “Ew, I smell that, was that you?”


I like to call this one, “Oh is that really what you’re wearing? How…  brave…”


I like to call this one, “Is that a bee or a fly?”


I like to call this one, “I just had a small stroke.”


How I talk to Cats (part 1), filmed whilst housesitting in London.


How I talk to Cats (part 2), filmed whilst housesitting in Copenhagen


How I talk to Cats (part 3), filmed whilst housesitting in Enkhuizen (the Netherlands)


Now let us go out of 2014 with a bang, just like we did in Paris…

Goodbye 2014. I hope I never see you again.


2014: The Year That Taught Me Exactly What I’m Made Of

I don’t know how to start this entry so I’ll just launch right into the heart of it:

I spent most of this year homeless, broke and starving on the streets of Europe.

And I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Most of you read this blog soley for all the amazing street art that I find (as you should, I have found some incredible and moving stuff!), and I don’t really talk about myself on this blog anymore. I’ve barely posted any photographs of me on here this year, so let’s change that right now before I launch into it all…

wind in my hair on Make A Gif

 

Ahhh, that’s better.

So here’s the skinny

I will try not to ramble on for brevity’s sake and because everyone has ADD, but perhaps you might take 5 mins to read this, as this post, like most of my posts, will be mostly photographs anyway.

I started off the year in London. It was rough from the beginning. I was freelancing a lot to pay my bills, but money was still tight tight tight! My friends kept insisting on paying for me just because they wanted me to come out and see them, but I felt pretty shitty about having my friends pay for me. I mean, they offered, but what kind of woman does that make me? Always relying on the generosity of friends? I refused the majority of the time.

Still I managed to have some wonderful early experiences in London, like being invited to speak THREE TIMES at Spark London, which is a live-storytelling event.

This below video is from my first and most popular story. It has almost 6,000 views on YouTube, I guess it resonated with people.

Also, as many of you remember, I was cast in Channel 4’s documentary series, First Dates. My episode, the premiere episode of the season, had millions of viewers and broke the internet. Here’s the trailer and some screencaps from my small screen glory:




But life in London was still giving me headaches. I won’t go into too much detail on this point, but I was being sexually harassed by someone who had stolen all of my contact details and had been to my house. I had to call the police just to get him to stop. I couldn’t even get him arrested, I could only get them to force him to stop. It was truly frightening to be the victim of something like this that was completely out of my hands. I didn’t know this person at all, and to have my details stolen like that and used for such nefarious purposes really shocked my system. I didn’t leave my flat for a week because I was petrified to walk outside and find him there. Bless the London Police, they were so kind and understanding and helpful and full of useful information.

But the money issue started to grate on me. London is too expensive for a freelancer like me, and when my uptight and awkward landlady (who would burst into my room when I was sleeping naked and demand I get her a paracetamol because she was sick… or would bore me to tears by yammering on about her ridiculous love life like it was any of my business) decided to raise the rent on me for no good reason, I decided enough was enough. London clearly doesn’t want me here, so fuck it, I’m leaving for something better.

Homeless

I consciously chose to be homeless. I stuffed everything I owned in the world into my backpack, and set off for mainland Europe. I didn’t have the money to pay rent, so I decided I just wouldn’t pay rent. I would get by with Couchsurfing and Housesitting. And those housesitting gigs would last for months, so I would get to stay in these cosmopolitan European capitals for free; places like Copenhagen, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels (and a smattering of smaller rural towns).

But it wasn’t easy. I was so broke that I was living off of €40 a week. A WEEK. That’s how much most people spend in one meal, and that is what I was LIVING off of for a week. There were some really lean moments where I was like, “Should I put the peanuts in the yoghurt, or have the peanuts as a side-dish?” For  example, the entire month that I lived in Paris, I only spent €150 in total, and that’s being generous. I couldn’t afford to take the trains anymore between cities, so I started hitchhiking… which any woman will tell you is, well, interesting. (The one time that I posted on Facebook about my hitchhiking, a friend that I haven’t seen in about 15 years since high school transferred money into my PayPal and wouldn’t take no for an answer. She was like, “TAKE IT AND GET ON A TRAIN DAMMIT” and I was moved to tears. People can be so kind). I’m ashamed to admit that I did a bit of dumpster-diving when I needed to. But the worst it ever got was when I was attacked in Brussels and in Paris. In Brussels, this guy smacked me right across the face in broad daylight. On the Paris Metro, I walked away with a huge welt on my thigh that lasted a month, and the tissue there is still sore, if I’m being honest.

Life as a waif isn’t all romantic and adventure. Sometimes it is pure depravity and despair.

But, for as bad as it was sometimes, I felt like going through all of this was good for me. Like I really needed it. The whole point is to go through a river of shit. The whole point is to crawl up a long ladder on your knees. That’s the whole point. Because it taught me exactly what I’m made of. I am resilient when the shit hits the fan. I am resourceful and crafty, sometimes hustler-charlatan, and sometimes the lucky beneficiary of the kindness of strangers. I never gave up. Going through the worst time of my life, oddly, was the best thing for me. I truly feel like the worst year of my life was also the best year of my life. I am so grateful this happened to me.

So how did I end up back in Toronto?

I was making some money freelancing, so I wasn’t completely in the shitter. I was even translated into Swiss-German when I sold a couple of articles to AufBau Magazine (and they paid me in SWISS FRANCS too! When you exchange that into Canadian dollars, it was more than double. I was like PIZZA FOR EVERYBODY!). But I couldn’t afford the planet ticket home. Then, the Polish Ministry of Economy who sent me on my #Polska14 adventure that you can read about here, paid for my transatlantic flight home. Without that, I would still be a wandering European nomad with no fixed address. So thanks, Poland!

Finding Meaning

Along this strange 12 month journey that was 2014, there were a lot of poignant and unique moments that will never come again. I was in Copenhagen during the Eurovision Song Contest, I was in Berlin when Germany won the World Cup, I was in Paris during the 70th anniversary celebrations of the liberation of Paris, I was in Amsterdam for their Remembrance Day, and I was in Brussels during Nuit Blanche.

I think one of my favourite moments of the entire year was in Amsterdam when my friend Laser 3.14 dedicated some street art to me.

But my favourite thing to do in all of these places (other than photograph street art, of course) was to visit the flea markets every weekend. Because I had no space in my backpack to actually buy anything of substance, the only thing I could buy on the flea markets were old love letters and monochrome photographs from 1900-1940s. The only spot I could keep them was in the space between my iPad and its case, because it was the only spot to keep them flat and safe. After a while, that little slot was bulging.

Here are some examples of what I managed to procure:

Most days I would spend all the money I had saved for eating on these photographs. I usually only ate 2 small meals a day anyway, and would load up on coffee during the day to suppress my appetite.







The small moments I never blogged…


Dancing with friends in London! Everybody in this photograph looks cool except for me. I need to increase my cool-game.

Celebrating World Cup in Berlin with friends! Aw Eric, tu me manques!

Enjoying the view of Berlin from the Klunkerkranich with my two favourite Germans!

Acrobatic performers at the Boxhagenerplatz flohmarkt in Berlin!

This photograph and street-art-hunt made it to the front page of WordPress!

In London, I was cast in a movie, and the costume/hair/makeup would take an hour every day. I was playing a 16th century Spanish lady in King Phillip’s court. My hair was teased, pinned, curled, and yanked within an inch of my life. That hat had to be SEWN INTO MY HEAD to keep it in place. And the corset & neck piece dug into my skin and took out huge chunks of flesh.

This is what my hair looked like after all the pieces were taken out of it.


Hanging out inside an 800-year-old tree in Copenhagen.


Overlooking Copenhagen!

At the Jewish Memorial in Berlin, which is a re-staging of a photograph I took of myself 8 years ago

Berlin olympic stadium … fuck yeah jesse owens.


Sachsenhausen….

Fireworks soar above the Brandenburg Gate the night that Germany won the World Cup

A massive drumming/capoeira parade in Paris that I just happened to stumble upon. They basically shut down Boulevard Saint-Denis!

Click on the volume button to hear! I made this and many other Vines, btw.

My last night in Paris, I cycled to L’Arc de Triomphe and just sat there, watching the city run circles around it.

Nuit Blanche in Brussels was a rainy, glorious night I will never forget. I love Brussels so much!



Overlooking the small medieval-walled village of Regensburg in the south of Germany.

Leaving Berlin, and for the last time too…

Dancing with the gang in Dalston… as all the hipsters do.

This was my housesit in Paris; a two-bedroom flat all to myself. Yes, I am a huge asshole.


And this was my housesit in Amsterdam. Being homeless isn’t all that bad.


Somedays I would wake up in my housesit and just be so happy!


Although, when I was Couchsurfing, some days I would wake up looking like this. Ugh. Don’t fuck with a recently-awoken woman!

Snugglecat in Brussels loves his kisses!


I saw Nils Frahm live in concert four times this year (for a total of 5 if you include last year).  Luckily he performed free concerts, so my broke-ass could still get a little culture. I saw him twice in Copenhagen….


…once in Berlin

…and then in Toronto!

Favourite 2014 Street Art Hunts


I found some amazing works this year, so it’s hard to pick the BEST, as everyone is a winner, but here are some highlights!
#1 Space Invader does Star Wars in London!

#2 Accidentally finding a Banksy in Copenhagen!

#3  El Bocho in Berlin, baby!

#4 Icy and Sot on the streets of Amsterdam!

#5 Finding 183 Space Invaders in one month in Paris!

#6 Jimmy C’s Ziggy Stardust mural in Brixton!

#7 Pablo Delgado in Dulwich!

#8 JR’s “wrinkles of the city” in Berlin!

#9 Roa in Dulwich!

#10 Phlegm in Dulwich!


Here are my greatest street-art hits from Instagram! What a year it’s been!

Favourite 2014 Albums

#1 Spaces by my beloved Nils. Although it came out in late 2013, it really picked up steam in 2014 so that’s why it’s included here. I would walk around my neighbourhood in South London (Crystal Palace) and would listen to Spaces as I wandered up and down the hills, and it kept me sane. Lend an ear to song “Says,” it will be the best 8 minutes of your life, I promise.

#2 Are We There by Sharon Van Etten. I would wander around Kreuzberg and Neükoln in Berlin, along the canal, sit on Admiralbrücke, drink a cola from the Späti, and listen to “Our Love” or “I Know” off this album and feel like someone else understood me finally.

Favourite 2014 Singles

#1 Enemies by Hannah Georgas. The song is simply gorgeous, but it was the music video for it that left me breathless. There’s something about that man’s face. I think it was his eyes. He broke my heart.

#2 Habits by Tove Lo. I know this song was pretty overplayed by the end of the year, but when it first came out, I would walk around Berlin during those hot summer nights when it’s still light out at 9pm, photograph street art, listen to this, and sing when I was sure no one was listening.

Favourite 2014 Films

#1 Grand Budapest Hotel, obviously! I saw this in London with Robin and we couldn’t stop talking about how great it was for hours afterward.

#2 Boyhood. I saw this in Berlin with David and he fell asleep during it, so it could have used a tighter edit (3 hours is too long, guys!) but it was still a tour-de-force.

Speaking of men…




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I was never lonely this year, let’s put it  that way.
Also… OMG BEARDS. EVERY MAN I KNOW HAS A SWEET, SWEET BEARD.

When it comes to the end…

Like I have for the past three years, I will be spending New Years in a country other than my own (2012 in Germany, 2013 in London, and now 2014 in….)

New York City!!


I’ll be housesitting (obvi) for a month (until the end of January) in the Upper West Side. Another place to live rent-free, another amazing city. I haven’t been in NYC since 2012 so it will be great to rediscover all my favourite places (Bushwick here I come!!) and also discover places I never knew before (I’m coming for you, Adele Bloch-Bauer).

NYC, like all the other cities I have lived in this year, is one of those places where you’re never bored. And if you are, you are doing it wrong.

So I’d like to end 2014 on a similar note:

“I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say.
I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing.
So you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.”

-Louis C.K.

2014 was never boring. May that continue in 2015.
See ya in NEW YORK CITY!!!


#Polska14 Day 4: the last dance

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As you read this, I am on my way back to Warsaw to catch a flight out of here, so that means my delightful #Polska14 adventure has come to an end! But what an amazing journey! Three delightful cities in one week, and an immersion in Polish urbanism, history, culture, gastronomy, innovation, exchange, economy, but most of all, wonderment! On our final day in Poznan, we basically had a free day to explore at will. So after a leisure morning in my posh hotel, I went out to discover some more street art gems! The above is just a section of BLU’s mural which I found by accident. I photographed him in Berlin this summer, but finding his work isn’t always easy, so I was delighted to find it. Soon I will post much better pics, these are just snaps made from my iPad. BLU is to talented, and this mural is overwhelming.
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Water cubes, anyone?

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I posted pics of this little Poznan character yesterday, and he seems to be everywhere!

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This mural kind of looks like the city itself. It is the city scape. It is the skyline 🙂

So goodbye for the second time Poland!


#Polska14 Day 3: The city of Poznan & The POLEKO conference

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Day 3 of this Polish extravaganza was jammed packed! Refreshed from my glorious sleep in the fancy hotel, some of the delegates took a walk through Poznan’s old town. And wow, what a glorious city. Unlike Warsaw, which was totally destroyed during the war and rebuilt, Poznan has original architecture dating back centuries, and while some buildings are in a state of disrepair, I actually really like the “urban decay” look. It gives the city character. And just because something is old, doesn’t mean it has outlived its usefulness.
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I love how it looks like the fountain is vomiting.
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After a leisure morning, we were ushered to the convention centre to attend the POLEKO conference. When it comes to being Green, this trade fair espoused the future of innovation. I was specifically interested in the recycling sector which presented products made entirely from recycled materials…

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…like bifocals…

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…canvasses…

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…lathering brushes and razors…

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…and artisanal chaises.

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Naturally, there were some tongue in cheek pieces, like an entire dining room set made of recycled materials made to look like Sigourney Weaver’s Alien and friends…
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We were treated as honoured delegates from Canada and attended a business mixer to exchange ideas and thoughts with other countries and businesses. The conference, although young, is very international, with a big German and Scandinavian presence. There were school groups and very engaging booths with a highly stylized design. And free chocolates. Good GAWD, the chocolates!
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Optimus Prime?
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Course, you can’t wander around a new city without appreciating its local art scene.
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Don’t stop it now, I’m still dancing in here!
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More photographs from my #Polska14 adventure can be found on my Instagram or twitter. Stay tuned for more!