Eric Baines

Deportation, Grumpyness and Bathrooms.

by eric on Oct.29, 2010, under Eastern Europe Tour 2010, Music, Uncategorized

After another long train ride, we arrivd in Donietsk, Ukraine and checked into the Atlas Hotel. I was instantly reminded of the last time we stayed at this hotel. We had started in Lugansk that day and drove 5 hours to the airport in Donietsk so we could take a flight to Moscow on our way to a gig in Minsk, Belarus. If you’re keeping track, yes, this is my second story of Minsk. I don’t love that place. So we flew to Moscow just fine but when we arrived there was a problem. The local promoter had told us that he would have our visa when we arrived in Minsk but Moscow said we couldn’t even get on the plane without them. After 8 hours of haggling we were deported back to Ukraine and to Donietsk where we had no gig and no hotel booked. When we arrived back in Ukraine we then had to haggle with them to get back into the country. We all had to sign a letter that we had no idea that we needed visas and I’m some money was exchanged. It was a long day but we booked some rooms at the Atlas and began an eventful evening. It turns out it was womens day in Ukraine and the bar at the hotel was full of chicks. They had a band playing so we all settle in for some drinking. It was a blast and since the gig the next day was cancel due to deportation we had a day off. Life was good!

This time around we did have a gig in Donietsk and it was great. We went on to Kharkov and had another great show. That is a beautiful city and the crowd was great. Then we went right from the show to the train that took us overnight to an airport where we flew to a bus. Ugh! By this time in the tour I have hit a wall of tolerance. It gets so exhausting being dragged around the world like a piece of luggage. Airport security, buses to the airplane standing in the cold waiting to board. They rarely have jetways at these airports. It’s a bus filled to the top with pushing, shoving, rude people. Just when you think the bus is full more people squeeze there way on. We also have to wait for what seems like no reason all the time. It’s a hurry up and wait thing especially traveling with a group. All of this makes me severely grumpy after 3 weeks of it. I try to keep my mouth shut and not spoil anyone elses trip. It’s tough but it’s part of the skills need to be a road musician.

After the waiting we arrived in Baku, Azerbaijan. I have never been to this country so I didn’t know what to expect. Wow! This place is awesome! It an oil country so it’s full of money. It’s amazing how much more relaxed a country is when it’s got money. A lot of the buildings are new and the architecture is incredible. We were playing at a jazz festival that was put on by the Ministry of Culture so we were basically guests of the government. This means star treatment. We were met at this airplane by our own bus and taken to the VIP area that is usually only for ministers and diplomats. We waiting there and was served coffee and tea while they claimed our luggage and got us through customs. After that we were escorted out where they had a nice van waiting for the band and a Bentley waiting for Keiko. They took us to a great hotel and a nice dinner. It was a much needed change in the conditions.

The next day was the show. It was sold out and some people couldn’t even get in. The theater was incredible. We started our set and the audience new almost every song. We had more fans here than in the states it seemed. I was extremely impressed. I had a chance to walk around the city during the day. If you ever have a chance to visit Baku, do it! I can’t wait to come back.

The other nice thing about arriving here was the bathrooms. Russia and Ukraine seem to have a very different idea of what’s sanitary. They have some of the worst bathrooms I’ve ever seen in my life. They always seem to smell awful and you’re lucky if there’s even a toilet. Sometime it’s just a hole to sqwat over. I’ve included a video here for your viewing pleasure. This a rest stop in the midle of Ukraine. Not fun. So happy to be in Azerbaijan.

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