Summer 2008: China, Mongolia, Russia, Europe, and the US
Tue 22/07/08 07:06
Riga, LatviaI took some people's suggestion that Riga was the place to be, and packed up and left Tallinn yesterday, and I don't that I made the right decision. Riga is nice, but Tallinn really seemed to be a little more comfortable. What I mean is that Riga is basically a working city, with an old part (old city) and people are walking everywhere, where Tallinn was more like a tourist part of the city, that was restored to it's original "glory." Riga is nice don't get me wrong, the people are more friendly than some of the other cities that I've been too, in fact it appears that they are maybe a little too friendly.
So last night I met a guy in the hostel and start talking... I can't remember if I started the conversation or he did, but we end up going to have a beer. We're sitting just talking about things that strangers talk about, when the guy behind us starts to add to the conversation. He's an older guy that's lived all over the world, New York, Tel Aviv, and Paris. So anyway, we're talking and he moves over to our table, then a girl sits at the table that he was previously at, and she starts to get into our conversation... about 20 minutes later she's sitting at our table. I really like when people can connect. :) What was funny was that the older guy that joined our table first was really rude to the girl. I think that he thought that she was a prostitute or something... don't know, but they yelled in Latvian at each other a couple of times.
The older guy was an illustrator that has been published several times (10) and is really interesting to talk to. I enjoyed his company so much that we met up with him today for beers, and we've decided that everyday at noon we meet to have a beer. Now, this isn't just me, the friend that I met in the hostel, Sam, is from Australia and a talker... nice guy. Just so you know that it's not just me there. Anyway, today Sam and I met Maris (older illustrator) for a beer. Maris brought a magazine that his work was featured in, and then we made our way to the book store and he showed us his book. It was really impressive, they had his book in the front case, with text that I can only assume was something about being a local artist. Anyway, I bought the book.
Last night I was just wandering around and decided to go to the ATM for some cash, put my card in the machine and do all the things that I need to, the sound of the cash being dispensed was heard, then nothing. No cash, no card, no receipt. This morning I went to the bank hoping to get my card, and they said no. They said that it was international policy that if there is a problem with a card, that it must be sent back to the bank that issued it. So what that means is that I'm in Riga, Latvia with no money. I called my bank this morning and after a $30 call I managed to get them to send me a replacement card asap. They didn't want to do it at first, but I kind of pleaded and if they were telling the truth, I should get the card either wed or thursday. We'll see though.
There seems to be a lot of prostitutes in the last two countries I've been to. In Tallinn I was approached by two very drunk women in a span of about one hour asking me what I was doing... don't know if that makes them a prostitute or not, but it's the first time that meeting women has been that easy... so I'll go with "prostitutes." There is also a girl in the hostel that seems to be "off" she just starts laughing for no apparent reason, I woke up and for some reason sat straight up in my bed, she was staring right at me. It kind of weirded me out a little.She was really strange though, she must have gone to her locker about 25 times. It was like someone who is neurotic and constantly does the same thing over and over. Sam says that she is a prostitute that works out of the hostel. Oh, and Maris said that he thought the girl that came over to our table was probably one too.
That's it for now, I've got a bunch of days before I can leave Latvia so the blog/journal will probably be kind of boring.
Share with others:
Sun 20/07/08 18:33
an additional updateI've heard stories about backpackers kind of hanging together, and from my experience tonight it's true. I just said hello to some guy, the next thing I know I'm sitting in a bar with about 10 people. There were people from Poland, Scotland, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand... All because I said hello. This is a great way to live though, you meet new people every step of the way.
Share with others:
Sun 20/07/08 13:29
EstoniaWell, the official tour ended and I'm now on my own... kind of. What that means is that this morning I left St. Petersburg for Tallinn, Estonia first thing after breakfast. I was so worried about not getting stuck in Russia after my visa expired that I took the easiest route out, which was a bus ride to Tallinn. I have to say that I think it was a great idea. First, just out of coincidence two of the people on the tour ended up have the same bus ride as I did, since I didn't make hostel arrangements prior, I ended up following them to there hostel and booked a room. It's good when things work out.
St. Petersburg is a very large city with a lot of ancient wealth, old buildings that were built to be impressive, and they were. Tallinn is the opposite, it looks like it is a village that has been restored. I can't tell you how I enjoy walking through the narrow, cobbled-stoned streets on the way to the city square. There is a little bit of a sense that the city is trying too hard to look authentic... in other words it's a little bit touristy, but when you factor in the idea that the city is really old, you have to understand that this is the real thing.
Like I mentioned I tagged along with two of the people that were on the tour with me, and it makes the fact that I'm no longer part of a big group just a little easier on me. Anyone who's traveled in a large group knows when I say that it is a lot of fun. There is always someone to talk to, someone to hang with, and there is never a lack of fun, so when I said my good-byes this morning it was kind of hard. I feel really fortunate to still have two of them with me. Tonight we went out for dinner, had a few beers, walked around a bit, and finally finished off with a latte in a small cafe at the beginning of the square.
Tomorrow we are going on a walking tour. I need to leave tomorrow I think, but I don't really know where I'm going... I know that I want to go to Poland, so I think I'll head in that direction.
Share with others:
Sat 19/07/08 08:10
July 18, 2008
Last night we left Moscow for St. Petersburg by train. It was only a short 7 or 8 hour trip that was scheduled in a way that we left at 11 pm and got to St. Petersburg at 7 am.
There is really not I can say about St. Petersburg that will do it justice. The city once known as Leningrad is probably the most impressive city I’ve ever been in. Nearly every building looks like it was built in the 1600s, people walking everywhere, beautiful statues and memorials wherever you go, complete with canals that break up the city. It really is one place that most people should see. I have been told that Prague, in the Czech Republic is the most beautiful city, but until I actually get there next week St. Petersburg is my favorite.
Tomorrow we go to the Hermitage and do a few other things. The tour ends in two days, and I leave for Tallin, Estonia.
Okay, now I probably need to apologize for my initial perspective on Russians. I still think that Russian men, that are not in large metropolitan areas are basically mean drunks who can’t keep their shirts on. I guess the border crossing started the feeling that all Russians are mean people, and tonight in St. Petersburg I’ve had a few people come up to me and talk… well they tried, but since I don’t speak Russian it was a difficult conversation. So, and Russians that are reading this, or have read the post where I was maybe a little too critical on the Russian people, let me say that I’m sorry… kind of.
Share with others:
Fri 18/07/08 15:16
July 17, 2008
The ride to Moscow was a little bad and a lot good. I got tired of the cramped quarters and the lack of privacy. After the four-day train trip we did get to Moscow (unfortunately) and were transferred over to a different tour leader.
Moscow was okay. I don’t want to make it sound like it was bad, but for the most part it’s just a big city. The people move fast and rarely acknowledge anything or anyone around them. For me, prior to getting to Moscow the best part of the tour was meeting or interacting with the residents of the countries I was in, but in Moscow it was very difficult to meet anyone. They just don’t open up from what I can tell. Red Square and the Kremlin were impressive, but after that there wasn’t very many “touristy” things to do. We walked around a lot and took the Metro (subway) to all parts of the city. It was the first time that I’ve ever been in a subway, and I have to admit it was fun. I mean, just getting to the trains was an experience.
First you have to go down about 200 meters just to get to a platform. Now you have to imagine that you are traveling at somewhere about 4 mph at an angle of about 60 or 70 degrees… it’s like your on the express to hell. When you get to the bottom everyone seems to be on a mission, they know where they are going, they don’t look around, and to the unwary it is easy to be just swept along with the flow of the group. Some of the platforms are beautifully decorated though. We went to about 3 different platforms that are listed as being some of the most ornate Moscow has. The ones that we went to had ceilings with mosaics of Lenin with the hammer and sickle, there are busts of Lenin, and chandeliers down the whole platform. To some of the guys that I went with it seemed like a waste of money, but to me it seemed more like homage to the working man.
Share with others:
Newer EntriesOlder Entries
Submit to Profdig