Even though I paid the extra, all be it not much more I don’t think it equated to any more sleep than a budget bus, just a little more space. The boarder crossing happened midway through the night, the Estonian side taking all our passports but promptly returning them. The Russian side required us all to disembark and take our luggage through customs. The stern faced immigration officer was as close to smiling as England is to wining the world cup, after thumbing through my passport several times she grudgingly gave me a stamp and waved me through.
St Petersburg’s bus station is a few clicks out of town, but it being the morning we thought we would walk. I was with Lucy and Silvia, two English girls from the previous hostel and going to be at the same next hostel, or so I though. There was a low cloud cover generating constant drizzle which eventually broke out into rain, then absolute lashings. We took cover in someone’s driveway tunnel. In conversation I asked how long they were staying at Atmo hostel, they were slightly confused telling me they’re staying at Apple hostel. It was lucky we cleared this before we reached the hostel and luckily both were pretty much in the same direction anyway.
Continue reading “Welcome to Russia” »
After really enjoying the previous two Baltic states I was looking forward to visiting Tallinn which I hear is beautiful. I arrived on the budget coach carrier Simple, luckily the journey was only 5 hours. I sat next to Marin who studies in Tallinn but was doing a summer course in Madrid, saying that it was warmer up here to my delight. I got a quick Estonian lesson to help me through my stay, unfortunately I’m not fluent yet but it was helpful and very nice of her; thank you Marin if you are reading.
Getting into Tallinn the bus stops quite far out, depending on how you look at it me being stubborn and cheap or enjoying seeing the city and get exercise decided to walk to the hostel. I have perfected getting the map on the laptop then taking a photo of it to use whilst walking.
Continue reading “Getting Baltic in the Baltic” »
So my express stop at Vilnius has come to an end, a nice vibrant city with lots to see. I somehow managed to book a premo ticket to Riga, it’s like traveling first class. As I boarded I was handed nuts and water by a lovely female attendant, found my seat (a table 4 seater) and discover that there is a power point and wifi. The only thing that’s missing is a trolley service but you can’t have everything.
I sat against the direction of travel and could see a large aging man with a rather attractive youthful female. I can only imagine there are financial incentives as the mans fingers are big enough to depress at least 4 buttons each touch of his notebook – work must be very challenging.
Continue reading “Bananarish times in Riga” »
I arrive at my hostel Jimmy jumps house to find Pete working there as tired as I was as all his staff had left him. It’s a cool hostel (that serves waffles for breakfast) and he let me crash on the couch for a few hours to make up for the sleepless bus journey.
I made the free walking tour (payable in tips) led by Justina , it was very interesting, the main tourist attractions you can do in your own time so it’s nice that they focus on the backstreets and less known history of the area. We spent a lot of time in a place called Uzupis, they were granted independence on April 1st 1997, they have their own president and 12 military personnel. The place formed from cheap housing bringing a lot of filth but then overtaken by artistic people, there is artwork continually being revealed with different meanings or comic value. They have their own constitution (see the photo) with some amusing entries, also their main rule is to smile, which to the rest of Vilnius or Baltics for that matter is unusual. They all walk around with straight cut faces, I know that in Russia they believe a smile is from the heart and has meaning so save it for friends and family. When you cross a road in Vilnius the saying is that you either run or smile, with the latter they think you are crazy so don’t want to run you over. We stopped for lunch and I tried a local dish Cepelina, its a large potato (I think it was boiled) stuffed with mince meat and has some sort of sour creme sauce, the potato had a slight rubbery texture due to how it was cooked but tasted ok and was pretty filling.
Continue reading “Happy faces in Vilnius” »
I have upped some photos of the europe leg so far (up to parts of Riga).