Month: June 2005 (Page 1 of 2)
Ha ha – my luck has changed! Instead of booking my ferry tickect yesterday I decided to turn up at the terminal and hope for the best. However the concerned looking woman said (to a sad looking me) “You are supposed to book – we are full” “…oh, hold on a minute we have one place left – you are very lucky!” Lucky I was – there are over 2000 passengers on board So I was quite happy. Although I had to pay a slight premium the upside was my own cabin/shower/TV etc.
After my time in Estonia I opted for a quiet night to watch and didn’t participate in Super Bingo, the ball room dancing, Kareokee or the ´Aluminium Disco´. I was also 30 years younger and 10 pints more sober than my 1999 Swedish shipmates. Instead, the Travel Channel entertained me with a story of two guys who tried to row accross the Indian ocean – but failed, and the painfully crap ´Caprice’s Travel Show´. The boat was nice though, built only last year and apparently does 22 knots (not that I know what it means).
Arriving in Stockholm was pretty painless, I somehow jumped past most of the passport queue and jumped straight on a bus into the city center before jumping straight into the closest hostel. After that I joined the local alcoholics for a sleep in the park and then took the essential 2 hour ‘find my bearings’ walk around Stockholm.
The city is an imressive place and is far more scenic than Helsinki. Surrounded by 24,000 Islands the city itself if built over 14 Islands and so water, boats and even Canoes are almost everywhere you look. It ishome of the Nobel Prize and a rather attractive Princess.
The brocure poses the question “Have you ever had a drink in and ice glass whilst wearing a fur-lined coat?” …well actually, Yes – I have thanks. Helsinki has an ice bar too you know. Good fun but a massive gimmick and strangely enough – very cold.
It´s not as impressive as the brocure for Pärnu (in Estonia) which claims
1. To be very popular with the locals
2. That each day there will increase the length of your life!
Given that the life expectency for Estonian males is only 66 I suspect that one of those claims is a lie.
I´m not really planning on doing a lot here in Sweden largely because I just fancy a few days relaxing and also because its quite expensive. A return visit will definately be needed though (sometime after my lottery win) as Sweden is home to thousands of lakes, Samis and raindeer in the north, Danish castles in the south, 25,000 iron age graveyards, 1140 prehistoric fortresses, 2500 open-air rune stones, 3000 churches and 10,000km of trekking and bicyle paths.
Apparently, like in Slovenia there is a hostel here built from an old prison so I might stop there for a night just to double my number of prison stays to 2.
Tonight I had supernoodles but I can’t read (or deduce from the taste) which flavour. I also worked out that since the 10th of June I have enjoyed,
in 8 differnt towns.
…All those places I got found.
Or should I say lost!
I am nominating myself for most disorganised and completely useless traveller of the year. I attempted to take a bus to Pärnu on Tuesday, brought my ticket and then walked straight on to the wrong bus. The alarm bells started to ring when the bus then drove into a ferry which setsail for about two hours!
On arrival the other end a young Estonian (although he couldnt speak English) managed to make it quite clear I was not where I thought. I was actually on a small and very quiet Island called Hiiumaa in the north of the country (see map) – bloody miles from anywhere let alone where I wanted to be. Anyway, thanks to a kind bus driver I managed to find a hotel and shcked up in a cosy wooden apartment for the night with TV and everything. The island is actually a beautiful place, very fresh and very quiet with lovely small beaches and colourful painted wooden houses. It also has mosquitoes the size of seaguls which sucked about three pints of my blood.
So, Wednesday mostly involved more buses and boats and the odd stop to look around random Estonian towns like Haapsalu – a stunning mix of run-down grey tower blocks and more beautiful wooden houses, quiet beaches and a castle. A big one. My final destination (via Tallin again) was a town in the south called Tartu at 11pm and again with no accomodation! I used my best winging-it skills and found a decent cheap hotel, a bar and a bunch of friendly locals who spoke English.
Thursdsay morning was not particuly great largly because my little toes, one big toe and most the inner sides of my feet have now joined forces to create Über blister. Add a heavy rucksac and you can imagen how I was walking. Norman Wisdom comes to mind minus the humour. I also got lost trying to find the train station, had a flat phone battery and top top it off – I realised I had left my cash card 13 hours of boats and buses away in Hiiumaa.
However, all was not lost and my day was saved by Kersti, her four friends and a dog. They had agreed to let me stay with them in a small wooden cottage to celebrate the Estonian mid-summers (Remember hospitalityclub.org?). And so thats what I did. The places was stunning, peaceful and, minus the shock induced when seeing random half naked locals it was nice and relaxing. Throughout the night we ate, walked, had a sauna (well I did – and it was a real wood fire one), had a fire and lost another three pints to the mosquitoes. I also learnt a great deal of crazy Estonian superstitions which are funny to say the least. Aparently their national hero is a rapist who cut off his legs and then got his hand stuch in a rock.
I had been their first HC guest so I hope I didnt put them off having anymore.
After that it was back to tallin to meet up with Andre et al and I spent most of the night chatting to a cute Finnish girl visiting for the weekend.
So now, with 10 crazy days in Estonia behind me (which have been thouroghly enjoyable) I am jumping on a cruise ship to Stockholm. It leaves at 5.30 and drops me off in the morning. Apparently it has a kareokee bar.