Month: July 2005 (Page 1 of 2)


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The lovely Siauliai

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The lovely Siauliai

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Look cross. Hill of Crosses – Lithuania

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I couldn’t resisit it…

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Riga Riga

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“Hospitality of our hotel is cause of the luck”

That’s what it says – just don’t ask me what it means. It certainly doesn’t mean the hotel staff are hospitable.

apparently, I’m also prohibited from “keep in the hotel room easily flammable and explosive things, quickly spoiling product, arms.”

I don’t think I have any quickly spoiling product? But I can’t be sure.

Anyway – hello world. I’m alive and kicking and currently stuck in the lovely town of Siauliai – Lithuania.

Basically, If you love concrete tower-blocks and fearing for your life as taxi drivers (who don’t let you put your seatbelt on) dodge pot-holes then this is the place for you. If however you like fresh air, pretty buildings, smooth roads and anything more exciting than watching rain drip from concrete then, skip Siauliai.

Even a good amount of ECON (Eddy reconnaissance) has failed to save this place from it’s miserable appearance. Now, I’m sure that this doesn’t reflect on it’s population but, nonetheless – it’s not a great place. Whatsmore, I came here for a 30 minute visit to the Hill of Crosses and I’ve now been here 3 days! It’s a long storey but mostly down to my style of no-plan winging it combined with my no-brained style of forgetting today is Sunday and there are no banks open …back to my three pound a night hostel for me.

Anyway, despite a few dreary days here (it’s also raining) all has been good and, Latvia was great. Riga – like Tallinn has a fascinating old town and enough sites and Museums to keep the hungriest of culture vultures happy. For me, the museum of the occupation was the most fascinating and outright depressing of them all. The history of these small countries has been troubled to say the least. It goes something like this.

Following the first world war they were three independent sovereign nations with a developed constitution.

Following the non-aggression pact between the soviets and the Nazi’s, the Soviets (somewhat aggressively) invaded and set about a period of Sovietisation. This included incorporation the army into the Red Army, deportations to Siberia etc etc

Not to be outdone – the Nazi’s had a go at invading – kicked out the Soviets and increased the atrocities, murders and deportation’s etc. Strangely, this included the detailed documenting of Soviet crimes which were then blamed on the Jews and used to commit their own Nazi crimes. Those who had previously been forced to work for the Soviets were punished and many people were shipped to Germany to help the war effort.

Finally, as if two invasions weren’t enough – The Soviets popped-up again and kicked the Nazi’s out. In the cruelest of twists this battle even pitched Locals incorporated into the Red army (who fled the Nazi occupation) against locals forced to fight along side the Germans. The Soviets won and once again the Russiafication started along with the deportations, claiming of private property etc etc

Between 1939 and 1949 Latvia alone lost one third of it’s pre war population – a total of 550,000 people.

Amazingly throughout this all (and I guess this is always a trade mark of oppressed people) the locals kept many traditions, artistic talents and sense of identity – of which they are very proud.

So, maybe I’ve been a bit hard on Siaulia – also given that it was burnt 7 times, totally destroyed 7 times in the wars and has had a good does of the plague no less than 7 times!

Between Riga (Latvia) and Siauliai (Lithuania) I spent a day in the Latvian town of Jelgava – a town that gets no mentions in the tourist literature but, is actually a
nice town with some good sites and churches etc. I also met some great people in Riga from Norway, Switzerland and Canada all of whom made great drinking buddies and managed to watch Star Wars – Episode III for about two pounds.

Tomorrow – providing all goes well I will try to leave here and head to the more tourist-friendly capital Vilnius


PS – I couldn’t resist it – the Hill of Crosses now has a new cross. One to shamelessly promote I challenge you to find it.

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Excellent free city guites

Visiting Lithuania? Belarus? Ukraine? then check out

I found this site whilst looking for a decent guide to Belarus. Not only does it have such a guide but, it also has guides to a host of decent towns and cities in Estern Europe. They are informative, funny and 100% free!

I mean where else can you find a guide to Tartu? or a review of Haapsalu?

Remember Haapsalu?

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Photos Photos Photos

I forgot to mention the photos…

Finaland is HERE
Estonia is HERE
Sweden is HERE
Pete’s Wedding is HERE

and, all of them can be found HERE

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Still in Oxford

Yes, I’m still here. Contrary to my planned one-week flying visit, I’m still enjoying the fold up bed on my parents floor.

My visa for Belarus took longer to organise than I expected and the flights back to Riga were more expensive. However, I’m back on track now and hope to collect my visa tomorrow and catch my plane next Monday.

So now there is little else to do but wash a few clothes, drink a few tea’s and read a few books in the (currently very hot) sunshine

It’s been an interesting time to be back in the UK though – It started off raining, then there was Pete’s Wedding and the much talked about Live 8, then we won the Olympic bid, then London got bombed and then it got sunny!

The bombing bit was a bit strange but I’m glad I was here in England when it happened. While the papers and TV are still squeezing every article possible out of the explosions I haven’t yet met anyone who’s been obsessed with or significantly changed by what happened. The reaction has been very subdued. This may be different in London where the wounds are right there for everyone to see but, outside the capital it seems to get little more than a passing mention in conversation on the same scale as many other news items. I’m not a social expert but I’m guessing this is largely due to the inevitability of it happening, it’s (although still horrific) small scale and the fact that it is set against the backdrop of daily news reports from Iraq detailing their daily, and often much larger losses.

Let’s hope the “Blowback” stops blowing.

The Olympic bid though – how good is that? OK, so I think it would have been far better for the country if the money and development went to another more central city but still – it will be a great event. Hopefully it will also be a great incentive for kids to get out and play some more sport. Talking to the Australians I met when I was away it’s clear that our facilities and emphasis on sport are along way from where they should be. Actually, perhaps it’s not the facilities – it’s the weather. I mean cricket is boring anyway but when it’s raining? – No chance. Oh, and I say kids as I will be almost 35 in 2012.

OK, that’s it for now – this post has taken the form of a disorganized rant filling time which would otherwise be spent doing very little, and so – I’m off to do very little.


PS, If you ever decide to visit Belarus contact Svetlana at BelarusTourService. She’s brilliant.

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