Monthly Archives: September 2012

What I Know About Estonia

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Whilst sitting in a Tallinn cafe I was asked ‘what do you know about Estonia?’. I couldn’t come up with many answers.

Well the first thing I noticed when crossing the Latvia/Estonian border was that the road signs looked very different. That’s because the Estonian language is more closely related to Finnish and Scandinavian languages, rather than Baltic or Russian. The second was that it felt a lot colder and wetter than the previous Baltic states.

We took a walk down Estonia street to the museum of Soviet occupation, now we were going to learn something about Estonia. The small museum was filled with interesting artefacts from the last one hundred years. Ranging from WWII Finnish uniforms to Soviet era prison doors, one thing I found particularly interesting was a condom dating back to the 1930’s in a paper packet. I didn’t realise that condoms were around then, it’s good to know that with two world wars to contend with, Estonians still cared about practising safe sex.

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World War II sea mine

Estonia’s first period of independence lasted 22 years beginning in 1918. This was followed by a long stretch of Soviet occupation, German occupation and and more Soviet occupation, before finally reclaiming its independence in 1991. The visit to the museum was followed by a walk around the old town.

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Kiek in de Kök

The largest tower in Tallinn, Kiek in de Kök meaning ‘peep into the kitchen’ in an old German language, got its name as the occupants of the tower had the ability to see into the kitchens of nearby houses

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The cone roofs in Tallinn give it a unique look, reminds me of a dwarf village from a fantasy film

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We had a pub crawl around the old town. I think I have a new favourite drink – white beer. Walked in the English pub and walked straight out, could easily have been a bar in Newcastle’s Bigg market. Finished the night in the Depeche mode bar where we heard all of their hits being played on repeat.

The next day we visited Paterai prison. The KGB prison was converted from a sea fortress in 1920 and only ceased operating in 2002. Inside was very eerie, especially the hanging room where hundreds of inmates met their fate. The Irish guy we we asked for directions said that he climbed into prison at night when he was intoxicated (never in the world, a drunk Irishman!) Must be one of the only people to ever break into a prison.

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Had lunch at a place called African kitchen. African cuisine a reggae soundtrack, perfect.

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Entrance to the old town, I don’t know why I look photo shopped

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Memorial for the Estonian ferry disaster

Discovered a memorial for the Estonian ferry disaster in which 852 people lost their lives, one of the biggest maritime disasters of the 20th century I was very surprised that I’d never heard about it before.

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Categories: Estonia | 2 Comments

Free Ticket To Riga

A four hour coach journey took us from Vilnius to Riga, it was like driving through the middle of nowhere with the odd wooden hut sporadically placed along the route.

We were met as we got off at the coach station by our couch surfing host Nadja. And took another bus to her neighbourhood, Adazī. Where we met her boyfriend Reinis.

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We started the day by eating some delicious pastries in a bakery in town, before heading for the zoo or the zō.
We saved quite a bit of money by jumping the trams, and were gunna play the “Ah, I thought you bought a ticket off the inspector” card, if ever he got on. Luckily for us though, he didn’t.
The zoo was cool, with lots to see. I especially liked the ‘Tropical’ section. With little turtles swimming about, and frogs of all colours. However the arachnid and insect section made my skin crawl, now I can sympathise with how Dean Gaffney must’ve felt that time in the jungle…

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It was a nice afternoon so we sat in a park and watched Latvian Life walk by. Some people have a strange dress sense.

We met up with our hosts again and sampled some local cuisine. Before heading to a Jazz Cafe. Which was surprisingly good. They even introduced a tap dancer for some of their songs. Some lyrics were a little ropey though, like rhyming ‘goodbye’ with ‘apple pie’ in one song, ha.

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To say thank you for letting us stay with them, we decided to cook for Nadja & Reinis. We bought our ingredients from the local market. I’ve never seen as many fresh fruit and veg stalls in one place.

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Busker in Riga old town

 

definitely preferred Vilnius to Riga, I think it had a much nicer vibe in the old town. Riga has a strip of bars serving English breakfast and prostitutes, and is somewhat on its way to being spoiled by us throwing up all over the streets and pissing on their freedom monument,  crying shame. 


Categories: Latvia | Leave a comment

Come To Vilnius

Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is the second largest city in the Baltics after Riga. Known for the beautiful architecture of the Old Town, an UNESCO world heritage site. We stayed at a small family owned hostel called ‘Come to Vilnius’ ran through the day by a super friendly lady called Alexandra, who made us some nice pancakes for breakfast. The currency of Lithuania is Litas (as in the former WWF Diva not the metric system unit of volume) exchange rate at the time was £1 = 4.29L

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The street outside come to Vilnius

A short walk from the hostel we came across the Gate of Dawn

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Of the nine defensive gates around the old town, only the gate of dawn remains. Inside there is a blessed Madonna, that is said to hold miraculous powers attracting the most pilgrims than anywhere in Lithuania.

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Street view from the Gate of Dawn

Took a walk down Pilies Gatve, the main commercial street of Vilnius. Called into the University and saw about 30 Japenese tourists trying to cram into one picture with the Presidents HQ. After getting lost a few times the locals are more that happy to help, have noticed whenever we ask ‘How far to the Old Town’ or ‘How far to the Currency exchange’ we always get the same answer which is ‘seven minute walk’ nothing in Vilnius seems to be more than seven minutes away…

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Gedimina’s Tower

Gedimina’s tower at the top of Gedimina’s hill is the only remaining part of the upper tower, build by the man himself, the Duke of Lithuania Gedimina.

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Vilnius Cathedral

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Stebuklas tile

Stebuklas (Miricle) tile, located next the the Cathedral, was a starting point for a two million person human chain formed in 1989, spanning from Vilnius to Tallinn. The chain was a protest against Soviet occupation and is a sign of hope and inspiration and shows that miracles can happen.

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I believe in miracles

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We wanted to go to the genocide museum that is a seven minute walk away, but were informed it’s closed on Mondays, which bummed me out a little. So we decided to go to Užupis, the artistic Neighbour hood of Vilnius and self declared independent state. Wanted to find the bust of Frank Zappa which was erected as a symbol of Užupis’ rebellion. Whoever we asked just give us a vacant stare of confusion, turns out not everything is seven minutes away. For the record Frank Zappa and Lithunia have about as much in common as chalk and cheese, unless of course you’re talking about Netto’s cheddar.

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The trees wear jumpers in Vilnius

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Love lock bridge at Užupis

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The Archangel of Užupis

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Finishing of the evening with a few beers in the Old Town with Mike

Categories: Lithuania | 1 Comment

Down Like A Led Zeppelin

Every place in the world has its unique taste, our mission is to try as many local delicacies as possible.

The national dish of Lithuania is the Cepolinai aka ‘Zeppelins’. So named because their shape resembles a distinctive zeppelin airship.

They are a type of dumpling made from grated potatoes and usually stuffed with minced meat. When the waitress brought them out they looked disgusting, the grated potato exterior has a very slimy texture. After biting into them and preparing for the worst, they didn’t taste half as bad as they looked. The meat inside tasted like beef burger, whereas the coat tasted like a strange dumpling mix. Topped with a sour cream sauce this dish was bizarre to say the least.

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Categories: Food, Lithuania | 1 Comment

Wizz Air Does Not Suck

By deciding to fly to Vilnius with the little known airline Wizzair from Doncaster, we’ve managed to save a few hundred pounds each. The Robin Hood airport as its named is located pretty much in the middle of nowhere, somewhere near Doncaster. I always associated Robin Hood with Nottingham not Doncaster, so I guess the airport steals from the rich and gives to the poor, which might explain how we got a one way flight to Vilnius for £45.

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Doncaster loves everything Robin Hood

After reading some terrible reviews about Hungarian based airline Wizzair, we were expecting all sorts of mishaps, from delayed departures and rotten customer service to rickety old air crafts. Surprisingly everything ran smoothly and I would defiantly recommend using Wizzair for their super cheap flights. They’re just like Easyjet really, only they have purple décor and less camp (and less orange) trolley dollies.

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After a short flight and a few games of Where’s Wally, we arrived safely in Vilnius. It felt strange not stepping off a plane into sweltering heat, it was almost as if the plane had just flown around for a few hours and landed back in Doncaster, I was just waiting for Jonny Vaughan to jump out and tell me that the whole thing was just one big prank, just like that obscure TV show Space Cadets..

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Categories: Budgeting | 1 Comment

Getting ready

So we have decided to travel indefinitely. It’s took a hell of a lot of organizing and  even more stressing out, only just received our passports back this morning two days before we’re due to fly! One of the questions people ask is how can you budget for such a safari? I stumbled across this website a while ago and used it to start planning our trip. I found it very handy as it breaks all your expenses down for you and can act as great starting block to figure out where you would like to travel and for how long for. Check it out. More on budgeting to follow

http://www.rtwpricetag.com/round-the-world-trip-budget-cost-calculator.php

Categories: Budgeting | 2 Comments

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