Tuesday, December 18, 2012

last new minus 22

By the time I had checked into my hostel in Tallinn around 2pm, checked email, moved to another room (my original room reeked of cigarettes despite the no-smoking policy) pondered whether to move back as this one stank of sewerage from the ensuite, decided to stay put as sewerage was preferable to 'full ashtray bouquet', unpacked and made ready to head out - it was already dark.

However in this part of the world at this time of the year they get about 2 minutes 45 seconds of daylight so I was getting used to it. What I am not getting used to however are temperatures of minus double digits.

Today, for example, it was minus 22deg.C. But when I first arrived it was only (!!!) minus 12.

Apart from the odours, and meeting a young man in the hallway at 3 in the afternoon who was so utterly inebriated he couldn't find his way to his room, and that my skylight window let flurries of snow in when closed, and some wretch stole my dinner and breakfast food out of the communal fridge, and a metal band's 'music' in the building next door reverberated throughout the hostel until they finished AT SIX AM on my first night, it wasn't too bad.

As I've said before - I can tolerate a lot as long as I get a hot shower and a good cup of coffee in the morning. Besides the hostel was less than 100 metres from the old town of Tallinn so location scores a lot of points.

Back to arriving. When I finally walked out of the hostel it was dark and I walked into the old town and found myself in the main square. I have to say it was utterly delightful! A bit corny - but it was like a Christmas card - with a beautiful Medieval town square, huge Christmas tree, light large-flake snow softly falling, locals milling around the Christmas market stalls and people singing carols on a stage!

For a first impression it was pretty damned good!

So Tallinn became my final 'first time' destination of this trip and was a fitting city to end an exciting and memorable trip in. I'm not done yet, but from here after I am going to visit friends in cities I've been to (many) times before.

tallinn old town square

night view

night again

and one more

hansa house

castle walls

tallinn church

this is how cold looks

14th C. house

tree house? not all old buildings!

love this view

you lookin' at me?

Friday, December 14, 2012

temporarily tartu

Entering my twentieth country on this trip, I stopped for a couple of nights in Estonias second largest city Tartu.

Apart from being Estonias oldest city it is also a big University town and this is immediately apparent from the large numbers of young people seen in town. Well...seen in cafes anyway.

At a loss for something to do I decided to do the 'tourist bureau walking route' taking in 47 of the city's highlights.

Don't get excited as they include quite a lot of statues and busts of people I've never heard of - one sculpture is a conversation between Oscar Wilde and an Estonian writer who NEVER MET EACH OTHER! The sculptures existence comes from the fact they share the same surname!! (It gives me ideas for lots of new sculpture work - I'm going to do one of Gene Kelly chatting to NED!)

Well at least it kept me occupied for an hour and a half.

tartu town hall

kissing statue

"pirogovi place is popular with students" (tartu guide) ...

local building

One of the hazards I recall from prior trips to Europe in winter are the sometimes giant icicles which form on the eaves of public buildings. Some grow to be 2 metres in length or more and can be 5 stories up in the air. The day before my very first visit to Oslo in the early '80's a woman was killed by one of these falling spears.

ice spears

ovehead danger

One of the city's sculptures "Father and Son" I found a little creepy.

creepy sculpture

view from toome hill

tartu river

the leaning house

Thursday, December 13, 2012

you can still see the art nouveau here*

I have to hand it to Riga (capital of Latvia) it made me like it!

Driving in during the early evening with light snow falling, the multi span bridge over the Daugava river lit up with lights and a light fog hanging in the air it wasn't hard to feel like I was going to enjoy being here.

I found a great hostel very close to the old town and as soon as I had checked in I went off (as usual) for a brisk walk.

Quite brisk - as the temperature by this time was close to double digits in the minus!

Riga also is known for its wonderful Art Nouveau buildings of which a large number survived the ravages of two World Wars.

foggy arrival

riga city park

town centre

it's beginning to feel a lot like christmas...

riga church

by the city stream

town centre


more nouveau



bored yet?

almost done

there that wasn't so so bad was it?

even better when the sun came out

another church

who says you have to have an angel on top of your tree?

I also took the opportunity to head out of Riga to a satellite town about 3 hours west called Kuldiga. It was an opportunity to see some of the rural landscape, and catch a glimpse of life in a smaller country town.

Kuldiga's main claim to fame is having the widest waterfall in Europe. It also has a lovely collection of very old timber dwellings which gives parts of the town an almost medieval quality.

kuldiga bridge

kuldiga winter scene

the waterfall!

old timber house

kuldiga high street

my hotel room (insert joke here!)

kuldiga's small town centre river

* A terrible play on words which refers to 'Jugendstil' the German for Art Nouveau!!

what should have been...

Happy 40th Birthday Shane.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

And whilst on the subject of numbers - here is a screenshot from my tablet a few moments ago:

(Well - what else am I going to occupy myself with on a four hour coach trip across the frozen wastes of Estonia?!!)

Friday, December 7, 2012

80 - and other numbers

Arriving in Riga marks the 80th country I have now been to.  

Not that this number means really anything significant - does spending a few days in a country mean you've really seen that country? Someone else could have spent 6 weeks in the same country and would say no. For those people who have spent 6 months or more living and travelling in that same country a few weeks is nothing. You see where I'm going?!  

But it does signify that I get around a fair bit!  

And so I thought I would add a few more numbers about this trip to this post.  

So far, since early July I have:  

19 countries visited -
12 for the first time.
48 cities stopped in -
44 for the first time.
65 different beds slept in.
1 dose of fleas irritated by.
2 nights scratching with bedbugs.
18 flights taken.
17 coach trips made.
12 trains ridden -
2 sleepers.
2  boats sailed in.
16 different currencies juggled with.
18 different languages not understood.
1 case of food poisoning survived.
237,956 places of worship (felt like I'd) visited.
14 new friends made.
6 old friends revisited.
49 museums enlightened by.
12 time changes confused by.
...innumerable new experiences experienced!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

last look at lithuania

After Vilnius I decided to head to Lithuanias second largest city Kaunas.

More from a desire to see somewhere else other than the capital, I spent a couple of nights here which gave me a full day and an afternoon and evening on arrival. Plenty!

With snow falling, I found museums a welcome opportunity to stay warm though I did forgo the pleasures of the pharmacy museum and the telephone museum.

Though with the weather the way it was I also saw the interior of quite a few coffee shops!

old wooden house

vilnius st in the old town

traditional brick building

street art humour

traditional architecture

main street

heavily reconstructed kaunas castle