Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 30 - Warsaw, Poland

And so I got to Warsaw and immediately made way for my hostel, called Oki Doki. On the way this stranger approached me, speaking in Polish and I didn't understand what he was saying, but he gave off a bad vibe so I hurried onwards.

I was here for only one night, and I figured I'd get a little bit more sleep (it's always shitty when you are sleep deprived due to being on a bus), and head out to explore the city at midday. I had to sleep on the couch in the main room as I couldn't check in yet - it was too early. However, I got enough rest to feel awake enough to head back into the city and purchase my train ticket for Berlin.

The lady who served me at the counter did not understand English, and I had a difficult time specifying what I wanted. I wanted a train ticket, to Berlin, tomorrow morning at 6:35. I had to ask the lady to change the ticket three times, because first she issued me a ticket departing for Berlin today, then the next for tomorrow at 16:45, then finally, the 6:35 ticket that I wanted, with the help of a customer standing in line behind me who was able to translate.

I grabbed myself a kebab once I was out of there, and headed back to Oki Doki Hostel.

I put my ticket away, then went to explore the Old Town - no more than a ten minute walk from here.

I had two Scottish girls approach me on the street, inviting me to attend their dance on stage. I was more interested in the city's architecture and spiraling ice creams, one of which I had and thoroughly enjoyed. Warsaw is a good city overall to spend a day in.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 29 - Tallinn - Riga - Kaunas

It was time to say goodbye to Estonia, and head for new land. Or old. It was not so long ago since I was last in Latvia - and coming back here would bring back memories and feelings for sure. Inevitably I had to pass through it to continue on my European tour. However, I wasn't sad. I was happy, and I embraced the significance this place had for me. I learnt some of the most valuable lessons I could ever possibly learn in life, from coming to this place two years ago while I was in my first, and to date, only relationship - a long distance one at that. This time I would not be coming back here to catch up with her - that will have to wait until I get to England, which is where she has relocated to. The relationship is long dead, but the friendship isn't, which is a good thing.

Riga was all too familiar. I could barely believe I was here again. Who'd have thought?

I would be transiting here for two to three hours - I immediately went to my favourite restaurant, Cili Pica, to grab myself something to eat. I got fried dumplings with mushrooms. This was my favourite restaurant - I wish the food they had was available everywhere. Here and Lithuania seem to be the only countries I can get these specific dishes - they are amazing!

I had a stroll around Riga once I was done. I let myself be reminded of the beauty and the memories of the place. I knew my way around. I even spoke in Latvian to buy something back at the station.

The bus to Kaunas was half an hour late - I got on, and we stopped by the airport - another place I spent a deal of time. And then I'd be overnighting it to Warsaw, so I had to get some sleep on the bus - of course, one of the most uncomfortable places to sleep. But it wasn't so bad. I lay flat across the isle, underneath the seats. Other people were doing the same. I'd get to Warsaw at around 6am.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 28 - Tallinn

My last day in Estonia, I walked around the city and the Old Town and checked out the rest of what it had to offer. It's a beautiful, majestic city, and I enjoyed taking leisurely strolls snapping pictures.

I made a new acquaintance at the hostel - an American who had been living in Russia, but was residing in Estonia trying to sort out a visa problem. He told me his story of living there for the past ten or so years with his partner, and hearing about complications in trying to relocate with someone can be quite scary sometimes. Nonetheless we headed out to dinner together, to a restaurant called Taco Express, and discussed what travellers discuss. One of our subjects in particular was about being confident in talking to women. Interesting, seeing as there were cute girls serving us and he had the best of ways with making them laugh.

Back at the hostel I made another new friend, a local student. We talked during the night before getting some sleep.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 27 - Meeting Birgit - Tartu

Today I'd be meeting a good friend of mine, named Birgit. She'd be the first TRF member I'd meet on this trip - out of many more.

She made her way to Tartu by bus, as she lives not so far away. We were due to meet at around noon, so I went and grabbed myself some pizza for lunch, and headed down to the bus station to meet her.

It was awesome, we walked through town, sat at a cafe and talked about our lives. What better thing to do with the people you meet on the road? Only in this case, we already knew eachother over the internet. I'm already quite used to meeting people from online in real life, Birgit being the tenth person.

She was totally lovely, though. I appreciate everyone I come across.

After a few hours, and seeing a bit of Tartu, she headed back to hers, and I headed back to mine. I'd be heading back to Tallinn tomorrow.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 26 - Tallinn to Tartu

I've spent only one day in Tallin thus far, but I'm coming back after my two-day visit to Tartu, in the Estonian countryside. The purpose of this visit is to see a fellow TRF member - the first of this trip. Her name is Birgit.

Me and Birgit go back a while. She was one of my earliest friends on the forum, whom I've known for almost four years. She'd be visiting Tartu tomorrow.

I hopped onboard the bus in Tallinn and headed that way. I enjoyed the scenery.

In the time that I had Tartu to myself, which started from the time I arrived at 2:30pm, I at first had difficulty finding my hostel. But that was soon overcome with a phone call. There was no hostel sticker-logo out the front; apparently people liked to steal them.

I settled in. The hostel had a very nice, relaxed and laid back atmosphere. I had a good chat with the owner as we discussed what it's like to run a hostel - it was one of my future ideas to run one of my own. He seemed to have found the right, quiet place for his.

For dinner, I headed to a pizza place. After that, I was at the hostel, watching Toy Story and Toy Story 2 with other travellers. Toy Story 3 was coming out at the cinemas, and it was enjoyable to watch the first two. I wouldn't be able to watch it here, as it will be dubbed in Estonian. I'll have to wait until I get to England.

I didn't have much of a touristic day here, as this is a pretty small town, but I will definitely be doing some tomorrow with the friend I'll be meeting.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 25 - Departure for Tallinn

I woke up at 7am, had breakfast, and was transferred to the bus station. It was time to say goodbye to Saint Petersburg and Russia, and hop on board the bus to Estonia. I was happy.

I was given a free bottle of water as I boarded, and there was also free Wi-Fi on board. I made use of it.

Ivanogorod, the final town on the border of Russia and Estonia, was three hours away. I sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the journey. And as soon as we approached the town, I recognised just where I was. I knew that there was a castle on the Estonian side, and it was in view. Border procedures were ready to go underway shortly.

There were no hassles. I was happy to receive my EU passport stamp, and to be in the European Union once again. Goodbye to Russia, it's been a pleasant visit.

From here, the border town of Narva, to the capital Tallinn, was a beautiful, scenic and relaxing journey, and I took in and appreciated as much of it as I could. I was in the Baltics again - this time, in the one country I haven't been to. Estonia, full of pristine beauty.

I changed my money and grabbed a hot dog once we arrived. The Estonian Kroon was a good looking currency; too bad they will be switching to Euros soon.

I made my way to the hostel by boarding a tram. I didn't feel entirely safe on board this train, as there were two drunken men staring at me. One of them snatched my tram ticket out of my hand. I didn't react; I stayed calm and relaxed. It was given back to me. I got off at the next stop, and the drunken man asked me for my ticket, which I understood as "bilyet" in Russian. I handed it over without arguement.

I was one stop short of the stop I was supposed to get off at, and I made way for the hostel. It wasn't too hard to find. I checked in, and found that it was run by friendly New Zealanders. I thought this hostel would be a great place to stay.

I met some travellers upstairs and we exchanged conversation. Of course the first question that's commonly asked is "Where are you from?". It was great to get back into the hostel lifestyle.

I went out for a walk in the Old Town. It was beautiful, and I began to like it here very quickly. I was back in old, Eastern Europe. Totally different from Saint Petersburg, despite it being Russia's most 'European' looking city.

I relaxed at the hostel for a bit and chatted with a few fellow travellers; first of all, a female traveller from the UK. We chatted about our trips. The other traveller was an older male American, who had been residing in Russia for over a decade. I later went out for dinner with this American, and we had a great time and chat! He was very talkative and confident, I wished I was like him!

He had many stories to share with me as we sat down at Taco Express, and he sure had a way with the ladies. I ordered some beef tacos, and he got himself a fajita. We shared nachos between ourselves.

After all this, it was time to head back and rest.