Tuesday, 31 July 2007

responses to Riga

via e-mail:

"Living in the hen party capital of Britain (though quite why anyone would choose to go to York for their hen party is completely beyond me) I can assure you it is strictly necessary to take parents. Both mothers in fact. There is a beautiful thought to ponder."

"you're daft."

[describing a Spanish McDonalds. The food is evidently a reassuring constant world over.] "Was like eating melted, flavourless spam."

Monday, 30 July 2007

dispatch: Riga


Riga is the stag party capital of Eastern Europe, so I am told. I didn't quite believe it until in McDonalds just now (we shall avoid the shame that is the fact that I ate in McDonalds) there were 20 full grown men wearing numbered shirts with nicknames printed on the back, things like Acorn and Sputnik or The Daddy (do you have to take the appropriate parent on such pre-wedding adventures? Terrifying thought). Should be interesting to see what the bars are like tonight.

On a slightly similar note, Eastern European men are so much less sleazy than their Western counterparts. Think of the number of times, girls (oh shit, political correctness and a creeping sense of amusement demands me to include you boys in this as well) you've been chased down the street by a pizza-greased Italian (stereotype? Me?). None of that here. That, or I look so much like a tramp these days they just don't bother with me.

Talking of tramps (this flows rather nicely today, though I haven't told you anything about Riga itself) the women here, oh God. Amazing. I wrote this in my notebook (yes, I carry a notebook, Hi, I'm Rachel, I'm a total loser, also I use too many brackets) last night while sat in the central square:

Young people in the Baltic States like to wear socks with sandals. WHY.
Also, women are orange.
Also, they like matching tie dye suits.
And high heels.
Day and night.

The streets in the Baltic State old towns are generally cobbled and represent a challenge to me in my Converse, so God knows how the Fake Baked beauties (word used in the sweepingest of sweeping ideas) don't break their ankles daily. It's quite fascinating to watch them hobble, fake Chanel sunglasses perched on bleached blonde hair, over plucked-to-oblivion-and-redrawn-in-black eyebrows, around stunning Old Town Riga.

Riga itself. Yes, it's gorgeous. Apart from the bit where we are staying, where outside our hotel three drunk people sit huddled on a broken bench all day. It's the Russian quarter, apparently. I'm not sure whether the German meant the bench, or the streets in general. The Art Nouveau district is a treat, totally different to most Baltic buildings and well worth a visit. Riga market is truly hellish, though the setting is great; five enormous hangers that they intended to use for Zeppelins, but, well, never really got round to. The parks are frustrating, because you can't walk on the grass. Why bother having them? Very odd. The romantic bit of me that is twisted somewhere in my stomach was delighted by the padlocks on the bridge, though, inscribed with lovers' names and the date they were placed there. Quite sweetly naff.

We have been to a ton of churches, and also the Ethnography Museum, which I'm not quite sure I understand as Ethnography to me is not something that can be quite defined in traditional museum terms. I'll leave the Archaeology out of this, though.

Shit, this is long, again. Apologies. On a finishing note, have a few more bits from my notebook, most of which sprung from God knows where in my brain:


Sarah is being attacked by killer pigeons.

Swiss people don't get engaged.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

responses to Tallinn

via e-mail:

"i love how you dont remember most things, keep them un-remembered!!


The worn WASD keys comment gave me an idea for a trashy novel."

dispatch: Tallinn

It is raining in Tallinn as well. Also, we are sat in a basement internet cafe surrounded by gamers. W A S and D are particularly worn on this keyboard, and if you're into your geekery this is a pretty sure sign that not a lot apart from lovely nerd gaming has been going on down here.

Let us pause momentarily to enhance this picture. The boy next to me is belching more or less continuously. The man behind the desk looked terrified when my sister and I entered, despite the necessary dork uniform of waterproofs and chunky glasses. There is weird incongruous techno music blaring. I feel horribly at home.

Moving on. Tallinn has a staggeringly beautiful old town. It is built onto a hill, and looks a little like a fairytale castle. There's a Disneytown vibe, which is a little... I was going to sad, but I'm not sure I mean that. Artificial, certainly, but it does mean what they have is preserved beautifully. Some gorgeous Gothic architecture and a whitewashed church that belongs in a Spanish square stained with orange trees and filled with wooden coats of arms.

We spent an hour curled under the low ceilings of a cafe that definitely makes my favourites list, hiding from the weather, which had thoughtfully rearranged our plans to go the beach.

I can't remember where we're going tomorrow. I don't know why I can't remember.

I shall be keeping these short-ish from now on. [This will turn out to be a lie. I am incapable of shutting up.]

dispatch: Helsinki

This is the first in a series of e-mails I sent while travelling this summer. I intend to post them all here, along with additional stuff written after my return.


This is an exciting Finnish keyboard and so this e-mail may be interspersed with 'ä' and 'ö' and so on... enjoy!

Helsinki is weird. It is also wet. If you've ever been to Berlin, it's a little like that, with solid Soviet style architecture and a few beautiful buildings thrown into the mix. The interiors are generally rather austere; the Cathedral, apparently a masterpiece (and designed by a chap named Engel, Berlin-born. Does anyone know whether he designed the university square in Berlin? I'll shut up about Berlin now), looks almost unfinished inside. I really can't think of a better word than "weird", which is pathetic. Even the airport was bizarre. No immigration checks or anything. Just walk straight on out.

We've been to Suomenlinna Fortress (big sea fortress, intended to stop Russians invading, failed miserable when commander surrendered due to rumours the Russian forces were larger - they weren't) this morning, in the rain. We walked round it, in the rain. Did I mention the rain? It's July. It is raining. Was good, despite miserable weather. Will spare you the history lesson, but the guide was amusing, and those of you who know how much I hate guided tours/audio guides should be impressed that I listened.

Fortunately the weather cheered up this morning and I dragged my poor sister off to Temppeliaukio Church, (apparently Rock Church in English, which seems rather tame pronunciation wise) which is built into solid rock with a copper dome roof. Amazing, though full of Americans who were wittering on about being Brothers and Sisters in Christ. They get
everywhere. It's more infectious than Starbucks. (No Starbucks here, though many similar chains.)

Slightly related observations:
Finnish pop music is mental. It has made me stop and listen, gaping, in the street as it pumps out of bars. It is. Just. Mental.

Germans really do NOT get sarcasm.

Irish people really do say "tick" for "thick" sometimes. This also confuses Germans.

go until you get to the end

So, I moved blog. Again.

Fickle bitch.

I enjoyed writing my travel updates so much I wanted a fresh new sheet to splash them about on.

This is where I am beginning.