Fidgeting.

I’ve gotta get myself a Russian visa…

I’ve also got to determine a place to go to on the 11th of July. Berlin, perhaps.

Em and her dad are hitting up Germany in the next few weeks, so I’ll most likely go along. Maybe a week early.

I’m still feeling homesick, in a weird way. It’s probably because I don’t know what to do at the moment, so just going home sounds very tempting. Then again, it’s mostly the food that I miss… I think?

Fuck it. I don’t know. I don’t really care. Blah blah blah. I’m not even sure what I’m saying.

Anyway. Tallinn’s still nice. The sun never sets here now. It’s pretty trippy. Really buggers up your body clock. It can be 11:30pm before you realise it and then you’re still not tired.

There’s still so many Australians around here. It’s kinda funny.

I’m gonna make cheese and salami toasted sandwiches now. I might have a beer, too. Rockin’.

Red wine and whiskey

Livijus took me out yesterday afternoon to see this awesome little wine bar, although it’s more like a cozy, quaint little attic above someone’s apartment. There were couches and candles and curtains and knick knacks scattered around everywhere on creaky wooden floors with old varnished furniture dotted around the place. Fantastic. Of course, there was already a stuffed kangaroo mounted on the mantle piece, but that’s hardly surprising.

We chugged through some tasty Chilean merlot, a few crackers and a handful of olives. I haven’t had red wine for a while, so it was nice to experience the warm feeling of mirth that seeps in the more you drink. Two bottles of it meant we were ready to cuddle anything.

Nearly two hours after we arrived it was announced that there would be some Estonian actor doing an intimate one man show with the audience. Basically he was telling stories, or something. I couldn’t understand a word of it and it lasted for nearly three hours. Needless to say, I took two naps in my chair. I have to thank the wine for that ability.

We finally escaped the building when the actor had finished his performance and had made a bee-line for the three girls that had been watching his show in order to talk to them. I followed Livijus outside the old town to the Traveller’s Pub. A really nice, traditional style pub with that right kind of vibe about it that makes me want to sit there all day. Unfortunately it’s in a crap spot for travellers, so it’s mostly Estonians in there. After a double whiskey, an interesting salad and a lot of yakking, we headed back through Viru Keskus and the Sokos hotel lobby (the doors to get outside of Viru Keskus were locked) and met up with John and Ewan in Nimeta for a couple of beers. Two drinks later we made our way back to go to bed.

Even though that was at 2am (and I’d started at 5pm), it still felt like an early night. Talk about conditioning.

Sleep's better than rampaging

Another night in Levist Valjas and a good few beers on a nearly empty stomach sounded great last night. Too bad this little baby hadn’t had enough nap time over the last week as hitting the sack at 3:30am with the intention of arising at 6:45am was an utter failure. Fortunately I was forward-thinking enough to have people checked out or half-checked out before I slept in until 10am.

Feeling like a zombie wasn’t the greatest start to the day and neither was developing a grinding headache at my first conscious moment. I’ve missed this. Sort of.

I spent most of the morning and early afternoon in various MSN conversations with my plethora of friends. In fact I was so enraptured by their digital companionship I nearly forgot to put away my butter before it melted. Six slices of toast was basically the highlight of my day.

The lowlight was yet another blocked toilet. Well, nearly blocked. It took a bit of hoping, praying and flushing but it worked itself out in the end. Now I just have to hope I can successfully fix the other one. My handyman skills are sorely lacking. In fact they’re simply absent.

One of the kids who stayed here showed me a cool little gadget for your camera. Basically, Eye-Fi is a 1 gigabyte memory card with wireless capability that automagically uploads your photos for you whenever your camera is turned on and it can access a wireless Internet zone. Within a minute of two of taking a picture it appeared on his Flickr page. Neat! Can’t wait for more funky things like this to pop up in the market. Geek heaven, here we come.

Thursday roundup

That’s right, another randomly timed summary of my world’s events. Are you ready to feel the rush?

Good. Let’s get to it then.

Firstly, hostel related: Viru’s looking rather spic and span, all the rooms are beautifully colour-coordinated, clean and inviting. The sun’s shining brightly through the windows all day long and keeping the place warmer than it should be thanks to the combination of solar radiation and central heating.

The king of the couch is back on his throne, everyone’s checked out for the day and that laundry’s hanging up to dry. Tomorrow we’re getting more guests and it should be a piece of pie.

Nightlife: I can’t recall if I mentioned going out on Monday night. Well, I did. In the manner of all true good nights out it started somewhat spontaneously. Some cheap beer and a half dozen foosball games in the hostel with John kept me occupied for an hour or so and then we went out with Val and Ben while poor old Emily slept on the couch for night shift.

Levist was on the agenda, as always. We stayed there until it closed at around 3am, meeting and greeting some drunk and blind drunk locals. I received the privilege of listening to a 30-something bitterly intoxicated Estonian regale me with his tales of learning kick boxing after being beaten up by Russians and having a tooth knocked out, at least that’s what I think he was saying, since I could barely understand him. He also tried to channel with me telepathically or something by sending out energy from his palm to mine. It reminded me of the guy that tried to hypnotise me then collapsed on the floor and passed out. I’ve gotta keep away from these hippies.

Some girl that lived in a monastery (seriously) also joined up with us for the night. We headed for The Old Club of course, as it was late and it was Monday and we had no other option. As expected, by that hour we were speaking nothing but bullshit. Money got wasted on pissy flaming B52 shots, twice, to no effect. I just couldn’t get decently inebriated. It could have been due to the quantity of food I’d eaten for dinner that dear Emily cooked for me. Probably.

Around 5:30am the slightly toothless Estonian arrived in the bar with, of all people, a recurring hostel guest: Portuguese Miguel. Things felt tense for a few moments as we’d told Toothless that we were going home and we’d had a slightly awkward relationship with Miguel of late so we weren’t sure what to do. We did the normal thing, a pleasant acknowledgment and a civil nod of the head. They were in a group with some others and sat somewhere else and we didn’t have to move. We were happy until 6:30am when we left and wandered home.

Plans: Em and I are going to Vilnius on Monday or Sunday. We’re going to be down there for a few days. Em’s adamant that we have to be somewhere else for our 1 year and I’m too scared to argue. Hopefully Simone will have some free time to show us around, local style. Em wants to check out some little forest cottage that Livijus told us about as well, so if time permits that’d be really nice, too.

Miscellaneous: I read this earlier today. It made me laugh.

Cracking Hollywood’s code.

The system designed to protect next-generation DVDs from pirates has been cracked. Even the hackers are surprised at how easy it was…

Galleries and CSS

I’ve spent the last 16 hours or so mucking around with my gallery‘s theme. I didn’t like the way the dev-testing theme looked which is fair enough since it’s designed for experimentation rather than aesthetics.

I think it looks rather spiffy at the moment. Nearly seamless, you might say. I’ve barely slept since I started hacking away at it last night. The individual picture pages haven’t been touched yet, so ignore their look for now.

On the hostel front, it looks like we’ll be living in the Viru rooms for at least the next 2 months. I had a feeling we’d end up in here for a while anyway so it came as no surprise when Hugo mentioned it. He’s going back to Holland on the 11th so then there’ll only be four of us looking after both these places now that Valerie’s back.  Well, Ben will be around too, I guess.

I haven’t been to the gym since Tuesday. We were meant to go today but it doesn’t look likely. Not with me feeling buggered from last night and Emily having been fast asleep on the bed for the last hour or two. Damn it, I really could use a shower and a good old scrub of the teeth. What a mess.

Today I caught up with Swedish Martin. He wanted me to see if there was any free WiFi signals that could be detected from his flat in the old town. The building is fantastic, a real Soviet style, scungy dump with dark, narrow hallways and toilets comparable to the one from Trainspotting. His room was freezing as well, I can only imagine how horrible it’d be inside during winter. He shares it with Tambet, an Estonian guy who works in Levist and plays in a relatively famous local rock band. Apparently Tambet has been living there for about seven years. Hardcore.

There were only secure wireless networks available so I was unable to help Martin out. Instead we had a beer and listened to some music while he told me some of his crazy stories. It would have been nice to kick back and relax for a few hours but I had to get back and clean the toilets.

Happy birthday to me

Yep, 24. Thanks.

It’s good to be alive. I’m not sure about being older, though. Well, I guess 24 isn’t so bad. I’m approaching the age now where people start taking you more seriously and don’t consider you the bad kind of “young adult”. I hope.

There was no party. There never is. We did have cake, though. Pizza too. I went out with some kids from the hostel the night before and it turned into a quasi-birthday celebration after midnight, then Hugo came around on the Saturday for a beer and the aforementioned pizza and cake.

I’ve been plowing through my salad sandwiches with Emily these last two weeks. Quite nice. Especially with mayonnaise and mustard. We were planning on joining the local gym this week to really kick up our “healthy lifestyle” binge but we’ve been too lazy.

I have to admit, I really miss going to the gym. I really miss exercise, basically. True, I haven’t actually lifted any weights for about 7 years. Since high school, in fact. I enjoyed it a lot at the time though. Still, I’d give it all up for a new season and team of action ball.

Hostel life is continually surprising. Just when you think it’s a really boring period a weirdo will check in or something else will happen. It’s always got you on your toes. Emily’s enjoying it as well and she’s still doing some networking with the locals in an attempt to get work somewhere.

Snow’s still falling. Gradually. My fingers nearly freeze off every time I go outside because my gloves are crap so I don’t bother wearing them. It’s only a few more weeks of coldness though so I should be able to cope. I’ve gotten this far.

I have to think of a place to go for Valentine’s day, or for our anniversary. Choices, choices.

Prague.

Ok, because I’m too lazy to update my travelpod at the moment, here’s an email I just sent to work (yes, I’m still attached).

Hello all,

yes, it’s been a while. This email will be a bit shorter as I’m on the verge of being physically ill, mainly because I’m in Prague and have been savouring the $2 pints.

I hope everyone is well. I am too (apart from my current condition) and I’ve been meeting people from all over the place (as one would expect, I suppose).

In the tradition of my last email, here’s yet another run-down of my travels:

Dubrovnik: as I said, cool. Worth visiting. Nothing really of great notice apart from the old town which got shelled in the early 90s and rebuilt. I think I mentioned this before. I can’t really remember. Anyway, definitely tick it off if you consider visiting Croatia (or Hrvatska, if you want to be down with the local language).

Kolocep: an Island near Dubrovnik (or Dubbo, as I like to call it). We visited here for a day, nothing extraordinary but it was nice. I hiked for about 3 hours and took the odd photo here and there of the views. Yeah, amazing, I know.

Mljet: Nice, foresty island. Pronounced Mil-yet. I got eaten alive by ants because I slept outdoors in a campground (too proud to rent a tent). The bites have only just disappeared (after about 3 weeks, I had scary black spots on my fingers and everything). I swam in Odysseus’ cave (ask Homer) and literally nearly had a heart attack because I was terrified of the fish in the water. I then had to climb back up a cliff in wet thongs, which is impossible if anyone’s ever tried it.

Split: Goran Ivanisevich (?sp) is from here. Cool town. I liked it better than Dubrovnik. We actually stayed in an apartment owned by a guy called Goran. One day he confronted me in his tight white underwear and a singlet asking for money for the other nights that we’d be staying. It was dirt cheap, though. About $15 a night. By the way, beer is disturbingly cheap in Croatian supermarkets. They even sell their own brand (Konsume is the store, K-Plus is the brand. 2 litre plastic bottle go for about $2.50 Australian). If anyone’s even heard of Gregor of Nin (or his “famous” statue), I’ve rubbed his toe (for luck).

In Split we met a French Canadian girl (Quebec) that I’ve ended up travelling with. My group split (pardon the pun) from her when we returned from Hvar (another Croatian resort island, apparently popular with Paris Hilton [yawn]) and we went to Sibenik.

Sibenik: small but has the largest stone cathedral built without wooden support (or whatever else) in Europe. Sounds amazing but it’s really just a small church. Still, I took photos (ask me if you really care). I also scored free Internet here because no one was around to charge me (even though I looked for someone to pay) and I walked out. Yes, I’m a rebel.

Krka national park: people swim under the waterfalls (they even made it a hydroelectric plant, thanks Mr Tesla). I didn’t swim because I was too scared of the fish.

Zagreb: the capital of Croatia. No one knows that. Well, barely anyone. It’s a nice place, reminds me of Melbourne but about 4 times bigger and with 1/4 of the people. The nightlife was pretty lame (ie, Sydney’s sad, lonely clubs are basically more popular on bad nights compared to a busy night in Zagreb) but I didn’t care that much as I can’t dance and don’t really like much beyond cheap beer and good company (hi, Andrew).

Ok, this is getting a bit long. If you’ve made it this far I thank you for persisting with my writings. If you’re still interested I pity you, but for the sake of sympathy I’ll continue with my journey.

Budapest: Massive, masive city (two cities in fact, which I found strange and didn’t learn until about 2 days before I arrived). Monuments are spaced out everywhere and I bought an AWESOME Spider-Man t-shirt in a supermarket there, then started wearing it as I sat around the Danube. Apparently the night-life is really fun there but my trio failed to discover it. We still amused ourselves and I met some other Aussies, which is always nice. Most are from Melbourne though, which is always a little depressing. ;)

Krakow: Nice, nice city. I had two nights here in a really good hostel, unfortunately there were a big group of Americans staying so I didn’t bother socialising (I had early mornings anyway). I went to Auschwitz, which I thought was very… interesting. It’s very touristy now, unfortunately, so it lost (at least, I felt) a lot of impact. Still, I’m glad I went there.

Olomouc: Billed as “Prague without the tourists”, this place is about 5 hours west of Krakow by train, in the Czech Republic. I loved it here even though I only had 1 night to explore it. An Australian couple ran the hostel I stayed in and although they were somewhat inexplicably timid they still gave us some good advice, so I ticked off basically everything in town within 6 hours. One day I’d definitely like to return, though.

Prague: This is were I am now. I’m staying in an Anglo-friendly hostel called the “Clown and Bard”. Mainly it’s Canadians and Americans but it’s not so bad. ;) The Quebec girl I’ve been travelling with is leaving for Berlin tomorrow so I’m going to have a few nights alone (ahh!). It’s a nice enough city, I guess. I’ve heard so many stories about it but I certainly think there are better ones out there. I’m probably going to end up knowing it better than Paris, as I have to stay here until Wednesday as I’ve booked a flight to Helsinki that evening (for only 120 Euros!). Hopefully I don’t get quite as frequently inebriated as I have tonight.

Well, that’s about it so far. Thanks for reading. I’m sure you haven’t. If you have, you’ll probably have been given a warning for not doing enough work (I’ve heard the rule have gotten a bit strict lately, you poor folk).

As always, I’m delighted to hear from anyone that can be bothered emailing me (but no, this isn’t a desperate plea for attention, even though it may look like it). Don’t be shy! :)

Bah, I’m still dizzy from all my cheap beer. I haven’t used the spell checker on this email so if I’ve made mistakes forgive me. If I haven’t made mistakes it’s simply testament to my meticulous spelling and typing ability. Hurrah for me.

Ok, I’ll stop now, this is getting ridiculous.

All the best!
Ollie. :)

Plush in Parugia

Our hostel in Parugia was cheap, massive, had an amazing view of the town from its balcony, was immaculately clean and had a funny old man running it (that took 40 minutes to check the four of us in as he checked our passports and stuffed around doing something that I’m sure he thought was important but only seemed to make everything slower). It was also strict, with a cleaning lock-out from 9:30am until 4pm, the kitchen open from 7:30pm until 10pm, the balcony and upstairs area closed at 12am and a lockout at 1am. We called it the Hitler Hostel.

Parugia’s another university town. It’s beautiful and has a vibe similar to Bordeaux. We went exploring up and down the main street on the Saturday night when we arrived, nearly drowning in the sea of young people who seemed to only be walking up and down the road, eating gelato or sitting on the massive set of steps in front of some building that I never determined the purpose of.

We decided to treat ourselves to some pizza and beer on our own set of stairs before we practically crashed in our beds from travel exhaustion. It was probably a good thing that the curfew was 1am as it meant we made the effort to get to sleep earlier than we had been for the last few nights due to partying in Riomaggiore.

Kate’s Lonely Planet had a few suggestions for activies to try in Parugia for the next day. We ignored them and spent time sleeping in the shade by a church while a wedding went underway, then Al and I shared a big fat pizza then had a quiet beer from a vantage point overlooking another part of town. We thought the drunken South American we’d all met on the bus during the day who continued to try speaking to us even though we told him we couldn’t understand him would be the only oddball we’d run into. To our delight, Al and I got to witness an older man who’d come to the same overlook for a peaceful read in the shade. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t begin without a cigarette. He cheerily walked up to every single invidiual that passed by and did his best to beg for a freebie but time and time again he was refused a nicotine hit. Eventually, after spying two young girls who’d just sat down and lit up, he snuck up towards them using trees as cover until he casually walked past them and asked for a cigarette like it was sheer coincidence that they’d ever met. A little scared, the girls gave in to his request and lit him up. He sat down and contently read, never again bothering to move the whole time we were there.

That evening we all ended up drinking beers on the balcony in front of the amazing view. More people from the hostel ended up joining us and by accident we’d started a mini party. We chatted away the hours with more Americans, Swedes and Brits until midnight when we were kicked off the floor. I’d polished off the perfect amount of 660mL, 0.90 and 1 Euro beers so I walked up and back on the main street to clear my head and made it into bed before the curfew.

Bumming in Bordeaux

I made it out of Paris with Al and Kate but not before seeing an African albino in a Monoprix shopping centre. He looked a bit like Harpo but with a bigger nose. Weird but cool.

The three of us took a speedy train to Bordeaux which only took 3 hours. We downed a few bottles of low-alcohol cider and munched on lollies, arriving on a sugar high. The rush was required in order for me to carry my 3 tonne bag from the station to Al’s share house without passing out from exhaustion, as I’d already lugged it around Paris trying to find their hotel and then to the train station.

Bordeaux’s a student town and it has a much more relaxed atmosphere than Paris, probably due to the abundance of young adults and the lack of tourists who seem to fill all the Parisien restaurants. We spent the evening relaxing on the banks of the Garonne and listened to Clemént (I think it’s spelt), one of Al’s housemates, playing guitar and singing songs in English, French and even Japanese.

Our little trio took time out for lunch the following day as none of us had had a proper sit-down meal since being in the country. I managed to fluke myself a nice turkey curry (odd, I know) even though it was overpriced like everything else around there. Al suggested we get some chips to share so I bravely went off to order some from the most popular kebab shop in town. Eight people pushed in front of me and the staff working there didn’t really care, then ignored my order of large chips and gave me a kebab with chips in it (which is common in these parts). Too frustrated and impatient and lacking in French linguistical ability to argue, I returned to our table with my head down and tail between my legs before cutting the chip-kebab in half and sharing it with Al.

That night Jibby arrived on a delayed train and brought some violent rain with her. We walked back in the soaking rain, arriving back at the house looking like four drowned rats. I looked more like a drowned rat in extreme agony, as I had previously drank about 600mL of Yop, a yoghurt drink, in about 2 minutes and it didn’t want to sit peacefully in my stomach. It took about an hour in the bathroom and two rolls of toilet paper before I’d recovered enough to be able to return to the lounge room.

The next day I was feeling rejuvenated enough to participate in the organising of our train tickets to Nice. We wanted to have everything sorted out before the party that was being held that evening (Saturday). God knows how many people showed up, but I’ve never seen so many individuals crammed into a house! I don’t know how I ended up doing it (it was probably the beer) but I managed to mingle with the partygoers until the wee hours of the morning when I finally got too tired to attempt speaking in slow, clear and concise English and went to bed.

Sunday was (as is the tradition) a day of rest. We spent most of our day bumming around waiting for the Brazil vs Australia game in the world cup. There were some outdoor restaurants set up down the road, housed in tents, with big screen televisions broadcasting the games so we went to one called The Frog and Rosbif (“rosbif” is apparently a French bastardisation of “roast beef” applied to the English, in the same way we call them “poms”). One of Al’s friends was working there, a guy called John. We chatted to him for a while but we couldn’t get any free or cheap beer so we decided to leave not long after Australia lost.

On the way back we were confronted by a proud Brazilian draped in his national flag (there seems to be a lot of them around France at the moment) who laughed at us when we told him we were Australian then ran off, singing to himself. That night I had a horrible sleep due to the army of mosquitoes that decided to pillage my ankles but I didn’t really mind as I knew I’d need to be tired if I was going to get any sleep on the night train to Nice the following evening.

The night train was certainly interesting. We had food with us to eat and kill some time as it wound its way slowly to the south east of the country. I eventually dozed off but awoke when it was reported that the train had broken down and that it’d take an hour or two to repair. The four of us sat at the train station we’d pulled up at and ate biscuits while we drank cheap sangria after I walked barefoot onto jagged rocks and a bit of train roadkill (wait for the photo). Eventually we got back underway and I managed to sleep in the most uncomfortable positions imaginable for the remainder of the trip until we pulled up in Nice at 10am the following morning.

Lovin' the Louvre

The stale crossaints I have for breakfast each day are beginning to bore me. At least the big pot of coffee they give me is good, making it all worthwhile.

I made it to the Louvre early enough to avoid any long waits to get a ticket. It’s relatively cheap to get in and the tickets last all day so that you can leave and re-enter at will.

Not wanting to be a complete tourist-whore, I put off seeing the Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa until later. The first section I explored was the gallery of French sculptures, my favourite being Puget’s Perseus and Andromeda (particularly because of the look on Medusa’s head).

I wandered through the arts of Islam, Mesopotapotamia, ancient Iran, Egypt and Greece. I sat for a while in each major section, reading the information cards bound in hard, clear plastic (none of the signs on the exhibits are in English). I found the Code of Hammurabi fascinating and quite refreshing in that barely anyone had come to see it when I was there (or probably at all, really).

The time had come. I took a deep breath and began pushing my way through the crowds swarming the southern wing of the first floor. Each room became warmer and warmer due to body heat and I eventually made my way into the room housing the Venus de Milo. It was boring.

By the way, Louis XV’s coronation crown in the Apollo gallery is actually quite ugly. The interior of the “swanky” rooms are also somewhat garish and too busy for my minimalistic tastes.

I pushed on through the crowds and followed the paper photos of the Mona Lisa until the only thing between its suprisingly small self and I was a thick, glass protective window and about 200 people trying to get a good look. I walked around the room to see if her eyes followed me. I guess they did, but it felt like the other paintings were doing the same thing. Quickly growing tired of the big crowds and never being particularly interested in art, I left the Louvre.

Now, I feel I should mention that while I appreciate art and the astounding talent required to produce all the stuff in there, I find artefacts that contribute to and impact on society (as opposed to culture) more interesting, such as Hammurabi’s code.

Tonight I’m going to watch more football and drink more beer. I should be meeting up with Benecke soon. We’re going to Bordeaux on Thursday!