Happy New Year!

Ok, maybe it won’t be so happy. I suppose we’ll find out as it unfolds… Yay for optimism.

I know I shouldn’t bother saying it, but yes, I realise it has been a while. Sorry.

Another roundup:

  • I got my new passport ($330 later, that is)
  • I got my new license ($130 later, that is)
  • The new reception is all for nothing, as we’ve been kicked out by the owners. We’re moving down the street.
  • I still haven’t been back to Juuksur.
  • Rob came to visit.
  • Suvi and Heli came to visit.
  • Emily came to visit.
  • My parents came to visit.
  • John came to visit.
  • Teo came to visit and didn’t do any magic tricks.
  • A friend from high school, let’s just call him McKinnon, came to visit.
  • Someone stole my iPod from the basement when I wasn’t here. I bought a new one. 160 gigs, woo!
  • Christmas was very quiet and boring.
  • New Year’s Eve was very loud and mental.
  • There’s still no snow but the temperature is finally sub-zero.
  • Marika and I are still together, even though I didn’t buy her a Christmas present. Old habits are hard to break.

I still haven’t learnt much more Estonian. I will have to try harder. Marika’s family gave me an Estonian/English pocket dictionary for Christmas. Subtle.

Yes, we’re moving out of Lai and down to Olevimägi. That’s right, opposite Levist Valjas. Uh oh. The building is great inside – newly renovated in fact – but probably won’t be very quiet during summer. Never mind, nothing ever is.

Our basement bar has also completely flooded with water and smells like death. Fortunately we managed to move out all the furniture just in time. Moving everything to the new building (everything that will fit) has already proven irritating but there’s not much left to take any more. Except heavy things. Like foosball tables.

At least we won’t have to carry the DVD player, since some stupid Erasmus students (I think) stole it. Idiots.

I still haven’t had a hair cut. Not for over a year-and-a-half now. I’m so wild. At least I cut off my beard every 2 weeks or so. Now for my fingernails…

We have a fourth Estonian working here now. Another young one. She’ll be remembered eternally for her New Year’s performance, but let’s not get into that on the Internet. Today there’s meant to be another girl coming to volunteer for 2 weeks. She arranged it months ago, when we thought we’d be staying in this building. I’m sure she’s going to be surprised.

In other good news: I don’t seem to have gained any winter fat. At least nothing obvious. Too bad I haven’t lost any, either.

Ch-ch-ch-changes.

This post was inspired by palmy’s return.

I’ll give a quick summary again, as it’s been nearly 2 months (what a surprise).

Emily and I broke up in July. It was a bit messy but now it’s done. She went to Germany with her dad and I went to Berlin the week before on my own. I had a great time there, actually. I met some guys that offered me jobs and was close to accepting them until Hugo offered me a pay rise and more stuff to do here.

Sure, I’d probably make more money in Berlin doing stuff but I still love my Tallinn. I was considering even getting a proper job here for some firm like HP or Skype or something. Hostel life is still more appealing at the moment though.

Anyway, yeah. Berlin was fantastic. One of my new favourite cities. I’m definitely heading back there some time… Maybe March next year for a month or two. It’s possible to rent apartments in the city for 115 euro/month. Tempting.

We had about 14 staff in the hostel in July. More than half left. We should be getting a few more soon, hopefully. It’s been fairly hectic on the farewell party scene of late, but fun.

I went to a folk music festival in Viljandi, a town in southern Estonia. The population of the place doubles for the four days of the festival, basically. It was really good fun. I camped out in the festival grounds in a shitty little tent and it only slightly flooded, so I was satisfied. The range of music was actually quite broad, and some other guys organised after-parties in a concert hall nearby each night. I really want to go again next year.

Oh, yeah, I finally went to Tartu, as well. Twice now. The first was for another one day festival that some of us hitchhiked to, then didn’t bother going into the place. We sat outside in a playground for most of the day instead. That was probably more fun, in the end. The second time was for a university party which was fairly tame… Partly because it wasn’t very big and partly because almost everyone spoke Estonian. Which is fair enough…

Speaking of speaking Estonian, I’m learning! Finally. It took me 10 months or so but I can now count and say numbers and also the days of the week. Basics, but basics I never actually had to use before. I’m getting a few more sentences and phrases ingrained as well. It’s fun. Too bad it’s almost impossible to replicate the vowel sounds, especially with an Australian accent. Ah well.

The hostel actually has a little bar now in the basement, too. Don’t tell anyone though. It’s a secret. We’re also owners of what used to be the second hand store and baby shop underneath now, so we can knock out some walls and connect the whole hostel together. We’ll move reception and the bar into there, too. I can’t wait, because it’s going to rock.

Last night I went to some multi-band concert called Polymer. There were about 10 bands playing throughout the night but I didn’t stay for them all. The venue was basically an abandoned factory out in the suburbs which is actually meant to be condemned. There were artworks and paintings and sculptures all over the place on display and all these funky little rooms. Reminded me so much of Tacheles in Berlin. Ahh, happy times.

Alright, enough crap for now. I’ve kind of stopped uploading photos onto my website because I use Facebook more and it’s faster than this host but perhaps I’ll slap up a few selections later on.

Balkan Bonanza

We didn’t make it to Romania. It would have been nice, but we didn’t have time with all the other places we wanted to see. Perhaps it was a bit of a bad decision in the end, as Varna was rather disappointing, although it did give us a chance to see the Black Sea. It wasn’t black.

We spent 3 nights in a cute little town just on the edge of Varna, the name escapes me but I managed to take some photos of the funny little old lady inhabitants. As soon as I find a computer that lets me copy off my pictures I’ll upload them and share them all with you, my loyal readers.

Actually, the best thing we saw in Varna was a local football match. The owner of the hostel took a few of us to a game and we got to see a near-riot, and that was just due to celebrating… before the kick-off. Thankfully, the home team won the match convincingly so only one plastic chair was set on fire and the flares and smoke bombs were only ignited in a pleasant way. I took videos of the crowd, it was fun.

We took an overnight train back to Sofia from Varna, it was rather uneventful but Emily failed to get much sleep, as trains don’t seem to do it for her. We had to kill an entire day in Sofia and it rained inconsistently, preventing us from simply sitting in a park and waiting. As soon as our train arrived that morning we thought we’d be good and organised and responsible and purchase our ticket to Belgrade immediately and some scummy little bastard led us around showing us the ticket offices and pointed us in the direction of a net cafe before demanding we pay him for his guidance. I threw some coins at him in disgust as I knew it would happen but we were too dazed from the overnight train ride to tell him to clear off when he first approached us.

It turns out the ticket we bought was only for the sleeper carriage, not for the journey. We discovered this 5 minutes before the train departed from the non-English speaking conductor. Basically we got ripped off not only for the price of the sleeper but also because we didn’t even get a ticket from it. With a little translation help from other passengers we managed to buy a ticket to the Serbian border from another conductor on the platform and then we would have to buy a second ticket once we got across the line.

In the meantime, an apparently possessed, psychotic, potentially violent, drunken woman kept looking at me as we discussed tickets, then followed Em and I into our sleeper carriage, all the while holding a glass bottle of some vodka pre-mix. At first we thought we were just having a ridiculously, pathetically, unlucky day. Being the kind and tolerant souls that we are, we quietly lay on our bunks, waiting for the nutbag to go to sleep. We changed our minds when she started examining her breasts in front of us in-between demented stares. I sent Em off to find the conductor while I lay nearly frozen in fear, attempting to protect our belongings. She got kicked out of the cabin and gave Em one of those smiles that simply say something along the lines of “I really like you, you’re nice, now let me cut your eyeballs out”. The door stayed locked the rest of the night.

I failed to fall fast asleep at all, half in anxiety and half in expectation of the quiet knock on the door from a Serbian ticket collector. He arrived and unfortunately he wouldn’t accept Bulgarian money, only Euros. I managed to scrape just enough together by trading currencies with the Bulgarian conductor and then we finally got some sleep, more than expected as the train was 2 hours late. We didn’t mind.

What I did mind was finding out that no one outside of Bulgaria will exchange Bulgarian currency. This was and still is very frustrating, as we now have the equivalent of 30 Euros that we cannot spend. Now we always exchange before we leave. Bastards.

Belgrade was worth the hassle, at least. I liked it. It reminded me of Sydney, kind of like how Zagreb reminds me of Melbourne. I don’t know why, they just do. Our hostel was very quiet but nice enough, apart from the mosquitoes. I’ll extrapolate in my next post, this one is long enough. Just to keep you all up to date, we afterwards went to Zagreb and now we’re in Sarajevo (I love it). Soon we’re going to Mostar before re-entering Croatia and hitting up Dubrovnik. Stay tuned.

-Estonia; +(Finland, Latvia, Greece, Bulgaria)

Hi again.

It’s been too long, once again. Let me fill you in:

  • Emily and I are back together and things are going well.
  • I left the Viru hostel a few weeks ago to do some travelling
  • Em and I spent some time in Finland with Heli and her family
  • Now we’re backpacking
  • Photos (somewhat unordered) can be found here.

Savonlinna was fun, met some of Heli’s uni friends and I made a shitty little clay turtle whose leg fell off. :(

Em and I both have house keys to the Salomaa’s now, so we’re gonna steal some shit when they’re on holiday. Suvi’s coming to the hostel to work over summer (haha). Em and I are going to be back there in mid-June for a month until we head off for the UK, or something.

We took a flight from Tampere to Riga and spent a few days there in the Old Town Hostel. It was fun catching up with our Latvian hostel cousins and there was even a big free cocktail party one of the nights, so I got rat-arsed. It was rather windy but not too chilly.

One night we checked cheap flights to the south-eastern end of Europe. We could have both flown to Istanbul for about $160 each and nearly did, except that the flight was taking off in 4 hours and we had no way of getting to the airport in time. Instead we booked mildly more expensive tickets to Athens that departed in a few days time.

To kill some time before we headed to Greece, we took a bus to Liepaja, on the Baltic coast. It was a slight nightmare, as we’d heard that apparently there was an old Soviet naval prison that had been converted into a hostel. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? Unfortunately we had no map and managed to find tourist destination on only a whim and 40 minutes of walking.

After negotiating the bus system and which routes to take, we cheekily ran off without paying at what we 50/50 thought was our stop. It wasn’t, really. We did take some nice photos on the walk and nearly got mugged by young children on bicycles, so it was sort of worthwhile.

The prison hostel had no English speaking staff, the season had only just begun so they hadn’t reopened all their facilities, there was a primary school excursion occurring at the same time, we had to wait 30 minutes for an English speaker to tell us to come back at 9pm (it was 5:30), we got fined on the bus the second time for not having tickets, all the shops and cafes in town were closed, we had no dinner and slept in a freezing cold prison room with broken beds after a brisk 40 minute tour. Then we had to pay and get back to Riga.

Fortunately, I took a cool photo of Emily in a gas mask and it made it all seem worth the effort.

The flight to Athens was funny, mainly because the Latvian girl sitting next to Em had never flown before, nor seen mountains. She experienced both sensations by the time we touched down.

This southern end of Europe is already ridiculously hot. Being acclimatised to the Baltics certainly doesn’t help, but it’s still fucking sweaty here.

Again we had no accommodation booked in Athens and it took us 3 visits to different hostels and a metro trip across town until we found some. They were half the price of the original place we looked into, so it wasn’t so bad.

Athens is kind of a disappointment. There’s not a whole lot to see or do except the Acropolis and the Agora and we paid for neither. The country itself is expensive to boot and we still failed to find a respectable kebab house. After two and a half days of dicking around (and no souvlaki or olive bread), we took a train to Thessaloniki. We’re going back when we have money and we’re old to visit the Islands.

Thessaloniki was nice. We didn’t stay overnight but we did stay from 8am until midnight. In a park, mainly. We spoke to some funny old Greek fellow who was more interested in chatting with us about the town and whatnot than he was in helping his colleagues in fixing some public sprinklers. Who can blame him, really?

We took a night bus to Sofia, Bulgaria which departed 40 minutes late from Thessaloniki and arrived 30 minutes early in Sofia. Again without a map, we hiked in the 4:00am darkness trying to decipher Cyrillic street names until we found our beds. Well, more like our couches until our beds were ready a few hours later.

The Sofia hostel was really nice. Very cozy and kind staff. We even got some free breakfast. Not that we really needed it, most things in Bulgaria are so ridiculously cheap it’s almost embarrassing. We walked around in the morning, getting sunburnt and exploring the streets, seeing the old buildings and the fruit markets and ate two monster gelato ice creams for about $2 Australian each. We were pleased.

One of the days we took a trip up to the Rila Monastery, a beautiful little place up in the mountains, about 2 hours drive from Sofia. We grouped up with another Aussie couple and had lunch with them and more gelato during the evening.

After a lazy morning of chatting with the hostel owner about his future development plans, we took a bus up to Plovdiv, a cute little town in central Bulgaria. The hostel we stayed in was a very cute converted house that even had its own kitten. Needless to say, I didn’t really want to leave and if they’d had air conditioning I probably wouldn’t have.

On our second day there we went exploring with another Aussie guy we’d met named Jim. We checked out the ruins on top of the hill in the old town and on our way to the Roman theatre got side tracked by a massive, abandoned, stripped-out building on the edge of the old town that had fantastic views over one half of the city.

We tiptoed through the rubble and graffiti-stained concrete, half expecting a gang or a syringe-wielding junkie to jump out at us. As it turns out, a policeman called us out from the top instead, with poor Emily running down after us to let us know we’d been caught. The cop was pretty nice, he just wanted to check we weren’t using heroin or killing someone, then let us go. It was more interesting than the theatre.

In what already seemed like a random afternoon, we ended up speaking to an old Bulgarian who’d lived in the USA for 30 years before returning home to Plovdiv, then got asked to present a song for a Bulgarian music television station, then ended up sitting with the TV crew for an hour in the shade while they told us about where they were from and what they thought of life in general. They gave us free t-shirts.

Apparently, if we’re on TV at all, it’ll be on Thursday or Friday. Stay tuned.

After a tearful farewell, we left Zorro the kitten asleep on the couch and took another bus to Veliko Tarnovo. No photos yet but there’s some good ones to come. It’s a cool student town in an ancient location: apparently there’s evidence of people living here from 5000 years ago, if not more. The most important fact to know about this region, though, is that we’re very close to where Kotooshu was born. Apparently sumo wrestling is big in Bulgaria.

We’re likely to be headed toward Varna either today or tomorrow, so we can check out the Black Sea. Odds are we’ll then head up to Romania as now that they’re part of the EU we don’t need visas (yes!). A Romanian friend of mine that I met in Sofia said she can arrange a place for us to stay in Bucharest if we visit, so we might just do that.

Until next time.

Getting by

Waiting for people to come and pick up their bags has to be my pet peeve with this place. A close second is waiting for people to arrive.

Sure, I should just get someone to come down and hang around while I go off and do things. It’s not hard, I know. I would have if I wasn’t already still here around the time these people are meant to be back, so now I’m just going to wait.

Actually, I just want to have a fucking shower. I can’t though because I won’t hear the door bell go off and no one will be able to let them in. I should give people a different set of keys for them to get back inside and pick up their bags. Normally I just let them take their room keys and drop them off after they return, but these guys left them here. Great. They’re only 90 minutes late and there’s meant to be people coming here directly at 7pm. It’s 4:21pm now.

Today’s lowlight so far? Scrubbing a steamy, sloppy, post alcohol turd off the inside of the toilet bowl. At least I didn’t have to unblock it by hand. My other major dilemma for today is that it appears one of the pillow slips has gone missing. That’s not only odd, it’s annoying. Fuck it, I won’t have to care in a little over a week.

I’m also meant to be meeting up with Livijus today to work out what’s happening with his website. Basically he just needs to pay for a web host and domain and I can do the rest. I’m sure he’ll have other things to say, though.

At the end of the month I’m getting out of here for a while. I’m going to meet up with Emily in Finland for a bit, then we’ll go travelling together until mid June. That’s the plan, at least. We’re working things out, which is good. Em’s been staying at Heli’s parent’s place this last week but apparently she’s heading to Savonlinna again for the weekend. Happy times.

I have to pull my finger out and sort out my driver’s license and apply for some jobs in the UK. Finland’s not on the cards at the moment as it’s looking too difficult and frustrating to arrange visas, look for jobs and find a reasonably priced apartment in Helsinki. Maybe next year. We’ll see.

I’m even feeling like getting my hair cut. What’s happening here? Am I winding down my hippy behaviour? Am I tiring of my bohemian, hedonistic lifestyle? Am I already at the age where I want to cash in to a proper career path and start considering bank loans and first mortgages? Crikey.

Well, maybe just for a little while. There’s still plenty of other countries I’d like to see for now and I really want to hit up Russia on my way home, whenever that may be.

Woohoo, these people have picked up their bags. Finally, a chance to shower.

Fuck Easter

Isn’t it meant to be a holiday or something? Christ knows.

Yes, I said that intentionally.

I already wrote about my Friday morning in my previous entry. I got up early to check out even more bastards who were going to Helsinki on the 8am boat then succeeded in getting the laundry back in order. I had to sacrifice my bed for a Japanese guy named Shutaro (I think) who really wanted to stay with us even though we were overbooked.

Shutaro was desperate to do some shopping and get a belt. Adamant, you might say. He also shared with me that he’d never been backpacking before and this was his first trip to Europe. This meant he had plenty of questions about the best ways to protect your wallet and passport when you’re travelling. I gave him all the hot tips I could.

The afternoon was spent hanging around Lai street, mainly. We had to lurk around waiting for 7 people to arrive for Viru. By the time they arrived at around 12 all of the staff were reasonably intoxicated. I gulped down my second double gin and tonic while waiting for their credit card transaction to clear then led the posse of Aussies down to their beds only to drag them out of the building and take them to Juuksur.

The evening became more and more hazy with people disappearing and scattering off throughout the night. Eventually I ended up in Levist with a very sleepy Valerie who’d only just gotten back from Riga that afternoon and some Scottish girl called Lisa who I think was staying on Uus street, but I’m not sure. We finally dragged Val off the table that had become her bed around 6am before stopping for a smoke at Lai street. Lisa wasn’t sure where her hostel was and I was going home to Viru. I couldn’t be bothered working out where she was going or giving directions so I ended up throwing a mattress on the floor of the common room in the hostel and letting her crash there while. I had to sleep on the tiny green couch because Shutaro was curled up like a foetus on my bed.

Unfortunately, sleeping on that couch gives me head spins when I’ve been drinking. I don’t know why but it always happens. I had to drag myself up and towards a sink so that I could force myself to vomit in order to paradoxically settle my stomach and head. It worked.

After a solid and refreshing 2 hours of slumber I was awoken by guests wondering where they could get some breakfast. Being the professional I am, I rolled over on the couch and gave them a recommendation and full directions, even managing a smile. They left and I dozed off for another 5 minutes before starting my day.

Fortunately, the morning was rather uneventful. Too uneventful. I was unable to leave the building or even take a proper nap as I had to make up a few different rooms and then wait for a guest who was arriving directly at 1pm. Or so she said. By 6pm she’d arrived and I was finally given the chance to go outside. I chose food and company over sleep, although I did end up with Valerie again and this time her friend Emer who was visiting. We ran amok all over town. Kinda.

Apparently I have a great smile and some Estonian kid wants to get a photograph of it. Flattering to hear but it’s not really what you want to be stuck with at 5am in Levist. I survived the ordeal and the three of us ended up in Old Club, of course. Poor old Val was finding her eyelids unbearably heavy and kept nodding off in the corner. Somehow I was on a second wind and felt fine. Emer was somewhere in between.

The big tough bouncer of the bar kept poking Val to get her to wake up. On the third strike he practically assaulted her, grabbing her by the harm (although it may as well have been her hair) and ripping her out of the seat and kicking her out the door. It was simultaneously one of the scariest, bizarre and hilarious things I’ve ever seen. We were too shocked to react. It was a good sign to wind down the night, so I walked back through some really cool morning snow that was falling. Before bed I had to clean vomit off of a toilet so that it’d be nice for all the guests to shit into in the morning. I got to sleep after 7:30.

Hoping to get at least 3 hours sleep proved to be a pipe dream. Shutaro kept waking me up asking me various questions before departing into the big wild world. I managed to get by on auto pilot until around midday when Ewan, one of our new volunteers, brought some guests down and then we left for McDonald’s to get some grub. I picked the shortest queue and lined up. Our cashier was about as green as you can get and continually balled up everything he did, even dropping my Big Tasty as he was putting it into a takeaway bag, meaning he had to ring up a new one. 40 minutes later we headed off to Lai street to enjoy our greasy McSludge.

The heavy food and lack of sleep combined to make me fade out of consciously at any given moment. Again, late guests were keeping me from getting any rest. They arrived two hours late at 5pm. Not too bad, really. I escorted them to their rooms in Viru and was greeted by a guest and her buddy who was some random prick from another hostel who’d helped himself to our Internet and kitchen. Normally I’d go off at people like that but our guest had a special type of booking that we’re trying to get good reviews for, so I let it slide. How’s that for fair? Money talks, I guess.

Stumbling around checking the kids into their room wasn’t so difficult, or unbearable. What really made it fun was to be made aware that the second toilet here was blocked. Completely. There’s already one that I can’t unblock because I’m too retarded and so now we were basically done for. With determination and grit, I wrapped my hand in a plastic bag and managed to get myself elbow deep in the bowl and wrist deep in the S-bend. After a bit of poking and rummaging around we were again flushing with great success.

I tidied up a little and then hopped onto my bed for a nap. Within minutes two of the Aussie girls started bickering with each other. I walked out to see what was going on and one was locked inside her room because the mechanism has decided to break while the other was standing in the hallway wearing nothing but a towel and surrounded by confused American kids who didn’t know what to do. Using a spare key solved the problem and I then had to wait for the girls to get dressed and calm down before experimenting with the lock and teaching them how to use it for now until we get it fixed. No worries.

Finally, I lay down to take a 2 hour siesta. Within 40 minutes someone was knocking on my door. The kids who’d arrived late had snapped their key off inside the lock of the door. Yep. These locks are designed and installed so that you can’t actually open them with credit cards or even unscrew them from outside the room. Normally I’d have just gotten a professional to come in or something but it was 8pm on Easter Sunday and on top of that I don’t know what the Estonian word for locksmith is.

We tried getting the broken piece of the key out with tweezers but to no avail. We even experimented with a bit of brute force and probably would have succeeded, except that the door itself and door frame would have been completely destroyed if we’d kept trying. Thankfully, there’s a frosted window between that room and another one which we managed to somewhat open. Unfortunately, while we were in the middle of rearranging beds and breaking through windows and walls, the four young students from Hong Kong came back and caught us red handed making a mess in their room. They weren’t upset, just very confused and startled. Their reactions were even worse when I told them I couldn’t give them change in Euros.

The guy staying in the room with the broken lock was rather lanky and lean so he slipped through the crack between the window and the wall and unlocked the door from the inside. He was Spanish and couldn’t speak a word of English but he knew what he was doing when he unscrewed the lock on the door and literally took it apart, tumblers and all before recombining it and putting the lock back together in the door. He even left a spare part out. Nice.

I’d given up napping so I planned to quickly use the toilet before hopping into the shower. Someone else took the advantage and locked themselves inside the bathroom for an hour so I was stuck plodding around waiting to clean myself. When I’d finally started washing and enjoying the lovely warmth my phone rang from inside my jeans. I stood in the cold air, naked and with water pooling around me and answered. John had arrived.

If I was smart, I would have stayed in that night and slept. I was too fed up with my day though to surrender like that, so I went out for a few drinks in Nimeta and Molly Malone’s. We stayed watching the cricket until Australia won and ended up going back to Lai street for some food, since no one was fucking serving. John whipped up a bit of Irish tapas and I was back here in bed by 2:30am. An early one.

Now, I’ve already gotten up at 7am and 8am and then 9am today for brief stints. Everyone’s arrived, I just have to tidy up some rooms. Oh and the laundry.

Emily’s coming back here this afternoon. The ferry should have left Helsinki about 20 minutes ago. On top of all the other crap I’ve gone through this weekend, it all got magnified because we’ve broken up.

Need a rampage

I’m getting a bit of cabin fever lately. Been locked up inside this building for too long these last few days. Mainly from my own laziness and lack of inspiration to walk outside.

Today though I haven’t got much choice. Flat out cleaning. Making beds, doing laundry, folding laundry, vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing toilets, unblocking toilets, taking out garbage, cleaning mirrors, dusting. It’s not hard work per se, just takes a lot of time to do every room. Yep, every room. Everyone checked out today. There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of trying to make a bed before the next guest arrives. It’s this fast-paced lifestyle that keeps me staying here.

Things are so fast paced that neither Em nor I spotted someone swiping my nice headphones when they were in our room and now someone’s stolen the sign to the hostel from inside the locked gate. Great success. I suppose that’s karma paying me back for stealing all those bottles of mustard and pepper shakers from various restaurants over the last few months. It’s not really fair, since I stole them for communal use rather than personal gain. Not that you can gain much from a sign that has our address written on it.

Emily’s gone to Finland for a few days to get her Eesti visa and to catch up with Heli. Thanks to the Suomi train system she’s probably going to come back with two mortgages after paying for the train tickets to Savonlinna, Helsinki, Lahti and back. Not to mention the visa application fee. I hope the Finnish people prosper from the generous tax subsidies her financial injection into the economy will bring about. It’s not cheap keeping trains looking and smelling so nice.

Someone left half a hip flask of whiskey here in the hostel for free. I’ve been eying it off. So far I’m winning. Now I just need to eye off this tumbler glass and then combine the two in a direct assault on my face. Ok, maybe not my face but the most suitable orifice on it.

To be honest I’d rather be drinking my delicious O’boy but milk isn’t here and whiskey is. Mmm.

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.

No vote for me

I’m not going to be voting in the next Federal election back home. I just have to fill out some form and fax it back to the Australian Electoral Comission. I’ve never sent a fax before. I hope it looks pretty.

So, the gym’s still good. I haven’t been able to go as often this week due to work and other distractions. It’s only going to get even harder to find the time soon as there’ll only be three of us working here within the next week or so. Hopefully Emily and I will be able to at least go separately whenever we find the time. I’m considering taking up morning sessions, as in 9AM to 11AM. I’m generally awake at that time so it shouldn’t be a problem, particularly when the hostel is also quiet during those hours.

Yep, three staff members for two buildings. We’re going to need more volunteers soon. Anyone feel like visiting?

Going away for our one year anniversary is sounding like a difficult achievement. With a bit of luck though we should manage. Either that or just delay it. I don’t know. I’ve got a feeling Em won’t be too impressed regardless.

Stupid head cold has come back to piss me off. I couldn’t even breathe when I tried to go to sleep last night. Fascinating, I know.

Speaking of fascinating, geez it was good seeing Ireland thrash England in the Six Nations last night. The local Irish were dancing whilst the local English could do nothing more than shrug their shoulders in embarassment. After the match we caught most of a groovy little gig in one of our favourite underground bars by a young Swedish band that was touring Tallinn for one show. They played a very catchy, up-tempo cover of Oasis’ Wonderwall that really impressed me.

The band actually stayed in the hostel that night. That happens a lot. We’re cool like that.

We had a little bash for Hector on Friday night. He’s one of the staff members leaving soon. I’ll put some pictures up later when I can be bothered and share them with you all. :) The sangria was good.