Just popping in

Greetings from Trogir, yet another coastal Croatian town. Sure, the old town is kind of pretty, but they all start to look the same after a while. Especially when every menu is full of fish and the cafes are all overpriced because you can smell salt in the air.

I’m going to write more about our travels later, I don’t much feel like it now. Boo hoo, no one gives two tosses anyway so what’s the rush, right? Of course.

In case anyone was wondering, my hair is looking splendid. It’s grown past the stage where it appears I have big red ear muffs and now I just look like a messy, bearded hippy. All those private school teachers would be so proud to see me these days. I even walk around in 3/4 pants and wear thongs. If I ever get back to Newtown it’ll be like I never left.

Only a few days to go until we fly to Dublin for 8 hours, then to Tampere in Finland to grab our stuff from Lahti before heading back to Tallinn and another month of toilet cleaning. There’s a dirty rumour that the place is actually getting organised now, perhaps even rosters! So much for spontaneity.

I still haven’t lined up a job in the UK, and I don’t really care. Things could be drastically changing plan, but I don’t like to give too much away. Not just yet, at least. Perhaps I’ll be lucky and manage to coax all three of you readers into a blog cliffhanger. It’s doubtful, but it gives me something to do.

Since I’ve had nothing much else to do except hang around in cafes, I’ve started ordering an espresso and a cappuccino at the same time. The waiters always think it’s for two people. Oh the hilarity. Eventually I plan to make it so common that they come on specially designed saucers, with two cup emplacements. That’s my dream. I’m a sad man.

I miss action ball. I cry myself to sleep over it most nights. Instead, I’ve roped Em into playing chess with me on a small travel set we bought. The fun never stops.

-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.

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.

Still in Funland

Emily and I are still here in Finland. Still in Lahti, in fact. Unsurprisingly, palmy and Dylan came back for New Years and have been staying mainly at Heli’s, although they were meant to stay with Krista’s parents.

It’s been fun having all these little bastards around. The party on the 31st was good. It was some dress up party so I went as a genie again. Inspiring, I know.

The party was some weird old house on the side of a railroad. I had no idea where we were but it seemed pretty cool. I can’t remember much from the night apart from running around being silly and dancing for a couple of hours. There was even a band playing earlier in the night but I was too lazy to check them out properly.

When we got back home, palmy and I tried to stay up all night. We ended up getting bored around 7:30am or something and crashed. I woke up with a hangover and with 3 other people in my bed. Too bad that doesn’t happen more often.

Yesterday was Emily’s birthday, the big 19. What started as a quiet affair ended up reasonably well. Heli’s folks made a nice big meal the day before for her even though it was Seija’s birthday, then Em spoilt us all by taking everyone out to dinner the following night.

After din-dins we had a mini round of King Cup and then hit up Rock and Molly Malone’s. Em needed a bit of convincing to come out as she wasn’t feeling 100% but I think the cold air did her good.

The other bastards went off to Onnelas later on but didn’t get in, so the night was effectively over, for me at least, by 4am.

Tomorrow we’re all leaving Lahti, bound for Helsinki and Tallinn. I’m going to stay at Suski’s and try to get my Eesti visa. Hope it doesn’t take too long.

Sup, Suomi?

It’s good to be back in Finland. I forgot how expensive it was. I always feel like a real tightarse wherever I’m paying Euros.

So, I caught up with palmy and Dylan again and they even brought Heli down to Tallinn with them. That was fun.

Emily’s been having a good time in the hostel, too. She even does a little bit of work, thank goodness. She likes Finland, too. I think.

Back to the present, though. We tried to get the working holiday visa in Helsinki but the silly bitch at the embassy didn’t even know what I was talking about. I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a real hassle to get back into the country if I want to stay for a long time legally.

It even seems mandatory to get travel insurance, for God’s sake. Bah. Either way, I have to get back in there because all my possessions are there and I’m meant to have more mail arriving from Benecke, too. I hope it fucking shows up.

For now though, I’m just going to try and enjoy Christmas and probably New Years now, as we’ll be kind of stuck unless I just go back to Estonia like a ferry ninja and overstay my 90 days. I could probably get away with it but I’d prefer to be legal. We’ll see.

Tossing coins

So, apparently I’m employed here now. I don’t get a lot, but I’m getting enough to help me get by much more comfortably.

The problem now is trying to get myself an Estonian visa. Yes, to stay. Apparently I can visit the Australian embassy in Helsinki to try and get either a working holiday or residence visa. Christ knows. I’ll work it out when Em gets over here.

That’s right! Emily’s soon to be on her way. Thursday is E-Day. Things are going to be much more interesting around here, and life is going to be a lot more challenging. Only in regards to having to worry about the fates of two people instead of just my own. Oh, I’m so grown up.

So, I’m thinking about buying a laptop, too. A good one. Yep. Great news.

My last dilemma is what I’m doing for New Year’s. I could stay in Finland but they need me here to work but it depends if I get my visa back fast enough. So much to think about.

So little to worry about. Probably.

Yes, I'm still alive (and dancing)

Ok, so I haven’t really been using this thing much and I know no one really reads it anyway, regardless I’m going to write a bit.

What have I been up to? Well, the run down is something like this:

  • Left Finland at the end of September
  • Loved Tallinn (Estonia) as soon as I arrived
  • Visited Riga (Latvia) with some kids I met in the hostel
  • Came back to Tallinn and started working in the same hostel
  • Visited London for 15 hours a month later on a stopover for Amsterdam
  • Complete inability to recall my time in Amsterdam apart from knowing it was fun
  • Visited Vilnius (Lithuania) to take a photo of the Frank Zappa statue
  • Bussed back to Tallinn for another few weeks
  • Went back to London for 5 nights to visit palmy and Dilly and some other buddies
  • Came back to Tallinn and kept working

Of course, there’s plenty more to it than that, but they’re the kind of stories where you really had to be there to appreciate them anyway, so bugger that.

One thing I should mention is how cool the hostel is. Well, I think so. Unfortunately the website doesn’t seem to display properly in Firefox but it’s fine in IE, Tallinn Backpackers.

I never want to leave Estonia! It’s scary. I really dig it here.

Another thing I dig is listening to music off the Internet because I’m too lazy to keep pulling out my iPod. I started out on BlogMusik but I prefer Radio Blog Club. Enjoy it.

Photos!

I have 489 photos uploaded for you to check out here.

No, they’re not all captioned.

No, I haven’t updated travelpod yet, but I did plot out my route (even though the dates are incorrect).

You’re welcome.

P.S. I’ve been staying in Lahti, Finland for the last 2 weeks. Thanks, Heli et al.

Flugabug.

We have the flat back to ourselves now that Heli and Krista have gone down to Griffith for a few weeks. By the time their job is finished down there Ross will be back from Finland, so they’ll be able to go back to his place I assume. I’m still slowly working my way through the chocolate cake. I’ve already eaten too much chocolate for one day as I feel sickly. I think I’m addicted to the sensation of this sweet, sweet sorrow.

Today I’ve told myself I have to make the effort to go and find some kind of African-esque apparel for this “Out of Africa” theme 21st party on Saturday night. I really fucking hate finding costumes. I’m hoping I can find a pith helmet (yeah, right) and a yellow scarf or something so I can just wear that off-khaki yellow colour and look like an explorer. I might need a yellow scarf, too. Maybe I’ll just wear leopard print. I’m sure that’ll be a big hit. Hmm. Time to raid tofu’s underwear drawer.

Oh. I forgot. I’m meant to be working on this database for Electric Lady today, too. I also need to send out some emails that are about 4 weeks overdue. Maybe more than 4 weeks. Whoops. I’m over this whole idea of functioning. It’s too much work.

In what I think is a mature attempt at being pro-active, I arranged to work an extra shift at work each week as my hours had been slightly cut back and my funds have gradually decreased over the past couple of months. In a bid to stay in the black I decided to meet the problem early, rather than string it out until after Christmas and New Year and be flint. This little boy must be growing up! Either that or I was just happy to sell out. Whatever.

For those of you who were concerned: I shaved my neck. Yes, I know I left you all hanging for a while there but you have to admit that the anxiety build-up was well worth it, don’t you?

Oh yeah, you know it.

I thought I’d try making it look more square rather than following my jaw. Next time I’ll have a spirit level ready as it took way too long for my finnicky self to be satisfied/mildly confident that it was straight on both sides (not to mention the same thickness).

Fascinating, fascinating.

I’m quite proud I don’t have something hanging out of my nose in that picture. I forgot to check before I took it. Today is a good day.

I scribbled down the names of various artists on a sticky note at work last night. Musical artists, that is. I do that from time to time as I listen to the radio at work. Oh. The purpose? Why, to remind me to acquire their music of course! The hard part is walking downstairs to my bag to fetch the paper. It could be time to hire some help.

On Tuesday night the four of us present in the flat watched The Shining. It was about the fourth time I’ve seen it and I still can’t make sense out of half of it. Maybe it’ll take eight viewings. Better yet, someone explain it to me. Another question I have: how the hell can Shelly Duvall be so unattractive but at the same time appear kind of hot? I’m quite disturbed.

I can’t remember if I mentioned the handful of Queenslander 16 year old girls that randomly added me to MSN a few weeks ago. I use the terms “16 year old” and “girl” loosely. I’m beginning to suspect they’re multiple accounts belonging to the same person. That person being a rather strange man who wants to screenshot me showing my dick over a webcam.