The white stuff… or goods.

It’s snowing! After winter! Yay? Yay!

It only took since November, but finally Tallinn is covered in a thick white blanket. I’d take photographs but I’m lazy. Well, I’m not that lazy, I’ve worked some wonders on the hostel recently. Excuse me while I pat myself on the back.

Cooking has become my passion, unfortunately I’m shit at it. Still, I can’t get enough of it. I always enjoyed watching cooking shows before, now I just lurk on cooking forums and recipe websites and watch any videos I can download to do with cooking. I’ve actually been making too much food for myself and it feels like I’ve put on a little bit of weight.

The desire to lose weight is the reason I decided to start running a few weeks ago. I still haven’t actually done it, but I did decide to. One step at a time. I am a procrastinator, after all.

Looks like the Tartu hostel might be soon underway, as the owners are going to sign the papers next month in order to buy the building. From what I’ve seen it looks pretty cool and pretty well located. Woo.

Maris and Britt left in a rather underwhelming farewell. No tears or anything. Just a goodbye and off they went. Suits me, really. Long goodbyes are never nice. By the way, I’d kill for an ice cream.

I think I’ll enroll in a cooking class, then run to each lesson. Then run home. I hope that’s possible. Then again, I don’t know if Estonian cuisine is something I really want to learn. Hopefully they can just teach me the basics of food preparation and cooking techniques.

Perhaps it’s just time I got a life.

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Sleepy but searching

It’s 4:15 AM and I’ve been looking for new electronic (as always) music for the past four hours. It’s ok, though, because I had a 4 hour nap before I started. I think it was four hours.

Anyway. So far so… potentially good? I’ve only been hearing samples so far, but soon I should have some tracks to check out properly. Jolly good. I needed to add some stuff to my iPod, anyway.

Unfortunately I’m a real anal prick when it comes to organising my iPod. Really, really anal. I can’t help it. I can’t stand seeing lower case names and unformatted ID3 tags. There’s just something criminal about it. I think Media Monkey might make it a bit easier, but I’m yet to try it properly. I do like it, however, as a general media player. It’s like a more power-user-friendly version of iTunes (not that I like iTunes that much, it’s just convenient).

The last couple of weeks have been pretty standard. I made it back down to Tartu for the first time in months, then got rather sick for the whole time I was there. Jolly good. It wasn’t until I had to leave that I started feeling better. Perhaps it’s an omen. I hope not.

Lots of old time slaves and staff are leaving the hostel, or have already left. Fortunately we have two more who’ve just signed aboard recently. Tim the Englishman and Thomas the Belgian. Maris and Britt are leaving at the end of next month, so we’ll need some lovely, talented cleaners to replace them or all hell could break loose. Fingers crossed.

I still want to increase the Internet speed here. There’s quite a few laptops floating around and they all suck up the bandwidth rather effectively. Besides, it’s nice to have fast speeds, ain’t it?

My credit card expires next month. I have to get it replaced ASAP. Ahhhhhhh.

Oh yeah, I didn’t read anything about the Oscars. Maybe I should now. When is the Olympics, by the way?

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.

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.