A Travellerspoint blog

RIOT

Latvia is angry

sunny -7 °C
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Just a short word on an adventure we had in Riga Latvia. After staying at the cool 'old town hostel' with a fantastic kitchen and infinite cider, yet no beer at the downstairs bar/check in place we ran into a funny man in an old timey outfit who was a about 7ft tall goes by the name of Ivars. As it turned out he was a couch surfer too and agreed to host us the next night.

THe next night we dropped our bags at his place (he has no key so climbs over a 4m high gate to let us in) and we decided to go along with him to the parliament square where there was a protest in full swing. Lots of people shouting "NEW PARLIAMENT" in Latvian which sounds something like "HALF PRICE SALMON" and as we could not afford the salmon from the markets that we wanted we thought this was a cause worth fighting for and joined in the chant.

There were lots of speacheds from spokespeople of various organisations and a chior singing patriotic songs from the stage and the 10,000 or so people filling the square and all the surrounding streets joined in. It was very peaceful and patriotic and you got a sense that the Latvian people are sick to death of particularly the economic mismanagement of the current party.

After a few hours we had had enough. Ivars was quietly reading a library book, occasionally propped up on Caitlin's head so it seemed he had had enough too. (It was hillarious watching him fully focused on his novel whilst being bustled and shoved in the middle of this huge, noisy crowd.)
We made for the nearest pub with 2 of Ivars friends he hadn't seen for a couple of years but ran into in the crowd.

(Now for the exciting part) From the T.V at Ivars friends place we watched as the remaining crowd (the angriest and rowdiest) tried to bread into parliament, turned over police cars, broke into and looted liquor stores, set cars on fire and fought with police.

Early in the morning however we left Riga for Vilnius, capitol of Lithuania, only to find that the civil unrest had followed us there with mass protests and marches in all major cities. It is a very turbulent time for the people of the Baltic states, trying to come to terms with their (fairly) new won freedom from the soviet union, remnants of communism , and pressures from the European Union to "Westernise". We also found out that many people elected to parliament in Latvia and Lithuanea are T.v, film and music celebrities with no idea how to manage a country.

Anyhow, we had a great time in Riga and Vilnius. These are amazing cities full of life and art and new ideas and freedoms

and active people who want justice, and half price salmon.

Posted by timandcait 12:22 Archived in Latvia Comments (0)

Suomi

(It means Finland, Jeez, what a bunch of uncultured readers we have)

snow -15 °C
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  • **PHOTOS TO COME AT A LATER DATE WHEN WE ARE ON A MORE MODERN COMPUTER***

Yeeeew, Finland is the home of snow, smoked elk, Matti (world famous ski jumper (apparently)), fish, sauna, snow, snow etc.
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Oh my gosh, the first time Caitlin or Tim had seen snow, and it was at least up to Caitlin's knee (Tim's knee is of course 10cm higher, we know because we just measured it).
Arriving in Helsinki on the Mariella from Stockholm we then jumped on a train and headed north to Jyvaskyla, where we were met by Tim's cousin (well my Nan's cousin's son) Harri Heikila. He had a sign and everything it was great!!
We then tavelled further north to a place called Pyhasalmi which is about 3 5ths of the way up and in the center by Finlands 32nd biggest lake (we were told). We spent an awesome week hangin wit Harri his wife Kirsi and their boys Jesse and Niko - who we never saw and possibly doesn't exist, scientist are still debating this one.
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- We visited the words biggest private bell collection at Vaskikello (copper bell).
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- We experienced a true Suomalinen christmas including several days of eating, decorationg the ole christmas tree IMG_8673.jpg a visit from santaclause (we even got to sit on his lap and sing a song - we of course went for a good old fasioned jingle bells as we new no Finnish tunes)IMG_8724.jpg we were loaded with gifts of homemade socks and glovesIMG_8748.jpg, Fazer's famous vodka filled chocolate, and of course we made some traditional finish bread including Joulu tortu, piiper somethingorother (ginger bread) and Joulu bulla. Mmmmmm IMG_8757.jpg

- We saw some real ice hockey close up and it was great, especially when Kirsi, who plays on the mens team of course, slammed some guy and subsequently gave away a free shot. It was damn exciting!!
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- Tim played tennis with Eero and his friends at the indoor place (50cm of snow outside = bad outdoor tennis weather) whilst Caitlin cheered on (and laughed at silly Tim)
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- Sledding!!! Heaps of fun! Untill we pressured Harri into having one more go on the tube which popped : - ( , Jesse of course was dynomite on the ski things, Tim, not so much.
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- Caitlin got sick : - ( : - ( but was soon on the mend after being given every local remedy concievable by all of the caring people (the best was Aira's mooseberry vodka cordial, it sure was medicinal, or perhaps rocket fuel, Harry and I enjoyed a sneaky swig as well and we havent been sick since!!)
- Harri's brother Ari, the post office boss, has a sweet blues band and Tim got in on the act when their drummer was late.

Very sadly indeed it was far too soon to move on from Harri's home which was so very......homely, warm, welcoming, and the best place ever with the best people ever.

We said our sad goodbyes at the station at 6 in the morning where Harri, Kirsi, Jesse, Ari and Toire came to bid us farewell, good luck and moi moi.

We spent the next few nights with Tim's grandmothers cousin on her fathers side Outi and her husband Christer at their fantastic summer but also winter cottage. It was great chillin out here with Outi visiting the artist village of Fiskars, enjoying some fine food (mmm baked honey and red pepper salmon), walking in the forest by the lake, and partaking in their great sauna and czech beer. They were quirky and lots of fun and once again it was sad to leave!!

New Years

Finland has this crazy rule that between 6pm new years eve and 6am new years day AS MANY FIREWORKS AS YOU LIKE, as a result every year several Finns lose an eye or 2 and several fingers, but we didn't!!

We had a good time in Helsinki with Lotta and friends as the "old people" decided we would have more fun with the "young people". We went to big field where everyone was letting off their own fireworks and it was great!! Way better than the newcastle harbour fireworks, but only marginaly better than the Westy RSL extravaganza.

Next stop was Sillantaka farm near Tampere. Lotta's mum Onerva (nan's cousin, Outi's sister) and Erkki welcomed us to their enourmous mansion/farm house/homestead. It was great exploring the house and farm which has retained its 4 or 5 generations of history, artwork and cool interesting stuff.
- We visited the nearby home of Finlands most famous scuptor
- Visited Iittala, with its awesome glass factory and craft shops.
- Spent a day in Tallin seeing the sights with Lotta, Onerva and Erkki
- MORE SAUNA (they are great, we want one!!!)
- Ahhh country skiing! It is hard and hard work and lots of falling over and hard but apparently we are really good at it for our first go.
- minus 15 bah, without wind it is not so bad.

All in all Finland was great. Every one was so friendly and welcoming and wanted to feed us. Tim felt a strong connection to this place and we are both keen to return....someday.....

SNOW!!!!!!!

Posted by timandcait 10:46 Archived in Finland Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Estonia, my home and native land.

(to the tune of Estonia, my home and native land)

sunny -1 °C
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  • **PHOTOS LATER, COMPUTER TOO SLOW***

Tallinn is a very cool city with lots of cobblestoned streets and 3 storey buildings of various colours. People seem very chic and all dress in black (it seems to be this way at every capital city), and we definitely stand out with our colourful scarves and beanies.

We stayed with 2 couchsurfing hosts (if you don't know what this is, check out www.couchsurfing.com, and do a search for us), one was Antz, who generously picked us up from the Helsinki ferry, performed currency exchange when our cards weren't working, and took us to an open air museum, and the other Marko, who took us to an amazing community kitchen run by some friends. The group is called Uus Maailma (New World) and have free dinner every night at 7pm, and are very welcoming. We spent a long night there playing music and poker, and running outside spontaneously for a snowball fight at midnight

A highlight was climbing up and down an old series of towers once used as a nunnery. In Australia there would be proper lighting, guide ropes - actually it would probably be deemed unsafe and closed down - but here you are free to move freely about the place, and there's a fantastic view of old Tallinn.

A little restaurant called Kompressor also had enormous savoury pancakes that were awesome, and took a long time to digest, and the 'Best Tallinn Cafe 2007' which was kind of overrated but felt like an underground cave, with strange objects and candles strewn about the place.

Then on to Tartu, a university town in the west of Estonia, where we went to a sports museum that bizarrely had an exhibition on the life of an Estonian postman. Also the KGB Cells were disturbing but fascinating. We learned a lot about Estonia's unwilling place in WWII. We were hosted here by a guy named Katz Matz (actually pronounced Ketz Mates) who pulled out the always popular old BBC Narnia series, and we had a good nostalgic moment.

The next day we proceeded to sleep through our alarm (Tim's watch was buried somewhere in his quilt, and he said when he woke up 'I thought I had a dream about an alarm going off!') and we missed the only bus from Tartu to Riga, Latvia at 6.30am, so we had to take a bus back to Tallinn and then jump on one to Riga from there. BLERGH...travelling on buses is boring, and we had a 'robust' man behind us who snored the ENTIRE time like a steam train...it was just like being a kid again back on the old 3801.

And so here we are at a hostel in Riga, Latvia. Tired, and confused by yet another new currency with a different exchange rate, but we are very impressed by the kitchen, and we had a great chickpea stew for dinner that we made ourselves. Then a pint of cider each, so we're feeling pretty comfortable. Missing you all of course, and quite jealous of the lucky NCYC cats just back from Melbourne.

Peace,
Caitlin and Tim.

Posted by timandcait 10:28 Archived in Estonia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

London is...

overcast 8 °C
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Firstly, Aeroplanes Suck, but as everyone already knows this I won't go into detail other than to say we slept 1 hour in 48. The only thing that got us through was this delicious organic natural nut bar available from a coles store near you.

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Right, that's the product placement out of the way, now on with the blog!!

Somehow against all odds, our first week in London has been rain-free. You heard correctly...not one drop. Of course, it's unbelievably cold, LONDON IS COLD!! but at least it's not miserable and wet.

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The first noticeable thing about London is that LONDON IS CONFUSING!! The sun starts going down so we head home, only to arrive back at Shane and Kristen's place and find that it is 4:30 in the afternoon. CONFUSING!! The cars drive on the sensible LEFT hand side of the road, but everyone walking insists on passing you on the RIGHT. CONFUSING!! I travel to the other end of the globe to get away from terrible Australian soaps and turn on the television and Neighbors and Home and Away have stalked me here, and if that is not enough, a British T.V network have commissioned their own Aussie Soap. CONFUSING!! And the Chaotic mish mash of double decker buses, cars, bikes and pedestrians makes for a dangerous, heart stopping trip to the shop across the road.

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But enough of the ranting,
Our first week in this crazy place has been lots of fun with many adventures, mostly on foot thus far. The best adventure so far has been getting to know Tim's 15 month old cousin Daniel. He enjoys playing lots of ridiculous games, his favourite toy is a whoopee cushion and he can imitate a Kangaroo and an Octopus with hilarious results!!

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There are lots of great things to see and do in London. Hyde Park is enormous and we have had many an enjoyable meander through the trees amongst the enormous ducks, friendly squirrels, and frowning businessmen.

Creepy lifelike dummies abound at the local museums, but we have seen some cool stuff at the Natural History Museum, where Caitlin picked out her engagement ring (joking of course...choke!!)

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Another (tepid) highlight was spotting rapper 50 Cent filming a new movie on the Thames (although truth be told, there were two guys, and we couldn't figure out which one he was!) or so one of his rabid fans attempting to pose as a bodyguard told us.

London, London, London. It is at times ugly, beautiful, boring, fascinating, monochrome, colourful...you get the picture, and ergo....CONFUSING!!

Two exciting blogs "Star Watch" and "Harry Who??" coming soon so keep an eye out, or subscribe to be alerted when we update.

Posted by timandcait 01:43 Archived in England Comments (0)

Carpe blog

sunny

Welcome one and all to the sporadic tale-telling of our big trip.
Join us as we become lost, tired, confused and dandy through the vast expanse of Europa! Subscribe to be updated on our travels, or feel free to drop by every now and then and post comments.
Love to you all, don't run with scissors...
Tim and Caitlin.

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Posted by timandcait 04:23 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

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