Tallinn, Estonia - July 7, 2012
Gosh... I always seem to be apologizing for not writing. But I remember writing almost everyday at times in the trip and boring even myself in reading them. But my excuse this time is that it has been a very busy week!
I am now at my friend Bill and Tiiu's apartment in Tallinn. B&T are friends from Kamloops. Tiiu's my Russian teacher and Bill was a Commercial Pilot student of mine years ago. I met up with them a few days ago in Turi, where Tiiu had gone for her 50th high school reunion. Wow... 50 years. Guess they had a great turnout, although she was the only from from outside Estonia. Anyway, I showed up a day or two after so missed the big party that was held at Mari's house... another school mate of Tiiu's and at whose place we were all staying while in Turi. But had a great time there as well... ate way too much of Mari's great cooking of Estonian fare, and got some much needed motorcycle work done. Oil and filter changes, and a little welding. All of which was facilitated by Ants, another one of Tiuu's highschool friends. Ants helped track down some 20W50 for me (a 2-day job) and welded the tab on my centerstand that the guys at the parking lot in Budapest had broken off. Looks like it came from the factory! Awesome. I will leave my bike with Ants for the winter. I'm happy that it will be in such good hands! Also, had a great visit with Ester, Tiiu's former highschool English teacher. What a sweetheart... and although only trained in Estonia, she spoke English with a clearly British accent. Amazing. Very much appreciate all the Estonian hospitality! Thank you so much!
Main Gate of the Old City, Tallinn
Guess I haven't written since Krakow, but it was a pretty uneventful and quick trip up north. It was just a muggy broiler the day I left and continued that way even into the next day... well, until the Lithuanian border where it started to rain. Poland is on the Zloty, so I got a little bundle together that I planned to exchange at each border as Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are all on different currencies. Well, I had just gotten back on the bike after exchanging the Zloty's for Lita's when it started to rain. Hey, what's a little rain. Anyway, it was just getting worse... much lighter sky in the mirrors than through the windshield. Finally the crap hit the fan. Had to pull off into what was a mobile home sales place to try to find some shelter. No one around, no overhang. Nothing. So just sat there on the bike for about 10 minutes. Sounded and felt like someone was pouring gravel over my helmet. Very loud, very wet. Finally the visibility improved so that I could see a little orange glow down the road. Couldn't see what it was, but it reminded me of the electric price signs some of the gas stations had out front, so looked for approaching headlights as best I could, ducked out onto the road and headed for the lights. It was surprisingly close... maybe 100 yards. Nice station with a cafe. Whew! Left my gear outside so that I didn't soak the place, and sat out the worst of it... about 30 minutes worth... drinking cappuchinos. There was a couple there on a bike from Finland, but they didn't seem to want to talk. When it slowed down a bit, I took my chances and left. Luckily there was just slow improvement through the day and no repeat of the earlier downpours. It had all stopped by the time I had to exchange the Litas for the Latvian Lats.
Kadriorg Palace, Tallinn
Crossed Latvia, almost making it to the land of the Euro ...Estonia before getting too tired. Found a hotel just south of the border. By then, my little stockpile had dwindled to 33 Lat. Asked how much the room was... 35 Lat. Nuts. But if I was willing to be so kind as to not ask for a receipt... 33 Lat. Excellent. But then I had nothing left for dinner... so went to bed without any supper. Oh well, I was beat anyway. But that worked out well because then I didn't have to exchange the Lats at the Estonian border. Didn't care about dinner. Nice clear night. Didn't start raining until my watch alarm went off in the morning.
Had a little rain on the way to Turi, but not much. Have to say that the ride from Poland up to Estonia all seemed very familiar. It looked much like Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, with a little northern Michigan thrown in. Parts of Estonia look like cottage country north of Toronto. So very nice, but all rather mild.
Anyway, yesterday Bill and Tiiu and I went to the KUMU, the art museum. Some of the exhibitions were just excellent. Loved the photograph-like romantic period paintings, and in particular the night scenes. Seems like it would be hard to paint a moon-lit scene. What subtle colors. No end to the detail in some of the paintings... even with your nose right up to the canvas. In one, not only were there strings on a guitar, but the shadow of the strings. Other than KUMU though and a quick trip through the old section of town, we've pretty much just been occupied with normal day-to-day jobs. Of course it takes forever to do anything, and that's even with Tiiu here who speaks Estonian. Tried to find an internet cafe today where I could print out some vouchers I need for my hotel in St Petersburg, and a bar-code for the border, and it turned into a half-day job. Finally gave up and asked Tiiu's brother's son Axel to do it for me. Nice enough to do it, but that was two tram-rides away. Oh well. It got done. Apparently here, the old axiom of never expect to get more than one thing done a day still holds true.
At the Outdoor Museum, Tallinn
Old Ways at the Outdoor Museum
So I will stay here again tomorrow, then head off for Narva, on the Estonian-Russian border on Monday. Will stay there Monday night, then cross the border and head for St Petersburg on Tuesday. Will come back to Tallinn on Friday. Get organized on Saturday, then maybe a day trip on the ferry to Helsinki on Sunday if things are all ready. Bike goes back to Turi and Ants's on Monday, Tuesday Tiiu's brother Sass will take me to the airport and I'll be home Wednesday night... 10 days from now. That will be 3 months to the day from when I left. Anxious to get home... although St Petereburg should be nice (very much looking forward to it) and Helsinki too.
The border will be interesting and a learning experience. Have already discovered that you have to make a reservation to cross. They send you a message on your phone three hours before you are to proceed to the holding area, then one when you are to go to the holding area, then one when you are called to the border. I guess this procedure was enacted because trucks were sometimes lined up on the Estonian side, backed up through town for 10 or 14 hours, idling, trying to get into Russia. Hopefully this will ease the congestion... and make Narva smell a little better! Hope so. My hotel is only a couple of blocks from the holding pond.
We've had nice weather for a while now... but it is thunder-storming now. Better now than when I am riding. Not sure what the forecast is like for next week, but it really doesn't matter. It is what it is and the forecasts seem to be random guesses anyway. Not very accurate at all.