Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Poland: Olsztyn, Gdańsk, Toruń, Poznań

Ok... this has got to be the most out of date blog on the planet, but I still want to tell you about my continued adventures in Poland ( I will tell you about my current situation shortly).

After Estonia we had a plan to hitch hike all the way to Poland in two days. This plan failed spectacularly and we ended up getting a night bus from Riga to Białystok. From here we hitch hiked to Olsztyn where we spent a few nights with a couple of fantastic people (one of which I think I have man crush on...) One of the coolest things I noticed was the old soviet style apartment buildings had some very cool paint jobs done, including massive (3m+) high street numbers painted on them. Very handy. Sorry you can't see the numbers on the below photo.

From Olsztyn I embarked on my first solo hitch hiking experience where I pretty speedily (and in once case a little too speedily with a crazy pole in a rattling old Mercedes) got to Gdańsk. Gdańsk is a pretty darn cool city, it has a massive historical centre and a cool history to match (Being part of German mercantile leagues, part of Germany [known to them as Danzig] and the odd solidarity movement). I stayed with some hippies in a small cottage in the middle of a forest somewhere which was incredible. I was once again stunned by other peoples (complete strangers) hospitality. And I even got a chance to get some gardening done.. my first real work in months (if not years).
From Gdańsk I took a sneaky train to Malbork which has the largest medieval castle in Poland. It was well worth the two hour detour.

Hitch hiked from here to Toruń which is a very cool town, again one with a whole lot of history to offer (heaps of churches and it is the birth place of Copernicus). Had fun relaxing and exploring there. On the way there got a sweet ride with a truck driver who was on his way to Hungary. He magically pulled a beer from a sneaky fridge in the truck and gave it too me... right then I was living the definition of living the dream: Getting a free ride with in a massive truck, drinking a free beer, talking Polish to a fantastic Pole driving around Poland on a beautiful autumn day. Damn... could I be any luckier?

Toruń at dusk.

My luck ran out... I got to Poznań and watched the Rugby World Cup quarter final... my plans for Paris and the semi's were slowly being changed to a week recovering from the lose in Amsterdam. These things happen though, onwards and upwards I guess. Poznań was very cool, I don't have any super photos but I had a fantastic time there in art galleries, pubs, bars, clubs, sheesha lounges and an apartment jungle.

From here I hitch hiked to Berlin, which will be the next post, perhaps tomorrow if you are lucky... what an adventure that was. To finish: here is a photo of me and my fantastic host in Toruń, you can take from this what you like, I learnt that I am massive, she is not so massive, and I am a very bad photographer. Boy Henry James would be proud of the number of commas in that sentence (perhaps a public blog is not the best place for a joke only Andy would get?).

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Estonia: Tallinn, Saaremaa Island, Tartu

Yep, I am in love again... Estonia this time. During this trip I have got use to talking to people about little old New Zealand and how we are such a small country trying to make it in a big country's world... well, that doesn't work in Estonia. There are only about 1.5 million Estonians and they are doing way better than we are (at least in regards to web based software application: Skype, Kazaa..). We had been told by a few people and Lonely Planet that Estonians are quiet, reserved people and you had to work hard to get a conversation out of them: that is not the case at all. All Estonians are frickin awesome and out going.

We started in Tallinn. Hitch hiked of course, one ride took us in completely the wrong direction (our fault, good fun though) and another was a Russian dude whose answer to the question "are you a student, or do you work, or what?", was "I do business.... Russian business...". There after an awkward silence ensued.

In Tallinn we went to an old KGB Prison which was again very interesting and made things very real. A bunch of churches (which I am yet to get bored of), a little more protestant in these parts after 99% Catholic Poland (mostly thanks to Pope John Paul II I believe).

Off to Saaremaa Island for an Autumn retreat by the seaside. Was good and relaxing and the Autumn-ness is really starting to come out. On the ferry back to the main land we tried a new hitch hiking technique of simply walking up to people and asking where they are going and can we come along... worked a charm. This is near Tartu, my Saaremaa photos are not quite as cool.

Off to Tartu to party with some students. Fantastic time there, met a world famous (in Estonia) film producer, Ken Saan, who proceeded to buy us Tequila till the early hours. Hard work being us. Also went on a super cool fantastic day trip to look at Russia, it was pretty cool, wish we had a visa. Look at it taunting us:

From Tartu we tried to hitch hike down to Kaunas. I am a good chewer usually but this time we bit off a little to much. We made it to Riga then bussed it to somewhere in Poland. And you will have to wait another month before I write about that as I am still 'doin' it now.

Oh, I am beginning to appreciate art, even went to an art gallery today.. all by myself! So here is some art, I call it: Slide in Water with Sky and No People.

Peace out.

Latvia: Riga, Sigoulda

Once again I have gotten behind, nonetheless I will attempt to update you on my grand tour. Note that I will plagiarise most of this from Rox, he does such a good job of blogging.

So from Klaipeda in Lithuania we hitch hiked up to Riga which again was a little too easy (aside from an almost 3hrs wait in the rain and hail, but you can't be a real hitch hiker without getting wet). Riga was pretty neat. Saw the Occupation Museum of Latvia which was really good, its still amazing what these people went through. Although Mrs Ayers did a fantastic job of teaching us about World War II in 5th Form History I never truly grasped the significance of it all or the effect it had on normal peoples lives, it was just dates, places and statistics. Going to museums like this one really make it real, which I guess is why we travel, to better understand... stuff. On a lighter note, Rox being a chicken in Riga Old Town:

We went on a sneaky day trip out to Sigoulda which has a National Park with lots of nature and castles. The nature was very Baltic (birches, oaks etc ['etc' as those are the only tree names I know...]) which are slowly getting some good autumn colours going. Here is a view of the main castle, possible built or used by the Teutonic Knights.

While we were exploring something really amazing happened... well, something really amazing form a bunch of kiwis from the land of birds and small harmless reptiles... we saw a snake! and I got a photo! and we chased it! Such an adventure.

So that was Latvia... I feel a little bad only spending 4 days in a country, and I apologise to all Latvians for that, but the World Cup semis are approaching and my money is finally starting to run low, so we had to really get Latvia done and move on to... ESTONIA.