Sunday, November 16, 2003

Turning pale in the Baltic winter

I hope all is well with all of you in your corners of the world. For me, I have finally come full circle. I passed through the refugee camp that is London Standsted Airport and am revelling in the land of natively spoken English and where I can buy vegemite.

I spent the last three weeks in the Baltic republics, where things were extremely civilized. No crazy grannies attacking me, no cops with guns shaking me awake at 2am, and definately no millionaires kidnapping me.

They do, however, have some
entertaining languages. In Estonia the national museum is called the "Kik in d Kok" and the bus station is the "Busijaam". I entered Estonia and marvelled for days how free I felt not constantly watched or in fear of the cops. I gapped open-mouthed at all the modern contraptions, the sparkling clean toilets, and total embrace of Europe. I went clubbing twice and listened to the bloke travellers crap on about the beautiful girls. In Latvia and "i" goes on the end of everything. Like "Britneyi Speari". Hum...sounds familiar.

I moved onto Latvia. Riga is a
beautiful city and with a massive dump down of snow it was magical. But I was getting tired of being a total tourist tied to the cities, and listening to the blokes crap on about the beautiful girls. So, me and three others divised a plan of escape. We hired a car and drove around Latvia and Lithuania for seven days; two very country Aussie boys who inflicted me and the groovy yank from Boston with the Dixie Chicks and "A Whole Lot of Country" CD compilation. We ran up and down gorgeous, freezing, endless beaches on a futile hunt for amber. Visited a defunct nuclear missile base, once extremely top secret where once missiles were ready to be launched at Western Europe at the push of a button.

Hunting for Amber on a Latvian beach

In Lithuania the main supermarket chain is the "iki"
and to say thankyou, you say "ah chu". I visited the old KGB headquarters where locals were tortured for any reason. This was the third museum to the occupation, even described as genocide, that the Soviets inflicted on the region. Very graphic stories, absolute misery. I have learnt a lot on this entire trip of the suffering humans can cause their fellow man; I visited mass graves and places with long histories of bloodshed. I understand that nothing is impossible.

I was getting really tired of only meeting other
travellers, and listening to the blokes crap on about the beautiful girls reached its crescendo here. By this stage, the girl travellers were in awe of how spectacularly ugly the local men where. How the hell did the mothers spawn the same breed? I moved out of hostels for good. The very lovely Hannah, a mate of a mate (thanks again Catrina!), took me in and I really enjoyed my trip's last days. I wandering the Russian market and said goodbye to what now felt familiar.

Baltics were lovely, but hardly a secret anymore and I feel I didn't get to know life there. I was initial glad to escape the mayhem of the Russians, but before long, it felt all too easy. I missed the mayhem, and I think I might even miss the Russians.

So, I am here in Blighty now, excited to be catching up
with mates and my brother, and people who have known me longer than a week! Not much of a clue what I am doing next, I'll keep you posted.