Wed 23/07/08 08:10

So pretty much everyone knows about my debit card problem. I’m stuck in Riga until I get a replacement sent to me. According to my bank it should be either tomorrow or Friday. Hopefully it’s tomorrow because I really don’t like hanging around here. It has nothing to do with the city, it’s just that I never really planned on coming here in the first place, and the places that I want to be, that I’ve planned on seeing for the last 6 months are waiting until I get my debit card. I haven’t even started my global train pass, which I paid for.

All that being said, I decided to get out and do some sightseeing. I started this morning about 10 and walked around the city for about 6 hours. I think I covered at least half the city in my wandering. There are some really beautiful architecture in the city, and some of the things that I really liked was how there are parts of the city that are not touristy, but have great old buildings. In one area that wandered to there were two old towers. I put an image of one up here, I don’t know what it was originally for, but it was pretty cool. There were two of them about 50 meters apart… maybe it was old gate towers. Maybe. All in all, Riga is really nothing great, but it’s got it’s charms too.

There are a lot of memorials to wars, and lot of narrow streets filled with people and with old buildings. In one of the pics that I posted you can see just one street that’s got some great old buildings on it.

One thing that I really liked was a park not far from my hostel. This afternoon I decided to finally eat something and headed to McDonalds. I didn’t go to the park earlier, but did see it. It was a perfect chance to go relax in the park. The park has a canal running through it which means that they have bridges and there are people out paddling boats, and generally either having fun or relaxing.

Tue 22/07/08 07:06

I took some people’s suggestion that Riga was the place to be, and packed up and left Tallinn yesterday, and I don’t that I made the right decision. Riga is nice, but Tallinn really seemed to be a little more comfortable. What I mean is that Riga is basically a working city, with an old part (old city) and people are walking everywhere, where Tallinn was more like a tourist part of the city, that was restored to it’s original “glory.” Riga is nice don’t get me wrong, the people are more friendly than some of the other cities that I’ve been too, in fact it appears that they are maybe a little too friendly.
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Sun 20/07/08 18:33

I’ve heard stories about backpackers kind of hanging together, and from my experience tonight it’s true. I just said hello to some guy, the next thing I know I’m sitting in a bar with about 10 people. There were people from Poland, Scotland, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand… All because I said hello. This is a great way to live though, you meet new people every step of the way.

Sun 20/07/08 13:29

Well, the official tour ended and I’m now on my own… kind of. What that means is that this morning I left St. Petersburg for Tallinn, Estonia first thing after breakfast. I was so worried about not getting stuck in Russia after my visa expired that I took the easiest route out, which was a bus ride to Tallinn. I have to say that I think it was a great idea. First, just out of coincidence two of the people on the tour ended up have the same bus ride as I did, since I didn’t make hostel arrangements prior, I ended up following them to there hostel and booked a room. It’s good when things work out. Continue reading

Sat 19/07/08 08:10

Last night we left Moscow for St. Petersburg by train. It was only a short 7 or 8 hour trip that was scheduled in a way that we left at 11 pm and got to St. Petersburg at 7 am.

There is really not I can say about St. Petersburg that will do it justice. The city once known as Leningrad is probably the most impressive city I’ve ever been in. Nearly every building looks like it was built in the 1600s, people walking everywhere, beautiful statues and memorials wherever you go, complete with canals that break up the city. It really is one place that most people should see. I have been told that Prague, in the Czech Republic is the most beautiful city, but until I actually get there next week St. Petersburg is my favorite.

Tomorrow we go to the Hermitage and do a few other things. The tour ends in two days, and I leave for Tallin, Estonia.

Okay, now I probably need to apologize for my initial perspective on Russians. I still think that Russian men, that are not in large metropolitan areas are basically mean drunks who can’t keep their shirts on. I guess the border crossing started the feeling that all Russians are mean people, and tonight in St. Petersburg I’ve had a few people come up to me and talk… well they tried, but since I don’t speak Russian it was a difficult conversation. So, and Russians that are reading this, or have read the post where I was maybe a little too critical on the Russian people, let me say that I’m sorry… kind of.

Fri 18/07/08 15:16

The ride to Moscow was a little bad and a lot good. I got tired of the cramped quarters and the lack of privacy. After the four-day train trip we did get to Moscow (unfortunately) and were transferred over to a different tour leader.

Moscow was okay. I don’t want to make it sound like it was bad, but for the most part it’s just a big city. The people move fast and rarely acknowledge anything or anyone around them. For me, prior to getting to Moscow the best part of the tour was meeting or interacting with the residents of the countries I was in, but in Moscow it was very difficult to meet anyone. They just don’t open up from what I can tell. Red Square and the Kremlin were impressive, but after that there wasn’t very many “touristy” things to do. We walked around a lot and took the Metro (subway) to all parts of the city. It was the first time that I’ve ever been in a subway, and I have to admit it was fun. I mean, just getting to the trains was an experience.

First you have to go down about 200 meters just to get to a platform. Now you have to imagine that you are traveling at somewhere about 4 mph at an angle of about 60 or 70 degrees… it’s like your on the express to hell. When you get to the bottom everyone seems to be on a mission, they know where they are going, they don’t look around, and to the unwary it is easy to be just swept along with the flow of the group. Some of the platforms are beautifully decorated though. We went to about 3 different platforms that are listed as being some of the most ornate Moscow has. The ones that we went to had ceilings with mosaics of Lenin with the hammer and sickle, there are busts of Lenin, and chandeliers down the whole platform. To some of the guys that I went with it seemed like a waste of money, but to me it seemed more like homage to the working man.