Sunday, August 26, 2007

Knossos - Archaelogical Rembrandt

I know Jess felt cheated when she went into the Rembrandt room and there was only one - but Knossos as it turns out, may be complete and total bullshit.

Apparently, Sir Arthur Evans, a wealthy Brit bought the entire area and began excavations. He was no archaelogist - no educational background, no history degree, no scientific base. Just some rich dude who figured he could dig this shit up and make his own interpretations. Now, if I really jog my memory, I am sure I knew this but I didn't remember and felt totally fucking cheated. The palace is REAL and the things you see are as they were (for the most part) but Evans did take some artistic license when reconstructing portions of the palace. As a historian, I don't know what the fuck he was thinking. That's as blatantly technical as I can be. By doing this, he totally calls everything at the site into question. He doesn't know if this was a house, a sotrehouse, a temple, etc. He made uneducated guesses at what all this stuff was. In addition, since he had no clue what he was doing, who knows how much shit was lost when he and these other fools were digging through all the rock. What a dick!

Anyway, it's supposedly a Minoan palace. Some of which can be dated back to 7000 BC. The mythology surrounding the place is that this is where King Minos had Daedalus create the maze where he kept the Minotaur. As the story goes, no one knew its secrets except the Kings daughter and she used it to get Thesues out. Then the King got pissed and imprisoned Daedalus and Icarus but Daedalus made wings out of wax, Icarus flew too close to the sun and then his wings melted and he hit the ground. Blah blah blah...I'm still pissed that this guy made shit up about what was what and the whole day was f'ed because I was questioning everything. Friggin' spoiled Brit.

That being said, being in a place where there are structures from 7000 BC is pretty cool. I just have to wonder how much stuff was lost or destroyed and how much did we loose in understanding ancient civilizations because this guy wanted to play explorer.

We spent the night in Iraklion. The hotel was a little old in decor but there was nothing to complain about. It was quiet and clean and most importantly, we paid the extra 5 euro and had AC. The bathroom had one of those old toilets, with the box and the pull string. I was just praying that Clemenza was able to get the gun taped to the back of it so I could come out and wack Sollozo and McClusky. The town itself, of what we saw of it down by the water was cool. It had a lot of old stuff that belonged to the Venetians who contolled the city for a long time. You can see St. Marks Lion, the sign of Venice on parts of the old fort. Other than that, we did our usual, walked around and checked out the scene - had some dinner and hung out. We pretty nuch relaxed because we had to get up and get on the ferry to Mykonos in the am. After coming back to the hotel we went out for another quick walk because there was a church that was lit up and looked really cool and I wanted to go back and snap a few shots of it. Afterwards, we just went back and hit the sack.

PS - Just a quick story - so sometimes when we get back to the room in the afternoon, I will sit on the bed and chill while we decide what we're gonna do. Inevitably, if Jess doesn't get a call or make one, she will ask me if I am gonna nap and then start doing some Sudoku. My answer is usually, I dunno, I'm just laying down and relaxing. Of course, I know I am going to nap and I usually fight it. After like the first couple of times I stop myself from naping, she will make a, "Uh not sleeping, huh?" comment. I growl - and go to sleep. She thought she would be funny and take a picture of me not sleeping. Little did she know, that I had one of her with her mouth open on the bus to Iraklion.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hania and the Samaria Gorge


What else can I say? We got in to the cab AND the price was exactly what we expected! I guess there are limited opportunities for money in Crete and so they don't mess with you.

It was pretty late when we got in and we decided to walk around and see what was going on. The streets and the shops were open very late and we walked around and loked at a lot of stuff that we knew we weren't going to buy because we didn't feel like carrying it around for the rest of the trip.

We made it down to the old port and it was pretty cool. There is an old Venetian lighthouse and lots of people watching and so interesting looking signs for bars. There were some really old buildings above the shops. They looked really shoddy even in the dark. I think we ended up heading back to the hotel despite Jess' portest for corn - but then again, when she saw the guy using a hairdryer to cook it, I think she dediced against it. I'm sure she didn't want any pube looking hairs, regardless if they were armpit or chest hairs near her corn. We got back and showered - it was one of those werid ones - the whole bathroom was open, so nothing separated the shower on the wall with the sink and the toilet. I guess it has its bonuses - you could legitimately pee in the shower without any repercussions.

We got up and headed to the bus station - which was actually pretty shoddy as well. We grabbed our tickets and headed out front to enjoy the fresh second-hand smoke and wait for the bus. I'm pretty sure we decided on the 7:30 bus - which would get us there and into the gorge by 9. The ride was interesting - in Hania, the temperature was 26C when we left. That's like 112F but when we got to the gorge after some crazy winding roads and some sheep evasions, it was 16C which for us is like -5F.
It was gorges - just like Ithaca (for those of you who have seen the t-shirt). The plan was to head down and into the gorge at a reasonable pace - which should get us throught the 13km within a 4-6 hour period. This means you don't take a lot of pictures (yeah right) or spend time in the "town" that is in the middle of the gorge. We had started drinking water the night before and on the way there so within the first mile or so - or at least at the first toilet stop, I had to go. After handing over the camera to Jess, I waited on a long line that probably took 10 minutes longer than it needed to. There was a lot of giggling and talk in other languages as I waited to pee. So now I'm thinking, "What the fuck is it going to be inside there." In general, it's not a problem for me, I'll pee anywhere - and in fact, probably have, including Navatto's leg. But that's another story. I have seen, in Red Rock Canyon in Nevada, literally, a hole in the ground and then it's a long way down for your refuse to mingle with everyone elses. I honestly didn't expect to see this - which, coincidentally, I had seen before. We encountered THAT bad boy in the train station headed back to Naples from Sorrento last year. It's not terrible if you have a penis - because I am sure it's a lot easier to aim that. But, I can see having a problem if you're a woman or if you need to drop a deuce. I think they should put handlebars of some kind nearby - in case you need the assistance. The bathroom in the gorge did not have a nice tile floor but then again that could have been an advantage - imagine slipping in here? Imagine slipping in someone's bad aim?
It was a perfect day - a bit hot once we got down into the gorge but not too bad at all. Especially if your name is Jess and you don't have a pack! Not that I'm complaining - because I volunteered to carry everything - the water and the fruit and snacks. It was a good workout for me - especially since my knees suck and I haven't been hiking too much of late. Of course, this hike was all down hill - just what the arthritis and miniscus' love. The pain was well worth it though. The gorge was amazing and the views - most of which you will get to see were awesome.

We continued on our way after a stop and about 10:30-11 decided to stop for "lunch" which was a large piece of fruit and a few handfuls of trailmix - rather than one at the break. We had just passed a bunch of people and came across a stream crossing and decided to stop there. Of course, within 5 minutes, every anus on the trail decided to stop there and take pictures. Including the German manbitch who was laying on the rocks and trying to pose all sexy like - I think it was supposed to be sexy. He looked like a jackass and was definitely no sexy.

(So, I was just about done with this post and fucking cablevision screwed up and didn't save it - I'm friggin pissed so if it really sucks from here on, blame them and not me.)

We kept our spot and didn't give it up to anyone because it had the best views. I totally could have spent the rest of the day in this spot. The water was running by, we had shade and some food. But there was still another 8 km or so left until the end. We stayed for about 15 minutes and then continued on our way - passing all the fools who had passed us while we ate in our awesome spot with the view.
As the trail got ready to descend into the gorge, it reminded me of Boynton Canyon Trail in Sedona. It kinda skirts above a drop for a bit before it gradually goes down and lets you out into the gorge. It's kinds like building you up for the big ta-da when you step into the gorge. And, it was awesome.

The walls of the gorge just surround you once you are down in it. It also got super friggin hot. I guess with the sun overhead and the rocks heating up and bouncing the heat off one another and into the gorge, it got to be about 2000 degrees and they don't want you to play in the water supply. The walls are really cool. You can see the erosion lines from I'm assuming the glaciers that cut the gorge and the water that flowed through,continuing the erosion process. Supposedly, you can see fossils in the walls but I didn't see any - must have had something to do with the distortion being caused by the 2000 degree heat.
We continued to hike - stopping once more for a break. My shoulders were starting to cramp up a bit. As you hike the last few spots along the trail you start to see people hiking it in the opposite direction - it's lile 2 PM. You can tell they were total tourists with no clue about hiking of any kind. How you could head into this place at 2 pm - the hottest time of the day, wearing fashionable sandals and in some cases flipflops and be heading uphill is beyond me. I'm guessing they're only going a little bit and then back but who knows, people are stupid. We continued on and out of the gorge and of course there are a few little stands at the end selling juice and ices and stuff so they can get you to spend some dough in your weakened state.
The worst part of the hike was to the town where you get the ferry. It is just a wide open space - the sun is beating down on you and there is no cover anywhere. It was like another mile or so and there were goats and sheep on the side and it stank like their shit. There was a cool building built into the stone - I'm assuming that it was a church. Greece is full of churches - they're small and they're everywhere and I can't imagine that they have a large enough population to support them all.
We did eventually get to the town. We bought our ferry tickets - it wouldn't leave until 3:45 - it was now about 1:30. We got lunch and relaxed for a bit. While going through the pictures, the screen on the camera went blank and an error message came up. I almost vomitted. I started to erase pictures - luckily, everything was ok except that I lost 22 pictures - most from down in the gorge. I suppose it could have been a lot worse.

We got on the ferry - it made a few stops. Some dude was sitting like right on top of me for part of the trip. I don't get the lack of understanding of personal space on this continent. WTF? Dude, get your fucking knee off me - it's not like I know you or you're my relative or something. This shit is all day everyday over here. We got off and had to look for the bus stop and tickets back because someone, I won't mention any names lost our return tickets. Of course - not having tickets can put you at a distinct disadvantage when fighitng to get on the bus.

There was this mess of a guy at the bus stop. All he did was groan. Uggghhhh... and he was big. Definitely a bit fat but he looked like he would be strong - he kinda reminded me of Thing, except he wasn't orange. He somehow managed to stand next to us and the girl from Seattle we were talking to and Jess, Ms. Sensitive turns, sees him and laughs in his face. Now, it was clear there was something wrong with this dude, he had to be retarded and non-verbal. And if it wasn't clear, all you had to do was take a whiff and note the giant wet spot on his crotch and legs. Guy pissed all over himself and he stank. It was really bad. I thought for sure he would be on our bus but he wasn't. Thank God. Surprisingly, he didn't try to touch Jess - just what I would have needed with my bummy ass knees all wobbly. I would have gotten beaten up by a retarded guy on Crete. Now that would have been a funny story!

We got back to Hania and napped, relaxed, ate and did some shopping at night. It was really cool there at night - we had to get up the next day to take the bus to Iraklion and see Knossos.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Athens - Sabbas, piles of rocks and drinks

We got in to Athens and went through the passport control without being checked. We managed to make our way to the train, thanks to a kind Greek lady who couldn't speak English but could point. Some gestures work in every language.

The train got crowded fairly quickly and these three heroin addict looking kids get on. The girls had the worst haircuts ever and I would have taken a picture but I was afraid the camera would break.

We got into the metro station and as we were coming up the escalator, there were excavations IN the station. It was really cool. As soon as we steppend outside, there was more and what we found out later on, it was Hadrian's Library. Anyway, the hotel was good, AC and a TV, with some channels in English. We dropped off our stuff, washed our faces and went to go eat and see some of the sights.

The food we got was ok but the bonus was it overlooked the Roman Agora. The Greek one had been too small. so the Romans built their own. After eating we went and got the ticket to get in to all the ancient stuff - 6 euro and you could see everything! The first thing we went to see was Hadrian's Gate. It separated the old city from the new Roman one. Inside were the remaining columns from the Temple of Zeus. They are freaking huge. There are 16 left - one fell in an earthquake in the 1800's I think and it is still sitting where it went down - what's awesome about it is you can see how many sections they built it in. There is no was to really describe how tall they are. It's not like I can compare them to a skyscraper or something but they are immense and they made us look like ants.
Next we headed back out into the blazing sun - ok, actually we never left it because we were just in a wide open space, but we headed over to the Ancient Agora - I'm guessing an agora is just the old market/business place. In this one was the Stoa of Attalos (there were Stoas everywhere we went - again, I'm guessing by what we saw, it was only some long ass building), it was fixed up by Rockeffeler, or one of our rich elite who don't know that they should be giving their money to me and not some crumbling old ass building. I mean if it was that important to begin with, they would have kept it up. There was also the Hephaesteion - the best preserved temple there. It's the one up on the hill and in every world history textbook.

We spent some time just chilling in the shade, sitting on a bench and watching the other tourists run around and hoping that we were going to get up so they could sit in the shade. Fat chance! The view was sweet and you could see everything, including the train tracks that run through the far side of the site. It's weird seeing the train run through there - more weird when we were on the train going through it.
We then walked to the Keramikos, it contained the Sacred Way which was the road to Eleusis where illustrious Athenians were buried. All I saw was more fucking piles of rocks. Maybe there was some other cool structures but I'm not sure. I think I was starting to see things it was so hot. At one point, I'm pretty sure I watched them build a friggin temple. Did I mention that it was hot?

We hoofed it back to the hotel to take a nap and cool off. All over Athens and the rest of Greece there are these little miniature churches. I though maybe they were used to memorialize old religious spots but apparently they are functional. We hung out at this one - it was our outside drinking spot to watch the bums, dogs, cats and freaks that abound in Athens. We hung out and had a few drinks - I had to keep walking back to the same little bodega place. The woman was a bitch and made faces when I asked her to open the bottles. "Sorry, I don't feel like using my teeth this evening - if you bend over I'm sure I could figure something out!" We went in there so much - and then the next day, Jess went in there on like three occasions, she wouldn't go in to get drinks. I'll sacrifice anything for a beer. We spent the rest of the night walking around for a long time before we got food. We took some pictures of Athens at night - all the cool stuff is lit up including the Acropolis - you can see it from just about everywhere in the city. It's imposing but not in the same way as the Russian monument.
We got up a little later than we had planned and headed up to the Acropolis. It's a bit of an uphill walk but when you get there it is well worth the sweat. We got to see the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Theatre of Dionysus and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus which is still in use today. They are doing a ton of work on the Parthenon which doesn't make it as cool looking but I guess you have to keep up on it if you want the tourism.
The Erechtheion is dedicated to a few gods including Athena and Poseidon -
Erechtheus was the snake bodies hero who was speared when Athena and Poseidon fought over the city's patronage. I guess Athena won. She's also prominently featured on the temple. The Acropolis overlooks the entire city - and it is really impressive how the oldest part of the city is sitting above it looking over all the new modern stuff. Jess was most amazed at how there's alway one street you can see running through the vast majority of the city.
I'm sorry, but did you miss the freaking HUGE, 3000 year old temples all around us - built before there was any type of modern equipment! I will give her this - the street does look cool - like it cut a swath through the city's buildings.
Since we were on a roll, hot, sunburned and tired, we decided to hit the Roman Agora and bang out the rest of everything we needed to see. The Greek Agora became too crowded and could no longer accomodate all the buisness they needed to conduct, so the Romans built a new one. There were tons of columns standing around and we took queer touristy pictures at them. There were lots of random dogs there as well. There were dogs all over Athens.

We were done with the rocks for the day so we headed back and got Sabbas (a really good gyro place that we would eat at like 50 times). Afterwards I napped while Jess read in the small square across from our hotel. I went down to get her after my nap and we encountered the nastiest pigeon in Europe - of course, I didn't have the camera. I think it had some kind of gangrenous infection on its food. It was so disgusting - I'm getting dry heaves thinking about it now. A couple of the bums were begining to stir - one got up and went back to sleep and Jess said, I wonder why he did that? I replied that he probably remembered that it was Sunday and he didn't have anything else to do.

We decided to be bums and get a drink and hang out at the church. Sounds sacriligious but I assure you that it wasn't. On the way there we hear this friggin mayhem - and OF COURSE, I do not have the camera with me. Walking through the streets in a parade like style are all these hippy looking fools juggling. I shit you not, juggling. Balls, pins, that goddamn diablo thing - anything they can get their hands on. Some are on stilts, others balancing balls on their heads none are wearing deodorant. It was pretty cool and the media was there. Apparently it is some kind of get together and as it turns out on the news on the ferry a few days later, there were about 4,000 of them - juggling, stitlting and no deodoranting. We ended up having a few more drinks, getting Sabbas and hanging out.

We got up to get to the ferry the next morning and I went and got a haircut. This was probably Jess' favorite part of the trip because the beard was on week 5 and part of it was on month 2 and counting. We got to the ferry and began the deat march to the departures spot - which had to be at least 123 km away from the metro. And I think 123 km equals 34 miles and our packs were now bulging at 75lbs.
We had gotten a bunch of postcards and mailed them out - including the one on the left here. Sure you may blush - but how the hell could I not send that one to Cappy - on the inside it said "Thinking of you...and Scotty" and if you know Roach, you can appreciate the humor. If not, it's still funny to think we considered sending it to Jess' cousin Zach - the King of the Gay Joke. Jess also sent it to her friend Tony - I considered sending it to anyone who's address I had - luckily, I didn't have many on me.
The ferry ride to Crete wasn't too bad. It was long - about 7 hours. But overall it wasn't bad. There was this annoying rug next to my seat and when I would leave my pack in the isle people would move the rug and it would bunch up. The people started tripping. The little kids in front of me loved it and waited for the next person to come and trip. I kept fixing the rug but it kept moving. Someone moved it away from my pack and somehow it moved again and got bunched and some little girl was dancing by and she went flying. The boys were laughing and I could no longer contain myself. Though I moved the pack again, some old lady came by and took a MAJOR spill. I didn't laugh but the boys were and I am not quite sure how I didn't.
Jess asked the crew people the best spot to get off the boat at and they told her and that it would be happeneing in about 15 minutes. We got our packs on and headed over to the area where people were already lining up. About 45 minutes later we began to move down the steps. It was crowded and of course, the pieces of shit are pushing and jockeying for position. It's really annoying but I have my secret weapon, my Keen sandals, which honestly smell like vomit. Jess had one guy almost knock her down the stairs she turned around and politely asked him what the fuck his problem was. I was battling my own Greeks, sitting on my pack, trying to slink past me otherwise I would have explained it to him in a language he would have understood. We stood there for like another halfhour or so while they let the fucking cars off. People kept inching up and I felt like the guy on the postcard but despite the body odor and the start of the smoking marathon in a non smoking area, we survived, got a cab and headed to our hotel.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Bird in Hand, Unfortunately Didn't Poop

We made it to Helsinki and got checked at passport - got a stamp with a little boat on it. We made it over to our hostel and it was mad old inside. Real old - and the decor in the room was hideous. Really hideous. Of this, I did take pictures. It was really nasty. The room was big and pretty clean but man was it ugly.

We decided to walk around anc chek out the sights. There wasn't too much. We saw Tuomiokirkko which is a Lutheran Cathedral. It is VERY white and on top of a hill that overlooks this main square. We walked around and found some caches - checked out the sights. Of course, while looking for one cache this guy stands right next to where we need to look and then just stands there. He looks like a friggin pedaphile. So Jess pulls her, I'm going to make people feel uncomfortable move and stands right next to him. Right in his ass. There's nothing else around him. He realizes it and turns around all startled and looks at her. Then walks like 20 feet away and starts feeding the pigeons, like a dick, and they all come swarming around. Again, he's startled apparently he didn't know that when you feed one, every pigeon in Europe knows and descends on the spot.

Jerkoff finally walks away and we look for the cache but it's not there. We walk down the street to our next destination and stop to look for soap. The don't have anything Jess wants so we head out and who's there - pigeon boy. Like he's following us or something. I take his picture just so we have it. He then walks in another direction.

We Finnish (get it?) looking around and decide to go and get food. We walk. And walk. And finally get to where the place is supposed to be and it's not there. Then we go to another place and it's way more expensive than the book says so we say forget it and head to this Tex-Mex place we saw, Iguanas.

I know Jess is fiendin' Pancho's and so am I so we head in. We get margeritas - served in a wine glass???? and order some food. It comes out and it sucks. It's really just crappy. Mine is bad, hers is bad, the chips and crappy guacamole is bad. It's bad. We decide that there will be no more attempts at Mexican or something similar for the rest of the trip. Pancho's will have to wait until we get home.

We headed back to the hostel both feeling a little ill. She showers, then I go to the other one on the floor. I lean on the sink to look in the mirror and the f'n thing almost comes out of the wall. I jumped back to get my weight off it and it snaps back into place. That was pretty damn close. I should have realized that the place was old and that I shouldn't be leaning on anything. Luckily the shower is ok and I get out with few of the problems faced during encounters with others of his kind on the continent.

We got up the next morning and headed to Suomenlinna - these five interconnected islands that used to be a Sweedish fortifications. They were pretty cool. It was agreat day and an awesome opportunity for pictures. The coast was very pretty. We stopped to eat some fruit out on some rocks and this momma duck and her babies came over and hung out and we tossed them some apple pieces. The Jess, who's fascinated by "hoppy" birds, is all happy that a hoppy is coming up next to her, so I tell her to put some food in her hand, I bet the bird will hop on and get it. She does and of course, I'm not ready to take a picture of it and the bird hops on and grabs the apple.

Of course we have to do it again - and this time I get the shot. Of course, it's only a hand and there's no proof that it's Jess' so, I guess you'll have to take our word for it. I was hoping hoppy would poopy in her hand but he/she did not. Then some seagull looking m'fers and some pigeons come over and ruin the fun so we got up and headed back towards the ferry. We just missed it and got a drink and then the next ferry.

We got to the dock and did some shopping at the open airmarket. Also got lunch. Jess got a bunch of fruit and I got some fresh salmon and potato plate that we really good. We're sitting there eating and its these long tables and this Spanish family sits next to us. One of them drops a bottle of soda and it shoots everywhere - some gets on Jess and they say sorry, so it's ok. But then the son - who's like 18, is wiping up the soda off himself and the table and the prick throws the napkins on the ground. Not even like one little napkin - but a whole bunch - everytime he wips up a drop of liquid. What a dick! He made a huge friggin' mess. I can't stand them - how I didn't notice them last year is beyond me.

We headed back and took a nap. We then walked to see Temppeliaukio Church - which is built in a rock. It was very cool and very different looking. We then headed back with some hobo dinner and did some laundry. Some of our clothes shrunk a little - even after the world's slowest talking Finn assured us that they wouldn't. Nothing too noticeable - just tight in some spots you'd prefer them not to be tight on. We slept and got up at 4 so that we could head to the airport by bus. People were still out at 5 when we got to the station - one guy almost stumbled on to Jess - thought he might barf on her too. Of course, I get yelled at for not saying he was coming near her. The airport wasn't too bad because everyone had assigned seats so poeple weren't killing each other to get on.
It's on to Greece!

Tallinn, Estonia - cool but shitty. Literally.

We got up super early - like 4 or 4:30 so that we could get on the bus and get to the airport. Everyone said we only needed to be there like an hour before because the airport is so small. We headed out to where the bus stop is supposed to be and it's not there. It's not down the block either. Nor is it a little further down the block.

Finally, around a corner and about a quarter mile down the road, we find the stop. The 22 is there - and though it says 22a is the bus, the 22 has a plane next to it and we decide to get on.

We hop on and as we're walking to our seats, I say to Jess, "Shit - it's the lady from the way here!" It's the same bus matron. She's still not smiling. At all. We sit down and enjoy the ride as much as we can with 20 lbs backs on our laps and a bus load full of non-smiling Latvians.

We're a little late getting to the airport but not bad. The line is HUGE. We find out that our check in is on a different line and hop over there but it's still moving slow, like something is wrong. After a few minutes and watching our line slowly merging into another we realize there is something wrong. The guy shuts off the monitor above the check in and we're both like shit!

Jess walks up to the front to find out what's going on. I see the frazzled airline guy open the front of his desk and start to mess with the machine inside.

Jess has on her puppydog face. I'm sweating and wondering what he's doing and shy she's got that face on. It doesn't work on me, so how the hell is it going to work on someone else.

Son-of-a-bitch! We have a winner. The guy closes the front of th desk, Jess calls me up to the front and we're through! Turns out the machine wasn't printing boarding passes so they moved people over a line and then people (like Jess) we're going up there asking him questions as he was trying to help one lady and her baby. Jess gave him the puppydog eyes and said "Can you please help me, our plane leaves in like 45 minutes?" I get up there and he's printing our passes and telling some other lady to back away from the desk. Sweeet!

We get through security and hop on the small prop plane. It was a short flight. So short in fact, that I fell asleep holding my book. I didn't even read a word of it. The owner of the place we're staying at (the lady with the broken pipes) picks us up. Apparently we're staying at one of her freind's apartments. We're driving through Tallinn and she's talking to Jess, Jess is asking her a question and she's stopping at a green light and people are beeping. We make it safely to the apartment and the woman is pointing to a really cool looking building and says, "That's where you'll be staying." We get out and it's really the crummy regular building across the street - Jess was bummed. The apartment was very cool looking inside - I could kick myself for not taking pictures. It was painted all white but made to look like stone - almost like a cave. There were huge beams in the ceiling and framing the windows and the floor was all wood. It was cool. Not sure if it was authentic or just made to look old but new.

Tallinn is a VERY cool city. There is a walled section that houses all the medieval buildings. It has a very different feel than most cities but it is VERY touristy. There were tons of people everywhere. We decided that we would just walk around and check it out and find some caches. The first spot we stop in with a cache, we both step in shit. Literally not figuratively. Jess spent the next half an hour stomping the ground, using twigs and dancing to get the shit out of her shoes. This didn't work so well. I was able to get the fast majority out of mine. Of course, we didn't find the cache. We continued to walk around with little luck in caching but a lot in sightseeing. It took a while for us to find some place that would have food for Jess and in the end, they really didn't because they brought out her food with cheese on it even though she asked for it without. We ended up heading to the grocery store after I finished eating and then headed back to the apartment to watch TV and hangout.

The next morning, Jess continued to clean the shit out of her shoes while we waited for the woman to come and get the key. We headed over to the St. Olaf's Church so that we could check out the view of the city from the tower. Jess decided that she had enough of climbing towers and so she sat outside with our packs while I headed up. Thank God because there is no way we would have made it with our packs. It was tight and steep and it took a while to get up there as it was. It was worth it though. The views were amazing. The city inside the walls looks very different than most cities do from above. I was even able to see Jess and zoom in on her doing SoDuKu - the pictures are pretty crazy. We decided to grab some food and head over to the port so that we could get our ferry to Helsinki. It was a nice ride, I think, because we both slept.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Should we run when we get off the plane?

This is the question Jess asks as we pull into the airport in Riga, Latvia. I say I don't think so, but who knows.

We get through passport control pretty easily and head over to the bus. We get on and Jess goes up to the woman and pays. She doesn't smile. At all.

Everyone smiles at Jess because she's cute and small and she smiles at people and that usually eases the initial tension. She didn't smile. At all.

We get to the hostel after walking past it and realize that it is on top of a booby bar. Nice! Well, aparently not really in Latvia. Not the women. We both agreed that Latvia had the best looking women so far but the booby bars are run by REAL shady elements - former KGB types and Russian mob. Tons of British people come here for batchelor parties (why, I have no idea) and they run tons of scams on them. First there are hot girls that call you into a bar fro "free" drinks, then you get a bill for like 1000 pounds (2000 bucks) and if you don't pay, they cut you off from your buddies and get you into a room and beat the shit out of you and still extract the money. One guy got pummeled, had cigaretts put out on him and left for dead.

Apparently, the police are worse than they are in Belgium. I'm sure they get paid off and look the other way.

There were tons of weird people in our hostel. These are the people I imagined we would run into on these trips - real dorks, who because they are on the road, try to reinvent themselves as someone else. It doesn't matter what country I'm in, I'm an asshole.We walked around and looked for some caches but had no luck. We saw most of the main sights, including the 3 brothers - these medieval buildings which are supposed to be the epitome of medieval architecture in Riga. They were cool. We got food and decided to cook that night. We also went and got some drinks at this liquor store place and when we paid the woman didn't smile. At all.

They're fairly fucking miserable here.

I guess I would be too if it rained as much as it did when we were there. Because it was so shitty we took it easy the next day and headed to the Museum of Latvian Occupation. It documented the occupations by both the Nazi's and the Communists. It was very interesting and had tons of information. It was cool to hear other perspectives - even how they felt the US and GB allowed the Baltics to be kept by the Communists after the war, despite Churchill saying, this is not what we fought for. We again tried to find some of the local caches but to no avail. We were stumped and decided to email some people for help. I had an idea where at least one was but because the building was like possibly falling down and it was a church, I said nah, but I was right.

The next day we went to Cesis - it is a medieval castlel, town and the castles' ruins. If, on the odd chance you find yourself in Riga, Latvia, you can skip Cesis. It was a two hour bus ride there - which wasn't bad because we both crashed and got some sleep. The castle was cool - when you get there, some girl in costume gives you a lantern to use as you walk around the towers. It definitely helped a lot in certain parts. They're doing a lot of work to restore the castle and do excavations - so in 20 years, when it's cool to go to Riga and people say, "I saw this amazingly restored castle in this town called Cesis", we can say, Yeah, we saw it when it was a dump.

We got on the bus back and it was packed. And it was hot. And the bus was from like '79. The only thing to make it worse would be if someone had a chicken or something like you see when people are on buses in Mexico or Guatemala or something. We made it home, alive, hot and probably smelly but we couldn't tell since the rest of the bus smelled like shit. Checked our email and ran out armed with some hints and found two caches. Thank God, because I really don't know if I plan on going back here again. Definitely not for three days. Oh yeah, did I mention no AC?