Thursday, 30 August 2018

Riga, Latvia (Republikas Laukums 3)

I had a great night’s sleep. This flat is very quiet since all the windows face a courtyard and not the street. Also a comfortable bed in a cool room helps as well. The flat is somewhat large and has everything I need, except for a dishwasher. I was able to easily hook up my Apple TV. I’m located not too far from the main part of the city or Old Town Riga, so I’ll have extra time for walking around. And the weather is expected to be mild while I’m here.

Today I ran a couple of errands and combined this with a mini-tour of the inner city to get my bearings and to get ideas of what I might want to see over the next few days.

I really enjoyed the small river that runs through the city and the parks that line parts of it. This river flows into the larger Daugava River that empties into the Gulf of Riga. The Gulf of Riga connects with the Baltic Sea.

The red marker below shows the Gulf of Riga (and Riga nearby). Tallinn, Estonia (partially cut off) is at the top of the picture and Stockholm is in the upper right.

Riga is loaded with parks that I’m sure I’ll enjoy while here. I sat down several times while walking just to enjoy watching the people and relaxing. Before heading back to the flat I picked up a few items from a nearby store. Two items I really needed. Milk and butter. When I was shopping yesterday I (again!) picked up a carton of buttermilk instead of plain milk and the spread I bought was so artificial that it looked like melted plastic. I must have been very tired while shopping yesterday.

For dinner I made use of the buttermilk by soaking in it the chicken I bought yesterday for a couple of hours before slowly frying over the stove. I would have liked to have baked it in the oven, but there is only one very small pan that I can put into the oven. All of the other cookware was made for the stove top.

While the chicken was cooking I wrote back to Cousin Ori who has outlined a proposed (wonderfully detailed) itinerary for when we meet up on the 15th. Will be good to see Ori and Molly again! Nice to have family over here, even though we only see each other once a year. I also updated my blog posting.

It was late when I started to watch “The Flash”. I found out earlier that Netflix only has the series through season 3 available outside of the U.S. Why, I do not know. So this is another reason I have Apple TV. I can also purchase U.S. programs via Amazon (like season 4 of “The Flash”) and use my laptop or iPad to connect to the TV. I stayed up very late watching the first two episodes of season 4. Guess I won’t be waking up early tomorrow.

Tomorrow I’m planning on getting re-organized. I’ve been thinking about how to pack differently, for added convenience and when I have to downsize my suitcase to meet maximum weight limits for checked baggage on the airlines. I also received an email and documents from our attorney regarding my cousin’s estate. This will take me several hours to follow through on his instructions. It will be a productive day for me, but I’ll find time for another walk in the city.

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Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Riga, Latvia (Republikas Laukums 3)

It was an easy process travelling from Tallinn to Riga today. After checking out from the hotel, it was a quick cab ride to the bus terminal then an uneventful four-hour ride to Riga. Though, the bus driver was determined to pass as many cars as he could on a two lane highway to get us there on time. Though he must have done this route before, because I looked at the clock when we arrived and we were two minutes ahead of schedule. The scenery between the two cities consisted of small farms and periods of driving through forests and small towns.

The taxi from the bus terminal to the Airbnb flat was easy and I managed to find my way up to the flat with limited instructions from the host. Which sometimes happens, but I’ll be sure to send more detailed information so they can add it to their instructions for future guests. I very much appreciate the hosts who meet me at the flat so I can ask questions. I’m okay with figuring things out for myself.

I got unpacked and started a load of wash. It has been nearly two weeks of hotel living and I was running out of clean underwear and socks. After getting settled took a long nap and then walked to a somewhat nearby store to pick up something for dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast.

The nearest store was almost 15 minutes away and I probably bought too much to easily carry carry back to the flat. When I got back to the flat around 9:00 I was took tired to cook. Dinner for me was a bowl of cereal and two pieces of toast. I also munched on some wholewheat crackers as I watched a couple of episodes of “The Flash”.

It was after midnight when I got into bed but was ready to get some sleep. Not sure what I’ll do tomorrow. Probably put the letters I prepared yesterday into the post, add a few items to the larder, and explore the city as I run those errands. I have a week here in Riga and will have plenty of time to explore the city.

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Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Hilton Tallinn Park (Kreutzwaldi 23 Tallinn, Estonia)

I looked forward to going on my Segway tour of Tallinn today. The weather is partly cloudy with no chance of rain. I planned to be at the Segway office at 11:00 to begin my tour. Was thinking it would be nice if I’m the only one on the tour.

I was a little late getting to the Segway office, but as it turned out I was right on time. And found out that I’m the only one on the tour. Also saved 15 Euro because I paid in cash. It was going to be more expensive because I was the only one on the tour, but now the cost is about what I’d pay if I was on a group tour. I paid 75 Euro, in cash.

As it turned out, my guide also likes to travel. In fact, she moves around to various countries and at times gets employment as a guide since she can speak several languages. And she seems to know a little bit about everything. Being from Estonia, she was very knowledgeable about history, economics, and architecture. I definitely made up for lost time on this tour. Between my asking questions and what she was going to tell me anyway, I learned a lot about the history and people of Estonia and the city of Tallinn.

She took me to places where I could take great pictures of the city while she explained how the city grew over the centuries and talked about the different neighborhoods within the city. She also explained Estonia’s relationship with Germany, Russia, Finland and Sweden (who possessed Estonia at one time or another) and with Latvia and Lithuania, who are Estonia’s neighbors. As the tour progressed my head was getting full of all of this new information.

The tour was only to last an hour but she was kind to extend the tour by 15 minutes. After I got my “land legs” back again (riding a Segway is almost like being on a boat) I said my goodbyes and started to walk back to the hotel. I was going to visit a neighborhood near the hotel but the heavy clouds were moving in and I didn’t want to chance getting caught in the rain. Besides, I was tired and was looking forward to resting and perhaps taking a nap.

In the evening after dinner I prepared letters to be mailed when I get to Latvia. Also did more address changes and answered emails and texts. By the time I got around to watching “The Flash” it was almost 10:00.

I went to bed early again so I would be rested for my bus trip to Latvia tomorrow. Packing should be easy and since the hotel’s housekeeping was keeping the place clean, there won’t be too much to do in that regard. I’m going to miss being in a hotel since my next to lodgings will be AirBnb’s. I really was spoiled in this hotel in particular.

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Monday, 27 August 2018

Hilton Tallinn Park (Kreutzwaldi 23 Tallinn, Estonia)

Feeling much better today. Not 100% yet, but I can see the end of the tunnel. If I was establishing metrics for this cold, I’d count the number of Kleenex used per hour. This morning I only used a couple. Yesterday, the hotel’s housekeeping was kind to refill the box they furnished for the room.

I felt good enough today to walk over to the old town of Tallinn and have a look around. I can see parts of it when I have breakfast or dinner (from the 11th floor), but I’m looking forward to seeing it up close. The hotel said it was a 10 minute walk and my phone’s GPS said 20 minutes, so I’ll give myself 30 minutes to walk there due to my reduced walking pace.

Tallinn has a fair amount of building and street construction in process. Getting anywhere by foot or car will be impacted, like I was this morning. I eventually got into the old town part of the city and found it to be similar to other old town’s that I’ve visited, though slightly older. Tallinn has one of the most intact old towns in Europe and was entered on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1997. From what I saw, I can see why.

As I was walking around, I learned that there are a number of buildings (or parts of a building) that date from the 15th or 16th century. As I’ve learned, not everything remains as it was. Owners of buildings, over the centuries, have made improvements to the buildings. Wars and fires also had a major effect. But from I could see, and coming from Oregon, it looked old enough to me.

I saw the old City Hall (thought it was a church because it had a steeple) and toured one of the oldest churches, the town square and walked around some of the streets. I soon felt myself getting tired and started back towards the hotel. On my way I thought about what I was going to do tomorrow. I occurred to me that there might be a Segway tour available. And I was right. On my way, I found the Segway office and made a tour reservation for tomorrow.

I was getting hungry, now that my appetite is improving. Which is a good sign of my improving health but not so good for maintaining my weight. I saw a McDonald’s and ordered a Big Mac, sat down and enjoyed it. While I passed a few restaurants as I was walking, nothing seemed like anything I wanted to eat. Good old dependable McDonald’s!

When I got back to my room I was very tired and almost immediately took a long nap. Later, once I woke up, I ate pretty well at dinner. Tonight they served roast beef in a very flavorful sauce or gravy, onion rings and a small salad in a shot glass. With a glass of wine.

I also purchased a bus ticket for my trip to Riga on Wednesday. The bus ride will take me through the countryside of Estonia and Latvia. It is a four-hour journey but I’ll be ready for it. So glad I’m feeling better.

I started to change my addresses tonight as a result of the person, who handles my mail in the U.S., moving this past week. I did 10 address changes and a few of them were difficult. I had the opportunity to practice my patience as I spoke to the company who holds a good chunk of my retirement savings. Again, for whatever reason, I was locked out of my account, so I had to call them. The person on the other end was very helpful but couldn’t let me why I was locked out. She will submit a request to unlock my account. She did make the address changes for me.

My watching “The Flash” will soon come to an end. Netflix doesn’t have all of the seasons available, so after Season Three is done, then I’ll look for something else to watch.

It really helps watching American TV while traveling. I never anticipated how exhausting it is to be constantly learning about new cities, history and cultures. While I think I’m able to go with the flow and get about without too much bother, being “on the road” for months at a time is in a way like running a marathon. (Not that I’ve ever run a marathon.) Getting into a mindset of constantly looking forward while maintaining momentum and balance would describe how it is to travel like I do. After Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania I have a short visit to Hamburg and an even shorter visit to Frankfurt where I meet up with cousins Molly and Ori. I’ll get a break when I spend time in Cairo with Hussein before my two week adventure with Corrine. So I’ll get a bit of a break coming up very soon. I’ll make it to the finish line. (Edinburgh!)

My friend Barb is with our mutual friend Mary in Edinburgh right now. They’re having a great time there. While I’d love to be with them, my goal is to finish what I’ve started. Onward!

I’ll look forward to my Segway tour tomorrow. The tour will help make up for my downtime as I recovered from my cold. I’ll be glad to stop writing about my recent illness and focus on staying healthy and active.

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Sunday, 26 August 2018

Hilton Tallinn Park (Kreutzwaldi 23 Tallinn, Estonia)

Awoke and felt a little better, but not by much. My cold is definitely in my head and I’m blowing my nose constantly. I’m predicting that I’ll feel better by tomorrow. We will see.

As a result of this cold, I stayed inside much of today. I asked housekeeping to come and freshen up the place at 2:00 and I hung out in the Executive Lounge in the meantime. I did feel well enough to walk to the nearby store for some yogurt after dinner.

Glad my travel blog update for yesterday was brief. I actually went to bed at around 8:00 for an hour or so. Couldn’t keep my eyes open. Then got up and watched a couple of episodes of “The Flash” before going back to bed. I started to feel better by bedtime. That was a good sign.

Tomorrow I’d like to explore the city’s old town. I can see it out the window when I eat breakfast and dinner, but just need the energy to get there. Its about a 20 minute walk away from the hotel. Fingers crossed that I’m feeling better in the morning. If this cold is tracking the colds I’ve had in the past, it should.

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Saturday, 25 August 2018

Hilton Tallinn Park (Kreutzwaldi 23 Tallinn, Estonia)

This is going to be a very short update. My cold really set in today, so I didn’t plan to go anywhere.

I ate breakfast and dinner in the Executive Lounge today. Both free meals. The breakfast is the fairly standard Hilton breakfast but the dinner I think were Estonia dishes. For dinner I had calamari, meat balls, and a seafood salad, with a glass of wine.

The rest of the day I slept for the most part. I cancelled housekeeping so I could rest more. I barely was able to write my travel blog update. I proofread yesterday’s entry several times and each read through I found mistakes. Glad I wasn’t graded on my writing.

I expect that tomorrow I’ll still be on the mend. I am noticing that the tickle in my throat has gone away as well as the cough. Now I’m just dealing with a stuffy head and runny nose.

After dinner I took another nap then watched a couple of “The Flash” episodes until my eyes wouldn’t stay open. All I can do is rest and take care of this cold so that it goes away quickly. It has worked before and I have faith it will again.

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Friday, 24 August 2018

Hilton Hotel Helsinki (Kalastajatorpantie 1)

I took a Sudafed first thing in the morning and hoped for the best today. My cold, though mild, is a distraction to this travel day. I made sure that I left myself ample time for each step in the travel process. Fortunately it was easy work to pick up the hotel room and pack and was out of the room by 9:15.

My goal is to reach the Hilton in Tallinn, Estonia by 1:30. I’ll take a taxi from the hotel to the ferry terminal, the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn, then a taxi to the Hilton in Tallinn. Very few steps. I’m anticipating great success.

The only hiccup was getting the boarding pass at the Helsinki terminal for the boarding gate that allowed on to the ferry to work. The person who first assisted me said I would need to check in, which I did the night before. Fortunately I was assisted by another person who got me through the boarding gate.

I found a place on the ferry near a starboard window and a nearby power outlet in case I needed to charge my phone. The duration of the trip is two hours. I found myself happy to sit in my chair, look out the window and play a few games of Pinochle on my phone. Drank a cup of coffee and took a 10 minute tour of the boat. The time passed quickly and we were soon in Tallinn. After we left Helsinki there really wasn’t much to see except for an occasional island or outcropping of rock. Early ships might have had problems navigating around these obstacles.

Before I went outside to catch a taxi, I decided to make one more “pit stop”. I found a men’s room and as I walked in I thought it odd that the restroom had blue lighting. As it turned out, I read later that more restrooms are using blue light so that people who inject drugs can’t find a vein. Who knew?

The taxi ride to the hotel was quick and quite inexpensive. The taxi driver did me a favor by letting me out early due to traffic congestion and I could easily walk the rest of the way rather than continue to pay a higher fare. He received a nice tip from me.

The hotel had upgraded my room. Though I did ask if there was going to be any weddings during my stay. The front desk staff said since my room is on the 11th floor and the banquet rooms are on the first and second floors, there shouldn’t be a problem. (They didn’t answer me about the weddings.) When I reached my room it was certainly an upgrade. A large one bedroom suite and it was a corner room too, which gives me about 270 degree view of the city. It was located at the end of a hall and the door was around the corner from the main hallway. Three doors between my bed and the hallway. The housekeeping staff can make all the noise they want in the morning. I’ll definitely sleep though it. (I’ve written before about noisy housekeeping staff who forget that guests are behind many of the doors, and some of us sleep in late on occasion.)

The trip left me exhausted and I proceeded to take a two hour nap. When I woke I knew that I had to find something to eat, since my last meal was at 7:00 a.m. I went down the hall to the Executive Lounge to see what they were serving and I wasn’t interested. I went to a nearby mall, via a very nice city park, and found in the mall a nice hamburger place. I stopped by a store on the way back to the hotel and bought a few snacks (whole wheat crackers and yogurt). I was set for the evening.

I managed to write yesterday’s travel blog update and watch two episodes of “The Flash” and by 10:30 I was more than ready for bed.

While I’d like to visit the old town of Tallinn tomorrow, I may just stay in and rest. We will see what tomorrow brings.

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Thursday, 23 August 2018

Hilton Hotel Helsinki (Kalastajatorpantie 1)

I definitely have a cold of some sort. Scratchy throat and cough for now. At some point I’ll invest in a box of Kleenex for the runny nose. I generally don’t have a cough, but since I don’t get sick that often, sometimes hard to remember.

Bed rest is the best thing I can do for a cold. And drink water. This pretty much sums up today for me. Though I did walk to a nearby store to pick up supplies. Also bought tomorrow’s ferry ticket to Tallin. I’m looking forward to that!

For dinner I ordered a cheeseburger. I was in bed by 11:00.

I’ll stay at a new Hilton in Tallinn. The staff in this hotel says it is really nice. Hopefully I’ll get a really nice room. Guess I’ll see when I get there.

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Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Hilton Hotel Helsinki (Kalastajatorpantie 1)

I may have jinxed myself. A few days ago it occurred to me that its been a long time since I’ve had a cold. This morning I’m feeling a bit run down and may have a scratchy throat. Then I needed to blow my nose. Regardless, I’m going to walk around Helsinki today and look for the church with the tall steeple that I saw from the harbor tour boat the other day.

When I got off the tram at one of the downtown stops I started to look up the name of the church. I kind of knew where it was located. Eventually I found the church and started to walk towards it according to my phone’s GPS. Another great day for walking! I sort of followed the directions but took some detours along the way. I wasn’t in any rush.

When I arrived at the location I couldn’t find the church. Ah, there it was. Hidden behind some trees. I found the following information about Mikael Agricola (Lutheran) Church. From Wiki: “The church is made of red bricks. The tower of the church is 97 meters high, the top reaching up to 103 meters above sea level. The 30-meter spike of the tower can be retracted if necessary as it fits inside the tower structure. This was done in the Winter War and the Continuation War so that the tower wouldn’t act as a navigational aid to enemy bombers.” 

I didn’t bother going inside the church. Just want to take a few pictures of the steeple. Imagine, a retractable steeple. I knew there would be something interesting about this church.

Now I really am feeling sluggish. I found a tram going back to the center of the city where I bought some snacks at a market then visited a Chinese restaurant buffet for a quick meal. Then took the tram back to the hotel. I definitely needed to lie down.

I felt a little better after the nap and ate a few of the snacks. Don’t think I’ll have dinner. After updating my blog and pictures I watched an episode of “The Flash” before my scheduled call with Corrine at 11:00. We were able to make reservations at Littlecote for the first two days she is in England. As it turned out I made one reservation then had to re-do the other. In the end, we have confirmed reservations. Success!

After we hung up I watched another “Flash” then fell asleep. I doubt it I’ll do much tomorrow. Sleep helps get me through my colds so I’ll do that. I will need to make the reservation for my ferry ride from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia for Friday – then more sleep.

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Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Hilton Hotel Helsinki (Kalastajatorpantie 1)

I really got myself off schedule by changing my travel day from Tuesday to Friday, when I arrived in Helsinki from Bergen. I prefer Tuesday as a travel day because it isn’t a weekend, a Monday or Friday and known to be a day when airfares are cheapest. So here I am in Helsinki and I have to double check each day to make sure I don’t forget I’m leaving for Tallinn, Estonia this coming Friday.

For some reason, I’m really finding myself “in tune” with Helsinki. It has become very easy to know my way around the city pretty well after a few days. The only place I really haven’t explored is the hotel. I know the main entrance, front desk, my room of course, and where I eat breakfast. Other than that, I haven’t checked out the rest of the hotel. I love my room with the view of the lake. I’ve been posting pictures taken out my window in my picture blog. (Links below.)

After breakfast and shower, I headed toward the tram stop for a trip into central Helsinki. Today I’m planning to visit the Helsinki Cathedral and the Eastern Orthodox Cathedral. Both are near each other down by the harbor. I can find the harbor now without help from GPS. Today I took a slightly different route so I could see more of the area. I took a short cut through one of the indoor malls near the train station. It occurred to me that there are several large indoor shopping malls within close proximity of each other. Perhaps with the cold weather, people find it easier to shop when all the stores are inside. I know I would.

My first stop was the Helsinki Cathedral. You certainly can’t miss a very large white building that sits on a small hill. While it looked very grand on the outside, it was fairly toned down on the inside.

I walked around the neighborhood before visiting the Eastern Orthodox Cathedral, also built upon a hill. This building was a little bit more splendid, with a good amount of gold finishes.

Nearby to both churches was one of three palaces used by the Finnish President, Sauli Niinisto, the 12th president of Finland. He didn’t seem to be at home. The place looked deserted. I took a picture and then was on my way.

I took my time walking around a bit before heading back to the hotel. It had sprinkled earlier but now it was sunny and partly cloudy. I picked up a few snacks before hopping onto the tram and returning to the hotel.

After I woke from a nap I started on a small project. To figure out why I can’t make international calls on my phone. After contacting Vodafone a couple of times I eventually discovered that I needed to manually select another network provider while in Finland. Normally my phone finds a network that connects to Vodafone when I enter a new country. This time it didn’t. I learned something new!

I was also texting Corrine about staying in her ancestral home and also about places to visit in Wales. We both decided that our “road trip” around Southern England and Wales will be the first week, then we will have a week in London. Wales has a lot of castles and it will be tempting to visit all of them, but that would take more than a week to do. We’ll get it all figured out.

My other project is to changes my U.S. mailing address. The person who is handing my U.S. mail, what little there is, is moving soon. This means that I’ll need to change my address everywhere. I’ll try to do about five a day and should be done in about a week. I have the forwarding request submitted, now just to do the individual addresses.

By the time I finished communicating with everyone and taking care of the two projects that I mentioned, it was after 10:00. I ordered a cheeseburger from Room Service that arrived as I was getting ready to watch “The Flash”.

Tomorrow I have one more church to visit in another part of the city. I think the weather is supposed to be like today so I expect I’ll enjoy walking around in a new neighborhood.

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