29.09.2011 - 29.09.2011 17 °C
Tallinn - Riga - Sep 29
While the Estonian language is supposedly very difficult, there are many words that look almost like English probably because their alphabet is like ours. They do however like to double up letters particularly vowels (woels!).
Eero our guide yesterday while pointing out that the export of 'wodka' to Russia was very good business for Estonia admitted that it was the drug of choice for the old folk. Marijuana does not grow naturally in Estonia but it's use is increasing amongst the young. Still illegal. "Weed is the spawn of the devil but it is OK to be unconscious on vodka!"
Departed Tallinn at 8 am for our run south down the Baltic coast to Riga in Latvia. Tim (our guide) is vey keen on history and has been providing us with booklets and manuscripts about this part of the world over the WWI to present time. It is very moving to read about the oppression of the Baltic states, the occupations, the mass deportations of men women and children and then interact with people who had immediate family involved. What a terrible, "confusing" time it must have been. These "states" were probably very significant in the fall of communism as their proximity to Finland meant that they people had "illegal" access to Finn TV which provided clear and regular evidence that the propaganda promoting the wonders of communism did not live up to the standards of the west.
Highway again very smooth and straight (2 lanes) for the most part running parallel to the coast through green glades of pine and birch forests and open areas of farmland. Topography very flat no doubt the result of continental glaciers a few thousand years ago. Countryside not heavily occupied. We first hit the coast of the Baltic at Parnu. An untidy spread out town. Called in at a beach on the Baltic Sea - clean sand but lots of fine dark kelp and no swell and reeds growing in the water - in past times they used these reeds to thatch their homes. Lots of small holiday homes with outside saunas.
Arrived in Riga for lunch and a walking tour of the old town. This city was a battleground between the Germans and Russians in WW II. Visited the Occupation museum which shows the lives of the Latvians during the war and up to 1990 when they finally gained independence from the Soviets. The city has buildings similar to St Petersberg but they are run down and there was lots of graffiti. The economy is apparently quite strong but as a relatively new independent nation, restoration is probably not high on the todo list.
Tomorrow we travel to Vilnius in Lithuania with another currency. No news of food and wine as the Russians left us a legacy of e coli which we will get some drugs for this evening. Basically the food has been good? Probably more chicken than beef and lamb which we think comes from NZ. Wines that we have tried are not local. Meals have been lamb and veg, chicken and veg, etc, lunches whatever is in the local bakery with cheese and tomato.