The Baltic Shuffle Part One


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June 26th 2008
Published: July 6th 2008
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Hello,

After the miserable night bus ride, we arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania. Night busses are the bane of our existance, but sometimes they are out of necessity as was mentioned in the lat blog post.

We arrived in Vilnius around 6am, and we trudged over to our hostel which was called the VB Sleep Inn. The hostel is essentially an overgrown house where you have to take your shoes off at the door and everyone hangs out and talks to each other. It was a great atmosphere.

We dropped off our luggage and started walking around Vilnius which is supposed to have the largest Old Town in Eastern Europe. All of it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This trip feels a bit like a UNESCO tour! Unfortunatly, we arrived there during the aftermath of the Midsummer Holiday, so most things were close, at least for a little while. We went to the cathedral, which really looks more like a Greek temple than a cathedral. We went past a bridge that still had communist statues on it; a rarety in this part of the world. But the locals loved the statues so they wanted to keep them. Wandering around the Old Town was pretty cool because it was all pedestrianised and there were a lot of little picturesque courtyards scattered about. We went into and amber museum, where they had some very nice but veeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyy expensive pieces, including one I had my eye on but would have set one back 5000 dollars so, needless to say, it was passed on. We went up the Hill where the first castle was built in the city. The views were good from up there, but there wasn't much left of the castle. The funicular was cool because, since we are big boys, we got to operate it ourselves as we were the only ones in it! Bonus was we didn't break it!

We wandered over to the rogue, breakaway state of Uzupis, which is just located on a bend in the river. I suppose it's not so much "rogue and breakaway" as "tongue-in-cheek fun", but it sounds so much cooler to say the former. The little area is essential an artists haunt, but there is evern a president and a constitution which includes such import rites as "the rite to own a dog" and "the right to be happy...if you want." Later that day, on the way back to the hostel, the skies decided that it would be a good time to open. In the 20 seconds it took us to get back to our hostel, we were completely soaked. The streets were completely flooded; ankle deep water rushed through them just as in Split, but it all disapeared after about an hour or so. That night, everyone in the house hung out in the common room for a while before going out to a Lithuanian club. (Two of the people working at the hostel were leaving forever so we were part of their send-off crew.) They really like their Eurovision songs there because everyone was singing along when the latest Lithuanian entry came on, it was awsome or hirlarious, whichever way you look at it.

We checked out leisurely the next day and caught a bus (not a night bus) to Riga. We were actually on the bus with a couple of the workers from the hostel who we had been out with the night before. Needless to say it was a quiet bus ride.

We arrived in Riga and checked into Fun Friendly Franks. They give you a beer on check-in and the place was 13 dollars a night. It is in a heritage building, and the room faced on to the river that flows through town. It was an awesome hostel, and we have to give credit to Ren for telling us about it. (Thanks Ren!)

The next day, we went to book our ferry to Stockholm. After a lenghty discussion about our 50% discount, and whether we should receive one or not, we bought our cheap tickets for the ferry. They happened to be for a compartment on deck one...below the car deck...below the waterline. We had visions of Titanic as soon as we found out where the cabin was! From there, we walked through the Art-Nouveau area of town. Art-Nouveau was a style of architecture where the facades of the buildings were covered with small carvings. The buildings had angels, people, juggernauts and even massive faces carved into them. We headed off to a bookstore to feed Peter's insatiable need for literature, and we ran into an un-expected person. Have any of you heard of Harold Spepts? He used to play for the Canucks back in the day Well, we met his cousin. It was quite random. We left the area and wandered into the Old Town which was quite beautiful. There were a lot of cool things to see in the Old Town including the Swedish Gate, Powder Tower, Three Brothers (the oldest houses in town) and St. Peter's Church. The views from the top of the church were fantastic and you could see for miles in every direction!

We went back to the hostel for a bit, and met our roomies: Neil, Cammy, Pender, Alex and G. They were all Scots. We grabbed some dinner at Lido with them, which had to be the best and cheapest place in town, unless you were Alex and spent 3 times what anyone else did by accident. Then we went back to the hostel and met Gary. Gary isn't a person, he's a legend. He is a cooler, with a spivot. He travels everywhere with them and they have emptied him 114 times. We helped them make it 115 times. We then were lead out to a club by one of the girls working at the hostel, and we stayed out for quite a while. Peter actually managed to catch the sunrise, but only because of how early it rises that far north!

We lounged around town a bit the next day because our ferry wasn't leaving until the evening. We did go to the Museum of Occupation with Alex though. Latvia had been occupied for the better part of the 20th century, and the museum had many pictures and letter and artifacts from that time. It was an interesting museum. The coolest part of it was probably a map showing the red line dividing Eastern Europe between Germany and Russia, complete with the extra part that Russia wanted, and Ribbentrop and Stalin's signatures. We also went to the market, which is housed in four former Communist zeppeling hangers.

We said goodbye to Riga, and hopped on the ferry to Stockholm. The boat was massive; nothing like the tiny ferries back home. It had 9 decks and several restaurants, a bar, where we watched Spain beat Russia in the semis (in Estonian no less). The views from the boat were great as well. The only worrying part was where we slept but, as you can see, we obviously arrived in Stockholm without an issue.

Things we learned in Vilnius and Riga:

-When it looks like it might rain, it's going to rain!
-Do not sleep below the car deck, next to the engine!!!
-Gary: the cooler, the myth, the legend, meet him

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6th July 2008

Fun Friendly Franks and Lido!!! I miss them!

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