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Europe » Russia » Northwest » Saint Petersburg
September 11th 2010
Published: November 9th 2011
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Greetings, strangers, I mean friends!

I feel like a puppy dog right now with her tail between her legs. Ok, I admit it. I have been beyond pathetic in keeping all y'all informed and blasting out on a regular basis. I'll have y'all know, I still think of you often, and just because I am still traveling,
doesn't mean I have lost touch with reality (well, that may not be
entirely true). I try to journal everyday; only I can't seem to keep
up with getting it all logged into my trusty laptop in a timely manner. I take far too many pictures (although many are quite good, I have some real duds as well!) and can't seem to find the time to edit them down for viewing and posting. It's a constant battle and I have to deal with it every single day.

Ok, I left you months ago and feel the only way to catch up at this point is to zip you through my journey across lands, many unseen by my eyes before last year, and bring you up to date as best and as quickly as I can. I do not mean to leave anyone out of my writings. I appreciate each and every one of you who so graciously and kindly lent me a couch (or bed or floor tile or fed my rumbling tummy) last year as I was traveling back to South East Asia. If I don't give you a mention, please do not take it personally. From England to Vietnam, I will travel over land, over water. I won't fly until December.

So......., I spent a week in Iceland although I wished it was a month, or perhaps a year. What a gorgeous country it is and I'm sure for anyone who has been there you can certainly back me up on this! What a photographer's dream.

On my last night in country, I met up with some friends who live in London, also traveling a week in Iceland. They were fresh off the plane, staying about a mile from my guesthouse, so in the "midnight sun" I walked over to see them with just enough time to exchange big bear hugs, a few laughs and their London house keys before they crashed out for the night. I left Iceland a few hours later and was soon across the waters and cozied up in their apartment, my first time in the big green country of England. I spent a week exploring London, catching up with
a few friends (Hi Emma!!) as well as my rapidly growing pile of travel notes. My friend Sarah found a train/ferry combo deal so I traveled the rails west to Wales (someday I will actually spend time there; itlooks amazing...) and crossed into Ireland for a song.

I spent three weeks in the jaw-dropping beauty of Ireland,
criss-crossing the country, staying with CouchSurfers and friends and creating new ones along the way. From a wedding outside Dublin (congrats Barbara!) to a reunion of sorts in Kilkenny (greetings my fair lass, Clair!) as well as Galway (I miss getting reacquainted, Bridget. We must do it again sometime!), I just couldn't get enough of the country and her fabulous citizens. I spent a few days exploring the beautiful, quiet and stoney countryside of Inis Mor, one of the Aran Islands off the west coast. I then zipped up by train north of Belfast, where, dodging minor unrest, I safely stayed with some friends I had met in 2007 at a Hands On project in Peru and have seen in a few random countries since. "B" and I spent a few days exploring the diverse and picturesque Inishowen Peninsula, staying at the northern most part of Ireland, where we explored the beaches and the towns by day and watched the most perfect sunsets over the waters in the evenings. Topping off my three weeks in Ireland was a delightful stay in an old medieval castle outside Limerick, complete with colorful peacocks and croquet on the expansive side lawn. I even got to fall off the owner's horse. Ooops...

I took the ferry back to England, to Manchester this time. I really
wanted to go there because I love when I meet people and they tell me they're from "Mohn-chess-taah," with a bit (no, a lot) of an upward intonation of the voice on the "taah" part of the word.
Mohn-chess-TAAH. Cute. Unfortunately I fell ill and spent two days in bed. My cold aside, I was sad when I left and realized I didn't hear one person say the name I so wanted to hear. Camping in the Peaks District with Sarah and Ken was amazing; I had no idea England was so stunning. I can't thank you enough for taking me there, you two!

Ferried across to France from Dover, where I spent a few days with a CouchSurfer before heading up to the Netherlands by train. I stayed with my buddy Charlotte a few train stops from the Hague in a little whistle stop outside the quaint town of Leiden. So European, so not South East Asia. So many bicycles! I spent 11 days waiting in vain, fingernails chewed to the quick, to hear back from the Russian Embassy if I was approved for a 2-week stay in their bureaucratic country. YES, I breathed a big sigh of relief when I found out my application was approved! Good, cause it costs a bloody fortune to get into that country and it is non refundable if one doesn't get approval. At this point it was all about the last minute planning of train and bus journeys just to get to the border, which was going to cost me a mint, but if I wasn't going to be able to get back to SEA via the Trans-Mongolian Railway, I had to have an alternate plan B. I was really banking on the Russia Gods to be kind to me, and thankfully, they were.

Sadly, I zipped through Germany in two quick nights, this being the birth country of my mother and where half of what makes me me is from. I couldn't do it any other way. I spent one night with my cousin Gregor and his girlfriend Betina in Hamburg and one night with my parent's friends, the delightful and generous Erik and Helga, in Luebeck, the charming city in the north where my mother lived while growing up. Then it was off to Denmark (thanks for letting me crash at your place, Chris and Louise) and Sweden, which, when combined, only totaled 9 days. This is not the way I like to see countries but I was on a time schedule and had upcoming bus and ferry tickets I needed to adhere to. I stayed with some amazing friends and saw some wonderful
landscapes and beautiful countryside along the way. I spent my
birthday wandering the streets of Stockholm and was taken out to a wonderful Indian dinner at a no frills, quaint restaurant with low lighting, fabulous food and attentive service. I couldn't have been with better company. Thanks again, Jenny and SUPER LUKE. The best part of all this.....Jenny was ready to pop and indeed, one week to the day after I left, she brought into this world a healthy, bouncing baby boy. Sadly it wasn't a girl, but this is a private joke between us. I'm sure if it was, they would have named her after me. Naturally. Ha.

For only 26 Euros I took a luxury overnight ferry from Stockholm to Riga, Latvia. I internet searched last July till I was blue in the
face to get that deal. It was definitely worth it. After a week in
Latvia and five days in Estonia, on September 11, 2010 I entered the big bad unknown world of R-U-S-S-I-A. Despite the land border crossing being in the middle of the freakin' night, and all the bleary-eyed bus passengers having to cart all their bags and belongings from one building to the next, I didn't encounter any issues, just a few stony, bored faces from the Russian immigration officers. Stamp. You’re in.

Welcome to Russia and welcome to the end of this installment.



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