From Russia with love
Oct 11, 2013
|Waking up every morning at 5:06 is strange and specific but becoming normal.. Attended to emails as usual but seemed to take ages to get nothing done this morning. Brekky was scrambled eggs instead of cereal... I'm really living on the edge aren't i? One of their coffees that's so strong you could stand a spoon up in it and back to the room to finish up and check out. But my key wouldn't work. I raced downstairs to get it fixed and later I found the hotel had turned all of our keys off. It freaked me out as it's not nice to be late and keep everyone waiting. If you hold up the bus everyone jeers and claps when you get on. I can live without that humiliation. It's mostly bad enough being me without adding to it!
A long uneventful drive out of the city, monotonously flat but eventually came upon little villages where Dutch Barns, buildings that look very Spanish and little wooden houses rest side by side with other European and Russian looking houses. It's like the land that time forgot, the only thing they all have in common is they are all very run down, tired, in disrepair and/or derelict. This is kind if what I was expecting Russia to be like. The road is full of potholes, big ones, the are disused guard stations, all the buildings look permanently damp, and the cars are well rusted. The scenery between villages is never ending green and yellows of dense trees. I've not taken any photos as I've been catching up on my writing. And I have to say, thanks to servicing the blog, I feel delightfully carsick as I've had my head down for 2 hours.
A stop at the last petrol station before the border. A toilet and shopping break. About 20 if not more, trucks were lined up along the highway but they weren't in the truckstop. They were probably sleeping. By law they have to rest for 45 minutes after every 4 hours. Our driver has to do it too. It's a bit of a comfort. It could be good for our cross country drivers to have a similar rule. It seems its one if the things the Russians do comply with.
We have to cross 3 checkpoints to get into Estonia. The first two should be perfunctory. The last one, the passport check etc. At the border we have been warned no photos, no standing up, no phones, nothing, just sit still and be nice.
Well getting through the checkpoints has been a never ending story. The first one certainly was a non event, the second. About an hours wait in the bus... Eventually we went inside and were stamped. No speech no eye contact no nothing. I was friendly and polite. She was friggin rude. Whilst we waited for everyone else we used the loo. I've been in cleaner squats. It absolutely stunk. The floor was awash with effluent. Funnily enough it had a cleaning roster with today's date all signed. It was rank.
We went to the duty free and I bought a groovy pair of wayfarers for 89€..I love them.
Back on the bus and through into the queue for processing on the Estonian side. Slowly little snippets of a great story has emerged. Yes, it's official. We have the 2013 version of the Hodges. (For those of you who don't know read the 2007 S&M tour blog)...
Here it is.... Remember I told you that know everything/never happy nana left all her credit cards at home and they only brought Australian dollars and had neurotic nanna's cards? They have already eaten at a restaurant and tried to pay by card that only took cash and wouldn't accept Australian dollars. As if that wasn't stressful enough. Well now neurotic nana has let it out she left all her credit cards in St Petersburg on the bed and the hotel says they don't have them. Now they only have Australian dollars, no way to get anything else except to exchange.
The take home message.... Don't look them in the eye.
It will be interesting to see what else will happen to them.
As well as being confused by the toilets the showers,baths and basins can also be tricky. We have enjoyed the Russian ones though with the temperature adjusters which are just a variation on our flick mixers. The towels have almost been a potpourri of sizes and shapes. Some have been huge, some wide, and st Petersburg.... Long and skinny. Like off a roll. Weird. The toilet paper I think signifies how the economy is sitting... Moscow. Soft, luxurious, very nice. St Petersburg... Crepe paper... The border crossing.... Fine grade sandpaper.....
Wherever in Estonia it was that we had lunch (maccas) it was like brown paper.
Speaking of maccas, I got a free glass. So that will be my thing from Estonia. A maccas coke glass. A real happy meal.
Being the decent human being I am sometimes known to be I offered to get out some money for the two Lynne's. As they wanted 250€ each I was then unable to get any out for myself. I have enough to last especially if I use my meal card and credit card until I can get to an ATM tomorrow and the € I got when I exchanged my roubles back.
So alls well so far. Back on the bus and on the road to Tallinn.
We have been working out what we might call our Tallinn adventures. There are a few contestants but I think I have the winner. Steve has been joining in thinking up clever quips. We might use more than one yet. I think it will be easier than names for Riga and Vilnius.
We got to the motel after another hour or so of driving through beautiful but unremarkable (mostly) farmland. It looked like tassie actually but greener like it was when I first arrived in 2005... Verdant!
It's a very different look and feel than Russia. Russia seems to be stuck between the old and the new, but Estonia doesn't seem stuck, nor confused. It has a really different feel. Even just looking at it out the window there was no mistaking we were no longer in KansasToto....
Our motel and everything else here is very Scandinavian. In fact Estonia's languages and influences has always been Finland and other scando countries. The language is clearly not Cyrillic. Our furniture in the rooms is like waking up to find you are in the middle of an ikea catalogue, not sure whether I'm back in the fifties or going to open the door and find I'm living on a space station with the Jetsons.
The rooms are spacious but crikey... So hot. It's unbearable. I had the air con on -5... Whatever that means... It's the coldest you can set it. But it's like they have their heaters on flat knacker, and you compete with the air on. The air was so thick. It was like going to sleep and leaving the heater turned up high... You wake up with a headache like a hangover and so dry and thirsty. You can't sleep... There's no relief from it. It's funny. We've not been cold anywhere... It's been unrelentingly hot. The only time it's nice is when we manage our own clothing and temperature outside in the fresh air.
We all went out to a traditional restaurant in the old town, about 10 minutes walk. We had 1/2 litres of beer and a set menu of 3 courses. So did some of the others but Rita's meal and never happy Lynne's didn't turn up. Eventually Lynne's came out and they served rita something that wasn't what she ordered. They said they'd run out. She accepted it reluctantly, but then they both sent them back as they were cold. When they eventually came back rita mysteriously had what she ordered in the first place. Lynne said her elk was tough and complained. The waiters said that's how it is, you don't order it for the tenderness, but for the taste. So in her natural unhappy state the meal continued. Rita and the Lynne's then left as Rita's partner was flying in and needed picking up from the airport. We stayed waiting for what was meant to be the best hot chocolate cake in town.
Eventually it turned up... It was one of those little muffin looking things that's runny inside. It was ok... I think we were just over it by then..
We struggled with the bill as the waitress couldn't get her head around 5 beers plus 4 beers =9 beers. She kept saying 10. We don't think she charged rita for hers. Eventually it got sorted after we had been in a groundhog situation for about 10 minutes. We walked back on our own without incident and called it a night.
Earlier the boys had located a laundry and are organised to do their laundry tomorrow. I've done mine as I had no confidence it was going to work out, but because the room is so damn hot, mine is already dry. Much hotter than in st Petersburg where my jeans took 2 days to dry and that was with me using the hair dryer on them... So if I needed proof it's not in my head, there it is.... My washing is finished, and packed back in my bag.
By the way... I forgot to say... Neurotic Lynne found her credit cards. When we got to our rooms I was disturbed by a knock at the door, I opened it and there was no one there. I called out who wants me, and she poked her head out of the lift and said I found my cards.
I'm not sure whether I was supposed to pick that up by osmosis if I hadn't called out? No thankyou, no nothing.
Down in the lobby she gave me the 250€ back. I will get the other Lynne to put her share straight back into my bank. I don't need 500€. I don't even need as much as I have now. A thank you would have been good. Anyway... Never judge others by your own standards... Quickest way to be disappointed.