Latvia has a currency that is stronger than the pound. At the time I entered, one pound gave me only 88 little lats. Little lats have a proper name, but I forget it. It is hard to recognise and remember the money in each country when you only spend a couple of nights in each. Walking into a shop to buy something, I end up pulling coins of several different countries from my pockets and searching for the ones that work.
I found out that the Latvian toilets accept Lithuanian coins which are worth about five times less. I resent paying for the toilet so I don’t feel bad for this.
Hitching towards Latvia, an army man picked us up and drove us a long way to his home town and took us through it so that we could see it, because he claimed that it was better than Vilnius. It reminded me a little of a run down American suburb. Neither terrible, nor amazing. I told him that I liked the fact that the houses had gardens and left it at that. We were the first hitchhikers that he had picked up. It was our lucky day; he had just found out that he would be having a test for some kind of promotion. He was a nice man so I wished him good luck in his test even though I couldn’t understand what it was for.
In a service station, we sat down on a wasps nest to eat some bread and cream cheese, as we read the map to find our location. Evacuating from the wasps, we watched as hundreds of bikes turned up. They beeped and shouted to each other before storming into to the station in a sea of black leather. One man was wearing a protective body suit that looked like a super hero costume.
In Riga there was a lady selling flowers on the corner of a street. The guy I have been hitching with saw her there when he came last year. She was there in the morning when we got up and still there in the evening. The flowers weren’t particularly beautiful but she would stop everyone who passed by smelling the flowers and smiling as if they were the most lovely thing in the world. Then, if you cared to listen, she would tell you in Russian about how she made it into the newspaper for selling the flowers on that corner for so long. She carried the newspaper under her arm like a purse, close to hand in case she needed to show anybody.
Our host in Riga had made underpants out of pig skin for his art project. He also had stick insects. That particular type of stick insect reproduces asexually (by itself). All of the insects that you have will most probably be female as the males are no longer required. The males have red bellies. I have never seen one. I used to keep this type of stick insect but I let them go free when they started eating other because I hadn’t fed them often enough.
Riga is a town filled with interesting buildings and cobbled streets. The central square is quiet enough that you can sit and have a drink without feeling like you are in the centre of a tourist town. There is also a nice river with a suspension bridge that appears as if it has been pushed over. It’s the type of structure that isn’t purely functional nor aesthetically pleasing. Some kind of modern design that is stuck somewhere between the two.
There are many Russians in the Baltics and we watched from the beach as they had a festival a few kilometres away, intermittently releasing Chinese lanterns and fireworks. I dived into the water and quickly got out again when the air was sucked from me by the cold. It made my head spin a little bit. Cooking dinner in the sand, I wore trousers, socks, and jumper. Not for the cold, but for the mosquitos. I hate mosquitos even more than wasps. While we were on the beach under the stars, a drunk Russian lady appeared. We weren’t quite sure when she arrived, because we found her passed out on the football court behind us. She was fairly old, large, and even more drunk. Now and again she spoke in her sleep but didn’t wake for the next few hours and by morning, she was gone. Once again, no-one stopped us from camping.
After cheese pancakes for breakfast, bungee jumping sounded like a good idea. It took a long time to reach the place, only to find out that bungee jumping was full for the day. Instead I rode an alpine roller coaster and swam in the river. I swam across the river and as I passed the buoys, a megaphone sounded, instructing me that I should get out the water. I didn’t need to speak Latvian to understand his meaning. Drinking the lake water made me feel a little bit ill so I lay on the floor as we hitched away from the lake. A very young couple picked us up on a vacation day from their newborn baby. The girl’s mother was looking after the child for the day.
In Latvia they eat cold beet root soup. It is very purple.
A Russian trucker picked us up and gave us coffee and biscuits. I still don’t like coffee. I liked it less when the coffee spilt over my bag and trousers. He dropped us off beside the main road, late at night. I jumped the railing and ripped my hippy pants which made me angry, then in the three minutes it took to put the tent up beside the road, I got bitten more times than I could count by mosquitos. Itching and irritated, I scrambled into the tent and shuffled around the uneven ground for about over five hours without sleeping.
When you have a large bag and nowhere to stay, railway stations are a great place to leave your backpack for the day. It makes it much easier to walk around. We sat on a rooftop eating lunch with our legs swinging below. I’ve never eaten lunch with such an audience. Some people even stopped to take photographs although others were satisfied with merely pointing. I’m not sure if it was the trousers or sitting on the roof, or maybe even a combination of the two.
I played giant jenga in a hostel bar. I lost.
Ready to leave Tallin and find a beach for the night, we decided to stop for a drink in an Estonian bar. There was an accordionist and music was played continuously. We stood out a little for being the only foreigners / non-giant Estonians in the place. Eventually some other foreigners joined us at the bar. Five Norwegians. We went from talking, to having one of the girls carrying my backpack to the next bar, back to their hotel room for drinks, into more bars, and before we knew it, it was daylight and we were walking the streets with an Estonian guy, looking for a place to camp for the night. At that time in the night, it didn’t matter and we camped in freedom park. Drunken logic told me fountain water would be good for cooking pasta in, but we spilt it onto the grass and had to scoop it back into the pot. My friend was drinking the fountain water. In the afternoon a kid kicked the tent. It was the first disturbance in the tent since I left.
I liked the Norwegian’s a lot. I never even stopped to ask their names. I hoped they might let us stay an hour or two to rest after the bars, but they gave us our bags back instead.
I found a toilet that automatically cleans the floor and the toilet every time it is used.
A friendly couple picked us up, although the man explained that he hated black people. He then justified why. I didn’t want to lose my ride in his car, but I had to explain why he wasn’t necessarily correct. Some people have warped views in life. Maybe he thought the same of my opinions.
Arriving in Parnu, we met a Norwegian and a Danish guy. Together we cooked dumplings on the beach and ate them with cottage cheese before running into the sea like screaming kids for a midnight swim. After, we warmed up beside a bonfire. One of the guys did a handstand and I saw his feet go into the air, silhouetted against the full moon. The sea was warm and everything felt good.
We thought about sleeping in a lifeguard box, but someone had poohed in it. While we were looking for wood, the Norwegian guy stepped in pooh. While we were eating dinner, we found pooh where we were sitting. Despite this, everything still felt good and the bonfire kept burning.
I have woken up in a park and people are riding around on pedal karts.
I had a jam and banana sandwich for breakfast.