Pegontheroad in eastern Europe

Old Jul 6th, 2015, 09:56 AM
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Oh, Peg, thanks so much for your report! More, please!

I am hoping to visit these places in the near future and am looking at what to do traveling independently. Many of the places you have visited resonate with me. I am ashamed to say that I am a pretty boring eater as well. My stepmother refers to it as "having a broken palate". Glad to know that I have company in this matter!

I love open air museums so have made note of the two which you have visited.
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Old Jul 6th, 2015, 12:19 PM
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I did take a hop-on/hop-off tour of Tallinn, so I saw the harbor, the song festival grounds (very important in Estonia's independence), Kiek in die Kök, the Roterman quarter, Freedom Square-- all the usual suspects.

On Toompea, I made a quick visit to the exotic St.Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. While I was outside, a bridal couple ducked into the church briefly, and when they ducked out, gave a donation to the beggar woman sitting on the steps. Then they got into their car, which was decorated with blue, black and white ribbons on the side--the colors of the Estonian flag, which had been forbidden for so many years. The hood of the car was decorated with a V of flowers in dark blue and white.

The bride wore a white dress but didn't wear a white veil, Instead she had a cream-colored sort of shawl more or less covering her head. I tried to google Estonian wedding wear but didn't find much about it, so I don't know the meaning of the shawl.

As the couple drove away, there was another car ahead of them with two men somehow fastened to the back of it, both filming the drive from the cathedral.
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Old Jul 6th, 2015, 12:59 PM
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Peg, I love the image of the little old lady in the long green coat.
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Old Jul 6th, 2015, 03:39 PM
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Loving your report, Peg! So glad that we mature women can now travel the world without worrying what is "acceptable behavior" for single women.

Looking forward to more. thanks for sharing!
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Old Jul 6th, 2015, 07:45 PM
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Thank you Pegonthe road.

Love your Tallinn adventure and descriptions.

I will be following until the end !
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Old Jul 7th, 2015, 07:34 AM
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Such a great report, Peg!! Thank you for sharing such interesting details.

Percy, I wish my memory were better….you are lucky to have such a good one. One of your memories that I do share is that of the bridge in Grasmere and Wordworth's grave. But like annhig, my sharpest (and fondest) memory of Grasmere is the incredible gingerbread!!
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Old Jul 7th, 2015, 09:00 AM
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But like annhig, my sharpest (and fondest) memory of Grasmere is the incredible gingerbread!!>>

I doubt it, SW, ! hate gingerbread!

[but I know what you mean!]
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Old Jul 7th, 2015, 09:18 AM
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One problem with re-creating my trip is that some experiences in the Baltic States blur together for me. I know that I went to a grim KGB museum, but the only one listed in my Lonely Planet is in Tallinn. It was pretty graphic, with three floors of displays, including a basement with cold and frightening cells. Displays included many photos and touching works that had been done by people sent to Siberia--drawings, embroidered pieces, religious articles.

For some reason, I made no comments about this on my recorder, and I can't find any pictures, so I have to rely on my shaky memory.

There were many displays about the "forest brothers," resistance fighters, which I found inspiring. The history is complicated by the fact that the Soviets occupied Estonia in 1940, then the Nazis after they attacked the Soviet Union, then the Soviets again after Allied victory in WWII.

I do recall that I spent two or three hours at the museum and then walked back to a commercial area. I may have to revisit this part of the trip, because I have some stray images floating around in my head, and I'm not sure where they fit in. What is certain in my mind is that this museum was impressive and depressing. The old story of man's inhumanity to man.

As I walked away from the museum, I saw numerous squares on the side of a building, each containing the name and birth and death date of what I assume was an Estonian freedom fighter. Almost all of them were very young. That's just my guess though, based on the nearness to the KGB museum.

I also wanted the visit the Hotel Viru KGB museum on the top of the eponymously named Hotel Viru, where the KGB spied on visitors and especially on any contact they might have with hotel staff. Unfortunately, I waited too long to make arrangements and was unable to visit.

But right now, I'll move on to Riga, which is a veritable cornucopia of art nouveau delights. My hotel was the Old City Boutique Hotel, across from the massive department store, the Galleria. I liked the hotel, except that the shower facilities were questionable. I don't sit in bathtubs because I have artificial knees, so that once I sit down, I'm not able to get up, so I have to use whatever shower facilities are available, which in Europe sometimes are touch and go. Such was the case at the Old City Boutique.

My room was on the 6th floor, and the bathroom was built into the eaves, so that showering was a bit tricky. I didn't realize this until the morning of my second day, so I didn't bother to change rooms. Many of these hotels have tricky sinks--very shallow and/or weird-shaped, and with no plug available--I think because they want to discourage guests from washing their unmentionables in the sink. But I always bring my trusty rubber sink stopper. It's a flat sheet of rubber, which I got at the luggage store where I get my travel odds and ends.

If I work it just right, I get suction, and I can leave my dainties soaking in the sink for a while.

Despite its peculiarities, I liked this hotel.
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Old Jul 7th, 2015, 10:02 AM
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I believe that was where we stayed in Riga as well in 2012, Peg! There was a canary in a cage in the lobby - was he still there?

The KGB museum sounds very interesting. I also like the image of the little lady in her green coat!

Looking forward to more.
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Old Jul 7th, 2015, 10:16 AM
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Thank you for adding the history comments Pegonthe road.

I too read about he Forest Brothers, interesting fir sure.

Waiting for Riga !!
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Old Jul 7th, 2015, 10:40 AM
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The hotel was located in a pleasant location in the heart of the old city, complete with narrow cobblestone streets. Now, there are cobblestone streets and there are cobblestone streets. These were the authentic old type, with the stones rounded, so that if I wasn't careful, I would turn my ankle and/or trip, after which I would lie sprawled on the street, unable to get up due to my artificial knees.

It's happened, though not on this trip.

I generally tried to walk on whatever sidewalks were available, but they were narrow and sometimes inclined. In some places, there were round metal railings which I would grasp. As long as I was careful, the paving wasn't a problem.

The streets were fun. I noticed a ruckus going on down the way. There were a bunch of young guys there surrounding another guy who seemed to be even drunker than his friends. From what I could see, he wasn't wearing much clothing. I heard one guy yell, "He's wearing a thong!" which the others thought was hilarious.They had a package of what appeared to be saran wrap, and they were wrapping him around a post.

I heard someone say that the police were coming, and the drunken guys disappeared, except for the one who was saran-wrapped to the post. A bit later I saw several police cars, with the "postee" in their custody.

What an interesting place! Drunk guys on the street, and this magnificent architecture, and some pretty run-down buildings as well. I saw a fellow wearing a T-shirt, which said, "I'm a bomb technician. If you see me running, try to keep up." I heard a lot of American music, most of which I liked. I remarked on hearing Johnny Cash singing "I Walk the Line," one of my favorite country western songs.

On Sunday morning I found the cathedral and went to Mass. Apparently these folks haven't heard of Vatican II, because the priest wore the old-style vestments and said the Mass the old way, with his back to the congregation.

There was a rounded set of steps in front of the altar, so the communicants knelt on the steps, the priest put the host on the tongue, and another priest followed right after him with a chalice of wine. I can't kneel, so I just did it the way we do it everywhere but in Latvia, standing and taking the host in my hand.

I had brought along a missalette so that I could follow the Mass and the readings, which are the same everywhere. However, it wasn't easy, so I just read readings and commentaries on my own. Most of the commentaries are much more devout than I am, but I read them for what I can get out of them.

A nice lady next to me gave me a leaflet with the words and music of some of the songs, of which I naturally understood not a word--except that the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Benedictus and the Agnus Dei were subtitles, so at least I knew generally where we were in the Mass.

The Mass went on interminably, partly because I didn't understand a word that was said, and partly because the priest added about half an hour's worth of extra bits. I seriously considered abandoning my habit of attending Mass no matter where I am.

The cathedral was immense, with a beautiful organ and a carved pulpit. Apparently the Soviets stripped away much of the ornate interior decor and forbade church services there. They turned the pews to face the back and used it for a music venue.

The walk to the church and back was great, as I saw more of the amazing jugendstil/art nouveau architecture. I also saw a Baskin Robbins ice cream stand, so I had a cone of the food of the gods.
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Old Jul 7th, 2015, 12:44 PM
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hi Peg, thinking of you! from, suze
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Old Jul 7th, 2015, 02:21 PM
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Pegontheroad.... did this hotel once have a different name.?

You said that you were across from the Mall, so the wasn't there an Opera house nearby.?

Your doing a great job and I love following your footsteps.

(Hi suze and Florida1)
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Old Jul 7th, 2015, 02:40 PM
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Peg, still following and really enjoying your TR!

I agree that it is difficult to focus on the mass when one doesn't understand a word of what is going on. I am afraid that I have focused on my own prayers when I can't understand what is going on and in Croatia I skipped mass altogether. Mea Culpa!
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Old Jul 7th, 2015, 03:02 PM
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Florida: I do think there was a cage there with a bird in it.

Percy: I think the opera wasn't far away. I think the opera house was on the other side of the Galleria, which was very large.
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Old Jul 7th, 2015, 03:04 PM
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Peg, reading along and thoroughly enjoying.
You inspire me!
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Old Jul 7th, 2015, 03:39 PM
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Peg, you made me laugh with the Saran Wrap guy story! That's funny! DH took a video of that bird singing and played it back to him. He just looked at us with a confused look!

Hi Percy!
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Old Jul 8th, 2015, 11:20 AM
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As I was wandering around looking for the Occupation museum in Riga, I happened across the Museum of the Barricades. This was a kind of shabby little museum telling the story of barricades Latvians set up in January 1991 to protect various strategic targets from the Soviets. As I said, it was shabby, but it was also informative and touching.

After that I went to the big one--the Museum of the Occupation--very interesting. I talked for a long time to the young man who seemed to be in charge, asking him about the changes that have occurred since the restoration of independence.

I believe the description in Lonely Planet is outdated. The museum has been moved to a new location and has been updated.It is near the Blackhead's house and not far from the Cathedral.

After my visit to the museum, I happened upon a hop-on/hop-off bus and had the world's worst tour. I foolishly sat in the top level and had no protection from the sun. The bus seemed to be quite ramshackle and sounded like bits of it were going to fall off. To add to that noise, much of the tour covered parts of the town with those pesky cobblestone streets, so that the ride was very noisy, so noisy that at times I couldn't hear the narration on the headphones.

That wasn't necessarily an inconvenience, since the English narration would occasionally cut out or would be replaced by French narration, with the odd bit of Spanish thrown in.

But still, I saw a good deal of Riga on the bus--got a better overview than I was getting just from wandering around.
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Old Jul 8th, 2015, 11:51 AM
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At breakfast one morning I noticed a lot of men in their 40's and early 50's--at least 20 of them. They were all dressed informally, and they looked like guys who could take care of themselves. They seemed excited and in good humor. Curious, I asked the waitress who they were. She said they were football/soccer fans, and that there was going to be a match with the Netherlands.

She also added that police and national guard had been called in, just in case there was trouble. (I always like these little bits of local color!)

I wanted to get my bus ticket for Vilnius and asked the receptionist if she could help me print it. As she replied, I thought she sounded like she had a Scottish accent, of all things. I asked her where she'd learned her English, and she said she'd spent 10 years in Scotland. I thought that was cool!
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Old Jul 8th, 2015, 04:24 PM
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Still following. thanks for sharing, Peg!
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