Rambling Robert's Travels

This blog chronicals the travels of myself, Rambling Robert, on my next adventure to South America.

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I am a world traveller. I do not work as such. I have been homeless and unemployed since 1October 2003. I worked as a chef for 30 years in America.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

travel update finland

Greetings from St Petersburg Russia,
I arrived in St Petersburg (SP) from Helsinki on 29 June at 7am. After a marvellous week in Finland, visiting with my good time friend and travelling mate, Samuel. After Sam met me at the Ferry station from Estonia, we went and got Tom at the Airport. Sam took us to an apartment of his friend Harry, who was going to allow us to stay there and use the flat for the duration of our visit in Helsinki. The flat was nice modern rather large one room studio, with a kitchenette. Harry had been in some kind of accident and his face was badly bruised. He was going to stay with his sister and therefore we had the place to ourselves.
For the first two days Samuel took us all around Helsinki and one of the islands in the harbor called Suomenlinna. This island had been a fortress island to protect the city against marauding Vikings, and invading Germans, Danes, and Swedes. There are lots of old fortifications and it is generally a beautiful green island with lots of birds and flowers. The weather was warm and the sky was blue and we had a great time there.
In Helsinki, we looked at all the old historic buildings and statues. Now, I enjoy this kind of thing. and truly, Europe is the best place to look at such stuff, but I get a little tired of it. We bought some beer and hung out at a lovely park where lots of people stroll down the center lane and sun bath. There was a jazz saxophone player who was very good and he was blowing that horn for free and we sat in the grass and listened to the sounds of the city with jazz in the air.
After two fine days in beautiful Helsinki, Tom and I went with Samuel and 4 of his friends, Sami, Katia, Ryah, and bruised face Harry, to the summer cottage of Katia, who is a work mate of Sami and Ryah. The cottage turns out to be more like a stunning compound of several cottages and a smokey sauna on Finlands third largest lake. We stayed there for 4 days, to celebrate the Summer festival called Jaunas Which means White Nights. The principle form that this celebration takes is drinking alcohol and eating way too much food!
The lake had stunning views. We got to experience the midnight sun, that is to say, The sun never really sets. Finland is on the same lattitude as Alaska USA. It is the farthest north I have ever been on planet Earth. The lake is only about 200 kilometers from the artctic circle. For 3 months per year it never actually gets what one would call dark. We had a great albeit drunken 4 days there.
The Finnish Smokey Sauna, is a Small well insulated room with a fire box and on top of the fire box a big pile of volcanic stones. They fill the box with wood and close the doors and open a small vent and the place gets very hot inside. The fire is smokey as can be, and after 2or 3 hours they open the doors and vent out the smoke and we get in and sweat. the aromas of wood smoke and the heat are fabulous together. I felt like a giant smoked salmon! While you are in there, you beat yourself with bunches of leafy birch branches. these branches and especially the leaves have a kind of oil in them and it feels and smells wonderful.
Ah yes and it is so and so it goes. Finally we drove back to Helsinki for more of the same Jazz in the park, but a different band. Actually I heard 3 very good jazz performances for free in the parks of Helsinki. It is a great place for people watching, ice cream eating and beer drinking. Samuel showed us all the best stuff, and translated everything we were interested in. Finally, our time there was done and now I am in Holy Mother Russia.
I will go to Moscow in 2 more days, and for now, i am just enjoying St.Petersburg, though Russia is already proving to be as difficult as the rumors from other travelers have told us. Enough for now.
Peace and love to all of you
"What would our world be like if we ceased to worry about "right" and "wrong," or "good" and "evil," and simply acted so as to maximize well-being, our own and that of others? Would we lose anything important?" Sam Harris
"Only the gentle are ever really strong." James Dean
"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."Albert Einstein

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

travel update from estonia

greetings everyone,
I am in Helsinki, Finland. I arrived here yesterday from Tallinn Estonia. I was in Estonia for 9 days, 5 days in Parnu.
From there I took a two hour bus to Tallinn the capital city and couch surfed with Peeter, for 4 nights and then yesterday I took a two hour ride on the Tallink Ferry "Superstar" a big and comfortable ship, over the Baltic Sea to Helsinki the capital and largest city here in Finland.
I first arrived in Estonia, from Riga Latvia by bus and got off in Parnu. Estonia is a small country of about 1,400.000 persons, and Parnu is a small city or really more like a big town. I stayed 5 nights in Hostel Louna on Louna street, which was about the cheapest place I could find. Still a dorm bed was 13 euro which comes out to about 19 or 20 USD.
the hostel is beautiful example of 1920s art neauvea architecture and cleaner than your mothers house. Just absolutely spotless. Great showers, small but adequate kitchen free internet, everything a cheap ass backpacker could want except there was no book exchange. I have been lugging around a copy of Ernest Hemingway Islands in the Stream until yesterday where I traded ilt with Peeter in Tallinn for an english copy of Kurt Vonnegutts Cats Cradel.
Parnu is full of lovely well manicured green parks with lawns and lots of big old shady trees and benches to sit on. Across the street from the hostel is a skate park, where the local teen agers all do crazy sick shit on bicycles and skateboards and in line skates and razor boards. AHH YIKES, none of them wear elbow or knee pads. There are a bunch of jump ramps and these kids know how to do the most radical moves turns and tricks. I wish my little buddy Mateo Carvajol was here...LIKE TOTALLY RADICAL DOOOOD
Parnu also has a beautiful white sand beach on the baltic sea, well I guess technically the water here is the gulf or bay of finland. Same body of water, it just changes its name from place to place or time to time. The water here is warmer than in Latvia or Lithuania and I was able to get in and swim a few minutes before turning blue, but damn near froze my arse off when I got out and into the wind.
It is hard to explain the attraction I felt toward Parnu. I stayed for 5 nights. I suppose I had seen the whole place after only 2 nights but it was just so peaceful and tranquil, clean and orderly I just felt like I didnt want to move on. Not a whole lot to DO in the classical sense of the word but a very pleasant place to BE. Mainly my activities were walking around the old town part of the city, and walking around on the beach and walking and sitting in the many beautiful green parks. People watching and Meditative Breathing.
It is summer here now, or will be in a week. This is the land of the midnight sun and it is light out until midnight and gets light again at about 3 or 4 am. The weather was mild and about 25 or 30 in the day and drops down to 20 or 18 at night for the first 3 days, so for you Americans that would be between 78 and 86 in the day and 65 to 70 at night. So I paid to stay for 2 more nights and of course the weather changed the moment I signed the receipt. Not bad but quite cooler and the beach walks became rather less fun.
So I arrived in Tallinn on 17 June. I couch surfed with Peeter, an artist who uses photography as his art form. Actually his job is photo editor of Estonia's largest daily newspaper, but his paintings hanging in his home are first rate and of course he takes great photos.
Peter was a great couch surfing host. He made me killer breakfasts in the morning and I cooked for the two of us in the evenings. I highly recommend Tallinn to any of you who happen to be in that part of the world. there is a good "old town" and it is a nice clean safe modern city.
The out of control, totally coolest thing about my time there was, last saturday, when we went out with some of his friends who own a 7 meter sail boat and we all went sailing in the Baltic sea! They keep the boat about 60 km from Tallinn in a little harbor and you have to drive through a beautiful forest national park to get there. We saw some wild fox while we were en route, which was very exciting for me, but no big deal to the Estonians who see them all the time. I kept thinking of my old partner Phil and my Buddy Lorenzo who I used to go sailing with back in California...
The boat trip was great. We sailed about an hour and arrived at an abandoned Soviet Submarine base. Here the soviet navy used to de-magnetize the hulls of the submarines. What an eerie feeling it is to be in a place that, (in all likelihood) used to be targeted by my countries nuclear missiles! Anyway it was a great place to have a couple of beers a few sips of Cutty Sark Scotch Whisky and a little pic-nic snack!!

I love the experience of being an explorer. Of going to new countries, seeing new places and faces. The real joy however is the freedom the road offers. What I love best about my life, my travels is the sense of freedom that I feel. The sheer joy of being able to come and go as I please, to stay for as long as I like or to leave on the next bus, or train, or boat to anywhere I choose.
Being a stranger in a strange land, one is totally free from having to perform according to any one elses expectations. Free from all sorts of role playing. I can be whom ever I want to be and no one knows any difference. I can be BUDDHA BOB or I can be CHEF BOB or whatever I feel like being, whenever I feel like being it. I am not clocked in. I do not have any regularly scheduled time to do anything. In short I can just be my self, be who I am all the time. I am free to not have to please anyone else.
The essence of freedom is time. The only real freedom is free time. Time to do or not do whatever you want. I have read that the difference between being rich and being wealthy is that a rich person has lots of money and needs to work and a wealthy person though he may not have much money, does not need to work. That would make me wealthy.
Krishnamurti talked a lot about freedom. Saying that after one has enough money to travel ie to come and go as you please and after one is granted the right to vote ie to live free of tyranny, the 3 ultimate freedoms are Freedom from all authority both external and internal, freedom from the known and ultimately freedom from TIME.
All these last three freedoms have to do with freedom from illusion. If we look deeply, we see that there is no real authority, that nothing is ever really known, and there is no time, ie no past or future. Its all just a big illusion! Freedom from time is the ultimate and greatest of all forms of freedom. .
To be free of time one must first of all be free of the ILLUSION of time. That is the illusion of past and future. Not by reading Einsteins theory of relativity or David Bohms theories of non physical universes both of whom point out that time is an illusion, but to realize this in the depths of your soul. NOT just to understand it but to feel it and live it as well.
At that point one becomes free of time, the ultimate cage, the ultimate walls that make up ones psychological boundaries. There is only the NOW. So being free of time really means that you are free of the psychological NEED for the illusion of time. Free of the NEED for any illusion. The illusion that you need the past to form your identity and the future to bring you fulfillment and contentment.
You are who you are NOW not who you were then. Or who you plan to be in the future. There is no point in being attached to the past. As far as contentment or fulfillment is concerned the disease of tomorrow is the greatest impediment for fulfillment. Never postpone your happiness today because you think by waiting you will be even happier tomorrow. Or worse by suffering today you will achieve happiness in some fantasy "future"
A person can not strive for this freedom from time, because striving in itself implies the need for time. A person can not work on it for the same reason, ie work takes time. One needs only to realize that it is now and you are here, and to just be in the present moment. Not only this present moment but the next and the next and so on. Not a state of doing but a state of being. You do not DO free, you BE free.
Well, I am done writing for today. My friend and traveling mate Samuel, met me at the ferry terminal yesterday and later we picked up my traveling mate Tom, from the Airport and in a few days me and Tom will be off to St. Petersburg Russia and the great trans Siberian railroad trip will officially begin. Yeee Haahhhhh!!! I am NOW going to go out and explore Helsinki. I will write again soon. Below there are a few quotes to think about.
Peace and love,
Rambling Robert

" Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment." Alan Watts

"Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment." Thich Nhat Hanh

"Happy the man, and happy he alone, He who can call today his own: He who, secure within, can say, Tomorrow, do thy worst, for I have lived today."John Dryden

Sunday, June 12, 2011

travel update from Estonia

I arrived in Riga the capitol city of Latvia, on 6 June. I stayed with a couch surfing host family of Ieva and her daughter Alma. They live in an apartment on the outskirts of the city.
It is easy enough to get to by city trollejbus, and I found it okay, well, I found it! I made the mistake of taking the number 11 TRAM instead of the number 11 TROLLEY and wound up at the city zoo, which is nowhere near where I needed to be. So...I got back on the same Tram and started back for the center of the city.

I asked a young guy on the tram what i did wrong. He looked at the directions I had written and said " oh, you need to go to the trollejbus stop and take the trolley, this is the tram. I am going that way and I will take you there." Once again I just have to say, The world is full of good helpful friendly people and the world loves a single traveller.

I often meet people who are afraid to travel to foreign lands where they do not speak or read the local language. They ask me, "how do you get around? Arent you afraid? isnt it difficult?" They say " I could not do that." Traveling is easy. Traveling is an adventure. Just because you do not know where you are it doesnt mean you are lost.

During the years of the soviet occupation of Latvia, all the people learned to speak Russian and almost no one learned english. But now, since the end of Stalin-ism, the young people are all learning english in school. So, all one has to do is find someone who looks younger than 30 and they likely will speak english. This is what i did.

Beside me, there were 2 women couchsurfers already at Ieva and Almas flat when I arrived. They are Italian but are living in Belgium. They had agreed to make dinner and we had a lovely Pasta with Zuccini and basil that they prepared. Ieva brought some fresh mint and some limes and wanted to try to make mojitas.
And so off we went to the supermarket and I bought a bottle of jamaican rum and we managed to finish the whole bottle and made some very fine 4 star mojitas! We all had a great dinner and good times were ejoyed by all.
A word or two about Soviet style architecture. Aye Chingaso! Not only is it notorious (and rightfully so) for being UGLY, the really bad news is that it isn't really what one would call functional either. Too much vodka seems to have gone into the planning. The toilet is on one end of the flat and the bath tub on the other. The kitchen hasn't any work space.things like this. Still, the good vibes and cheerfulness of my hosts more than make up for any Soviet incompetence...
The following day I set off to explore Riga. It turns out to be a lovely city indeed. Not extraordinary by European standards, but by the standards of the rest of the world it is quite marvellous. Lots of old wooden buildings here. This is what makes it different from other old European citys, and the Eastern Orthodox style church spires.
I got out to see 2 very good jazz shows during my 6 nights there. First I saw a local guy called Artis Gaga, a saxophonist who has a weekly Wednesday night gig at a place called Dad's Cafe. He plays very well with a strongly emotional style and his band was hotter than the 4th of July. At the end, a truly truly extraordinary 10 year old girl came out and jammed with them. She played the smallest saxophone I have ever seen. She was featured soloist on SUMMERTIME and BAGS GROOVE . Fantastic to see such a young person playing out, and no shit she was really good...
Saturday night was my last night in the city. We went out to the old town and saw a jazz band from Berlin calle the OLD FISH. They play dixieland. Instead of a string base they have a Sousaphone player. A sousaphone is like a tuba but made of a light weight material for marching band use. Also a clarinet, banjo, trumpet and pianist who also played accordian. They too were fantastic. I love my life, I really do, and I have a new favorite drink.

Black Balsam is the local spirit here. It is an herbal infusion liqueur 45 percent alcohol. Sometimes it is also used in traditional medicine. It is considered to be a good cold remedy and is used to treat digestive problems. It has been made in Riga since the mid 18th century. It is said that Catherine the Great became ill when she was in Latvia, and was cured by drinking Riga Black Balsam. Ieva likes to mix it with orange juice and so that is how I drank it. A little like fernet branca but not as sweet. I liked it, no little.
Other latvian highlights were a couple of drive around the country excursions and a picnic in the forest. It is a heavily wooded country and beautiful. It is not so heavily visited by tourists because there is not so much to do. But if you like to see beautiful nature and relax among friendly people, look at old wooden architecture, swim in the baltic sea and listen to Jazz, well, Latvia is just alright with me...
I am writing this letter from Estonia. I arrived yesterday into the city of Parnu. It is a very beautiful small city with a beach on the Baltic which is where I expect to spend most of my day today. I will leave you with a few quotes and send my next update from Finland.
PEACE AND LOVE to all who read these words.

"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest." Confucius

"So little of what could happen does happen." Salvador Dali

"The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog." GK Chesterton

Sunday, June 05, 2011

travel update from Klaipeda Lithuania

Hello Everyone,
The train from Vilnius to Klaipeda is smooth and fast. it takes about 5 hours and costs about $20 US. The scenery is nice and the seats are comfortable. I enjoyed the ride. I arrived in Klaipeda in the middle of the day.
I needed to get from the train station to the bus stop, but did not know how to get there. There is a share taxi stand so I asked the driver, he said get in and I will take you. So I went with him. It is only about a 500 meter trip and when I got out and tried to pay him, he refused and said "Welcome to Klaipeda".
This is how Lithuania has been to me. I have met nothing but friendly helpful people. I am goint to be leaving this lovely country tomorrow to go to Latvia, and I know I will miss it. hell, I miss it already and I havent even left!
Klaipeda is a beautiful small city. it is the third largest city in Lithuania after Vilnius and Kaunas. It is the oldest city of Lithuania, having been founded in 1245. It is on the Baltic sea.
I am staying in Melnrage which is a lovely small beach town. The sand is white, clean and soft. The skies have been blue and almost completely cloudless the last 5 days. I go to the beach every morning for a 45 minute sitting meditation (I do not have a watch, so I am guessing). Then I go to the little grocery store and buy some stuff for the day and go home.
Home has been at the house of Romaldas. he is a 60 year old man, who is a couch surfing host. I found him on the couch surfing website and he generously offered to let me stay at his house. It is about 100 meters from the beach. He is one of the coolest characters I have met in all my travels.
Romaldas is the kind of guy one always hopes to meet when travelling. He is funny, easy going and kind and generous. He has GREAT stories about his life. He was a sort of jack of all trades who is now retired. He was injured in his spinal cord during a construction work job a few years ago, and has lost the use of his legs.
He has great stories of being a cowboy and taking cattle from Lithuania to Russia, Georgia, and Kajakistan. Drinking Vodka with border guards in the middle of the night. Wild women and soviet occupation of his beautiful country. Some black market money trading, and just the sort of free spirit happy go lucky stories I love to hear. He tells them all with a wonderful sparkle in his icy blue eyes and is not sad or bitter by any of his experiences. Just a lot of good times and of course a few bad as well.
He is a good cook. He likes to makes simple foods, does not like me to cook for him, and he does not eat many vegetables with potatoes, green onions, and cucumber pickles being the notable exceptions. He makes great tea, and has lots of friends who pop in and out all the time. They have a cigarette and a cup of tea and talk and laugh and go. Some are fishermen and they leave him fish which were caught only a few hours ago. We eat like kings!!
Romaldas calls himself an athiest but he is one of the most spiritual guys I know. He understands the golden rule of jesus and he is what my jewish friends might call a real mensh.
I was going to leave on Thursday, but then Romaldas informed me that the annual Klaipeda Jazz festival began on the following night and invited me to stay on through the weekend. What? A jazz festival?? How much do tickets cost? Free?? What??? Whoooaaaa I love this country!! You can check it out at http://www.jazz.lt/festival/
I just got back from a nice long bicycle ride through the forest. Here there is an asphalt bike trail through the forest. I love the smell of the pine needles and the shadows and sun as I pass beneath the trees. He has a good bike which he obviously no longer uses but he likes to be able to loan it to guests, and I like to take a little ride now and again.
I just did some laundry and my clothes are hanging out in the mid day sun to dry so I though, well this would be a good time to write a little travel update.Breathing In I am calmly writing to all of you, breathing out I am smiling on the world...
So, this is how it goes, travelling the world, visiting the worlds people, and seeing the sights, hearing the sounds of jazz music on this great cosmic thing we call planet earth.Third stone from the sun. Just a voodoo chile breathing and being one with the ohm.
Again i suggest (urge?) all of you retire early.Relax in a big sort of way, and take a little trip, just a little trip like I have and see what you think...Life is for living. Living in the Now and the here, wherever you are whatever you are "doing" I wish you all well.
I hope my clothes are dry. I have to pack for the bus to Riga (Latvia) tomorrow. I already have my ticket and I am leaving here at 7am to catch an 8:35am bus.The Next update will be from Latvia (or maybe Estonia). Until then I leave you with a couple of nice quotes to think about.
Peace and love to all of you
Rambling Robert

"We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are." Talmud

"The Holy Prophet Mohammed came into this world and taught us: 'That man is a Muslim who never hurts anyone by word or deed, but who works for the benefit and happiness of God's creatures. Belief in God is to love one's fellow men.' Abdul Ghaffar Khan

"Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are."- Jose Ortega y Gasset