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.

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


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