A brief, northern European ‘What’s hot and what’s not’

What’s hot

– The hardy, folksy Latvians and Estonians for maintaining a strong sense of national identity through occupation by: Vikings, christians, russia, germany, russia again, and now tourists…Good Luck to them and their culture to surviving economic globalisation, MTV and World Wide Web.

– Partying in Riga. No-one asleep (though the room was clearly occupied by 20 people) in a youth hostel at 3am: were we missing something?

– Vegie patches and local markets: I love ’em, every single one I see excites me. They do for me what bicycles did for H.G. Wells ‘When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race’. I think it is because if I was forced to describe my vision for the future of the world, vegie gardens and markets full of local produce would be front and centre. So now, every time I see them, it eokes in me a burst of joy and confidence that a beautiful world is not so far off.

– Trying to speak the tiniest bit of the local lingo, and getting rewarded wiht a nice smile or short, pleasant conversation that you are sure you would not otherwise have been priveledged to experience.

– Guidebooks. I didn’t really want to put this in, as I don’t like referring to them like they are holy, all-knowing texts. But, they are incredibly useful, allow you to plan and prioritise when considering unpronouncable and unfamiliar destinations, and make you feel more independent than otherwise. Money well-spent for anyone travelling.

What’s not

– Old ladies with full-on moustaches and goatees, and young men wearing white translucent pants Is saying that being superficial and culturally innappropriate?

– Latvian and Estonian traditional menu for vegetarians. Details: fat, cream, cheese and grey peas, with lard on the side.

– Latvian ‘museums’: no signage, look closed, hidden in back streets behind dark heavy doors, full of staff (no tourists), and mostly displaying plaster copies of something in France or Italy.

– American ex-pat writer who has lived the better part of the last 7 years in Estonia, and speaks not a single word of the local language, nor knows how the buses work/when they come. Whingeing to other tourists about the local buses not running on time, nor going exactly where he wanted to go (3kms down the road) found a limited audience. Admittedly he moved to Estonia so the bad weather and isolation would make him write more, but it’s no excuse for being an idiot.


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