Ivan's travels experiences on to Helsinki & NZ & Poland

Thursday 26
Down to last minute travel at 9am, to the counter I saw last night, yes there is a flight to Helsinki at 10.20am, paid the 294E for a return ticket, down to gate 15 and ten minutes later I was sitting on the plane beside two old ladies who yacked the whole 2hours 10 minutes. Less time that it take to fly to Australia and about the flying time from the bottom of NZ to Auckland, you so not realize how small the distances are in Europe compared to NZ.

Booked a hotel in town, found a cheap taxi advertised by the hotel booth ½ that of those in the taxi rank, arrived at the hotel, downloaded the 123 messages deleted 113 messages replied to the others, walked into to town and stopped at a photographers.

Well she had been in the industry most of her life, had set up in Helsinki three years ago, and you know "things are different in Finland" Oh Yes, I have heard that one all around the world, so I gave her the works, she wrote it all down, and after a couple of hours when I departed she thanked me very much for the "kick up the a##"

Friday 27
Kari a guy I met in NZ when he was there as a Rotary business exchange in 1972 from Finland was in town today and we met had a good walk around town and he told me all about his 3.8 E type Jag that he races, I was feeling pretty wretched with my sore neck and after a bit he said why do I not get my cousin who is a Chiropractor to have a look at it, I thought, or hoped, well he can not make it any worse, there was a cancellation available in 35 minutes so before I could change my mind I was on the mat having my spine manipulated, some 20 minutes later he said there were two spots that were pinching your nerve, that it, 40E please, did it work? Well the jury is still out on that, and as I type this my neck is still sore and I have decided to take some panadol so we will see.

Saw a advert for a Vodafone PCIMA card that allows you to go directly on line via their data service, looks interesting, wonder how long it will be before you can use it around the globe at a reasonable rate.

Booked the Fastcat for Estonia tomorrow morning 34E one way

Saturday 28
Down to the Fastcat, bought the ticket, thro immigration, he wanted to know when I first entered the EU countries as he thumbed thro my passport, then he gave up turned to the second to back page and was going to stamp it and stopped looked at the Russian stamp and decided he could risk putting his stamp on the same page and I was officially out of Finland.

One and a half hours later I was in Estonia or I should say the hell of a big queue to go thro immigration, handed over my passport, he look at me at the passport did not say a word pressed a few keys passed me it back without a word.

Taxi to a hotel, the second hotel had space, for the night, it is expensive here in Tallinn, they get all the weekend visitors from all the countries close from St Petersburg to Finland, Sweden, Norway etc.

The Estonian language is a close cousin to the Finish and Kari tells me he can make himself understood and can understand in Estonia, guess it would be no worse that a Cockney talking to a Highlander!

Walked thro the old town and it was packed with weekend visitors, a lot different than when I was here about seven year ago.

Walked around town for about three hours, some of the cobblestone streets should have been called rock streets as they were very large stones set into hard earth at all angles.

Like other old Soviet country there are plenty of flowers on sale, did not see the same number in the European countries I visited, must have been a Soviet thing that has remained, I like it!

However Estonia considers itself part of Scandinavia, and considers its self a Nordic country and the only relationship to the other Baltic states is that they were at one time all lumped together. They, as a country, look to the west for everything and all their links are westward. To be able to become a citizen of the country you have to be able to speak Estonian so the 28% who are of Russian decent now have to learn a new language, English has become the second language.

HELL I have just seen on the telly that the film Bullet was made 30 years ago, I remember being in San Francisco and seeing the window in the shop that had been smashed by a car out of control the day before…..hell 30 years!!

Exchange rate EEK 7 = NZ$1 EEK13 = US$1
Sunday 29
Went for a walk around town this morning to take some more photos and to buy a jersey to replace the one I posted home expecting warm weather, which I would have had if I had not traveled north to the 60th parallel.

Back to the hotel one hour before check out time to find the the time was one hour different to Finland so check out NOW! Hotel cost 980EEK (expensive!) . Taxi to the rental car coy. Rental car for 14 days 4340, insurance 1820 total 6160EEK.

Good directions on how to get out of the city, interesting how often McDonalds is a landmark as to where to turn, they choose good corners! The signpost eventually to Narva was easy to find, but it did not indicate you did a right turn almost straight after you did a left, I carried on didn't I, thought after a bit this is wrong! How do I get back to where I started so I can start again, answer drive on another 1Km and there is the car rental office, good navigating Ivan.

This time turn right, no signs hope I am correct, eventually a sign pointing the way I wanted to go, so I was on the correct road.

Turned off to go thro some bits by the coast, man there was a lot of people employed on security in the old Soviet system, passed thro a ruined village that as obviously the border patrol and saw several lookout posts.

Not much in the way of accommodation available, hard to find hotels, some of the signs indicating beds are some 16kms off the main road and are old manor houses. Ended up I saw a sign that said Motell at a place called Koogu, I guess it was a motel, asked yes, 300EEK, they also sold petrol, had a café, and shop all in the one building. Meal…Thin piece of Pork and chips and bottle of coke 69EEK.

Neck still sore, being fair perhaps the one treatment was not enough, although he did say it was fixed!

Monday 30
Drove across to the Russian boarder, wet, uninteresting, on the way out turned right instead of left and went past two enormous power stations that burn's oil-shale and the byproduct of the mining a white clay type of substance is in a almost mountain on the side of the road, probably four stories high, and at least 20kms on one side that I drove down. Nothing you can do with it, like a lot of the remnants of the Soviet system.

Neck getting sore. Drove thro a lot of back roads saw an old monastery that looked a little like the golden ring around Moscow. I am a very early tourist, in the time frame of things, there is no structure for the tourist once you get off the one main road, no food, petrol of course, but no accommodation except top of the shelf in major cities.

Have realized that most countries are not worth while driving around unless you want to see fields and forests. Places like Italy hill villages yes, but Estonia and the Ukraine and other countries unless you get to old villages NO.

Neck very sore, pain killers, and sleeping pills tonight.

Monday 1
Rang the rental car coy, yes they would take it back early, back to Tallinn, return the car, to the port, return to Helsinki, to the airport, NO my summer special ticket from Munich can not be changed, bought a new ticket to Frankfurt for tomorrow, to Holiday Inn, pain killers & sleeping pills again.

The guy that drove me to the airport was a Pom, from London, married a Fin and is now a full resident. Said if he had realized how hard the language was to learn he may have rethought it. Told me it was almost a country where the govt is a big brother, has their finger in everything, when you apply for citizenship you state your religion and 1% of your wage is deducted for that church. Would never move back to UK to live because of all the crime and while the weather could be colder, over all he felt it was better and safer to bring up kids.

Tuesday 2
Fly to Frankfurt, to last minute travel, plane to ChCh tomorrow, to hotel at airport, hell it is expensive, 11hours shopping in Singapore on the way home, interesting!
Home Saturday, have 21 days to get my neck fixed, then have to work out the best way (Cheapest) to get from Frankfurt to Poland!

3rd July
Frankfurt to Singapore, Economy travel, Singapore Airlines not too bad, Singapore 6.30am Thursday

Thursday 4
Singapore all day till 9.30 tonight, so metro into town, in the rain, met my Singapore friend and he helped me buy a new 10D canon Digital camera, it has a few features which may help controlling the contrast with faces in India and places like that.

Uneventful flight home to NZ, it was nice to see NZ from the air approaching from Australia the long range of mountains fully covered with snow and a long white cloud over them, which is of course the translation of the Maori name for NZ "The land of the long white cloud"

Saturday 6
10.30 arrival, lost one day, It was snowing, cold, both of these things reminded me as to why I traveled each year. Rose collected me from the airport, drove me to my home on the hill, it had even snowed up there, which being by the ocean is unusual. I was home in time to put a bucket under a roof leak that was caused by the pile up of the snow on a skylight. So that was two good reasons for coming home….with more to come

Sunday 7
40mm of snow this morning on my front deck, more snow on the skylight, more water dripping, cold as hell, (that term should that be reserved for heat), but a beautiful fine clear sunny day. Sumner (my suburb by the sea) crowded today with lots of people walking on the beach, beautiful days like this, why am I traveling, oh yes the cold and snow on the other days.

Monday 8
Jet Lagged, not like me, woke up at 9.30, late making a doctors appointment, saw him at 2.30, he confirmed my diagnosis, and agreed with my suggestion that I get a new x-ray to update on the 12 year old one and agreed that I should go to a physiotherapist. X-ray done at 5 pm, yes, good to come home, where I have the old x-ray to be able to see how much more neck wear than 12 years ago.

Tuesday 9
At the physiotherapist, wear on my neck average for my age, would have been a lot worse if I smoked, smoking affects the disks making them thinner. The electric heat pad is working wonders since I have been back, the Physio, gave me massage, exercised my neck, twisted it, poked etc. Overcast today, Scottie beam me up to Greece again please.

Wednesday 10
Woke up to bad news, a brother of a friend since 1977? Phoned me to tell me his brother (aged 46 had 4 ½ year old kiddie) had died of stomach cancer the day before. Glad I was home to take that call. Found out today an old photographic friend is in hospital with terminal cancer. To suit the news it was an overcast day.

Thursday 11
Beautiful fine, clear sky, day (Ivan remember the snow & cold) Physio poked & twisted, massaged feels better all ready, not yet ready for a bungee jump, (half a second that may stretch my neck & relieve the pressure, no not today).

The rest of my stay in NZ was tripping to the Physio every second day, sorting out the pain relief "bits" I ordered from the states, sorting out the voice type dictating, admiring the beautiful fine winter days with the clear blue skies, cold at night & mornings but enjoyed the days, sorting my new luggage out, watch to see if it is the best yet, I have almost every type of suitcase made and I am still looking for the perfect case for me!

Friday the 25th
Okay tomorrow I fly out and reviewing it was worthwhile coming home I think the answer is yes, the three weeks I been home I seem to have been flat out doing I'm not quite sure what, and I'm glad I am going tomorrow on a ticket that cannot be changed otherwise I might find that I don't have time to travel.

Don't ask me what I been doing because apart from things like the physio and going for my daily walk I'm not sure, but I know I'm gained 2 lbs. since I been home and I had lost 9 lbs. on my travels. Today it is 9° in the sunshine with a wind chill factor of damn cold. I am travelling with a TENS unit which supplies small voltages through electrodes on my back and seems to eliminate the pain. Wonderful invention.

So with the snow, and the dripping water in the house, the blocked down pipe in the garage, the x-rays, the TENS unit, the downloading of my Digital images DVD and making space on my laptop, the cold freezing wind, the purchasing of a new camera, the purchasing of Dragon Dictate, the rerouting of my airline ticket, the investigation of what I will be doing in Vietnam, yes it was worthwhile coming home even if it was a long, long trip and a long trip back.

So now it is on to Poland and the rest of the trip and hopefully newsletters with out the pain.

So yes I am on the road again, yes there will be more newsletters, and it will be interesting to test the new camera to see if there is more control than the almost new one I been using.

Sunday the 27th
Well I got out to the airport on Saturday thanks to a pretty little photographer who graciously agreed to take me to the airport when all my other possible means of transport evaporated.

The first shock was when I checked in to the business section of ticket counter they want to weigh my carry on and told me that it was well overweight. I told I was doing my best and I had gone on to the Aitkin diet, then she says no your carry on stupid. I had to remove half of the stuff in it, you are allowed a total of 7 kg so I wandered off to the luggage shop that was there, and bought a nine dollar bag to put all the bits and pieces into.

When I went through security I said to myself to hell with this put everything back in again and, behold at the boarding gate they had a gauge to checked the size of the bag attached to a pair of scales so again I had to remove a computer and a camera and place them in the bag.

I can't imagine what would have happened had I not reduced the weight that I'm carrying because the bag was quite light appeared to what was when I went home. The other good news was that the suitcase that I pack too checked through, was down to 22 kilos from 26 k So yes I am packing lighter. Once on board the plane I placed the computer and camera back into the bank and none the aircrew minded. I thought the big test is going to be at Singapore to see if they weigh the bags there, but no they are much too busy getting passengers on the plane's than to worry about the weight of the bag and after all the if you have 15 kilos that you carrying on two bags there is still 15 kilos in the luggage bin and this splitting it simply is not going to reduce the amount of weight.

Watch are these notes to see if any airline around the world weighs carry-on, but I think not, I think it is just a stupid thing that my country does, like your suiktcase cannot be more than 32 kilos, in London later on one trip they shrugged their shoulders at a 40 kg bag and sent it on through, this almost like they test the waters in New Zealand to see whether the public will accept these stupid things that sort of put you off travel.

And they put stupid people that check you through with out questioning the concept, of course is not those people, but the people give the orders that need to be lined up against wall.

I arrived in Frankfurt at 6 a.m. and I fly out at 12noon. I am in the business lounge dictating this into my computer with Dragon dictate professional version damn expensive and the object of the exercise is to reduce the strain on my neck which both I and my physio agree was probably caused by all the typing that I did.

There was an uneventful flight from New Zealand although travelling economy class the only problem is of course if you select a window seat you have two people to disturb to get out to go to the toilet and of course if you select an isle seat then you have to move every time the others want to get out. The amount of room is just bearable and that is on Singapore airlines, but what the rest of the airlines are a like I do not know.

When I arrived in Frankfurt this morning I made a comment to one of the German people on the plane that I had a six hour wait to catch the plane to the Berlin. They commented you could drive there in that time.

Well eventually it was time to go to the gate and board the plane for the 45 minutes ride to Berlin.

The Berlin airport was interesting, very small much smaller than I would have expected to be, and when we entered the airport we entered directly to the baggage carousel, I think there was one for every plane. But I thought the bags will arrive good and fast but somehow rather as we all know that never happens, by the time the bags started arriving all of the passengers that were all the plane and gathered around the carousel two deep almost without a break with their trolleys touching the carousel you had to get a position otherwise you're on the outer.

Question? Where are the passengers whose bags are the first to arrive those bags keep on going around and around and around!

It had actual fact took almost more time than the flight to get to the hotel. Once checked into the hotel (in the old East) I took the subway to Alexander Plas and bought a ticket into Poland. When I was in Berlin seven plus years ago they were still using the old East German trains in the underground, all that has changed with bright new modern trains, modern ticketing, everything is looking bright clean and sparkling as you would expect in Germany.

It is however is a little bit of a shock to come from 9° in New Zealand and 43 hours later be in Berlin at the 33° will be interesting to see what is like in Poland which is further north.

As I travelled through Berlin I noticed take tremendous amount of graffiti on a lot of reasonably good looking buildings. This is in keeping with the reputed high unemployment rate is currently a factor of Berlin.

I went to bed with jet lag and about 7 p.m. and consequently was awakened by five A. M. So I got up to wet morning and was ready to go by 615. So a taxi was ordered and I went to the Berlin Station and was on platform two in plenty of time for the train. The train however was not and plenty of time for me. Fortunately I started talking to a group of seven German ladies who turned out to be from Berlin and had lived all of their life in Berlin the western part of course and they were busy going on their yearly trip to a seaside resort in Poland. They explained eventually, that the train that we will all going to catch had been cancelled and that we would have to go to another Station to catch a different train to our destination in Poland.

So we all hurried down to a different platform caught the train, then had to work out from which platform the train for Poland left from and were up and down the stairs lugging our luggage and was that point of time that I decided travelling by train was not the same as travelling by plane. Eventually after trying almost every platform we found the train and were on our way into Poland.

The ladies were in the next compartments and they were singing much to the disgust of the German gentleman who was sharing the compartment with me he had a slight growth of beard was reading a book on art and on literature and peered at me over the top of his glasses shaking his head every time the ladies burst into song. I'm not sure it was made any better when one of the ladies came and got me and I went all to have a glass of champagne with them and help them sing Lili Marlene. They told me that they left their husbands for two weeks every year and went all to the beach to swim sing and have a good time.

It very interesting talking to them about their views on New Zealand and how far they considered it to be. None of them were prepared to go the distance yet they all knew people who had been there and said it is one of the in spots to go to at the moment. I guess and is something we in New Zealand are brought up with the thought of travel and the distance we have to travel if we want to go anywhere, where as in Europe you can go almost anywhere with a maximum of about three hours.

As interesting when I was talking to the ladies about the amalgamation of the East and West Germany that they felt the East had taken over the West. They blamed the amalgamation on the reason why trains were no longer running properly nothing was quite the same.

Was interesting in going through what was old East Berlin and seeing what we call the old Russian apartments and seeing how much better they were then in the Ukraine they had a better finish on the outside because a lot of them were painted with interesting colours and that looked quite impressive. I noticed this was the case also in Poland when we eventually got there, but there they had some apartments that almost were painted like pop art. I found it very interesting what a little bit of paint would do and all you need is a little bit of money and turns a lemon in to a lemonade.

Again like in other countries I have been to this year I saw windmills as we were travelling to Poland, generating power, to me they were not a blot on the landscape as the opponents and claiming in New Zealand and as they were well away from housing etc created no disturbing noise all except for perhaps the wheat growing all the cows munching grass.

The passports were cleared on the train as we travelled and as most were German on the train it seemed to be very simple except when they came to mine there was a great deal of discussion and eventually the passport was stamped he was most disturbed to find that I could not speak German and only English however one of the other two in the carriage translated the German into English and that was the first I knew he could speak English.

So we arrived at Szczecin after a very slow stop ago journey letting every fast train pass us, arriving some three hours after the time I was due. So it was off the train with all luggage up the steep flight of stairs to the overhead bridge down the other side to the Station, stand in line at the information counter, when it was my turn, no she could not speak English, nor could anyone else in the line, so I just passed my ticket over and the booking form she worked on the keyboard at the computer and told me when the next train to Slupsk was and which platform I needed to go to catch that train.

Next it was time to ring Angie's parents where I was going to be a house guest, so get a telephone card, no they would not accept euros, no they would not accept dollars, so it was all down the platform to the exchange booth, back to collect the telephone card, to the telephone, dial the number, there was a operators voice talking in Polish about something I had done wrong, no there were no people that were passing that could speak English so after 15 minutes I decided I should leave for the train and sort things out when I got to Slupsk.

I thought I'd better get something to eat before I left because I was uncertain as to how long it would be till I got to Slupsk. So it was back into the shop some cheese, ham and diet Coke.

So again it was lugging the suitcase up the stairs to the overhead bridge, manoeuvring them and down the other side, showing the ticket to somebody that looked important, yes that was the train, manoeuvred the suitcase in to the compartments, and relaxed and ate my expensive lunch. While I was doing this I observed the four officials standing round on the platform with their hands in their pockets, a sight we used to see in New Zealand before the railway was privatised. I guess eventually in Poland the massive railway system they have will have to be privatised I would guess shortly after they join the European union.

I had decided to travel on the railway by a first-class and the compartment I was in had expensive looking red velvet seats with curtains that you could pull across for privacy. I had the compartment to myself for three hours with a Polish student getting on the train 15 minutes before Slupsk. He could speak English so will we had quite a good little chat and he sorted out the phone number I had to ring in Slupsk telling the what numbers to drop off.

There was a lot of forest beside the railway track and the student told me that in the North which is where we were, the forests are in good condition because of lack of pollution in the air, but in the South is it different story. The grass was very long in the open areas and one clearing I saw a deer bounding through the grass which was taller than the deer that was itself, a beautiful sight seldom seen.

They were a lot of allotments between Berlin and Slupsk, very well looked after, with good crops of vegetables, fruit trees, and some interesting looking small houses. There were quite a few storks nesting on rooftops, telegraph poles, and anything else they thought was suitable. Occasionally I saw that large pipes carrying hot water from factories and power stations, that generated heat, and that he was converted into hot water, and that water was carried to apartment blocks, and interesting system that utilised energy.

Arriving in Slupsk, I telephoned my hosts and the telephone was engaged, after trying the phone number again several times I realised that the New Zealand engaged signal is the ringing tone in Europe and I had been caught out with that before so I let it ring made contact with my hosts, and 15 minutes later I was on my way to their home.