01 August 2009

Future of this Blog

Well now that I'm back home and not traveling for the time being this blog will be inactive. I'll start it up again for the next trip I take.

Thanks for reading!

<3 Thom

Photo Parade!

Well, it took me long enough but I've finally posted some of my photos from my trip. I say some of, but really that's all I'm going to post. Feel free to check them out if you're interested:

Vienna: (all my photos were deleted :( )

21 July 2009

Amsterdam, Paris, Home

Well, at the moment I'm back home! Which explains the lack of updates recently, I didn't want people to figure out the date I was coming back. It's both weird and amazing to be back. I'm sad to have left Europe and everyone I met there, but at the same time it's so great to see everyone. Caitlyn and Casey picked me up at the airport, which was a nice surprise because I was only expecting Caitlyn, with a neon welcome back sign and a SPACE article. Then I got to see everyone at Kyle's, it was so great!

But as far as the end of my trip goes... Amsterdam was amazing. I didn't do much during the day because i went to two nights of an electro festival going on there. But nights were completely mental. First night was Diplo, Boy 8-Bit, and Fake Blood. The second night was Simian Mobile Disco, Does it Offend You, Yeah?, and Zombie Nation. I also tried to find the Tattoo Museum, but the guy at reception in the hostel said that it never really opened, which is a shame.

Then Paris was great. I had one very chill night in Poitiers between Amsterdam in Paris, then took the train up to Paris and stayed with Caroline and Asia. It was mostly just hanging out, but we did wander around the city a bit, hanging out in parks and along the Seine. It was great to see them again before I headed home.

And that's the jist of what i have to say for now. Stay tuned for photos once I upload them all and my reflections on the trip once I know how to articulate them.

14 July 2009

Some Photos From My Last Couple of Stops

Vilnius: Fountain in the Town Square

Vilnius: The world's only Frank Zappa monument

Riga: Europe in Flowers
Riga: Directions
Tallinn: View of the Old TownTallinn: Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Helsinki: Inside Suomenlinna
Helsinki: Cathedral and Senate Square

Stockholm: Cannon
Stockholm: Arches and Tourists


Well I’m in Stockholm now, and after a hectic morning trying to find a place to stay I got settled into a hostel about 15 minutes away from the old town, Gamla Stan, by foot. The hostel is clean, but it’s terribly quiet and you’re not allowed to drink inside, which takes away from the social atmosphere of hostels that I enjoy. Still, it’s clean, there’s a kitchen, and they have free coffee.
Anyways, after I got settled in I wandered around the old town. The architecture is so nice! I seriously think that just about every single building in the old town is impressive. I spent a few hours admiring the buildings and went into one free museum that ended up being a museum about currency. They had currency from all throughout history and from all over the world, including a $100US that was printed in Fishkill! After the museum I wandered around the Royal courtyards, but they weren’t that impressive. The guards all had giant machine guns with bayonets though, that was a sight. After that I wandered around the more modern city center, which was just a lot of shopping and a lot of people. OH, yeah. Everywhere is so crowded. I mean, I expect there to be a lot of people in capital cities during peak tourism season, but there were so many it was tough to move at points. That wasn’t very enjoyable. Also, Stockholm is all about 7-Eleven. 7-Eleven in Stockholm is like Starbucks in NYC. Okay, maybe not that bad, but I was surprised to see one, let alone a billion.

After wandering around for a few hours I came back to the hostel and took care of some stuff online (woo, free wifi!), then I got to talking with this Candian girl, Mira, and we ended up going to a bar with a German girl named Julia. That was in what Lonely Planet calls the “alternative culture” part of town. It wasn’t very alternative…American Apparel, H&M, and other big name shops were all over the place. The bar was decent though, but we left pretty early. There were so many cops out – 3 vans just outside the one bar. There are also tons throughout the city. It doesn’t make any sense. I know cops are “supposed to make us safe,” but seeing a high police presence just makes me more anxious and nervous (though, I’ve never been big on The Man).

Today I got up and wandered around again. I saw some of the places I didn’t see yesterday, and went into a free museum on Theatre and Dance. I tried to find a statue of a boy staring at the moon because Caroline told me to look for it, but then it started to downpour and I gave up. I grabbed some lunch, then walked to the Kulturhuset (Culture House), and checked out some of the things they had there. There are a couple of galleries, some models of the city, a medieval museum, and plenty of other stuff. After wandering around for a few more hours and being fed up with the weather I came back to the hostel. I don’t know what my plans are for this evening, but I may just take it easy.

At any rate, I’m off to Amsterdam tomorrow afternoon. Updates from there!
Also! Be prepared for a special photo update coming shortly!

13 July 2009

Tallinn and Helsinki

My last day in Tallinn was pretty excellent as well. I think it’s one of my favorite cities I’ve been to so far. In the afternoon after I last updated I walked into town with a Finnish girl named Katya (I’m not actually sure if that’s how it’s spelled) before she met up with her parents. Then I met up with Vega, who I met in Warsaw. She’s now in Tallinn for a few weeks teaching Spanish at a camp. We wandered around the old town and chatted while I took some photos since I had forgotten my camera the day before, then we made our way to the Kumu art museum. With the exception of the contemporary art exhibit on the top floor, Estonian artists did all of the pieces in the museum. (Actually, I’m not 100% sure if that’s true, but I’m fairly positive it is.) Gintare (from Vilnius) had suggested that I check it out, as did Sven, so I figured I should check it out. It was really cool and I spent a few hours there. Two of the floors were just a chronological display of important works from Estonian artists, so it walking through the museum was like walking through an art history course. The museum is next to a really nice park, so when I left I wandered through it and enjoyed the pleasant weather.
That night I met up with a whole bunch of people at a kebab place/bar before we went to a park to hang out. A couple of the people I had met the night before, but mostly I met new people and I even got to speak in French for a while because there were some French people in the group! It was more French than I had really spoken during my last semester in France since we had the strikes and all. I ended up trying to go to bed early (well, early for me) since I had to catch my Ferry to Helsinki at 7:30 in the morning. Yeah, that’s right, leave at 7:30. It was brutally early, and I couldn’t believe how many people were drinking on the ship when I got on.

At any rate, it only took me two hours to get to Helsinki. Right away I was amused because I saw some kid (I couldn’t tell if it was a guy or a girl) dressed as an anime character. I’m talking cloak, a fake weapon of some fantastical sort, and spiky anime hair. I thought I might’ve been so tired I was hallucinating, but as I wandered around I saw more people dressed up like anime characters, or in animal costumes, or in other crazy get-ups. Helsinki quickly became my favorite city to people watch. In addition to the outrageous costumes, there were plenty of guys with hearty beards (and oh how was I jealous), tons of metal-looking people, and a bunch of punks with gigantic died Mohawks. I didn’t find out until later that there was an anime/sci-fi convention going on, which explained the costumes.
I was pretty exhausted, but every day is a new adventure, especially when you only have one night in a city. So I had some coffee and went out exploring with Antti, a Finnish guy. He told me I needed to see Suomenlinna, the old sea fortress, so we hopped on a boat and went out to the island. (Well, actually, when we got to the harbor we had a half an hour wait, so we wandered around the Central Market while we waited for the boat.) I was so glad we did, because it’s a cool place to explore and a cool place to hang out. Antti told me that he and his friends would sometimes just go there to hang out, and that a lot of people in Helsinki do that. There are also a bunch of museums (which we didn’t go in), and plenty of tunnels in the fortifications to explore (which we did), and people actually live on the island as well. The views on the coasts were pretty excellent, and I had a great time there. We hung out for a few hours and then hopped on a ship back to the mainland.
We split up there because he was also exhausted and I walked around for about an hour or so before I met Elina, a Finnish girl now living in Helsinki. I was invited to hang out with her and her friends for some cake and hanging out and potential partying, and despite being tired there was no way I could pass that up. It was my only night in Finland, so I had to make the most of it! So it ended up being a couple of us hanging out, and then Antti, Elina, Marjaana, Katri, and I went out to a club. Well, it’s not actually a club, but a movie theatre that opens the terrace for dancing at night, but only until 2am. It was free entry (WOO, something free in Helsinki…I’ll be talking about money in a moment), but my hopes of a free evening were dashed when I walked in and they told me that my super tiny day pack was too big to bring in and I had to pay 3€ to check it. Oh well, I was in and the club was a lot of fun. The dance floor was kind of weird – it was cluttered with tables and chairs in such a way that you would think they didn’t want you to actually dance. That just meant that in addition to dancing on the floor and the speakers, people were up on chairs as well. It was so much fun, but ended too soon (we had to wait on a line for a while before we got in), so then we went to a different bar. After being in central Europe and the Baltics, bar prices in Helsinki had me floored. Oh well, I knew the cities in Scandinavia were going to be the most expensive ones I visited on this trip. But I had a great time hanging out, chatting with everyone, and staying up way later than I thought I would when I got in.

The next day I slept in a bit for some much needed sleep, then Antti and I went to a park for a free outdoor festival that was going on. We went a little while after it started, and the two bands we heard weren’t that great so we left to get some lunch before parting ways. I went to the city center and explored parts that I hadn’t seen the day before. There’s not a lot to see in Helsinki (it’s not really a touristy city, well not to the extent of other European capitals at any rate) and everything is pretty close together. After walking around with my backpack on for a few hours, and hopping into two free museums for a brief time, I sat in the Esplanade Park and enjoyed the nice weather before having to catch my ferry.

And now about money: I cannot believe how expensive Helsinki is! I feel like I’m in an airport! Even groceries are outrageously expensive. If you want a cold beer from a convenience store it’s over 3€ a can. Yeah, 3€. Forget that. And if you want a drink in a bar, forget about it. My Lonely Planet says the best place to go out to bars is in a working-class neighborhood which is where I was staying, but since we were in the center and that’s where all the clubs and everything are we had to pay a bit more. Talk about a shock for my wallet.

And that’s about it for now! At the time of writing this I’m on my way to Stockholm. I’ll hopefully update you from there!

I'm on a boat!

At the time of writing this I’m on my way to Stockholm, but there’s no wireless (and I’m not going to pay 8€ an hour for internet) so I can’t give you the up to the minute update. But if I could, I would want to share two songs that I feel fit the moment perfectly.
(I’m On A Boat – The Lonely Island [hilarious, but some strong language, so yeah, consider yourself warned if you don’t want to hear that kind of thing])
(I Am A Viking – Yngwie J. Malmsteen)
See, these songs work because I’m on a ship to Sweden that operates on the Viking Line (Yngwie J. Malmsteen is a Swedish musician.
When I booked this ship it was the only website that would let me book anything. I had no idea I was booking a CRUISE SHIP, so you could imagine my shock when I got on bored. I have a pretty sweet room all to myself, and food and drink on the ship can be less expensive than in Helsinki, so that’s a plus. I’m exhausted so I’m probably going to bed early (and by probably I mean definitely), but I did watch some people do karaoke. There’s so much one could potentially do! (It’s my first time on a cruise ship, there’s a lot of novelty value in it for me even though I’m not going to shell out my money.) I’m amused. (But at the same time not down with all the high prices for things.)

Okay, now for real, I’ll update you from Stockholm!

10 July 2009

Riga and Tallinn

My explorations around Riga didn’t take very long. It’s a nice old town, but not a lot to see. Still, I wandered through the streets all over the place, and not just in the old town but around the more modern parts of the city as well. I spent a lot of time in the (free) Museum of Occupation, which, as the name implies, is about the Nazi and Soviet occupations of the Baltic countries. There was a lot of information to take in, and some cool displays, such as original items that prisoners had made in the gulags/work camps, weapons found, official orders, and phone taps to name a few. When I got out of the museum, it started to rain. So I wandered around a bit and found another free museum, the Latvian Military History museum that I went in mostly to get out of the rain. It was all in Latvian, and while there were some binders of information you could take around with you that were written in English I just had no desire to read that much after spending so much time in the Occupation museum. I looked in some churches that were free, but really I don’t have much to report on Riga (which is not to say I didn’t enjoy it, just not a lot there). I didn’t bother going out that night either because the weather had gotten so terrible. But I think an evening of doing nothing was good for me since I’ve been going hard for over 6 weeks now! And I had to get up somewhat early to catch my bus to Tallinn.

The weather was terrible while I was on the bus, but I’d rather it be that way than terrible when I got into Tallinn. The bus ride was uneventful, except for one passport check where I don’t think the custom’s guy believed the photo was me (he didn’t say anything, but compared every detail on my passport to those on my titre de sejour) but it was fairly uncomfortable. I had to sit next to this fat guy who took up more than one seat, so he was partially on mine and I just had no room. At any rate, I got into Tallinn in the early afternoon and then I was off exploring. I was excited to get out and move around after being on the bus and I had heard that Tallinn’s old town is really nice. Well, that’s no joke; I think Tallinn has one of the nicest old towns I’ve seen! Unfortunately I forgot my camera, but when I go out today I’ll get some photos. I wandered through all the streets in the old town, checking out some of the sights and some of the panoramic views. I think my favorite bits, though, were the little streets with nothing on them. They’re small and colorful and just really pretty. I went into some cathedrals and churches, most of which were a lot more impressive from the outside. In the town center there was a market set up selling different handicrafts so I wandered through that for a bit. You could tell it was set up for tourists because all the vendors were in traditional costumes. There were a couple of cool courtyard-type streets, one of which had really old tombstones on the wall. All in all my wanderings were very pleasant and I can’t really put it into words. Y’all will just have to wait for the photos! When I was done wandering I went to a café in the town center that my Lonely Planet suggested and says it can make people never want to go to Starbucks again. That’s not too hard for me, I think Starbucks coffee is kind of crap to be honest, but I do love a good cup of coffee. The verdict: not the best I’ve ever had but still really tasty, tastier and cheaper than some of the cafés I’ve been to in France.

In the evening I met up with Sven and his friends – all Estonian’s living in Tallinn. We had an excellent night hanging out listening to music, I tried some dark Estonian beers, and we watched some videos on YouTube. That, and they showed me a hilariously crude TV show that I had never seen or heard of called Testees about two guys who are human guinea pigs for a company trying out different chemicals. Check it out!

That’s all for now. Not sure what my plans are today – probably an art museum and then snapping some photos in old town. Tomorrow morning I head to Helsinki! Next update soon? Hopefully.

08 July 2009

Rīga is Punk Rock

I got into Riga yesterday evening. I had a late night the night before and I was pretty tired, so I didn’t go exploring. But I met up with Zane, a Latvian woman living in Riga, who took me to an awesome punk rock club. I got to see some bands play and it was only 1Lat to get in (about $2)! It was so cool, and itsnights like that which make me remember why I love going to punk shows. So many Mohawks and hair dye and piercings and metal and chains. There were two floors, each with live music and a bar. One of Zane’s friends was playing that night, and he was a really funny, cool guy. He was telling me afterwards how he doesn’t really know how to play the guitar; he would just look at his CD, pick a song, and start strumming and singing the lyrics. “All improvisation” he said. Afterwards we went to a Russian style bar called Ленинград (Leningrad) with some people. It was really cool. And as for now, I’m heading off to explore! It’s my only full day in Riga, then tomorrow I’m off to Tallinn, Estonia.

As always, I’ll update again when I can! Hope you’re all doing well and enjoying these updates.


When “planning” out this trip, I knew I wanted to check out the Baltic countries. My friend Timbo had been traveling around and told me that Vilnius is a nice city, so I thought “Cool, I’ll start there, and then work my way up to Riga, then Tallinn.” The old town in Vilnius is apparently one of the largest ones in Europe and it is really nice. When I got into the city after that long bus ride (during which I hadn’t slept much because the girl sitting next to me kept kicking me. Instead of putting her stuff overhead, she had everything under her legs and then kept putting her feet on my footrest and leaning over towards my seat. It was not very comfortable, but whatever.) the sun was shining and it was pleasantly warm out. I thought to myself “Wow! There are a lot of people out for 7:45 in the morning, and my bus was an hour and fifteen minutes early! Cool!” Turns out I’m an idiot and didn’t realize I changed time zones. Oops. So I went for a walk into the Old Town and just wandered about for a bit before I got settled in.

I met Gintare, who studies in Vilnius, and after some coffee and chat we went out into the city. We went to the contemporary art museum to see an exhibit called “Big in Japan.” Part of it was cool, but part of it was crap to be honest. In the main hall and entrance of the museum there was a display set up on urban landscapes that used toy cars and trucks, tracks as roads, Styrofoam mountains, and toy cranes building up new infrastructure. That was really cool. There were also some cool portraits that made the people look albino and all kind of look similar, but if you looked closely you could see the differences between the people. While there, we met up with one of Gintare’s friends (and I’m terrible with spelling names, so I’m just not going to even try) and we walked up to the top of the castle hill and hung out there for a bit. The view was excellent. While we were there, Gintare’s flat mate met up with us and then we wandered around a bit more. We went into two churches, one of which hasn’t really been restored at all so the interior looks really old. After that we went to the artists’ district called The Independent Republic of Uzupis where they have their constitution posted on a wall in several different languages. It’s pretty funny, with rules like “Everyone has the right to be happy, everyone has the right to be unhappy” and “Everyone has the right to take care of the cat.” We then wandered our way up another hill where we were joined by Eva, who absolutely loves Uno. So we hung out there for a while, playing Uno and chatting and having a relaxing day, which is what I wanted because I was pretty tired. We went to a vegetarian restaurant where I had an awesome vegan calzone and then I called it an early night.

The next day was the national holiday for Lithuania in commemoration of Grand Duke Mindaugas’ coronation. I wandered through the town a bit, mostly to find the world’s only Frank Zappa statue, then I watched some of the festivities taking place. There were so many people around it was hard to move. There were some speeches that took place and a parade with people dressed in traditional clothing and some bands playing national songs and whatnot. That evening there was a concert to celebrate the holiday that was free and outside. There were so many people on stage! There was a chorus, then orchestra, and then the chorus came back on. And everyone in the crowd new the words to the national songs and you could just feel the positive energy everywhere. I was hanging out with a large group of people and they would translate the lyrics for me from time to time, which was nice. There were people dancing everywhere, parents tossing their children up in the air and catching them (I saw one baby that was the happiest baby in the world during that festival) and just all around merriment. It was a great time. We followed that up by continuing the celebrations at Gintare’s flat. It was an all around great day.

(Sorry for the lack of photos as of late! I want to put some in, but I’ve been updating from other people’s computers or public computers so I don’t have my photos available when I’m updating. Probably when this trip is over I’ll upload all my photos worth uploading and post the links.)