Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia

Fly to Stockholm, Sweden. Fly to Vilnius, Lithuania. Drive to Riga, Latvia. Drive to Tallinn, Estonia. Fly to Stockholm, Sweden. Fly home.

While this trip was 10, 24 hour days, we actually made it into 20, 12 hour days. Let me explain. We would sleep for 5 hours, do daytime stuff for 7, sleep for 4 hours, do nighttime stuff for 8 hours. So while many of you would say that we drank every night, in actuality, we drank every other night. The days just happened to be 12 hours. Therefore, I will be describing each day as Day 1 and 2. So, if you are my parents, read only the 1’s. If you are not, read the 2’s. Here are all the pictures. Throughout this article I reference specific pictures which I have linked to individually.

Thursday2 – Took off from Newark, a nice 8 hour flight that leaves at 7pm and lands at 9am. In order to use the full day in Stockholm, we figured we needed 7 hours of sleep on the plane which means AMBIEN. I asked my “doctor” for the drugs and we were hooked up with 10 pills. I popped 2 on the plane and woke up refreshed for a day of sightseeing in Sweden, without my sunglasses. (See Idiot Boy below).

Friday1: We walked around Stockholm, saw the Old Castle, the Royal Palace, the Armory, the changing of the guards. I won free lunch when I guessed our waitress was 20 (she had just turned 20 2 weeks earlier). Steven had the under. Obviously we had ice cream and then took a 5 HOUR NAP. Let me say that again, a 5 HOUR NAP.

Friday2: I was up after 3 hours and was forced to wake the other two when it was time for dinner and to party. This would become standard. I woke the boys up almost every morning and every evening. At 10:30, we hit up dinner at a club. Steven danced on a reality TV show (see the picture) and then asked some women to join us at our table. Of course the bill at the end of the night was 1,300, then I spent another 300 at the bar. Don’t worry, the exchange rate is 7 – 1. I talked to a girl for over 2 hours before she told me she had a boyfriend…even her friends were asking me where she went when she wasn’t talking to me…not sure how I blew that one. Oh well, there’s always Saturday.

Saturday1: We slept 6 more hours, right through breakfast. This would also become a recurring theme as we only made it to 2 breakfasts, out of 9 free European Hotel breakfasts all week. We walked around town asking people to pronounce words that had 5 straight consonant or 17 letters. Repeating the word after them was a problem. (Check the name of the restaurant we ate at). We took a bus to Skansen, the Swedish version of Colonial Williamsberg. Steven interacted with potters, and weavers and painters before we saw the animals. Then we walked to the Vasa Museum, a museum built around an ship pulled from the bottom of the water around Sweden. It’s interesting because A) it was built in 1630, and raised from the bottom in 1963, B) it sank 100 meters after its first voyage because it was built so poorly and C) because it’s the only ship from that period in a museum. I guess all the ships from the 1,600’s that were used by the Navy were damaged, destroyed or decommissioned. It was pretty much like the pirate ship from the Goonies. After, home to sleep.

Saturday2: Saturday night we met up with Jonathan’s business school friend / man crush, Braun, and his hometown NJ friends. Mike and Scotty were typical DJ and they cleaned up with foreigners. Classic loud mouths; with stories about sex and complaints about not getting into clubs. We picked up this guy Gnutt (Ga – Noot), who was obviously loaded (house in Monaco) and he took us to some local clubs. The easiest way to pick up girls at a local club is to talk English. They can’t believe you found the club. Then you ask them to take a picture of you or with you. This is what Braun, Scotty and Mike taught us. At 4:00 am the club was packed still. At 4:30 am, the streets were seemingly safe, bright, and packed with people. At 5:00 am, Burger King was full of people. (And the sun was rising).

Sunday1: We missed breakfast by 2 hours again and decided to grab a quick pizza for breakfast and take a boat ride around the archipelago of Stockholm. Why aren’t there any skyscrapers in Stockholm? It is only a matter of time. Some people want to keep it looking like a 17th century city, but when they start allowing building, it will come. We went to the center of the old town and had some awesome hot chocolate, served by a model, though every Swedish girl models on the side. We read Tucker for the first time, out loud at the café, and cracked up. Then, back to sleep.

Sunday2: Went to the Bern’s Hotel after walking around the city for an hour. It finally rained though the forecast had called for rain the whole weekend in Stockholm. Screw the weathermen. Braun and the boys met us there around 2, which was amazing because people were still out that late on Sunday.

Monday1: We woke up having figured that most of Stockholm had been completed. We hit the Nobel Museum which has everything but the peace prize (That was given to Norway because they had a better democracy at the time). We head to the airport, which says that it handles 18.3M passengers a year but is totally dead. We take a Fokker 50 propeller plane to Vilnius, Luthuania (check the picture).

Monday2: After we get off the plane, we get in a taxi and all think we’re going to die. This guy drives like a maniac and all he can say for himself is “its my job.” We go out in Lithuania and have a huge dinner and many drinks for $13 a person. We hit up Broadway bar and Prospecto pub. We meet Anna, Saran and Jeni, the English girls and drag them around with us. We meet an American marine chick who works at the embassy who’s out with her interpreter friend and we drink them under the table. She tells me there are about 100 Americans in Lithuania. This makes me feel good. The interpreter felt uncomfortable talking about parts of Lithuanian history, I will explain more of this later. Another 5am night. Everyone keeps asking me…but nothing, I swear. Prob b/c I’m an idiot!

Tuesday1: We miss breakfast and head through the 2 Jewish Ghettos. There aren’t any Jews there anymore but at one point they were gated and walled and filled with many of the 100,000 Jews that used to inhabit the city. We walked to the only Synagogue left in the city, out of 100 prewar. This was left standing because they felt if it was burned like the others, the whole old city could burn down. We walk to the Central Cathedral which was the starting point for a 2 million person 3 country chain protesting Russian occupation in 1991. People held hands from Vilnius, through Riga to Tallinn, over 600km away. The starting point is marked by a special block hidden in the square and you are supposed to make a wish and spin around on it, though it is taboo to tell anyone where it is. We had to find it for ourselves. (Check the picture) Then up the hill overlooking town and down to the Holocaust museum. The Holocaust museum is a bit off the beaten path and walking there we saw some of the poorer areas of the city and the major influence 45 years of Russian control had. I found a book store and we headed home for a nap.

Tuesday2: Around 9:30, we went to dinner at an authentic Lithuanian restaurant. The English girls showed up for an hour before we headed to Skybar at the top of the tallest building in Vilnius. There was an IBM Scandinavian outing in the bar, but Steven said “just keep walking.” So we did, and joined the party for a little while. After a quick stop at Prospecto Pub, we headed home.

Wednesday1: Took a cab to the airport to pick up our car. Only cost 120 Euro’s a day. We stopped in Trakai where there’s an island castle rebuilt from the 14th century. Beautiful place but the highlight was the shooting range and bow and arrows. Then onto Riga. Our guide book told us we would get pulled over 2 times if we were driving in Lithuania, thankfully, we only got pulled over once. Steven got in the back of the cop car and “negotiated” with the cop for 20 minutes. (check the picture). Yea, this is what you’re supposed to do. Cost us $60. We read Tucker in the car, and at the little lunch restaurant we found and then found our way to Riga. The town was crowded, bustling and parking was a major pain. You can park in the old city for $9 an hour or find a lot and walk. We found a lot after an hour of searching and dumped the car and took a cab to our hotel. The language barrier seemed to be a big problem at that point, but that was the only time on the whole trip that it was. Then, nap time.

Wednesday2: We hit up a steak place for dinner. Big mistake as dinner was A) in the middle of the town and B) was steak. Thus, it cost us $30 each after $20 meals combined in Lithuania. We actually did not go out, favoring rock star partying the next evening once acclimated with the city. Riga is an extremely sex filled city. Many strip clubs, many places where you can order whatever you want, including getting a dance from the manager, “Fire someone” for $10,000, and “destroy the bar” for $500,000.

Thursday1: We started the day by happening upon the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. We ended up spending 1.5 hours there. It was really informational, even though it focused on 1939-1947 and 1987-1991. I guess not much happened while the Russians were there. Many people feel uncomfortable talking about that time period even though 40% of the population is now Russian. The city was very first world European. While the outskirts and rural areas are obviously poorer. The city was under major construction, with buildings and roads all being built. When these countries entered the EU, they were given $1B to fix their infrastructures. I don’t think they are wasting the money. We walked around to other sites and old buildings in town, and then to the old market. The market dates to the 1200’s and is now 5 football sized buildings which have all been connected by other buildings, just huge. You can get anything. We headed to get Black Balzams (Black Magic). It is a Latvian liquor who’s ingredients are secret (mostly roots and plants), is 90 proof, and was first made in 1752. It supposedly cures illness and can knock the hind legs off a donkey. We enjoyed it tremendously, and brought a few bottles home. (Check the picture)

Thursday2: We met some 16 year olds on the way to the same club we were going to. Yea, that kinda thing was everywhere. We hit up club essential, and then went to a dead “club” across from our hotel to talk to the “staff” and discuss the “business.”

Friday1: We get to the car, and are surprised that it only cost $30 to park instead of the $50+ we had all expected. Obviously, we aren’t that good at reading signs in Latvian. We drive to Parnu, a resort town that has hundreds of thousands of beach dwellers during the summer. To bad the summer ended 2 weeks earlier. We had lunch there, then drove to the Tallinn airport to drop the car.

Friday2: We found a place that served bear meat, the Estonian specialty, and ordered a serving for $40. It wasn’t bad, very tender, very good sauce. Our waitress was cute, exotic, and “old enough” to befriend us. We headed out to a few bars, Beer Haus, then to Club Hollywood. Plenty of young people, some were too young. We met a native who hated tourists and couldn’t figure out why. We would on Saturday.

Saturday1: Tallinn was full of tourists, unlike the previous 2 cities. Most of them were from Finland, which was just a 3 hour boat ride away, and all carrying maps and cameras around their necks. The old city was very beautiful and the streets were cobblestones. I gave the tour guide responsibilities over to Steven and he did a reasonably good job, besides not being able to read a map. We didn’t see any sites until 3pm because Steven and Jon had found out the night before that Estonia was playing Israel in a Euro 2008 qualifying match, and we spent an hour or two getting tickets. It was worth it. We got some good pictures of Tallinn, but not much to talk about. Throughout our walks around the towns, we were judging the girls and which country had better looking girls. At one point Steven and I happened upon 2 girls holding signs. He said only 1 of the 2 was good looking, but I said both were. So I got a little closer, and said, actually, I think they are sisters, and when I got a little closer, I said that I thought they were twins. I was right, identical twins. While one had short black hair and one had long blond hair, that does not mean one is hot and one isn’t…I mean, they are identical twins!

Saturday2: We had to cut our nap short in order to leave for the soccer game. It was worth it. I was pretty happy to go out. We had to skip dinner afterwards in order to get to drinking. Being that it was our last big night of our trip, we spared no expense. Beers and shots and beers and clubs and hopping and dancing and it was quite the night. I met some people. Jon met some people. Steven and Jon pretended that they were French and Italian and didn’t speak English for an hour or so. We got back at 630am.

Sunday1: We wake up hungover, at 11:45, needing to check out by 12. I request a 1pm extension but Jon clearly needs another 4 hours. We head to a café and sit there for an hour. At 2 we walk 100 meters to the town square and sit for another hour. We walk over to see if the twins are holding signs again to ask Jonathan if one can be hot while the other is not and there is a totally different set of identical twins holding the signs. Who hired these people? At 3, we walk to a 3rd place and Jon finally gets some food down, and we sit for another hour. At 4, we head to the hotel and to our flight to back to Stockholm.

Sunday2: We decide to stay in the airport hotel.

Monday1: I bump into someone from INVESCO at the airport in Stockholm and am excited to sleep on the flight. I get a reclining exit row isle and am set. A 26 year old girl from Uzbekestan sits next to me and has no book, cards or anything. She talks to me the whole flight. I find out her maternal grandmother is Jewish so I guess talking to her isn’t a total waste of time. She teaches me some card games and she heads to LA after we land.

Jewish Education:
We learned that there were almost 240,000 Jews in Lithuania at one point, and only 6,000 survived the war. We learned that in Latvia, there were 74,000 Jews before the war and only 1,000 survived (of which 400 were hidden by families for 5 years). We learned that the Baltic States had the lowest survival rates because the Russians controlled the areas first and committed atrocities of their own against everyone. The Germans, when they took over in 1941 were seen and liberators and blamed the Jews for the Russian atrocities. We learned that the Germans kept excellent records. For example, in 1941, they kept a log of each day, and how many Jews they killed and what type of person (man, woman, child). We learned they killed 134,000 in 1941.

Things I Want to Remember That Have No Meaning to Anyone Else:
I quit. I start my own hotel.
So, U cum wit me to my ho tell and we have sex now?
Great Sites.
Korean plus Polish equals Mexican.
Taking the road less traveled vs the road with the hot chicks
Have you seen the commercial?
Nutsack – Cheers
How many Ludes to a Kilo?
The Finnish Professor’s 9 year old daughter
So I was banging this chick…
Power move failure.

Things My Mom Said To Me in a 3 Min Voicemail That Were Not Accurate:
It’s impossible to find maps.
No one can give you directions.
The maps are bad.
Nobody speaks English.
You can’t read the menus.
They don’t use euros.
It’s hard to order food.
Be careful in terms of theft.
Everyone wants a US passport.
It’s very poor.

Idiot Boy:
Idiot boy forgot his new awesome camera at home. Idiot boy had to buy his cousin a new memory card for his camera, so that A) Idiot boy would have some claim to using that camera and B) so that Idiot boy could take as many pictures as he wanted with out worrying about using all the film.

Idiot Boy lost 2 pairs of sunglasses during the first 8 hours of the trip. Idiot Boy thinks the Ambien might have had something to do with him being a little “light” in the head, and leaving the glasses on the plane.

Idiot Boy got really drunk on the last night of his trip and knocked his 3rd pair of sunglasses on the ground and stepped on them. Maybe Idiot Boy shouldn’t bring sunglasses to a club at 5am. In the morning, Idiot Boy did not feel so stupid about buying $5 pairs of sunglasses anymore.

Idiot Boy left his jacket at a bar in one city, and did not realize it was gone until the next city. Idiot Boy only brought 1 jacket with him on the trip.

Idiot Boy left his book in the hotel room. Idiot Boy will probably have to buy that book again, even though he’d finished it.

Things I Lied About This Week:
I told our waitress that I might be 26 years old.
I told someone that Steven was Hungarian.
I told someone that my parents were born in Sweden.
I told someone that my favorite book was the Count of Monte Cristo.
I told my new job that I was getting back on Tuesday so I could have an extra day before starting to work.

Some Things I Think I Think About My Trip:
I think that even being in another country, it was still difficult for me to talk to people I didn’t know. I think it might have to do with courtesy, and not wanting to bother people. I think Swedish people were very friendly, especially the women (the men just thought we were trying to take their women, and they were right).

I think a Swedish girl told me her hair was so blond that she dyes her eyebrows darker so people can see them.

I think most Swedish girls have modeled at some point in their lives.

I think I saw much more diversity of people than I expected in Sweden, though there were tons of pale white blonds with blue eyes everywhere.

I think dark hair and fair skin looks exotic and hot, especially with an Eastern European accent.
I think we bet on girls ages, especially our waitresses

I think Sweden makes Vodka and Ikea and Models and that’s about it.

I think I liked wearing a watch, but I don’t think I will be wearing one now that my cell tells time again.

Other Things I Think, That Have Little to Do With My Trip:
I think while my new office is undergoing major construction, I won’t have much work to do. I think we are still hiring people and still building infrastructure. Thus, I think I’ll be getting paid to do nothing for a few more weeks.

I think I went here for dessert and hot chocolate and such last night. It was amazing. I think I will have to repeat because I think there is such a lack of good desert places to eat in the city.

I think I need to learn the difference between effect and affect.

I think it was my best friends birthday while I was away but he got me an awesome present. I come home and there’s a Tiki Barber signed jersey saying “To Ben, You’re the Best Man.” I think that kid is awesome.

I think this is what it looks like:

I think being able to wear jeans is worth between $5,000 and $10,000 to me. I think I would have given up that much money last year if I could have worn jeans every day. I think having all access to the internet is worth something too.


Anonymous said...

Wow...that looks like it was a great trip!! You're cute. :D

Anonymous said...

Great pictures, looks like you guys had tons of fun.

I'll have to finish reading the blog later, but the start of it looks great.

Anonymous said...

it looks like you all had a great time. hit up some cool clubs, met some hot locals, and even hit some nice historical places. Too bad you didnt get to drink any beer though.

Anonymous said...

It's fabulous. I'm so glad you had a great trip. I loved the way you divided your days.

I love how you do that map thing. You did it once before and I was very impressed.

Anonymous said...

Love it! sounds and looks like you guys had a great time. best was the “if you’re my parents, read part 1)