Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Warning: Linda Line sucks!

This is a warning to all the Estonian blog readers. Don't ever travel with Linda Line!  They are the hydro foil who claim  to travel to Finland in 90 min.  This blog post is to warn you of their lies and incompetence.  Yesterday we went to the temple which was a wonderful experience.  The trip over took an hour and 55 min, not 90 min.  This is actually standard, Linda Line can only reach Finland in 90 min if there isn't a single wave on the sea and if the boat is empty, but how often does that happen?  The return trip was the worst.  Our return trip was canceled because of technical reasons.  We were given the option to return on an earlier boat with 53 min notice.  We rushed from Espoo to try to make it but missed the boat by about 2 min.  We then had to pay an extra 10 bucks for a ticket on the Tallinnk boat that left later that night.  When I was buying the tickets I saw that there was a sale on Linda Line tickets, 36 euros for a round trip and a sale on Tallinnk tickets 36 euros for a return trip.  Somehow I had to pay an extra 10 euros for the Tallinnk return ticket.  I choose Linda Line because it was faster and had an earlier departure time.  The ironic part was that the Tallinnk boat took the same amount of time as Linda Line.  Linda Line takes no responsibility for their incompetence and treats their customers poorly.  If anyone reading this blog is considering a trip to Helsinki please choose another company that is reliable.  There is no reason to choose Linda Line, it will not save you time or money.  Linda Line sucks

Sunday, July 22, 2012

New favorite

One of our favorite things to do is to go to the market next to our house.  You never know what you are going to get.  One time we got this really nice looking dessert, but it was old and moldy inside.  Buying old goods is a risk you take at the market.  You win some and you lose some, recently we won!  We found a gem that is our new favorite.  Philadelphia cream cheese mixed with Milka chocolate.  Man this stuff is heaven.  At the store it costs 2 euro, but at the market only 80 cents!  We found it from the stand that sells stuff either at or past the expiration date, that is my favorite place. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Trip to Tõrva: kids and nature

At the end of June we went to Tõrva - my home town - and places nearby. A lot of the time we had to tend my little relatives. It was fun! For me the most important part of my home town is nature. So that was our trip - kids and nature. 

The first photo is my cousin´s sauna. Yes - you have to throw water on the rocks or it will not be sauna but just a room that is slightly more hot than usual.

My granny´s garden 

A cemetery where my aunt is buried. A nice old cross and a stone fence.

 My little relatives. The middle one lives in Finland.

An old church

Taagepera is a place where my mom´s mom used to live. There is a nice old manor house (or even a castle) built back in 1906.

Some of the manor houses where Baltic Germans lived were very fancy like the one in Taagepera. Now it is a hotel and people like to have their weddings there. Taagepera is extremely small - only 109 people live there. But back in the day it was a large and wealthy manor. Hugo von Stryck, the owner of the castle, spent  lots of money to build it. They even brought building materials from Riga (with horses). 

Here you can see how the castle is the nicest part of the tiny village. Rest of the buildings are quite run down. 

Here is where my grandmother lived. It was a wealthy farm before the Second World War. The owners were deported to Siberia so my grandmother got the place. Now the real owners (children of the deported people) are back and restoring the place. It looks so good now but just a few years ago when my granny moved it was not this all. 

The lookout where the kids hung out is still there after 20 years.

Lake Vanamõisa - my favorite.

My grandmother loves flowers and plants.

Watering can still being used.

Tõrva (pop 4000) has one restaurant and it is called Latvian Embassy. No, they do not offer Latvian food.

Now the kids:
 I like taking pictures of people but as my favorite model lives in England (my sister) I have to take pictures of kids.:) This is inspired by the Pellinor books. 

This shy little boy hid in the trees but then after a candy bar he was not so shy any more. 

More kids, meditating on the trampoline. 

Cheap work force :D

A cake I made for Elvis´s birthday. 

Elise in my mom´s place where I lived for 10 years. Surrounded by woods and fields. 

A piece of art by Matthew:

My mom´s house, old or vintage, what ever you prefer.

Elise and lake Vanamõisa

 Strawberry hunt in the park in Tõrva (this place is great for jogging)

My granny´s green house

In the green house

Mamma´s garden

 And this last photo is Elise making soup.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Beautiful Bremen

 This week I went to Bremen Germany for an ECPR graduate conference.  Bremen is up north by Hamburg.  The ECPR is the same group that put on the conference in Iceland, but this was only for PhD students.  There were about 500 people who came (2,000 came to Iceland).  Overall it was a nice conference.  I was a panel chair and I presented a paper on Russia's energy transit policy in the Baltic Sea region.  The paper was not very good, it was basically a review and not a piece of scholarship but I was in a hurry to get it done for the conference.  There was actually a direct flight from Tallinn to Bremen with Ryan Air, meaning super cheap ticket prices!  I got financial support for the conference, but not as much as in years past so the Ryan Air tickets means that the trip was all for free. 

The first thing I noticed about Bremen was how awesome their Trams are! Wow, they were really awesome.  They even had a ticket machine and a mail box inside!!  I know that Tallinn is going to replace one of the four tram lines with nice new trams but that will be in a few years and it will be hard to compete with the German ones.  The trams were nicer than Finland and even cheaper.  The state of Bremen has about 600,000 people and about 18 billion euros in debt, so that explains it I guess.  
 This is the main train station in Bremen, it was really beautiful.  I just read that California gave the green light to high speed trains!  They don't really have the money for it but I think high speed trains are wonderful.  They certainly work well for Europe.

 This is the inside of the train station.

 The conference took place at Jacobs University which was outside the city limits.  It had a US style campus including an all faiths building.  The founder of Jacobs coffee bought the university and turned it into a super nice private university.  I was amazed by how many nice buildings they had for a university with only 1,300 students.  One interesting note about German students, if there is ever a time to clap (for a speaker or something) they knock on the desk instead.  Usually in Estonia people will clap and you will here a few knocks followed by surprised German faces wondering why everybody is clapping.  Here it was about 75% knocks!  I think the knocking system is pretty good, it only takes one hand.

 One of my favorite parts of the trip was the food!  When I first got there I tried a bratwurst from a street vendor, it was ok but not great.  On the 4th of July the conference had a big BBQ (but not for the 4th of July, just a coincidence)  They had some really amazing bratwurst though.  Fantastic.

 My last night in Bremen I got the Schnitzel and it was so good.  Man I love that Schnitzel.  It was just from the street vendor, so I can't imagine how good it must taste in the fancy restaurants.

 Who knew that Snickers in German were Stürmer?  it tasted the same though.

 Bremen had an awesome old town.  Not as big as Tallinn's, but just as impressive.  We had a meeting in the town hall which was really awesome.

 This statue is super famous, one of Bremen's main trademarks 
 This was a cute touristy part of the city.  Most of the stores were closed when I went but I still enjoyed it.

And I even saw a real German slug bug! 

This was my first real trip to Germany, I had an overnight layover once before in Frankfurt, I took a train to Mannheim to visit a friend but I didn't see too much.  Germany was really awesome.  I hope I can go back another time.