Saturday, October 15, 2005


Back home. And boy, is it crappy outside!

That said, it feels great to be back, sitting in Brooklyn. My DVR is full of stuff to watch. I can function again without having to point. I know what the coffee will taste like. I've got tons of emails I can finally write. I know the tap water is fine. I know exactly where I'll be sleeping for the next several weeks. I've got the public transport system down pat.

The beer is $5 again, though.

And I know throughout the next few weeks, the little differences between here and there will bother me again. Why don't the trains run on time? Why don't we have beautiful pubs in cellars? Why is our money so monotone? Why can't I get garlic beer snacks? Why doesn't someone come to my room everyday and give me clean towels and make my bed? Why aren't I hearing "Don't Cha?" every 5 minutes?

(OK, that last one may not be a problem....)

It was definitely eye opening. Here is what I've learned:

• Poland: Who needs it?
• Czech university towns: God's gift to mankind.
• Albert Maysles is very smart man.
• I look like a famous Finnish F-1 racecar driver.
• Warsaw baggage handlers: you are not my friends.
• "I don't go to those bars anymore...too many middle school kids."
• Tallinn = Cold, Vana Tallin = Warm
• UNESCO gives away World Heritage status the way I give parentheticals.
• If your culture can make a good beer and a good mojito, you can do anything.
• Marko Ramius looked nothing like anyone I saw in Vilnius.
• Communism - 98% Bad Architecture!
• I regret having not seen the film.

and finally...

• I like traveling alone only about 23% of the time.

So next time, each and every one of you are coming along for the ride. Seriously.

That's all folks. Thanks for reading, and thanks for all your comments and emails on the road. They really made my day every time I heard from you.

'Til next time,


It is an insult... the Earl of Sandwich's name and legacy when BA gives you two pieces of grainy bread and a slice of cheddar and calls it a "Sandwich".

No! It's "uncooked cheese bread". Or it's "untoasted toast". Or it's "bread with cheese instead of jam". It is NOT a Sandwich.

Limey Excitement

So, back to London.

I rode the Stansted Express back to Liverpool Street Station. I sat on the same side of the train as I did going to Stansted 2 weeks ago, facing it seemed like life was going in reverse pulling me back to English speaking civilization.

And, why don't we have train sheds in the US? Once you're in a train shed, you know you're in Europe. Maybe that's why we don't have them in the States -- to keep us grounded.

I decided to do something I'd wanted to do my first night in London -- go see a show in the West End. So I went to the TKTS booth and got a 25£ ticket to Death of a Salesman with Brian Dennehey. (I thought it odd that the half price ticket booth was called TKTS, just like in New York. Is this some sort of worldwide code? Spell tickets with no vowels and it means they're half price? In France, is there a BLLTS booth in Paris?)

Then I went to get some money -- 1500 EEK actually turns into a piddling little pile of Pounds Sterling when given to the money changers -- so I needed a bit more. Luckily, there was a Citibank branch right across from my hotel. Go in...and realize...I think...I've left my ATM card somewhere in Estonia (probably in the machine I took out all those EEKs to buy my pimp coat).

I don't think I've ever been so lucky. Where is a better possible place in the world to realize you've lost your Citibank card than in a Citibank office (in Queen's English speaking London)? So what could have turned into trauma was rather a low key affair. Within 3 minutes, I was in the phone with the US lost card office, found out there was no debit purchases made, and began the process of getting a new card.

The show was pretty good. I've read Salesman and I think I watched the movie in Dr. Bunting's class. (Right, guys?) But I'd never seen it was pretty brutal. Dennehey was good, but whoever played Mrs. Lomen was excellent. She stole every scene she was in. (They wanted 3£ for the Playbill, so I have no idea who the other actors were.) Some of the staging was a little shmaltzy, but I remember it being written in a such a way that it's hard no to block it that way. Of course, if I was directing, and I had a double-platformed, counter-rotating stage, I'd probably go off the deep end, too.

Afterwards, I was psyched up for this conveyor-belt sushi place I'd passed, but it was closed. So, I finally caved, and had Pizza Hut by the slice in Liecaster Square -- my first pseudo American food in 14 days...and that's OK by me.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

A mere 14 days ago...

Back in the beginning, I said that one of my missions was to "test the Eastern European internet infrastructure."

What a joke. It's 1 AM and I just watched the iPod/iTunes special event streamed from Cupertino, California with less dropped frames than had I watched it in Brooklyn.

Viva La Estonia! Viva La Internet!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Brief Remark

Vana Tallinn, the official liqueur of Tallinn is very good, especially when mixed with coffee and two sugar cubes.

Watching England kick Poland's ass in futbol is very good, too, since I now hate Poland with a passion.

Having a Scotsman explain the offsides rule using my beer snacks as defenders is really the icing on the cake.

A note about this blog's bias

I never claimed to be impartial. I've made a great deal of fun of those who, during a certain period of the 20th Century, believed in a certain system of government. Especially those who, during the course of their rule, built certain "architectural monstrosities." My scorn has been constant and unrelenting.

Let me say, however, I am not unswayable.

Those Commies can build a damn nice movie theater.

(Note: Supersize Me is playing, but I've managed to cover Morgan Spurlock's face with a lamppost.)

Tallinn En Vivo

Climbed the tower to (what I think is) the highest point in town. These two pictures are in opposite direction. NB - I made a taxi driver very mad by refering to that large body of water as "the ocean".

No! "It is The Gulf of Finland".

I would understand (a little) his anger if it was called the Gulf of Estonia...but as far as I'm concerned, it's salt's the ocean.

(One of those rooflines in the lower picture is actually my hotel.)

Beautiful Russian Orthodox church. Tallinn is much less about churches than Vilnius. Tallinn has a rather large old town, with an "upper town" on a hill surrounded by walls, with a "lower town" beneath it, also surrounded by walls. It has many of those winding, narrow cobble stoned streets I love so much....but I didn't shoot any really good street scenes, so you just get another pretty church.

My one complaint was that Tallinn didn't have a good astrological clock....then I found this one. The book says it's face is from the 1600's, so I guess it can stay.

It's as cold as a witch's teet here. (If you look at a map, I'm practically in Helsinki.)

So I bought this pimp coat from a thrift store. It's polyester and warm!

I just realized... my Tallin hotel room, the towel rack (which is very attractive, I might add) actually has the hot water pipe running through it, so my towels are warmed! Hott!

One day, I will ask of you a favor...

Matty was kind enough to mention this little experiment in his new blog.

So, I implore you, check his out too.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Vilnius Pixelated

The very nice, very stark cathedral.

Vistas like this are what I love about the old towns.

"I miss the peace of fishing...."


The New York Gals. Allana and Julia.

Flight to Tallinn, Part 1 & 2

Check out the name of that cheese.

From the airBaltic in-flight magazine.

What $1.40 Gets You in Lithuania

Damn that inflation!

Graffiti of Vilnius

Much more stencil than you find in NYC. The words say "Respect our lives and us, and we'll respect you and your walls."

My Bag is Here!

The Lost Baggage Man lead me to the carousel for today's Warsaw/ Vilnius flight and I got to have the same butterflies in the stomach waiting for it to come....and it came!

Here are the happiest words of the day from Lonely Planet: "Generally, Tallinn tap water is safe to drink." Finally!!!!!

They call him Vilnius Nastavnic, the "Vilnius Schoolmaster"

Thank goodness I'm in eastern Europe! Where else could I wear the same smelly clothes for a couple of days and still fit right in?

So, my bag basically missed the connecting flight in Warsaw, so it's coming today to Vilnius at around 3:00. The fun is...I'm flying out to Tallin at 3:45. Yet another time where it could dovetail perfectly....or I could end up wearing this shirt (and just my hoodie for warmth) for another couple of days.

Maybe it was the light. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was the general lack of other tourists, but IMHO, Vilnius is kicking Krakow's ass. It's a very beautiful city, with an Old Town the way they're supposed to be -- with little meandering streets to nowhere, and actual commerse going on besides satiating touristic desires. Plenty of churchs, and (strangely) most of them are pink. Inside the main cathedral, though, such a nice contrast after Poland -- it was all stark white.

Had dinner in a cellar again (always a treat). Stuffed myself silly -- I had wild boar with a berry sause (good), "cold ears" (blueberry filled peirogis, can't really mess that up), and a plate of traditional beer snacks...which we need to get in the states ASAP. There were sausages and cheese puffy things, but the real one worth noting is strips of that brown eastern european bread, fried in some sort of garlic oil. Think the wonderfulness of Italian breadsticks, but with the form factor and texture of a french fry. If only Lithuanians made beer as good as thier beer snacks.

On the plane over, I'd met some girls from New York who were accompanying thier grandmother on an <i>Everything is Illuminated</i> type mission to find out once and for all if she was really Polish or Lithuanian, something <i>her</i> mother apparently wouldn't speak about. So we went out and hit the town that night. We ended up at this place with a bunch of bleary eyed Lithuanians pouring liquor on the table and setting it on fire. They seemed so bored, you'd think we were in Siberia.

The girls were sweet. Julia was a waitress on Fire Island, and her cousin Allana is a student in Greenwich Village. Julia's moving to Manhattan when she gets back, but Allana is a rough and tumble city girl. Both seem to think thier grandmother's quest is a little crazy. Allana I found more interesting and in sync with, but alas....she was 16. (But she looks like she's in, really!)

So that was my night. Stumbled home and am now getting ready to go to the old town for some breakfast, then off the airport. Hopefully later today I'll get both my laptop and some WiFi and I can do pictures.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Goodbye Poland!

So, yes. Goodbye to all that. Already from the airport to the hotel, I like Vilnius better.

Of course, here's the thing -- I check into this particular hotel (eGuesthouse...cute, right?) because it offers internet in every hotel room. No more stupid internet cafes, no more sitting in the hotel bar.

Except Lot lost my suitcase with my computer in it.

Goodbye Poland, indeed.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Creepiest Doll Ever.

Squeezing through

Are you ready? The biggest bell in Poland!

To go see it, you have to pay 4 złoty and climb some neverending stairs. A few times you have to squeeze through something like this.

Which means another part of the dour Polish man at the bottom's job is to inform folks they might not fit through.


So. No salt mines. I did go see the cathedral in the old town square, which was very nice, so I take back a little of what I said before about Polish design taste.

Here's just some photos.

Arriving in sooty, sooty Poland.

First approach to Wawel Castle the next AM.

I am the king of all I see. Krakow from a tower in Wawel.

Last thing I saw at Wawel was the "Dragon Den" where the "Dragon of Krakow" used to live. As you can see, I am terrified.

Photographic Evidence...

...must wait a bit. I'm on a crappy PC in the hotel lobby, not on WiFi.

Now I'm off to see about getting to Lithuania.


This is the part where I'm supposed to tell you about the beauty of the castle and town square in Krackow, but really, today, I just want to stay in my room. Something (finally) in eastern Europe caught up with my digestive system (ice in the mojitos? brushing my teeth in Krackow? that wierd cottage cheese in the continental breakfast that comes like sliced bread? that other thing in the continental breakfast that looked like pate wrapped in fat, which I knew while I was eating that I shouldn't be?) Who knows? It's 1:30 now, hopefully I'l decent enough later to get something in -- there are these famous salt mines outside of Krackow that sound definately worth a visit. (An entire Roman Cathloic church, below ground and made of salt!). We shall see.

OK -- so here's what happened before the nastiness set in. Krackow is very lovely -- they did a very smart thing that has had a bad side effect. The Old Town (with the cobblestone streets, the 500 year old buildings, everything absolutely streaming "Europe!") is seperated from the rest of Krackow by a block-wide park that rings the whole thing. Luckily, this keeps nasty modern architecture from encroaching and keeps the sitelines within the old town pretty. However, it also corrals in the tourists. The tourists know where to stay and the pizza joints, Chez McDo's, and endless exchange places know where they'll it becomes like a tourist Disneyland.

I hate that.

That being said, the castle, the Wawel was very gives Prague castle a run for it's money. (Quick pronouncation note -- W's are prounced like V's, so the castle is Vah-vel. Vodka, for instance, is written wodka, but prounced the same. Beer is piwo, which keeps things easy.) Set up on a hill, the castle includes the residence and a cathedral. The cathedral is pretty ostentatious -- very little Jesus and Mary, lots of huge statues of archbishops and popes. And gaudy -- you can see the orgins 300 years ago of the bad eastern european clothing, hair and makeup styles of today.

In the crypt, I saw the tomb of Leelee Sobieski's great great great great grandfather, and the tomb of Thadeus Coskusiko...who did something for the US, because there's that awful bridge on the BQE named after him.

That night, I had Ukrianian food. I ordered the Borscht with egg, which was a nice touch, but I miss my Vesekla.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

First Inning


Everything up to now has been batting practice. As that master of sports metaphors Bobby Flay likes to say, "The game is on!"

Up til now, I've been in countries I've been before, able to speak the langauge enough to get around, with people I could call to bail me out of jail.

Stay tuned.

Very First Impressions of Poland

Man - people like to set stuff on fire here....alot. On the train to Krockow, the smell of smoke was consistant. At the beginning, I thought the train was on fire...then I realized that everyone just does home after work and makes a huge bonfire in their backyard.

Good times.