Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Baltic Queen

I'll decipher the lack of my friend's blog updates to mean that I am the nerdiest of all of my friends. But I'm just doing my Study Abroad duty and telling everyone what's going on over here, while getting in a word about Arsenal along the way.

Before I begin to blabber about my last week, I just want to, with every effort to avoid being insincere or cliché, to express my sympathies for Mark Herzlich of the BC football team, who has just been diagnosed with cancer. It is always sad to see someone my age being diagnosed with the awful affliction, but the fact that he is a world-class athlete and a probable Top-10 NFL draft pick in 2010 is all the more disconcerting. Incredibly, he still manages to sound like the smart and strong fellow he is in this interview with ESPN.

As I mentioned in the last blog, that you probably didn't read, I spent the first half of this past week venturing to Estonia, a former member of the Soviet Union. I'd have to say, though, that only about 50% of the trip was about exploring Tallinn, its capital. The other half was about the cruise to and from the city. Many Swedes, mostly in their early-50's and older, take the journey to Tallinn or Riga, in Latvia, to get cheap alcohol. As I've mentioned before, Sweden's state-owned liquor store, Systembolaget, is not very cheap.

This particular cruise was meant for students in Sweden, and accordingly, the moment The Baltic Queen began to move away from Stockholm at around 6:00pm, the line (queue) outside of its Duty Free store exploded. To everyone's chagrin, the liquor section had been closed for the day due to some Finnish students that had become too racuous on the previous journey. Nevertheless, beer was made available, so I picked up a 24-pack of Norrlands Guld beer for the journey.

There were multiple clubs on board the boat, in addition to a cigar lounge, several shops, a handful of restaurants and gambling tables. Our two-person cabin was outfitted with a shower, toilet, closet, and a flat-screen television. The journey took us first to Mariehamn on the island of Åland, a property of Finland, at which we arrived at around 4:30am, just as the multitudes were beginning to pass out.

The passengers, nursing their collective hangover, arrived in Tallinn at 10am. My fellow travelers, a Frenchman and a Masshole (resident of Massachusetts), and I threw on some deodorant and dragged ourselves ashore. Adding further credence to the theory that people are sheep, we blindly followed some people off the boat, eventually stumbling upon the Old Town district.

This district had everything we needed to see in Tallinn, from several churches, including a Russian Orthodox cathedral, the parliament building and eclectic collections of residential buildings, to the many guildhouses and, eventually, the old KGB headquarters. The KGB building was one of the eeriest places I've ever come into proximity with, up there with Dachau concentration camp outside of Munich. The building is closed down and there are no markings on it apart from a small plaque commemorating the untold amount of suffering that occurred there. The windows were boarded up from the inside, adding to the mystery and even dread of what transpired inside.

I really enjoyed the five or six hours I spent wandering throughout the city. It was a remarkable fusion of old French, German, Swedish, Finnish, and Soviet culture, food, and architecture. I especially enjoyed purchasing some coinage from the old USSR, boasting Lenin's picture. I don't even care if it was a scam.

We were exhausted from the previous night and the day's exploration, so we retired to the cabin back onboard for some rest. Upon awakening, we returned to the Duty Free, liquor shop open this time, to purchase some much needed provisions for the rest of our time in Sweden. I opted for Kahlúa and generic Russian vodka, key ingredients for my new favorite drink, the White Russian. In addition, we purchased some French red wine, which according to our French friend, was high class. I should mention that we did not pay much for it and also, that I purchased three bags of beef jerkey for dinner, undoubtedly diminishing any classiness I could have achieved from the wine.

After a repeat of the previous evening, we arrived in Stockholm again at 10am, making it back to Uppsala by noon. The rest of the week has been spent on schoolwork, which is beginning to pile up, and playing soccer, in attempt to diminish the fat, which is also beginning to pile up. Kidding.

It is about twenty to 9pm as I'm finishing this up, and it's still light enough for a person with poor-vision to play sports. I only have twenty-three days left on this fair continent, a few which will be spent in Berlin.

One final thought which contains a play on words that will make any reader question my social aptitude: once I get home, should I turn this into a Study A Broad blog?


1 comment:

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