The Baltics - 32, 33, 34
“You have soft hands and youre very pretty but that’s enough.” These were the words Dani sent my way once he’d had enough of me poking and tickling him on the ferry ride from one town to another. Potentially the best way I have ever and will ever be told to “cut it out”.
As far as life partners/best friends/travel buddies go, it doesn’t get better than Daniel Pfeilschifter. Not for you, bc dibs, but still - 10/10 would recommend you find your own. After a very long year sprinkled with quick weekend getaways (which were as exhausting as they were fun but obviously I am not complaining) to places like Italy and Belgium and D.C. (for Chrissy’s beautiful wedding), we finally had the chance to take a whole week off from work (and school - for Dani not me bc I have schooled enough for the time being). We re-booked tickets to Riga, Latvia - we’d hoped to go in June before my sister Sam came out for a visit but Corona said no - and threw Estonia and Finland into the mix.
Naturally our vacation began with us packing at the absolute last minute which was both unsurprising and unhelpful and resulted in both of us just packing a bunch of black shit bc black matches everything and that’s as extensive as our fashion capabilities get. I was relatively anxious getting to the airport on time (as apparently has become the usual for me despite my long-standing laissez-faire approach to travel which may or may not have resulted in several missed buses and trains and planes over the years but I digress) which may have to do with all the difficulties Corona has brought with it within the realm of travel, but we made it to our local airport with no hiccups and before we knew it we were airborne, with Dani’s farts quickly eliminating our only seatmate and allowing us an entire row of seats to ourselves. We arrived in Riga late enough that our only option was falafel kebabs (not an issue bc we love them) and were laughed at by the store owners when we said yes to spicy (they didn’t think we could handle it but despite Dani’s German roots he handles spicy foods better than most of the country’s population - thank goodness or he’d never survive all the Mexican food I plan throwing his way when we go to California for Christmas).
We woke up the next morning relaxed and ready to start the day in Dani’s 21st and my 32nd country respectively: Latvia. We wandered around town with Dani refusing every coffee shop that we came across bc apparently nothing was adequate and ended up walking in circles all over town (mostly bc it was really strangely laid out and we lost all sense of distance and direction) before stumbling into a small cafe which served the best apple strudel in town, followed by a stop at Big Bad Bagels (Dani’s love for bagels runs deep and international) and enjoying fresh peppermint tea in the crisp (cold af) weather with nowhere to be and all the time in the world to get there. We spent the next day on the beaches of Riga and on a long walk to the “lightning house” (i.e., light house a la Dani) outside of town. I never thought I’d be able to justify anything other than being barefoot on the beach, but I was also never on a Latvian beach in October, so exceptions were made and the sneakers stayed on. We spent the evening in a craft beer joint called Two More Beers where the very naïve bartender recommended I take a weaker beer and Dani a stronger one, not knowing I can drink beer like it’s my job and Dani’s beer drinking skills are nothing to write home about.
We woke up the next morning just in time for Dani to make breakfast, pack, clean the kitchen, and get ready, while I literally just did my best to manage to make us some sandwiches in the meantime bc I am a garbage person and mornings are no more my thing than they were for the last 25 years of my life - and I didn’t even make all the sandwiches. He had to make his own. I know. Fight me. We then made the trek to the bus station (while I stressed we were at the wrong place, which according to Dani is “what I do” but whatever) and caught a 4,5h bus to Tallinn, Estonia. And on this bus to Estonia, we ran into some issues, the most prominent of which having to do with our (apparent) inability to package food in a way that doesn’t allow it to spill all over our bags. The problem is threefold: I am my mother’s daughter, Dani is in constant need of snacks, and we are poor. As such, we aaaaalways have snacks with us and try to cook most of our meals at “home” wherever home happens to be. So first it was the banana. We packed it wrong (not that there is a right way to pack a banana bc they are shit for traveling bc they bruise in literal seconds) and it got squished in the bag which meant everything in the bag had to be emptied so it could dry out and be used again (the bag, not the banana). Then the soy sauce (told you, we have aaaall the snacks - we had made stir fry the night before and planned to use the soy sauce again in Estonia) spilled aaaaall over our other bag, meaning that bag had to get thrown out and everything had to get thrown into one, not soy saucy or banana-y bag. Thriving, as usual.
So we made our way into Estonia, soy sauce-smelling bus and all. Driving a bus into a new country is a whole other game. Much less exciting, no fanfare, just some guy peeing in a corner and some old lady pulling her grocery cart across the road at a slug-like pace when you arrive at the bus station. But driving into country number 32 with Dani’s head in my lap, I didn’t feel the need for fanfare. We arrived in town around 6pm and decided to go on a walk and grab dinner despite the fact that it was way too freaking cold to be going outside, but alas. The self-hatred abounds. Tallinn itself is a beautiful city but we couldn’t find a damn thing we wanted to eat so we ran to the grocery store and bought everything we needed for pasta pomodoro a la Dani and I chopped and cleaned while he did all the cooking.
We woke up way too early the next morning to pick up a rental car to head outside of town to freeze our asses off in a whole new place as Dani sang along to my playlists while translating half of every song into German as he sang (this is a regular occurrence). It wasn’t long before we were chasing waterfalls (Dani’s first ever), getting lost in a bog (which we had to look up in English and in German bc neither of us were sure of the definition of a bog), climbing on shipwrecks on the beach, and trying (and failing) to pronounce the names on the Estonian road signs with more vowels than literally any words should ever have. We enjoyed a slow night in after our long day of adventures in preparation for a much too early ferry trip to Helsinki the next morning - no, I do not know why we keep booking things for early in the morning and yes, I obviously hate myself.
So anyway, we were awake and it was still dark out, which is obnoxious in and of itself, but whatever. We’d intended to leave even later than we did but online check in didn’t work so at Dani’s behest we left a bit earlier (and I forewent breakfast bc who can eat at that hour anyway - except Dani) and it’s good that we did bc we were the last people on the damn cruise ship lookin’ ferry and barely made it on board before the behemoth started moving.
So to preface Finland, let me just say that most people like to head up north (to things like reindeer and the northern lights, etc.) but we didn’t have that kind of time. So, if you’re staying in Helsinki, the thing to do is go to a Finnish sauna and then hop into the freezing Baltic Sea. Not only did Dani and I forget to make reservations at a sauna so we couldn’t get in, we didn’t even bring our damn bathing suits. Yeah. I know. So we spent a whole day in Helsinki doing… pretty much everything else. Mostly eating, tbh. We started off at a local cafe where Dani judged their cinnamon roll quality exasperatedly declaring that “the work of a critic isn’t easy” but that the high quality coffee compensated for the low quality cinnamon roll. We followed up the coffee and rolls with a visit to the central market for some Vietnamese deliciousness (very spicy pho) and headed out to Suomenlinna island, a quick ferry trip from the Helsinki coast with a big military presence, hence all the signs saying “do not enter” which I continuously missed, without fail, so thx Dani for being able to read. Like, damn, Estonian army. Build a fence or something. We started the day the way we ended it: with more cinnamon rolls (of a higher quality) and a walk back to the harbor to make our way home. Dani’s sun deck obsession (newfound as this was his first ever ride on a big ship) had us out on the deck at 10pm (in the middle of the dark windy wintry Finnish sea) while he jumped up and down with excitement like the world’s most adorable grown man and we played a round of tag (I lost, as usual).
We finished off our day with an exciting development: we finally found the Glögi (mulled wine) we’d been searching for since we arrived in the Baltics. We brought it home to enjoy alongside some competitive rounds of GoFish paired with some wrestling matches when I lost 5x in a row (I’m what they call a sore loser). At some point we got started talking about next year’s big vacation (the plan is 3 weeks in Central America) before bed which meant that I woke up to Dani knee-deep in travel research bc he’s the only person I know (other than myself) psyched to plan a vacation while actively on another vacation. We enjoyed breakfast over a documentary on Guatemala (one of our future travel goals) and headed to a coffee shop/bookstore to spend our afternoon reading (and comparing and discussing and buying) as many books as we could find (which was suuuuper smart considering we flew here with limited baggage) before heading home to enjoy said books with more Gögli and aggressive rounds of GoFish.
We woke up our last morning distinctly less than excited about the idea of getting back to real life. We did some meditating (I know, who am I??) and some reading before packing the snack bag like seasoned soy sauce-spilling veterans and heading to the Tallinn Bussijamm (that’s the word for bus station, what is this language). Unfortunately, we did not pack enough snacks to feed the Daniel for the 5h bus and subsequent ride to the airport and actual flight, so we’re running on 3€ airport fries and dreams of falafel döner when we get home (and, like, sheer force of will). But for now, I have a sleeping Dani in my lap (again) and I fully intend to enjoy these last moments of vacation before they slip away and real life hits me in the face (work is busy and I am tired). So until next time, folx!
PS. For those of you who don’t know him: Dani (Daniel) is my partner, my roommate, my best friend, my travel buddy, and everything in between. Our travels are essentially just us being really weird in public places outside of our own town (Bonn, Germany). It’s pretty freakin’ neat.
10/9/2021 11:44:37 pm
Hi Alex, its so nice to read about all the amazing adventures and all the great time u two spent together. I hope we will see eachother at the next Gäubodenvolksfest ;) i'd love to here more about your journey.
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Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
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