A few days ago, I trouped around the City of London, taking in a lot of famous sights. Like bridges and buildings. It was a bit cool and cloudy but quite normal.
Today was a sunny Saturday so I decided to play tourist again and to take my second free walking tour of the area around Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament and many more famous sites. It takes two hours of very fast walking, following a tour guide with a strawberry-red umbrella and we whisk past the exterior of all these well-known icons but it’s a wonderful way to get your bearings here and to decide whether to line up at the doors and pay admission to examine the insides.
It’s England, after all, and we’ve had gulley-washer rains recently; so I decided to take my chances today because it looked pretty dry this morning and I leave for Estonia in three days. Now or never! And I’m glad I did.
Suddenly, the time has come to move on in my around-the-world travels. After almost ten weeks in England and most of that, 6.5 weeks, spent in London at the Barmy Badger Hostel in Earl’s Court; I’m booking a flight to Tallinn, Estonia for next week. This decision wasn’t terribly clear-cut and involved consulting with friends and family, looking for good ideas and logic to figure things out. Originally, it seemed like such an obvious choice to simply cross the Irish Sea and run around Ireland for a little while. And after that, I should naturally explore the other countries of Western Europe that I have never been to.
Then, it occurred to me! This is the High Season over here! It’s when the prices go up and mobs of Americans swarm the place! Goodness knows, the UK is expensive and so are all of the European Union (EU) countries. Why should I be here now, when I have to return to Paris in mid-October, anyway, to attend a convention? I can do my sightseeing then.
I’ve always wanted to explore Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, as well as Belarus, a little bit inland from them. Those countries are somewhat north of here, across the Baltic from Sweden and directly under Finland, so summertime would be the ideal time to go. That thought was confirmed by reading my Lonely Planet guidebook. All of them are steeped in ancient history, with old towns that go back to medieval times, with castles and monuments galore. They are very tourist-friendly and well provided with hotels, hostels, restaurants and parks. Well-stocked with everything that let’s you know you are in Europe, yet sophisticated enough to provide their services in many languages, especially English. And yet, they are off the radar to many Westerners. Just the way I like it!
You don’t need a visa to enter any of them for three months, as is still required for Russia, and the cost is so much lower than it is in England and all of these regular tourist destinations. Plus, history confined this part of the world underneath the shield of Soviet domination for the greater part of the previous century and that has disappeared only recently, making a bit of a time capsule there. In fact, museums are springing up everywhere to document what life was like in those dismal and restricted days; though the natural exuberance of the native population has returned to its old self.
For me, it will be a revisiting of an exciting part of my life, when I led peace-themed, grassroots tours to Russia, Ukraine and Siberia between 1990 and 1994. In those early years right after the walls fell, Americans and Soviets were so very eager to meet each other and many bonds of love and friendship were forged between our travelers and the locals. I always felt a zing and a zest during all of my time spent there. I feel it now in anticipation of learning more about new and beautiful countries that were so long denied the easy commerce with the rest of the world. Now that the doors have opened, it makes sense to travel through them whenever possible.
Plus, I have an invitation to visit friends in Warsaw, Poland. Two women whom I met here in the hostel last week have invited me to stop in when I pass through and this way, I’ll be able to do that.
This week, I’ll be arranging my airfare and hostel reservations in Tallinn as well as addressing the pesky business of packing up. And then, a week from today, I shall land in my new country-of-the-month! Now, how exciting is that?
In the meantime, I’m discovering how to record and post bits of travel advice on YouTube. Hopefully, these recordings will become more professional as I go, in order to encourage everyone to just pick up and go to all of the wonderful spots this Earth has to offer. Either search YouTube under Linda J. Brown or click on the link below.
I just came across a headline news story on the Huffington Post UK feed…. that London had torrential rains and was being flooded and cars were drowning in the south section of the city two days ago. Perhaps so, but not in my vicinity! I’m in London right now and happened to be sightseeing that day. It wasn’t even raining in my part of the city. Let’s see what my photos show? Don’t believe everything you read in the news!