Latvia, Estonia

London to Latvia (and everything in between) - Part 5

Date April 2010
Posted September 2011
The dash for the Baltic coast
It was Friday, and we'd both benefited from the relative luxury of a steak dinner and a night in hostel bunks. We were about as clean as either of us ever get, and ready for the next stage of this little adventure. The following 24 hours would see us make passage to Stockholm in Sweden, reaching Scandinavia by ferry. Back in part 3 I mentioned that we'd had to book a ferry from Tallinn in Estonia. Before leaving the hostel in Riga I commandeered the little computer they had in the entrance hall and consulted Google Maps, which told me we would have to drive approximately 200 miles from here. It was now 10am, and the ferry departed at 6pm. We had ages, right?

Gaijezera Maternity Hospital, Riga, Latvia (2010) courtesy of

On the way out of town we stopped to dispatch a couple of postcards and to investigate another unfinished concrete hulk. This one, the Gaiļezera maternity hospital, was of an interesting design, abandoned sometime during the 1990s we presumed. As predicted it was completely empty, and unlike the Kemeri sanatorium where we'd seen a couple of people on the opposite side of the site holed up in a room, here we found nobody. According to some website I found, 12 people are reported to have died there: "Fell into elevator pit, was stabbed by drug addicts or fell into holes." Nice.

Around this time siologen somehow worked out that Tallinn was located in the neighbouring timezone and so we had one less hour than we'd thought to make it to the ferry. The road was single carriageway but wide and before long it became clear that if we didn't just man up and overtake the long convoys of lorries then we'd never make it to the ferry port on time. Quickly we learned that since the roads are indeed wide enough for three vehicles, it's considered acceptable to overtake in the face of oncoming traffic. You just had to hope that someone on the opposite side wasn't about to do the same thing.

On the road, close to the border, Latvia (2010) courtesy of

As the time reached 1pm (GMT+1) we rolled up at the Estonian border. For once we were greeted with cheerful smiles from a couple of the officials, but these had dissolved by the time they'd taken in what they had before them. Two British men in a French car neither of them owned trying to drive from Latvia into Estonia, to catch a ferry to Sweden. We explained our lack of vehicle documents with the help of a welcome pack that the car hire firm had given us. This was summarily swiped, along with our passports, and the guard scurried off to some other building. The large female guards that he'd left behind waved us over into a holding bay, and here we stayed.

Half an hour later and I was getting agitated. Time was slipping away, countless cars were coming and going, but we weren't getting any closer to the ferry. Almost an hour passed before a door crashed open and the man reappeared, stalking back to the car to hand us the documents. He said something confusing but before we'd had time to ask for clarification the barrier had been hoisted and we were in. It was 15:00 GMT+2, and we had approximately two and half hours left in which to reach the ferry port.

ANTIBTDI, who knows where, Estonia (2010) courtesy of

A mile down the road we pulled over to take a leak and switch drivers. Time was of the essence and siologen granted me permission to gun it. And so I gunned it.

Just over two hours later and signs for Tallinn centre flashed past, and then we slowed as the city traffic piled around us. Despite having so little time it was agreed that we'd fill up with fuel here incase Scandanavian prices were stupidly high (they weren't), and also take on supplies for the 14 hour ferry crossing. Not securing these supplies was generally considered to be worse than having to drive back the way we'd come. I ran flat out through a supermarket grabbing the things I needed, now and then dodging siologen as he did the same. Ten minutes after paying and we screeched up at the quayside and were flagged onto the ferry, taking literally the last space on the deck before the doors were cranked shut. Somewhere in the back of my mind was the memory of the car hire attendant telling us that the car wasn't insured for the crossing, but the sea looked cold and frozen. If we sank, there'd be worse things to worry about.

On the ferry, Tallinn, Estonia (2010) courtesy of

After waving goodbye to the Estonian coast siologen turned to the more important activity of intoxicating himself. This, he claimed, would make the journey pass in more comfort. Without delay he opened the bottle of 'Estonia Vodka' that he'd found in the supermarket and began taking deep slugs, every now and then a grubby claw reaching into the jar of gherkins. Not wanting to endure this any longer I departed to explore the rest of the vessel ending up in the bar to make use of the 'free web access'. Five minutes later a familiar stumbling figure shambled into view - siologen wanted to borrow the laptop, and subsequently destroyed our bandwidth allocation in pursuit of 'big titty porn'.

Later after circumventing the usage limit we declared the access as slow and useless and dumped the laptop back in the cabin. Instead then we sought out areas of the boat that were not supposed to be accessed by passengers but failed to find the engine room, reaching instead the car deck (boring, and obviously seen earlier) and little else. I resolved to joining siologen back at the bar to spend our 'free' (half-price) drink vouchers. Some time later and we had found a table close to the stage just in time for tonights 'cabaret' which was scheduled to begin shortly.

Special needs, on the ferry, Estonia (2010) courtesy of

The band piped up and an overweight crooner coughed into life flanked by two not unattractive female backing dancers. Together they swayed about the stage much to the entertainment of the passengers, siologen included. His eyes were lit up with an excitement I'd never seen in him before. Was it the combination of the Baltic air, eastern vodka and those gyrating European hussies? Siologen hinted at his intentions and disappeared once more to the cabin, coming back with that famous toothy grin and the last of the beer. On a roll he shimmied over onto the laminate floor and descended into an animated jive, carried by the sounds of the band until he was in full flow.

Undeniably upstaged most of the others withdrew to the sidelines allowing siologen to shine alone. I sat and watched in awe, wondering just what kind of crazy circus show I'd signed up for. A short while later and a couple of doors flew open as the rest of the troupe minced onto the stage and roused the audience. Suddenly the stage was swamped with a scene that I can only really describe as a line dancing performance in a special needs school.

Going all out, on the ship, somewhere upon the Baltic Sea (2010) courtesy of

Much later after the show had drawn to an energetic close I returned to the room to find a couple of colourful pictures on my camera and that siologen's special need, the vodka, was all gone. He tumbled into the room behind me, fell onto the bed and went out like a light. After a last stroll around the ship I resolved to make the most of the sofa in the cabin and drifted off to the sound of the engines thudding away somewhere deep below. We were only halfway through this debacle and my body was protesting already.
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