That didn’t go quite as expected…

Yeah, unfortunately I ended up not really seeing any of Italy :(. It’s actually OK, because I have actually been to Venice (and many other parts of Italy) a bunch before—my mom’s family is pretty much all Italian—so I’m not too bummed about it. I’ll get to the reason why in just a moment. FIRST, CROATIA!!!

Croatian Flag

I really can’t get over how insanely beautiful Pula was. It was my first time in Croatia, and ever since my dear friend Jasmina Makota moved there I always wanted to see it for myself. I had literally nothing planned for my time there except to hang out with her and lie around in the sun, and that’s pretty much exactly what I did.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was staying at Most Hostel, a hostel that Jasmina runs with her mom and that, awesomely enough, has been voted the best hostel in Croatia (and the 6th best in Eastern Europe) multiple times! Pretty sweet, right? And at Most, I was lucky enough to meet three of the nicest women ever who were staying in the same room as me: Cait, a student at the University of Liverpool; Kyra, a student at the University of Ottawa; and Ahalya, also from Ottawa. They’d been traveling together for some time now—they had just arrived from Slovenia, and had been in Italy and a couple other places before that—and they invited me to come explore the city with them. The only “touristy” thing we did was explore the Pula Arena, a gorgeous Roman amphitheater built around 50 AD and one of the largest surviving Roman arenas in the world. CHECK IT OUT:

Pula Arena

Woo!

After that, well, we pretty much did nothing at all. And it was awesome. I’ve been on the go practically nonstop throughout this trip (which, don’t get me wrong, has been a blast and exactly what I wanted to do), but here in Pula, with its 90-degree weather, beautiful beaches, and incredible scenery, it felt like I was on a real “vacation.” So, later that night, Jasmina took the four of us out to a free, outdoor jazz concert put on by a combo of all-female musicians, and we sat and drank and socialized and all that good stuff :). The atmosphere reminded me a lot of Jazz Nights at McGillacuddy’s back in Galesburg!

The next day, the four of us went out again, but this time also accompanied by all of our fellow hostelmates (ten of us total!), to a terrific beach about a 10-minute bus ride away, where we laid out in the sun and went for a dip in the Adriatic Sea. Heaven, I tells ya. I swam in this thing!

Pula Beach

This was followed by delicious gelato and pizza. Since Croatia is right across the Adriatic from Italy, and indeed used to be occupied by Italians during WW2, it’s got a very “Italian” feel to it, and the Italian foods, like the aforementioned ice cream/pizza, were just as authentic as if I got them from across the sea :). Before we left, we stuck around to see the sunset. Here’s a picture of me and my three new friends with the sun setting behind us:

Me and the Three

From left to right is me (duh lol), Ahalya, Kyra, and Cait. Woo! :D

Later that night, I experienced some serious nightlife. Throughout this trip I’ve been to bars here and there, and on three occasions (once each in Poland, Lithuania, and Finland) I’ve actually done some real socialization with locals, but that was nothing compared to going out to a bar and completely taking it over with nine other people! Here’s how the night started:

At the Bar

Aaaaaand here’s how it ended:

At the Park

lol.

The bar we were at closed at 2 AM, at which time we bought some bottles for the road and stumbled over to a nearby park, which we rolled around in until abouuuut 6 in the morning. It was fun :). But, here’s where that became a bad thing:

We got back to the hostel at about 6, like I said, and my ferry to Venice (the only one that day, which I needed to be on!) left two hours later. I honestly don’t know how this happened (I don’t remember getting in the bed, haha), but I fell asleep, and woke up three hours later, having missed my ferry. OOPS!!! So, yeah, for a while I was worried that I was stuck in Croatia—not necessarily a bad thing, mind you—but eventually I found that I could take a bus to Trieste at 4 PM followed by a train to Venice. So, I did just that, but since I left at 4 and it was about eight hours of total travel time, I didn’t arrive in Venice until midnight, and my flight home was at 9 AM the next morning! And that is why, much to my chagrin, I didn’t get to really see any of Italy, but it was a hell of an adventure, and in a bizarre way, missing my ferry was a fun experience, haha.

So, there you have it, folks. I’m home in Chi-town right now, and after I give myself a couple days to get over jetlag I’ll be ready to paint my wonderful hometown red again :). I want to conclude this post (and this whole blog!) with this great picture Kyra took of me and Jasmina, reunited again after five years :D

Me and Jasmina

Thanks for reading guys!

Your European interloper,
-Eduarrrrrdo 

With the Baltics conquered, our hero ventures across the Gulf of Finland.

Or something like that. As has been the habit, I’m writing this entry about where I just was from somewhere completely different; in this case, it’s from Most Hostel in Pula, Croatia, where I am hanging out (well, kinda, she’s working ‘n’ stuff right now, hence why I’m writing this, lol) with JASMINA MAKOTA! Fellow FWP ‘07 alum, singer, and awesome human being in general whom I have not seen in five years. THE BEST.

But so yeah, Finland!

Konstan Möljä Restaurant

I’ve been wanting to visit Finland for a few years now for three big reasons, and as it happened, there were three “highlights” of this visit that tied in pretty much directly to each of my reasons for wanting to come here! If that makes sense. lol. The first reason was…

…the language!

Yes, for some reason I find Finnish (and Estonian too, the other major Balto-Finnic language) very sexy. I am perfectly content sitting and listening to someone speak Finnish for a very long time. Yes, I realize that I am weird! But hey, at my first big highlight, I got to do just that :D! I knew one of the things I needed to visit was Helsinki Cathdral, a huge, beautiful church that, when I first saw it, literally made me gasp:

Helsinki Cathedral

Not only was it GORGEOUS inside, but I showed up there, as luck would have it, right as a mass was starting. If this were in an English-speaking country I undoubtedly would’ve passed up the chance to sit in and listen, but like I said, Finnish is such a purdy language, so I sat and attended the mass, despite recognizing less words than I can count on one hand. It was pretty satisfying :) AND, I actually got to sing a little bit! The congregation was allowed/encouraged to sing along (they handed out sheet music at the door) with the Sanctus and Agnus Dei parts of the mass—or in Finnish, Pyhä and Jumalan Karitsa, respectively—as well as a hymn performed at the very end. I loved it; it was a great opportunity to practice my sight-reading both for music and for Finnish (it’s a pretty easy language to pronounce once you know the rules). Anyway, the next reason was…

…the history!

Scandinavian history in general is fascinating to me—who doesn’t love vikings and Norse mythology right?—but I also wanted to learn more about the Sami, the indigenous people of northern Finland, and about what life in the country was like before it gained independence in 1917 (i.e. when it was under Swedish rule). I was very happy, then, to discover the National Museum of Finland, completely by accident! I thought it was just a random church, lol:

National Museum of Finland

The building was divided into four main exhibitions: Ancient Shores, The Realm, A Land And Its People, and Suomi Finland 1900. As always, photos from each of these exhibitions are up on my Facebook, but here’s a shot I took from the “1900” exhibition, which was essentially all about what Finland was like in the 20th Century. I call it “Swingin’ Suomi in the Swingin’ 60’s” (AREN’T I CLEVER):

1960's Exhibit

The final reason then (of course) is the music!

Three of my all-time favorite composers are Finnish (Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, Einojuhani Rautavaara, and Jean Sibelius), and there’s something very distinct about the flavor of Finnish music in general that I love—heavy folk influences from old Sami/Karelian music, lots of 5/4 and other unusual meters, things like that. My third highlight (and definitely the most exciting in my entire Finnish excursion) was a visit to Ainola, the home (and now museum) of Jean Sibelius in a small town outside of Helsinki called Järvenpää.

Ainola

Not only was it such a beautiful place to behold, but I felt a very strong spiritual connection to it. It’s hard to articulate, but really, something about being inside this house, where the country’s greatest composer spent the last 50 years of his life—where he raised his five daughters, smoked his cigars, and of course composed—was palpably moving. I felt especially humbled to see his writing desk, where some of his greatest masterpieces were completed: his last five symphonies, the tone poem Tapiola, and his incidental music to The Tempest, among many others. I’m not sure how else to put it other than to say I was awestruck. Here’s a picture (which can’t really do justice to how it felt to see it in person) of that desk:

Sibelius's Desk

So, there you have it. On all three counts, Finland was a wonderful experience and I can’t wait to go back there again! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get unpacked, probably hop in the shower, then go see a jazz concert here in Pula with Jasmina. I shall leave you, though, with another photo I took in the National Museum of Finland: they had an old 60’s/70’s VW Beetle on display, and people were allowed to sit inside it! Naturally, I did just that… those things are hard to control man!!!

Me in the Beetle

Waaaaahhh I don’t wanna leeeave!

Well except I do because I’m super stoked for Finland (I’m on the ferry right now!), but I’m in love with Estonia. And I’m confident that even if I didn’t hype it up a bit (it was certainly the most anticipated country and perhaps even the “centerpiece” of my itinerary) I still would feel the same way.

Perfect

The people here are SO nice and welcoming, I really got the sense that they wanted to make people feel welcome to the country no matter what language they spoke. And then, they’re super happy when you speak in Estonian to them! I was at the ferry terminal a few days ago to buy my ticket, and had the following exchange with the woman at the ticket office, thanks to the handful of Estonian phrases/vocabulary I crammed into my brain on the train ride into Tallinn:

Me: Kas te räägite inglise keelt? (Do you speak English?)
Her (shaking head): Sorry, little.
Me: That’s OK! Üks pilet Helsingisse, palun. (One ticket to Helsinki, please)
Her: OK. Uh, time?
Me: Reedel, hommikul. (On Friday, morning.)
*exchange money/show passport blah blah*
Her: Your Estonian, very good!
Me: D’AWWW (internally). Tänan! (Thank you!)

This is true with a lot of countries, I know, but in my experience not to the extent that I saw here! Anyway, more about why I loved it here. I stayed in a small hotel a minute’s walk away from the Town Hall Square, which during the day is home to a wonderful market that sells all kinds of local homemade clothes, accessories, souvenirs, etc. After lunch in a café in the Square I wandered through the market for a bit, and even ended up buying a bunch of Estonian merchandise (football shirt, scarf, flag), lol. Photos of that to come later…! After that, I walked to my first big destination: the Tallinn City Museum, an awesome museum detailing the city’s history that, for an extra Euro, allowed me to take photos :)! Like this one, of a model of what the city used to look like:

Tallinn Town Model

(I’m gonna skim through a lot of things in the interest of time :P as always, tons more photos on my Facebook!)

Next destination was the Estonian Maritime Museum, stopping along the way (of course) to photograph a church or two! The Maritime Museum was incredible; it was 5 stories tall, each one connected by a big spiral staircase so it felt, in a sense, like one really tall room. There were all sorts of items on display, from costumes of old Estonian/Soviet naval officers to scale models of ships as old as the Medieval era to various relics found in the Baltic Sea/Gulf of Finland. The highlight, for me, was discovering this:

MS Estonia

This is a scale replica of the MS Estonia, a ferry that sank in 1994—one of the worst maritime disasters in the history of Europe (852 total deaths). In and of itself, the story of the Estonia’s sinking is an interesting and tragic tale, but it’s especially noteworthy to me (and other people who were in the Knox College Choir in 2009) because it was the inspiration for Canticum Calamitatis Maritimae, a 10-ish minute a cappella choral work by Jaakko Mäntyjärvi which I sang with the choir that year (and in which I had a solo!). It’s one of the most dramatic 20th century works I’ve sang and marked a real turning point in my college/musical career. Plus, that tour was when I first got really close to one of my best friends, Lily Wirth (who had the other solo) :D!

ANYWAY, that was it for my first day. After an unintentionally LOOOOONG sleep (went to bed around 1 AM, woke up around 2 PM, lol), I decided my big plan of action of the day was to go visit the legendary Song Festival Grounds, where every five years about a third of the country’s population gathers to take part in the Estonian Song Festival and sing national songs, documented (of course) in The Singing Revolution :). On the way, I found (and bought) a copy of the Kalevipoeg, Estonia’s “national epic,” in a bookstore, and photographed myself in front of the Russalka Monument. These were both welcome breaks, because the walk to the Grounds was a little over 4 km…! Anyway, it was a hell of a sight, especially after trying to imagine so many thousands of people filling it and spilling out into the audience:

Song Festival Grounds

Unfortunately I didn’t get very many photos of the Grounds, because my camera died like five minutes after I took this one :/. But you’re not missing out on much; there was another small music festival going on there, and other than down a couple beers and nod my head to some Estonian rock music, I did not do a damn thing :P.

The last thing I did that night was attend a choir concert (how could I not!?), but funnily enough, it was not only an American choir—on tour to the Baltic capitals and St. Petersburg—but it was a freakin’ Chicago choir!!! The Chicago Master Singers. For the most part, I was pretty impressed! I was glad that I had only previously heard 2 out of the 21(!) songs they were performing. It was a combination of music from the Baltics, music from Russia, and music from the US. I spoke with the director afterwards and he said that they tour every two years (just like KCC!) and they always have half the program with music from the countries they’re visiting and half with American music. A lot of fun! And they were a pretty sizable group, as you can see:

Chicago Master Singers

So yeah, that’s my time in Tallinn in a nutshell! There is one last thing I wanna show, and that’s this freaking UNBELIEVABLE meal I had for dinner before I went to see the Master Singers. Literally the best meal I’ve eaten on this trip and I really think a strong contender for best of my life. I went to a restaurant called Maikrahv, located in the Town Square, where I had a “chanterelle soup served with smoked fish cream cannelloni” and ”sliced pork fillet in a mustard cream sauce with blue cheese potato bake, and fennel and tomato salsa.” BUH. Both these dishes had asterisks next to them on the menu indicating they were Estonian specialties made with local ingredients! I shall conclude this post with a picture of the latter of the two:

Best dinner ever&

Thanks for reading/skimming! Next stop: HELSINKIIIII

Two Baltics down, one to go!

So, despite the title of this entry, I’m actually writing this from my hotel in Tallinn! I just arrived here (pretty late, it’s about 10 PM), so I thought I’d post this before I either call it a night or grab a drink somewhere. At least I’m here three nights, a bit more time than I’ve had in the previous countries, which I’m pleased about! But anyway, a bit about my Latvian adventures.

Riga Train Station

So, to be honest, my first day in Riga wasn’t a particularly good one. The main reason for this was because almost everyone I spoke to/encountered was rude or seemed very irritated, for no apparent reason. Two examples: My taxi driver when I got out of the train station told me exasperatedly that my hotel was a “two minute walk” away (it was actually more like twelve, lol) and kicked me out. And when I went to buy my train ticket to Tallinn, the woman at the counter rolled her eyes at almost everything I said. Of course, this could very well be bad luck on my part, and I’m not going to judge the collective attitude of an entire country based on these people I spoke with, but it was still disconcerting :/.

I do have one “theory” that it was partially because I didn’t speak any other language than English. I noticed, interestingly, that Latvia is far more “russified” than Lithuania; almost every sign was bilingual in Latvian and Russian, and maybe only one in ten signs/menus/what have you had English. The Soviets’ influence evidently wasn’t as faded as it was in Lithuania. Far fewer people spoke English than I had experienced in the other two countries, but this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing! After all, I got to try out some Latvian phrases and really nail the pronunciation, which I was totally pleased about.

But anyway, enough negative stuff, because despite my displeasure with some of the locals, I did have a great time exploring the city! I didn’t really have a plan for Riga, except to travel northeast in the direction of the Latvian National Art Museum. I did just that, and within 2 minutes I found myself in perhaps the most stunning town square I’ve ever seen. I mean look at this place!

St. Peter's Church and the House of Blackheads

The tall steeple on the left is St. Peter’s Church, and on the right is the House of Blackheads. Next door to the latter (it’s out of frame, to the right) was the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. Very similar to the Museum of Genocide Victims, with the key difference of course being focused on the Latvian “third” of the Nazi/Soviet domination of the Baltics. I remembered to ask, this time, if pictures were allowed :) and they were not, unfortunately.

Eventually I found the Art Museum, which was terrific! Despite the name, though, it should be noted that there was also a large part of the museum dedicated to Russian art. Perhaps my “theory” wasn’t so far-fetched after all? :P. One of Latvia’s greatest painters (and the museum’s main focus) was a man named Janis Rozentāls. I’m normally not one for art museums, or at least I’m not the type to stay in one for a very long time, but I was actually captivated by a lot of his paintings. One in particular, I think simply called “Death,” gave me chills. As one might expect in an art museum (lol), pictures weren’t allowed, but here’s a link to it. Not every day you see Death portrayed by a woman, right? Or wearing a white robe? Seeing a JPG of it can not, of course, compare to seeing the original up close, but you get an idea at least. Since, again, no pictures were allowed, here’s a statue of the guy himself, just outside of the entrance:

Janis Rozentāls

The final big attraction on my way back from the Museum was the Freedom Monument, a tall statue of a woman—the same color as the Statue of Liberty, no less!—holding three golden stars over her head. Naturally, being the giant nerd that I am, the first thing I thought of was the three golden goddesses from the Legend of Zelda series :P but it was a particularly captivating sight. It was dedicated to the soldiers who lost their lives in the Latvian War of Independence.

Freedom Monument

That’s all for now! As always, the full gallery of photos (55 this time) is on my Facebook. The next time you’ll hear from me, I’ll have had at least two nights in wonderful Eesti under my belt! Woo-hoo!

I may become a bona fide baltophile by the end of this trip.

Who would’ve thought that a country I’d barely heard of when I was in high school would become the most fun country I’ve (so far) visited? I had a very nice conversation with a Lithuanian woman named Dana, probably only a couple years older than me, over breakfast this morning and when I told her I was going to all three Baltic countries, she smiled and said (in her adorable broken English) that “when you are done, you compare!” Based on my time here in Lithuania, I’m so excited to see if Latvia and/or Estonia can top this!

After a day of doing relatively nothing on Thursday, I packed a LOT (as you’ve probably seen from my entry below) into Friday, but I got it all done and found myself wanting more. I started in the late morning with a trip to Koldūninė, an awesome and SUPER CHEAP HOLY CRAP lunch restaurant, renowned with locals and tourists alike for their koldūnai, i.e. Lithuanian baked dumplings. Hands down, the best food I’ve had on this trip so far. I MEAN LOOK AT THEM:

Koldūnai!

They were stuffed with mushrooms, and they arrived bathing in this bubbling hot creamy curd sauce, sdlfkdfsdlkf awesome. And so I ordered that, an order of potato pancakes with vegetables (which were also heavenly), and 2 glasses of ginger ale, all for 30 litai—about $11. Fucking not bad, right?

ANYWAY! So after that I went to my first (and perhaps most anticipated) planned destination: St. Anne’s Church. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more beautiful church constructed out of brick. The inside was a lot smaller than I anticipated, but was nonetheless captivating. And I was the only one there! lol, a strange but certainly welcome surprise. Not to worry though, I suppressed my desire to run around flailing my arms and shouting things…! Here’s a decent-ish picture of me and the inside of St. Anne’s (I still need to hone my self-photography skills):

Me in St. Anne's

After that, I wandered in the general direction (I got lost, which was completely OK and allowed for greater exploration, lol) of my next destination: the Presidential Palace. I couldn’t go inside it, but it was still something I wanted to see with my own eyes—y’know, it’s basically the Lithuanian White House!

Next up was another church, one that I knew less about than St. Anne’s but when I arrived there I realized it was far more popular, and certainly more luxurious! Vilnius Cathedral. A towering, brilliant white fortress of a church that looked as though it belonged in Rome. In St. Anne’s, I was in and out relatively quick (maybe a total of 20 minutes), but I needed to stay in VC to really soak it all in. I ended up sitting in one of the pews—a good idea too, since I’d been walking about 2 hours at this point lol—and marveling at the brilliant architecture surrounding me. I was there for almost an hour, and I was honestly surprised at myself: normally I can hardly sit still for half that long! As with all my adventures I post about here, all the photos can be seen on my Facebook, but I’ll post this one of VC’s organ that I only discovered when I was on my way out! Badass church’s gotta have a badass organ, right?

Organ at Vilnius Cathedral

Next was a walk down Gediminas Avenue, essentially the “Michigan Avenue” or “Main Street” of Vilnius (along the way I stopped in several souvenir shops and “Gedimino 9,” a surprisingly large shopping mall!) to get to my next stop: the Museum of Genocide Victims, also known as the “KGB Museum” because of the building’s former function as the old KGB Headquarters.

I consider myself pretty desensitized to a lot of things, but man, this place was sobering. The “genocide” for which the museum is dedicated is specifically that of Lithuanians during the Nazi and Soviet occupations of the Baltic States from WW2 to 1991, something that, because of the small size and relative ignorance much of the world has of the Baltics, few people really know the true extent of. Outside of the museum, there was a wall covered with children’s drawings that were inspired by these terrible acts; honestly, these were more moving to me than seeing the KGB prison cells/torture chambers and Nazi/Soviet propaganda inside. This one, for example, almost made me cry:

Genocide Museum drawing

I think what was so moving is that these were done by children, Lithuanian citizens who were born after the restoration of independence—born free. Their history is such a vital part of their cultural identity, and not that this isn’t true, certainly, with countless other nations, but after seeing these and hearing the museum guides talk about it, I felt a particularly visceral and moving sense of national pride from these people. The actual inside of the museum was terrific as well, though I discovered too late (I was “caught,” you see…!) that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures, lol. Here’s one that I managed to snag, though, of a room dedicated to the thousands of murdered Lithuanian Jews:

Jewish Room at KGB Museum

Phew. I’ll wrap it up there—I have to check out soon anyway, lol. Thanks for reading! The remaining photos (there were 45 this time) from Vilnius will be put on Facebook shortly after I post this. Next stop: Riga, Latvia!!! Well, actually, next stop = Daugavpils, Latvia for one night, since there are no direct trains to Riga. WHATEVER. Until then,

-Udd

I have now officially entered the Baltic states…!

So, basically, this post is serving as a placeholder for a real, way more substantial post that I’ll make tomorrow evening some time. I’ve been in Vilnius for a little over 3 hours now, but I’ve done practically nothing all day, and I am absolutely OK with that! I only got 3 hours of sleep last night (jetlag and copious alcohol are not, it seems, a prudent combination!), and I didn’t sleep at all on the cramped, 90-minute flight from Warsaw to here, so I took a brief nap right when I got to my hotel, and since then all I’ve done is re-watch The Singing Revolution, lol. (Seriously, it’s a great movie! Everyone should see it.) As soon as I finish this post, I’m gonna walk over to the Vilnius train station, buy my ticket to Latvia for Saturday, grab dinner somewhere, and hit the hay early. Lame, I know :P.

But really it makes sense for me to go to bed early, not only because I’m still jetlagged, but also because tomorrow is gonna be a BIG day! I’m fitting basically everything I want to see in Vilnius into one afternoon/evening:

Vilnius itinerary

A) Grybas House, my hotel → B) Koldunine, apparently one of the best (and really cheap) lunch places in Vilnius → C) St. Anne’s Church → D) Presidential Palace → E) Vilnius Cathedral → F) the Museum of Genocide Victims/former KGB Headquarters → G) Orthodox Church of St. Michael and St. Constantine → back to hotel. Like I said, BIG! Can’t wait though :D. TTFN!

-Ed

Woo-hoo, my first real entry!

OK, so this will probably end up being pretty long, but bear with me; luckily I was able to do a lot of fun stuff during my short time here in Polska :D. I shall begin with my departure from the US…

Passport and Boarding Pass!

At O’Hare, I experienced something I never thought possible: I could not wait to get on the plane. Seriously, I’ve never felt a literal desire to BOARD a plane, even when I was about to travel somewhere awesome (like Spain with the KCC, New Zealand, etc.), as indeed I was now, but this was an entirely different feeling. This was a trip I had planned all by myself, and as soon as I was through security, damnit I was ready to go! The antsiness was made worse by the fact that the plane was delayed 2 hours, lol, but as soon as I got in my seat and heard flight attendants speaking in Polish, I couldn’t stop grinning :). I was seated next to a lovely woman, about my dad’s age, named Prudence, whose son was a recent graduate of DePaul (in guitar performance, no less)! Her conversation, coupled with the 5 hours of sleep I was able to get, made the 9.5 hour flight whiz by. And before I knew it, here I was…

Chopin Airport

I made it, with relative ease, out of Warsaw Chopin Airport (yes, it’s named after composer Frédéric Chopin—awesome, lol) and to where I was staying: a tiny, somewhat hidden-away place in downtown Warsaw called Bed and Breakfast Nowolipki. It’s essentially an apartment with 3 bedrooms, one of which I was renting while the other 2 were rented out to four young gentlemen from South Korea (they were very vehement in assuring me they were from South, not North, Korea :P). As it turns out, they were embarking on a trip across Europe very much like I was doing—they had just arrived, they told me, from Finland!

Anyway, my first order of business was to check out the Old Town Market, a convenient 20-minute walk from Nowolipki. Looking back on the time I spent there, I guess I didn’t really “do” much of anything; I wandered, somewhat aimlessly, through the cobblestone streets, taking tons of pictures (all of which can be seen on my Facebook, btw), and when I felt like resting my legs a bit, I sat down at one of the many Pierogi joints and sampled the local delicacy…!

Pierogi!

I tried both with and without meat (the one pictured is without), and I instantly became a fan. I returned home to Nowolipki with a pleasantly full belly, and decided to turn in early for the night in an attempt to get over jetlag faster.

The next day was one FULL of walking. My second order of business for visiting Warsaw was to check out Łazienki Park, a huge, insanely beautiful park about 5 km, or an hour’s walk, away from Nowolipki. So with an hour’s walk there, about two hours of walking around in the park itself and exploring, and an hour’s walk back, I was EXHAUSTED afterwards. But man, was it worth it. The highlight of Łazienki was seeing the “Palace on the Isle,” the summer residence of King Stanisław August in the 18th century. The architecture was gorgeous, there were ornate statues everywhere, and coolest of all, peacocks struttin’ around everywhere! One of them got really close to me, so naturally I snapped some photos. We became bros, f’real.

Me and the Pea

I returned to Nowolipki and, kind of by accident, crashed hardcore and took a nap for a couple hours. Perhaps not the smartest thing, since my body’s clock still hasn’t fully adjusted to Europe, but hey, 4+ hours of walking around will do that I suppose. I decided that, before I left Poland, I should check out a bar. I invited my new friends from Korea, but bar-hopping wasn’t particularly their thing, so I went solo. At my Uncle Tim’s suggestion, I returned to Old Town in search of a place called “Metal,” that apparently serves a mean kamikaze…! It was closed, however, so on my way back I stumbled upon a new place, and this one had karaoke! lol

Kasia sings the Spice Girls

There was a group of about 6 people gathered at this place (the name of which, of course, I can’t remember), and the only name I got was that of Kasia, the girl in this picture (too bad I didn’t get, y’know, an actual picture of her face) and the only one of the 6 who spoke English, lol. Small talk ensued, and as soon as I mentioned that I sing (naturally), after enough servings of Black Label I was convinced to do a song. I chose an old classic, since I figured I might as well leave Poland on a high note (literally… that shit has high A-flats in it!). I only wish I got a photo (or a video? ehhhh maybe not) of me doing it, lol.

And now, here I am, writing this first (super long) entry. If you stuck it out through all this, I salute you, and invite you to stay tuned for my next post, which will come from Vilnius, Lithuania! EXCITEMENT ABOUNDS.

-Edwin

From ORD to WAW

Hello, dearest friends and citizens of the internet.

It’s pretty likely you already know this, but my name’s Ed Davis, and this right here is my travel blog about my trip across Eastern Europe! My parents, being the ridiculously nice/generous people that they are, gave me the graduation gift (Knox College ‘12, woo!) of a two-week trip to anywhere in the world. I knew that I had to at least visit the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) because of those countries’ rich history of choral music/singing in general—Estonia is especially well-known for its singing, as documented in the awesome documentary The Singing Revolution. The official itinerary, as you can see at the top of this page, takes me from Poland (where I just arrived!) through the Baltics, across the Baltic Sea to Finland, down to Croatia, and finally across the Adriatic to Italy.

Watch this space! I’ll be sure to post at least once for every country I’m in.

Lots o’ Euro-love,
Edvard