Monday, July 07, 2008

End reflections of our trip

After updating my Facebook profile with the new countries I have been to it says I have seen 25% of the world, or 30 countries. This trip I got a few comments that my passport is looking a little full. So am I an expert on traveling? not by a long shot. Especially with this trip, we only got to see one city in each country. The last time we were in Europe we at least got to travel through the countryside, and spend more than a day in one place if the desire was there. The benefits of this trip was letting someone else do the driving. We got to relax in an unpacked cabin while traveling to the next city. While we did get to wake up in a new country most of the days and it was nice being able to lock up our passports in the safe instead of wearing our money belts 23 1/2 hours a day. However, I felt like something was missing every time we used US money to buy something on the ship. There also just was not enough time in each country but it did give us good reason to want to go back and visit them more. The funny thing is that neither of us had a favorite country. We both enjoyed each place for different reasons.
London: Lack of language barrier (hmm, kinda).
Denmark: Bridges and churches.
Germany: Just taking a beach day.
Sweden: Meeting "long lost relatives".
Finland: Great biking and the most interesting people watching.
Russia: Just being in Russia.
Estonia: Preserved medieval town.
I don't think we could have asked for better weather for the trip. Really there was only rain while eating lunch in Russia and a little bit in London. The rest of the time we had nice non-humid cool weather (Which allowed me to wear my jacket to hide stuff in without looking weird). For all the possibilities of us loosing luggage, pickpocketed, getting hurt, or the bikes breaking, or us getting lost and left in a port; none of it happened. Really the only thing that went wrong was L. getting stuck on a crazy bus ride in Dover, and we had the extra day built in for just such a problem.
I do know one thing. I don’t think I will be going on anymore organized tours any time soon. I felt like cattle being herded in Russia and there is no way I want to be associated with inconsiderate people like we met in the Tallinn church. I am proud to say that I blended in good enough that a local person tried to talk to me in every country. (Which is saying a lot since we were in all heavy tourist towns and a lot of the time they would use English to the person right in front of me.) I just dressed the same way as the locals and kept the camera in my pocket when not using it. (We also kept our credit cards and passports in a hidden money belt. We saw plenty of tourists that had their money pouch just hanging around their neck - the one that is supposed to go under the clothes. I mean, I'm guessing they wouldn't hang their wallet from their neck.) I think it also helped to be respectful of the local customs like not talking annoyingly loud. Of course when they did talk to me I had to apologize that I had no idea what they were saying, Only in Finland did the person not know English. When I was in London I saw a guy in a "Hooters" T-shirt and laughed because while I knew he thought he was making a statement I knew there was a better chance of him being bugged by tour vendors, trinket sellers, and pick-pockets. We tried to get the basic words for each country but learned the most Russian words since the least people spoke English there.
I am glad I had a cell phone for the trip. It was annoying that there was the exorbitant price of $0.99 a minute when in reality the cell phone tower does not do any more work than when you are roaming on a different network, but it allowed L. to stay in quick contact with her family through some tough times. I also had a program loaded on to give me the exchange rates of all the currencies since only Germany and Finland were using Euros. (So much for the EU using a common currency.) I had loaded a VOIP program on my phone but the wireless connections I found just weren't fast enough so L. could hear me when I called from London but I could not hear her. I also had all the cruise excursions loaded into my calendar so if we ran out of stuff to do on our bikes we could look up what else tourists wanted to see in the city.
Of course as soon as you go on vacation everything falls apart. The project I was working on crumbled and everyone was trying to get a hold of me even though I had told at least one person on the team the info they needed. For L. all the family trouble seemed to be squeezed into those two weeks.
So, the final cost? $3025 for the cruise tickets + $240 for the auto-tipping they had on the ship, $1830 for our plane tickets, $420 for us to go on the one shore excursion we did, around $500 for train tickets and hotel rooms in Dover and London, and I’m not even going to go into how much was spent on souvenirs. But, the way I look at it, some people have nice cars, collect rare objects, or hobbies like golf. Me, I just travel whenever I can.

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