Following on from Estonia and Latvia to complete our trio of Baltic nation states is our jaunt into Lithuania. We drove just a few short miles on from Riga to see what awaited us in the home of Hannibal Lector. Well, it might be fair to say that Lithuania struggles for world recognition as they don’t have any inventions that changed the world, any deep archaeological secrets to be uncovered or even any Sports personalities on the world stage (with the exception of a disconcertingly high quantity of quasi-famous basketball players). But do they care? No, of course not because despite all of that Lithuania is the Spiritual home of one, very specific, thing…
Driving out of Estonia from Tallinn and through their seaside escape town Parnu, the Family P. headed south into Latvia the second largest of the Baltic North European States after Lithuania. We loved Estonia and the record breaking summer of 2018 continued as we hit the Latvian countryside. We’ve swam in some pretty cold waters in Finland so we were braced for the worst on the North European coast but to hardened English sea swimmers such as the Family P, the beaches were as warm and balmy as any tropical Island and let’s not forget the beach volley ball courts in the centre of the city – how often do you stumble upon those in a country that can pick up a Finnish television broadcast signal?! You can keep your over touristified Greek Islands, thankyouverymuch this is our kind of beach holiday.
Let’s just take stock for a moment. We are eighteen countries in so what have we learned about the EU? Well, I think we can safely say that it likes a celebration, a dance and maybe even a modest drink. Visits to Finland, Germany, France and many others can attest to that, but it’s clear from our time in Estonia which was the first of a triple Bulkan run down to Lithuania that the EU also very much likes to change the name of things. Everywhere we went in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania we were told that we were in what the EU now designates ‘Northern Europe’. Continue reading “Did you know that the Karaoke capital of Europe is Estonia? Me neither!”
We had started in Romania, had almost lost bowel control to get into Bulgaria and now we only had a few more hours to get over to Greece. It was on the bus from Sofia, Bulgaria to Thessaloniki, Greece that I met my first Millionaire. At least, he said he was a millionaire and that’s good enough for me. In all honesty I have no idea how much money a million Bitcoin actually is, but it sounds pretty impressive. To find out more about Genaro, head on over to Germany because I’ve updated that page to tell you all about his Brexit views. But in the meantime, let’s talk all things Greek.
We last left our story on the way out of Romania, in a sweaty bus at 1:30am having just lost our passports. It was a tricky situation and one which required every inch of my self control to avoid a melt-down of Kraken-eske proportions. Luckily I am a man with such personal attributes; ‘Umm, excuse me my good man.’ I said slowly and clearly to the bus driver whom I knew spoke no English. ‘Could you please stop driving? There seems to have been an error of some kind, I believe that the Border Guard back there still has our passports.’ That may not be exactly verbatim but it was something along those lines, I can’t quite remember because I was trying to rip the door of the coach open with my bare hands at the time.
Travelling through Europe over the past year and a half has given me many things. Croatia and Slovenia showed me sunsets like I had never seen before, Brussels left me with a passion for waffles and Malta? Well, Malta provided me with perspective. So what has Romania got? For a start, Romania has got a bad reputation and I have to say that this part of the trip was not on the top of my ‘looking forward to it’ list. But now I’ve actually visited the place, I’ve got to know the country and people a bit better, I know I was off piste. It’s a country of high emotion and adventure, here are a few stories to share so you know why.
I know a lot of people love Malta and on the face of it, there’s a lot to like. A Capital city that’s just won the European City of Culture 2018, great weather, relatively cheap drinks and only a couple of hours flight from the UK. The Mediterranean region is a sure fire hit with the Brits, with temperatures never dipping below the mid 20’s from Spring through to Autumn and the Island of Malta is well placed to take full advantage of our attempts to blend in our Truckers Tans. But it had to come some time; we’ve been to too many amazing places across Europe like Stuttgart, Ljubljana or Helsinki that I knew it couldn’t last – but Malta don’t take it personally, it’s not you, it’s me.
Being the incessantly hungry, weak willed, food-obsessed strumpet that I am, I’m constantly on the look out for the chance to visit and eat in new and exciting places. One such opportunity came recently when I saw the chance to have lunch at Hutong and I grabbed it so tightly it almost came off in my hands. I do love a drink at a bar in the sky and sitting on the 33rd floor of the Shard, Hutong has always been the sort of place that I visited for expensive cocktails on friends’ notable birthdays to enjoy the view of London as it stretches out in front of you. But not that day – that day Mrs P and I were there to find out exactly what happens when you eat lunch at an altitude that could give a mountain goat a nose bleed.
Not content with visiting both Finland and Sweden on our Scandinavian trip, the Family P. also managed to swing into Copenhagen for a couple of days as well. How many things can you name that Denmark is famous for without using Google? We got Carlsburg, Bacon, Hans Christian Anderson, Danish Pastries, hygge, Noma, lego and of course, the band Aqua. With such an international appeal for a country that is about half the size of Scotland, there is so much going on that when the Family P. called in on our Scandinavian leg of our EU Tour, we could only try to fit as much in as possible.
There have been a few times in my life that I am enthused no, compelled to write a blog post. In my previous blogging life it led to a month of eating on benefits and more recently Jamie’s Italian has rightly felt my wrath. Twice. Craft and Cleaver wasn’t quite a Carluccio’s because let me say from the off that there were several things things that I liked about the place, the problem is that they were totally, horribly and completely over-shadowed by the things that I didn’t.
Answer: Not enough.
Sandwiched on our EU Tour between Denmark on the left and Finland on the right, many of my friends and acquaintances have visited and left singing it’s praises. You’ve probably already got a view about Stockholm even if you have never visited, I know I did, but our staging post between the train from Copenhagen and the now infamous ferry ride over to Helsinki, Finland still held some surprises for us on this second stop of our Amazing Scandinavian AdventureTM.
As a parent, I try to give The Child a few rules to govern her life; “prioritise what’s important, not what’s easy”, “effort is more important than achievement”, “Daddy’s toilet time is private time” you know, all the standard stuff. However, as grown-ups, Mrs P and I face an overwhelming tsunami of adverts and pressures telling us to work harder, buy more clothes, phones or TV’s. Lose weight, smile more and be nicer to people. Ugh. Perhaps if I had listened to my own instructions to The Child, I would have managed to write this review earlier because now I’m really late and I’m feeling bad about that. However, The Swan’s Easter Menu is still officially in place on their website so I reckon that if I squeak it in now while no-one realises and I might be OK. Right?