Now that I'm home I actually have semi-reliable access to fast net, so I'll be posting. I realize I've already gone out of order, so I'm not going to be particularly fanatical about sticking to chronological order on the rest of this. In fact, I have some Brazil postings from February that are still on dead trees, and I'll post those, too.
With luck I'll get these entries into LJ before I leave again.
Here I am in Riga, Latvia, after having taken the fairly empty overnight train from Vilnius, Lithuania. I climb the spiral staircase to the fourth floor of my hotel, drop my bags and fall over. I didn't get enough sleep on the train because of the quaintly annoying Eastern European custom of being woken up from your nice, comfy sleeper berth by gruff border guards matching you with your passport picture. I've also been wandering around Riga in the drizzling rain for the last few hours because my room wasn't ready, so I'm somewhat grumpy.
I'm just going to veg out for a bit, lie down, and watch some mindless TV.
I find MTV Europe while channel surfing. Gak.
Sometimes, when I'm travelling, I find that the universe decides there will be certain themes to certain days. Today seems to be one of those days.
Last night, just before boarding the train, I ducked in to the grocery store in the basement of Vilnius train station. While browsing for snacks, I found a packet of ramen with the brand "California Sunshine". Of course, with a name like that you'd figure that it'd be from anywhere *but* California. Out of curiosity, I flip it over and see.
It's from Walnut Creek. Okay, truth in advertising, I guess. And welcome to the global economy. At least it wasn't Milpitas.
On MTV Europe, they're doing "anthems", whatever that means.
Californication, by the Red Hot Chili Peppers is on. Okay, sure, I guess that's an anthem.
Followed by Green Day's Redundant. Yeah. You're telling *me* that's redundant. I get the joke already.
I've crossed eleven time zones and gone seventy-two hundred miles east. I'm in a place where less than a dozen years ago the cultural icons were statues of Lenin and red stars. A city where Soviet naval officers retired to. And yet, California keeps smacking me across the face.
Thank you, world, I get it. And all the Californians can now tell me smugly that they live in the center of the cultural universe, and isn't that just how things are?
Time to go splash my face with some water and go confront Riga before I look out my hotel window and start seeing Alcatraz and the Bay Bridge.
I'll be less cranky after I get some lunch.
And a couple of words about my hotel, the Hotel Saulite (Little Sun).
--It's cheap. Ls. 7.00 a night. ($12.50)
--It's got a great location. It's across the road from Riga's main train station, a few blocks from Riga's very pretty Old Town, and a short walk from the ginormous Central Market.
--They take credit cards.
--My room has a phone, a sink, and cable TV (which shows soft-core porn in the evenings, among other things, but *no* news or weather station, irritatingly enough)
--Ls. 7 is for a shared toilet with no toilet seat (this seems to be standard in Latvia, for public/semi-public toilets), and showers cost Ls. 0.50 ($0.90). There may be some deluxe rooms (for Ls. 15) with their own toilet, but none were available when I was there.
--There's no elevator and my room is on the 4th floor.
--Staff, while not outright surly, seems to be from the old Soviet school of customer service. One of them did greet me at one point, so maybe they're changing with the times.
--There's no clock in the room.
I actually would stay here again, because the other alternatives are either much worse or much much more expensive (by, say, a factor of six or so). And you really can't beat the location.
Merkela iela 12
tel: +371.722.45.46 (although whether they'd take a reservation or not is not clear)
(Little Sun describes the weather in Riga quite well.)