John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Tuesday 16 May 2017

[Monday 15 May 2017]

Tallinn, Estonia–Riga, Latvia

Nordic Hotel Forum, Tallinn, Estonia
Wellton Riga Hotel & Spa, Riga, Latvia
After breakfast we continue our tour to Tartu, Estonia’s second largest city. On our arrival we’ll have time to enjoy lunch and explore one of the many impressive museums that give Tartu its reputation as Estonia’s cultural capital. The Old Town Square is the perfect place to people watch and take in the views of the Emajogi River, the Kissing Students Fountain, the pretty pink Town Hall and the curious Leaning House – home to the Tartu Art Museum. Not only has that, but the medieval St John’s Church, boasted some of the best views over the Old Town from its belfry. We set off again mid-afternoon on our journey to Riga, capital of Latvia, where we’ll settle into our hotel before heading out for the evening to sample some local cuisine in a nearby restaurant.
You will stay in either the four-star Radisson Blu Ridzene or the four-star Wellton Hotel & Spa.

Janet got up at 6.45am, and I did the same… after she vacated the bathroom. I packed away the computer and other things; then we went for breakfast at 8pm. Janet wanted a softish-boiled egg — there were ones boiled for seven minutes and ones boiled for four minutes — and yesterday she’d found the “four minutes” acceptable; but today she gave up after three attempts, and finding them all hard-boiled. She was really pissed off about that! We went back up to the room, using the stairs, to get our luggage; then, obviously, using the lift down to the lobby where I handed over the key cards. Alexander had told us to meet there at 8.45am, to leave, first for Tartu and thence for Riga, at 9am; but we were all aboard and set out at 8.55am on the 116-mile journey south-east to Tartu. It was cold but sunny. The terrain was flat fields, many ploughed with not much yet growing, and forests of tall, thin pine trees bordered by skeletal silver birch barely in leaf. On the way, Alexander mentioned that we were heading in the direction of the Russian border; Tartu, Estonia’s second largest city, is some 28 miles from Russia. He handed out maps of Tartu, and told us of a few landmarks: in Town Hall Square, the Kissing Students fountain, and the Leaning House, Tartu’s “leaning tower of Pisa”; the Father and Son sculpture in Central Park, where the adult father and infant son were both the same height; the Bronze Pig; etc.

We arrived in Tartu ca.11.30am, for a two-hour visit. The coach parked on Vabaduse puiestee (“Freedom Boulevard”) beside Central Park. It took me a bit of time to get my bearings: although we were near the Emajögi River, it wasn’t visible from just there; and because there were trees on both sides of the road, it wasn’t obvious which side Central Park was on. Janet and I headed south-east along Freedom Boulevard, crossed the first road we came to, Uueturu (“New Market”), and entered the multi-storey shopping centre in front of us. We were looking for a place to pee and a place to eat. The first need was easily met there. As for the second, there was in fact a cafeteria or restaurant on the top floor, but I didn’t like the lack of choice of items under glass at the counter, so we left there. There was a supermarket on the ground floor, but Janet didn’t like the oiled and “slimed” salad items, etc., available there. One thing that amused us nearby was the cheese shop (“juustupood” in Estonian); unlike the similar but completely unstocked establishment in the Monty Python sketch, though, this one had racks of shelves replete with all sorts of cheeses. (There were no Greek dancers and bouzouki player, incongruously suited and bowler-hatted, either!)

…As we were about to re-cross Uueturu, we looked right to the road beyond the junction, and there spotted the Bronze Pig sculpture. We didn’t go to take a closer look; we turned left along Uueturu after we’d crossed it, with Central Park on our right, because the map appeared to indicate another shopping centre down there, just beyond the park. We didn’t see one, but we did see a pub in that block, which we entered, finding it to be “Mafia”-themed! It gave me the impression of a faux-Victorian English “public house” style, such as you often find in a Wetherspoon pub back home; I guess, though, it was supposed to look like a New York bar of the nineteen-forties or fifties.

Tuesday 16 May 2017 — 12:08:26
Ristiisa (“Godfather”) Pubi, Küüni 7, 51004 Tartu

They had a comprehensive beer menu; I had what I knew I’d like, though: A. Le Coq Porter. Janet asked for a Coke Zero, but when she was told they’d run out of that, she asked for her other “staple”: soda water with lemon juice. I, as yesterday lunch-time, had a tasty stir-fried dish: “Wokiroog kanafilee ja riisig” (“Wok-dish chicken fillet and rice”). Janet had a smoked chicken salad, asking for it without dressing. The portions were generous, and the bill a mere €14.90 (at 12:42:29, the time printed on it). It came in a card folder with the face of a cigar-smoking mobster in a pearl-grey hat depicted. We paid them €17.

Pakkumine, millesi ei saa keelduda!
“An offer you can’t refuse!”

We continued along the pedestrian street that the pub was in, passing the “Father and Son” statue as we did so, till we got to Town Hall Square, where we saw the “Kissing Students” and the Leaning House.

Tuesday 16 May 2017 — 13:01:36
Ülo Õuna (1940–1988), Father and Son, 1977, cast in bronze 1987, unveiled in Central Park 2004

Tuesday 16 May 2017 — 13:06:04
Town Hall, Tartu

Tuesday 16 May 2017 — 13:06:04 (detail)
Mati Karmin (b.1959), Kissing Students fountain, 1998

Tuesday 16 May 2017 — 13:06:28
Town Hall Square, Tartu

Tuesday 16 May 2017 — 13:08:16
The Leaning House, exhibition building of the Tartu Art Museum, Town Hall Square, Tartu

Before we rejoined the coach, we went back to the shopping centre for a pee, and to buy a bottle of water and three bottles of Pepsi Max. We set out on the 153-mile journey south-west to Riga. There were similar terrain and mixture of fields and forests after we crossed the barely discernable border into Latvia, but the trees I’d thought of before as “skeletal” now seemed greener. We had one “comfort” stop on the way, and got to the hotel in downtown Riga some time after 5pm. Alexander handed out key-cards in wallets, and we took the lift up to the third floor (again, “third” as in American parlance).

Janet was pleased to find a large walk-in shower in the bathroom. I logged on to the hotel Wi-Fi, checked e-mails, and had a Facebook session (18:10–18:15). I also looked up the Latvian language (18:27–18:50). Previously known in English as “Lettish”, it and Lithuanian are “Baltic” languages, which are part of a wider “Balto-Slavic” group. Finnish and Estonian are “Finnic” languages, part of a wider “Uralic” group which includes Hungarian. At 7.15pm we all met in the lobby and set out for dinner in a restaurant a few streets away. Although we’d enjoyed their company, Janet was determined not to impose ourselves on “Hans” and “Hilde”, and selected a table for four at which no-one else had yet sat. “Hans”, though, asked if they could join us, and we were happy to welcome them. “‘Hilde’ was a lot chattier tonight,” Janet wrote; “she was fairly quiet on Sunday evening.”

Tuesday 16 May 2017 — 20:49:18
Dinner in Riga

“Hans” and “Hilde” left before we did. We ourselves departed shortly afterwards, passing an old, “Hanseatic”-looking, six- or seven-storey warehouse en route. Back up in the hotel room, I transferred five photos, taken in Tartu, from my camera to the WD Elements HDD (21:27). Looked through them using Windows Photo Viewer, but none needed to be rotated. Transferred one photo, taken at the restaurant this evening, from Janet’s camera to the WD Elements HDD (21:30).… We were in bed a bit after 10pm.

[Wednesday 17 May 2017]

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