Monthly Archives: November 2010

SeaBattle: a boat full of Spanish people, a stomach full of acid liquid

Three days ago, I packed my suitcase, I packed my flatmate, I packed a bottle of pepper vodka and off I went to Tallinn. Why? Because we went to do SeaBattle! SeaBattle is an organized 3-day trip from ESN groups all across the Baltic Sea Region (thus Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Latvia and Denmark). Only students studying in these countries were granted permission to participate and among those few tickets which were issued (only 50 for Tartu students, 90€ each) at the beginning of September, I can call myself lucky to have gotten a one. Leaving for Tallinn on Monday noon, it did not take long till we had finished our first pint of beer in the bus. Yet I was very tired from lack of sleep in the previous nights, so I decided to take it easy for the moment. It proofed to be a wise decision on my side. Once in Tallinn, we had about 1 hour to spare before being allowed to enter the boat – named Queen Baltic. We used that time to buy cheap smokes and drinks in nearby shops – again a very wise decision, taking into consideration that we were about to ship for one of the most expensive countries in Europe – we were heading for Stockholm, Sweden! 17 hours of pure fun, drinks and waves lied in front of us, just waiting to be used.

Well, technically that could have been true. However, after 3 hours of sleep in the previous night, 5 cans of beer, about 3 sips from my pepper vodka, disgusting food (included in the price) and a really rough sea caused my stomach to scream for salvation, a favour I happily granted it by lying down most of the time. So I went to bed at midnight and would eventually get up at 2am to walk around and explore the events of SeaBattle. Honestly, I was barely interested in that, since I realized that most people on the boat were either drunk, on the best way to get drunk or already too drunk from the reasons which caused my stomach to rebel as mentioned above…

The next morning, unlike most (and especially my boat roommate) I was completely sober, had a shower and ambitions to take the bus trip we have paid for the evening before. But hold on… There were no busses. The guided bus trip, as we believed would follow was more a guided walking trip in a feelingly cold Stockholm by some Swedish students, who managed to read out loud from Wikipedia-articles without knowing any real inside into the city, expect for naming the place where “Lady Gaga played last month…”. 🙂 That is what I call money spent wisely… Stockholm is a great city, but spending 6 hours in the shivering cold with prices for coffee around 3,50€, it sorts of loses its magic.

After having spent the ridiculous amount of 9,80€ for a small Falafel and a black coffee, we headed back to the boat. A small nap in the bed later (2 hours) I was ready to rock the boat. By that time, all the students from Sweden and Norway have entered as well and got prepared for a night of pure insanity. A much more relaxing sea helped a lot to enjoy the evening, but still I was not fully satisfied with the decision of actually having participated in the entire trip. I mean, electronic music, simple-minded security forces and clearly overcharged beer are not what I call a great evening out. Yet I enjoyed it very much to be on the open water, having one or two good conversations with people and the experience of getting sea-sick 🙂

Before I finish this post, one remark about the Spanish: They are everywhere. They come to get to know more Spanish people. They stand in circles of approximately 50 people and scream “España España” for hours and hours, causing my weak stomach to further deteriorate… Surely wonderful people when individual or in small groups, but in large groups really obnoxious to get along with…

In conclusion: It maybe was not the best idea to purchase a ticket for the trip, but in the end I am glad to have done this, so I know what not to do in future times 🙂

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Tartu for 2 days: An alternative tourguide

Here is what you should do, when all over sudden you discover 2 free days in your schedule and you happen to be somewhat close: Visit Tartu! Plenty of books describe plenty of things to do, see, buy, eat… But only a truely young student who is doing his ERASMUS in that city can tell you the truth! So listen and listen carefully…

Dependent on your budget, get a fancy hotel or a less fancy hostel. Hotel Dorpat is highly recommended, with a breath-taking breakfast, decent rooms and with an amazing view at the river. In case of less money, get yourself a hostel room at Raatuse 22, this happens to be the place I currently stay (yes, we have a hostel in the dorm! We also have a sports bar and a driving school…).

Well, fresh up a little, we are going for a walk! We shall start at the Raekoja plats (town hall square), where all the nice little cafés are located. Passing it on the right side, we stand at the beginning of the Toome Hill. Have a walk! Especially in early autumn, when the leaves keep falling and the sun shines its last hours of the year, then having a long walk through the hill of Tartu might even be inspiring. Various monuments, some cafés and of course the Tartu cathedral welcome you!

After you finished your highly exhausting walk (about 1 hour) step down and find your way trough the Ülikooli street towards the Ülikool Tartu (the university – for reasons beyond my understanding situated in the “university street 🙂 ) Have a look inside! You may find yourself buying a ticket for a classical concert in the main hall or, due to lack of alternatives, just walk around. The building looks very impressive from the outside but the inside can easily be covered in 12 minutes. Step out again! Turn right! Head for café Werner – without any doubts the best in town, in Estonia, probably even in the entire Baltic Sea Region! Sit down, order a coffee (or 2, or 3) and try every sort of cake they offer – every singe one! It is worth it. The restaurant upstairs is less favourable. To have a decent dinner, either go to Pierre or Volga. Fair prices for good food in a warm atmospheres. Not recommended for Vegetarians (nothing in Tartu is much recommended for my people! The national/regional cuisine is really dependent on meat and fish), but a wide range of traditional Estonian/Georgian/Russian food is available. You will need it for the night. The nights are what makes Tartu the most interesting town in the entire country! Start your night with a decent housebeer at Püssirohukelder, preferable on a Monday, because then you might see crazy Estonians doing Estonian karaoke versions of popular songs. The housebeer costs 28eek per litre (that equals 1,80€ for a litre!). Don’t stay too long…

Next, hit the Illegard. Three beer = 80eek. Great deal. A much better deal is the five hotshots = 100eek. A hotshot is a drink consisting of espresso, Galliano and cream. Drink 1 (maximum 2!), leave the premise. It is time for Genialistide Klubi. Now it has an entrance fee of 5oeek, but when you make it at the right night, you won’t regret it. It welcomes the most interesting bands that come to town, have decent reggae parties and even a smoking room (a smoking room!). Hold your position for about 2 hours, than make your way to Zavood – the holy Zavood! End the night in Zavood, that is the only place to do so. Drink a “Funny Suicide”, have a plastic beer outside the ally and meet (weird) locals. Actually all those who got me “inspired” about my “Talking Politics” post some weeks ago I have met in Zavood. Leave when it starts raining (and believe me, it will start raining). Grab a bite to eat on the way home. Take-aways offer the cheapest alternatives at night, such as wraps, burger or onion rings. Sleep well – but not too long! See, if you sleep to long in Tartu, especially during the long, cold winter (September – June) you are running risk of missing the daylight for quite some time. After yet another breakfast, take on your good shoes, we are going for a walk. Destination: Supilinn. Within meters away from both Zavood and Genialistide Klubi you find the poorest area in the city but also the most interesting one. Old wooden houses from the 19th century present themselves in only a few streets which are named after vegetables, indicating that Supilinn used to be a place for “ordinary people”. Afterwards, have a coffee/tea in the Ülikooli Kohvik situated next to the main university building. Of course you can also return to Werner and try yet another mouth-watering cake 😀   The art museum (Tartu Kunstimuuseum) at Raekoja plats 18 offers a compact overview about current and recent Estonian painters and costs only 35eek entrance.  For the evening, I suggest eating out at either Pierre, Volga or Café Noir, all within minutes away from the theatre. The theatre? Yes, the theatre! The Vanemuine theatre at Vanemuise 6 hosts latest adaptations of plays to more than moderate prices. After the play, conclude the night with a walk along the river Emajõgi and finally fall asleep in whatever place you have booked in.

If you would come right now, the following images might be waiting for you…


Living with strangers – 6 boys, 1 kitchen and a constantly blocked drain…

I have planned this post since my semester started in early September. However, due to several circumstances I have never found the time to actually finish it. So I am doing to now. Two months have passed since my roommates moved in, 10 days after me. 3 Germans, at once! The one Slovakian came some days later. So in total we are 4 Germans, 1 Estonian and 1 Slovakian on very limited space. But living is extremely easy with the 6 of us 🙂 We never fight! We never have to wait in line for toilet or shower! And we barely ever steal food from each other! Well, milk is an exception, so is shower lotion and sometimes beer, but these are rare examples. We do have sort of a “living community”. Toilet paper and washing powder is bought at an equal level, we sometimes do the groceries together and cooking/eating together became close to be the norm. Not just eating – drinking became a major event in our close to daily  routine 😀 We soon decided to collect and gather all the empty bottles (beer and water alike) to create a huge amount of deposit in our kitchen and in our rooms. At one point, however, we could not store it anymore, as it has become a distraction from moving freely. So we agreed on returning the bottles and to get a nice bottle of Vana Tallinn for the money back. Well…with weeks of effort, we had to work quite hard to actually collect, store and move the bottles…

After about 1 hour of feeding the bottle machine outside a nearby supermarket, we received a paper worth 223EEK, about 15€. That money we reinvested in the above mentioned Vana Tallinn, a 6er beer (after all, we had to start all over!) and some cheap crisps. The current level of bottles is reasonable, but not as dramatic. We surely will milk the famous cash cow soon to live off the interests 😉

The next big event which is taking place within our kitchen is the donation act. We agreed to collect all coins (because the Estonian coins are worth equal to nothing) in a pint glass. Once it is full, or December (when half the team is moving out) we will bring them to a bank, get the money and donate it. Through a friend of mine back in Groningen, I became acquainted with the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA). Among other things dedicated to the public good, they offer to purchase small objects for certain countries to improve the living standards in developing countries. So one does not just give money blind-folded, but actually buys a good which is needed desperately. We unofficially agreed upon going for a 18$ purchase of books for a rural area in Nepal, and I am encouraging everybody to follow our lead!

Our kitchen is our meeting point. Not just for the 6 of us, but also for the frequent visitors we have. Our wide variety of food, snacks and beverages, along with a welcoming atmosphere have helped us develop a decent level of reputation among the Raatuse inhabitants. Unluckily, there are some factors which sometimes tend to bother me heavily. Just two days ago I woke up by the voice of a girl in Bratislava, Slovakia, talking to my flatmate via Skype. His extraordinarily loud voice tied up to a disturbing tone has been the cause for regular wake up calls. Also, his English is sometimes a bit awkward to fully grab, so we experienced several funny anecdotes, such as when I had asked him, whether he already had chosen his classes for school and he repeated thoroughly that he does not like coffee… 😀 But we do have a very good community, without any major problems. Even the cleaning aspect has been reconciled properly – we don’t! The toilet gets a regular lemon-chemistry-flavoured drink overnight, the two towels are getting washed ever now and then and the shower slowly turns into a bath, thanks to plenty of hair on the floor… We clean the kitchen and the kitchen utilities on a regular base, but again our boy from Bratislava sort of has a different opinion towards drying the plates after having washed them so next to the wake up phone calls we also wet our pants when reaching for the top shelf to grab a wet plate… But these are minors and we tend to laugh about it. Actually, living with strangers (well, most of them are no stranger to me no more) is great fun, since you get to know and see habits and pattern that might be alien to you. New recipes from exotic places like Konstanz, Tartu or Bratislava (worth mentioning at this point is the ESN food festival which took place some weeks ago – Latvian garlic-bread and Italian chocolate-rolls are way more interesting than German potato soup…) gave the little extra to my study abroad and besides that, I will leave the house with a basket full of addresses to spend a visit to sometime…

Before this post will be published, I again want to thank everyone who participated in my last SOCIALVIBE activity. In total, we helped recruiting 12 new blood donors – thanks!! Starting today, we have a new organization we can support – Raising Malawi. This organization is aiming at reducing poverty among the millions of children and orphans in the country. Please do not get disillusionized by Madonna’s face in my blog… Thanks in advance for doing the short activities by clicking on it. Your time can make the difference…