Sunday, October 3, 2010

Winging it

October 2
Sometimes I like to travel with minimal preparations, just for the challenge of trying to work things out and for the mystery of not knowing where I'm heading. So today I checked out of my hostel in Viljandi and went to the bus station which was just around the corner, with the vague idea of going to Latvia but not knowing how. As I arrived at the station, a bus with 'Valga' as its destination was about to leave. I knew that Valga was a town on the border with Latvia, so got on board. I would've preferred a bus that actually went over the border to Latvia but I didn't have time to check the information board at the bus station to see if there was one because this bus was about to leave. So after about two hours we arrived at Valga. There was a handy information board at the bus and train station there which told me that there would be a five hour wait for a bus into Latvia. But it also said that there was a bus leaving from Valka on the Latvian side of the border heading to Valmiera, a town about halfway between the border and the capital city of Riga. So I took a taxi over the Estonia/Latvia border to Valka. Actually I'm not sure if Valga and Valka are two different towns or just one town with Estonian and Latvian sections. I suspect the latter since it was only a ten minute taxi ride. At the Valka bus station I tried to buy a ticket to Valmiera but I didn't have any Latvian money and was told that that was all they would accept and they wouldn't take Euros. I headed out to find an ATM but the first one I found gave me Estonian money! I'm not sure why, since I was on the Latvian side of the border or so I thought. The border is pretty non-existent (both countries are part of the EU now) so maybe I had walked back into Estonia in my search for an ATM. Anyway, I walked the opposite direction and found another ATM which luckily gave me Latvian money and I headed back to the bus station. The bus arrived and an hour later I got off in Valmiera and then hunted for a place to stay. I think I'll stay a day here - my guidebook lists a few interesting sights - before heading to Riga.


  1. It's something of a shame that the Cold War is over, as I'm sure these encounters with border guards would have had a bit more spice in those days.

    Incidentally, did you ever finish Melville? Last night watching QI I came across the answer to the debate about Whales and Dophins being fish or mammals. The answer is that there is no such thing as "fish". The term fish is used to cover a host of creatures that have virtually nothing in common in evolutionary terms - eg a Hagfish is more closely related to land creatures than most anything else under the sea; sharks too have dna completely different to countless other "fish" etc. As we use the term "fish" means everything below the waves that isn't a whale or a dolphin, but that still leaves it describing so wide a variety of creatures that the exclusion of mammals doesn't make much sense; any more than calling everything that lived on land "animals" (as opposed to insects, mammals, humans, flightless birds) and everything in the air "birds" (including flying insects, bats and, if they were still around, pterodactyles). For reasons he wouldn't have understood (dna not being discovered in his day), therefore, Melville was on to something.

  2. A fish is a creature with fins that swims in the sea. Birds have feathers and fly through the air.* Mammals live on the land and walk. Insects are creepy crawly things.

    I trust this ends the debate.

    * the ones that can't fly like the thing on this screen to the right are aberrations.

  3. Somehow I doubt it will. What about amphibians? Or flying insects? Or bats?