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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Edinburgh


"There is no habitation of human beings in this world so fine in its way... as this, the capital of Scotland".
Andrew Carnegie
"When I looked out in the morning it is as if I had waked in Utopia".
George Elliot
"Edinburgh (in my estimation the most beautiful city in Britain)"
HRH Prince Charles, A Vision of Britain, 1989
"A city that possesses a boldness and grandeur of situation beyond any that I have ever seen".
Thomas Pennant, A Tour in Scotland MDCCLXIX, 1769
"What a wonderful City Edinburgh is! What alternation of height and depth".
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"Spring gallant from the shadows of her smoke, Cragged, spired and turreted, her virgin fort 
beflagged" 
R.L. Stevenson, Edinburgh from the South Seas

'' It's all fur coat and nae knickers''

A W Findlay, 2012


This was actually taken in Summer, but i thought i'd add it because i miss sunshine.


Basically, Edinburgh is permanently dark in winter. Adds to the atmosphere

Well well,  despite being a Glaswegian i'd say that i can't add more that what those greats of old have said about our esteemed capital. Theres no doubt about it, its a lovely looking city. It's easy to fall in love with. But of course, like dating a beautiful woman, you get bored after a while, especially when you look for substance (fortunately there's a train every 15 mins to Glasgow.)
But anyway, i'm not asking you to live there - do as i did, just go a wee holiday.
SLEEPING
There are a million hostels on here for upwards of 7pounds a night for a dorm room. If you're on a bigger budget, say 20-80pounds a night, then best just look at hotwire.com, as its a small city and most places are an easy and pleasant walk away. It's on the luxury end that you really have a good choice - boutique hotel in New Town? try hotel missoni. Grand old pile with good views? The iconic Balmoral Hotel is just the ticket. As for me, well we just used hotwire and got a nice 3 star place for 30pounds a night for 2 people for the 3 star Point Hotel just under the castle and easy walk to everywhere.
EATING, DRINKING
Look, do you really want me to tell you about the good deals in Pizza Express ? Yes there are macdonalds, Starbucks etc. sure. But where the real action is at is The Witchery , just under the castle. There's also a good whisky shop, and tourist exhibition next door, called 'golden dawn' or something like that (or am getting mixed up with the Greek nazi party) We tried the whisky and cheese combo's there, which actually were great as it got me into drinking whisky the whole holiday, something which i haven't done before.  Edinburgh has a whole bunch of michelin starred restaurants that you should probably go to, since you're on holiday and you can pay off your credit card after the world ends in December...
As for Bars...where to start? Pretty much every street has a decent bunch. You can do a good pub crawl round the royal mile towards greyfriars bobby, or down in Leith if you like it rough and have read trainspotting. Next to Greyfriars Bobby there's a good folk music bar where randomers turn up with their fiddlers and get on with it (a bit like Scotia bar in Glasgow) Grassmarket and Rose Street are the traditional bars streets though do get a lot of tourists. Fortunately the tourists to Scotland, unlike Tallinn, tend not to be Italian postmen looking for wives, so they're usually ok.
Oh and if you haven't done so before, go and have some fish and chips, and get salt and sauce.
DOING
There is probably enough in this small city to spend a week in, if you like to take your time. Lets start with the cheap/free things -

- Walking around. Actually there's a wealth of interesting and historical things to see just walking about. You can see the school that inspired JK Rowling's Hogwarts (in fact you can visit the cafe where she allegedly wrote the first Harry Potter) But she's not the first writer to hail from Edinburgh. There are a whole load of bookshops around the strip bar area, strangely enough, snuggled under the castle around Bread Street - check out my pal Steve's place, called Pulp Fiction Books, its mostly sci-fi and weird stuff but worth going for a cup of tea. Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island) JM Barrie (Peter Pan), Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) and of course the creator of Inspector Rebus, Ian Rankin are all from here - if your into that kind of thing, i really recommend the literary bus tour, it leaves where all the other bus tours leave, (and the airport bus) just from outside Waverley Station. You can also of course walk up and down the Royal Mile, through the spine of the old town. At the bottom is the Parliament and the top is the castle, and in between there's the free Museum of Edinburgh (near the bottom) which is worth a look, and also a couple of churches if you're into that. the new Town is a different vibe altogether but actually apart from the squares and George Street, like Edinburgh generally, quite dull.
- Bus Tours. Yes and you could also put your hand in your pocket for once and splash out on a bus tour. Its only about a tenner and you get to see the city.

- The Scottish Parliament, Dynamic Earth, and Holyrood House. They're both next to each other. The parliament is a superbly ugly building which is primarily famous for costing about 400million pounds (God knows what on - they must have golden toilets) You can get a free tour though, why not?  Holyrood House is the Queens official Scottish Palace. Its basically another Buckingham Palace. Across the road is a well regarded 'Dynamic Earth'. It's a volcano/geography purpose built tourist attraction which looks like its mostly for kids, so i don't recommend it (unless you're Jimmy Saville.)


- Ghost Walk and the undercity. I'd say this is worth it for sure. there are whole streets buried underneath the Old Town, where, who knows you can see ghosts. They meet around Royal Mile (you'll see the signs) and also there's a 'free' one at the Grassmarket, although you should give the guy a tenner tip.



- Museum of Scotland. This is massive and recently renovated and probably the best thing to see in the city, at least for free. It has about 6 levels and basically takes a whole rainy day to see it all. Across the road is the Geryfrairs Bobby cemetery - an interesting diversion for 10 minutes and worth a wee look (google it!)


the ghost walk, Edinburgh

Winter Sunset, awww 

- National Gallery of Scotland (and the Portrait Gallery) the National Gallery is on a great site, on Princess Street. You can't miss it. It's not bad for an afternoon, and has a bunch of famous international pieces as well as some cool Scottish landscapes. The portrait Gallery is tucked away back from the New Town so get to it on the tour bus. 
- Scott Monument. You get a great view from here, if your not afraid of heights and like to walk up about a million steps. The photo at the top of this post is from here.
- Edinburgh Castle. It's not cheap - from memory about 15 quid. But its a great afternoon out with a good view. You can see the crown jewels of Scotland, and discover lots about our tragic and beautiful history. 
- Royal Yacht Britannia, Leith. Well its a little bit out the centre and to honest its just a little boat, sitting in a quite ugly looking dock. But if thats what your into then go ahead.
- Rosslyn Chapel - This is outside of Edinburgh, just beside the Rosslyn Institute, of 'Dolly the Sheep' clone fame. It's a strange strange place and was made famous by 'The Davinci Code'. It's on a ley line and is full of strange spooky carvings and of course was built by a family of freemason templars...the templars were said to have come to Scotland in the early 1300's having been kicked out of everywhere else (which, people say is why Scottish King Robert Bruce alledgely an ancestor of mine if you believe ancestry.com trounced the wimpy English King Edward 2nd (the gay one in Braveheart) at the battle of Bannockburn) Getting the Templars on your side back then would be like the Gazan's getting a Nuclear bomb basically.

Anyway, you can read and see all about that Battle and even more history in Stirling Castle, and the Battle site centre, just outside nearby Stirling.
'in every port in the world, at least one Estonian can be found.' - Ernest Hemingway


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

A Little Tale of Bullying Before a Big Tale of Adventures and Ghosts.


So my Dad tells me he’s traced our family tree back to Cleopatra, via King Robert the Bruce, and various other murderous butchers including a Viking called ‘Evilheart’ who’s son was sacrificed to Odin.

So it’s with this jovial heart I set off on a little trip round the stranger coves, castles, dungeons and battlefields of Scotland, just in time to watch ‘Braveheart’ again, and to see those lovely, gentle Israelis retaliate against the extreme danger of terrorist Gaza children throwing rocks at their tanks by blowing the whole squalid refugee camp ‘back to the middle ages’ (...em, like they haven’t done that already)

Actually that’s not an issue for me, being a psychopath and all. The issue to me is that their propaganda machine try to morally justify it, as if a brutalized and beaten huddle of prisoner refugees who they stole their country from are some kind of danger to them.

It’s like George Dubya telling people that the Redskins are a threat to USA and so nuking all the reservations, or me going up and punching a crying baby in the face, telling the world that he was about to kill me.

Anyway, nothing surprises me anymore with the grip that these people have on the western world – you have no idea how lucky you are, dear friends who don’t live in the USA, and don’t get pro Israeli violence against innocent people propaganda shoved down your throat (as well as pro-USA bombing evil brutal greedy tyrants who need regime change and have lots of WMA propaganda.) There are people in USA (who've never left plainly) who actually believe that 9/11 was committed by terrorists, believe it or not.

Anyway, its with such cheery thoughts that I go to Edinburgh, Stirling, Inverness, Dingwall, and Skye, and I’m about to tell you all about it…tomorrow, because I want to edit a short story I just wrote from a dream I had last night, where I was about to be ritually sacrificed, but decided that I actually loved one random girl and wanted to live instead so I ran out of the room with no trousers on (which was in a luxury hotel) and was chased all over the place by nutcases with robes and knives…

Saturday, 6 October 2012

The 'American Bicycle' - 'Irish Heritage District' South Buffalo, New York

Disclaimer - If you are easily offended, or have no concept of or sense of humour, especially regarding jokes about rednecks or fat people then please do not read this Blog. (But do read this blog, be offended, then tell everyone about how offensive my blog is- your free advertising is very welcome!)



There's nothing particularly wrong with South Buffalo. It's a collection of average looking houses on average looking streets in an average looking American town. With silly Gaelic street signs so plastic paddys can pretend they're Irish not American (actually I have seen some black guys with ginger hair though !)

But thats the tragedy - it is American....sooo American, and in every wrong way possible. The people are generally very nice, but I'm flabbergasted daily by the wholesale accepted ignorance of the populace in little slices like of the western world like here, where it seems the past 30 years just slipped by without any change whatsoever (except their diet, of course) Anyway heres what's been happening this week...

An 'American Bicycle' yesterday in the supermarket 

Travel Smart! - I walked into the bank down here yesterday, and the teller had never seen a foreign passport (or been overseas.) She had to spend 20minutes looking over it in detail with the bank manager to check I wasn't one of those ther 'Al Queedas' you hear about on the TV.

Nutrition Concious! - Tonight, as I was starved and food options are limited here, I ate a pizza in 'Wise Guys' Pizza. An enormous fat guy waddled in and waddled out with a box the size of a small car, quite possibly all for his own consumption. There are more vegetables for sale in a Glasgow Chip Shop than down here, believe me. But sadly it seems there are no proper restaurants (unless you count Macdonalds, Taco Bell, or dodgy looking faux Irish Bars.) I really have no idea why only two thirds of the American Population are overweight - where the hell does the other 1/3 eat to stay normal ?? (what an awful statistic though)

The infinitely more sophisticated cuisine of Buffalos 'East Side'

Bike Friendly, how progressive! - And if, you have the impudent cheek to cycle around, especially at night, even if you have a helmet and lights, every third car peeps their horn at you, as if to say 'Get off the f*n Road!'   Haven't these guys down here seen bikes before? I suppose it is Friday night after all so obviously they're in a rush to drive home from the bar to beat their wives.

Anyway, I'll take a proper cycle round the neighbourhood tomorrow and along the 'Seneca Bluffs' and see if i can find an oasis of non-corn syrup monsanto'd up food somewhere, although i'm pretty doubtful since i'm not quite sure if the internet even got here yet.




Monday, 1 October 2012

American Culture

If American mass culture could be summed up in 3 words, it would be 'How are you?'

I've gone through the stages of saying 'fine', which basically means a waste of breath, to just making up something amusing like saying. 'I have 2 days to live' or coming back sarcastically with 'I'm Greeaat, how are YOU?'

And then as despair sets in, a smiling 'do you really want to know?' (which confuses them of course, because they really don't care how you are, but another part of them believes that they are sincere good people so it ends up in a 'cant' compute' loop)

And finally now, I've sussed it - I simply look, smile, and totally ignore the question.

Thats the only way to stay sane in even the most functional city in the dysfunctional dystopia which is the inanely distracted, nero-esque farce which, sadly leads the western world in mass hypnosis and cancer giving 'food'.

But enough of politics for the time being. At least in Europe I don't see gay black 'baristas' prancing around to Proclaimers Im gonna be (500 miles) on a sunday afternoon in 'Coffee Culture'. (By the way bravo, Buffalo for having nicer local coffee chains like that above, and 'Spot' Coffee,  with well priced drinks and grub, so i can avoid Starbucks (although i couldn't turn down free coffee in Macdonalds last week)

And finally, apologies for the lack of posts this month, I seem to have hit a 'writers block' with regards to travel writing for the moment, but fear not, I plan to travel round Scotland in November, to some strange and haunted places, all of which i'll write about....

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Hamburgers and running



HERE's a link to my sports nutrition blog, and an article on running in Hamburg i just whipped up while sitting in Macdonalds....


http://slackersultramarathon.blogspot.de/2012/08/hamburgers-and-running.html

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Glasgow in 'Not Raining' Shock

It has emerged today that rain has not fallen in Glasgow for over ten hours. Emergency Services have been put on standby and shocked residents have been covering up and staying indoors.

In a more sinister turn, locals and conspiracy theorist alike claim to have seen a large bright orange yellow ball of fire in the sky. While this is the first time the object has been known to appear in Glasgow, it had been known to have appeared regularly in other cities, and was ominously known as 'the sun'.

Strange Days Indeed (all credit to a random website/photographer who is better than me)

The existence of 'the sun' had been previously dismissed out of hand by the majority of the local population.

 Experts claim the problem could well continue right up until about 8pm, after which rain is again forecast.
Local umbrellas salesman Hughie McHughie commented 'Aye it'll be good to be back to the rain again. People get stressed and don't know what to do when it doesn't rain. I've seen people become  disorientated, drinking alcohol, and even eating vegetables - a sight unheard of in these parts.'

Back to normal. Glasgow in the rain. Yesterday. Or was it the day before.





Thursday, 2 August 2012

Hamburg and Hamburgers


So after my brother ditched me in Hamburg, I decided to check the city a bit. Luckily I’ve a friend here who introduced me to the place and her friends, and Hamburgs friendly heart took me in and got me an Astra Beer.

Its all about the 'Wanderlust' - Yes, this is the print thats been up in my hallway for the last 15 years, and i finally found its in Hamburgs Kunsthalle

I’d say cities are either one thing or another – either they’re all about knowing where to go (like London, New York, Tokyo) or you can just turn up and you’ll probably have a great night anyway…(like Las Vegas or Tallinn)

Hamburg definitely seems a ‘know where to go’ city, especially if, like me, your German is limited to ‘Achtung Himmel’ and ‘Die Englander Pig’ (Yes, I read war comics as a child)

But if you have a local, then suddenly you see that here’s a free rock concert here, a place where you can get shots for 50 cents there….

'Wreck in a Sea of Ice' - another KDF classic in the Kunsthalle, Hamburg

In the daytime, there are a few interesting things to do. Kunsthalle, the main art gallery is a whole spiritual home for, as it happens, my favourite kind of people, the 19th century German Romantics, headed by the main man himself, Kaspar David Fredreich. Strangely enough, my pretty much favourite all time painting was sitting there – ‘Wanderer above the Sea of Fog’ or just known as ‘The Wanderer’.  You know these strange moments where you look for something for years and suddenly, you turn the corner and there it is!

The shopping area is around there too, and a good (and popular) running/dog walking path around the main lake.  At the end of the shopping street, there is a kind of cute touristy area, centred around the ‘Rathaus’ (it’s the town hall, rather than a house full of rats)  and a very lovely white colonnade going out to the lake (which makes you think…ah wait a minute, yes Hamburg is by the sea after all…
On the right is a WW1 memorial, but this is a lovely part of town across from the Rathaus.

Contrary to what they teach in American Schools, Hamburg is not by the sea. Just so you know. Also, dear friends in USA. It’s not the capital, Iranians are not Arabs, and going to Cancun does not count as ‘travelling abroad’.

St Georg is a kind of more laid-back nightlife area. There’s a street full of quite average Italian restaurants and some bars, and lots of middle aged gay guys walking around with bags of dry-cleaning.  I understand from a certain friend that if its toothless drug addicted prostitutes you’re after, you can find them a few streets south of there.

Talking of which, the guys/girls showed me around the famous ‘Reeberbahn’ in ST Pauli, at the weekend. They say its ‘the main red light area.’ – I mean what kind of city of 2m people has even more than one??? But it seems to me that prostitution is the main occupation in this port city – when I went out to Scheezel, there were even camper van brothels lining the laybyes in the posh suburbs (‘for the truck drivers’ I’m sure)

But now Reeperbahn and the surrounding streets have pretty much become the centre of the cities nightlife – you could barely move on Saturday night when we went out. One street has rock bars, one has hip hop, one has football bars and skinheads, all mixed between tranny bars, casinos, and 12 storey brothels, mixing up into a cacophony of weird things to gawk at (if you’re a tourist like me at least)  There is a street that is ‘men only’ except for the Amsterdam style  ‘red light’ windows. Actually it looked pretty dull if you ask me. There was a sad looking bar in the back which I was told is on some kind of S&M street. The guys in there looked more M&S though really.
This bar had an old lady poledancing

The general neighbourhood has an interesting history though. St Pauli even has its own football team with famously ‘left wing’ supporters, to allegedly counter the other ‘right wing’ football fans. Personally I think its all a lot of rubbish- In Germany, left wing people all seem like anarchist/libertarians to me, and right wing people act like socialists. Maybe we need to give them some books on politics so they can actually make some logical opinions for once.
Here's the site of the 'Star Club' (since burnt down) where the Beatles alledgedly got their first break (There are no bands whatsover from Hamburg, it seems)

However, I digress….

If you seek an altogether more wholesome drunken night out, a new ‘shoreditchy’ type area has sprung up around the ‘left wing’ squats in an area quite nearby and also near the Uni, called ‘Sternchanze’ (translate as Star-ski jump or something similar) - there’s an S Bahn takes you straight there, and it’s full of cheapish food and drink places, and had a great atmosphere when I was there. Unlike the Reeperbahn, the girls tend not to be prostitutes, which is a real plus.

The ‘Mexicana’ drink, which is used all over Hamburg, is a spicy tomato soup shot which is sold for about 50c-1 Euro and actually (unlike the Estonian version, Mili Malikas) tastes quite nice.  This and ‘Vodka Ahoy’ is my excuse for making lots of new friends at the weekend - thanks to you guys in Hamburg for helping making this accidental holiday a good one!
A lot of the city was bombed, so there is a lot of concrete. I have no idea what is going on in this picture though.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Tallinn to Glasgow Roadtrip part 3....THE END


Day 4

So we bought some brake fluid, after coming off the boat at 7.30am, which didn’t work at all, and a policeman showed us to a garage who could maybe fix our brakes.  The garage guy muttered something like 'sheizer' in German and shook his head and sent us on our way. And strangely the policeman, who knew we had no brakes, smiled nervously and wished us a safe journey on the ‘no speed limit’ autobahn.
The middle of Sweden, the other day

This is probably the most dangerous part of the trip, as Latvian juggernauts roar down on us on the autobahn. I already had to pull quickly into the hard shoulder as a vodka riddled slav blasted his horn because he was about to ram us and couldn’t slow down in time. 
We’re crawling along now though and sadly have to miss breakfast with my pal in Hamburg, since we’ll be struggling to catch the ferry checkin at Amsterdam at 4pm.

About 11.20pm 80km from Bremen, something pops and we have to go onto the hard shoulder for real. It’s the axle wheel bearing.  Luckily there’s a service station a mile up the road so we limp in there and the guy suggests to us the ‘yellow angels’. On the phone the angel says its free for him to come out (strange?)  But anyway, I’m waiting for them as I write this, with 4 and a half hours to get to Amsterdam for checkin.

…..And its gone….The German ‘Yellow Angels are towing us to a garage in Oldenberg, as its probably too dangerous to go on with the wheel bearing broken as it is. We’re going to try to blag it for free here, as my brother is a member of Green Flag, so lets see how it goes. If they can fix it today, we can change the ferry time and have the weekend in Amsterdam. If not…well….lets see what Oldenburg is like at the weekend….!

Birthplace of The Hoff

The end of the road...Scheesel, a small village in Germany

Some time later......

These ‘angels’ towed us to a rip off garage in Rotenburg, who are connected to them. 320 Euros later (Green Flag didn’t bother answering the phone and our membership of the local place didn’t cover transit plates, they say)

Rather than get fleeced for 500 Euros for a 50 Euro fixing job, we went to the normal locals garage across the road, who had the parts we needed, but after 2 hours decided that the van was too rusty to put on their ramp so just gave us the parts and sent us on our way to find another place in Bremen, which hopefully will make our van roadworthy. They kindly gave us the exact wrong directions however, and our wheel bearing finally snapped off (luckily) outside a garage in a small village somewhere not near Bremen at all.

And so it sits there to this day, full of furniture, and with a wheel half hanging off, until Monday, when I’ll rent a van to take the furniture to storage and scrap the van.

The lesson of this, dear friends is – Don’t expect a 600 Euro van to get you 1000km a day for 3 days solid. This is not big and not clever. That being said, we had a great adventure, now I get to stay in Hamburg for a few days (which has a whole load of Caspar David Fredriech paintings on show, I can't wait!) Also i found out last night that old ladies do striptease in the Reiperbahn but more of that later....

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Driving from Tallinn-Glasgow (part 2)


Day 2

So since the registration etc is a bit dodgy, and we plan to leave the country never to return today, we opt for the ‘transit plates’. The vans engine is sound but basically nothing else. We need to leave the passenger window open in order to get in and and out, otherwise we have a flex tied to a chain connected to the passenger door that you open from the back door of the van.

After getting all the papers right (surprisingly, the sale docs related to the drunk were correct and not a scam), my friend gets us a good deal on the 6pm ferry to Stockholm (missing out all the dodgy countries like Latvia, Lithuania and Poland where a van full of junk and no locks will deffinately be stolen.) We race to put roadworthy tyres on the van, and try in vain to get someone to fix the brakes , then fill the van up with my worldly belongings and make it just in time to the boat for check-in. Also spending nights on boats helps on the security front.

The boat is fine. Of course the wifi doesn’t work so we can’t book our onward ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle (that’s the plan at least) but maybe we won’t make it alive so we’re saving money this way.

The plan is to hook up with some friends in Lund, Sweden and Hamburg, Germany that I haven’t seen for a while, so we have a motivation to not crash (having no brakes is not really a recipe for not crashing mind you, but if you put your foot right to the floor they do slow you down a bit at least)

I can say I’m absolutely exhausted after todays efforts, but bravo and thanks for the help, Andrew and Karin so far….

Our door opening 'system'


Day 3

Our plan initially was to drive to Hamburg, but then after some time we realized that since we can’t go faster than 80km an hour, so wouldn’t get there until 4am. So now we’ll drive to Lund and meet Frida for dinner, and get the 10pm boat to somewhere beside Lubeck, which is beside Hamburg, which is beside my other friend Kristin, who we can hopefully see tomorrow instead of waking her up at 4am.

The brake issue is more prevalent in the cities but luckily we’re on a motorway and we’re the slowest vehicle in town, so no one is in front of us. It’s entirely possible our brakes not working will be quite ok for today. The other good thing is that if we get this boat (its not guaranteed at all as we don’t have a ticket) we miss out all of Denmark. It’s not that I don’t like Denmark. I have some good pals in Copenhagen, and an ex who I think probably still hates me after I locked her out of the house once.

We’ll also miss out Lolland, which actually would be interesting to drive through. I was there about 18 years ago to see a girl I met in Spain. What a place (Nakskov) basically there is nothing to do except get drunk and sleep around, so everyone in the whole town seems to have children with everyone else. Also I believe they have a lot of pig farms. Great. Anyway Sanne Poulsen from all those years ago, I hope you got out of there and did something better with your life.

Actually what happened is that we were so slow, we couldn’t stop for dinner (sorry Frida) and barely made the boat. Towards the end of the day our brakes stop working 100% so we used the reverse gear for brakes. (Actually we only worked this out after I careered into the air pump in a petrol station forecourt)

The options now are really to either arrange some kind of emergency pickup service, or fix the van.

Fortunately there is a great sauna on the boat (and even a cinema!) and a distinct lack of cheesiness that you get on the Tallinn-Stockholm Kareoke-fest.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Stupid Things You Shouldn't do no. 322 - Driving from Tallinn - Glasgow in 3 days with a Transit Van Full of Furniture


People say alcohol fuddles your brain. I say curry does. It was over a curry last week my brother decided that, since his wife is about to have a second child, his days of getting anywhere further than 20km from our home are going to be limited for the next 15 years.

And so he suggested we fly to Tallinn, buy a cheap van, and drive it back to Scotland full of the furniture I’ve had in storage there for the last 4 years.

Well I considered this. High chance of breakdown/robbery? Low chance of success? Dangerous adventure with death by car pile-up possible? Of course I’m in ! So here is what happened (or actually, as I write this...what is happening....)


DISCLAIMER – Anything illegal/shady described below is 100% fictional and any mention of real people are totally coincidental- really, it wasn't them.



Day 1

So I came a day early and rented a car in my brothers name with his credit card, no problem, and picked him up at Tallinn airport. Nice! There is a great advantage in not signing your credit cards after all.

After some lunch we went through all the various vans for sale under 1500 Euros, in Tallinn, which totalled….2, and balanced the pros and cons.

Of course no one spoke English, so luckily Karin,  our intrepid Viking friend who speaks Estonian arrived from Valhalla (or at least Helsinki) to help. Finally, after some conversations purely in Estonian, we went to view them all.

The first van was 500 Euros, rusted to hell, and tiny. Most likely wouldn’t get us out of the parking lot. So, thinking he didn't speak english told him our thoughts on that and quickly left the scene.

The second looked most promising – High enough to fit in my grand piano and, like most of my girlfriends, only 18 years old. The photos looked good, but we only had this day, and there were no other choices nearer than Rakvere so, although since it was way out in Rapla (40mins away) we’d pretty much have to take it. As we called for directions, the owner broke the news that the doors didn’t lock, and it hadn’t been used for a while. Oh, and the speedo and all the dials didn’t work. Ok, we thought, lets see it anyway, and get them to reduce the price. An hour later, we also found the seats didn’t move, the oil was leaking badly and it would struggle to take us on any voyage, never mind an epic one across Europe.  So what to do? Well since our choices were limited and we were leaving the next day (ideally with a roadworthy van full of stuff)  so we offered 600 (half the asking price)  and they flatly turned us down, still wanting 1000 Euros for a deathtrap of a van which barely worked. Rollnock (Estonian Redneck) negotiation, great.

We decided to remove to the famous Rapla pub (by the way, gents, Rapla is a small town famous for having the highest number of women to men in Estonia, which is the country in the world with the highest woman to man ratio in the world, so if you're pretty ugly and are struggling to get a girlfriend, this is probably the place you want to be.)

Anyway, we went back to the internet, had some soup, and lo and behold….a new advert had appeared. An angel from heaven – 600 Euros, Ford Transit Van, a lovely lithe 22 years old….amazing. Going to view it, now at 10pm, of course the seller spoke no English, so Karin was able to ascertain that the doors didn’t work (a common issue with 600 euro vans) the brakes are at best iffy, and that he wasn’t actually the owner. The owner was some random drunk old guy on the other side of the city. Who couldn't be contacted.
My new 22 year old love, warts and all. And my little brother.

Given zero other choices, we made the deal, signed over some docs, that had the old drunks signature on them, and drove off in a rusty old deathbucket, ready to rumble....all the 3000km way to Glasgow!!

Tomorrow we’re going to have to register it in our name if we can, buy insurance, and get roadside recovery in the 100% guaranteed event that it breaks down. We also have to work a way to get to Scotland within 3 days otherwise my brother will be beaten up by his wife.