Distance travelled: 3531km
Number of lifts: 34 cars, 7 ferries
Number of countries passed through: 9
Days on the road: 18
Money spent: 207,27€
Happy to not have been harassed by the drunks during the night and after consulting the internet to look for some info about ferries between Finland and Estonia (it is hard to find places without free wifi these days) I set out on a quest for breakfast. Usually when I don´t plan to arrive in a big city at night and assume I´ll be camping somewhere I buy some basic things in the supermarket that´ll keep me going for a day or two. Despite running out of gas for my small cooker back in Oslo already I managed to survive in this fashion with great ease so far, and it is a great alternative for going out for food, especially in these slightly more expensive countries (ahum). Following the advice of my Finnish friends I therefore traversed part of the city in search for a Lidl supermarket and wasn´t disappointed when I eventually found it: yoghurt and grapes for breakfast, bread, cheese, chocolate-filled croissants and juice for lunch and a coke and some cookies for the hunger in between satisfied me for the day. Next I bought a ticket for the 85km ferrytrip between Helsinki and Tallinn and filled the remaining hours by reading on a bench in the busy touristic center of the city and chatting with a girl who came to talk to me after seeing my hitchhikers sign. I usually fix it behind the straps of my backpack when I don´t use it, and quite often it provokes some kind of reaction from bystanders. This particular girl just arrived back in her hometown after hitchhiking around Germany for a week or two.
In the afternoon I got on the ferry, and felt glad that this would be the last one I´d have to take during my trip in order to arrive back to the mainland of Europe. Although some of the 7 ferries I´ve taken while hopping around Scandinavia were paying per car and thus allowed me to hitchhike onto them, some others charged a fee per passenger, forcing me to pay and take the costs into account in my already tight daily travel budget. Fortunately they always provided sockets for mobile phone or camera charging and free wifi to stay connected to the rest of the world, so at least there was that. A couple of hours later I set foot on Estonian soil and was welcomed by the gloomy drizzling I´m so used to in Belgium. In total I have been traveling for 13 days in Scandinavia, crossing all 4 countries and seeing their capitals. But I´m far from satisfied. I will be back for some more off-road discovering, sooner rather than later!
I got on some bus to the economical centre of the city where I would meet Rain, a friendly Estonian guy who answered the last-minute couchsurfing request I had sent out from my sleeping bag the very same morning after waking up in my park. I found the place where he worked as an editor for the Tallinn newspaper and after he wrapped up his work for the day we walked back to his place in the vibrant hipsterish part of the city, meanwhile passing by the supermarket and toasting with a beer to celebrate our acquaintance. His boyfriend Andres joined our jolly party and they showed me their apartment, a cosy, well-designed place where I could occupy the couch for the night. After a delicious pasta meal shared by four people – a friend of them joining in – I called it a day and retreated to my sleeping corner.
The next day Rain made me one of the best coffees I´ve ever had in my life and took me along on a sightseeing tour of the city, where we had a sun-drenched brunch outside of a former prison, with a beer to celebrate the upcoming weekend.
Later we walked through a park where many different landscape designers had been allocated a small parcel to create an exhibition of connected landscape artworks, strolled through the Old Town protected by Unesco as world heritage and headed home again after buying some chicken for dinner and of course a few beers for pre-dinner. We talked some in the garden and watched a filmcrew change the living room of the apartment into the decor of an advertisement while a delicious smell of baking chicken came floating by from the oven.
After a 11.30pm dinner (god I´ve missed these Spanish customs) we welcomed another couchsurfing girl and the floor of the apartment started to be pretty crowded. Natalie was American and doing the popular Eurotrip, and she actually came from Krakow and Riga, the direction I would be going next.
The next day, after an equally amazing coffee as the morning before I said goodbye to everyone and took the commuter train to Laagri a few km outside of Tallinn. Hitchwiki.org didn´t disappoint me and the train stop where I got out was located next to a gas station on the side of the main (and only) road to Riga in Latvia. After a while I got picked up by a cheerful Irishman in a van. Judging by the way he didn´t shut his mouth for the next two hours, driving completely out of his way I suspected him of being desperate to talk to someone who spoke some decent English. In any case it was a very pleasant conversation and two hours later I was in Pärnu, a popular summer vacation resort for Estonians and Latvians alike. I chilled out for a bit and had a beer on one of the many terraces. I have to say my initial uneasiness of sitting in a restaurant, bar or on a bench completely by my self has completely fade away and I no longer care for staring people or surprised waiters. Next I got on a bus without paying which drove me to the last crossroads before the surrounding houses changed into large forests and sat there for 2 hours without success. Despite the place being an excellent hitchhiking spot it just didn´t work, and after a while I decided to give up and to walk to the nearby beach to pitch my tent for the night. Unwittingly I took some overgrown path through a forest leading past a swamp that was located between me and the sea. Big mistake. I was almost eaten alive by mosquitos, horseflies and small things with more legs than could be healthy in general, and by the time I reached the beach I was hopping from one foot to another, scratching all over my body and hitting the air around me with my whiteboard like a crazy person. Which is exactly what the other beachgoers were thinking according to the considerable distance they stayed away from me.
For some reason the mosquito incident made me very angry and lowered my affection for the place to a rather big degree, and after a soothing sunset swim I decided I did not want to stay in a place that made me swell to twice my regular size – or at least that´s how it felt to me. I got back to the hitchhiking spot from before and had a dinner on the side of the road consisting of cheesebread covered with extra cheese, some peaches and a bit of juice. Just when daylight had almost completely disappeared and I started to give up hope to find another ride a Latvian couple stopped and took me along to their capital, where they, headshaking and in complete disbelief, let me out at 2am in a park, staring after me while I was slowly consumed by shadows.