Sunday, 12 April 2009

On the road again


Who, in this day and age, actually makes New Years Resolutions which do not fall into the narrow vein of I must conform to what society deems is beautiful by eating less x or I must be more sober by a factor of y?

That would be me.

This year I sort of stumbled across a desire to complete my travels to the Baltic capitals somewhere in mid February. This led to the organising of a weekend in Riga in April which I am sure will be as good as the weekend in Tallinn last year. This then left Vilnius unaccounted.

Yesterday I was searching for flights to Vilnius for 4 people at the end of May. Although the flights cost 200€ the taxes were 571€. This I felt was not OK so it got me thinking of alternative routes to Vilnius and I got carried away by the whiff of adventure. I admit it is an odd phrase in this context. It would sound so much better if I was offering the chance to carouse your way around the Caribbean with Captain Jack Sparrow. However I am holding out the chance to take a bus from Tallinn to Vilnius via Riga. I'm offering the hypnotism of the open road. So we will be setting sail from Helsinki, and will overnight in Tallinn and then busing it down to Vilnius. It will be good to see the countryside of the Baltic states as it is one thing to city hop from the comfort of an airplane at 30,000feet. The best part is that travel for the whole trip should cost less than 120€ per person.

The thing with me is that once one idea is out another usually joins it and here I had a rash in quick succession. Before I had even booked us a seat I was already wondering about camping holidays in the Baltic states, imagining what it would be like to visit and talk with the Livonian people of Lithuania. With their Finno-ugric language would they understand my Finnish (as bad as it is)?

Then I wondered why I was neglecting Finland itself and all the sights this country has to offer that we haven't even begun to explore. Last year we took a boat trip around Savonlinna and I wondered whether there were longer boat trips. Sure enough there is the possibility of a trip from Kuopio to Savonlinna which instantly became a plan in my mind. The wonderful thing here is there might be the chance to do them both (camping will have to wait).

All of these travel plans are now possible because the year has gone far enough along that it is desirable to be outside again. Gone are the days when the purpose of going outside was to get to the next place that was indoors or gather firewood and get back indoors again. I know this because I inaugurated this year's BBQ season on Friday. It was a gathering of good people and good food. Once again in a BBQ setting Moro East provided some sterling inspiration and a couple of recipes were followed to the letter. I was particularly taken with their Syrian Fattoush. It's odd that a cookbook that on first inspection was given such a big thumbs down has proved to being such an enduring winner. I also managed to buy some cheap lamb ribs from the butcher and marinaded them in olive oil, garlic and loads of fresh oregano. Finally we made some pork burgers which gave a Caribbean jerk marinade to and served that with a kidney bean and mango salad.

These plans are also possible because part of my brain has escaped into the fantastical world of Peter H√łeg's A History of Danish Dreams. Where the everyday and the mundane somehow becomes something more. Is it escapism? Absolutely. Does that bother me? No. Instead I am struck by the echoes in the world he is constructing that reminds me of the writings of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. How strange to find a Colombian and a Dane sharing the same realm and to have my imagination running riot somewhere in the middle. If that doesn't signal that spring is here I don't know what will.

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