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Snapshot

sunny 18 °C

Cancelled

Cancelled

I wonder how the Covid 19 events of March - June 2020 will appear when we look back on them 3, 6 and 12 months from now.

How will our lives be 3, 6 and 12 months from now?

I should have been in Rīga on Thursday morning (19th June) after a flight the day before from Edinburgh with SAS.

Rīga

Rīga

My itinerary was supposed to take me to Moscow on Saturday with Aeroflot. Then today (Monday 22nd June) I should have been on an S7 flight to Kazan. My return was to have been via St Petersburg with Nordavia and SAS.

Russia is not open to travel for foreigners. Here in Scotland only essential travel is allowed, and for leisure I am restricted to a 5 mile travel radius.

SAS cancelled my flights - they are working on a 7 day cycle but it has been clear for a while that Edinburgh would not be on their schedule at the moment. They offered a voucher or a refund, so I took the voucher. It is valid for a year. Even if I cannot use it for a future trip to Russia, Scandinavia is always attractive.

SAS at ARN

SAS at ARN

Aeroflot cancelled my flight too. I have a voucher from them as well - valid for 3 years - plus a 15% discount. I had to call their customer service centre (free) last week, and they were a pleasure to deal with.

Aeroflot Offers

Aeroflot Offers

My S7 and Nordavia flights are still scheduled, and domestic flights in and out of Kazan seem to be operating normally. I have had to cancel and then see if I can recover on my insurance. The flights were cheap.

In the overall scheme of things this inconvenience is minor, and the cost very small. It is still disappointing. It was a trip I put a lot of research and planning into, even going as far as resuming my Russian studies (after a gap of 45 years) on Duolingo.

Thursday should have been special just on its own. In July 1968 I took my first flight, and it was from Rīga to Moscow with Aeroflot. My plans had been built around re-tracing those steps.

Posted by IainT 02:57 Archived in Russia Tagged planes moscow st_petersburg scotland edinburgh life flights russia sas riga latvia airlines kazan aeroflot Comments (0)

1968

Lenin Mausoleum

Lenin Mausoleum

If you have a travel blog but cannot travel, what is the answer?

One is to look back.

My second big travel adventure came along in July 1968, with an educational visit to the Soviet Union. I was a few months short of turning 16. We were a party of high school students from several Scottish schools who were all studying Russian.

We sailed on the MS Mikhail Kalinin from London to Rīga in the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic, from where we transferred by bus to the airport and flew with Aeroflot to Moscow in Russia. After 3 or 4 days in the capital, we took the overnight train to Leningrad (now St Petersburg).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS_Mikhail_Kalinin

Leningradskaya Hotel, Leningrad

Leningradskaya Hotel, Leningrad

Again we had 3 or 4 days in the city, and then it was back onto the MS Mikhail Kalinin at St Petersburg to travel back to Leith (Edinburgh’s port).

It was quite an experience for a 15 year old.

Red Square, Moscow

Red Square, Moscow

Travel was very tightly controlled within the USSR back then, for nationals and for foreigners. We were warned that our hotel rooms would be bugged, and to make sure we did not say anything critical of the regime. Each floor of our hotels had a “supervisor” stationed at a desk beside the lifts and stairs, to monitor guests’ movements. You could not leave the hotel just to walk around - everything had to be done as part of an Intourist controlled excursion. It was not possible to speak to locals - they would be reported and face sanctions.

My knowledge of the language was quite basic at that time but one thing we all noticed was that on every radio news programme Czechoslovakia was the only story. The Red Army invaded a few weeks later.

Space

Space

Looking back, we took in a huge amount in just a week. Many things are still vivid memories - going inside the Kremlin, seeing Lenin’s embalmed body in its mausoleum, the splendour of the Summer Palace outside Leningrad, the Battleship Potemkin, the Winter Palace and the Hermitage.

The voyages were fun too. We crossed the North Sea in a force 8 gale on the outward trip. I enjoyed it. I found a vodka with Orangina (not the real thing - a Soviet version) calmed my stomach nicely. I remember sailing through the Øresund on the return voyage, with Copenhagen on the port side and Malmö to starboard.

Bolshoy Theatre, Moscow

Bolshoy Theatre, Moscow

Approaching Rīga on the outward journey was special. A party of Latvian exiles was among the passengers. They gathered on deck for the first sight of their homeland on the horizon, and then burst into song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PU4RW2a2nK0

That may have been my introduction to the “nationalities question” which helped to bring the USSR to an end 25 years later.

Footnotes:-
(1) Leaving aside that the photos are over 50 years old and taken on a Kodak Brownie, they have been scanned from transparencies.
(2) I have only been back to Russia once, for a short business trip to St Petersburg in the 90s. I am privileged to have been back to Latvia many times.

Posted by IainT 23:27 Archived in Russia Tagged moscow st_petersburg scotland edinburgh russia riga latvia airlines leith aeroflot Comments (0)

Plans

Dundee Waterfront

Dundee Waterfront

In some ways it is a quiet time at Bread and Tea World HQ.

Malmö seems like a long time ago - 5 weeks. I did have an overnight stay in Dundee at the end of February, but it was only for an ice hockey game and whilst it was a great game (3-3 draw) it is nothing to blog about.

Plenty has been going on behind the scenes, of course.

I will be spending 10 days in Tunisia at the end of March, and as it is a country I have never visited before, I have had research to do as well as make a number of bookings. I am starting with 4 nights in Sidi Bou Saïd, close to Tunis. I hope it is enough time to recover from the travel, unwind and explore the city.

Good Value

Good Value

After that I have booked a Tunisair Express flight to Djerba, an hour to the south. I will be based in Tataouine for 4 nights, with a rented car to drive about in the desert.

IDP

IDP

As soon as I get back after that trip, I will be applying for a visa to visit Russia in June. The consulate will have my passport for most of April. So far I have booked as far as Moscow, via Rīga. I will be renewing a very old acquaintance with Aeroflot - and Moscow!

Comprehensive

Comprehensive

All my research so far is pointing me towards spending a few days in Kazan after Moscow. My guide describes it as the “Istanbul of the Volga”.

Stay tuned…

Posted by IainT 00:46 Tagged moscow scotland transport tunisia russia ice_hockey riga airlines dundee kazan aeroflot tataouine Comments (0)

Radisson Blu

sunny 5 °C
View Malmö on IainT's travel map.

Radisson Blu, Malmö

Radisson Blu, Malmö

I really do not remember how I came to choose the Radisson Blu for my 2 night stay in Malmö. Location? Price? Brand?

Certainly the first two possibilities turned out well. The cost for 2 nights was SEK 1,760 (£141 or €166) including breakfast, and I was upgraded to a junior suite! The city centre location, close to the railway station, was ideal.

Malmö Radisson Blu

Malmö Radisson Blu

The brand…

In the 1990s when I travelled a lot for work, it was always one of my favourites. In those days it was SAS, and part of the airline. Then it was Radisson SAS, and now it is Radisson Blu.

I remember stays in several of the SAS hotels in Copenhagen, plus the Royal Viking in Stockholm and one in Oslo.

Radisson Blu Royal, Copenhagen

Radisson Blu Royal, Copenhagen

Their London hotel was my first choice there, and an oasis of style in a city which is full of 3rd rate, overpriced hotels. The Brussels SAS was excellent too, but it had plenty competition. The Amsterdam SAS was a real favourite too.

However, it was in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia where they really came into their own for me. I was reminded of this by a set of articles in the in-house magazine in my room in Malmö.

They invested in privatised state hotels very soon after the Communist walls came down. The Astorija in Vilnius was one of their first. Having stayed there in 1993 when it was state run, I knew how much had to be changed - pretty much everything.

Aušros Vartụ, Vilnius

Aušros Vartụ, Vilnius

They now own the Lietuva in Vilnius too, which I have never stayed in. However my firm represented the government in its privatisation so it will always be special for me.

Vilnius

Vilnius

In Rīga, the Daugava was their first. I stayed there several times. The location just across the river from the city centre was ideal. The walk across the bridge was the perfect way to leave a day’s work behind.

Rīga

Rīga

I see they now own the Latvija too - the former Intourist high rise.

Their first hotel in Tallinn was one of my stopovers. I do not remember it’s name. It was a boozy trip. Thanks, Aivar.

Tallinn

Tallinn

I see they now own the Olümpia too - another former Intourist tower block, built for the Moscow Olympics. The yachting events were held in Tallinn. My stay in the Olümpia was much more sedate. I had 7 meetings in one day, so I had no time or energy left for getting into mischief.

Tallinn

Tallinn

Well guys, thanks for bringing back some memories as well as helping to create new ones.

(As a wee footnote, and declaration of interest, I worked in hotels quite a bit when I was a student and eventually reached the dizzy heights of being manager of a small beach motel in Westhampton Beach, Long Island. It has made me a very critical hotel guest! If I praise someplace, it is well earned.)

Posted by IainT 13:53 Archived in Sweden Tagged stockholm oslo england sweden belgium norway estonia brussels denmark copenhagen malmö sas riga tallinn vilnius lithuania Comments (0)

Sad

overcast 10 °C

"Good Old Days"

"Good Old Days"

With Brexit fast approaching (or not?), and massive queues through baggage check and passport control, it’s clear that dream died. R.I.P. that E.U. utopia

I had a depressing exchange of views on Facebook last week with a friend - mid 40s, and well educated - who was having a girn about how long it takes to get onto Eurostar in London.

Her comment about “that dream” relates to the expectation of the EU enabling frictionless travel and the Channel Tunnel facilitating it for the UK. When I suggested the freedom of movement dream is alive and well elsewhere in the EU, but the UK has turned its back on it, I got a snotty response…

… it’s only the privileged few who travel who would have noticed.

Being very aware of having just a few days left as an EU citizen, her comments and attitude were a reminder of the twisted attitudes of so many in the UK, much of it just based on abject ignorance and whipped up by xenophobic politicians and the media.

Democracy?

Democracy?

Scotland is much less affected by it than our cousins down south, but we have our bampot minority.

Her comments made me think of the masses of people in Ireland (north and south of the border) who drive across the open border freely as if it doesn’t exist - perhaps just folk in the south going shopping in the north because it is a bit cheaper. Or the people who live in County Donegal and commute across “the border” into Derry to work.

The Future

The Future

For the benefit of those who have not had the privilege, the border does not exist except on paper. When you drive across it, only the different road signs give it away.

People who live in the south of Bavaria don’t even think about there being a border with Austria when they drive across it for a weekend of hiking in the Alps - except for buying a vignette if they have to go on an Austrian Autobahn.

Kitzbuhel Alpen

Kitzbuhel Alpen

Again, only the change of roadsigns marks the border.

Those living in the east of the Freistaat might think about “the border” with the Czech Republic when they drive across to fill the car with fuel, but only because it is cheaper on the Czech side.

Folk in Vilnius don’t think they are crossing a border when they jump on a bus to Rīga to visit friends or family. The bus doesn’t even stop at the border. There is no security or customs or passport control.

Rīga

Rīga

Aye, the “privileged few who travel”.

Perhaps I wound her up with my comment about flying from Helsinki to Vilnius via Rīga in December, without showing my passport once? Well, she was taking the train to Paris to catch a plane to Martinique.

Posted by IainT 07:55 Archived in Scotland Tagged people helsinki scotland germany ireland finland transport riga vilnius bavaria lithuania derry brexit Comments (0)

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