Europe on the Ground...(Europe on the street)

Article published on July 15, 2007
community published
Article published on July 15, 2007
The last few days have been pretty unique, and I have come out the other side with a new perspective on life, writing and what it means to be Chris. Some people feel naked without a camera. Others without a mobile...I personally cannot function without a notebook and a pen....To this end I have been scribbling and here are the unedited highlights of my ETOG experience.

++__ Episode One: Newcastle:-Tallinn++__

Here's where it all starts.

Bleary-eyed I began my journey in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Getting to Amsterdam I stumbled around Schippol. Nervous, but excited. I feel tired and my face feels like sandpaper (this observation was to prove prophetic as we will see). As the plane leaves Amsterdam I sit cramped in the window seat. An Estonian girl in the next seat falls asleep, and without realising, ends up resting her head on my shoulder. Being repressed and English I am too polite and nervous to nudge her, and am amused when she wakes up and goes scarlet with embarrassment. I try some Estonian on her (Kuidas laheb) but realise I really could do with some more practice...

And so I arrive in Tallinn. Giovanni meets me at the airport with Natalia and we head to his flat. I am in my element; a country with unmitigated Wi-Fi!!! I drop my stuff off and meet Ruth, Fernando and we go for a few beers. The day turns to night and I try my first Estonian delicacy...I suppose they are a bit like what we would call dumplings...The people around are kind and welcoming and I find myself enjoying myself and more relaxed than I ever anticipated...

__ Episode 2: EOTG__

The next morning we are all to meet in the centre of the city. I rise early, deciding to have a bit of tourist-time before the work starts. On leaving the flat, the door gets stuck and I cannot lock it. After an hour of swearing and attempting to sort it out I text Giovanni who kindly comes around to help me. We meet in a coffee shop and I get to meet Katharina and later Adriano (it is surreal that you can have an internet relationship with people and yet not meet them in person) but before I really get a chance to acquaint myself properly I have to rush to an interview. The pub we are in becomes an office as we all set up, and returning from a successful interview I make it back to the bar to find Giovanni and Natalia

DSC00002.JPG "The Office" established, it becomes a place for people to meet over the next few days, as the bar staff become increasingly acquainted with us (and we become increasingly irritated with Irish music!!!)

I am buzzing, my interview went well and I email my girlfriend telling how happy I am with how things are going...

__ Episode 3: Locked Out (part one)__

So after a nice day and night out I wander to get a taxi by the Scandic Hotel...

I get back to the flat, and the key will not turn. Fuck! My ears prick up as I hear Spanish in the distance. I go downstairs in the block and there is a house party. There are two Spanish girls smoking outside the block and I start to talk to them about my key problem.. They invite me to drink wine and think it's hillarious that an English person could possibly end up in such a precarious situation on the periphery of a city...There are a load of Russian men in the flat and they look at me suspiciously. I suspect they think that I am gay. I am not, but they feel more reassured when we start to talk about football...Plus they help me get into the flat after thirty minutes effort.

++ Episode 4: The English++

After conducting an interview with the able assistance of Margarita (my enigmatic interpreter) I am checking my emails and get a text from Natalia to meet in the 'Office'. We have some chips and a couple of beers, and decide to go and explore Tallinn for the afternoon...

We go for pancakes, only to find ourselves in the same bar as a huge stag party full of English men. It is cringeworthy. Ordering at the bar, I observe the locals looking in disgust. Scared that I might be associated with this, I made them laugh by saying "I am English, but I promise you I am not like that" In many ways it was interesting: like when you drive past a car wreck, but after an hour of Darwinesque observation it was time to move on...

We wander and end up spending a couple of hours lying on sunloungers by a church...The one thing that I love more than anything is learning about other cultures and attitudes. It is fun guessing the nationality of tourists as they walk past. It can be quite a good game. Although it is easy to spot the German men, because they wear socks with their flip-flops....

Episode 5: Networking...++

It started oh so well...We have some beers, take the piss out of an drunk Australian man, and myself Giovanni, Ruth, Margarita and Zeidy head to another bar.This place is crazy. There is one toilet (shared) and it is full of artists, intellectuals and (dare I say it) journalists. I met the most famous political commentator in Estonia; but only because he spilt his pint on my feet. The sun came up and after a couple of cigarettes and a stop at an after hours place I decide to go. It is around 7 in the morning and I REALLY need to get some rest... ++

__ Episode 6: The Tramp's guide to Tallinn__++

The key doesn't work (again). Fuck. Two Russian-Estonian women come down the stairs. I appeal for help. They look at me apathetically and move on. After (finally) getting a response from my host I decide to walk into the city. Unshaven, stinking of cigarette smoke and looking like I have woken in a dumpster...I feel like shit. I haven't slept. I do not have a map (my bag at the time is with Ruth and Giovanni, for fear that I would lose my laptop thankyou btw). After about 4 hours walking around I go to the tourist information office. The girl at the desk is pretty, German and, smiling. She asks where I am from. My face feels like sandpaper. I smell like a goat...I would love to have been more charming but I am seriously pissed off.

Later after the debate a man told me that I "had no concept of living on the streets"

If only he knew