Well, I was going to write this while I was at least somewhat comfortable and sober but hey, Polish mobile and wifi signals are all terrible. So now I'm writing this rubbish open paragraph as we're approaching the suburbs of Warsaw where I need to get off this train. I estimate I'll get to the end of this and then have to pack up and stop.
Ah bollocks. I'm not in any fitter state, I'm in a much worse state to write this than I was before. But on the other hand, what does it matter? I'm trying to portray exactly what it's like to be on this trip and what it's like, in case you haven't noticed, is to travel like maniacs while drinking along the way. So, right, here goes my attempt to describe what yesterday, Thursday 19th July 2018, was like aboard the Euro Love Train.
First things first, an early start in the centre of Tallinn. Unlike on day 6, today we were actually going to catch a train... at 0742. Eek. I rose at 0545 and had significant trauma trying to figure out how the shower-with-a-million-controls works, despite visual and written instructions. Even when I finally made water come out of the ceiling it was way too hot for me to comfortably stand under. But at least I hadn't had to ascend the spiral stairs of doom. I did have to swap out my old paper notebook for a new one though. There's been a lot of note-taking on this trip.
The station is called Balti Jaam, and doesn't seem to have a main entrance. Rather, past the (already open) Jehovah's Witnesses shack we go into the Circle K, outside of which strange things are afoot, and purchase chocolates and caffeine and the like. After not long our platform is allocated and we pile onto the first class carriage of the train to Pärnu.
There are two Pärnu stations so I ask which we're meant to be getting off at. According to Google translate, they are called "Pärnu Commodity Station" and "Pärnu Fertile". We want Fertile, a single platform next to a motorway, where you descend a wobbly ramp onto a gravel track next to a field and some trees. Just up the way there's a subway under both track and road to a small car park and maybe a bus stop and, oh, hello, there's a 12 year old boy in the front of a Mercedes Sprinter. Hello mate, is your dad the guy here to drive us to Riga?
Thinking that spires poking their heads above everything else are likely to be near the good stuff, we skirt round and are rewarded with some decent old architecture.
On the way back after a beer in the town square, there's this fuck-off giant statue of something or other. Very few people are taking pics, presumably because it's Thursday afternoon in a not-very-touristy grey city.
There's a fountain, but, like, fountains aren't that special are they.
On the other hand, maybe all these bears were just there to glorify the glorious Bobby Roode. Fuck yeah.
In a tunnel on the way back we stop at the fantastically fortunate kiosk specialising in fixing watch straps. The guy speaks perfect English and is totally able to fit the two pieces required such that I am no longer paranoid about my Garmin dropping off. One of the most excellent random wins on this or any other holiday.
At Riga station, past the shop in the tunnel linking platforms that only sells printers ink, we're ready to go to platform 5 track 7. Wait, what? Hang on, no, seriously, what? It turns out that Lithuanians manage platforms and tracks separately: the platform refers literally to the chunk of concrete, even if you can board either side from it, and the track refers literally to the track the train will be on, even if you can board it from either side. So when the doors open either side, platform 5 track 7 is also platform 4 track 6. Obvious no?
No. No. It's crazy. But we figure it out, with a good 60 seconds to spare, and lo and behold we're all off to Jelgava. It's a 45 minute local train ride which is comfortable enough and goes via a wrestling themed station. Obviousy that pleases me a great deal.
It's a fairly sombre but fascinating place. I'm kinda disgusted by the one cross that was placed just two days before we were there, dedicated not to the memory of anyone's loved one who has passed away but just a "Busabout Freestyle Europe" we-woz-here cross covered in permanent marker felt tip pen of people's names and social media profile names.
Back at the van and before we all get in it's time to salute the recent border crossing, with the Riga black balsam. It is utterly foul, by far the worst drink we've had yet.
20 minutes or so later we're at Šiauliai station and saying our goodbyes to the driver. It's about an hour until our train, giving ample opportunity to climb the bridge and look at the tracks.