Dateline: Arbon, Day 1 – Burn After Reading

Arbon, Switzerland
13 July 2009

L’Abri in the Morning

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Traveling to Arbon through Interlaken

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Finally met up with Remo and Günther after a slight train mix up1. I’ve forgotten how funny Remo and Günther are. After a wonderful dinner, we watched Burn After Reading at the Open Air Kino mit UBS2 in English with German and French subtitles3. Final note of the day: Food is expensive in Switzerland. It was about $12 USD for a McDonald’s Meal.


  1. all trains lead to Arbon…although not necessarily the same path 

  2. Outdoor Cinema 

  3. simultaneous subtitles will blow your mind 

Dateline: Istanbul, Day 1 – A Delay

Istanbul, Turkey
22 June 2009

I got up extra early this morning, around the the crack of 9am or so to find several messages from Charlie.

I finally left the hostel just before 11 and made my way to the central train station via the metro. My plan was to reverse my route that I took coming in.

Amazing, everything worked out great! I got on the metro, got to the train station, walked back through the entire train station to the other side, found a bus to the Boryspil airport, and all was good. Even better, I had lots of time to kill, which was surprising because I had left later than I planned.

My plane out of Boryspil was a bit late, but we eventually did get off the ground and I slept most of the way, as I usually do on flights less than 3 hours.

Getting through Turkish customs was pretty easy. I bought a visa before going through customs1, picked up my bag, and cleared customs via the green line2

I decided the best plan was to wait for Charlie. His plane was scheduled to land in about three hours and I wasn’t sure he could figure out where to go.

I found a food court and grabbed some lunch, which was an adventure in-and-of itself. In my attempt to eat local foods, I try to stay away from places such as McDonald’s and Burger King. I found a nice little place to eat that had a combo meal for something like 13 liras3.

The picture on the menu looked good, so I said “Combo please with Coca-Cola.” The woman at the register asked what I wanted, so I said, “Combo Meal,” trying to repeat the the words on the menu as close as I could. It was no use though. She waved over another woman who was able to translate for me.

Well, as it turned out, you still had to pick what you wanted for the main course with the combo meal. The titles weren’t very descriptive, so I just asked her what she liked and went with that.

Slightly frustrated, and even more embarrassed, I quickly devoured the entire meal (I didn’t have a chance to get breakfast before I left due to problem solving Charlie’s flight issue).

With at least another 2 hours until Charlie’s flight arrived, and feeling a bit worn out, I decided to seek refuge in the local Starbucks.

Not wanting to miss him, I waited about 30 minutes after Charlie’s plane landed before I headed over to the area where the passengers came out. Unfortunately, it would be another hour until I saw his happy face. When Charlie finally emerged, I’m pretty sure seeing me standing there was the happiest moment in his life.

We made our way down to the metro, up to the tram, and all the way to the hostel with a minimum of fuss. Despite the fact that he had just been traveling for over 24 hours, Charlie still wanted to go out. So we made a quick tour of the surrounding area before going to bed.

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Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey

In summery, I feel like this day exemplifies exactly why traveling by air sucks.


  1. Note: They don’t take Russian Rubles or Estonian Kroons 

  2. I’ve got nothing to declare! (And I don’t know why I’m shouting)  

  3. about $7.75 

Dateline: Tallinn, Day 2 – T and D

Tallinn, Estonia
15 June 2009

I woke up early today, actually using my alarm clock for the first time on this entire trip, to meet a T, a good friend from work, and his wife D. T follows my blog and let me know a couple months ago that they would be on a Baltic Sea cruise about the time I would be in the Baltic states. It happened to work out that we could hang out for the day in Talllinn.

Unfortunately, today’s weather has been downright crappy: rainy and cold. But we made the most of it. D had Rick Steves’ Scandinavia book, so we did the walking tour that Rick details. Afterward, we grabbed a bite to eat before going to explore more of Tallinn.

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We first tried going to the Estonian Museum of Occupations, however it was closed (on a Monday). I looked through the ripped out pages of my Europe on a Shoestring book and thought that going to the Tallinna Linnamuuseum (Tallinn City Museum) would be the next best bet.

We started working our way up to the opposite end of town, weaving our way through the streets to find whatever might be off the beaten path.

The Tallinna Linnamuuseum open and was a pretty neat little museum of Tallinn’s history. It was getting close to 4, and T and D needed to leave to get back the boat. We said goodbye and parted ways.

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I went back to the hostel and took a nap before heading back out on my own. I was pretty hungry, but nothing looked terribly exciting. Because of the weather, no one was eating outside. I walked down through the town square, out of Old Town, and to the shopping center across the way. It was mostly a mix of western foods that I’ve been desperately trying to avoid, usually in vain. Nothing looked particularly appetizing, so I started walking back toward Old Town.

I eventually settled on McDonald’s, again. Although, this time I had a Chicken Bacon Onion (CBO). It seemed like a local offering, seeing as they didn’t have it either of the McDonald’s in St. Petersburg, and certainly not at any McDonald’s I’ve in the US.

It was decent, and certainly better than having a биг мак1 again.


  1. Big Mac 

Dateline: St. Petersburg, Day 4 – A.S.Popov Central Museum of Communications and McDonald’s

St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
13 June 2009

I had two goals for today: visit the communications museum and get out of Russia alive.

After packing up my stuff, I made my way, again, to the communications museum. It was right were it should have been, and this time it was open.

The exhibits were very modern and well done, a stark contrast to the exhibits in the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography museum.

The museum covered various forms of communication from the post office through radio communcations to cellular and satellite. Although I was mostly interested in the latter, my favorite part was the working telephone switch board, including a pulse-dial and DTMF interchange. There was also a working manual switchboard, but being unable to read Russian, I wasn’t able to figure out what steps I needed to take to make it work.

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I headed back to the hostel and made sure I had everything packed before I went out for one lase bite to eat. I wanted to get some Russian cuisine, however I ended settling for McDonald’s again1. I’m going to blame my McDonalds fixation on two things. First, I was really tired. Of navigating the Russian culture and just in general. I didn’t really want to put the effort in to attempting to communicate my needs/desires in a foreign language. Second, Russians, especially teens, are absolutely enamored with McDonald’s. You always have to wait in line. In any event, ordering in Russian is easy: биг мак2, кока-кола3, and Fries. I’m actually not sure what the Russian word for fries is, but they get the idea usually. Add in the appropriate hand gestures to indicate size and you got yourself a meal.

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Afterward, I headed for the bus station. Finding the station went without a hitch, solidifying my place as “Badass Map Reader”4.

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St. Petersburg, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia


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St. Petersburg, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia


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St. Petersburg, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia

I placed my backpack underneath and climbed on board with my day back, hoping that I would get some sleep this time.

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18.0 mm || 1/30 || f/3.5 || ISO800 || NIKON D70
St. Petersburg, Saint Petersburg Federal City, Russia


  1. Yes, again. I swear this only the second time I had McD’s this trip. 

  2. Which is literally pronounced: Big Mac 

  3. Again: Coca-Cola 

  4. seriously though, I’m amazing when it comes to reading maps in foreign places