The final day in Riga, and I needed to get my visa for Uzbekistan, before heading north to Tallinn.
Apologies for the photo quality, most taken out a bus window with the sun at an awkward angle, but hey, it’s better than a wall of text, right?
I got everything ready in the morning and headed nervously across town to the Uzbekistan Embassy. If this failed, I was still planning on going to Estonia for the weekend, but because my invite specifies Riga for the issue of the visa, I’d have to return to get it on Monday. Most of the embassies in Riga are on the same street – and it felt like the Uzbekistan one was down the other end. Although some light rain was coming down it was surprisingly muggy, and I was looking forward to airconditioning when I reached the embassy. Sadly, this was not to be as I was 45 minutes ahead of time (intentionally), and the security guard insisted I couldn’t even wait in the foyer; I’d have to go outside and stand like an idiot on the pavement for 45 minutes. In the light rain. Ah well. It didn’t look at all dodgy with me standing with a backpack looking at my phone and glancing at the embassy door on a regular basis whenever someone entered or exit – no, not at all.
Finally I saw others with paper going in and figured time to argue my way through, only to find the security guy had left his post, so I strolled on up to the second security level, who then let me and some others straught through.
The whole process was suprisingly simple. Considering all the hassle organising invites and so on, including running to the nearby bank to send the embassy a payment I was done and out the door with my new two-entry visa to Uzbekistan in 28 minutes. Now that’s more like it! (Looks judgingly in the direction of Russia’s visa office).
I wanted to try and get the earlier bus to Tallinn, so hot-footed it back to the hostel – briefly stopping enroute to establish only that taxi drivers have no idea where the hostel is – grabbed my pack, and headed for the bus station. I got there two minutes before it started pouring again, and booked a ticket on what turned out to be Lux Express’s business service to Tallinn. Our shuttle(!) left at 5pm with 3 of us on it, and not only included power points and wifi (although that wasn’t working), but each person was given a lunch bag with snacks and bottled water. Nice.
The shuttle drove around Riga for a while before settling on the coastal road up to Estonia. Again it seemed familiar, with farm houses and mostly flattish landscape; very green but fairly nondescript. The difference this time was the rivers and estuaries that we drove over, making it quite scenic.
Before long we stopped at the old border crossing – although there are open borders now, and then entered country number 56 for me – Estonia, and the last of the Baltic states! The landscape changed for a while to pine forests – and the wikipage I loaded on the free wifi at the border informed me that they contained wild boar, wolves and bears – of which my keen eyes saw … none. The only brief disturbance was the police pulling our shuttle over and checking only MY passport, but apparently my answer of ‘Um…Tallinn?’ to ‘Where are you headed?’ was enough to satisfy the cursory check of a passenger on a bus to Tallinn.
The forests gave way occasionally to towns and fields, with a mix of decades-old barns, soviet-esque apartment blocks and almost Swiss-like high-roof houses. The roads were horrendously bumpy at first and I wondered how Danny’s bike had coped – then remembered his update about a puncture. Ah.
The final stretch involved roads that felt like the Old West Coast road from Christchurch, New Zealand at times, but with more trees and occasional boggy-looking land amongst it, before we entered Tallinn, where a lot of the houses reminded me a little of the houses I’d seen in the Swedish countryside. Perhaps the close links with Finland – being just across the gulf – had more influence than I thought. Time to find out, and find some bear meat soup!
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