Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tallinn, Estonia

Spent four nights in Tallinn, Estonia. The weather was mostly dreary. I caught a cold, so I was constantly blowing snot and much less social than usual.

Tallinn is a tourist hotspot. Very well-preserved and friendly for international visitors. Huge groups of Japanese tourists, no less. A nice place to visit, for sure.

The women seemed friendly enough, though hot women seemed less frequent than in Riga or Stockholm. Several women I approached turned out to be prostitutes. This had not been the case in the other cities.

There is longstanding tension between the Estonians and the Russians. They share a bloody history. Look it up. At any rate, it's the Russian women who like to flirt. Even if married or "taken" they still engage in friendly flirtation. The Estonian women are far more standoffish.

The hostel that we stayed at was run by a bunch of young Australian dudes. It was the loudest, most boisterous hostel yet. Seemed more like a frat house.

We went with a group of twenty or so from the hostel to a Midsommar party in the old prison. It was an informal gathering with cheap beer, music, and a bonfire. Not many people were in attendance, but it was a great celebration nonetheless because of the eerie setting.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Riga, Latvia

Took a fifteen hour cruise across the Baltic Sea to Riga, Latvia. Spent one night on the ship and two in the old port.

The first thing you notice is that this is a culture that likes to drink. As you hit Latvian water, there is a sizable liquor store that opens on the ship selling cheap bottles of alcohol. Supposedly in the summer Swedes will even go to Riga and straight home as a two-day "booze cruise." There are two nightclubs on the ship, plus a bar-lounge.

So, compared to Stockholm, food is a bit more expensive. Clothes are considerably more expensive. But alcohol is much much cheaper. And everywhere.

They love beer here, but I think they love shots more. There are shot bars, "welcome shots" at the hostel, and special prices when you buy like five or seven shots for your group. I tried a couple new things. One was some apple-cinnamon shot, and my favorite was Piparu, this really hot pepper liquor.

Here is a much slower paced life. The city is very quiet, people don't rush about like Stockholm. You can visit all the major landmarks in one day. My two days here were quite cold and rainy, which no doubt put a damper on social opportunities.

I'll tell you this much. The culture has trust issues. There is a much greater police presence than Stockholm. Money is always exchanged on a little tray, never hand-to-hand. When you buy something in a store, you put your money on the tray, and you get your change the same way. I was told that when you give someone a knife or scissors, it is always done the same way. Never hand-to-hand.

This may seem silly, but it is another small trust thing. Stockholm and Riga both love candy. So many varieties in so many places. The thing is in Stockholm, there are these bins with the candy just laying there in the open. No wrapper, and no lid. In Riga, the candy is similar, but it is individually wrapped and in bins with lids. There you go.

But here are my first impressions of the women of Latvia. First, Riga lacks the obvious quantity of beautiful women that you see in Stockholm, but there are a few stunners. There is a greater variety of body types, hair styles, etc. I noticed a lot of really tall women. They wear more makeup. More wear glasses. I don't think contacts are normal here at all.

Women seem a bit friendlier than in Stockholm. The catch is that their English is far worse. Those who open up will reward you with intelligence and sarcastic humor. A lot of women I met turned out to be married or engaged, but at least they were sociable.

Anyway, I'd like to be able to say more about the women, but my short stay here was mostly spent intimately with a girl from Germany. :)

A couple more quick things about Riga:

--This is not a city with a sophisticated public transportation system like Stockholm. Cars are a big deal. I even saw a billboard for a 24hr "McDrive."

--Yes, McDonald's is here, but that's it. Even Burger King is in Stockholm. One interesting thing is that the BigMac is the only 2-patty burger on the menu. No double-cheeseburgers and certainly no double-quarter-pounders.

--You can get porno mags in the grocery stores. And there are 1-900 type numbers advertised on television that feature full nudity and girl-on-girl action.

--The symbol of the city is the cat. There are stray cats all over the old port. There always seems to be an old lady nearby trying to lure one in with some food. But the feral cat remains as aloof and withdrawn as the women in Stockholm.

--Pictured here is Riga's Cat House. "The story behind this unique architecture tells of its Latvian owner who was denied membership in the powerful Great Guild; to show his displeasure, he built two cat sculptures on his roof with their backsides facing the Guild and their tails straight up to finish the insult."

There you go.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Stockholm, Sweden

Just spent 10 days in Stockholm. What have I learned?

First of all -- yes -- there are many beautiful girls in Sweden. But that does not mean they are friendly, sociable, or down for whatever. Sexy does not mean sexual. Anytime you hear of a place with a reputation for the "the most beautiful" anything, this should arouse suspicion. Here is a society based on appearance and superficial values. There is a lot of social and sexual baggage here.

I've met more cold/antisocial women in Stockholm than anywhere I've ever been. I've been outright stonewalled by girls. I can approach with warmth and affinity and in return I get no eye-contact, no acknowledgement of any kind. Yes, there are exceptions. But it seems to be a challenge finding them.

The beautiful women here know they are beautiful. They know the value of their looks. People here seem obsessed with conformity. This is one of the most socially uniform places on the planet. Swedes like to blend in. They like their social circles. They hesitate to let anyone new inside. There is no incentive for them to be warm and friendly. Affinity, even politeness, is not part of their cultural identity.

I think this accounts for most of the defensiveness. The extreme reservation comes from a fear of vulnerability. If you take a chance and open up, suddenly your whole life could change. It's not the gradual courtship you see in America. It's not the "let's have fun and see where things go" ambiguity of America.

Girls here screen hard right from the start. Allowing a social surrender leads to a seductive surrender, which leads to a sexual surrender, which women here put their whole heart into. The women who do take the chance fall hard into love. They play for keeps. It's either all or nothing. From the start. Total surrender or total blow-off.

Stockholm seems to be an asexual city. You don't see prostitutes, porno shops, or strip clubs. The city does not sell sex. Feminine distractions are minimal too. Alcohol is highly regulated and I've seen no evidence of hard drugs. It's not that sex and other "vices" are repressed -- Swedes just aren't that interested.

People recreate by going out in their cliques. They put a lot of effort into looking good. They smoke and laugh. They take both dancing and karaoke WAY too seriously. That's about it. Work hard, contribute to society, remain loyal to your loved ones, and BREED. I've met several women who have 5+ siblings. And many young women with kids of their own. Though marriage is not popular, monogamy (and cohabitation) is.

So there you go. Homogeneous, asexual, antisocial, and beautiful. Like I said, it's a challenge to connect. It's no wonder that there is a thriving "pick-up community" in Stockholm. If the culture were both more gregarious and promiscuous, the "community" could not attract students/followers.

One more thing. The nightlife here is a bullshit industry. They play both the appearance-value game and financial-value game. You line up and stand in the cold. You're picked to come in based on completely arbitrary reasons. But all this does is then permit you the opportunity to pay a $15-20 cover charge! Ridiculous. You could go broke really quickly with the clubs here.

See, selling booze is of secondary concern here. Alcohol is so expensive and Swedes don't go out to get drunk. They go out to see-and-be-seen, reconnect with friends, strengthen existing relationships, come in from the cold and dance. And I mean, seriously DANCE.

Did I mention that it is fucking cold? Lots of daylight and very little sunshine. I didn't really expect to go from Texan heat to Swedish coldness. There are warmer places where the people are also warmer. I'm sure of it. There are cheaper places where social and sexual connections are not such a challenge. I'll leave the Stockholm challenge for any masochist who wants to come. I'm personally looking for ease and delight elsewhere.

I keep hearing Prague and Berlin and of course the beaches of the Black Sea. On a boat to Riga, Latvia right now.