Mutton and Süütei Tsai (Salty Milk Tea) in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

London -> Harwich -> Hoek of Holland -> Amsterdam (Holland) -> Copenhagen (Denmark) -> Stockholm (Sweden) -> Riga (Latvia) -> Moscow (Russia) -> [Trans-siberian or Trans-mongolian Express] -> Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia)

Locavore, self-sustaining, free-range, and even…organic, might be some adjectives used of Mongolian cuisine if these historical nomads were minded to describe their food in terms understood by the Western city folk.

But the vegetarians, vegans, pescetarians, and other plant-based diet fans for whom these labels are gold would be sorely let-down. Mongolian cuisine consists mostly of meat (with very little seasoning), animal fat, and salty milk (tea).

Exhibit 1:
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Бууз (buuz) in oil-slicked soup.

(An aside. I’d like to trace the history of dumplings in the world. While in Latvia, we had pelmeņi at the self-service weight-priced XL Pelmeni (7 Kalku, Riga):
XL Pelmeni, 7 Kalku, Riga
XL Pelmeni, 7 Kalku, Riga
XL Pelmeni, 7 Kalku, Riga

In Moscow, it was khinkali (Georgian dumpling) at Duhan Chito-Ra (Kazakova Street, 10/2, Moscow 105064):
Duhan Chito-Ra Save Kazakova St., 10/2, Moscow 105064

and also good old-fashioned pelmeni with sour cream:
pelmeni with a side of sour cream

A great idea for cooking meat in bite-sized portions. But who had the idea first and what would the passage of that idea through different geographical areas over time tell us about the exchange of ideas in human history? Curious minds want to know.)

Exhibit 2:

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
More Бууз (buuz – Mongolian dumplings) and сүүтэй цай (süütei tsai – Mongolian salty milk tea).

Exhibit 3:

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
хуушууp (khuushuur) which is basically buuz flattened and deep fried. Yum. We ended up at this shop because Mongolian friends were reminiscing about the Naadam Festival and how the area around the competitions would be full of people frying and selling khuushuur.

Many tourists complain about the food in Mongolia. “Just mutton and more mutton and animal fat,” they grumble.

Should there be a universal standard for taste, or even, what might be considered healthy? How many foodie magazines consider the environment from which different cuisines emerge? How many “scientific” studies consider the impact of environment on the nutrients and calories needed by a person living in that different situation?

The sub-zero temperatures of Mongolia make eating mutton and drinking salty milk tea a great pleasure (and even, a necessity), especially when one is not being driven around in a vehicle with more than adequate heating. Much more so for the nomads cattle-herding on the steppes outside the cities.

“You must drink this,” advised several Mongolians,”It will warm you up.”
“And you must eat the fat of the meat, it will keep you strong.”

For this reason, they were leary of vegetables and fruits, seeing them as pernacious attempts by the Chinese to weaken their constitution.

Oh and by the way, Mongolian barbecues? Not Mongolian. They were popularised in Taiwan in the 1970s and then exported to America, then re-exported (or imported?) to Mongolia! The fable put about was that Mongolian soldiers would gather large quantities of meats and prepare them with their swords on their upturned shields over a large fire.

I just had to partake of this irony, so decided to check out BD’s Mongolian Grill, part of a U.S. chain:
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
It cost 5 times as much as a meal in an ordinary Mongolian eatery. The meat was overcooked and, because I did not want to pay for the buffet, not enough for the amount of trekking I was doing. Boo.

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Double B Coffee & Tea, Moscow

London -> Harwich -> Hoek of Holland -> Amsterdam (Holland) -> Copenhagen (Denmark) -> Stockholm (Sweden) -> Riga (Latvia) -> Moscow (Russia)

Photograph Double B Coffee & Tea, Moscow, Russia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500pxFlat-white drinking is never more pleasurable than when it is to warm a body that has been trudging through Moscow streets in sub-freezing temperatures.

Photograph Double B Coffee & Tea, Moscow, Russia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph Double B Coffee & Tea, Moscow, RussiaDouble B Coffee & Tea, Moscow, Russia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px
Scored a seat in Double B Coffee & Tea (Милютинский переулок, 3 (Milyutinskiy pereulok, 3)) and thought it extremely cute how the usual coffee drinks had been rendered in Cyrillic. Yes, they’d said, of course they could do a flat white even if it wasn’t a menu. Where was I from?

Photograph flat white, Double B Coffee & Tea, Moscow, Russia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Then, the coffee chat trope about beans and machines.

Photograph Double B Coffee & Tea, Moscow, Russia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

On the next table, a group of university boys were talking loudly about going to Singapore in a mixture of English and Russian:
“Where is it?”
“What language do they speak there?”
“That’s very far away! Is it safe?”
“Wow, you’re very brave to be going there.”

Latvijas Ekspresis Sleeper Train from Riga, Latvia to Moscow Rizhskaya, Russia

London -> Harwich -> Hoek of Holland -> Amsterdam (Holland) -> Copenhagen (Denmark) -> Stockholm (Sweden) -> Riga (Latvia) ->

Photograph Latvijas Ekspress from Riga (Latvia) to Moscow Rizhskaya (Russia) by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Another last minute dash after horseriding, and I get to Platform 1 just in time for the Latvijas Ekspresis from Riga to Moscow Rizhskaya station.

Photograph Latvijas Ekspress from Riga (Latvia) to Moscow Rizhskaya (Russia) by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

A bunch of purple chrysanthemum placed in a glass vase, balanced precariously on a ledge opposite the train attendant’s own little compartment, suggested a certain pride and ownership of the carriage on her part.

Photograph water heater, Latvijas Ekspress from Riga (Latvia) to Moscow Rizhskaya (Russia) by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

The boiler was clean and the attendant had thoughtfully provided a plastic jug for dribbles.

Photograph free tea, Latvijas Ekspress from Riga (Latvia) to Moscow Rizhskaya (Russia) by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

I tried to make my first (and free) cup of black tea since leaving London last as long as possible.

Photograph loo, Latvijas Ekspress from Riga (Latvia) to Moscow Rizhskaya (Russia) by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Having never seen a train loo so sparkling clean, I thought it warranted in photo in full colour.

Photograph Latvijas Ekspress from Riga (Latvia) to Moscow Rizhskaya (Russia) by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

The other people in the compartment stared openly at me at first, and did not return smiles. But, as would be the normal course of interaction over the next few days, they warmed up quite suddenly. The train attendant, through many gestures and motherly facial expressions, suggested that I ditch my very cheap upper bunk and sleep along the corridor instead. Not an upgrade, but a sign of care perhaps.

Photograph compartment mates, Latvijas Ekspress from Riga (Latvia) to Moscow Rizhskaya (Russia) by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

My compartment-mates were a Latvian law student with a blonde afro returning to Moscow for studies, and a Latvian grandmother in her jammies who said she studied English way back in university. The law student said his first language was Russian, then Latvian, then, perhaps a little English. He loved Russia fiercely and considered Latvia a backwater.

Photograph learning Russian on Latvijas Ekspress from Riga (Latvia) to Moscow Rizhskaya (Russia) by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Unable to converse much further, I spent the rest of the evening learning the Russian alphabet and some key phrases. The Russian border policemen smiled to themselves when they saw this as they trudged past, menacingly rousing sleeping passengers and looking into luggage storage compartments under the lower bunks.

Photograph first glimpse of Moscow by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph first glimpse of Moscow from the Latvijas Ekspresis by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

In the morning, I got my first glimpse of Moscow and was duly excited. Photograph Latvijas Ekspress from Riga (Latvia) to Moscow Rizhskaya (Russia) by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

The Porosity of Borders, Myth of the Country, and International Student Ministry

London -> Harwich -> Hoek of Holland -> Amsterdam (Holland) -> Copenhagen (Denmark) -> Stockholm (Sweden) -> Riga (Latvia)

Photograph Kronvalda Park, Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Countries. States. Nations. The myth of borders. The conflation of cartography with reality. The assumption of fixed geography separating distinct genetics, cultures, practices, languages, thought-patterns, worldviews.

These folk ballads of uniqueness are what undergird much nationalism, nativism, anti-immigration policies. But how firm are these foundations?

  • first, as political entities, nations are particularly fragile. Any flip through the history books tells us that much;
  • whether co-cumbent with politics or not, the lines that delineate the state too are morphous and its edges, even in times of political stability, fairly vague.
  • thirdly, with international or cross-border trade inevitably comes the exchange of ideas and thoughts, and even cultures. And in this day and age of the internet,
  • And what of the practice of endogamy, enforced by political powers in various places in history? What if no person was truly local?

I was telling a Latvian the names of two guys I knew – Martins and Miroslavs. “Miroslavs” is not Latvian, he’d sniffed, that is a Russian name with an “s” stuck at the end to make it seem Latvian. But poor Miroslavs had been born and brought up in Latvia and called it his home, knowing no other. Would he be welcomed as a local if he’d merely changed his name?

What can Americans mean by being against migrants when most of them (other than American Indians) only arrived on that continent a few generations ago? The same question can be asked of Australians (other than the Aboriginal people), and of the citizens of many countries clamouring for nativism. In fact, if we backed up far enough in anyone’s family, we’d find that they weren’t always living in the same geographical area, and even if by some small chance they were, that little patch of land would not always have been within political boundaries of the same homogeneity.

Photograph mittens "lovingly hand-knit by latvian grandmothers" by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph mittens "lovingly hand-knit by latvian grandmothers" by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

These mittens say they have been “lovingly hand-knit by Latvanian grandmothers”, scoring high on fuzzy authenticity. But what if I told you though the experienced hands that manufactured these were local, the mitten patterns were designed by a Japanese lady living in England, based on Latvian and Scandinavian patterns? Would that make them less authentically Latvian? If you wanted to “buy Latvian”, would these make the cut?

Photograph poster for the performance of Reinis Zariņš, Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

You say “čaikovskis”, I say “Tchaikovsky”. And what about “classical music”? One cannot say it is authentically Latvian, though neither can one identify it as the music of Austria or Germany or Italy.

And what of imported authenticity? That is, authenticity that isn’t locally traditional (if that can ever be defined) but is part of an internationally recognised conceptual package?

Photograph Miit Tiim Cafe, Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph Miit Tiim Cafe, Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px Photograph Miit Tiim Cafe, Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph Miit Tiim Cafe, Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph Miit Tiim Cafe, Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

The third wave, specialist coffee movement is a good example. in most countries, it can be in no way authentic in relation to its products: coffee beans being commercially grown in only a few countries. Yet all across the world, these places sell authenticity – back-to-basics, grassroots, homemade, vintage, unprocessed comfort.

Whne came upon Miit Coffee (facebook, Lāčplēša iela 10), it seemed terribly familiar. The coffee counter (with its uncommon Opera coffee machine), the bicycles hung precariously on grey walls, the plaid shirt and beard and thick-rimmed glasses combo, the denim aprons with their assymetrical leather straps, the vegetarian/vegan food menu, the brewing options (espresso, in milk, Chemex, V60, Aeropress), the coffee beans identified by their varietal and place of origin. (The beans were bought from Andrito Coffee Roasting which was founded by former Latvian Barista Champion Andris Petkēvičs. The fact that there was even a barista championship of course indicated the pervasity of this non-Latvian culture.)

Photograph Miit Coffee, Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

L the Latvian was amused. E the Singaporean was delighted at the prospect of “normality”. I, not having eaten anything since that bowl of soup a few posts ago, was just plain ravenous. That plate of vegan food was mighty fine as was the coffee, but hey I could be biased.

Now how about international student ministry or international ministry within a church?

To the Galatians, Paul wrote:

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:28-29)

  • There is an equality amongst Christians that is more than political-correctness. It is an equality because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and all have been saved by the death of his Son.
  • Why is there a tendency then, especially in U.K. churches, to separate the foreigners from the locals if they can all speak the same language? And how would you define someone as foreign or local – by citizenship? By skin colour? If so, would you direct a black American to “the international group”?
  • If it is because of different practices that they are split, then doesn’t God’s word advise that these are all opportunities to show love to each other?
  • How would this church tendency entrench prevailing attitudes of people seeing another with a different accent or skin colour as the Other, the altern?
  • And, in any case, how would this cohere with what has been discussed above?

(About a month ago. a curate from London was a visiting speaker in Singapore. While we were having tea, he pointed to the thick toast we were sharing and asked,”Where did you get bread from? Is it from the Brits?” This was as if I’d gone to London and asked if they’d gotten their tea from the Chinese or Indians. It was probably mere small chat, but it hurt because the mere assumption of alien-ness reinforced the gulf between us, when we should have been brother and sister. I probably didn’t help much, being sarcastic in my reply and mentioning “colonial masters”.)

Photograph breakfast at the Latvian grandparents' house, Riga by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph dinner at the Latvian grandparents' house, Riga by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px That night, we were hosted by L’s grandparents. Her grandmother prepared a feast for us, then she and her husband retreated to the kitchen. No, no, they wouldn’t want to eat with us – they didn’t understand English, so they would eat, standing up, by the cooker. Much as I appreciated her embarrassment, this was also one of the few times in my life that I’d been starkly reminded that I am first and foremost an Outsider, a Stranger, a Foreigner, an Alien.

Photograph Latvian grandmother's flower arrangement by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Architecture of Riga, Latvia

London -> Harwich -> Hoek of Holland -> Amsterdam (Holland) -> Copenhagen (Denmark) -> Stockholm (Sweden) -> Riga (Latvia)

Not just cobblestone streets in the setting Latvian sun, but also modern roads with a segregated bike path. How Scandinavian; how progressive.

Photograph Streets of Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph Streets of Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Riga not only boasts a UNESCO World Heritage site, it was also the European Capital of Culture in 2014. And it is chokeful of architectural goodies within a small radius.

Photograph two of the Three Brothers, M. Pils Street, Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Two of the Three Brothers on M. Pils iela – from Riga’s medieval period.

Photograph Brotherhood of the Blackheads building by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

The House of the Brotherhood of the Blackheads (giggle).

Photograph Door, Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px Ah, architecture. Architecture as visible archaeology. Architecture as anthropology. Architectonic forms as images, symbols, metaphors; as diagnostics of the human condition; as mere art and performance (as if); as regulators and instigators of human behaviour and societal interaction.

Livonia (no, not the Joseph Tan, Daniel Sassoon et al band from Singapore) – the historical area now delineated as Estonia and Northern Latvia, participation in the Hanseatic League, have all left their imprint in extant buildings.

Photograph Art Nouveau, Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph Art Nouveau, Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Having more art nouveau than any other European city suggests a somewhat glamorous recent past.

But these gated inward-looking apartments with gloomy courtyards, L assures me, are far more common. A legacy, she thinks, of the Soviet era.

Photograph courtyard apartments, Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph courtyard apartments, Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Since independence from the latest imperialistic power to have designs on them, many young people have taken advantage of the education benefits of being in the EU and have left for other EU states. Few, if any, have returned. So the streets are uncrowded and quiet.

Photograph National Library of Latvia, Riga by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Yet across the river, there is a sign of a new age of architecture: the National Library of Latvia, designed by Gunārs Birkerts. It looks like a book left open on its face; like the reader merely paused to make himself a cup of tea. Perhaps this period is merely a setting down of a book… Meanwhile, there is work to be done amongst those who have stayed.

War Memorials and Freedom Monuments in Riga, Latvia. Revelation 1.

London -> Harwich -> Hoek of Holland -> Amsterdam (Holland) -> Copenhagen (Denmark) -> Stockholm (Sweden) -> Riga (Latvia)

I didn’t know what to expect of Latvia. “Oh, an Eastern European country?” said the Western Europeans I’d met so far,”They used to be part of Russian…surely they’re not safe?!”

So I disembark the Tallink ferry with my backpack, delighted to see L waiting outside Riga’s Passenger Terminal beside her mother’s car. We headed to town, passing some Soviet-era statues. Or so I thought.

Photograph The Railway Bridge of Riga across the river Daugava by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph Monument commerating the 1905 revolution by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px Near the Railway Bridge of Riga, one of several spanning the river Daugava, was a dramatic monument to the 1905 revolution – the first hint of the common thread of Baltic state history. For the Latvians, the fight was against both Russian and Baltic German occupation.

Photograph Brīvības piemineklis (Freedom Monument), Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

On another side of town, the Brīvības piemineklis (Freedom Monument), that replaced the equestrian station of Russian Emperor Peter the Great, set up to commemorate the Latvian War of Independence (1918 – 1920), was allowed to remain during both German and Soviet control of the now-country. She was re-interpreted of course according to the prevailing political narrative: in Nazi Germany, as the struggle against communism, and for the U.S.S.R., as Mother Russia holding aloft the three Soviet Baltic republics – Latvian S.S.R., Lithuanian S.S.R. and Estonia S.S.R..

Photograph Latvijas Okupācijas muzejs (Museum of the Occupation of Latvia) by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph Latvijas Okupācijas muzejs (Museum of the Occupation of Latvia) by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

While most countries gloss over the bad times in their history to ease the pain of the past, the Latvians set up the Latvijas Okupācijas muzejs (Museum of the Occupation of Latvia) to remember 51 years of being “successively occupied by the USSR in 1940, then by Nazi Germany in 1941, and then again by the USSR in 1944” – both as a warning and a memorial.

How fragile independence as a nation is. You could build up your defence force and join a multi-national grouping like the European Union. But ultimately, boundaries are respected only as a matter of international law and treaties. If you had desirable resources in your land and unscrupulous powerful neighbours on whom the rest of the world depended too much, your friends might not be motivated to do anything more than slap your invaders on the wrist. For a while, social media might be awash with self-righteous articles on the injustice of it all, but then the next unjust thing happens and you’re yesterday’s outrage. You are at the mercy of the fickleness and self-interested self-preservation of others.

Photograph Street corner, Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px Photograph Street corner, Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

And so it is also with non-nationalistic imperialism.

“Apparently, Islamic terrorists will ask you if you are Muslim,”said someone at a dinner-party recently,”So I have memorised certain Arabic phrases to foil them.”

Having just read Revelation 1, I think Christians have a far greater assurance than might come from cribbing the answers to the Islamic terrorists’ spot quiz:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

John to the seven churches that are in Asia:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash round his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (Revelation 1, ESV)

This Jesus that Christians worship isn’t at all modest about who he really is:

    • he is the ruler of kings on earth and to him be glory and dominion forever. He is described as the Ancient of Days as well as the Son of Man of Daniel 7 – a claim to divinity;
    • to emphasise the point, he says,”I am the first and the last“. He is eternal, no one came before him and no one will come after him;
    • despite being this most powerful man, he loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood;
    • and so we know what we can look forward too, for he is the firstborn of the dead. I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”he says. Jesus was the first to rise with a new resurrection body – assurance that believers will too.

So:

      • this Jesus is in charge of the whole world, for all time. This means that there is no one else to answer to but him. This also means he is the only one we can and should fear, not some human person with pathetic guns. “…do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28);
      • death in this life means relatively little. The person who loves us controls even death and has promised to raise us to new life in the new heavens and earth.

What assurance this is!

Had this Stuart Townend song on repeat the night before, to drown out a Latvian granny’s nocturnal noisemaking. Very apt:


Singing Hallelujah
Join the song
Of the angels round the throne,
Giving worship to the One
Who lived and died
And lives forever more.
All unite
With the saints who fought the fight,
Resting now in heaven’s light
Where beauty dwells
And suffering is no more,
Now their suffering is no more.

Singing hallelujah,
Glory to the Saviour,
Singing hallelujah to the Lamb.

How I long
For the day when flesh is done,
Fear and hate are overcome
And all the earth
Is freed from grief and pain.
On that day
Every eye will meet his gaze,
Sin and death will flee away
As we behold the glory of the Lord,
We will bow before our God.

Worthy, worthy, worthy,
All the saints adore Thee,
Singing hallelujah to the Lamb.
Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2014 Townend Song

Tallink Silja Isabelle Ferry from Stockholm’s Frihamnen to Riga, Latvia

London -> Harwich -> Hoek of Holland -> Amsterdam (Holland) -> Copenhagen (Denmark) -> Stockholm (Sweden) ->

Photograph Tallink Silja Isabelle Ferry from Stockholm's Frihamnen to Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500pxAt Stockholm’s Frihamnen, ignoring the many signs insisting that passengers were to follow a coloured line, boarded the Tallink Silja M/s Isabelle just in time.

Photograph Tallink Silja Isabelle Ferry from Stockholm's Frihamnen to Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px
In a scene reminiscent of the Titanic, I had the cheapest ticket for a shared 4-bunk compartment in third-class, which was the lowest level of all, even below the cars. The other 3 compartment-mates were Latvian older ladies, who eyed me suspiciously as I greeted them. This was a harbinger of the wariness of strangers I would encounter throughout the old Soviet bloc.

Photograph Tallink Silja Isabelle Ferry from Stockholm's Frihamnen to Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Photograph Tallink Silja Isabelle Ferry from Stockholm's Frihamnen to Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Some of the best sleeps in my life have been aboard ships and boats. The rhythmic pounding of the waves, the knowledge that I am on a tin can in the middle of a vast body of water, should make me nervous, but instead I find this calming. Perhaps a relationship with him who stills the winds and the waves (Mark 4:41) is the reason.

Photograph boar meat and bear meat, Tallink Silja Isabelle Ferry from Stockholm's Frihamnen to Riga, Latvia by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px
The grocery shop onboard the ship sold cans of boar meat and pate and bear meat. Prudence won rabid curiousity – I already had a full load on my back.

Photograph reindeer sausage and moose sausage, Tallink Silja Isabelle Ferry from Stockholm's Frihamnen to Riga, by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px
Part of that load, happily, were sausages of reindeer and moose.