I believe I possess certain talents and character traits that help me in my travels: I am adaptable and have a pretty cheery disposition, which means that I view setbacks as just another exciting challenge to be overcome; I get on well with almost anyone; I have a reasonable ear for languages and am able to pick up a few basic words pretty quickly; and I have an affinity for maps and orientation so I generally know which way I am going. One useful skill I don't have, quite the opposite in fact, is a sharp, on-the-ball, presence of mind. And so, last week, whilst extracting funds from a cash machine in Tallinn, I just walked off leaving the card to be sucked back into the bowels of the dispenser. I, of course, was blissfully unaware until a few days later when, in a small town in the northeast of the country, I needed to replenish my funds and discovered that my card was gone. There followed 10 mins of stressing alternated with me (loudly) cursing my stupidity again. since it was a Sunday night I wasn't going to get anywhere fast and so I decided to calm myself down by going to a local bar to watch the (dismal) World Cup final instead. The next day required a radical change of plans. Initially I had wanted to go for a hike in the national park where I found myself before heading south to Estonia's second city Tartu via the town of Kunda (Czech speakers will know why). My Kunda plans, however, had to be shelved and I scurried back to Tallinn with the aim of finding the offending cash machine and retrieving my card - it was a long shot but had to be tried. Unfortunately I was out of luck and so had to phone my bank and cancel the card so that a new one can be issued. The only problem is that the card will be delivered to my home address in the UK and so I will need to co-ordinate with my mother and get it sent out to me somewhere along the road, which will give me an excuse to see whether this poste restante thing really works. At least I still have my credit card (for the time being anyway).
But back to the travelling. As well as the historico-cultural shift from neat Northern Europe to ex-Soviet Estonia (intriguingly many Estonians consider themselves as being part of Northern Europe in a bid to distance themselves from the perceived negative label of Eastern Europe) there has been an ecological change as well, as the more temperate climate has loosened the birch-conifer monopoly on forests, which are now more varied. The landscape is permanently green as the one thing that Estonia does share with its northern neighbours is a sparse population for its size. Summer is also unequivocally here as Estonia is currently experiencing a minor heatwave as every day I've been here has topped 30 degrees. Summer brings with it welcome trappings, such as swimming in one of the many lakes that dot the country and an abundance of forest fruit just begging to be picked, such as tiny, yet delicious, forest strawberries and blueberries. But along with the good comes the bad, and the hot weather heralds the sound of summer too: the slapping of exposed flesh as another mosquito or horse fly finds its mark. The latter are particularly persistent here and I've seen some that are up to 5cm long, veritable B-52s of the insect world and slightly nightmare-inducing.