Raphael Kessler

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South East Asia 1999

  1. Vietnam - February 1999
  2. Thailand - April 1999
  3. Malaysia and Singapore - May 1999
  4. Indonesia - June 1999
Africa to home, the long way
- Africa
  1. South Africa
  2. Namibia and Botswana
  3. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya
  4. Uganda
  5. Ethiopia
  6. Egypt
- Middle East and Balkans
  1. Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey
  2. Balkans
  3. Turkey
  4. Iran
- Asia
  1. Pakistan
  2. China
  3. Tibet
  4. Nepal
  5. India 1
  6. India 2
  7. India 3
  8. Sri Lanka
  9. Bangladesh
  10. Myanmar
  11. Thailand
  12. Cambodia
  13. Laos
  14. China, Macao and Hong Kong
  15. Mongolia
- North America and Caribbean
  Caribbean, USA, Mexico and Canada
- Scandinavia and Eastern Europe
  1. Russia
  2. Sweden
  3. Baltics
  4. Poland and Czech Republic
South America 2002
  1. Brazil
  2. Argentina
  3. Chile and Easter Island
Central America and Mexico 2002
  1. Panama
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Nicaragua
  4. Honduras
  5. El Salvador
  6. Guatemala
  7. Belize
  8. Mexico
South America 2003-4
  1. Trinidad and Tobago
  2. Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana
  3. Venezuela
  4. Colombia
  5. Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands
  6. Peru
  7. Bolivia
  8. Argentina
  9. Uruguay and Paraguay
  10. Bolivia 2
  11. Peru 2
Specific Pacific
  1. California to Fiji+ French Polynesia & Cook Islands
  2. Samoa, Niue and American Samoa
  3. Tonga and New Zealand
  4. Australia 1
  5. Australia 2



To take off from where I last left you, some time ago.

I was about to return to Sweden via Paris to resume the travels proper. It was discovered in Havana airport that the supposedly connecting ticket I was supposed to have from Paris to Stockholm was actually a day later than it should have been. This meant that I could not check in all the way through in Havana and that there was going to be running around needed in Paris. When I arrived I began explaining to the Air France people what the problem was and that their employee had cocked up so they had to rectify it - unsurprisingly I was met with the look of contempt that the French seem to take such pride in perfecting. The argument continued and my method of counteracting their contemptuous expressions was to explain to them the utter dislike I had for them, their country and particularly Paris, and that I would not wish to spend more than the minimum amount of time there before moving on to less hostile climbs. This strategy seemed to pay off as my non-transferable ticket was finally transferred and I boarded the plane back to Stockholm. When there I got the "sharp implements" that I had been forced to leave off the plane and headed back to the hostel I had previously stayed in, my warm weather clothes and a good nights sleep.

Back in Stockholm I thought I should get to know a bit more about the Vikings, and the most pressing of questions - were the horns on their heads or the helmets? So off I went to the Nordic museum which I thought would tell me all I wanted to know about the Norsemen, I was wrong. It turned out that the Nordic museum housed exhibits on style through the ages with exhibits on shoes, clothing and my favourite table settings through the ages. The closest I came to learning anything about the actual people was a small display about the Sami or Lappish people of the far north. Right then, if the Nordic museum wasn't going to tell me obviously the National Museum would. Wrong again, the National Museum actually turned out to be more of a gallery, housing some nice paintings by European masters such as Monet and Van Dyck and what appeared to be part of an IKEA showroom. These Swedes really need to try and get more to the point with what they call things, I should have known though after all at MFI a bookcase will be called 'bookcase' sometimes 'bookcase with mahogany veneer' or something along those lines. At IKEA they call it Bert or something equally as useful, I was learning don't trust names here.

After some intensive and misguided museuming it was time for recreation so with a group from the hostel I was staying at we went to a Thai bar for some drinks and then onto a bad club. Thankfully I had managed to get us all in cheaper than should have been the case, with my bogus press card. The nights revelling led to an uneventful next day and in the evening I met up with Mikko, my drinking companion on the boat from Helsinki to Stockholm to resume unfinished drinking, something we managed to do rather well, which meant that the next day was wasted again. The following evening Magnus, a roommate at the hostel invited me to the bar where he was working for a drink or two 'on the house' so off I went and it turned out to be following a certain theme - good nights and very little day, exacerbated by the early nights.

After quite a late night and far too much drink again (this time thankfully free due to Magnus' bartending), Magnus and I made a determined effort to do something, so off I went to the Royal Armouries. Unlike the other places, this actually did seem to fit its name, however most of the exhibits weren't arms but more a collection of Royal clothing carriages and other such paraphernalia. The Swedish kings seem to have been either very poor but enthusiastic warriors or very unlucky as on display are the clothes in which a whole succession of Swedish kings were killed on the battlefield, complete with bullet holes and blood stains. From the Armouries I went to the Swedish Parliament building for a tour. The main chamber of the parliament looks like the boys from IKEA designed it. There are only three things with any colour in the whole chamber, the Swedish Flag, a board that displays how each of the MPs voted and a blue vase that is for secret ballots, but has never been used. The guide proudly told us how the huge picture that hangs behind the speakers chair contains over two hundred shades of grey. I felt like asking why they made such a concerted effort to make the room as dull as possible but couldn't think of a way of asking the question without it sounding like the criticism it is so didn't bother. Some of the older rooms were slightly more colourful but it wasn't somewhere one would necessarily be artistically inspired. It was all becoming more and more clear. The Swedes who are a generally pleasant people if not particularly gregarious had done all in their power to become inoffensive. One can walk around Stockholm without hearing more than a murmur from the crowds of people, nobody shouts. The dogs don't bark, the Volvos and Saabs noiselessly glide past stopping immediately if it appears that one is considering actually putting ones foot on the tarmac. Even the bus drivers are polite and the buses lower on the kerbside to make it easier for people to get on and off. Even the bouncers in the bars and clubs were very polite. The whole thing has, in my opinion, an unhealthy cleanliness and quietness to it. The most graphic example of how this sickly inoffensiveness manifests itself is snus. Snus is a wet snuff that is essentially a way that the Swedes have developed of getting their tobacco/nicotine fix without any of the socially undesirable aspects such as smoke or ash, it is all most bizarre.

Over the next couple of days in Stockholm I visited the Palace, including the Crown Jewels exhibit, which was nice but doesn't really compare with those of many other monarchies; The Antiques Museum, a collection of second century Roman sculpture collected by the Royals during the eighteenth century; The Tre Kronor museum which gives a background to the history of the palace itself and previous castles etc. on the site; Finally to the State Apartments, most of which were not open for view as they were being prepared for the Nobel Prize dinners on the eleventh of December, it obviously takes some time to get the place settings right. On show were the throne room and a couple of other rooms, pleasant but somehow not particularly regal feeling - at least not to me.

My final intellectual excursion in Stockholm was to the History museum, a museum about the history of Sweden. There were some great displays about all the stone age, iron age, bronze age and Viking ages in Sweden but still did not mention where the horns were attached. There were also some displays from the middle ages, but these were almost entirely religious, so better viewed in a church. The most interesting bit was a surprise though, I noticed an exhibit called "Dialogues in the Dark" which turned out to be a guided tour through various environments in pitch black. This was to give an appreciation of sightlessness and the senses one has. It was quite interesting to see how one can cope with being blind and I found myself surprisingly comfortable with the whole thing, although that is easy to say when one knows it will only last about an hour.

Feeling that I was done with Stockholm for the foreseeable future, I got a boat to Estonia. The journey is seventeen hours overnight and gives the Swedes a chance to do some cheap drinking and pick up cheap booze and cigs in Estonia. The boat itself did not have the greatest range of facilities but it was pleasant enough and after a bizarre show which involved people dressed up as pigs dancing, a spoon dancer and various other dance numbers myself and some locals managed to have a good time, once again drinking too much and generally being sociable. This meant that I arrived in Tallinn, the capita of Estonia without as much sleep as I would have liked and so after getting through immigration into a cab and to my hostel I rectified that immediately.



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