Friday, June 29, 2018

Best defeat ever in Pärnu

It's great when you lose... well it was last night. For the first time ever, I am glad England lost a match in the World Cup. It means, as long as we can overcome a pretty good Colombian side in the round of 16 in five days time, England will face the winners of Switzerland v Sweden - a match I will watch in St Petersburg a couple of hours before, rather than (probably) a much better Brazil, which will be Belgium's fate now that they beat us 1-0.


Day 31 (58.2% complete), Thursday 28th June was spent getting to the lovely Estonian seaside town of Pärnu and exploring it. What a beautiful place it is too. I'll let the photos do the talking there.

I woke up with a bit of a (3 star) hangover, I have to admit, but all I had to do was pack and walk ten minutes to the bus station and get on the bus and everything would be fine.

I gave my thanks to the owner who was gassing on with the Russian (I presume) cleaner for hours.

The walk was easy as I'd already done it before. I strolled through the markets again, this time enjoying the beautiful flowers on display. I love flowers but they're such a hassle to buy and look after and they never last long enough So here's a celebration of them - just to look at.

Nice flowers but time to go to Pärnu
The bus was waiting for me on Platform 2 as predicted. So after buying a coffee and a big bottle of water I got on board and sat in my allocated seat.

This was the best bus... like, EVER!!!

It had a airplane like TV screen, a power socket, a toilet, air conditioning, a tray to put your drink on, free and fast WiFi, a toilet and, it actually took me from Riga to Pärnu, as they said it would.

I spent the journey blogging and texting and taking some of the photos I'm going post here.

Power socket in front of me

Impressed with the airplane like live map on the screen

Beautiful Latvian countryside rolled by...

Laptop plugged in

Baltic Sea whizzes by

More GPS map fun

River at Satlatsi

Another borderless, hassle-free, Eurozone country. Going from Latvia into Estonia I had to have my eyes peeled and my GPS on to even notice we'd crossed the border. What a sensible, good idea!

Blink, and you'd miss it
I was leaving Latvia for the third time, My first visit was in 1983 when I went on the Intourist trip to the three Baltic States, Moscow and Leningrad. And my last was in 2012 when I visited this part of the world for the European Championship which were jointly held in Poland and Ukraine.

Almost two days spent in Latvia, then, which makes it the 21st country in my list, in terms of time spent there.

As I was arriving at Pärnu I was texting my daughter Rozalija who was just about to make some soup. I pledged that I'd find somewhere to have soup too so we would be soup-connected.

Professor Google told me how to walk to my hotel as two Estonians I asked at the bus stop, who couldn't speak a word of English, were no help at all.

Walk to the hotel

Villa Kateriina - cute place in the middle of a park by the sea
I was starving and asked the ladies if they could recommend me a good restaurant that served Estonian food. They suggested I might try this one...

Soup connected with Roz in Perth, Australia

Väga maitsev!

... twas delicious. äitah!

I did a quick "reccy" of bars to find the best place to watch the football later and then went to the tourist information center to ask about cycle hire on Estonian islands, another thing on my "to do" list for tomorrow. The girl was very helpful and suggested I go t an island I'd never heard of. The only down side was that I'd have to get up ridiculously early and then come back to Pärnu to catch the bus to Tallin the next day. Not sure about that. We'll see.

It's so nice to be back in Estonia. I love the country and their people. The language sounds so pretty.

Just listen to some of this...

I also love their national anthem which I used hear quite regularly at Baltic events...

Next was a bit of site seeing and a trip to the beach. Of course, that included a trip to the local football ground too.

Nice old pub - would return later

Ex-Town Hall, now tourism information office

Sweet Rosie's - would come back for Senegal v Columbia

Bum Bum

Parnu stadium, right by the beach

Cross bow international taking place

Pärnu's stadium is quite pleasant but not great for watching football with it's running track around it. The history of football clubs in Pärnu is ridiculously complicated with mergers, failures, re-establishments going on over and over again. Currently they have a team in the top division (the Maestriliige) called Vaprus. Their full name, in Estonian, is Pärnu Jalgpalliklubi Vaprus. See that? the Estonian for football beings with a "J" not an "F". So it's JK not FC, or even FK.

They look like they might be going down though as they're already five points adrift at the bottom of the table.

Going Down, Going Down, Going Down!

As I said, the ground is right by the beach so that was my next destination.

It's very flat and firm but was very busy the day I was there. I couldn't resist going for a dip.

Changing cabin on the beach

2km long breakwater
Bipedal wading in the Baltic Sea

Wetland walk back to the town

After that it was back to drop off my towel and head off to watch the first match Columbia v Senegal which promised to be a classic but was a big anticlimax in the end. Columbia won, eliminating Senegal who finished below Japan on fewer yellow cards, despite Japan losing to Poland in a scandalous match which both teams apparently played the last twenty minutes at walking pace.

Despite a bit of frantic pressure from Senegal towards the end, the game was largely a farce.

I had to go back to the hotel to recharge my phone before heading back into town to watch England v Belgium.

This was the weirdest match ever. Both teams knew they were through and the only thing in question was who would finish top. England were in that position to start with, based on having fewer yellow cards as they'd both got six points with the same goal difference and number of goals scored.

As the Group G deciders had just been played both teams knew that to win the group would mean that they would face Japan. Coming second and they'd have to play Columbia. So, on that basis, it would seem better to win the group. But, assuming (a dangerous thing to do) England could beat either of those teams, then they'd be better off playing Columbia as then, they'd face Switzerland or Sweden in the quarter finals. If they finished top, and beat Japan, they might end up playing Brazil.

Anyway, neither coach saw winning the match as any kind of priority and both played pretty much reserve sides.

It was a farce, truth be known and although both sides went through the motions there was no doubt that no-one was really bothered about winning.

Anyway, I had a couple of pints of nice IPA to keep me from total boredom. Janusiai scored a good goal to win the game for Belgium but, honestly, I am quite pleased. Boro said that as a result England's odds on winning the World Cup dropped whilst Belgium"s got longer. Says it all.

After that I went to an old pub and chatted to the bar staff about Estonian history over several glasses of the Estonian equivalent of "krupnikas" which, I have to say, was very nice indeed.

Handy head rest whilst taking a leak at Sweet Rosies

Only one bridge crosses the river

Ready for England v Belgium - why did I bother?

At least I got a good view 

Estonian Rocket Fuel

Very friendly bar - Veerev Olu

I got back to the hotel but the possibility of an early start and cycling on an island all day quickly disappeared as I nursed another 3 star hangover. No drinking today!

So all the group stages are finished now and we go into the knock out phase after a day off (yes, an actual day without football.)

Final Group G and H tables

The path to the final - better for England this way

England slip to 6th place

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