Buch am Bord or Additional Free Baggage Allowance for Bookworms

Condor Airlines, the Thomas Cook company, is now giving its German passengers a one kilo allowance extra for their reading materials. This is a great idea. It means the passengers can take along a few hefty books and not have them count as part of their luggage allowance. All passengers have to do is buy a book from a bookshop in the scheme and get their sticker.


Source: condor.com

I think ALL airlines should adopt such as scheme. I recently travelled Wizz Air and used the Priority Booking system in order to take my laptop on-board as an extra item. In addition, I noted I could also take some reading materials. This is great. Wizz Air are as bad as Ryan Air used to be in weighing and measuring wheelie suitcases, so the fact that you can carry a book or newspaper as an extra can only be a good thing.

Budget Airlines and booksellers should get together to promote such as scheme. I think holidays are a great time to catch up on reading especially as passengers spend a lot of time hanging around airports and sitting in planes. If passengers take printed books they do not necessarily have to bring them back. A bit like bookcrossing this could encourage sharing and reading – passengers could leave their finished books in airport lounges, cafes, hotels etc. What a great boost to reading.


Image source: https://www.condor.com/de/entdecken/aktionen-specials/buch-an-bord-aktion.jsp

Why I am getting fed up with online marketplaces

I recently went on a research trip for 11 days taking with me the essentials I needed to record my experiences. These essentials included 2 cameras (in case one broke or got lost), an iPad 2, an Apple keyboard, a Kindle and several plugs and cables. The electronics weighed far more than the few clothes I managed to fit into my mini suitcase and took up a lot of space. As I was staying in low rent hostels for the most part there was nowhere safe to leave the electronics so I ended up lugging them around with me. After a couple of days I got really tired of it. By the end of the trip, I was extremely fed up and had sore shoulders. As I result I figured that I needed to reduce the amount of stuff I took and looked for a more efficient way of recording my travels.

The problem with the different pieces of equipment I own is that each one does at least one job extremely well. For instance, both cameras can take stills and video. The iPad is good for surfing the web and can double as a photo storage device as well as a word processor. The Kindle stores books.

The iPad, I discovered, is too bulky and heavy to really use as an additional camera or camcorder. Also, in the sun it was difficult to see the screen so a lot of my images are a bit hit and miss. The solution, I decided, was to find a cheap 7 inch android tablet which I could use travelling.

I discussed this with a friend whose mother is after a tablet and started doing some research on the internet to find something suitable. This is where I discovered that doing a search for a specific item on both Amazon and ebay is a pain in the butt. Let me explain why.

You launch the marketplace of your choice and type into the search bar exactly what it is you want to find e.g. Kindle Fire. The marketplace’s search engine then searches for all uses of the term in the database and throws it onto the screen. On both Amazon and ebay the search engine did not discriminate between the actual product and various accessories. I tried using old fashioned search delimiters and they did not work. Even worse, on Amazon I could not fast forward several pages but had to keep searching page after page. Eventually, I gave up. I trawled through loads of “time ending soonest” entries which mainly consisted of tablet covers and cables with the odd tablet hiding amongst the detritus.

I gave up and went back to old fashioned stores like Argos, Waterstones and Tesco. Next week I am going to go and investigate the Hudl in my local Tesco. I am expecting the process to be easier than the online marketplace.


Travelling Light in Estonia

I am not known for travelling light but I am enjoying the challenge of finding lightweight items to pack into my super small and lightweight suitcase.

I have ditched the usual small bottles of liquid toiletries for soap leaves, shampoo leaves and laundry leaves. I have tried them out and they seem to work well enough. I am replacing my deodorant spray with a deodorant stick; the same for the sun blocker. Both are lighter and don’t have to be shown at the security gate. The hairbrush has been replaced by a comb which is smaller and lighter. I still have to take a tube of dry skin cream and some hair gel, since I haven’t found any solid replacements. I am thinking of making toothpaste using bicarbonate of soda and some mint flavouring.

Other lightweight options have been to buy two throwaway ponchos to replace the waterproof jacket, two microlight beach towels to replace the hand and beach towels (I am going hostelling), a roll up water bottle to replace a metal one, travel slippers to replace my indoor shoes, very lightweight trainers instead of heavier sports shoes, coffee bags instead of a jar of coffee and a water heating element instead of a kettle. I have got a good melamine cup and some quality cutlery.

Buying a pack of plain white ankle socks, with white briefs and lightweight tshirts has helped reduced the clothing weight. I have three pairs of lightweight cotton casual trousers and a light cotton and cashmere sweater to complete the outfits.

I have acquired a lighter and smaller roller suitcase and a nylon-type daypack which folds into itself to reduce the luggage weight. RyanAir allow passengers to also take a very small bag on board, so I can put my iPad in my tiny Rock bag along with the travel documents.

On the technology front I now have a Griffin cover for my iPad, which is both protective and doubles as a stand (this saves me taking the Belkin stand and the second sleeve). The mini wireless keyboard is an essential as is the SLR digital camera. I have ditched the heavy multi adapter for a smaller one and am looking at how I can reduce cables.

This year I am taking no books or magazines but am downloading them to my Kindle, Kobo and iPad. This should save several kilos. Also, I am not taking paper copies of maps and itineraries – for once, I shall try to remember to put everything on at least one eReader rather than leave them on the home PC.

Packing light is still a work in progress and I have 13 weeks to see if I can reduce the weight and contents even more. I am sure to find more weight saving ideas by then.

Riga – Capital of Culture 2014

Riga is one of the 2014 Cities of Culture along with Umeå in Sweden. The idea began as the European City of Culture from an initiative, by Melina Mercouri in 1983, who was then the Greek Minister of Culture.  Riga is the third Baltic city to be so honoured because Vilnius was one of the holders in 2009 and Tallinn in 2011.

As always there will be lots of special events for both residents and locals who want to partake of regional culture. The official website of the cultural events is to be found at http://riga2014.org/eng/.  According to the site there will be a special commemorative coin minted in Germany at the Staatliche Münze Baden-Württemberg (The State Mint at Baden-Württemberg), which will be available in autumn. There are also collector coins available from the Bank of Latvia to celebrate various aspects of Latvian culture.

There will be a special coin to commemorate The Baltic Way or Baltic Chain, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The Baltic Way was a peaceful celebration on August 23, 1989 and was literally a human chain which stretched through Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius. The total distance of the chain was about 600 km. Around 2 million demonstrators linked hands for about 15 minutes at 16:00 GMT.

The date was chosen because it was the 50th anniversary of the 50th anniversary of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, a secret pact, which divided Eastern Europe into “spheres of influence” and allowed the Red Army to invade Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania illegally in 1940. The Kremlin had denied for years that such a pact existed and that they had been invited into the Baltic States. There was major unrest throughout the Baltic States throughout 1989 in the run up to the 50th anniversary. A commission was set up by the Congress of People’s Deputies to study the agreement on August 15th 1989. On August 17th some proposals were printed in the Communist Party newspaper of the Soviet Union, Pravda, which made some concessions to the Baltic States such as lessening the language laws. On 18th of August Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev, the Chairman of the commission, admitted in an interview that the pact did exist and the USSR had, basically, invaded the Baltic States. On August 22nd the Supreme Soviet of Lithuania declared that the Soviet Union had illegally invaded Lithuania and, therefore, all its laws were illegal. The human chain took place the day after.

The Soviet Union responded to the chain with a vast amount or condemnation and rhetoric but did not impose a Crimea Solution.

Seven months after the human chain, Lithuania became the first of the Baltic States to declare independence from the Soviet Union. By the end of 1991 all three states were independent.