THE BARMAN MAY NOT LOOK THAT WELL CONNECTED BUT HE WILL KNOW SOMEONE WHO KNOWS WHO KNOWS SOMEONE WHO KNOWS THE PRESIDENT
incredibly beautiful people. Of course this has already been exploited. Riga already has a reputation for sex tourism although it isn‘t as overt as in Bangkok or Amsterdam. In addition models from the Baltic states are already really big in all the right places. Sit on Vockiecu Street in Vilnius or Viru in Tallinn and you will see the to—ing and fro-ing of beautiful men and beautiful women checking each other out.
The bars of Riga
What other city can boast a bar named after a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novella (Pu/kverlim Neviens Neraksta — 1V0 ()ne Writes m the Colonel — at Peldu 26/28)? The knowing tackiness of Pupu Lounge at Marstalu I4 is another highlight. as is the nostalgia fest Austrumu Robeza on Vagnera 8. There are hundreds more.
There’s only one degree of separation
While boasting a huge variety of cultural life — from the legendary Russian Drama Theatre in Latvia to the heroics of the largely NBA-based Lithuanian Basketball team — these countries are really easy to navigate. The barman in your favourite haunt may not look that well connected but he will know someone who knows
someone who knows the president. He will help you if
you ask him. Having said that should you try and change a Scottish £20 note you will realise that no one says ‘No‘ with such satisfaction as someone who has grown up under the bureaucratic example of the Soviet Union.
The Curonian Spit
If you‘re fond of sand dunes and salty air . . . This arcing sand bar. called Neringa. starts at Russia‘s western enclave of Kaliningrad and then snakes up along the Baltic coast to the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda. forming a thin lagoon to the east. Along its length you will find
larches. wooden shacks and the ‘quaint little villages‘ of fable. Thomas Mann wrote his famous Magic Mountain in a small wooden house in the town of Nida. situated half way down the Spit. Like Maine or New Hampshire. without the smugness. this is one of Europe‘s hidden paradises.
I Getting to Lithuania. Estonia and LaIVia has never been easier for us Scots. Flights to the region have dropped by around £100 over the last c0uple of years. Czech Airlines can get you to Vilnius. Riga or Tallinn for around 250 sheets from Edinburgh Or Glasgow. You have to change in Prague but the grOund-time is short — JUSi long enough to pick up a bottle of absmthe in duty free. AirBaltiC Currenly flies from London and Manchester to Riga and has budget seats if you book two months in advance. Hotels are slowly improwng too. There are great Views from the relatively cheap UZIDIO Hotel in Vilnius Old Town (40 Euros for
a double per night With cooking facilities — www.uzupio.lt). It is in the artistic quarter of UZipis which has mischievously declared itself an independent republic. Posh folk ought to try Shakespeare Too on Pilies (wwwshakespearelt) which has tongue-in-cheek themed rooms dedicated to the great masters of European art. It's luxurious and rather ClaSSy. In Tallinn stay at the Three Sisters (wwwthreesistershotel.com) if you can scrape together 250 Euros for a night. It's the most sensitive modern rendering of an old town building in the Baltics. You can then compensate by paying 31 Euros for a double with TV. internet access and a kitchen at the Academic Hostel wwwacademic hostelcom. If you want the
atmosphere of art nouveau era Riga you can't do better than Valdemars — 45 Euros for a twm and all the faded grandeur yOU need. For bona fide grandeur you can shell out tWIce that for a double at the nearby Elisabetes Name at Elizabetes. 27. Beautiful. simple rooms located in the heart of the city's finest architecture. To travel Within the region you can hire a car from www.carrentlt but y0u will be stung trying to Cross the berder. These c0untries may have JOlned the EU but they have retained some of the Sowet- era wariness of drivers who cross their national frontiers. Far better to lump aboard Eurolines — the Greyhound of New Europe. It costs around 30 Euros to travel from Tallinn in the North to Vilnius in the SOuth and it's dead comfy.
The List prepares to go wild and investigate the very best that Scotland’s ﬁne shores have to offer as VisitScot/and’s inaugural wildlife brochure and website, www. visitscotland. com/wildlife, is launched.
I Come ﬂy with me Scotland has the highest density of Golden Eagles in Europe. with a population numbering over 450 pairs. And since its reintroduction in the 19703. the White-Tailed Eagle — Britain's largest bird of prey — has successfully re- established itself, with 29 chicks fledged in 2003.
I Native treasures Half of the world’s population of fresh water mussels are found in Scottish waters.
I All things bright and beautiful Scotland supports half of Britain’s resident butterfly species and the intriguineg named Chequered Skipper. Mountain Ringlet and Scotch Angus are almost entirely restricted to Scotland. I Pussy footing The Scottish Wildcat is the only surviving native cat in Britain. I Top of the pops The Moray Firth dolphins. near lnverness. are thought to be the most northerly resident colony in the world.
I Good genes Ospreys were considered extinct in the UK from 1916—1959 due to the theft of eggs. Now legally protected. there are 200 breeding pairs at large in Scotland. 2004 is a landmark as wildlife lovers celebrate the 50th year of ospreys successfully breeding here.
I Marine loving Twenty two of the 25 Catacean species seen in the UK, including dolphins. porpoises and whales. have been sighted in Scottish waters.
I Lazing around Scotland is home to three quarters of Britain's red squirrels.
I Hiding out The Scottish Crossbill is found nowhere else in the world but in the pinewoods of the Central Highlands.
iii—24 Jun ZOO-i THE LIST 1 17