The metro in Tbilisi moves fast enough between stations to prevent sweat from sliding down into my eyes - as long as I am sitting towards the back of the car and catching a draft from the street-sign-sized windows. The best spot, though, except for anemic and claustrophobic riders, is standing in front of a pair of doors because, as long as the train is moving, air is rushing in between the rubber molding at 45-to-50 kilometers per hour.
The metro stations are impermeable bunkers of thick body heat. My undershirts stick to my back by the time I tap my fare card and knee the turnstile. The only respite comes when trains approach the platforms and whip up a bit of the stale air.
The buses, though, are so hot I bet you can fry an egg on any seat. They move slower than the train and stop more often - for passengers as well as traffic. The only relatively comfortable seat is all the way in the back, on the driver's side, where a street-sign-sized window opens. I am tall enough that I can sit with my face right in front of the window to get a decent breeze when the bus is in motion.
It was refreshing, then, to say the least, as Tbilisi heated up, to meander about northeastern Europe for three weeks where I 1) visited with a Korean university professor and two Latvian English teachers whom I hadn't seen since 2009, 2) attended a graduation ceremony at the Tapa high school I had taught at from 2006 to 2009, 3) saw one of my former students and her family whom I had missed when I passed through Helsinki in 2013, and 4) spent a week in northeastern Iceland with an American I had hired to replace me in Tapa. Along the way, I ate a mūka mielasts, walked through Patarei vangla and the Avinurme tünnilaat, got sun-burned on Hietarannan, and slept in a plastic pod on the coast of the Norwegian Sea. The temperature dropped from 74 degrees during the day in Tbilisi to 43 degrees at night in Thorshofn.
Tbilisi > Riga: 2,891 miles via Air Baltic
It was a rather comfortable, pre-dawn flight back to the West, the EU, the euro zone, and Schengen. Walking the streets of central Riga around Bastejkalna parks, I kept thinking I was in a rich Scandinavian country. The four-hour flight wasn't long enough, though, for me to forget crossing Khizanishvili Street in Gldani one lane at a time.
Riga > Tallinn: 192 miles via Lux Exp
Back in the day (or in present-day Georgia), the four-hour coach trip, albeit on a two-lane highway, would have taken just two hours. I think the driver went the speed limit, at best, the entire time. Yet he left a woman behind in Pärnu who had alighted to buy some snacks.
Tallinn > Helsinki: 52 miles on the Superstar
I successfully connected to the free wifi in the Tallinn terminal, wheeled about 30 kilos of luggage up to and down from the top deck of the ship, bought a single-ride ticket from a machine outside the Helsinki terminal, and took the #9 tram to my hotel across from the rautatiesema.
Helsinki > Reykjavik: 2,074 miles on Iceland Air
The Finnair bus to Vantaa left as scheduled, had free wifi, broadcasted the route on monitors with our current location noted, and posted estimated arrival times to each terminal.
Reykjavik > Thorshofn > Reykjavik: 785 miles
Reykjavik > Chicago: 4,756 miles on Iceland Air
In September 2015, my flight from Chicago to Tbilisi through Vienna was about 6,800 miles. This summer, my trip back to Chicago on planes, a coach, trains, and a ship was almost 11,000 miles.