Suitcase and World: April 2013

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Knit, Purl Estonian Style.

An Estonian knitted lace shawl with the classic Lily of the Valley pattern. (Image from

I've been knitting since I was a very, very young child; my mother was my first and only teacher. My love for knitting has been a life long one and once I caught the bug from my mom, I advanced by teaching myself to read ever more complex knitting patterns and producing one sweater after another.

The Other Lobster.

Latvia's countryside is dotted with lakes, rivers, and streams. Fresh water fish, like trout,whitefish, carp and sturgeon are common species. As it turns out, so too are crayfish. I love to eat both fish and crayfish so I will be feasting as much as I can on both though I am already salivating at the thought of getting my fill of crayfish while I'm in the Baltics.  Some people might consider them to be the *poor man's* lobster but I actually prefer the sweet, tender meat of crayfish to lobster.

There are three crayfish species present in Latvia: the European noble crayfish (Astacus astacus), the narrow-clawed crayfish (Astacus leptodactylus), and the North American signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) species.

It is believed that only noble crayfish are native and migrated into the country after the last Ice Age; the other two species having been introduced sometime in the 20th century.

Hill of Crosses.

Hill of Crosses (Image by Wojsyl)

There are times when I see an image that just captivates me. This is one of those times. I came across images of the Hill of Crosses when I was researching things to see in Lithuania. I couldn't stop staring at the pictures as I scrolled through the collection.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Beavers, Bogs, and Canoes. Soomaa National Park.

Cute European beaver (Image by stevehdc)
Here's a phrase that I never imagined I would when looking for things to do in Estonia - "Beaver Safari".  Of course, once I saw those two words, I had to do more research.

Turns out that Estonia is home to the Eurasian beaver or European beaver (Castor fiber).  Once a widespread species of beaver, it was hunted to near-extinction for both its fur and castoreum, a secretion of its scent gland believed to have medicinal properties.  By the 20th century,  the estimated population of beavers dwindled to about 1,200 beavers and in many European nations, the beaver went extinct.  Thanks to reintroduction and protection, the population of beavers has gradually recovered well over half a million and beavers can be found from Great Britain to China and Mongolia, although it is absent from Italy, Portugal and the southern Balkans.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Baravaika Mushroom (Image from

Acouple of weeks ago, I started to research side activities for our trip. I didn't really know what to expect but one thing I did not expect would be a popular activity, especially in Latvia, is mushroom picking!   I guess I shouldn't be surprised given that so much of Latvia is forested.  I LOVE mushrooms and have always wanted to go mushroom picking so we can't turn down this opportunity.  I know my brother will enjoy this as well.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Baltics & Helsinki. Itinerary.

Lahemaa National Park, Estonia

It's taken a few iterations but we've finally got the tour route fixed. The next thing to do will be to focus on side activities - you can only sightsee so much! All three countries are very rural so a lot of the activities center around country life. A couple of interesting things that I'm looking into are mushroom picking in Latvia. We'll be right in the middle of the season so that will be perfect. Two other activities in Latvia could be crayfish fishing and visiting a lamprey eel farm. In Estonia, I'm looking at bogshoeing and there should be plenty of opportunities for fishing and horseback riding as well. All three countries have very strong music and dance heritages so I'm trying to see if we can attend an event or two. Still lots to research but getting the base route out of the way is a big worry out of the way!

Return to Europe. The Baltics.

Art Nouveau building at Elizabetes Iela 10b, Riga

I'm late getting this blog started considering I've already been planning this trip, on and off, for quite a few months now.  It all started back last October when I emailed my brother with two choices for the big 2013 trip - either Japan in the spring or the Baltics and Russia in the fall.  Don't ask me how I came up with the Baltics.  I think I just saw a photo somewhere of Tallinn and fell in love with what I saw.  I am very easily enticed :-)  A few more photos of Tallinn and Riga, and I knew the Baltics were a strong contender.