Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Memories of the Batlics and Helsinki.

At the Hill of Witches, Curonian Spit, Lithuania.

This is the diary of my trip to the Baltics in 2013 and as with a few trips now, my brother was my travel partner.  We're now in a pattern of doing a big trip together every year and I'm thrilled to pieces about that.  There's no other way that I would rather spend a few weeks than to be traveling with him.  Besides, no one else knows how to put up with me better than him! :-)


When I first told people I knew that I was going to the Baltics, they would inevitably ask me, "where's that"?  Some people got the Baltics mixed up with the Balkans.  It's too bad they don't know about these countries because they are truly European gems.

Mikhail Eisenstein's grand masterpiece at Elizabete 10a, Riga.

Okay, I have to confess, I knew very little about them before embarking on this trip other than what I was able to read up on before I left. I know Bro knew less than I did so we both arrived with open minds and hearts and we were greatly rewarded for it. What we discovered were three sister nations who could not be more different from one another.  While there is some overlap in culture, each is very distinct and we had a wonderful time, exploring them.

Central Market, Riga.

Some of my favorite Latvia moments include seeing the Art Nouveau architecture in Riga, visiting the Central Market in Riga (will never forget the awesome smoked meat/fish pavilion!), walking the grounds of Rundāle Palace in Latvia, and foraging for mushrooms in Gauja National Forest. Strolling among the reproduction villages at the Latvia Open Air Museum was like strolling back in time.  What an amazing place!

Mushrooms, Gauja National Park

Checking out the rose collection on the grounds of Rundāle Palace.

I also have to thank Latvia for all the apples that Bro managed to forage along the way.  With fruits as sour as the day is long, they gave us good laughs as we shook our heads and puckered up with each bite.

He couldn't help himself, stuffing the bag full every day with whatever apples he could get his hands on.

Estonia brought us the experience of bog-shoeing in Soomaa National  Park....

Love those red snow shoes, perfect for walking on a bog, Soomaa National Park.

.... to the charming city of Tallinn

View of Old Town Tallinn from Toompea Hill.

.... to having a good chuckle after having spend countless minutes, driving around in circles, at trying to find a kivi rock

Grrr.....is this all there is to it?  (Lahemaa National Park)

.... to being thoroughly surprised by the elegance of Palmse manor, seemingly located in the middle of nowhere, and last but not least, to the joys of staying in guest houses. (Thank you to the Klaara Mani and the Aglona Guesthouse for your hospitality....we ate and slept well!)  Estonia was the first place we tasted smoked chicken and we will forever be addicted to it.  Oh, and we will never forget sea buckthorn!

Palmse Manor, located in Lahemaa National Park.

Then, we have Lithuania, the country that surprised me the most - artsy, quirky, and just ever so delightful.  From the quaint streets of Vilnius (with a church on just about every corner) to the charming Curonian Spit and to the spiritual Hill of Crosses, Lithuania pleasantly surprised us at every turn.  Not to mention Vilnius University with its magnificent cathedral and world renown frescoes.

Literatų gatvė (Literature Street) in Vilnius with works of art dedicated to writers.

The Seasons of the Year"  painted by the Lithuanian artist, Petras Repšys.

Hill of Witches, Curonian Spit

At the Hill of Crosses

And last but not least, we managed to squeeze in a two day side trip to Helsinki where enjoyed a hike on Suomenlinna, eating classic fried vendace at Kauppatori Market and visiting a modern architectural gem, Temppeliaukio Church. It was also the place we were introduce to licorice ice cream, another obsession I bring back home with  me.

Fortress at Suomenlinna.

Eating fish at Kauppatori Market.

Temppeliaukio Church

Licorice ice cream.   Yum!

If it's not obvious by now, we had a great time on our trip.  We left with warm memories for a life time and we should be so lucky to some day be able to come back and discover even more of the Baltics!

This a travelogue details our trip to Lativa, Estonia, Lithuania, and Helsinki.  It includes a selection of the photos and videos that we took along the way.  To make it easier to navigate, I've created a "Table of Contents" (below) which has links to each of the postings. To read each blog posting, simply click the link for that particular posting. Click on the Back button on your browser to return to the "Table of Contents".

I hope you enjoy reading about our travels as much as we did experiencing them!

The Trip
Planning & Research