Saturday, June 23, 2012


Lithuania was the final stop on what I found to be the typical tourist trail of the Baltic States. I spent most of my time in the capital, Vilnius. I found that it was quite a bit larger than the other capitals, and the old town was different as well - it was a lot more than just tourist sites, but filled with locals. Granted this wasn't always a good thing, as I was almost hit by a car and was kind of hit (nicked) by a bicycle. There was just less patience for wandering tourists and less English overall, but it was great to see a different side of the city.

My favorite day was my last in the city. I wandered for hours (which is what I did most days, but I didn't get nearly as lost), had two restaurant meals (to use up my last Litas), climbed a tower for a panoramic view of the city, and visited the KGB/Genocide museum (one of the most interesting and sobering places I've been so far).

Castle (which I later climbed). 

Stebuklas tile on the main square, the endpoint of a human chain that went across the Baltics showing unity in wanting their independence. 

Constitution of a "republic" of artists. 

View of the city.

I made one day trip to Trakai castle, which is supposed to be one of the gems of the country. The castle has been very well restored and has a very interesting museum.

 The castle is situated around a bunch of lakes, and for a minute I thought I was back home.

Monday, June 18, 2012


In many ways, Latvia is very similar to Estonia. Riga has a beautiful old town, which is quite different from Tallinn. It's larger, and not quite as immediately intense, but more subtle and spread out. The new town was also a pleasant surprise. A lot of parks, and some great architecture. There's also a huge market that fills five old WW1 zeppelin hangars as well as the entire surrounding area.

I took one side trip within the country to Sigulda, where there are a number of castles and caves (and a bobsled track). Most of the castles have been restored within the last few decades (and not completely accurately), but it was a nice trip. We crossed the valley on the only cable car in the Baltics, and walked a LOT, but it was a beautiful day.

I also got a sneak peek into Lithuania when I crossed the border to see the Hill of Crosses. Normally the trip is a bit complicated (two buses followed by a 2 km walk), but we met a nice Australian couple who let us go with them in their taxi. The hill itself is filled with countless crosses- well not just the hill, but the surrounding area as well. It's quite odd to see it out in the middle of nowhere, but it was beautiful. We even got to see a part of a pilgrimage to the site.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Estonia (and the Baltic states in general) have always been a big question mark on my mental map of the world, so I had no idea what to expect. In fact, I was very pleasantly surprised.

The old town of Tallinn is as a fellow traveler described "intensely beautiful." Every step you take you want to take another picture because everything is so incredible. It can be a bit like a touristy, Disney-fied experience though, filled with parties and tourist traps. I was also able to also get outside of the old town to Kadriog park and to the "other side of the tracks" to see the Russian part of town.

The Disney/touristic element 

 Russian market

At Kadriog, now an art museum

After that I took the train to Tartu, a university town to the south. When I arrived it was beautiful - full of parks and statues - so I decided to just enjoy walking around before watching the first Spanish Euro game. The next day, when I went out to take pictures, ended up being rainy for the entire day. A shame, because the city really is pretty.

The first day 

Statue of kissing students in front of Town Hall 


Finland was an interesting introduction to northern Europe. Much of the time that I was there was chilly and raining, but I was able to get out and see a few things in between.

In Helsinki, I stayed a ways outside of the city center (that's what you get when you're on a budget) so there was a lot of walking. My strongest memory will probably be the sleeping situation itself. I was in a dorm with 26 beds, and I was the lucky one to get bed "L" which put me in the aisle next to the door and a window. I hadn't even thought before about how far north I was, and didn't even consider that it would be light for twenty hours a day. Needless to say, it was a rough few nights of sleep.

However, the city itself was quite nice. The harbor and churches were beautiful, and there were a lot of parks.

 Sibelius monument

Suomenlinna fortress

I made two side-trips to clnearby cities: Turku and Porvoo. Turku is known as a medieval city, complete with castle. My experience wasn't the greatest, having to pay an exorbitant amount for the (albeit nice) train ride and getting horribly lost looking for the castle.

Porvoo was a nice trip. The town is much smaller and has a nice old town to wander around in.