Taking the 2 hour ferry from Helsinki to the capital of Estonia, Tallinn was a smooth ride compared to the one to the Lofoten islands. Four passengers and the motorhome came to 200 euro which was reasonable for the length of the journey.
Tallinn retains its walled Old Town, having much to offer in the sense of history and culture and beauty. The capital city is known to be the best preserved medieval city in the whole of Northern Europe and is famous for its beautiful Gothic architecture. Old churches, middle age merchant houses, musicians and cobbled streets also add to its authenticity. Roasted chestnuts penetrated the air with a warm glow, contrasting with the towering grey clouds. After spending several weeks in Scandinavia with expensive food we treated ourselves to a meal out at an Indian restaurant a perfect start to our Baltic state roadtrip.
We explored the forests and beaches of Estonia (and camping at a beautiful solar camp -Solar Caravan Park) before moving into the next Baltic State- Latvia.
Further down the coast we arrived in Veczemju klintis and explored the Veczemju cliffs, a fascinating landscape and worth a visit if you are in the area.
Moving inland, we came to the town of Cēsis, known for its medieval castle which showcases wall paintings, dungeons and towers with large views over the vast forests. We arrived at Žagarkalns Camping, situated on the shores of Gauja river only to find it was shut (most campsites shut once the season was out) but luckily we were let in and allowed to camp for free. With toilets, wifi and ‘beach access it was a lucky find. There were beautiful walks and mountain bike tracks and mum went off alone and got totally lost in the dark. Next morning we awoke and the van was surrounded by a school starting their sports day! They didn’t seem phased and starting pitching nets and ropes around us. We thought it best to move down river before a ball went through the windscreen.
We cycled up to the town and explored the castle where we were given lamps to patrol the derelict dark side of the building, which was authentic and was great for Jed.
The town itself reminded me of Rauma -Finland- with its timber painted houses and quiet atmosphere. Old wooden doorways were set aside by the cobbled streets and home-baked bread penetrated the air.
We visted another city, the capital of Latvia, Riga and parked in a carpark for the night. Wooden buildings, art nouveau architecture and medieval old town opened us up to yet more beautiful culture, without adding the museums and concert halls that dotted most streets.
St Peter’s Church is the perfect place to go for a panoramic view of the city and to assess its grandeur.
Next we went back to the coast and explored the Liepaja Northern Forts which was perfect for some haunting seaside ruins photography and for my little brother to get lost exploring. The concrete bunkers crumbled away into the layers of sand and rolling waves and offered so many hidden secrets you could spend hours if not days there. They were built in the 19th and 20th century by Russians to shelter the naval base but less than 10 years later, the fortress was considered a strategic misstep and was abandoned. To hide their structures they attempted to blow up parts of it yet it still remains standing today. Whether your interest is photography, climbing(for children), history, exploring or simply interest then I would recommend you visit this eerie coastline.
Lithuania was our next stop. Having already been here last year on a tall ship race (see post Tall Ship Race 2017) from Klaipedia my family decided not to visit the city so we heading inland to the Hill of Crosses. The Hill of Crosses is a pilgrimage site and the history of its origin is uncertain it is believed the first crosses were left on the former hill fort after an uprising. Roughly 100,000 crosses lie here and that’s not including the statues, carvings and beads, all left by Catholic pilgrims (and now tourists). We are not Catholic however it was extremely interesting to see and led to some beautiful photography opportunities, especially contrasted with the changing weather.
The next stop was the remote town of Kurtuvėnai set in traditional Lithuanian landscape of lakes, forests and fields.We stayed here for my mums birthday (as well as the hill of crosses) and ate in a small traditional restaurant where we almost took out a window opening the wine, whilst the old woman grinned with proudness. The meal and the stay was cheap, making it a perfect stop.
Since we had done the other two cities we decided to visit Vilnius but by this point we were citied out. This sounds impossible, especially with so much culture and history but for the ones of you who have done it you’ll know what I mean. It is known for its baroque architecture and again, its medieval old town. Even though our spirit wasn’t high, I would say Vilnius was my favourite city of the baltic states as its architecture was vast and varying from diverse styles and eras and its old town was in better and bigger shape.
The city had both open space and narrow streets as well as parks and a beautiful view over the city for sunset.