28.09.2015 - 30.09.2015
As we make our way through the Baltics, the weather is getting warmer and the beers cheaper.
We traveled from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia, by ferry. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this “ferry” was actually more like a cruise liner. For the two hour journey, you could play pub trivia in the lounge, eat at the many restaurants, catch some sun on the lido deck, or waste 20 euro at the slot machines, as I did.
The old town of Tallinn, itself, is quite lovely with its medieval fortress walls outlining the streets and streets of little shops - some touristy and some quite practical and modern. Before dining out, my guide who’s from Latvia had warned us that the Estonians had a reputation for their slow service. I wondered out loud if they’ve ever been called “E-slow-nians” and made her promise that when she opens her little restaurant one day, she’d name a sandwich after me and my great puns.
Although a bit touristy, I imagine Tallinn would be a fantastic backdrop for a Christmas market, so will definitely need to come back here one year to see how they upstage the already campy decor.
Estonian wool sweaters. This has to be one of those travel items that looks WAY cooler in the country you're in than in real life (like puka shell necklaces, Thai genie pants, etc). I could see this being functional, though, for Ugly Sweater Parties.
After a free day exploring Tallinn, we took a public bus to Riga, Latvia. Again, the transportation keeps surprising me in these Baltic countries! The bus seats were nicer than some business class flights I’ve taken! We had our own TV set, wide seats and foot rests for the four hour journey.
The city of Riga itself has three distinct sections: the Old Town, where similar to Tallinn, you’ll find the medieval cobblestone streets, small shops selling mostly souvenirs; the Art Nouveau section of town, where the buildings have ornate architecture and sculptures a bit too fancy for a city occupied by Russians and Germans for 50 of the last 100 years; and the Downtown section, where hipster-esque bars, coffee houses and clothing stores prevail.
From the Art Nouveau part of town.
The Radisson was the first hotel open to foreign tourists, and widely known to have been bugged by the KGB. Today it has one of the best views of Riga from it’s 26th floor skybar.
There’s a lot to love here: the varying architecture from medieval cobblestone streets to art deco apartment buildings, the fluidity with which old meets new in a way that has great Euro charm — but completely unexpected for this particular corner of Europe. I passed a donut shop that looked like an old-fashioned pub inside, while a group of four 20-somethings were playing cards by one of the windows. New, higher-end burger shops can be found all over the city, demonstrating its pulse on western trends. You can find a coffee shop on every corner, but not one of them is a Starbucks.
The words every traveler wants to see... "free wifi." Good sense of humor in Riga.
Vegetable rice, eggplant ragu and a skewer of chicken for 5 euro in Riga. I like it.
Riga has my recommendation! Put it on your travel lists.