Good Morning all,
When we first bought our tickets out of Russia, we were estatic. This was the first step in many that we will make in terms of booking buses/train tickets. (Little did we know that we will not only be sick of booking hostels and transportation but the constatnt move from one city to the next). Thinking to save money, we decided to take a overnight bus to Tallinn, Estonia. We were young and could easily sleep on the bus right?? (Chuckle) Not when you throw in two border crossings, both taken very seriously by officials because we were leaving Russia and entering an EU country. All in all it was safe to say we learnt that overnight bus journeys were to be treted with care...
Tallinn at 6am in the morning was "echoey". It was not warm and welcoming as we trudged through the new city nor was it dark or dirty. We found our hostel (below a strip club) and Matt fell asleep on the couch waiting for hte check-in.
The old town is an amusement park designed purposefully for tourists with sections of old walls, a couple of old churches, an occupations museum, cobbled stones and a free guided walking tour. Now you may ask why I have grouped the Baltic States together...thats because the old town I have described and the opening description of Tallinn can be the same for Vilinius and Riga (just with different arrival times). This was not to say we didn't like the Baltic Sates, on the contrary!! But it was the tour guides (free) and the people that we met who made the cities as enjoyable as they did.
In Tallinn it was Michaela and Nikki (who we met on our trip through Russia). We went on a very entertaining bike tour, wandered the cobbled streets, sat through the occupation museum videos, had a wonderful themed medeival candlelit dinner and another bike adventure out to the new town and....interesting beach front!
In Riga it was Maarten and his friends where we visited a car museum, practiced our Soviet Russian-English accent, our first pub crawl, cigar and beer night and finally a pirate day.
In Vilinius it was Chris, Lizzie and Johanna that began as a bar-crawl then turned into riding a cow...a walking tour, hill of crosses and a night that we regretted only the next morning on our bike ride.
What stood out most in the Baltic States for me was the cheery desposition that they possessed aond all of Russia lacked. What was left of the communist occupation was surprisingly their unique sarcasm. Everything that was the past and present was discussed in sarcastic tones. The guides were funny in that they told us: they had embraced capitalism so well and quickly (evident by the tourism and excellent services that were provided) yet they couldn't believe it possible for it to have happened to them (sarcastically). The surprising thing that stood out for me, that I learnt in Tallinns occupation museum was in WW 2 Estonia and the Baltic Sates were glad the Germans came as they liberated them from Russia. Many people from these countries even joined the army...The Russian occupation (both sides of the war) was not kind to these states.
Even though for many these countries are insignificant, many are finding a unique culture developing in these north-eastern countries. Not as big as Saint Petersburg or any other European cities, they have established a character within their people that has made them so very accesible to anyone who is willing to talk to them. Amazingly they have succeeded in this regard with flying colors.
Which city is my fvourite? The more culturally sensitive and less touristy Vilinius gets my vote.
Poland is my next blog.....a brief glimpse of Warsaw, Krakow and the infamous extermination camps. Until then ciao!