I had no idea what to expect coming up to The Baltics. The sun was shining and it was beginning to get cold. Fortunately I stocked up on winter wear whilst in Gdansk. I was ready as I’d ever be for my 11 hour bus ride. I had four days per country, thinking it was enough. This is the first time I had a definitive date to leave because I was going to meet a friend in Berlin. I can say this much after 12 days in this region I learned that 12 days overall is NOT enough. The Baltics, the best surprise of my Eurotrip.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows when I arrived here. In fact it was the complete opposite. My bus pulled in at 6AM and it was pouring. The last few arrivals I’ve had it’s been raining and at this point it’s the same old not fun routine for me. It was a short walk to my hostel and unfortunately they weren’t allowing check in until 2PM. Here I am with almost no sleep, waiting for a bed. Around 10AM I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to go for a walk.
The sun finally came out and it wasn’t so bad. I was a sleep deprived guy walking around in sweats and flip flops in Vilnius, Lithuania. When it was finally time to check in I went back to my hostel and I just crashed that day. First day in Lithuania done.
The next three days was spent exploring Vilnius and some of its surrounding cities. First thing first coffee. Hands down in Vilnius there is only one place to go if you want your coffee done right. Fortunately, it was only a two minute walk away from my hostel and for that I’m eternally grateful.
I started talking to Maurice the shop’s front liner. They focus on micro coffee producers around the world. Also, they’re the only coffee shop n Vilnius that roasts their own coffee. You have an option for which beans you want and me being me, I of course requested for a custom blend. I did a 60/40 blend (60 Costa Rica Arabica and 40 Kenya Arabica) The coffee I got was mellow, with a bold back note, and very nutty. Bottom line CNCF got the beans and they have the skills to do it right. When you’re in Vilnius head over there for your coffee fix.
For more pictures of Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories click here.
One of the most unforgettable places I went to was The Hill Of Crosses. The history of this place is long so read up on it. Needless to say if you ever go to Lithuania this is a can’t miss place. Even though it was raining hard that day I made it a point to make it there. A three hour train and bus ride later I made it. Sure, it was raining but it didn’t matter. This is a must see place. This is the site I used for directions on getting there.
For more pictures of The Hill Of Crosses click here.
Within Vilnius itself there are two places that I went to that I really enjoyed and learned a lot. First is the KGB Museum Of Genocide. This is the actual KGB building that’s been transformed into a museum. As you can tell by the name this place isn’t definitely about sunshine and rainbows. If you want to see an unabashed look at what Soviet Russia did to the people of Lithuania go to the museum.
For more pictures of the KGB Museum Of Genocide click here.
The second place that I enjoyed is the Contemporary Art Museum. Originally I had no intention of going here. It was a good thing that I went with a cool hostel mate and she put me on that it was free on Tuesday. It wasn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon. I really liked the work that they had in the basement. It was a video presentation of love and languages. As far as I know though it’s a temporary exhibit and it may no longer be there. So when in Vilnius head over to the museum to see some interesting art.
To see more pictures of the Contemporary Art Museum click here.
I really wish I had more time in Lithuania. I only saw Vilnius and some nearby places. I know that this country has more to offer. I’d love to see Lithuania in the summer. Lithuania you were great but it’s time for me to move on! Goodbye Lithuania, hello Latvia!!
Here’s the deal. I was not in a picture taking mood when I was in Riga, Latvia. To see the very, very few pictures I took while in Riga and Jurmala click here. Again, I came into Riga, Latvia with zero knowledge and expectations and I was blown away.
Throughout my entire travels meat has been a constant. Fish was available but it was expensive. This was not an issue in the Baltics. In Riga, I gorged myself on seafood.
Due to its proximity to the sea, seafood was plentiful, accessible, and affordable. I mostly ate fish when I was there and I didn’t regret any single fish dish that I ate.
Aside from eating all the fishes in the sea, I did a day trip to Jurmala. Jurmala is a beach side town less than an hour away from Latvia. Let me be honest I didn’t bother taking pictures whilst there. I had fun, the water was cold so I just went in ankle deep. Unfortunately, it was the tail end of beach season so most of the places were closed. I just spent most of my time relaxing in the beach.
My four days in Riga could be summarized in these few words: I ate a lot of seafood, I went to the beach, and I relaxed. So Riga, thanks for the relaxing few days I spent there. Again, I wish I had more time cause I know that there’s still so much to see and do not just in Riga but Latvia itself.
To see the VERY few pictures I took while in Latvia click here.
Estonia and a day trip to Finland
Another event free bus ride to Tallinn, Estonia and that was fine by me. Out of the three Baltic countries, Estonia by far is my favorite. It’s the northernmost Baltic country hence the coldest. I was there during the end of September and by then you already need to have a good jacket. It was a good kind of cold though. It was great that while it was cold it didn’t snow so it was easy to walk around in the city.
Let’s talk about coffee. Tallinn has options when it comes to good coffee. My favorite hands down is The Living Room. The Living Room is run by Katya. When you’re there say hello to her and her wonderful staff. They source their beans from all over the world and it’s roasted fresh every week. That day I had a pour over and the beans came from Ethiopia. It was fruity, light, flavorful, and very easy to drink. The Living Room is a place to get your coffee and on certain nights they also have shows. It’s definitely a great place to meet locals. Go to The Living Room have a great cup of coffee and meet some very cool people.
For more pictures of The Living Room click here.
There were many things that I enjoyed while I was in Tallinn. I have to say I’ve been through several walking tours but the funniest one that I’ve been was the one in Tallinn. When in Tallinn do the walking tour and I hope that you get Helen as a tour guide. She’ll definitely educate you and make you laugh.
I loved that fact that in Tallinn there’s a budding creative neighborhood. If you want to go where the locals go make sure you hang out in Kalamaja. From cool graffiti art to awesome bars and restaurants Kalamaja definitely has it all. I love the fact that there’s a clear distinction in aesthetics when you go to Kalamaja as it has that DIY feel. You can see the vibrancy of youth and creativity here. This neighborhood was an industrial wasteland just a few years ago. It has been slowly transformed into THE neighborhood to be in when in Tallinn. People wanted to change their surroundings for the better and the people did. They did it with their own ingenuity and hard work. Kalamaja also has awesome vintage shops. Make sure you stop by the the shops and go to town.
I stayed in Hostel Euphoria during my four days there. The Hostel was very chill and very into music. Feel free to grab any of the instruments and play away. During my stay there they had band practice almost every night. Fortunately, the musicians were great and they produced awesome music. There weren’t a lot of people during my stay and I got to know the staff well. I was talking about the Philippines and it’s no surprise the locals knew nothing of it. I offered to cook them chicken adobo to introduce them to the closest thing the Philippines has to a national dish. I can gladly say that it was a hit. I fed the hostel that night and each and everyone of them had nothing but positive things to say. I’m glad that I was able to bring a little bit of the Philippines to Estonia. Lastly, I got to say much respect to the Asian grocery for having vinegar from the Philippines.
One of the best things about being in Europe is that you can go to a different country for a day trip. Finland is only a 90 minute ferry ride away. Well, I took the three hour ferry ride cause I had time and it was cheaper. When I got to Helsinki I did a walking tour but I didn’t stay for the entirety of it. The guide was informative but just dry. I met Cynthia, another American doing the walking tour. Her and I just decided to walk around Helsinki ourselves and see what we can see in the few hours that we have. Helsinki is beautiful no doubt about it. Coming from The Baltics the prices there just gave me sticker shock. I would love to go back to Helsinki and give the city and country a proper exploration…in the summer. If you are in Tallinn, Estonia make sure you head out to Helsinki it’s an easy trip.
For more pictures of my half day in Helsinki click here.
I had a great time in Tallinn. The place and the people are beautiful. It’s proximity to Finland is a just a great bonus. Four days was not enough. The next time I head over there it’ll definitely be when the weather is warmer. I’d love to see how Tallinn and the rest of Estonia is during the summer.
For more pictures of Tallinn, Estonia click here.
I knew nothing of The Baltics and I’m glad that I went there and learned so much. These three countries are usually overlooked. Don’t do that, go there and spend some time in each. You’ll be glad that you did.