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East Europe Roadtrip Part II – Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, Helsinki

04 Jul July 04

Travelled from 06/09/2011 to 11/09/2011 – Facebook Photo Gallery

#80_easteuropetrip2The second part of our East Europe Road Trip (check out part one here) led us to Vilnius in Lithuania, Riga in Latvia, Tallinn in Estonia and last but not least, Helsinki in Finland. I had no expectations coming into the Baltic states, because there was just no one heading that way and telling me “Go to Tallinn!!”. Roughly four years later, I find myself being that person and was not only fascinated by Tallinn, but also the other towns along the way – even though Tallinn was definitely my favorite! Check out why in this post…

Fifth Stop – Vilnius, Lithuania

Venturing into the Baltic states for the first time was a pretty interesting experience, I simply had no idea what to expect and did not do any research prior the the trip as well, I focused more on getting the Visa for Russia instead and decided to just see what happens before getting there. Our first stop was Vilnius in Lithuania and in general, we would only have time to see each country’s capital because we just had a bit more than three weeks for the complete trip. Joined by Anna from Russia, we were now three people traveling together. Finding some hosts on Couchsurfing was not a big deal and for our first night, we stayed with a nice couple in the heart of Vilnius. We had a nice time playing board games and shared the same room with five people – a rather typical Couchsurfing expierence! Oh and I almost forgot – we also went out for some karaoke and I put on a horrible performance of Oasis’ Wonderwall 🙂

The old town of Vilnius is a UNESCO World Heritage and I especially liked the 57m high Bell tower on the Cathedral Square in the center. The blue sky on our sunny day made for some nice pictures of the white tower. We also went up to a viewpoint overlooking the town and river, sadly I can’t remember the name of it anymore and quite frankly, after four years it is actually pretty hard to remember a lot about this trip since I did not keep any notes! Let’s quickly go to the next town and see if I remember more from there 😉

Sixth Stop – Riga, Latvia

Another really nice bus with WiFi, free coffee & hot chocolate brought us into Riga in Latvia, I didn’t even had to think hard to remember that! Another thing I will certainly never forget is how we met up with our Couchsurfing host. It was already pretty late by the time we arrived and he was working in a bar/club as a DJ, telling us he would host us if we didn’t mind to wait until he is down working. Obviously, it was no problem for us and sounded pretty cool too! We spent hours dancing to his music and around 3AM, made our way back home. He had nice old car parked outside the location, unfortunately though, he was too wasted to still drive it! It turned out that our Russian Anna used the same car to get her driving licence and she was not drinking alcohol either, qualifying her for the job of bringing all of us back home safely 🙂

After a nice wake up call from our Couchsurfer’s cats, we found ourselves in the middle of the old town, a pretty great place to stay and start the sightseeing! I actually had no idea where we were when we arrived last night. Just like Vilnius, Riga’s old town is also an UNESCO World Heritage and it has a similar feel to it as well. I could definitely tell that the town was a fair bit bigger though, still small enough though to feel like a town rather than a city. Riga actually has 700.000 inhabitants! We checked out most of the trademarks, including multiple churches and the three brothers – basically three nice houses next to each other. We had a great time here and eventually boarded our next bus towards Tallinn in Estonia.

Seventh Stop – Tallinn, Estonia

Arriving yet again in the evening, we first met up with our new Couchsurfing host and then explored the old town, which OF COURSE is also part of UNESCO’s list 🙂 Exploring it at night for the first time was pretty cool, after just 20 minutes, we found three groups playing guitar on the streets. Everyone was in a good mood and super friendly – I just loved the atmosphere here! The old town has a nice square and is also split up between the upper and lower old town. The upper one was the original one created first and the lower part developed afterwards. Nowadays it is pretty cool to wander around both of them. We returned to the same area in the next morning to see everything in daylight as well and once again, I was blown away, this city was just awesome! The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral already gave us a little taste of what to expect in Russia, displaying a really nice orthodox church.

Besides the old town with it’s city wall and plentiful churches, we also saw the Rottermann District near the coast. This industrial part hosts a lot of cool houses and shops and is a great place to wander around. Just another quick walk later, we headed to the nearby Tallinn Port with some pretty cool graffiti art and viewpoints over the sea. It was actually raining a bit as well when we returned to the center, forcing us to find shelter in a pretty cool cafe and drinking delicious hot chocolate 🙂 Eventually, it was time to leave this great city – I only kept positive memories of it and would love to come back and also take some more time to explore the country side as well. For us though, it was time to head towards the harbor to catch the ferry for Helsinki in Finland, our last stop before entering Russia!

Eighth Stop – Helsinki, Finland

So, after all the beautiful spots in the Baltics, we now made it to Helsinki and despite being the capital of Finland, it is actually smaller in population than Riga for instance. It is also a bit less beautiful. At least compared to the towns we explored prior to it, I just could not start to like Helsinki a lot. The harbor area is pretty nice and I also liked the rather unconventional church in the rock called “Temppeliaukion kirkko”, kind of looked like a little UFO and was for sure a nice contrast to all the other churches we’ve seen before. The rest of the city did not really strike me as beautiful or exciting though, maybe I was also a bit tired of seeing so many towns in a short time now and I was definitely looking forward to enter Russia soon!

We were staying at a house full of nice Couchsurfers this time, drinking 90% vodka before lunch and listening to a DJ playing some tunes in the morning after a nice night out in a private house in the woods including a pool and finish sauna. I was actually pretty drunk that night and can only remember a few things, most certainly it was a great way to explore this very crucial part of Finish tradition! I have much clearer memories of the next day when one of our hosts had a day off and was able to show us the sea fortress Suomenlinna, located on a few islands just off the coast of Helsinki. This green open space with it’s cannons lined up on the hills was pretty much the highlight of Helsinki and a perfect way to end our time there. It was now finally time to visit Russia, one of the few countries that actually required me to get a VISA first!

>> You can check out the third part of this report right here. <<
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Posted by on 4th July 2015 in Travel

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