Friday 28 July to Tuesday 5 September
As we depart the Baltics we also watch summer disappearing. Trees are showing golden leaves, wildflowers are turning to seed, stork nests are empty, fields are being mown.
Apart from poorer than expected weather, it has been a wonderful experience. So we knew it’d be cool, but it’s been a little too grey, much to the frustration of many summer attired holiday makers who were also expecting better weather and our photography.
From our first day visiting the beautiful island castle of Trakai, to exploring forests and lakes, sand dunes and beaches, we have seen a lot and learned a lot.
Not really part of the Baltics states, but our visit to Finland was amazing. From the liveable city of Helsinki, an overnight train to the Arctic Circle with a visit to Santa, to the historical Lakeland.
We saw the Soviet influence on the eastern borders of the Baltics, stayed in a Soviet hotel in Ludza, explored the university city of Tartu, where Estonia’s famous IT expertise is born. We chilled out in the lovely forest of the Lahemaa National Park, before receiving a drenching in Tallinn.
We explored beaches in less than favourable conditions, slopped around in bogs munching on wild berries and explored ancient castles by candlelight. We loved the old cities, especially those that the cruise boats can’t reach. Our legs were weary after a day on cobblestone streets.
And the berries – such variety, sweet and sour, red, black, yellow and white. The markets were full of them. They are served with salads, meat dishes and of course ice cream.
Berries are free, as our mushrooms, you simply go into the forest, to your favourite place and pick them. We’d often see people waiting for buses on a forest road, with a basket or bucket full of their pickings.
Playgrounds were truly impressive. Children are agile and confident. Parents sit and watch, but as long as the child can walk with confidence they are free to use the playground on their own. As well as the normal swings, slides and merry go rounds there are lots of climbing frames and Tarzan style rope courses to challenge them.
Another outstanding sight was the quaint wooden houses, of all colours, often intermingled with Soviet style apartments.
The legacy of wars was interesting, being pulled back and forth by Germans, Russians, Swedes, Danes, especially for the timber, an important building material.
Forests have been devastated both in ancient times and more recently during Nazi and Soviet occupation.
One surprise for us is how extensively English is spoken. We have only had one or two occasions where communication was tricky. From decent hotels to tiny coffee shops on the road we were able to order coffee, wine, and a city guide. Perhaps because all the languages are so different, English is common.
Finland and the Baltics – what a treat to visit you.