Christoph surprised me a couple of weeks ago with a trip to Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia). We are now towards the end of our Baltic adventure and while it's raining outside, I have time to write about the trip so far.
We flew into Vilnius, spent two nights and took a bus to Riga. We then had two nights in Riga and took another bus to Tallinn. We arrived in Tallinn late last night and after another two nights here, we will then fly back to Berlin on Saturday. In all three cities, Christoph had arranged that we stayed in the Old Towns so we could explore the area easily by foot.
We loved Vilnius. It's a small city with a quaint and charming Old Town. After a tumultuous past of Soviet- Nazi- Soviet occupation, Lithuania regained it's sovereignty in 1990. We found the people to be very friendly with English being used almost everywhere. The town is very picturesque with just over 50 churches in the vicinity of the Old Town. What we really enjoyed was the laid-back pace of the city and a lovely place called Užopio.
Latvia went through the same occupation period as Lithuania and so is still undergoing restoration and preservation of their buildings and heritage. However, Riga has a different kind of Old Town. The people were very friendly and language wasn't an issue, but the Old Town wasn't really quaint. It was livelier... more like a party place. What was impressive about Riga is a neighbourhood called The Quiet Centre, where wonderful Art Nouveau buildings stand aplenty. I consequently found out that Riga has one of the highest concentrations of Art Nouveau works in Europe which explained how we stayed in an Art Nouveau hotel, Neiburgs, that we could see was lovingly restored and being well looked after. The hotel is a wonderful reminder of the city's rich architectural history.
Finally, we arrived in Tallinn last night and so far we both like it A LOT. The Old Town has a rich medieval history and the surrounding city walls and buildings did amazingly well to survive the heavy bombings during WWII and the many years since the city's foundation; the first fortress was built in 1050! We noticed that Estonians come across more Scandinavian than they do Slavic even though there was a time when over 40% of Tallinn's population were Slavic (due to a migration program in the days of Soviet occupation). Estonia regained their independence in 1991 and through their language and food, proudly showcase their strong Finnish ties.
It's been an amazing trip thus far and right now, I'm finding everything in Tallinn fascinating and am loving the medieval theme; vikings, maidens in towers and drinking wine from goblets! Such fun! Hehehe