Linh joined me couple of weeks ago and we began our tour through the Baltic States. Christoph and I had been there before and I really wanted to share it with my sister. We had an added bonus that a Shanghai friend of mine, VB, also happened to be in Europe this summer and joined us for the second half of the trip.
Linh and I met in Berlin and made our way to Warsaw-Vilnius-Riga-Tallinn-Helsinki. VB joined us in Riga and once we three reached Helsinki, Linh went on to London while VB and I flew back to Berlin.
Linh and I had a very pleasant train ride from Berlin to Warsaw. That evening, we went to the National Opera Theatre, a fabulous building, and saw the European Union Youth Orchestra play. We then spent the following days exploring the Old Town, the gardens at the Warsaw University Library, the Riverside and a local neighbourhood with Vietnamese markets where we ate quite good Vietnamese food.
Warsaw was followed by Vilnius, a city I loved from my last visit. We were there during the Assumption and so we visited many of the churches while services were underway. We joined a walking tour and found out that Vilnius was in its hey-day considered ‘the Jeruselam of Europe.’ They once had a population comprising of roughly 58,000 Jews and by the end of WWII, only about 2,000 Jews were left. It’s such a violent and regrettable history.
We continued our trip with a luxurious bus ride to Riga where we met VB. If you have an interest in Art Nouveau, Riga would be the place for you. It has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in Europe. Also, more and more buildings are gradually being restored each year and walking around the already beautiful district is just stunning. From Riga we again took a bus to Tallinn and soaked in the Old Town and its sights. Keep Tallinn in mind as I won’t be surprised when Tallinn, Estonia pops up to become a leading force in the culinary scene in 5 or so years. The food and beverage were sensational.
From Tallinn, a short ferry ride delivered us to Helsinki. The city unfortunately looks quite drab, which is most probably due to the long cold winters. But being faced with those long cold spells, the Fins became fantastic at creating cosy indoor environments. We explored the Design District, popped into many boutique stores, visited the Design Museum and Arabia Design Centre. The city blew me away with its love of all things aesthetically pleasing. An absolute highlight was the Temppeliaukio Church, or also known as the Rock Church. Designed in 1961 with construction completed in 1969, it is a church of which I have never before seen nor imagined. I am determined to re-visit Helsinki with Christoph in tow... along with an empty suitcase!