Castles, Cobbles, and Crosses

Baltic Experience 29 June – 13 July

If you choose to take this excellent holiday, be prepared for your friends to ask: “Are you going on a cruise?” Then try to explain that you are going with Ramblers Worldwide Holidays to three countries, with three languages and three currencies, all in two weeks! Rather than repeat the brochure entry, here are my “ramblings”…

We travelled on foot (naturally), by bus, tram, trolley bus and train as well as our own coach on transfer days, so there was ample opportunity to interact with the local populace. Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius were quite different, but they all had one thing in common – COBBLES, so good footwear is a must!

At each location the general plan was to have a quick orientation walk with our leader and a more in-depth one with a local guide the next day. All three local guides were excellent.

Highlights of Tallinn included the Old Town, and elk soup with “best beloved” pies in the Town Hall. The Puppet Museum was a stark contrast to the “KGB suite” on the top floor of the Viru Hotel!

WARNING: there are myriads of midges at Lake Viitna so be prepared with repellents, long sleeves and long trousers. I made the mistake of wearing shorts and paid the price, selflessly diverting many flying fiends from my companions…

 

Dropstones in the Laheema National Park

Our visit to Riga coincided with a national folk festival, so we were treated to processions, choirs and folk dancing. The highlight here was eating in local restaurants each evening, rather than the hotel. This provided another chance, literally, to soak up the local flavour, as did a visit to the huge market held in the Kaiser’s WWI Zeppelin sheds.

We saw incredible Art Nouveau buildings and the not-to-be-missed Riga Art Nouveau Museum. A train ride and walk in the woods led to the beach resort of Jurmala where some brave souls swam and others watched the combined Harley-Davison and Folk festivals!

The journey to Vilnius took in the impressive Rundale Palace and the Hill of Crosses. Sadly it was back to hotel food in Vilnius. I cannot recall a place with more churches, all in use, too. Once more a train ride and walk took us to Trakai Castle on what was probably the best day of the holiday.

 

Trakai Castle

The information suggested taking Euros and Sterling. I also took “Latu” and “Litas” and avoided problems of being penniless when moving on!

You should definitely heed the notes and ensure you have a good supply of insect repellent for walks in the woods and by lakes.

Overall this was an excellent, if exhausting, holiday. I thoroughly recommend it.

 

Riga Folk Singers at the Blackheads House