The Scandi-Baltic Adventures

15th June
Object – Get up ridiculously early and fly to Vilnius, Lithuania

Don’t you just love early starts?  No me either.  It almost wasnt worth me going to bed at all.

I found it really hard to pack this time too which is unusual as it normally only takes me 5 minutes to pack.  Maybe its the lack of sleep from the night before, stressing about work and having a cold.  However, after only 2.5 hours sleep the night before I finally managed to pack and hauled my ass to bed at about 9.30, BUT, my alarm was set for 2.30am!!! 😦
At 3.30am a guy from Boston Manor cars came to pick me up in a flash as new Merc!  So Comfy!  Much nicer than taking a black cab.  He dropped me off at Victoria where I took the coach to Luton Airport.  Seriously by the time you’ve travelled from the West Side of London to Luton Airport you feel like you should be in another country, it’s so far away!  Anyways, by the time I got my passport checked, gone through security my gate had opened and soon enough I was on my way to Vilnius in Lithuania.  Once in Vilnius I had a Wizz Air transfer (now for those who don’t know Wizz air are a budget airline (very budget) and the landing was so bad that when the pilot turned the plane off, everyone clapped), the guy came to pick me up in a big huge flash Lexus (so not complaining) and dropped me off at my hostel.
By the time I had checked in, sat down and relaxed and text home it was about 1pm local time (2 hours ahead of London).  So I decided to go for a wonder and see how lost I could get.  Turns out its pretty easy to get lost!  I did get so completely lost at one point I almost go my map out to find out where I was when I spotted a funky looking building and I just continued to walk (that’s what got me lost in the first place) but somehow I managed to find my way back to where I started.
The architecture in Vilnius is amazing.  There are a lot of buildings that look so well restored and then others that are in disrepair.  The Cathedral and Bell Tower were amazing, I’ve never seen a Cathedral like it.  I’m so used to Cathedrals being tall and made of grey stone.  but this was long and white, it was really odd but still quite cool.  The currency in Vilnius is confusing me to no end.  Everything is so cheap when you convert it back to pounds.  But I keep looking at it like it is pounds – I bought three postcards today and handed over 10 Litas and got 4 litas change, my brain automatically thought “wait did I just pay £6 for three postcards” but of course I hadn’t, it actually worked out to be about £1.40!  However I did have a steak dinner that worked out to only be £8.64!!  Bargin!

So I start my Busabout tour tomorrow.  I’m really excited but I’ve no idea what to expect.  I’ve never done a tour with Busabout and I don’t really know what to expect from any of the places I’m headed to.  Should be fun!

16th June
Object – Join the Busabout Tour Group

So Lithuania is two hours ahead of London and I still managed to wake up at 5am local time 😦  So I took my time getting ready and then checked out of the hostel and went in search of our meeting point.  We met our tour guide Dax and then set off on a 45 minute walking tour of Vilnius.  Most of what we saw I had seen the day before but I did get to see (go to) The Republic of Uzupis where you always need to smile, drive at only 20 km/hr and be creative.  We got to see their constitution which is posted on the walls with things like “Everyone has the right to make mistakes” and “A dog has the right to be a dog” and “Do not fight back” and “Do not surrender”.  It is a very weird place.  We also got to see St Annes which is a gothic looking red bricked church which is very different to the rest of Vilnius.

After our walking tour we set off on the coach to Trakai.
FACT: Trakai Castle is the only castle in Eastern Europe that is built on an island.
It’s quite a cool castle.  It looks massive from the outside, looking out of the lakes, but when you get inside it actually feels quite small.  It is surrounded by beautiful lakes which make the place look quite serene.  While we were there they had a Medieval Festival so we went and checked that out.  They had Knights fighting, men and women dressed in medieval costumes and they had fox fur for only 35lt (£8).  Now we are back on the coach.  Next stop Klaipeda.

I havent seen a proper beach in years and tonight I felt right at home.
We took the coach from Trakai into Klaipeda.  Once here we had enough time to freshen up then we headed off on a small ferry, Dax and Mitch with their supermarket trolley full of food and coal for the BBQ (that took 4 Aussies to try to put together!!  So funny to watch as the BBQ is just a small one!).  The ferry took us on a short journey across to the Curonian Spit.

The beach here is so beautiful but by god the water is cold!  Its right on the Baltic Ocean and its so cold it almost burns!
It was still reasonably warm so we had a BBQ outside on the beach.  After a few ciders and some BBQ food Sarah and I went for a stroll down the beach as the place was deserted.   We stopped to take a lot of photos and had a good old chat.  By the time we got back to the BBQ most people had already left so we had a couple more drinks with the tour guides and then caught the last ferry home at 11.15.

17th June
Object – Make our way to Riga, Latvia.

We had an early start this morning.  The hostel that we are staying at leave breakfast for each room in a little picnic basket outside the door.  It was so cute!  Filled with bread and jams and cheese and ham and the worlds worst coffee.  After breakfast it was back on the coach to head towards Riga, Latvia.
However our first stop was the Hill of Crosses.  Originally this place was used as a place of pilgrimage.  The exact number of crosses is unknown but in 2006 it was estimated to have 100,000.  This place was used for Lithuanians to pray for peace for their country as well as their loved ones they lost during the war of Independence.   These days people place crosses when someone gets married or has a child etc.
After an hour or so here we jumped back on the coach to complete our journey into Riga.

Dax took us on a walking tour of Riga when we first got here and took us through the old town.  We got to see the Riga Dome Church, St Peters Tower and the Cat House – a medieval building with art nouveau traits that has two cats with raised backs and their tails up.  Legend has it the owner requested the cats to have their bottoms to the House of the Great Guild as he held a grudge against them.  Over time the cats were moved to be facing the Guild.

That night we headed out on a pub crawl.  We got to see a traditional Latvian pub as well as a Kiwi Pub (which was packed due to the football being on).  We had shots of Black Balsam <— do not try this, its hideous!  But we eventually got back to the hostel at about 6.30am and headed for the showers then bed…I still have no idea why we decided to have showers before bed.   Then it was up again for a 10am walking tour of Russian Communist Riga.  This walking tour wasnt so great, although to be fair that’s probably down to the lack of sleep, but I wish I had done the Occupation museum instead.
After our walking tour we had free time.  Kat and I decided to head to the Lido for lunch – seriously cheap food and large quantities.  While here we decided to write our postcards and try to post them before we left.  Finding a post box was not so easy.  Even the locals couldn’t really help.  All they could tell us was that there is usually one on each corner and they are yellow.  After about 20 minutes we eventually found one!  Then it was off to the cruise ship for our trip into Stockholm.
I was a little excited about this, having never been on a cruise ship; and a little scared because I wasnt sure how well my ears would handle it (turned out they were reasonably okay).
These cruise ships are huge!   lots of shops and duty free alcohol and the most amazing views ever!  There was a constant twilight, the sun just did not set.  I’ve never seen anything so amazing.

19th June
Object: Pilgrimaging in Stockholm.

Today we arrived in Stockholm.  We started the day off like all the others – with a walking tour.  However, this was different.  This was a Viking Walking Tour through the old town so we got to wear Viking hats as we walked around the town.  There are so many amazing buildings around here but I’m not liking Stockholm as much as Vilnius or Riga.
After our walking tour we had free time so I wandered about for a while.  I’m now sitting on some steps in the sun writing this.  I’ve got the river next to me and lots of people I can watch.  Seeing as I’m in Stockholm I thought Id better check into H&M and ended up buying myself two tops.  White bat wings and a singlet with a big bow on it.
Last night we went to the Beer Garden just across from our hostel and watched the football (Euro 2012) seeing as Sweden were playing France.  Most of our group came along and we stood around drinking and chatting while watching the football.  The atmosphere was amazing, surrounded by Swedes watching as they won the game.  I managed to get a blow up hand (I think I stole this from Dax).  Tim and I had a hand fight….I think he won tho! haha.  Sarah got a wrist band and someone else got a bucket hat.
After the game we went in search of an open pub – seeing as it was Tuesday night we failed epically and went home.

20th June
Object: Free  day in Stockholm then off to Helsinki

Today was a free day in Stockholm.  So I set off with my maps (which I didn’t even use) and got myself lost.  Stockholm is one of those rabbit warren places where you take a side street and end up nowhere near where you thought you would.  Its great.  I got to see lots of cool streets and buildings and shops that I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
After a long day of walking I headed back to the hostel to catch the coach that took us to our next cruise ship.  This time our destination was Helsinki.

This cruise ship is a lot bigger than the last one, however it is still difficult for four people and their luggage to fit comfortably in these rooms.  We tried some pickled herring on the way which is interesting to say the lest, but I quite liked it.  Once we rid ourselves of our luggage we went in search of food and settled on Mexican and had the yummiest vegetable fajita’s!  Then we sat around drinking for the rest of the night.

21st June
Object:  Arrive in Helsinki

Helsinki is actually pretty awesome.  Not as cool as Lithuania and Latvia, but cooler than Stockholm!

As usual we started with a walking tour of Helsinki.  The weather was amazingly hot and I got badly burnt haha!  (Dont worry it tanned up pretty quickly!)
As part of the walking tour we went across on the ferry to Soumenlinna Island where we sat in the sun and ate ice cream (Irish coffee hazelnut ice cream).  When we had enough of the sun Tracy and I headed back into Helsinki and stopped at H&M for a little bit of shopping.  After shopping we headed back to the hostel where we decided to go try out the sauna.  We managed to get the room up to 90 degrees at the top but it was probably about 75-80 where we sitting.  After about 10-15 mins in the sauna it was a quick jump out and straight into a freezing cold shower.  We did this probably about 3 times but omg it was so good!  I didn’t think I would be able to handle the heat but I managed ok.
After showers we all went out for dinner with the group at a place Dax found.  I got to have reindeer which was pretty cool.  Very rich though, so you wouldn’t want a lot of it.  Someone compared it to Game, but I’ve not had it so can’t comment.
After dinner we wandered slowly back to the hostel.  It was probably about half ten, still very warm and very light out.  So we stopped to take some photos of the harbour and of Uspenski Cathedral and then we had an early night after getting back about midnight.

22nd June
Object: Tallinn!

This morning we caught our last ferry to our final destination:  Tallinn, Estonia.  it was only about two hours on the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn.
We had our usual walking tour through the old town of Tallinn.  We got to see St John’s Church and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, an amazing view-point looking out over the roofs of Tallinn.  Such beauty in this view.  We saw the Town Hall and the Cats Well too.
After this, Busabout surprised us with a free bike tour of Tallinn.  So this went to the outskirts over Tallinn.  I wasn’t overly keen on this except they took us to Patarei Prison in Tallinn.  This place was amazing and disgusting.  It was an old Soviet prison which parts of it was still in use until 2004.  Originally it opened as a sea fortress in 1840.  It housed inmates from 1919 until 2004 and has been left virtually untouched.  Inside there are the old bunks and mattresses.  There’s medical equipment and test tubes in there.  From the back of the prison there is an amazing view of the beach.  However if you go out into the beach its surrounded by barbed wire.  Very bizarre to see.
After the bike tour we all went out for dinner as our last night together.  Macca made a moving speech, as did Dax.  We went out to Hell Hunt for dinner – very cheap and good food!  I had an amazing baked salmon for only 9 euros.  Some people continued on for a big night, others went home after dinner, some people left that night and others left very early the next morning.  Only a few of us seemed to be staying here an extra day.  But this was the end of the tour.

23rd June
Object: The end 😦

So our tour ended this morning.  There was lots of hugs and good byes over breakfast.  We also got to see the new group come in too.
It is absolutely pouring with rain so it’s a bit difficult to get much of anything done.  So Jane, Em, Rob and I just relaxed in the hostel until it was time for me to check into my next hostel and  go in search of food (crepes).  Unfortunately the place we wanted was shut so we ended up in a cave of a place for some Indian (random I know).  After Indian we went in search of sweetness.  We ended up in a cafe with their weirdest toilet ever.  Its built into a fireplace.  It’s far to difficult to try to explain.  Eventually we went our separate ways and headed to our hostels where I had a well deserved early night.

24th June
Object: Homeward Bound.

Thankfully checkout wasnt until 11am because I slept in and pottered about this morning.  After leaving my bag at the hostel I did some more walking through Tallinn.  I went back to Alexander Nevsky  Cathedral as it is so amazing.  I took even more photos!
Before I knew it, it was time to head to the airport.  Thankfully I asked the guy at the hostel what it should cost to get there, he said about 7 -10 euros.  I asked the first guy I saw who wanted 18, so I walked away laughing.  Eventually found someone who said 10 and off I went.  Tallinn airport is very small but very clean and quite nice.  I pottered about and then it was time to leave gorgeous Tallinn.

I absolutely loved this tour, the places I went and the people I met.  I would highly recommend the Scandi-Baltic Tour with Busabout.
Now I’m back in london and its done pretty much nothing but rain since I got back.

All photos can be found HERE.

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~ by adventuresofglittergirl on 10 July, 2012.

3 Responses to “The Scandi-Baltic Adventures”

  1. Thanks so much for your review – I leave for this trip in just over a week & I’ve not heard too much about it. Im now really excited to bedoing it. Thanks

  2. Hi Debbie, I was on the very first Scandi-Baltic tour that Busabout did. So it has only been running since June this year, but I truly had the best time ever! In fact I loved it so much Im doing the Classic Rhapsody with them in September and looking at doing a couple next year as well.
    I hope you have a great time, Id love to hear how it went. Make sure you join the Scandi-Baltic group on FB when you start the tour. You’ll find photos up there that the lovely Amy and Dax upload.
    Thanks for the comment 🙂

  3. Fantastic Blog.. wonder if this might be of some interest here are some excellent Paisley Photographs of the Paisley Abbey Medieval Festival which took place on September 15th 2012. http://www.paisley.org.uk 

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