25 May to 2 June 2018
I have chosen this side of the world for our holiday because I still have a valid Schengen Visa to enter these countries. It’ll be expiring soon, hence I thought I’d take the chance to do so before it happens.
I initially thought of making Lithuania our first stop, but I realized I only wanted to visit the Hill of Crosses there and the town where it is situated is quite close to Riga anyway hence, our first point was Riga, Latvia and planned to go on a day trip to the Hill of Crosses.
Day 1: Half a day in Helsinki then Riga (half day)
Day 2: Riga (Full Day)
Day 3: Siauliai (Day Trip) + extra Vilnius Old Town
Day 4: Viljandi
Day 5; Parnu
Day 6: Tallinn
Day 7: Tallinn
I was quite thrilled to be travel with T. It’s our first time to travel far together. I was sure I will learn a lot about him. (Even in writing this now, I have to keep on changing my pronouns from I to We. Haha)
We took Finnair, and we had 5 hours layover in Helsinki which we didn’t waste. We took the Finnair direct bus to the city. We had coffee and a bit of a walk around. I had been to Helsinki before hence, the area was a bit familiar to me. Just a bit.
We arrived in the afternoon. Traveling from the airport was easy. Just buy the ticket from the information counter inside the airport and take Bus 22 and it goes directly near the Old Town. We booked an apartment near the Old Town at a very reasonable price. It’s called Hammam Old Riga Apartment.
We rested a bit and luckily for T, Riga was hosting its annual Beer festival during that period. T was excited and so was I. There were live bands playing, lots of food and of course, alcoholic beverages. We had our dinner there and we had a bit of beer and we headed home.
Latvia Beer Fest
Next day, we joined a free walking tour outside the Old Town at http://freetour.traveller.ee/?page_id=5&lang=ri. We learned a little bit about the history of Latvia. It was a bit heartbreaking to learn about how countries in this region are still, despite being independent, fighting for their own countries’ identities. My favorite part of the tour was their Central Market. They were hangars converted into a huge market and bazaars. They ‘ve separate buildings for livestock, seafood, vegetables (especially pickled ones) etc.
Riga Old Town
After the walking tour, T decided to cook for me for the first time. We went to the grocery store and I began to notice how cheap pork was there. I would be a happy girl if decide to live there. Also, since we’re on food, according to the walking tour guide, they like their fishes smoked and vegetables pickled so they could still have this food for winters. T’s dish was lovely.
We rested and headed for a nice sunset walk and view at Latvian Academy of Sciences as recommended by our guide during the walking tour. We then, headed home to conclude the night.
The next day, we planned to just walk aimlessly around the old town and around 12pm, we started our journey to Saulia, Lithuania by a rented car. Yes, I already have a personal driver. I won’t need to run after and tightly schedule my bus and train rides. One of the many Pros of having a partner who knows how to drive and is willing to do so.=)
I was supposed to be happy being in a private passenger seat, but I was wrong. T wasn’t used to driving on the left side. Roads inside the old town were small and we were struggling. Yes, I was having a heart attack while he was having a panic attack because of my yelling and nagging. After an hour or so of getting used to the road and the car, we were able to cruise safely, peacefully and quietly. We reached the Hill of Crosses in this tiny town of Siauliai, Lithuania at around 3pm.
Siauliai and Vilnius Lithuania
Buses of tourists were crowding this small hill. As I have read a bit about it, I was already expecting that the hill was small. Some photos from the internet might be a bit deceiving. Despite people being underwhelmed, I thought, as a Catholic, it was still interesting to visit. This is a base of hundreds of thousands of crosses, was destructed and rebuilt a couple of times and still, up to date, is still intact. This hill has been a symbol of the locals’ faith and hope despite adversities.
Hill of Crosses
Hill of Crosses 2
We planted our own cross which we purchased for 2Euros from the souvenir shop at the entrance. We prayed for a bit and walked back to the car.
Our initial plan was to get back to Riga after this but T decided he wanted to drive further. He decided to go to Vilnius Old town too for dinner. He drove for a few more hours as I entertained my self by eating junk food and performing in the car.
On the road, I could already see how much taller buildings Lithuania has. Its old town also looked a bit more happening than in Riga. As we walked unexpectedly in a small alley, slowly, hot air balloons appeared in the sky. It was like a show meant for us to see. We again walked around the town and sat in a small cafe near where we parked and had our meal. T drove for 4hours back to Riga. We reached Riga at around 3am.
Hot Air Balloons in Vilnius Old Town
We checked out and headed for our next adventure to a smaller town called Viljandi. I have read that they have a beautiful lake and a castle ruin hence, I added this place to our itinerary. It was a relatively peaceful cruise for us.
We reached Viljandi around 3pm. We checked in in a small hotel called Lossikambri külaliskorterLossi for 41Euros. It has one queen and 2 single beds, kitchen and dining area. It was basic but very reasonable. We rested for a while and headed out to walk around the town. Unlike Riga and Vilnius, this old town looked empty. I liked it because of its serenity. We walked to the lake viewpoint and the castle ruin. We then had dinner in a restaurant which was also good because the prices of food and beer were cheap, unlike the more touristy places. After dinner, we headed out to the grocery to buy more stuff and headed back home.
The next day, we spent more time finding interesting places within the town. We went to the museum, water tower with an amazing view of the city and we went down to the lake. Surprisingly, it was more happening by the lake than around town. Fit people sunbathing, playing volleyball and big swings. I also liked their outdoor gym and playground. T had an enjoyable time watching fit human beings around the lake. Too bad, we had to drive to our next destination, Parnu.
View from the Old Water Tower
We reached our hostel called Hostel Louna. Same spacious space at a similarly affordable price of 30 Euros. Near the hostel was another interesting playground. I was already liking Estonia and it’s outdoor playgrounds and gyms. Even adults would have a good time using their playgrounds.
We walked towards the beach and found a female nude beach. T’s smile was from ear to ear. We walked towards there and quickly cruised away. Haha, Beach has a decent crowd when we visited. We walked till we reached the breakwater and walked back the hostel to rest. So, at around 10pm, we decided to go out for tea, but almost all decent food places were closed. We drove around only to be saved by our savior Bro Mcs.
The next day, we walked around the old town then the breakwater. It was a tradition that lovers should walk the full 2km of the breakwater for good luck, hence, despite T’s aching body, we walked the breakwater! Haha
Today we drove to Tallinn!
We reached the old town and I’d already noticed how crowded the place was. We had a complex time finding our accommodation, Baltic Hotel Vana Wiru, because there were so many people crowding the narrow cobblestoned streets. T liked the crowd, I didn’t.
We rested a bit and headed out for tea. Our holiday was almost ending hence, our spending right was starting to get laxer. We knew we would survive for the remaining 2 days with non-cheapo food from now. T chose the restaurant. After tea, we walked around a bit more.
The next day, we joined another walking tour from http://freetour.traveller.ee/?page_id=5&lang=en. Tallinn was way too crowded for my liking this time around. Worse than last night. Too hot, over-crowded and all, but of course, I still did enjoy the stories and learning more about Estonian culture.
After the tour, we walked back because we had to return the car to the airport. We didn’t need it anymore. We took their very convenient Tram 4 back to the old town. We again walked a bit more and had tea. We went to the old town’s upper town to view the sunset. We almost missed it because I was enjoying the performances in the lower town. But luckily, T forced me to start our ascent, we didn’t miss it.
Performance at the Old Town
We still have half a day of walking around the next day. We just explored the old town more. We witnessed this sport I’ve never heard of before, Medieval Fighting. Tallinn was hosting the Old Tallinn Cup 2018. It was rough. I didn’t understand the sport much but I saw people from different countries participating.
Happenings at the Old Town
We had light lunch and headed to the airport using their convenient Tram 4. We again had a 4hours lay-over in Helsinki, but we decided just to chill at the airport.