It was time to leave Scandinavia…
We were looking forward to experiencing a bit of the “exotic” part of Europe…well at least in comparison to the countries we had just visited. Check out our video below:
Our ferry from Helsinki, Finland took us to Talinn, Estonia in less than 4 hours. Sometimes I forget how small Europe compared to Asia.
4 hours is easily what you can spend in traffic going from one end of Bangkok to the other 😛
After disembarking from the ferry, we had a little drive through the old town of Talinn, it was beautiful but because the weather was a bit unpredictable we decided to push through and keep on driving and spend the night in a town closer to our next destination, Latvia.
In retrospect, I think we should have stayed the night in Talinn as that was the place we saw the most happening. The other cities we passed through were very quiet, and hardly anyone spoke any English.
We had booked the night at this out of the way campsite with Hobbit styled cottages in a little town called Padise. It was a toss up between camping in our tent or staying in the cottage. Staying in the cottage ended up being the correct choice as it rained all night and the temperature dropped quite low.
We had a delicious BBQ and a luxury salad before the rain started in earnest and a good night’s sleep in our king sized bed in our Hobbit-House.
After leaving the Hobbit-House we drove directly to Riga, Lativa. Ok, that might sound like a long way, but actually it was only around 300km and easily accomplished within 4 hours of driving.
Driving in Estonia and Lativa felt like we were driving in Thailand. After the uber organized and safety conscious Scandinavia we had to adjust to a “crazier” sort of driving rather quickly. It was a night and day difference, but Stefan took it all in stride and made the best of it. At least it was easy to stay alert, there was no telling when someone would blatantly ignore the double solid lines or a truck would overtake another truck etc.
And oh, the WIND!…Estonia and Latvia border the Baltic sea and have a ridiculous amount of strong wind. We were almost blown off the road a couple of times. Well, not really, but it felt like it, and our necks were quite sore after a few hundred kilometers of fighting the wind to stay upright.
Arriving in Riga was a pleasant relief. It wasn’t a very long ride, but it felt longer simply because of the strong wind and the crazy driving.
Riga has so much character! There were so many things to do for very reasonable prices. We spent the day walking the cobble-stone roads and going in and out of the various museums that costs a fraction of the prices we experienced in Northern Europe.
Cathedrals were free to enter and there were endless choices of cafes and dinning spots.
For dinner we treated ourselves to an authentic Medieval dinner in the Rozengrals Restaurant, a building that dates back to the 1200’s. The staff were dressed in medieval costumes, the tables and chairs were made of solid wood just like in the olden days and the medieval music and ambiance was incredibly on-point. You can take a look at the place here…it really was worth it.
The entire restaurant was candle lit (including the WC’s, though they did have proper modern toilets) and all in all it was a memorable meal complete with home-brewed non-pasteurized honey beer.
If you are headed to Riga, you must try this place out. We were lucky that we stumbled upon it during our walk around town. But it is recommended to make a reservation as it usually is full during all the prime times. We ate and drank our full (please do note that they serve half litres of beer as per norm) for less than 35euros!
We also were finally able to go Salsa Dancing in Riga, after many failed attempts (we were in the city during the wrong nights etc. so no salsa dancing was happening) we found a cute Cuban club called the Cuban Café just a couple of blocks away from our hotel.
The dance floor was tiny but the music was good and the dancing was lively! If you want a lively place for dancing and cheap cocktails and beers do visit this bar.
Another highlight in Riga was the RetroFoto salon we visited. Again, for only 35euros we were able to get a complete photo op with costumes, professional pose cues, props, photo shop editing when needed etc.
They were so professional that we were in and out in less than an hour. They do need a week or so to completely finish the digital enhancements of the photo, but for us that was no problem as we didn’t plan on printing out our photo.
We chose a Baroque theme and were quite pleased with our souvenir…what do you think?
While traveling there is always a bit of scary excitement—we lost our passports and legal papers!!
Because of the open borders, we hardly have to pull them out. So we only noticed that we didn’t have them with us when we were ready to leave Latvia. We had a bit of a panic, but we figured we could have only left them in our last hotel. Fortunately, we hadn’t driven very far, and in 30mins, we were back in possession of our precious documents. Lesson learned: always check that you have your important documents whenever leaving a hotel!!
It was a beautiful day when driving from Latvia to Lithuania.
We had a pit stop at the Hill of Crosses, an eerie yet beautiful place with history just bursting at the seams. Every cross tells a story of love and devotion to God or a loved one who has passed on.
It started out as a symbolic burial site for the rebels of the 1831 and 1836 rebellion against the Russian occupation. Some of the rebel’s bodies were not found and thus symbolic burial sites with crosses began appearing on the hill.
It is now possible to place your own cross on the hill so long as it does not disturb the crosses, and statues already on the hill so the hill continues to grow.
The beautiful sunny day turned into a rainy and stormy night so we decided to leave Lithuania for sunnier weather as being wet and cold while riding a motorbike is a rider’s worst nightmare.