Southern Estonia and Riga

After great days in Tallinn and Laheema National Park it was time to move on. Because of the rather unpromising weather reports, we decided against more nature and for another city and took the bus to Tartu, Estonias second biggest city. On the way, we had a little stopover in Rakvere where we had some good cake and had a look at the medieval castle.DSC_5516In Tartu, we moved into Looming Hostel, an eco-hostel with a really cool concept: all the furniture and everything inside this hostel is second-hand. They also have plants on the sun terrace including salad or tomatoes for the hostel guests.

Tartu is a really nice student city which is calm and relaxed. We walked around the first evening and were happy that the hostel had umbrellas. It was a good decision to leave the national park as it was pouring every once in a while. In between, we had some good weather and the chance to take some nice shots of the buildings and some funny street art too.

On our second day, we decided to do a day trip to Lake Peipus in the east of Tartu. The border between Estonia and Russia is in the middle of this lake and in the villages on the Estonian shore, there is a large number of Russian Old Believers, so people who fled from the Orthodox Church reforms in Russia in the 17th century. Next to enjoying the landscape and the shore of the lake, we also learned a little bit about their interesting history.

By bus, we went first to the village of Alatskivi where we took a look at the 16th century manor and walked around the small lake next to it. DSC_5585

After that, we went to the coast village of Kallaste at the lake and could admire the coastline with its interesting rock formations. I also decided to swim in the lake but because of the very shallow waters and the many sharp stones it was more of a kneeling in the water.

After that, we had a really good homemade meal at Anna’s restaurant, another example of Estonian hospitality and friendliness. Anna even spoke German. DSC_5618We were really lucky as it started to rain like crazy the moment we took our seats in the bus back to Tartu! Another time, we were grateful for the good infrastructure with buses that are always on time, even in the smallest and most off-road villages.

The next day in Tartu, we visited the famous science museum. It was definitely worth the 10 Euro entry fee as the way that the experiments and physics phenomena are presented is simply amazing, especially for all the kids that were there. For us, it was also great fun to bike on a rope, put together Chris daily calory input, try to figure out mathematical puzzles or watch the kids play with the water experiments. This is definitely a place to visit in Estonia, especially on a rainy day!

The next day, we finally went for Latvia and decided to hitchhike to Riga. We managed to get to the border town Valga, especially thanks to a young Estonian soldier who took us most of the way, spoke great English and even showed us another castle in the forest. DSC_5656DSC_5659

From Valga however, hitchhiking was more difficult so as we passed the bus station by coincidence, we decided to take the bus to Riga. This turned out to probably being a bad decision as the bus was soooo slow, had a broken speaker that made an annoying vibrating sound and stopped basically everywhere on the way. Roads were also all under construction so it took us a very long time until we finally arrived. The first impression of our hostel, Cinnamon Sally, with its super friendly staff and living room like atmosphere made up for that completely. Also, weather in Riga was super warm and sunny, so we were more than ready to make the most of the last two days. DSC_5677 We explored the old town, went to the Open Air Ethnological Museum, enjoyed a beer pong tornament with the hostel crowd, took a look at both the Occupation Museum and the really special Zana Lipke Memorial Museum about a man who saved more than 50 Jews in Riga during the Nazi occupation by hiding them in a self-made bunker under his garden house. We also watched the sunset from an old harbour place in Andrejsala. Get one of the free maps from Likealocalguide when you are there, they are really helpful.

At the Open Air Museum, we even found blueberries and strawberries in the forest – in Estonia, they had been green still but some kilometres South make a big difference apparently.

In addition, we enjoyed some more great food which was even cheaper in Latvia than in Estonia, relaxed in the city and went to the big market close to the bus station where we found 1kg of strawberries for about 1,40€ and other irresistable offers.

Latvia, you are incredible. Just like your Northern neighbour. What a pity that the Baltics seem to be so underrated among tourists. Or maybe, what a luck. Thanks to everyone we met during this trip for a great 10 days and the very likely possibility of us returning soon. Aitäh!!!

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