Even with all the cancelled voyages and Covid and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I was able to get to the Baltics ie., Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania. As it turns out there were only three of us on the trip as one person had just cancelled at the last minute due to her dog being sick…I guess. So to begin there were just three of us and then down to two as my “leftover”s husband had to head to Germany for a board meeting he had double-booked.
So, basically it was a private trip…provided by MIR, a company specializing in Eastern Europe and Russsia. Why go at this time? It had been booked before all the shit hit the fan and me, a bit of a risk taker maybe, decided I needed to get outahere. I was glad I did.
I had just been to Cuba, so to get to the Baltics without too much trouble, I left from Miami and headed to Lisbon for a week or so because…it was there and I have some warmer clothes stored. Lisbon to Helsinki for a few days before I was meeting with our “huge” group. A bit colder than Cuba (or Lisbon) so lots of layers.
I had some trouble finding a restaurant in Helsinki on Easter Sunday. Finally found a restaurant serving various dishes which looked like a poor man’s buffet. However I saw they had pasta and ordered arrabiata. And a Caesar salad. Did not expect much but was surprised. Definitely arrabiata like a like it. Spicy as it should be. The Caesar was huge and included a shitload of shrimp. Weird. The portions were huge and I couldn’t finish them. Packaged the Caesar to take home on the ferry. Hope I remember it from the fridge downstairs. (Of course I didn’t)
I did a walking tour with a young Finnish woman (Larisa Doty) who introduced me to the food…mainly fish and sweets…the architecture, the coffee shops, the markets and who was a delight. By the way she introduced me to the caviar shop at the market..beluga for 350 euros for 50grams ($382 for 1 3/4 oz). Decided to skip it this time…you know, just wouldn’t keep.
I also managed to get to a few churches, particularly the Rock Church (very cool), the sea fortress Suomenlinna (definitely worth seeing) which was a defense for the city. People actually live on the 14 islands that make up the fortress. Had a great Irish Coffee out there. The young woman who made the coffee said it was the first one she had made. Delish.
Back in the city I went to the Natural History Museum which was very well laid out and, of course, enjoyed the geology exhibit…esp.the stromatolites. There’s also a really interesting collection of European art in the old Sinebrychoff (try to pronounce that) mansion that had a very interesting temporary exhibit of art by Jarmo Makilae
Rock Church build directly into solid rock and designed by two brothers in 1969 after a competition.
All in all a good visit to Helsinki. Heading off to Tallinn on the ferry to meet up with my “group.” The Viking run ferry was quite nice. Some hilarious entertainment with old guys playing old American favorites. It seemed a world away crossing the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn in Estonia.
The war is waging in Ukraine and here I sit doom scrolling and listening to old time music (Blue Moon, etc) on the Viking Express. Very surreal. Oh, yes and Chardonnay. Why don’t I get up and dance for Ukraine? I’m here tapping my feet and imagining taking the dance floor and dedicating it to Ukraine.
Warships? Three in a row. Sure look like it. Patrolling the Gulf of Finland.
I found out later they were from several EU countries.
Meeting up with our Lithuanian group leader Erika.Poulden@gmail.com for the Baltics tour. I recommend her if you’re going there. First Stop Tallinn…we stayed in a lovely Hotel…Hotel Telegraaf…where they’ve thought of everything. Even the notepad is on a block so that you don’t damage the desk. Pull out shelves for two computers.
They have tea…with creamer available.
Very quiet, great lobby. Will have dinner here today.
Of course, there’s a spa as in every hotel in the Baltics. Reservations only and it’s usually just a Sauna and showers…self serve. A plug in the safe for your computer. A pillow menu
A service shelf inside the room for laundry, room service, shoe shine. Just press the button and it will inform the service dept.
Of the Baltic countries I have to say Estonia was my favorite.
The Ukraine war was highlighted everywhere from art exhibits to posters to conversation. Ukraine flags everywhere in support.
On to Baltic State #2 – Latvia and its capital Riga
And now to our final Baltic country – Lithuania and its capital Vilnius