our journey through the Baltic States…..

Being that my post on Lithuania was so well-received last week, I thought it would be appropriate to go back in time a few weeks to my first Baltic States excursion.  My husband lives in the United States and came to Russia for one month in June to visit me – during that time we traveled through the Baltic states for one week and stayed in Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius.  All three cities have beautiful Old Towns and are all worth visiting if you have the opportunity.  You will notice that I show you the more gritty side of Tallinn in some of my photos – that is perhaps because we had a strong desire to escape the Old Town of Tallinn during the day while the tourists were passing through and in doing so, we happened upon a really cool old abandoned youth center from Soviet times that looks out over the Baltic Sea.  It is now a seemingly popular hangout for locals.  If you happen to visit Tallinn, I strongly recommend renting bikes one day and biking to the beach there – it is a stellar ride along the Baltic Sea.

Unfortunately, we only planned for one day in Riga and both feel that it is worthy of a few days of exploration, but I hope to at least show you how lovely the Old Town area is.  My favorite experience from Riga was listening to Latvian Karaoke at a secluded little beer garden we found.  It was really entertaining to see what the locals do and experience entire families singing their favorite Latvian songs together during a family dinner party.  One piece of advice – bring ear plugs to Riga with you if you like to get a good night’s rest.  It seems as though the locals like to stay up all night until the early morning hours (even on weeknights), and can be a bit loud on the streets.  But I really enjoyed Riga and hope to go back again in the future!

The final photos are from my first visit to Vilnius – you will notice I have very few photos and they are from the more random things I saw there.  We experienced torrential rains for most of our visit to Vilnius, but I loved the city and that is why I decided I had to go back before the end of the summer months.  As you can see from my previous post “Exploring Lithuania,” I experienced much nicer weather the second time around.  The final images are from the train ride home and will allow you see a bit of Lithuania, Latvia and Russia from the train windows and outside of the city centers.  My next stop when I return to Russia from the U.S. in a couple of weeks will be to travel to some villages and get out of the city center.  Stay tuned and I hope you enjoyed this small glimpse of the Baltic States!

Narrow alley in Tallinn, Estonia.

Antique shop window, Tallinn, Estonia.

Wall art in Tallinn, Estonia.

Central square in Old Town, Tallinn.

The Art Car, Tallinn, Estonia.

The church in the central square at night, Tallinn, Estonia.

More wall art in Tallinn, Estonia.

Looking out over the Old Town of Tallinn.

Toy shop window in Tallinn.

The old abandoned youth center we found. It has become a local hangout for many.

Bird graffiti at the abandoned youth center in Tallinn.

Walking down the steep hill at night, Tallinn.

The abandoned youth center looking out over the Baltic Sea, Tallinn.

Old Town of Tallinn at night time.

A wide view of the narrow alley way, Tallinn.

Center of Old Town Riga, Latvia.

Old Church in Riga.

Evening shower, Riga.

The excellent little Italian Restaurant we ate at in Riga.

Table decorations at a Latvian Restaurant, Riga.

Old Architecture in Riga.

Experiencing Latvian Karaoke at an outdoor beer garden, Riga.

Old Town, Riga.

Shop window, Riga.

Streets of Old Town, Riga.

Old Architecture in Riga.

Riga, Latvia.

Frank Zappa, Vilnius, Lithuania.

Central Old Town, Vilnius, Lithuania.

Window shopping in Vilnius.

Love locks in Vilnius - on the bridge to Užupio Respublika.

More windown shopping in Vilnius.

More window shopping in Vilnius.

Bridge crossing to Užupio Respublika, Vilnius.

Remnants of a wedding celebration, Vilnius.

Užupio Respublika, Vilnius, Lithuania.

Wall art in Užupio Respublika, Vilnius, Lithuania.

Lithuanian countryside as seen from the train windowns.

Lithuanian countryside as seen from the train.

Train stop in Lithuania.

Passing by old abandoned trains (taking while riding on the train).

A more "Soviet" scene in the Latvian countryside (taken while riding on the train).

Soviet complexes in Latvia.

A small village in Russia (as seen from the train).

Russian countryside as seen from the train.

exploring lithuania…..

Sometimes, I think it is important to pencil in a little adventure somewhere on the calendar, so I decided to go to Vilnius again for the weekend….. but this time by myself.  Now, although my whole entire experience in Russia is essentially an adventure I embarked on “alone,” I do not usually travel places on my own and this past weekend, I found out how amazing it can be.  Granted, I love traveling with my husband and friends, but I think it is important to go places alone sometimes because you become a better traveler – more savvy and a bit fearless.  In general, there are things that would have terrified me before coming to live in Russia and now I think I have a lot less fear about things that need not be feared, as well as a healthy respect for that which should be respected (and sometimes, avoided).  Currently, I am already plotted another trip alone – maybe to the Ukraine or Belarus (it might be worth the visa).  Anyhow, here is a glimpse of lovely Lithuania!  It is such an interesting country with a tragic history during World War II and the Sovietization process.  If you ever find yourself in Vilnius, the KGB museum is a must-visit….. there you can explore the cells were people were tortured and executed.  It was a heavy two hour visit and I’ve included two of the paintings outside of the museum at the end of my post.  I believe they were all painted by schoolchildren – I found them fascinating.  Please enjoy this trip to Lithuania along with me and I hope to bring you more scenes from the Post-Soviet space in the near future!

by the bus station in Trakai.

looking at the wall of art.

village house in Trakai.

the castle in Trakai.

waterfront in Trakai.

Trakai Village.

Trakai.

Užupio Respublika.

Užupio Respublika Constitution.

a cat in Užupio Respublika.

 

after the rain.....

love locks.

a Babushka selling flowers.

while riding on the train through the Lithuanian countryside.....

waiting for the train.....

Piskaryevskoye Memorial Cemetery visit…..

Although I have mentioned the Siege of Leningrad in previous posts, this post will serve as a small reminder for those of you who followed my Victory Day synopsis.  Those of you who have not read my post on Victory Day, please do!  On Sunday I visited the memorial sight where almost 500,000 people are buried, all of whom perished during the Leningrad Blockade.  As you enter the memorial, there is an eternal flame burning and the Leningrad Symphony playing throughout the entire site.  These are some of the photographs I captured and I would highly recommend anyone living here in Petersburg to take the opportunity to visit this memorial if you have not done so already.  On a side note, while I was there I saw black swans for the first time ever 🙂  For more information on the Siege of Leningrad, here is a Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Leningrad

The Eternal Flame looking out over the park.

Mother Russia monument.

Black Swans in the memorial pond.

Piece of Candy left at a Memorial stone.

Soviet style apartment buildings on the way to the Memorial.