I left Russia and headed onto Tallinn which is the capital of Estonia to start my journey to England by Christmas. My journey through the countries is via LUX Bus and l highly recommend them for a cheap, efficient and luxury travel however a little disappointing l can’t get another bus travel story for a while.
Tallinn, Estonia: As l mentioned, l started off in Tallinn for the first 3 days. I arrived around 2pm and by the time l got to my hostel it was 3:30pm. This is due to no one’s fault but my own because old ‘genius’ me thought that l knew the correct direction of tram l must get on until l checked my maps once the train was doing a 180 turn and heading back the same direction… like l said, l am a ‘genius’.
I headed out to look around town once l was checked in due to an opinion of mine believing that buildings and monuments look better lit up at night in the colder countries. I wasn’t wrong and l was lucky to catch my first Christmas markets of the season where there were stalls and food along with hot mulled wine which l tried for the first time, however l was told for my first night of food to head to a restaurant underneath the town hall called 3 Dragons in English. It is a traditional medieval place where they will treat you as such if you don’t even greet them with a simple hello, because this happened to me when l obviously don’t speak Estonian and couldn’t understand what she was saying to me. They don’t have a menu, but will happily tell you what is on offer. I recommend this to anyone passing by to try, because not only is the food delicious, once you step through the door, it feels like a whole different world.
The second day, l headed onto the free walking tour of the city. It went for about 2 hours with some funny but great information of Tallinn and a little bit of Estonia and how they were finally a free country after many years of oppression. That night followed by visiting some of Tallinn’s drinking establishments to taste to local liquor and into a very sore head the next day which involved a trip over to the occupations museum to gain an insight of what the country went through.
- Tallinn tram system is very efficient. To buy a ticket, you can buy directly from the driver and you are not meant to do what l did and ride the tram for free without one as it could be a 40 euro fine if caught however l was told the inspectors are very minimum.
- Across the road from Tallinn Backpackers, is a small underground bar marked with a red light, l know what you are thinking but that wasn’t the reason l went in, so head down into it. It’s a cool little bar and the bartenders know their beer.
Tartu, Estonia: I spent a few days in Estonia’s second largest city and to give you some idea of the size, it is about as large as a what most would consider a small town in Australia. It was mainly snowing the whole time I was there so made it a bit hard to get out a lot to see the sights however l still visited the KGB cells museum which is also known as the Grey house but it was very interesting to understand what happened.
Tartu is also filled with many weird and wonderful statues but as it is a university town, one of the main statues in the town square are dedicated to the students of the city. Other places to visit is freedom bridge which as you walk across, has information on history of Tartu and the gunpowder armoury which has been changed a little over time but now is a pub/bar which hosts local bands and a local hotspot with the locals.
Riga, Latvia: The capital of Latvia and the largest old town of the Baltic states where it also hosts the cheapest airport to fly in and out of in Europe which makes it perfect for the British to get away for the weekend. I spent a few days with my mate Nick who flew over from London as he was in need of a get away and it was a pleasure to catch up but l destroyed my body this weekend as one pint turned into five very quickly and the return times back to the hostel were at the earliest times of 4am.
We did manage to see a few sights of the city by joining the free walking tour and learn more about the history of Latvia but of course it wasn’t without confusion. The first day we tried to join the tour and we were told the meet point wasn’t far away and when we arrived no one was there even after we has walked around the whole church. We headed through the Christmas markets instead, drank some cold mulled wine because it looked hot and went into Riga’s museum if occupations however the current one is being renovated and we had walked in the wrong direction again. When we worked out where it was, we stopped by the hostel and l kindly explained to them that their posters were wrong about the free walking tour which they thought was weird and here comes the confusion, we later worked out after more sightseeing we went to the wrong church to meet the guide and hands down, l highly believe both churches look similar. I apologised to the receptionist the next day back at the hostel and explained that l was an idiot.
A few more nights were spent out where this time include watching the mighty Chelsea football club defeat Manchester City who only had one supporter in the bar in form of a gypsy who seemed like he just wanted to fight everyone and later a lot of drunken karaoke (l can’t sing at the best of times and sorry for anyone’s ears that night).
- If you want a cheap decent meal, you can head into the central markets where you can spend around 3 euros to get a couple of pastries and a coffee
- For a good night out, Rock Café is brilliant with a floor dedicated to a live band playing a lot of the current hits.
- If you visit the occupations museum, take the guided tour to visit the cells, otherwise you will only have to pay a donation to see the exhibit.
Vilnius, Lithuania: The last capital for me to visit of the 3 Baltic states was Vilnius which also contains an unofficial country republic called Uzupio which is also a UNSECO World Heritage Site. Once again, l didn’t know too much of what to do in the city except l did have plans to catch up with Audrius who is a friend l met in Myanmar. On arrival into my hostel, I needed to get food as it was starting to get late and tried my taste buds at one of the Surelis restaurants in the city (there are only 2 or 3 of them) as they serve traditional Lithuanian food and l was introduced to fried garlic bread sticks with cheese sauce and while they sound very unhealthy…. They are, but they are the local beer snack that all the locals take when they are drinking and are absolutely delicious.
The second day, l walked around the outskirts of the old town of Vilnius with a hostel mate by the name of Jamie. We visited the KGB museum of the city, which also marks off visiting the 3 KGB/occupation museums of the Baltics which l recommend doing each one because they each they the individual story each country had to go through during their history. We also walked by the river and saw the Green bridge which dubbed by the locals as the unluckiest bridge in Vilnius as he had been destroyed the most in various ways over time and headed to a military vehicle museum for a look.
The next day, l met up with Audrius, where he joined myself and different hostel friends (Phil, Steph and Pete) on the walking tour of the town and into the republic part of town where we learned that all you need to do the whole time is smile to be accepted (there are 3 other rules being, don’t drive over 20km/hr, have to be creative to live there and the fourth being if you don’t abide by these rules, the residents have the right to push your car into the river). After the tour, Audrius showed the 4 of us around to the following:
- Senoji Trobele – a traditional rural Lithuanian restaurant
- Bambalyne – a underground bar with lots of different local beers to choose from
- Surelis – One of the best beer places to visit in Uzupio
We also that night visited the government house of Uzupio which is actually a pub and the bar man gave us a good laugh when we walked in but l am happy to tell you that story in person.
My final day, l met up with Jamie again and we headed out to Trakai, which is the ancient capital of Lithuania and has a castle on an island. We spent all day out there which l found very interesting learning more of the history. It cost 6 euros to get into the castle but it is worth the money, so don’t hesitate.
- For a good meal at a cheap price, find a kebab place called Jammys. They serve large kebabs for a very cheap price. It is located near the KGB Museum and is a local hotspot.
- Buses to Trakai leave all day and it only costs 1.80 euros each way. Buy your ticket from the driver. When in Trakai, you must try the pastry pies which are a local tradition and very tasty.
I have now headed into Germany for a week before England over the festive period. I will write my new blog in the new year so until then, Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to everyone and hope you all have a nice time seeing in the new year.
Hostels on my way through: (I only reviewed Tartu for an extensive look at what l thought on this place)
- Tallinn Backpackers – centrally located is the best thing it has going for it
- Terviseks Hostel (Tartu) – The best and most central in Tartu
- Naughty Squirrel Hostel (Riga) – The best place in all of the Baltics
- Jimmy Jumps House (Vilnius) – Centrally located and free waffles for breakfast