Count

7/22/2007

The Baltic Capitals

Almost every traveler I've spoken to is envious of my visit to the Baltic capitals of Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius. Now that I have been there and done that, I can report back that they are a little overrated. The party scene is great - perhaps the greatest I've seen in my limited action in partying my entire life. But the rest is merely pedestrian. St. Petersburg was a much more interesting city.

This is the Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Tallinn. Housed inside the Toompea Castle, which towers over Old Town Tallinn, it's really a glorified simple cathedral. It did prompt a follow up as to who Nevski was: he was a Russian prince who was great in war and later sainted. The weather, as you can see, was great though. The rest of Tooppea Castle was basically great views of Old Town Tallinn. Can't complain about the party scene though. Europeans really know how to enjoy themselves.

This is the imposing Freedom Monument in the middle of Riga, erected in the early 1900s before Latvia came under Soviet/German rule. We joked that the Soviets must have used the same statue and changed the meaning of the three stars. Originally they represented three different regions of Latvia. Riga had less tourists but enough backpackers to offer a good time to those who were willing to visit. Everything was less spoiled and had a natural charm to it. Visit the Central Market for a authentic view of how Latvians live. Also in Riga was the Occupation Museum which detailed the somewhat tragic history of this Baltic state.

Vilnius is the least developed of the three Baltic Capitals. It is also the one that was most influenced by Soviet rule, probably due to its proximity to Poland (when Russia was fighting Germany) and the West (the Cold War). This picture is of the main square, which we passed by several times. Vilnius houses a KGB museum which has amazing details on how the agency worked during Soviet rule in Lithuania. Again, good weather works its magic.

Near Vilnius is the majestic Trakai Castle. It is surrounded by 21 lakes and you can sail/paddle/row around it all day. I was tempted to sail but kept reminding myself that I wasn't familiar with the winds on the lake. The castle is actually rather simple but well preserved. We spent a lazy afternoon there drinking beside the lake.


Currently in Munich - a very very very cool city. Did you know all of Munich but for a few buildings are 60 years old, all built since WWII? Did you know that the few buildings that were spared were spared because they served as maps and coordinates for the bombers? Did you know the Nazis started in Munich despite their end in Berlin? Yup, all true. Munich is cool. If I put it in Russia, it'd be cooler than St. Petersburg.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

cooler than st. petersburg?? i find that very hard to believe!