Rural sauna, and ‘whisking’, also known as ‘a gentle beating’ by your companions with traditional birch twigs are integral parts of the authentic Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian smoke sauna tradition. Same same but different. But they all serve the same purpose – it is believed to help with stress relief and weight loss. It is actually a super relaxing thing to do when the weather is cold.
In the Baltics, no one can fail to be struck by the vibrancy of each city. Despite that, you are also guaranteed a bit of peace and quiet in certain places/certain time of the year.
Palanga is a seaside resort town on the shore of the Baltic sea. It is the busiest summer resort in Lithuania and has beaches of sand dunes. I heard that the jetty would be thronging with people during summertime. However, I was there during the transition into summer so other than some young Russian Travelers, I was pretty much the only stranger in town. Perfect for me!
- I was lucky enough to see the process of building this festival site.
Transportation: The town centre is easily accessible by biking, skating or walking!
Food: You would not disappointed by food in Lithuania even if you pop by a random cafe/restaurant. I promise. One of the must-try is the Lithuanian Saltibarsciai, also known as beetroot soup. It may not look scrumptious but it is absolutely delicious when you eat it with potatoes.
Although it was just 2 days in Palanga, I felt warmth and comfort from people in Palanga. I was no longer alone and I formed a special bond with environment. At the end of the two days there, I realised that I reached the comfort zone that I should not be in. So it was time to say goodbye.
On my last night, we drank Cherry beer (best ever) in the ‘I love Palanga’ festival and they stayed up till dawn with me just to say goodbye. I left for Russia with a heavy heart.
On my bus ride to Kaliningrad, Russia, I thought about the kind of traveler I am.
I am not a foodie, and landscapes, photographs,or museums etc are not my priorities. So…why do I love traveling? The people. The only time I love and hate people at the same time. I love that I can know more people who share the same interests, give me inputs and ideas about issues and teach me altruism & humility. I hate that the moments are short-lived and goodbyes are inevitable.
Some people asked me about how I make friends when I travel abroad alone. Really simple – open your heart to strangers, give kindness and you will receive kindness.
Vilnius Old Town, Lithuania
The Old Town of Vilnius, one of the largest surviving medieval old towns in Northern Europe.
The easiest thing to do is to get a map and navigate around old town. The old town is peaceful, they have everything (churches, shops, restaurants, parks) all clustered in the middle.
However, the old town is big (although not the biggest in the Baltics). I did all on foot and I was SUPER tired after all the walking uphill and downhill. I could be exaggerating but I did walk for about 5 hours that day. I saw many trams moving around old town and I guess that could be a good way to get around. I did not get the tickets but more information can be found in the Vilnius tourism website.
Vingis Park, Vilnius, Lithuania
I came back to Vilnius because a friend invited me to join her for the Summerburst Baltics Music Festival. I paid 49 euros for a one day pass. It was held at Vingis Park, the largest park in Vilnius.
I also realised that it was the time of the year where Europe has music festivals at different locations. Defo worth trying them out!
Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum, Riga, Latvia
It is one of the oldest and largest open-air museums in Europe. I am not a big fan of museums when I travel but this offered a really unique experience. It is probably the biggest museum I have ever been to. The museum was useful to help me understand more about the Latvian tradition, it is the only place in Latvia where it is possible to view the similarities and differences of how people used to live in the various historical regions of Latvia.
There were several activities to ‘experience’ being Latvians of the old – first-hand molding pottery, weaving baskets, making honey or forging coins, or participate in traditional games.
It has 118 historical buildings from all four of Latvia’s provinces – Kurzeme, Vidzeme, Zemgale and Latgale. We did not managed to finish everything because it was too big. We even got lost in the woods. #truestory
Lake Jugla, Riga, Latvia
My friends Ilze and Ilze took me to this special place – a part of their childhood growing-up experience. They drove into the woods and I felt happier in those few minutes. Biophilia hypothesis? What is it about nature that brings us so much joy? I couldn’t figure out but I guess it was partially due to the fact that I would not find such woods in Singapore.
I was certain that time slowed down.
Coastal Cliffs and Soviet Paldiski, Estonia
I took a full day tour and escaped Tallinn for some history lessons.
The tour from the hostel took us to Paldiski town and its surroundings. Paldiski was cut off from the world during the Soviet times due to its military use. The town opened up again in 1994 after the Red Army left.
Most tours to Paldiski have similar highlights.
- Northern Estonia’s coastline and beaches
- Keila-Joa Waterfall
- Limestone cliffs at Türisalu and Pakri
- Padise Monastery
- Former Soviet military town of Paldiski
- Murru prison quarry and lake
- Mammoth windmills at Pakri Wind Park
- Old Soviet military airplane
Disclaimer: The pictures of Murru prison quarry and lake online and brochures are not updated. I was almost extremely disappointed when the owner of the land actually fenced up the area. They are adamant about opening this place for the public. Shit, I am for real, shit and petroleum oil are found smeared on the fences and holes to prevent people from trespassing. We had to find an alternative route to enter the place and we were so close to climbing over the walls. In the end, we managed to find a way inside, but I am not sure how long this method would work before they find a way to close it up again.
Drive for about 200 metres from the original entrance and turn into the quarry. Continue to drive for another 200 metres and the new entrance would be on the left.
Rummu’s underwater prison was founded on 1 January 1938 and convicts were forced to mine limestone in the nearby limestone quarry.
In 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed, Estonia again gained it’s independence and limestone mining was ended.
For itinerary and travel recommendations, refer to my first post on Baltics Adventure I. 🙂