When you think of Europe, you think of the classics. France, Italy, Spain, maybe Greece, if you’re into living vicariously through the Instagrams of others. People often miss this Baltic States in their everyday Contiki.
If you don’t know what these are shame on you (I didn’t, either, and endured the appropriate amount of shame), they’re the countries of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. A trio of best friends all located off the Baltic Sea, resulting in a Subway-sandwich summary of countries, a three-for-the-price-of-one kind of deal.
I wasn’t expecting my European earth to be shattered on visiting these places - I’ve been a fairly harsh critique on European countries, and the cities in particular - and yet I found myself wondering why this little skittle-sized cluster of countries weren’t on the top of my list to begin with.
First and foremost, their appeal sits directly in correlation with the fact that they are, generally speaking, rather unpopular. There isn’t the lines of Eiffel sight-seers that Paris has, the pubs full of Australian day-drinkers (you guys are the worst) that Amsterdam caters for, or the RV-congested roads that Italy produces. What we found instead were simple pockets of wild camping, clean forests tucked in between farmland and eccentric cities that were unagitated, historically dense and quietly charming.
People are very private, and what can be mistaken as rudeness is probably more likely to be a nation bred by mistrust and, quite honestly, a basic disinterest in the tourist trade (who can blame them). My advice would be to do some research on these places and grant them with the required respect to visit their country without leaving a footprint. These have been our favourite countries in all of Europe so far! (Followed very closely - if not surpassed at times - by Norway and/or the Netherlands).
I won’t bore you with much about these lovely places, but what I WILL SAY that you must:
1.Visit the KGB Headquarters, one of the most underrated things I think I’ve seen since being away. 2.The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia is fantastic for vegetableslike me who had close to no information on the Baltic states before entering. With this museum and play-by-play commentary by Rohan the rookie-historian himself, I was up to speed in no time. 3.Wild camp (if you’re given opportunity to do so, please don’t just go camp in the woods because the mosquitoes are more aggressive than they are considerate of personal boundaries). 4.Visit the Old City in Riga with all it’s charm and bicycle power. We had a coffee, a haircut and some class-A walking around the Old City and loved it.
For anybody who has done Paris, Amsterdam or Prague before, I would recommend the Baltics as a breather session. Something similar enough to feel European but a little more laid back, a little quieter and less of the marijuana smell.