Sunday afternoon I poured the last bit of Foss Distillery’s Birkir over a giant cube of ice, turned on some music, and poured over my Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania Lonely Planet guide book. I learned some very, very interesting facts, discovered that these three countries are entirely magical, and made the decision that I simply cannot visit all three and Amsterdam in a 12 day period next May. I also plan to shorten my trip by two days. In total, 3 cities, 10 days, give or take a day.
Latvia and Lithuania, you’re in, Tallinn, Estonia, you’ll be mine on a different trip - when I visit Finland and Sweden. From my guidebook, I learned that Estonians more closely identify with their Scandinavian neighbors, especially Finland. They have some shared language characteristics with Finland as well. Latvia and Lithuania are more, for lack of a better explanation at the moment, Russian, and that is what intrigues me.
I also want my experience in the Baltics to be varied and the two capitals, Riga and Vilnius are very different in their geography. Riga is on the Baltic Sea, Vilnius is inland, closer to the border between Lithuania and Belarus. They both have thriving Old Town sections within the city. Riga is a capital filled with Art Nouveau architecture and Vilnius is a Baroque architecture enclave - the architecture nerd in me loves this and I will have a fantastic camera by then!
Riga, is of course, where I am running a marathon. It is a two lap marathon and registration opened on September 15, what they called “commitment day”, locals were invited to register and then take a photo with their given race number (mine is 572, obviously I wasn’t in Riga for this) but you can search for photos of others on Instagram. I just thought it was exciting to already be assigned a number! I can’t wait to spend time in this city visiting old cathedrals, museums, and exploring its beauty.
For a bit of background information, Lithuania was the first of the former Soviet states to declare its independence, which was officially recognized by Russia in 1991. Lithuanians were long tormented by the Soviets and by the Nazis in WWII. Most of the Jewish population was wiped out during the Nazi occupation and the Soviets killed another quarter million natives in the years following WWII. I explain this bit of history to say that I am very interested in visiting the Museum of Genocide Victims, also called the KGB Museum. I have never been to any former concentration camps - I do want to explore that part of history, dark as it may be, because I think it is an essential part of history that I must see in person.
On a much lighter note, both of these lovely cities, full of history, architecture, and surprises that I can’t wait to discover, are compact and walkable - which always makes me happy.