Culture exploration. Three weeks of Baltics
No matter how I planned my travels in Europe, the Baltics did not fit into any of the routes. A sharp detour, hundreds of kilometers to the north, looked so unrealistic that even looking at the map I knew that I would not go like that. But then I thought: “Why not go to the Baltic countries separately, so that this region is already open for me and no longer bothers me with the desire to make such a detour?”
Having caught a return ticket from Vilnius to Kiev on WizzAir for a promotion for only 20 €, I decided to go on a round-trip route:
Hello Lithuania! Finally, I will stop confusing you with Latvia. 🙂
Here is a small old center, everywhere outside it is a shovel, but inside is surprisingly cozy.
In general, in any post-Soviet cities, all interesting things are always concentrated only in the center. Therefore, in the Baltic States, the coolest topic is the gradation of eras in architecture and in general urban space.
Got hosted by a guy who is engaged in historical reconstructions, sings in a death metal band and works as a pathologist. He also showed his medieval outfit and cool videos from the stoned festival Obscene Extreme. The atmosphere was off scale.
And I found out about all this when we ate sweetly these cookies, similar to those cooked by a cook-pyrotechnic & nbsp;
Perhaps, due to this acquaintance, the city seemed to me really interesting. Although it is rather worth going here when you want to relax somewhere in silence: everything around here directly sets the leisurely pace of life.
From Kaunas I drove west to the main port city of the country, Klaipeda. And since it was already the middle of September, it was my last chance not only to see, but also to swim in the Baltic Sea.
It is noteworthy that for many centuries in a row Klaipeda was a German town, in fact founded by the Livonian Order, then squeezed out by the Teutonic crusaders and until the collapse of the German Empire was part of Prussia. And although many years have passed since then, the layout, partly architecture and , subjectively, the atmosphere remained true-German.
Half-timbered houses, of course, are absolutely out of competition.
Working in this city was definitely not an easy task. And although it is quite small, it was the very place where you want to admire everything around, dissolve in an atmosphere of serenity and give everyone around you warmth and tenderness. In places like this, I have a belief that cuddiness will save the world.
The next day I decided to devote to pokatushki and finally swim in the sea. Since Klaipeda itself is still more of a port city, tourists go to rest in the neighboring small town of Palanga. I took the rollers and went somewhere in that direction.
The next morning I had a bus to Riga, so in the evening I returned to the city.
I decided to walk a little more, trying to catch even more emotions from the city.
Finally, I checked that there are extraterrestrial garbage cans in Lithuania. For maximum effectiveness, they only lack the sound of a blaster when you throw something inside.
And that architects here are not just rummaging around what an IT “crutch” is, but even managed to adapt this concept to their specialization.
In Riga I was hosted by an Indian who came from New Delhi to study in Latvia just two weeks ago. Therefore, I was not even particularly surprised when he warned that besides me, he was now hosting 5 more people in his two-room apartment! Despite the fact that these were two guys from Germany, a girl from Italy and two more girls from Poland, the atmosphere we had was completely Indian. In a positive sense.
With these two Germans, we ended up hanging out all day, never reaching the center. In one day I learned so much new about Germany, as I didn’t learn in the whole previous year. The guys discovered about the same about Russia. I don’t know about them, but my next trip immediately and irrevocably was aimed at Germany. UPD: For a good reason.
The next day, we still got out, and also coolly stumbled upon a free walking tour. The center is small but wonderful.
Another characteristic feature of the old center is the large number of wooden houses. Because of this feature, Riga has already burned so many times in its centuries-old history that even Wikipedia could not remind me of the exact number. 🙁
It also has the first kitten hostel in Europe. : 3
Another cool attraction here is the Central Market. Initially, there were supposed to be hangars for airships, but while these hangars were being built, airships replaced the airships and the huge pavilions were left empty. And since Riga was the second largest port of the Russian Empire (the first is Odessa), the market where there is everything (a la Odessa Privoz) was more relevant, and empty hangars were given for it.
Near the market during the Second World War, when the city was occupied by the Nazis, there was Riga ghetto. Five years ago, a museum was opened here showing the scale of the Jewish Holocaust in Latvia. At first, my fellow Germans were a little embarrassed by what was happening, but when they showed us the wall of memory, they were completely shocked: there were written the names of 70,000 Jews in small print, killed by the Germans within the walls of the ghetto.
In the evening we went to one restaurant, where everything was stylized as much as possible in the Middle Ages: instead of lamps, candles were burning here, the room itself was decorated as a port tavern, everything was made of wood, all the dishes on the menu consisted of products of that time … True, even this did not lead the Germans out of states of shock. I checked to myself that Nazism for the Germans is a taboo topic and should not be raised.
The next day, I arranged with a couple of local rollerbladers to go skating together. We decided to go to the northern outskirts of Riga, where they have a huge park with a bunch of roads and paths in the middle of a mixed forest. This is awesome!
Having dashed along the paths and breathed in the fresh forest air, we drove through the whole city. Another cool place to ride is the long river embankment, with lovely views, benches, skater figures and friendly bikers.
As a result, a total of 11 hours of skating without changing shoes. This is a sure thing for the next few days to carry them in a backpack, but I’m happy. ^ _ ^
After pokatushki I had another three hours, so I decided to take a walk at the end and at the same time look into one place that I could not miss when I saw it in Foursquare.
I am very sorry that I did not take a picture of the interior of this cafe, because it created a truly amazing atmosphere. You just go inside and find yourself in another reality. Tea-cosmic reality. Two hours passed absolutely unnoticed.
Another half hour and my tired body successfully went to Tallinn to catch the ferry to Helsinki.
Boarding a ferry is a bit like boarding an airplane. Terminals, document checking, gates, boarding starts, boarding ends …
And here you are inside a sea giant, dozens of cars and trucks stand on the lower floors, the rest are filled with people.
A couple of hours in all directions to the horizon, just the sea and nothing else.
Port of Helsinki looks like a jumble of concrete and cranes. Even the city behind it becomes less significant. But when right at the exit from the port terminal I was met by such a positive dude, I realized that it would not be boring here.
When I asked my friends what was worth seeing in this city, everyone as one recommended taking a walk around the design quarter. Initially, I thought it was something like an art cluster in the center, but it turned out to be even more fun: there are more than 200 workshops, boutiques, different showrooms, just shops, cute cafes and galleries, gathered under one label. Leaving empty-handed is incredibly difficult.
I also went to the Design Museum there. It is notable for the fact that it appeared with such content even before the word “design” appeared. All exhibitions are conventionally divided into useful and decorative. The first category is notable for the fact that the Finns were figuring minimalism for decades before it became mainstream.
The second is pure neighing.
There are also a lot of music markets in the city. Discs, vinyl, merch, tools and accessories. There is at least one market with a huge selection on each street in the center.
I noticed that propaganda of a healthy lifestyle is popular here. And not abstract garbage like “The Ministry of Health warns”, but quite concrete and, one must think, much more effective.
However, the signs on the street are generally cool here. “Why go to serve in the navy when you can become a pirate?”
What is not very fun – the historical center here was built under the Russian Empire, so the architecture there for me was completely unremarkable. The same baroque as I have in Kiev, boredom.
But the modern architecture in the city is cool. And if this is expected for shopping and office centers, then the residential buildings really impressed me. It’s one thing when you read about this in books on urban space design, and quite another when you live in such a house.
Tellingly, not a single air conditioner on the facade. I want to say that modern Helsinki is a merit not so much of architects as of the city’s residents, who, on the one hand, make beautiful houses in demand, and on the other, they caught the idea and do not spoil their appearance with household items.
The next day I met with my friend, who is studying at the Sibelius Academy. This is what one of the coolest music universities in Europe looks like. We also went to a student orchestra concert there, and it was cooler than most concerts in our national philharmonic. 🙁
And walked to the monument to Jan Sibelius. In addition to being one of my favorite composers, the monument itself is very cool: there are dozens of pipes welded to resemble an organ, which make a cool sound when the wind blows, as if nature itself is playing sad music.
On the way back I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. The exhibitions there are constantly changing, but they are all consistently awesome.
We found ourselves at a big exhibition, where sticking to brands is heavily ridiculed instead of really important things.
And there is also a cool little shop.
Even with the couchsurfer guy I lived with, we went to Espoo (one of the satellite cities of Helsinki) to his friends in a futuristic recording studio almost in the forest. On the way back we stopped at Lake Bodom. Yes, that’s where Children of Bodom came out.
And the next day, when I had to go back, the drivers of absolutely all types of city transport went on strike. In addition to everything, it was raining and there was a harsh north wind. In general, I very merrily rode these 10 km to the ferry in my two.
On the way, I took photos of these cute little houses from the future.
A good city. Not touristy at all. I want to live and work here. I love these cities. Bye, Helsinki!
On the way back we got caught in a violent storm. It seems to me that I produced enough bricks there to build a whole small house. It didn’t work out normally, but, in principle, you can see what was happening overboard. Photo from the floor, where the windows are at 15 meters above sea level.
After the abundance of Art Nouveau, the old center of Tallinn looked like a throwback in time. From a shining future back to the Middle Ages. In an architectural sense, of course.
What I always like terribly is when the city is on the hills. Then you can climb one of them and admire the whole city. And you can still take a couple of wonderful photos for memory.
It should be noted that the new center of Tallinn is also quite good. Either the proximity of Scandinavia, or something else, but the capital of Estonia is noticeably different from the capitals of other Baltic cities.
Vilnius was my last city on this trip. Here I was not looking for anyone on Couchsurfing, I didn’t really try to find something cool, I wanted to arrange a chill-out after three weeks of the trip. But it so happened that despite all this, I saw most of the interesting corners in the city.
The center here is small and not as atmospheric as I was used to during this trip. Just a few long streets with markets and cafes.
I was recommended to climb the Upper Castle. He was right in the center, so I decided to get up, since I was there. Hmm, well, it’s difficult to call it a castle, rather a small fort.
But the view of the city from above is really good.
It also has its own art quarter. Only the title worked. “Uzupis”. The inhabitants themselves call it a republic, they even wrote a constitution for themselves. But in general it is just a lot of graffiti, Jewish courtyards and squats. The smell of marijuana in the air. Guys with dreads, colorful clothes. Nearby, in newer houses, ordinary nondescript people live. In principle, it’s fun to walk there, but in fact I didn’t find anything impressive.
In the evening, it is cozy in the center, it seems as if it is a very tiny town.
On the last day of my day, the desire to stick somewhere was gone. It just disappeared completely. And the weather was so good outside. And since it was also a day off, I decided to finally ride around the city on roller skates. Towards evening I found a large park on the western outskirts of the city, with paths, a couple of stadiums and a large amphitheater in the middle of the forest.
This is how the cozy Baltic region looks like. And judging by the mood, it will only get better. In general, it is definitely worth a look here.