I am an experienced guide in leading cultural, hiking, and cycling tours. My expertise lies mostly in the Baltic countries.
My homeland is rich with history and a hidden gem to an avid traveller. One can easily spend several days in Vilnius, the historic capital of Lithuania. From the Palace of Dukes to spectacular panoramic red rooftop views of the old city from the surrounding hills, to heart-wrenching stories of the Jewish population, to the Gothic steeples of St. Ann’s Church and overwhelming 2000 stucco sculptures inside the church of St. Peter and Paul.
Besides city centre, we could also go for a hike in a picturesque park in Belmontas. There is an old water mill that has been converted into a historic Steep River Vilnia banks offer spectacular views.
If you are in Vilnius, it would be a shame not to visit its satellite – the medieval island castle of Trakai. Do not forget to engage your imagination and feast with the rulers, quarrel with the nobles, or defend the walls from foreign invaders. Don’t forget Kernavė, the first Lithuanian capital with five fort-hills in one location! If that is not enough, on the way back, we can visit the ancient burial mounds near Dūkštos.
On the way to Kaunas, we can stop in Pažaislis with the breathtaking baroque interior of the church and Camaldoli monastery complex.
During the years of restored independence enclosed by two World Wars, Kaunas was the only temporary capital in Europe. Coinciding with the prevalent architectural style of art deco and the need to establish the missing political, financial, and social infrastructure in the city – due to the Polish occupation of Vilnius – Kaunas became permeated by the fashion of the times.
If you are into the Baltic German heritage, we could spend a night in Pakruojis, the biggest manor in the Baltic countries. On the other hand, if you are into the remnants of the dark ages of Soviet occupation, Plokštynė will be right up your alley as it houses the Cold War Museum with the former Soviet Union’s complex of a ballistic missile launch.
And finally, your visit of the country will be incomplete if you miss the beautiful Baltic coast, and especially the Curonian Spit. Sometimes windy, sometimes desert-like sand dunes create the atmosphere that can be accurately described in Jean-Paul Sartre’s words, “I feel as if I’m standing at the gates of Eden.”
Oh, and yes, it is the G-Spot of Europe. Nobody knows where it is, but when you find it – it’s amazing!
When in Latvia, one has to spend at least several days in Riga. Not only is it the capital of the country, but also of a particular style of architecture – art nouveau! All northern section of the city is lined with imposing, richly decorated buildings from the beginning of the XX century.
Moving to the old city, it would be difficult to list all the places one must see, as the walking tour usually lasts three hours or more. When it is over, the visitor must slow down, breath in, and drink up – local craft beer, caraway liqueur, and Riga Balsam are among the few beverages to try. Thus, let us embark on the infamous pub crawl and visit Labietis in the Central Market, enjoy folk tunes at Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs, or relax with a pint full of craft at Alķīmiķis.
If you are in for a more physical experience, let’s cycle to the beach resort Jūrmala. We can climb an observation tower in the forest park, feast our eyes on delightful wooden art nouveau villas, and get a suntan on the finest Baltic sand.
Nature lovers cannot miss a nearby raised bog in Kemeri. It feels like transporting yourself into a different world, where humans no longer rule creation and are only a part of the greater ecosystem. If you are afraid of mosquitos, fear not! Most of them have been served for lunch to dragonflies.
Since we are on the subject of nature, let us not make a mistake forgetting about the Gauja National Park. Allow your hearts to be captured by the walking trails nearby Sigulda and Erglu Cliffs. Past glory days of the Brothers of the Sword and Bishop Albert will be reflected in the medieval castles of Cesis, Sigulda, Krimulda, and Turaida.
Oh, and have you seen the Bicycle museum in Saulkrasti? That is a perfect end of the cycling day in the park.
The key is not to rush and take Latvia in slowly.
Prepare yourself to be swept off your feet by the beauty of Old Tallinn. Medieval aura will follow you wherever you turn. We will admire unmatching views from several observation decks, marvel at historical churches, imposing city walls and towers, get a taste of the local cuisine, and stroll undulating cobblestone streets. Museums? Oh yes! Depending on your interest, but… Sea. Plane. Harbor! Enough said.
Did you know Estonia had some two thousand islands? Not all of them are huge. Not all inhabited. But you will appreciate a couple large ones – Muhu and Saaremaa. Here time slows down. An open-air museum with sheep sauna (!), beautiful beaches, cliffs, windmills, meteorite craters, lighthouses, military sights from WWII, and other impressive places to cycle to.
The land of bays, Lahemaa is one of the most beautiful national parks. Fishing villages, piers, lagoons, manors, and forests. By car, bike, or on foot – Lahemaa is sure to help you relax and rejuvenate.
Once on the margins of the vast Russian empire, Estonia became shelter to old believers, who wanted to keep their faith unchanged. They settled along the shores of Lake Peipus and became known for avid fishing and praised for… growing onions. Cycle through their villages, and you will see that almost all houses have long braids of these juicy vegetables for sale. Step into their homes or present-day museums and you will get to know a different culture, formed by centuries-long isolation from other influences.
The second largest city in Estonia is Tartu, yet it has no match for culture and academia in the country. One of the oldest universities in the region, TU continues to impress and attract both professors and students alike from Estonia and abroad. One of five people that live in the city is a student. This factor alters the city atmosphere and gives it a unique character.
And if you came here for some physical activity, let’s try your legs in cycling the hills of the sports capital of Estonia, Otepää – from there to the Latvian border in Valga.