Tour in Estonia and Latvia with Lions in October
Combination of national parks and urban views in Estonia and Latvia.
A group of friends contacted me and asked to offer then an alternative tour through Estonia and Latvia. They had 9 days for it, and I have offered to include Lithuania. "Too long drives" was the argument and I had to agree. So I have come up with an idea of a combination of national parks and cities in Estonia and Latvia.
The planing of the tour to Estonia and Latvia
We have started our circular tour in Tallinn. The first stop at the way east was on Jägala-Joa falls. Then we have continued to Lahemaa National Park. Where we had a stop at Palmse Manor. Next, we have stopped for lunch at the Viitina tavern.
After an hour’s drive, we have arrived in Tartu. The second-largest city of Estonia. After check-in at the hotel Lydia, which we liked very much, went for a walking tour. Have seen the town hall square, river Emajogi, the falling house, Tartu university complex.
After that, we have gone up the nice hill with and historical park. Which includes the ruins of Tartu Cathedral and the monuments of the Estonian writers, poets, and heroes. It was a two-hour easy walking tour with beautiful views of the Estonian “Indian summer”. At night one could see the nicely lighted old city street.
From Tartu to Latvia
The next morning we have visited the Estonian National Museum.
We had a guided tour of one of the four exhibitions – the Echoes of the Urals. Our guide told us the fascinating story about the fate of the descendants of the Ural tribes.
After the museum, we have started our drive to the Latvian Border. These countries are flat, but the scenery isn’t boring at all. Especially in the fall. A lot of yellow, red, and naked trees. We have passed Rakvere, and in Valga we have crossed the border. It took just a second to pass a sign in the center of the town. And you are in Latvia. No borders, the same currency – paradise for traveling for any purpose.
But local people still remember very well that it was not so a while ago. Here I have told the story of the citizenship granting process in these countries.
Latvian city of Cesis
Our next stop was in the historical center of Cesis. It is nicely decorated with beautiful parks around the medieval fortress. Today – a history museum. We have continued to the cathedral square and on the way saw a statue of a monk and another “falling house”. We walked back to the bus through the main street with numerous coffee shops.
Riga - the beautiful!
The next morning we had a walking tour in the old city. Our hotel – Wellton Riverside, had some criticism from the group members, but its location was perfect. I could start guiding from the lobby. Telling about the river Daugava, Statue of 1905, then in a short walk, we have reached the Town Hall Square.
Here all of us were amazed by an exterior of the house of the Black Heads and by the story of the merchant’s guild, which was competing with a powerful Hanseatic league. Opposite it, there was Riga Townhall.
Art Nouveau buildings designed by J. V. Bokslaf. The boy sitting on the roof and holding the stairs in one hand and grapes in the other one. St. Peters church – a monument of the gothic architecture and the tallest church in Latvia. Next to it, there is a gift of Bremen, with a political twist.
Rezekne street was covered by a glass roof to become a shopping mall. Latvia has the biggest Organ in Eastern and Northern Europe; it has 6783 pipes.
After the concert, we have seen the cathedral square, Presidential Palace, Three brothers, St. Jacob Church, Latvian parliament, Swedish Gate, Troksnu street, Yellow barracks, Red defensive tower, and left the old city into the near park.
Outside the old city.
Art Nouveau district is absolutely amazing in Riga. There are about 800 buildings in this architectural style. I think, that Michail Eisenstein built the most beautiful of them during the first decade of the 20th century.
By the late communist era, Ryga jews arranged a new Jewish Community center in the former Jewish theatre building.
After a short walk, we have seen an impressive Russian Orthodox church. Next on our trip was a Freedom Monument. And the last place for the nice walking tour was Livu Laukums.
From Riga to Rundale
We drove to Bauska and Rundlae to visit the Baroque pearl of Latvia.
Back to Riga for lunch in Lido Restaurant.
Maskvas forshtdt used to be a Jewish and Russian neighborhood. He once can see Synagogue ruins and a Wall of the righteous among the nations. As well as Ghetto Area around Moscow street. By the end of the driven tour, there is a park that used to be a Jewish cemetery area.
Salaspils memorial told us about the Slavic people and victims of WWII.
On the way back to Riga we have visited the Rumbula memorial in honor of almost 30 thousand Jews perished there.
Riga to Pärnu.
In the morning we have visited the biggest Riga market. It is located in the five huge hangars just next to the train station.
No doubt, we had to visit Peitavas Synagogue. It was opened in 1905 and still serves the Jewish community of about 5 thousand people.
Sigulda is the biggest town in the National Park of Gauja River. Next to it, there is a village of Turaida. We have been to the hill of Dain with an exposition of the stone art, and also climbed the Turaida Castle Tower.
Lunch in the Witch tavern.
From Parnu to Saaremaa
We went to the Soomaa Bog trail. Which is absolutely outstanding this time of the year. It is a wooden path around the biggest bog in Estonia. We spent about two hours there, as people were stopping from time to time to enjoy and inhale nature.
From Virtsu we took a 20 minute ferry to Kuivatsu which is the settlement on Muhu island. First stop was in Koguva village, which is known for having only 30 inhabitants.
Then we proceeded with a one hour drive to the capital of Saaremaa – Kuressaare.
Sunday – Saaremaa nature and heritage sights. Kaali Meteorite Crater. Angla windmill museum. Panga cliff. Visit Bishops fortress in Kuressaare. You can read about the continuation of the journey to Saaremaa in the separate post.