Vilnius and historical curiosities

Hill of Crosses

After a six hour drive coming from Pärnu (Estonia), I arrived in the middle of a traffic jam in the old town of Vilnius (Lithuania). What a change of culture! Yes, I liked Riga in Latvia – and I enjoyed Tallinn in Estonia. But Vilnius in Lithuania felt quite different. It’s a whole world apart from the other places I visited earlier during my Baltic road trip. Actually, I am quite happy to have visited the cities in the present order.
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Fined in the fine city of Tallinn

Downtown Tallinn

The first stop in Estonia was the small city of Tartu where I stayed overnight. Distances are small in the Baltic states, which is a key advantage since this leaves plenty of room to cover many places and still have enough time to visit and relax. Tartu was one such place. Being the second largest city of Estonia, there are plenty of cafes, book stores – and students. In fact, the national University of Estonia is located here. Founded back in 1632, it is considered to be one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe. No wonder, Tartu is being considered the intellectual center of Estonia.
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Riga and the last night of freedom

Clocktower in Riga

Riga, capital city of Latvia is easily reached by plane, since it has the largest airport of the three Baltic states. This obviously draws attention of budget airlines and the associated influx of tourists who choose their travel destination by price. When Ryan Air started to fly to Riga, the city became a major destination for hen and stag parties. The number of Irish and British tourist groups celebrating the last night of freedom in the city center is stunning.
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Binge drinking in Irkutsk and Lake Baikal

Russian tourits having fun on frozen Lake Baikal

Irkutsk is one of the main hubs for tourists in Siberia. There’s enough infrastructure to stock up on food and head either east (Vladivostok), south (Mongolia) or west (Moscow). When I arrived there, a number of administrative tasks were on my mind: Getting the visa for Mongolia, see a barber shop, post some postcards and mail a DVD containing about 4GB of pictures as backup from the camera’s memory stick to Switzerland. Eventually – among all these tasks – I would have some time to visit the city and also stock up some cup noodles for the onward journey.

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Tashkent Express

The last day in Moscow started uneventfully. In the morning, I went shopping groceries for the upcoming four-day journey on the train to Tashkent. I stocked some fruit and cup noodles. For lunch, I went back to the hostel where two roommates, Jeremie and Mark, were hanging out with two Canadian girls from the other dorm. We all decided to visit the city together, since everyone was somehow preparing to leave – either towards Mongolia, China or Europe.

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