Lockdown Week 10 – Places we’ve been (Part 3 – The Baltic States).

Nortia in her parking spot.

Still in Lockdown, in our parking spot! Reg has now had his vaccinations and is allowed to socialise. We have been on a few short walks already. Lockdown rules have enabled us to catch up with some family, at a distance and Reg has begun to meet people and dogs.

We wanted to continue our look back at places we’ve been and this time we’re looking at the Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Estonia

  • Tallinn – we headed for the campsite in the city but weren’t impressed so headed out of town , slightly instead. We did stop at the Memorial to Communism, which is located next to the viewing platform for the Olympics. We returned to find the Baltic Chain Tile and had a quick tour of the city, but it was an incredibly busy, sunny Saturday.
  • Pirita Harbour – a stellplatz in the marina. The marina was where the Moscow Olympics 1980, held their sailing and rowing events. There are the Olympic Rings, the Olympic Flame cauldron and various other statues celebrating the Olympics.
  • Lake Peipsi – we stopped here at a campsite on the shores of the lake. The otherside of the lake is the edge of Russia! The campsite was lovely, small and quirky.
  • Pärnu – a traditional Estonian town on the edge of a river and on the Bay of Pärnu, in the Baltic Sea.
  • Hiiumaa and Saaremaa – two islands in the Baltic Sea, off the eastern coast. They are accessible by ferry and when we arrived the weather wasn’t playing ball! We were able to visit Hiiumaa, but not Saaremaa, as the ferry between the two was cancelled.

Latvia

  • Riga – our base for three nights and the location of our filming for Erwin Hymer and Etrusco. We stopped at the campsite in the city and wandered around with a film crew (Luke and Frank) for two days. We stumbled on the changing of the guard at the Freedom Monument, visited the Museum of Latvian National History – which told the story of the change from an independent country to a Soviet State and back to an independent country, and found our first tile of the Baltic Chain. We also first met up with Karen and Colin http://www.rewindthegap.co.uk, and their dogs Lily and Oakley, in their Burstner Motorhome, Billy. They are also bloggers for Erwin Hymer and Burstner.
  • Jurmala – the beach resort outside Riga, and where we continued our filming (we also stopped on the way back on a country road to be filmed driving). The beach was lovely and sandy.
  • Salaspils Concentration Camp Memorial – not far outside of Riga. It is a memorial to those who died in the work camps of the Russians, and also as a Nazi Concentration Camp.
  • Sigulda – one of the nicest and friendliest campsites we have stayed at. It is relatively new and on the edge of a lake. We also wanted to go to the Bobsleigh centre, but didn’t check the opening times. Camping “Lakeside” Sigulda, is also where we had to be towed off the grass.

Lithuania

  • Zarasai – our first port of call in Lithuania. Zarasai is surrounded by lakes. We stayed in a campsite by one and had visited the Observation Circle on our way into the town.
  • Geographical Centre of Europe – just north of Vilnius, near the village of Purnuškės.
  • Vilnius – the capital city and a completely different place to the rest of Lithuania (in our opinion)! The campsite on the edge of the centre, was a quirky place and had a lovely feel to it. We walked around the town and found our remaining Baltic Tile.
  • Ninth Fort – another monument to those killed by the Nazi regime.

As always, thank you for reading. We’ll continue our review of places we’ve been, next week. Stay safe.

Week 11: Estonia to Latvia and Back.

This week we knew we had an appointment in Riga, Latvia so our arrangements were slightly obscure.

Having left our little harbour-side stellplatz at Pirita, Tallinn, we headed towards the east of Estonia towards the Russian border, First though we wanted to stop and see the Memorial to Communism, the Maarjamäe Memorial. It was up the road from the campsite and almost next t the concrete structure built for the 1980 Olympics. It was quite thought provoking.

We headed along Highway 1 towards Narva, but realising that this would mean us travelling for hours, we set off along the coast road and saw some beautiful coastal villages, instead. We, then headed south and along the shores of Lake Peipsi, whose opposite shoreline was in Russia so we hadn’t really missed the border! Our campsite was directly on the shore line so technically we stared at Russia all night!

Next we set off for Riga, Latvia, where we were due to meet the filming guys for Etrusco UK and Erwin Hymer to have our first film made for their websites. We arrived on Tuesday night having prebooked our pitch for 3 nights. We set about cleaning and tidying Nortia, putting things in boxes and hiding them away. Once complete and not wanting to make a mess we found a curry house on the Wolt app and proceeded to order – a lot cheaper than in Norway. The curry was so nice it was amazing.

Wednesday morning we met Luke and Frank from Juke Media and did some filming in Nortia, explaining who were were and why we were travelling and what having a motorhome like Nortia meant to us. It was a little strange to us and being cooped up inside due to the noise outside and the lighting made it very hot inside. Once complete we headed in to Riga Old Town for some more photos and filming opportunities. It was a long day and eventually we did start to enjoy it a little – its still not comfortable but…

Thursday morning, we had the filming to complete and we headed to the Museum of Latvian History. Having a large well-insulated motorhome meant we could leave Albi behind safely and not worry. We stumbled across the changing of the guard at the Freedom Monument and the Baltic Chain Tile.

We were back in a couple of hours and headed to the beach for more filming opportunities! Of course true to form, it started to rain and we had to wait a while before we walked up and down the lovely white sandy beach at Jurmala. Once that was completed, there was just some driving shots to take. We found a lovely deserted road and filming was completed. We said our goodbyes and thanks to Luke and Frank and headed back to the campsite.

On arrival, there was a familiar vehicle parked directly opposite our empty pitch. It was the Erwin Hymer Burstner Blogging Vehicle of Rewind the Gap http://www.rewindthegap.co.uk/ A.K.A. Karen and Colin, who had been loaned a vehicle the previous year by Burstner (Erwin Hymer) and they had come to see us! We spent a lovely evening discussing the motorhomes, the way of life and freedom you have in a motorhome etc. It was soon very late and we said our goodbyes and would meet up in the morning.

The following morning, we had our own photo shoot, we knew better than to let the opportunity of two Erwin Hymer Motorhomes and blogging teams leave without doing so! This time we said goodbye and headed off back towards Tallinn, first driving to the Concentration Camp Memorial at Salaspils.

Not quite knowing what to expect we were surprised and by the good design and poignancy of the memorial. It also has a slightly eerie feel with the sound of a heartbeat playing to symbolise the lives of those who died here.

We took the coast road up to Pärnu, which was known for its traditional wooden houses and spent the night at a campsite on the river. We were heading up to Tallinn to see the Freedom Square Monument and find the Baltic Chain Tile, having previously found the one in Riga, there are three to collect! The last one being in Vilnius, Lithuania – now there’s a challenge!

After Tallinn, we wanted to visit the Islands of Hiiumaa and Saaremaa. We headed for the ferry to Hiiumaa, to find it had just left and the next one was too late for us to see the Island properly and find a campsite or somewhere to stop, so we headed to a campsite close by. We had previously seen a railway yard full of old engines and rolling stock so headed back to see that too. The trains did look a little sad, but they are in a Museum to show their history.

That night the weather changed, the wind picked up speed and the rain fell hard. We weren’t going to be put off and took our seasickness tablets before heading for the ferry. To our surprise it was still running, so off we went. To be honest, the water out of the harbour was a lot calmer! We went around the Island seeing the bits we wanted to before arriving at the ferry port for Saaremaa. No ferry – the weather at this point was too bad! So we went back to catch the ferry we’d come over on.

This weekend had told us a couple of things, the weather was changing up in the Baltics and we needed to head south. We have decided to head back down to Lithuania and then see where our journey takes us.

As always, thank you for reading. We’ll let you know what happens and where we get to next week. Stay safe and have a great week….

Week 10: Back to Finland and on to Estonia

We continued our journey to Stockholm and stayed in a campsite just outside the city. We had a mooch around the city before we joined the queue for the ferry to Finland. We were booked onto the night crossing with a dog-friendly cabin (he also had the use of a deck, complete with fake tree and a box!). The ferry set off just as dusk was setting in and the views of the archipelago were hampered by the dark.

We settled Albi into the cabin and sorted our bunks, before heading on our mini pub crawl – the Pub and the Piano Bar, before heading to the Italian restaurant for some food – the starter was amazing. We set back to the cabin and set our alarm for 05:00 – Swedish time (06:00 Finnish time) in order to depart the ferry by 07:00 EEST (Eastern European Summer Time – BST+1). It was a struggle as since finishing work we haven’t had to be up at that time for a long time – the closest was 07:00 before going to Dicar Motorhomes back on day 2!

Leaving the ferry and entering Finland again we had high hopes – we wanted to complete the southern part of the country and found a route which would take in the sights. We found a picnic spot outside Turku and had a well deserved cup of tea or two!

We drove up the coast to a campsite in Merikarvia – we needed to find somewhere to recover from the late night / early morning! It was again on the Bothnian Sea and had its own little harbour. Looking at the apps a lot of the campsites had closed at the end of August along with several of the attractions. It appears the weather changes on September 1st! We had definitely entered Finland in Autumn.

It was here we had an email from Erwin Hymer trying to arrange our video shoot (part of the arrangement for having the Motorhome and not unexpected). They wanted us to tell them where and when it could be arranged. We gave them a few options and it was decided that we would meet Luke, from Juke Media GB, in Riga, Latvia next week!

To be honest Finland was not quite the country for us. We’re not sure, if the weather and the fact that it was beginning to get into winter mode played any part in this but we continued our tour of Finland heading up the coast to Larsmo and a lovely campsite on the Lake. The campsite is part of a little complex with a cafe/restaurant, grocery store, fish smokery and a Sauna Boat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LX6e9mIQVkQ have a look. After a day of rain it was lovely to arrive at Larsmo in the sunshine, although the ground was very wet. A lot of the places we wanted to go and see were just too wet or encased in murk being on the coast in wind and rain, so we tried to do the best we could.

We looked at our map and planned our route for the next few days and booked our ferry to Estonia. We headed south and to another lovely campsite in Juva on a lake, under the trees. In true Finland weather style the rain fell torrentially just as we arrived complete with more thunder and lightning, the dog would have to wait for his walk a little longer. The following morning when we set off on the morning walk we found a little path through the trees, the mist was just lifting off the lake and the sun was just beginning to break through, it was beautiful. There was an eagle flying overhead – too far away to get photo but… The ground was full of mushrooms and toadstools – I’m not knowledgeable enough to know what is edible but the bright red ones screamed NO!

We set off on a direct drive to Helsinki, we’d booked the campsite, so we could jump on the Metro into the city. Check in was after 15:00 so no real rush. On arrival, we were allocated our pitch and got ready to head into the city when – no prizes for guessing here – it rained – torrentially for about an hour – then we thought about heading out to the city and it rained again. That was it we weren’t heading into the city – we’d go on our way to the ferry instead, which we did. Helsinki was beautiful and if we’d had more time we would have stayed longer but it can be added to a list for the future!

We checked in for the ferry – well we tried to. Apparently, Direct Ferries had booked us as a Bus (we’re big-ish but not that big) we’d have to go back to the terminal and check in there. Dutifully, we went back and there they told us to check in where we’d just been! I had a feeling that we would never leave Finland. We explained what had happened and were able to check in, before being sent to the Lorry waiting area. Once on board the dog stayed in the Motorhome (he had been booked a cage but…) and we set off in search of something to eat. What did we find on board??? A Burger King! Contrary to belief we do not live on fast food and take-away but this was too good to turn down!

After a two hour crossing we disembarked in Tallinn and set Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav to the City Camping I’d found. Road closures meant a complete detour around the city and on arrival the campsite was no more than a car park. Oops! So we asked Ditsy Daisy if there was anything nearby and she showed us Pirita Harbour Camping. This sounded more like us – a harbour! We set off and immediately it felt more relaxed with a view of the yachts and water activity.

On closer inspection, it was actually the home to the Sailing and Rowing events in the 1980 Moscow Olympics when Estonia was part of the USSR and the whole country hosted the Olympics (this one was made famous by the fact the US boycotted it – in return the USSR boycotted the 1984 LA Olympics, life in the 80’s!).

We saw the Olympic Cauldron and the commemorative plaques and a couple of statues. This wasn’t what we had expected from a campsite. Tomorrow, we’re going to do a bit of exploring of Tallinn before heading towards Riga. We’ll be back to Estonia later next week or the following but you’ll get the updates

As always thank you for reading, and following. We’re loving our trip and hope you’re enjoying reading our little updates. More soon from Estonia and Latvia…