Feb 1st, 2018, 09:27 AM

Roads, Boats, and Sky, Oh My!

By Anastasija Baiko
Image Credit: Flickr/Thomas Fabian
Reflections on my spontaneous journey through the Baltics, and some tips that I picked up along the way.

I was back in my home country, Latvia, and was supposed to leave the next day when suddenly my boyfriend decided to book a flight to come and see me. After missing his first flight, I was about to lose hope when he told me that he was boarding a flight to Riga, the capital of Latvia.

When he finally arrived, the adventure began. We decided that we should take a car; then, we started our road trip through Latvia. We discovered all types of restaurants, from local to international, and at all price ranges. Some of our favorites were Prego and Biblioteka N1 in Riga, and Faces and TB Palace for lunch or dinner. The hotels that I would recommend are TB Palace in Jurmala, or Gallery Park in Riga, which were both very elegant with great service. After dinner, we hit the bars. Bar 13 boasted personalized cocktails prepared right in front of you. If that's closed, you could always go around the corner to Cloud Nine bar with a cozy lounge and hookahs, finger food, and a great drink menu. During the day, you can walk through the 32km beach located on the coast of the city Jurmala, or visit the charming Christmas market on the main square of Riga (if you're there during the winter season). 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Diliff

After a few days in Latvia, we decided that it was time to move on; instead of flying to Paris, however, we decided to take the car to Tallinn, Estonia in the middle of the night.

Image Credit: Publicdomainpictures.net/Ian Bunyan

Tallinn is a beautiful city; it's very well decorated, and we could sense the presence of the winter holidays. The huge Christmas market in the central square, the shops all decorated for the holidays, and snow out of our window in the morning added a lovely sense of charm to the city. A great choice for a hotel would be the Telegraaf Hotel, located in the center of the old town. The historical interior of the hotel reminds us that it was a post office before, with full telephone services offered to the public dating back to the 19th century. Just recently, it has turned into a hotel with outstanding service and a great spa. During our evenings there, we loved the restaurant Tabac, with a beautifully showcased bar and a great selection of starters to share. Definitely try the beef tartar with dried caviar, and accompany it with a glass of sparkling wine to enhance the taste. The prices are low, which is surprising considering the quality of the food and drinks. After, be sure to take a look through Sauna Street, which comes alive during the night with different types of bars and clubs. 

After staying in Tallinn for a few days, we began to realize that sooner or later we would have to come back to Paris. With the rented car out of Latvia and a missed flight from Latvia to Paris, we had to make a plan on the spot. That's when it hit me; why not leave the car in Tallinn and take a ship to Stockholm, Sweden, where there are cheaper direct flights departing on Sunday. Jackpot. We left the car in Tallinn Airport, and booked a suite on the Tallink and Silja Line. We were a bit skeptical about the ships in the Scandinavian area, and assumed that they might not be very comfortable. We were wrong. It had a cabaret, a nightclub, a casino, a video game room, a huge sundeck, a performance stage, bar, restaurants, a spa, and a whole floor devoted to duty free shopping. It was an incredible experience; we left in the early evening, spent the night on the ship, and in the morning we arrived in Stockholm.

Image Credit: Goodfreephotos.com

Stockholm is just another charming city with outstanding decorations throughout the streets. Walking through the city leaves nothing but a great impression. The architecture is warm and lovely, the placement of the cafes into specific building completes the charm of the city, and the view is breathtaking when you pass the bridge to the other side of town. There are swans-- even in the coldest time of the year-- swimming through the river in huge packs, which is an interesting scene to observe. We were only there during the day, but we stopped by the Berns Hotel to drop off our luggage before wandering around. The hotel is beautiful, and definitely would have been the place to stay if we had the time. You can also enjoy their restaurant, Asiatiska, that looks like it was taken from a scene of The Great Gatsby. The high ceilings, huge chandeliers, and the sense of the Baroque era dominates the room. Definitely swing by for brunch there for a special experience. If you are looking for something cozier with a terrace and perhaps a fireplace, you should go to Brasserie Vau de Ville. It has a Swedish traditional menu, great drinks, and the nicest terrace I have seen in the city that makes you feel like you are in the Alps.

All three countries surprised us at every point of our trip in terms of the dining, the entertainment, and especially the beauty of the cities. It is definitely worth visiting those regions; especially if you are looking for a spontaneous but beautiful trip somewhere new.