Tallinn and Riga.
I suppose this page should really be titled "Estonia and Latvia", but in truth the capital cities of Tallinn and Riga are the main attractions.
We spent three full days in Tallinn, partly because there is lots to see, partly because there are lots of very good restaurants, and partly because we had a very secure and convenient place to park.
The main attraction of Tallinn is the medieval old town with its jumble of turrets, spires and winding cobbled streets. As our city guide explained, the main reason that 14th and 15th century Tallinn survived intact was that the city was so impoverished in the 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries that they did not even have enough money to knock the old stuff down.
They now have a UNESCO listed, tourist gold mine that attracts the cruise ships and long weekend visitors from all over Europe. In spite of this popularity the city still has a wonderful atmosphere that makes wandering around, even late at night, very relaxing.
One new museum on the edge of the old town deserves a special recommendation: the Museum of Occupation. Well worth a visit.
There are so many great restaurants in old Tallinn that are so cheap, compared to their Finnish equivalents, that I suspect that the Helsinki - Tallinn helicopter service (17 minutes) is used by some Finns for dinning out in the evening. The restaurant I would recommend is Balthasar in the corner of the town hall square, not cheap (by Tallinn standards) but superb food, good service and genuine 14th century decor. (Be warned they specialize in garlic dishes including garlic ice cream). Also apparently worth trying is Olde Hansa if you like that sort of thing.
Although most of the churches in Tallinn have now been restored to their original sects the Oleviste Church seemed to be hosting a fire and brimstone American evangelist and adverts for his "Fresh Fire Mission" disfigured many of Tallinn's lamp posts.
From Tallinn we drove east to Tartu (via Lake Peipsi), then west to Pärnu and finally south to the border with Latvia. The roads were surprisingly good but the scenery, whilst pleasant, could not be called exciting. There were however plenty of wild camping places, especially on the coast road just north of the Estonia - Latvia border.
Having found good wild camping places near the ferry terminals in Stockholm, Helsinki and Tallinn we decided to look near the port in Riga.
This was easier said then done because the central ferry terminal in Riga is not well signed (look for the cruise ships if they are in town or the odd sign for Osta). However when we did find it we were rewarded with a large, free and empty car park with one other UK campervan already parked there (N56.95775° E24.09584°). They reported no problems during the two nights they had been there and so far we have not been bothered.
The nearby passenger ferry terminal has toilets a restaurant and an ATM. The adjacent yacht marina could at a pinch (with a long hose pipe) provide water. The nearest corner of the old city is about 700 metres away along the river.
Riga like Tallinn has many good restaurants, lots of museums and an attractive old city centre. But whereas nearly everybody in Tallinn seemed to have attended "customer relations" courses that promoted cooperation and smiling there remains in Riga some fine examples of Soviet Service, for example the unsmiling museum attendants who check your tickets in each room in the museum.
However one thing Riga has that I have not seen anywhere else in the world is low cost Internet access provided by the GSM phone company (just dial 9310000 with no account or password needed). This web page was brought to you curtesy of this service (well done LV LTM GSM).
Home - This page last changed on 2004-10-16.