5 reasons why the Baltic States are awesome – and you should be visiting them

9 Jul

So I’m in Riga now after visiting Estonia for 3 days. I think the Baltic States are incredible countries to visit, especially considering how small they are. I see why more tourists are discovering them. For a great city break, you should go to Tallinn, Riga, or Vilnius whenever you can. Sooner or later, they will be so overrun with shopping malls and tourists that, though they will still have charm, may feel less authentic. I’m so glad I added these countries to my itinerary (Originally I was just going to visit Poland, The Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary) But anyway, let’s go over five reasons the Baltic States are wonderful places to visit and you should be planning a trip there now.

 

1: Architecture

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The architecture in these countries’ capitals’ old towns really is incredible. You’ll feel like you’ve entered some sort of fantasy video game, book, or movie. The atmosphere is touristy and a bit disneyfied, but the architecture is far more interesting than anything I’ve seen in Western Europe. There’s plenty of interesting cathedrals too.

2: Bang for the Buck

Coming on a ferry from Finland, it was easy for me to notice how everything in these countries is cheaper. The food was cheaper (and much better). The coffee was cheaper. The tram tickets were cheaper. The hostels were cheaper. The Baltic States are far cheaper than western Europe and Scandinavia, but prices will keep creeping up.

3: The countryside

It appears boring at first, but if you really look at the trees and notice the variety of them, it’s more interesting. Also, on every drive you make through the baltic countryside, you’ll probably notice gorgeous storks nesting and flying. This adds a feeling of wildlife-spotty-awesomeness to every rural drive you’ll make.

4: The fascinating contrasts

There really are two different versions of the Baltic States: that experienced by the younger, more urban generation, and that experienced by the older generation. If the restaurant is a backpacker-place run by younger people (who will most likely speak English), you’ll hear blaring American pop music (ugh) that’s supposed to be, um, trendy I guess, and the menu is more likely to have international food. If the restaurant is run by older people (who will most likely not speak English), chances are it will serve more traditional foods and have folk music playing. It’s not just restaurants though. There’s striking contrasts on the street between the way younger and older people dress, behave, and communicate. There’s also contrasts in the architecture. Every so often you’ll see crumbling soviet blocs right next to gleaming glass offices or hotels. It really is fascinating to be in a region that has a split personality.

5: The melting pot of East and West

The Baltic States is region where east meets west in the northern part of Europe. In many parts of Riga and Tallinn, you’re just as likely to hear Russian spoken as Estonian or Latvian. There’s plenty of signs in both text from the local language and in Russian. These countries are historically, in my opinion, more of an easternized western melting pot than a westernized eastern melting pot. For a huge chunk of this region’s history, there was far more contact with Denmark, and Germany than with Russia. The Russian empire and the soviet union really made sure to easternize it, however. Now it is keen to be seen as “western” again. This makes for a fascinating region in transition that is endlessly rewarding to explore.

 

 

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