Monday, 14 May 2012

Baltic States

We're here in Kaunas (Lithuania), in a nice hotel for two nights, preparing ourselves for the next stage of the journey - into the wilds of Poland. Before we leave though, here are a few impressions of our whistle-stop tour through the 'Baltic States'.
Estonia  is now a member of the Euro Zone and seems to be on the 'up' (at least for the time being ... lets see what happens to Greece) The people are lively and friendly and there seems to be something of a Scandinavian flavour especially in the North. We arrived in Tallinn early, on a freezing cold morning, beneath a steely grey sky, flecked with rain. It gave the impression that the old city was rather 'faded', but I'm sure that on a lovely summer's day it would be gorgeous.
The influence of Russia close by is still felt, but it seems that the country nowadays is very much 'looking towards the West'.
too seemed to be quite vibrant but prices in Lati were cheaper than in Estonia. The coast road beside the Baltic was a delight ( especially to get away from the dreaded E67!)
The people once again were friendly, and eager to talk to us. Riga was beautiful. The "Old Town' was thriving with cafes restaurants and shops, open squares, and small parks, and had a real vibrant feel to it.

Lithuania appeared to be less prosperous it seemed, and the people much more reserved especially in the countryside, where we'd been waved at in Estonia and Latvia, here we barely get an acknowledgment. Having said that though, the hospitality shown to us was again, wonderful.

Kaunas is the country's 'second city', but it was nevertheless  an interesting place to visit. Both Rigs and Tallinn had the edge over it though.

All three Baltic States seem to be really trying to look to the future, and put the horrors of the 20th Century behind them. It is in contrast to the outlook of many in Britain, who didn't have to suffer the same oppression, and look back now to the 'good old days' when Britannia ruled the Waves.

Cycling.  All three, (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) are pretty well flat. They are threaded by the E67 'Via Baltica', which is the chicken run for all the big trucks and other traffic hurtling between them. There's no cycle lane worth talking about (a 2m wide strip at the side of the main carriageway for a few sections, but mainly you are in there fighting for elbow room with the trucks ... ). We managed to avoid it for most of the way, but the minor roads are not always surfaced and so progress was quite slow. The main factor though is the wind. Much of the countryside is open farmland with little protection. If the wind is against then it's like cycling up Church Street all day ...

So, that's the Baltic States crossed. In two days we'll cross the border into NE Poland. We'll be out in the sticks for some time ...

1 comment:

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