I write from Sweden, where I’m staying with Ingrid, the daughter of one of mum’s school friends from India, who visited me when I was living in Terrigal. It has been good to catch up again! We are staying in Uppsala, a university town north of Stockholm.
So a little update since I last wrote, when we were still in Lithuania.
Latvia: another beautiful Baltic nation, overflowing in lush green, flowers and magical quaintness. We stayed in Riga for 4 nights. Riga, is a must-see destination… absolutely amazing atmosphere. A rather compact Old Town, but sprawling with cafes and restaurants, flower pots and statues. But, the city came alive at night (although the sun never quite sets, it has a constant blue glow in the sky for about 4 hours every night between 11pm and 3am). Talented street performers play from the darker corners of alleyways, and flood up the streets to where you’re sitting having dinner at 10pm (yeah, this kid is no longer in bed by 8 at night!)
We also went to Jurmala, to the North-West of Riga, and spent a day at the beach. It was a beautiful day – hot like Australia, and I got sun stroke!! (self-diagnosed!) Although the blessed Baltic Ocean was a little overrated – one giant septic pool!
Next stop was Tallinn, in Estonia (we’ve been travelling by bus between the capitals). The Old Town is one of the best preserved medieval cities in existence, and while it is indescribably beautiful with an old city wall running along the outside, watch towers and old alleyways with ghost stories to tell, it is also strikingly modern with cafes and internet access even in holes in the ground (after all, this is the nation that developed Skype). It is also the PORK capital of the Baltics, so when I ordered my chicken pancake, much to my dismay, it came filled with slabs of pink ham instead. We were fortunate in that Andrew’s friend has married an Estonia, so we got to see more of the country and went driving outside of the capital. They also have an adorable 3 month old baby, so I was entertained all day long 🙂
We’ve done out fair share of climbing church and castle towers, reconfirming my absolute terror of heights (who would have thought it?!)
Each of the Baltic nations have their own unique history of occupation by the USSR and Germany, with KGB headquarters in each of the capitals, and memorials of lives lost. It truly is a historian’s playground. It’s hard to comprehend all the lives destroyed in these places.
The further north we’ve been, 3 things go up – longer sunlight hours (dark by 11pm – light again at 3am), more English speakers, and PRICES.
Which brings me to Finland. Finland was FREEZING! (not quite a ‘Summer’ holiday destination… but if it’s not warm now, it certainly isn’t any other month of the year!) And expensive! The city didn’t impress me as much as the Baltics (which I miss and pine over constantly..), but it does have some amazing architecture. We also went to the Olympic site of the 1952 olympics (the games before Australia had them in 1956). We went out to another island that had the fortress on it from the war. Finland – who invented the sauna – have 1 sauna for every 3 people in the country! And another educational point – nokia is a Finnish company, and they originally used to be a toilet paper making company till they decided to expand their product range! Good move I say! Oh, and I bought a real fur scarf! But to the animal activist, that fox was born to be a scarf, and a good one at that!
So now we’re in Sweden, for the next week (ah, the land of the Volvo, and IKEA). Spending 3 nights in Uppsala and heading to Stockholm with Ingrid and another friend Peter, then across to Gothenburg to where Andrew’s “family” live.