Baltic beauty (part 1)

As soon as I left the ferry I was practically dead centre of Tallinn (Estonia) right away. I immediately cycled to the campsite that I booked to explore the capitol without my panniers – I couldn’t find a Warmshower-host unfortunately. But the campsite was conveniently close to the centre, literally between two warehouses.

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I feel ashamed that I didn’t stay longer in Tallinn, since the city is a delight. Very historic, beautiful buildings and nice people. Since I rode off south in the direction of Pärnu already the next day, I got a kick in the butt for that by my girlfriend. I’ve been telling for so long I wanted to see the Baltic States and now I was rushing going home. That’s not the way to do it, she told me. I’m grateful for that kick, I stayed longer in Pärnu and I enjoyed it very much, also due to the terrific pleasant weather I got.

I said in the direction of Pärnu, but that’s not entirely true. I did take a detour (via Rapla) to the Summer Capitol of Estonia. For the first time I navigated with a paper map! I got one at a bikeshop in Tallinn where I asked for the campsite, since I overlooked it. A nice coincidence, because in that way I found an awesome route (which was signed!) to Rapla. Scenery little B-roads between lovely little villages. The roads were good and pleasantly flat with hardly any traffic (even the gravel roads were quite okay). And above that the weather was brilliant.

I let myself be engulfed by the countries I am visiting now, because I have no more than a slight notion about them. I never really looked into them, never been there before. And that part of travelling I like, because naturely I could’ve done a lot of research beforehand, but the plan is just to take it as it comes. The history, landscape, people and so on where therefore relatively unknown to me, but I quickly catch up. The history is rich and interesting as the cities of Tallinn and Pärnu showed me. I loved the landscape – didn’t mind the roads where so flat – and the people that I’ve met have been very nice. Especially in Latvia, I’ll tell more about that further on.

I didn’t know how wild camping would be like, but that’s been comfortably easy. A lot of forests and empty fields. On my way to Riga I stumbled upon a sort of campsite where you could camp for free with a dozen of places to make a fire. And just 10 metres from where I put up my tent was the beach. So I had a wonderful lazy afternoon, because I camped earlier than I used to.

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Right now I am in Latvia (amazingly how small these countries are after Sweden and Finland!). Tomorrow I’ll reach Riga where I can stay four nights with two different hosts. I do think I found my way of taking it a bit slower with some detours and longer stays in cities (what is a day or a week longer going to change?). I might be slightly hardheaded, but I’m getting there and most of all, I’m really enjoying myself!

Today it showed that the real adventure starts when you take a detour away from the highway. This morning I arrived in Latvia at the town of Ikla. The Iron Curtain Route goes through my second Baltic country as well, but since that route takes mostly the motorway, I chose to take a different route. And that’s where the adventure began! The gravel road was not that bad, but all of a sudden it got grassier until it turned out in a forest road. And I remember forest roads still quite well from Sweden. They are a bi… I mean, they are neither easy nor comfortable to ride on with a mammoth-like bike. I had to push the bike a couple of times until I bumped upon a sign that said in a jolly tone that there was a 300 meter long stretch on the beach (there was first a staircase leading down to the beach) with an exclamation mark that conveyed pure fun. When you’ve been travelling a little bit, you know that in general beaches consist of sand. Loose sand. Impassable. Somebody wrote ‘Fuck’ on the sign. My sentiment couldn’t be better expressed…
But no worries! There was a pathway through the woods, at least a narrow patch of grass that was flattened. That path came to a halt all too suddenly for my taste. It ended in a ditch, with slopes that steep and slippery I had to take of my panniers off and had to be quick about it, since it was swarming with flies.

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It’s not that clear on the photograph but the slope up was too steep and slippery.

 

After some sandy roads I finally arrived in the town of Tuja. There the adventure got a quite different element. Busstops are always most welcome for the humble cyclist, for one can put the bicycle against a shelter when you’re lucky there is one, but most importantly, one can sit down. After I had eaten and was smoking a pipe of tobacco, two young Latvian blokes turned up, both with some sweet drinks containing alcohol in hand. We had a little chat, they wanted to let me taste some. I declined, since I didn’t want to drink and drive. They really persisted me to have a sip, so I gave in (yes, the flesh is weak). They bought me a beer, water and food. And that was after they already gave me five euro’s. They wanted to go to the beach, if I wanted to join them. Yeah, why not. There I could safely drink a beer and let it sink down before I got going again. But I drank two, some cider and some whiskey as well. It was obvious they already had their share before we met. It didn’t took long before they kinda passed out. I waited a while, but after an hour there was no way they would wake up. Not after shouting and shaking them. At the end I could wake one with a splash of water. ‘Thank you for everything, but it’s time for me to get going.’ ‘Yeah yeah, you go.’ He gave me a hand, turned around and kept on dreaming the sleep of the innocent.

That was just one day in Latvia, so I am most eager to find out what this country has in store for me!

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