Published: August 5th 2012August 5th 2012
Day 39 – Tuesday 25th
July to Day 45 – Saturday 31st
Latvia, Estonia and Finland.
Days 39 through 45 saw us arriving by ferry into Riga Latvia, driving through Latvia and Estonia and then catching another ferry to Helsinki Finland.
Arriving in Riga, Latvia on Day 39 of the Team Free adventure was the first real step east and the first country where English isn’t freely used as much as other parts of Europe to date.
The weather for this stage of the trip was absolutely amazing with the temperature ranging between 25 and 29 degrees each day. We even managed a few hours at the beach for a swim in Estonia. We were told if we were here one week earlier, it would have only been between 10-15 degrees.
Riga saw us staying in our first hostel so far this trip. Generally is has been cheaper to actually stay in hotels as hostels normally charge per person, so at €20 per person we can get a hotel room on-line including breakfast. Staying in their first hostel, the boys said they feel like ‘backpackers’ now. Attached to the hostel was a nice little
bar with a simple restaurant. The boys managed to get some more homework done. Homework in a bar is better than no homework at all.
We spent time exploring Riga, the capital of Latvia. Riga was much nicer than our first impressions with the ferry terminal. Riga has some amazing parks and old cobble stoned streets with so much history and so much tragedy. Latvia in the last 70 odd years has been under 2 regimes of both the Soviet Army and then the Nazi’s. Over 70,000 Jews were murdered. Some of the photos on display really made the boys realise how lucky we are in Australia to not have had to experience anything like this.
Leaving Riga had us heading north to Parnu, just over the border in Estonia. What a contrast. We found the Estonian’s to be so friendly and genuinely pleased to meet any travellers, but especially a young family so far from home. They are very proud of their history and independence. Parnu is basically a ‘summer town’ with people everywhere spending their holidays by the beach. During winter, most things are closed. The hostel we stayed in is only open from June to
August because of the weather. Gets pretty cold in this part of the world.
With summer brings the traditional ‘mobile’ amusement parks and with one just across the bridge and without the Ekka (Easter Royal Show) prices, they boys had some fun. The next day saw Harrison celebrate his 11th
birthday, so a few rides were definitely in order. Not many 11 year olds from Australia can say they spent it in Estonia!!!
The drive to Tallinn was only 2-3 hours and we found a nice hotel on-line just on the edge of the ‘Old Town’. The Old Town is another great area to explore and Jackson and Harrison explored part of Tallinn on some Segway’s. Yep, now they want to know if they can buy them in KL!!!
When the temperature hit close to 30 (no humidity though), we headed to the ‘local’ beach. The water temperature was surprisingly warm for the Baltic Sea. Warm enough for the boys to have a swim. Some locals selling some ice-creams on the beach noticed Harrisons ‘Billabong’ board shorts and asked if we were from Australia. He was quite excited to meet us and wants to visit the Australian
beaches one day.
Estonia was a very enjoyable experience and certainly not what we had thought it was going to be like. Yes, we were there with perfect summer weather, so maybe everyone was extra happy compared to the -20 degree Celsius winters they must suffer though.
The ferry to Helsinki only took 2½ hours, so it makes it very popular for the Finnish to come over, even just for the day as the ferries run 24/7. Arriving into Finland by ferry was very organised and structured, unlike Riga only a few days earlier. Once again, no passport control. The last time anyone looked at our passports was when we arrived in London. This is because everywhere we have been has been within the Schengen Zone. The Schengen Zone consists of 26 European countries that we can travel though without a visa (if you are Australian) for 90 days. This makes things very easy. From Russia onwards, I guarantee that things won’t be the same!!!
After Latvia and Estonia, Helsinki is very expensive. The 5 days in Latvia and Estonia quickly let us forget what Scandinavian prices are like. A few hours back in Finland quickly reminded
us!!! Let’s leave it at that.
We caught up with Viripi Tutie, a Finnish friend of ours who is now a long-time Sydney-sider. She took us to Suomenlinna, an island fortress just of the coast from Helsinki. Viripi was great. It made it so easy to buy tickets, order food or drinks etc etc. Thanks Viripi and we’ll see you back in Sydney at Christmas.
Finland had an interesting history with both Sweden and Russia that we were not aware of. We tried to sell Jeff at a couple of youth hostels without luck. I thought it was always going to be hard to sell a British registered car in Finland, so the inevitable happened and we had to abandon ‘Jeff the Volvo’.
Jeff, named that by the boys after the ‘Purple Wiggle’, did a great job getting us to Helsinki. He made it all the way without any problems and it was such a shame that we couldn’t give someone else that same opportunity to explore Europe with him!!!
We left Jeff in a car park near the ferry terminal. The boys souvenired the number plates and keys. Let’s hope that Jeff is scrapped, recycled
and turned into a Ferrari or even a new Volvo!!! We made the mistake of naming the Volvo Jeff. This made it more emotional for the boys to leave Jeff ‘naked’ in a strange car park in a strange country. As I’ve said to a few people, don’t feel sorry for Jeff. He knew it was a short-term arrangement and he knew that he would be left behind!!!
Thanks Jeff for a great 6 weeks!!!!
The ferry to St Petersburg was an overnight trip. We actually had our passports stamped by the Russian authorities before leaving Helsinki. We managed to squeeze the 5 of us into a 4 berth cabin again. But without Jeff, we had to take all of our luggage in the cabin instead of leaving most of it in the car on the car deck. This was a bit of a squeeze. The crossing was only 14 hours, leaving at 6:00pm and arriving at 8:00am the following morning and the entertainment was pretty similar to the Stockholm Riga leg a week earlier.
We are now in RUSSIA Comrades…………..
There are more photos below