Baltic states

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Baltic states

Baltic states
Different than expected

Beaches like on the Mediterranean, cappuccino like in Italy and magnificent buildings that still bear witness to the splendor of the once mighty Hanseatic League? the Baltic states are good for so many surprises that in the end, with a little imagination, you even feel transported to the Sahara.

Michael Schroder


Estonia. Latvia, Lithuania. On the way there, the Baltic states seem further away than Africa. And that in a double sense. First, I realize that I know more about the Black Continent than I do about my current travel destination. And second: this miserably long journey. Stuttgart in the morning, Hamburg in the afternoon, and finally the port of Rostock just in time for sunset. Makes around 850 kilometers. Plus 22 hours in the belly of the ferry to Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, on board I try to sort through my scant knowledge of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Until a few days ago, I even had trouble assigning these states correctly on a map. Somehow little got stuck. I only vaguely remember these incredible images on television 13 years ago: a human chain across the three countries ?? Almost two million Balts successfully demonstrated hand in hand against the unpopular Moscow regime, forcing their independence. It occurs to me that I don’t know anyone who has been to the Baltic States, Tallinn comes into view. Pointed roofs, defense towers, churches, the contours of the mighty castle complex on the Domberg in the middle of the city. The rest of the country, on the other hand, can hardly be made out; it stretches flat like the Baltic Sea when there is no wind. No elevation, not even a hill. Presumably one could see Moscow, about 1000 kilometers away, from a ladder. But the approach from the sea is still not boring: Customs in company strength are waiting in the port ?? Car pullers like to use the Baltic states as a gateway to the east. A German motorcyclist, on the other hand, receives little attention. I immediately disappear into the maze of alleys in Tallinn’s old town, walk on cobblestones straight into the Middle Ages, so to speak. Pure Hanseatic glory? the city, the former Reval, was the outpost in Eastern Europe for the powerful trade association. Many houses of the merchants and guilds have now been restored and glow in bright colors. On a sunny day like today there is a life in the streets like in Italian Siena. Teenagers stroll through the streets, every cafe on the market square is full, and in the evening music can be heard from the many pubs and restaurants. Tallinn has charm, pulsates. After a paralyzing foreign rule, there is a spirit of optimism, but the next morning it is a dreary gray. In the sky. And right and left of the street. The trip out of Tallinn teaches you all the sins of Soviet prefabricated buildings. Gigantic satellite towns encircle the city like a belt, only then does this inconspicuous landscape, which was flattened by the last ice age, begin. I choose the coastal road, but it takes time for the sea to come into view. Completely unexpectedly, the road climbs a little shortly before Turisalo, then I look out from a cliff about 30 meters high into the shimmering green Baltic Sea. The profitable area of ​​the Hanseatic League, whose merchants founded one of the strongest city and trade alliances of the Middle Ages. To Haapsalu I rush through seemingly endless pine and birch forests. After a while I stop at a small stall on the side of the road. Father and daughter offer mushrooms and berries. In fluent English, the girl explains that almost everyone in the country is dependent on such extra income. The collectivized agriculture was aimed entirely at the needs of the Soviet Union. And now everything would be fallow if neither salaries nor pensions would be paid on a regular basis. The forest through which the road leads me remains unchanged. A little Alaskan feeling arises. Also because of the loneliness. There is practically no one else around except me. For the first time I turn on my on-board radio, which receives a handful of medium-wave stations. Folk music everywhere. Mostly sad melodies. I read in the travel guide last night that Estonians sing when they feel bad. The spirit of optimism in Tallinn is hardly noticeable in the countryside. The colorful wooden houses Haapsalus, health resort and mini port, are a welcome change. I stop at the only petrol station and ask for unleaded petrol. “No problem”. The gas station attendant nods and speaks excellent English. Lead-free would be available anywhere in the country. Because of the many Mercedes, BMW and VW. Credit cards? “Of course.” Of course. What did I actually expect? Some time later I get to Parnu, the most popular seaside resort of the former Russian crowd. No wonder on this beach! A few kilometers long, over 100 meters wide and light sandy. On the other side of the promenade there are many magnificent villas, great buildings made of light sandstone and brightly colored wood. In the meantime there is a lot of renovation going on everywhere. What is apparently missing now are tourists! In the evening I walk almost alone through the spruced-up center. The next morning I keep on the “Via Baltica” in the direction of the Latvian border, which is already close by. Beautiful wooden houses line up on this untravelled coastal road. Only now do I notice the wind, which does not allow a tree to grow straight, which rushes huge mountains of clouds over the land and blows the fine beach sand onto the street. Then I cross the border to Latvia, continue rushing along the sea on the “Via Baltica” in the direction of Riga, and I would like to stop. Enjoy the vastness, the solitude. Instead Riga. Hectic, cheerful and hopeful. Wide boulevards, splendid Art Nouveau and Wilhelminian style houses, cafe atmosphere and colorful techno bars. I almost get lost in the branched pedestrian zone, pass shrill restaurants, Yves Saint Laurant and McDonalds, and at some point end up on Domplatz. Street music, American and Japanese tourists, rollerbladers and the crowd. The metropolis of millions on the banks of the broad Daugava is extremely cosmopolitan, tempted to stay. The next day I keep on course along the wonderful coast to the windy Kolka Cape and Ventspils. Now and then a few wooden houses in the forest, which are reminiscent of Pippi Longstocking’s Villa Kunterbunt. Lo and behold, the road may no longer be a spoilsport: a few long curves invite you to forget the speed limit of 80 kilometers per hour and the many radar controls. Tempo 120, briefly to 130. I risk a hefty fine. But ?? Hooray! ?? the slightest lean was worth it. The rest of the day I’m good again. The view from the saddle over the vast country and the almost turquoise shimmering Baltic Sea remains unchanged. The next noon the next border. Lithuania. I am casually waved through, drive to Klaipeda, the former Memel, take a ferry across the Curonian Spit. Curved like a crooked nail, Europe’s longest strip of dunes connects the Baltic States with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and was a restricted area until Lithuania’s independence. Perhaps that is why time seems to have stood still here. At least that’s what the many visitors from Germany I meet here hope. Older women and men who, born in what was then East Prussia, are now looking for their homeland, which they had to leave headlong in 1945. This jungle-like forest, through which the narrow road leads, has long since grown over the remains of the house and yard. Only a few fishermen’s cottages have survived, and today they are mostly home to tourists. Then I see the Curonian Lagoon to my left. A motionless freshwater lagoon, three times larger than Lake Constance, but only about a meter deep. The troubled Baltic Sea surges to the right, and the straight path ends in Nida. More precisely: on the closely guarded Russian border. A barrier, watchtowers and barbed wire in the middle of a sandy desert ?? I stand on the edge of the »Lithuanian Sahara«. This picture is surprisingly perfect: dunes up to 60 meters high, perfectly modeled by the constant wind and stretching for many kilometers. A few days ago the Baltic states seemed further away than Africa, now I feel like I have been transported there. Not a bad end to a trip full of surprises.


Although tourism is still in its infancy, there is no problem traveling in the Baltic States. Riga and Tallin, the coast and the Curonian Spit are absolute highlights.

If you want to travel to the Baltic States by land, you have to accept the long journey through Poland. From Warsaw head for one of the two border crossings (Szypliski and Ogrodniki) to Lithuania. Unleaded gasoline is widely available. The Baltic states can be reached by sea from Kiel (Lita Shipping, phone 0431/2097643), Travemunde (Finnjet-Silja-Linie, phone 0451/1507447), Rostock and Neu Mukran (Deutsche Seereederei Touristik GmbH, phone 038392/3001112) . A passage takes about 22 hours and costs simply for one person and the motorcycle in the cheapest variant from about 120 euros. DocumentsA passport is sufficient for entry into all three countries, a green insurance card should be carried with you. The border controls of the respective entry and exit only take a few minutes. Travel time Unfortunately, the Baltic States are a relatively rainy region. The best time to go there are the months of June, July and August. In September it can get very cold again. Accommodation There are good hotels and guest houses in every town and in every larger town. The prices vary a lot. Depending on the standard, you have to pay between 15 and 50 euros per night and person, although more is to be calculated in Riga and Tallinn. Holiday huts and occasionally also campsites can be found on the beaches and, of course, at the well-known seaside resorts such as Parnu, Jurmala or Nida Turn over “Roberts Motorradreisen”. The eight-day tour starts on July 10, 2002 in Berlin. The price of 1199 euros includes all overnight stays, half board, the return journey from Tallin to Rostock by ferry and the tour guide. Information under phone 0511/876050; Literature The GEO Special “Baltic Sea” also provides information about the Baltic States in a well-known quality. 7.80 euros. The “Baltic Countries” travel guide, which is highly recommended for individual travelers, comes from Michal-Muller-Verlag and costs EUR 20.90. With the respective regional maps “Lithuania”, “Estonia” and “Latvia” from RV Verlag on a scale of 1: 300,000 for 9.95 euros each you can find your way around very well. The overview map “Baltic States” on a scale of 1: 800,000 for 7.50 euros comes from the same publisher. Time required: one week, length of the route: around 750 kilometers

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