When people traipse around Europe, they usually plan ahead. Budgets are drafted, routes are drawn and redrawn, flights to and from are booked ahead of time. Planning has real purpose when abroad but my traveling plans have been vague at best. I’ve used the word “indefinite” too many times already and I have a feeling that when I finish my trip and draw the route I took on a map, it will look like I went etch-o-sketch crazy after knocking back a few.
I’m lost deep in a jumble of scribbles but I have to say, things make perfect sense in this pile of haphazard happenings. I started in Budapest and traveled up to the Baltic States, a group of countries I knew nothing about. Some people referred to them as hidden gems on Trip Advisor while others said they weren’t really worth it. There wasn’t a whole lot of information available about this corner of Europe which seemed like all the more reason to go.
As you might have gathered from my previous post, I loved Lithuania. After a grand time in Vilnius and surrounding areas, I spent a short night in Riga, Latvia. To be honest, Riga was a little dodgy. People weren’t the friendliest or sometimes, they were a little too friendly (if you stop to look at your map in Riga, be prepared to be mooned.) But after a slightly restless night, I woke up early the next morning and explored some of Riga’s fascinating Old Town, taking time to notice the House of Blackheads (unfortunate name, extraordinary building.)
From Riga, I took a bus to Tallinn, Estonia, a place I liked instantly. The vast expanse of autumn-kissed forests reminded me of my home in New Hampshire while the amass of gorgeous architecture in Tallinn suddenly made history seem like the coolest thing ever.
Old Town Tallinn is jam-packed with churches that host impressive baroque interiors and beautifully resorted pieces of art. The cobblestone streets weave around colorful storefronts and dip under narrow stone gates. Surrounding Tallinn’s gorgeous UNESCO-listed Old Town is an ancient stonewall originally constructed in the 1300’s.
I spent several days exploring Old Town and even though I got horribly lost the first night, I enjoyed every minute of it.
Tallinn, of course, has more to offer than just Old Town. There is a beautiful harbor that encircles the quiet Baltic sea with a largely untouched shore that leads into Kadrioru Park. This expansive park is composed of an impressive palace, serene Japanese gardens, and far-reaching rows of colorful trees. I spent hours wandering around this park, muttering many a silent thank you to Estonia for proving to be well-worth the visit.
I left Estonia yesterday morning and endured a very long bus ride bound for Prague. That sounds dramatic, I know, but twenty-three hours on a bus is enough to drive anyone crazy. However, I have quickly recovered after drinking a cup of thick, smooth, unadulterated hot chocolate. This magic in a dainty tea cup is currently bulleting through my veins and zapping me back to life. I’m just about ready to commence my sugar-saturated stroll through Prague, one of my favorite European cities, but for now, I sit in an empty bus station, reflecting away the minutes until I can check into my hostel and wash twenty-three hours of bus out of my hair.
But even in states of building hyperactivity, I can appreciate these moments of slowing momentum when I can quell the itch to explore everything and anything and instead reminisce on what’s happened so far. Propelling yourself into the past can be the best thing sometimes because you soon realize just how much you have seen, and felt, and discovered. The Baltic States, one of Europe’s many tucked away secrets, have given me a splice of home and a pinch of something entirely new. The gorgeous parks aplenty, the historically-complex structures that keep these enchanting countries standing, the simple awe of cold sea water folding against the divots of soft sand have moved me while serving as a quiet reminder that beauty is a common enterprise. The trick is, you have to earn the postcard view. Taking trains and buses and long walks into the middle of nowhere is your payment to the earth, your way of thanking it for giving you magic, magnificence, and memories that spin their grand melodies around and around your brimming mind.
May those melodic memories always remind you that even though your passports, birth certificates, and Facebook accounts only list one place of birth, there are so many more places in this world where a small part of you can be born. Think beyond TripAdvisor reviews and personal recommendations because there’s no saying where foreign melds into familiar. You won’t know if a place has the potential of home until you knock on the door.