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 The Dears in the Baltic Republics Summer 2009

Keith & Jenny Dear
Summer 2009

The information that follows was usefully provided by Keith and Jenny to supplement our recent article: In the Baltics - Summer 2009 . In total, they motorhomed 4,000 miles from Dover back to Dover.

During our Baltic trip we traversed Germany on the A2/A12, crossing into Poland at Frankfurt-an-der-Oder, then proceeding as follows: Poznan-Torun-Olstzyn-Suwalki-Kaunas-Riga-Parnu-Tallin-Toila-Tartu-Riga(again)-Vilnius-Druskininkai-Bialystok-Bialowieska National Park-Warsaw-Katowice-Wroclaw-Dresden-Calais!

Obviously we spent time in many of these places/areas and thoroughly enjoyed the trip and the weather, which was pretty well all sunshine and warmth. Riga remains our favourite site and city. We also particularly enjoyed the largely empty and very natural Estonia, benefiting from its proximity to Finland. We had travelled as far as Riga two years ago but realised this time that we had not paused long enough in places then (no surprise to us really). Vilnius is amazing for the sheer quantity of beautiful churches.

Currency-exchange-wise (to the pound sterling), we managed Poland 4.85, Estonia 18.2. After last year, Poland was a relief, as it was then around 4.1.

We found the Baltic Highway to be nearly always excellently surfaced all the way up to Tallin, although usually quite narrow. Other roads were variable, but nearly always better than in the past.

We did visit the Chernobyl-like reactor in Lithuania in 2007 and were surprised by the hospitality and openness of the female PR official there, who couldn't stop showering data upon us. We were amazed at the huge size and sheer length of the cooling pipes, which appeared to be fairly new. They go for a few miles to the town and back, presumably providing cheap central heating? A bit like New York, maybe.

We were favourably impressed with the friendliness of the natives in the Baltics - quiet but, once engaged, we did manage a few lengthy and interesting conversations, nearly always with the younger element of course.

We found that public transport was free to us (over-65s) in Tallin, Tartu and Riga but not in Vilnius. This was also nearly the case in Poland (Warsaw and Wroclaw), where Jenny had to pay half for not being 70! We were amused when the camp site in Wroclaw tried hard to refuse to sell us just one bus ticket! We didn't even attempt to explain the 'half price if over-65' bit we had reason to believe applied there but did manage to confirm that this is the case in the Old Town centre later.

Perhaps we should add that the camp site we stayed at in Tallin, Pirita Camping on the harbourside about 2 km to the east of the town, is much cheaper and has an infinitely better outlook than the 'rip off' enclosed Tallin City Camping. We just wished there had been an alternative to the equally expensive City Camping at Vilnius but do not believe there is another city site there. Partly to overcome possible parking difficulties we like to rely upon leaving our van on site and catching the bus into city centres, so sites around 20 km away are not much use to us here. Surprisingly, the City Camping at Riga is excellently placed and is not expensive either.

One other item which is useful for anyone wanting to stay around Tartu is that there is a perfectly good site off the A2 road about 5 km to the west, only mentioned in the ACSI guide, apparently. Tartu is a small place, so we managed the parking here by using a mall car park and catching the bus into the centre.

Also, any visit to Riga is not complete in Keith's opinion without a visit to the truly excellent Riga Motor Museum to the east of the city centre. Highlights here are limo's once reputed to be owned by Joe Stalin, Kruschchev and Breznev. These come complete with full size models of the former soviet luminaries in, or holding the doors of, the vehicles. But there is much more to the museum than this.