Baltics

Mar 10th, 2004, 12:42 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 69
Baltics

We're in the early stages of planning a trip to the Baltics. We will have 11 or 12 days in June and will have a rental car. We have no definite plans yet, but prefer smaller hotels or guesthouses/pensions with some character. We like Eastern European food, so local out-of-the way places are fine. I like visiting the open-air museums and places that feature folk art. Can anyone help figure out some sort of a schedule? I figured we would need reservations in Talinn, but would we need to make them ahead for the whole trip, or just come prepared with a list of possible places. Other than in the main cities, what are costs like for food and accomodation. What were your favorite places and what do you wish you would have skipped? Any favorite foods there?

GMT2272 is offline  
Mar 10th, 2004, 02:21 PM
  #2  
hsv
 
Join Date: May 2003
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In general you will be better off having some reservations made ahead, I presume.
Overall, even if you are not looking for that much, it can still be pretty hard to find any accomodation in the countryside.
Plus, June is a very popular travelling season for these countries-and for a good reason. Especially around Jani (Midsummer's Eve), places will fill up rather quickly.
A quick draft of schedule would include:
At least 2 days in Tallinn, one for sightseeing of the city, one for Rocca al Mare outdoor museum.
Have only stayed at Hotel Olümpia and Palace in Tallinn, which do not exactly fit your description. For small luxury with character there is Grand Hotel Schlössle and it four star sister property Hotel St. Petersbourg, both within Old Town city limits. They do come at a price, though.
Drive down to Riga on your third day. Stop at Pärnu for a nice dip into the Sea (shallow and thus reasonably warm waters.)
Allow at least 2 days for Riga. One day minimum of city sightseeing (I posted a condensed walk around town including Old Town and the Art Deco District on the thread Riga for a Day, which I would refer you to by using the search option). There is an Open Air Museum on the outskirts at Brivibas gatve 440 displaying Latvian Country Life which you might take a look at on your second day.
I stick by my restaurant recommendations mentioned on other posts:
- Staburags for Latvian Cuisine
- Charlestons for International in a nice setting
- Vincents for a Gourmet experience at reasonable prices
- Symposium for a Romantic dinner Mediterranean style
- Alus Seta for Latvian Self Service (including delicious shashlik)
BTW Any of the Lido chain restaurants (Staburags, Alus Seta, Dzirnavas, Vermanitis and Lido Atputas Centrs, of which to my knowledge only Staburags offers full service) is a safe bet regarding the quality of the rustic cuisine featured.
I do not have any experience with B&Bs in Riga, but for smaller good quality lodging in ancient building and at a good value, you might want to consider Konventa Seta in Old Town in a restored convent. They also offer some efficiencies with small kitchen. Hotel Gutenbergs might be an option, too (slightly more expensive). On the luxury side there is Grand Hotel Palace.
On your way to Lithuania you should stop at Rundale Palace close to Bauska.
I have no Lithuanian experience, but would allow 2 days for Vilnius, too.
This leaves you three days to make it eleven.
Sigulda close to Riga is pleasant enough for a daytrip with a small hike to Turaida Castle. As would be Pärnu in Estonia. For accomodation you might look at Ammende Villa there (you would definitely need reservations there). A Bauhaus classic is Rannahotell right on the beach, but it is part of Scandic Hotels and therefore affiliated with Hilton.
A look at the Curonian Spit in Lithuania almost certainly would be lovely. But then, I don't know if you've got an open- jaw air ticket or might need to get back from Vilnius to Tallinn, if that is where you started your journey.

Here are some links:
http://www.schlossle-hotels.com/
http://www.konventa.lv/eng/info-eng.htm
http://www.gutenbergs.lv/home/
http://www.ammende.ee/index.eng.html

and, of course, the local bibles called In Your Pocket Guides at
www.inyourpocket.com

Should you require more info, do post!
Otherwise have fun in the Baltics!
hsv is offline  
Mar 10th, 2004, 04:48 PM
  #3  
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hsv- thanks so much.
I'm sure I will have more questions after I look this over. Is Midsummer's Eve a holiday?
GMT2272 is offline  
Mar 10th, 2004, 05:25 PM
  #4  
Biz
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
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I agree with hsv that you should make reservations ahead, to the extent possible, because tourist season is short in that part of the world and you are going at about the high point. I have travelled to each of the Baltics for business and I love the culture, the food, the sights and (especially now) the exchange rate. Unfortunately I usually end up staying in the large hotels for business purposes. The Radisson in Tallinn and the Ridenze in Riga are very nice, but rather large hotels right in the center of those cities. In Vilnius, I can't recall the hotel but I remember that the city was more spread out than the other two and that the business district was a bit removed from the historic area. I did stay in a smaller hotel in the lovely spa town of Druskiniki (sp?) in SE Lithuania, but unfortunately I do not recall the name. If you are looking for a slightly off the beaten path plce I would recommend this town where mineral spings attracted Tsars and Commisars alike. There is a sculpture park there called "Stalin World" where status of Lenin, Marx and other soviet leaders were saved from the mob and presented here with more than a little irony. Although each of these countries has a distinctive cuisine, the food is generally very good and quite affordable. Salmon and other fish is generally very well prepared and you have to try shasliki, sort of a shis-ka-bob. Enjoy your trip!
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Mar 11th, 2004, 01:57 AM
  #5  
hsv
 
Join Date: May 2003
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GMT,

Midsummer's Eve is a holiday in all three countries to my knowledge. It is very often celebrated with families and friends somewhere in the countryside.
As to another sight to see, there is the Hill of Crosses (Kryziu kalnas) in Northern Lithuania, about 10 km North of Siauliai. It is quite impressive as a small hill is covered with thousands of crosses dropped there for various reasons. After Lithuania's independence, even the Pope has paid this place a visit. You can combine this with a visit of Rundale Palace on the other side of the border.

I agree with biz that both Hotels (Radisson in Tallinn and Ridzene in Riga) are very nice properties. But as she stated, they are rather business travel oriented properties. Esp. the Tallinn Radisson is worth a look at for often comparatively cheap rates.

The Ridzene is part of the Estonian hotel chain Reval Hotels. They actually do quite a good job providing consistent quality. The Ridzene is probably their best hotel (and it's not that large) having been converted a few years ago (3) from a former Communist Party retreat into a modern five star. It is very expensive, though and I would rather take a look at its three star sister if I had to pay for it myself, the Reval Hotel Latvija. This is monstrous and huge from the outside, but has been very nicely and impeccably renovated. It is a bit generic, though (could pass as a Radisson somewhere else) and I think in general you would be better off with the Konventa Seta or the Gutenbergs.

http://www.revalhotels.com/
http://www.radisson.com

For a travel agency offering some good hotel rates (and sometimes bargains):

http://www.viariga.lv/en/index.htm
hsv is offline  
Mar 11th, 2004, 03:24 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 95
For Tallinn, you could also check out this hotel;
http://www.mihkli.ee/index_eng.php
It's only 10 min walk from the old town but has trolley buses passing regularly. If you do decide to book here, ask them for a room that doesn't face the main road.
For Riga, you'll find a good selection of private apartments here; http://www.rigaaccommodation.com/index.htm
Have a great trip.
marcus is offline  
Mar 12th, 2004, 12:38 PM
  #7  
hsv
 
Join Date: May 2003
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One thing just occurred to me:

Old Town Riga (where Hotel Konventa Seta and Gutenbergs are located) has restricted access for cars. Driving permits can be bought - but for a considerable fee at booths at a few entrances to Old Town.
I do know that Konventa Seta does have a small parking lot a few steps from the Hotel, but am not sure about Hotel Gutenbergs. In any case, if you intend to follow your policy of staying in smaller, more intimate properties and desire to reside in Old Town, do call your hotel upon reservation and ask them about the possibilities for parking (and what charges will apply -theirs and city's)!
I remember quite a lot of cars within Old Town Tallinn, so I assume you will not face the same difficulty there. In your position, I would still want to verify this upon reservation by a phone call or by other means of communication.
I do not have any insight on this issue regarding Vilnius.

What would I have skipped? - Hard to say, experiences are good to make, especially from hindsight there hardly is anything negative.
I probably would not cross the Estonian-Latvian border again at Valka. The drive through the countryside from Riga to Tallinn just was too long and I would stick to the coastal route via Pärnu. Apart from that not much jumps to mind (esp. if you stick to the restaurant recommendations I gave you, there are a few places for dinner that I might not return to...).
hsv is offline  
Mar 12th, 2004, 03:51 PM
  #8  
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Thanks, I hope to have some time this weekend to look this all over. I appreciate your help.
GMT2272 is offline  
Mar 21st, 2004, 06:09 AM
  #9  
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Thanks for all the suggestions. It now appears that this trip is off, at least for June. We might be able to go in late October, but I'm wondering if that would be to late for this area. Would the open-air museums still be open? I don't mind cooler weather, but should we just wait and try to go next summer, or is this still a good trip for late October/early November?
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Mar 21st, 2004, 11:24 AM
  #10  
hsv
 
Join Date: May 2003
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While Winter certainly has its charms in this region (although it gets really cold and snowy), in your place I would rather go in Summer, i.e. postpone the trip.
Summer is really a much better season when it gets pretty warm and you can enjoy the long days. It is quite unlikely that you will manage to catch some nice late Summer days (for which there would be a chance in September, probably) by the end of October/ beginning of November, when days usually are pretty gloomy and there is a high chance of rainfall.
hsv is offline  
May 20th, 2004, 06:09 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: May 2004
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Open-air museum is open all around year (except mis-summer (23-24.6) and christmas. But trust me, you don't want to come to Estonia in October/November. Worst months...
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Dec 19th, 2005, 04:51 AM
  #12  
LLC
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 149
Any new information about this area? Have any of you been there recently? How are the prices in Tallinn? Is October really a bad timeto travel there?
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