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Trip Report Round the World Part 4 - Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Rep., Paris

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July 13

We arrived in Helsinki around 6 pm coming from Ulan Bataar Mongolia (through Moscow). After a little confusion as the airport employees directed everyone on the plane in a wrong direction, we arrived at immigration. We had been first off the plane, but after the wrong directions and everyone turned around, we were last. We waited about 45 minutes. Ugh. We got a taxi to our hotel, the Sokos Hotel Helsinki and checked in there. We put our bags down and decided to take a little walk. The hotel is on a pedestrian street and about 3 minutes to Esplanade Park and 5 minutes to the Market Square. Couldn’t be a better location! We were exhausted and headed back to sleep. Our room was very nice, not huge, but had blonde hardwood floors, interesting photos on the walls and white bedding with red accents. Modern, clean and a nice place to come back to. I think it was about $130 or so a night, a bargain, I thought!

July 13

We woke up and went downstairs to breakfast, which was included in the room rate. Oh my goodness – huge selections of all sorts of hot and cold food and juices, teas, etc. I ate far more than I should have every day! First order of business was to get transport passes – we bought 3 day passes at the tourist information center just on Esplanade Park. They were very helpful. After that, we headed to the train station via tram to buy train tickets, as we were heading to Turku in a few days’ time. I liked the Art Deco architecture of the train station. We got back on the 3T tram after that and rode it all the way around and back to Market Square. We then walked up to the Cathedral – it is very impressive to look up at. It is fairly plain inside, however. It was close to noon, and they were having an organ concert, which we stuck around for. The music was more modern, but I enjoyed hearing the organ! After that, we stopped in at the Helsinki City Museum (free), which was having a huge exhibit on Finnish film of the 30s and 40s. DH is a real film buff, so he had a great time here! I did too – they had film clips from movies, as well as clothing that the stars wore, props and even a cinema entrance rebuilt. They also had an exhibit on 60s films with furniture and clothing, which was fun. It had excellent English language signage. I wrote down the names of the films, but have had a heck of a time trying to locate copies to purchase! In fact, I haven’t found any, and if you know where I could find some, I would appreciate any tips! I found modern films, but not these from the 30s and 40s.

We walked back to the Market Square and found a tent selling crepes. DH had a ham & cheese crepe and I had one with ham and pineapple. We then walked up to Uspenski Cathedral. It was very decorative and very beautiful inside. We walked along the harbor to the North Harbor then back. We stopped in at Sederholm House, a branch of the Helsinki Musuem that is free, but they only had a small photo exhibit on housing in the suburbs. We just took a quick look around. We went back to the hotel and then made a run to the Alko store for some wine and rum. We had a few drinks at our hotel, then went to Kolme Kruunua restaurant for dinner, where we had reservations. We shared an escargot & blue cheese appetizer. DH had weiner schnitzel and I had sautéed reindeer with mashed potatoes. Both were excellent. We walked back to the hotel along the waterfront.

July 14

We had another huge breakfast at the hotel. We went down to Market Square and caught the ferry to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. The ride out (and back) gave wonderful views of the city from the harbor. We disembarked at the Main Quay and walked all the way to the King’s Gate. This got us away from most of the crowds. We walked through some of the fortifications on the way, taking our time and doing a little exploring. At the King’s Gate, there are nice views and places to sit and look out over the water. We saw sailboats, tour boats and a large ferry going out. We started the walk back, stopping for lunch at the Café Piper. We shared a beer and had sandwiches and chips. DH wanted to go into the Vesikko submarine, so I sat on a rock and did some people watching and enjoyed the sun while he did that. He said it was very narrow inside – he could reach all the way across. We stopped in the gift shops at the courtyard. There was a souvenir shop and also a shop selling pretty glass items, but nothing really caught my eye. We took the ferry back to the city and then took the 3T tram to the Rock Church. It was a very striking and beautiful modern church inside. I’m not always a fan of modern churches, but I really liked this one! They were preparing for a wedding and an organist was practicing. It was fun to hear yet another organ in a church – we seemed to be hitting churches at just the right time on this trip! They started ushering people out for the wedding, so we took the tram back to our hotel. That night we went to the Bar/Café Amanda on Esplanade Park. We had small reindeer wraps – it was mixed with a spread like cream cheese inside the wrap and was pretty tasty.

July 15

We woke up to some pretty heavy rain this morning and had breakfast at the hotel again. DH said he wasn’t feeling great, so we went back up to the room. I read while he took a long nap. By the time he woke up, he felt much better and it had stopped raining, so we headed out to go to the Seurassari Open Air Museum. We took the bus and after a little difficulty finding the stop, it was a straight shot out and dropped us off right at the footbridge that leads to the museum. This museum is a collection of Finnish buildings, mainly houses and farm buildings, and a church, that had been moved here from all areas of Finland. It was not crowded at all and was very peaceful, as it is set away from the city in a forest and next to a lake. Many of the houses had interiors decorated in period furnishings. We bought a ticket that let us go in and out of as many buildings as we wanted to. I think you could just walk around the park for free, if you only wanted to see the outsides of the buildings. We had a light lunch of quiche at the little café at the entrance before we started out. The church was my favorite building. The man who founded the museum, and his wife, are buried in the churchyard. They had an informational plaque that told about him. I thought that was so nice, that he was buried there. There were people dressed in period clothing at each house or farmstead that could tell you about the home and the furnishings. We spent about 2 ½ hours here and it was a good amount of time. I really enjoyed and highly recommend this museum – it was so peaceful and pretty. We took the bus back to town and went back to our hotel. It started raining really hard again, and I am ashamed to say, were seduced by the thought of an easy dinner at McDonalds right across the street.

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    July 16

    Breakfast again at our hotel. Today is the day we traveled to Turku for two nights, so we walked over to the train station with our small suitcases – we left our big ones at the Sokos hotel, as we’d be there for one more night on our return. The train ride was very comfortable – we were on the top level – and took about 2 hours, I think. We were staying at the Radisson Blu Marina hotel. We started walking from the station, as it wasn’t far, and of course, it started pouring rain! What a mess! We were happy to get to the hotel! We checked in and put our things in our room and dried off. It was a very nice room and the hotel is right on the river.

    We took our umbrellas and set off to find lunch. We ate at the Panimoravintola Koulu. It is in a former school and has huge, high ceilings. It is also a brewery. We had good dark beer and club sandwiches. They had cole slaw on them – a new variation – and it was really tasty! We also had a platter with potato wedges, fried onion rings and pickles. Very tasty, but too much! We walked over to the Stockmann department store and bought some food snacks for later (definitely not hungry right then!) and found a cute little rabbit stuffed animal that we couldn’t resist. We dropped our purchases off at the hotel and then walked down to Turku Cathedral. Again, someone was playing the organ when we arrived! We walked all around the cathedral, which was quite impressive. There was a very interesting museum on the upper level of the cathedral, with religious artifacts. We both enjoyed this more than we’d have thought! You can also look down into the nave of the cathedral from up in the museum, which gave a great view that we don’t usually get in cathedrals.

    We walked back along the river to the Aboa Vetus/Ars Nova museum. It reminded me of the archaeological site at Notre Dame in Paris – it is underground excavations of part of the medieval city. You can actually walk in some of the medieval cellars. One cellar had been turned into a chapel and they had very pretty medieval Finnish music playing. After our tour, DH asked the clerk in the gift shop if they had that CD and they did, so we bought that! We have listened many times and always think of that museum. That section is the Aboa Vetus part of the museum. The Ars Nova is the modern art section and we headed there next. I enjoy modern art, but it isn’t DH’s favorite thing. However, there was a very interesting photography exhibit there. It was photos of deteriorating Soviet era buildings, missile silos in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. The next exhibit was a “sound installation.” There were two chairs in a room, with headphones hanging down. We put on the headphones and sat down. In the headphones, we heard walking above us, whispering in one ear and then another and then behind. The sound quality was just incredible, as it sounded so much like someone walking above on wooden floors. The room got progressively darker as time went on. We couldn’t understand what they were saying, of course, but it was riveting. It was really kind of eerie and creepy, like ghosts walking above and whispering in your ear. I half expected someone to tap me on the shoulder! The other exhibit in the modern art section was some wire animals with big, googly eyes. They were exhibited in house-like settings – like a hallway or living room.

    We went back to the hotel for a bit, then went next door to an Italian restaurant called Sergio’s. We had thin crust pizza with ham, mushrooms, olives and salami. We split the pizza between us. It was very good.

    July 17

    We had another huge breakfast spread at the Radisson hotel. We ate, then headed out to go to Turku Castle. We passed the Forum Marinum museum on the way, where we’d stop on the way back, after our Castle visit. We spent about 2 hours exploring Turku Castle. We went through all the medieval rooms, the chapel and then through the period rooms in the Bailey. There were lots of stairs in the castle. In one room they had models showing the castle as it was built and then how it was added to and changed over the centuries. We both really enjoyed our visit here – there was lots to look at and explore.

    We walked back to the Forum Marinum next and bought our tickets. We got the “all access” ticket, which allowed visits to the museum and the ships that were docked on the river. The first ship we went on was the Suomen Joutsen, a sailing ship. There were exhibits on how the ship was used as a training vessel, then as a school. They had a room set up as it was when it was a school. There were also some odd art exhibits on display in the ship as well. Next, we went on the Bore. It was a ferry ship that is not in service any more. Now it is a museum, as well as a hotel! We took a look at the hotel and thought it would be kind of a fun place to stay! The rooms are quite small, though. In the aft lounge of the Bore, you can get sandwiches and chips, which we did for our lunch. We then went to the museum portion of the ship. They have passenger cabins to see, the owner’s suite, captain’s quarters and the bridge on display. They have good informational signage (in English) in each room. We really enjoyed seeing this, especially DH who loves ships!

    We next went on the destroyer and minelayers military ships. Also fun to explore and interesting. These were in service until fairly recently, I believe – perhaps the early 1980s? I just can’t remember. I’m sure it’s on the museum’s website. We then went to the actual museum, which is enormous! Of all things, they had a massive room full of outboard motors. I’m not into outboard motors, but it was quite a sight –all those motors hanging on the wall. It actually looked kind of like an art installation. They had rooms with all kinds of model ships. They had rooms with exhibits on customs officers and duties and one on container ships and ferries and one on air and sea rescue. All were interesting and well marked in English. There was also an exhibit on a woman who did interior design for the Silja line and a nice model of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas, which was built in the Turku shipyards. Our last stop was at one more small sailing ship down the river, then we continued back to the hotel.

    Dinner that night was at the restaurant, Tinta, which was one of the best meals we had had on the trip! We both had grilled shrimp on a skewer, bread with herbs that had been soaked in butter or olive oil and baked hard, and a salad. The flavorings on the shrimp and bread and the salad dressing were just superb. I wished we were staying one more night so we could eat here again, as the meals others had next to us looked wonderful as well.
    July 18

    We checked out of the hotel after breakfast and left our bags with them, as our train didn’t leave until later that afternoon. We took the bus to Naantali. We saw hundreds of people swarming across the bridge to Moominworld! We picked up a brochure to see if it was that exciting – it looks just like a park – some of the “attractions” listed are “a view of the President’s summer home” and “a grassy knoll to rest after the excitement of Moominworld” and shops. They did apparently also have a Moomin show. It would be a nice, little laid back park, but it was 25 Euros or so per person to get in!!! I was astounded. We got a nice grassy knoll and view of the President’s summer home for free a 5 minute walk away! To each their own, I guess!

    There is a cute little town by the harbor, which we walked through, and up a hill to the church. Yes, once again, the organist was practicing! DH got some great sound as he was taking video! We walked over the hill, where there was a wooden observation tower, which we climbed for fantastic views of the harbor and islands. We continued down a trail and found a nice beach. I felt the water and it was cold by my standards, but not as cold as I would have imagined. We walked back to the harbor and had lunch outside of another thin crust pizza with ham, mushrooms and blue cheese. We shared a beer again. It started raining, but they pulled out awnings to cover the tables. It was just a light sprinkle, and we soon headed back to the bus stop and to Turku. We picked up our suitcases and started walking back to the train station. Wouldn’t you know the sky opened up again and drenched us for the train ride back to Helsinki! Arrgh. I wasn’t pleased. We checked in back at the Sokos hotel and started repacking for our trip the next day to Riga, Latvia. We had a very early flight (6:35 a.m.) and had to get up at 3:30 a.m. so, back to McDonalds for an easy dinner so that we could get to bed early!

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    Sounds like you had fun trip even with our typical summer weather :)

    The Moominworld theme park is aimed for families so the attractions are mostly interesting to either young children or to big Moomin fans. There was a recently a story in finnish newspaper how some Japanese fans have actually gotten married in the Moominworld :)

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    Our trip was 7 1/2 weeks long. I really enjoyed Latvia and the town of Cesky Krumlov - was so glad we spent 2 nights there! The report from that part of our trip is coming, I promise! It is hard for me to pick favorites - I also love Budapest and France.

    I also love travelling in Asia and my favorites there are probably China and Cambodia. We are heading back to Hong Kong for Thanksgiving!

    I will work on the rest of the Europe portion of this report today or tomorrow...I've been lazy about finishing it!

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    July 19

    We woke up at 3:30 a.m. and went downstairs. We let the hotel know we’d be leaving early, as we got them to call a taxi for us, and they had some breakfast for us, since we were leaving before the buffet began, which was very nice of them. We were heading to Riga via Amsterdam and Prague. These were frequent flyer tickets, so we got there in a roundabout way, but all connections worked perfectly and were on time, so we arrived in Riga in mid afternoon. We took the Baltic Air Shuttle Bus for 5 Euros each and it dropped off at the Hotel Riga, which was about ½ block from our hotel, the Old City Boutique Hotel. We checked in and had a room on the 4th floor, I think. It was kind of up in the gables, with a slanted roof and was very cute. The lobby is nice and they had a cage with 3 birds, one an orange canary, who cheeped and sometimes broke into a full song! We decided to take a walk and walked around to St. John’s church. Again – the organ was playing here! We went to the restaurant Domini Canes (thank you mohan for the recommendation here!) and made reservations for the next night – they were all booked that first night. We then went to the Tourist Information office next to the House of Blackheads and picked up some brochures. Our first impression of Riga was that the old town is quite a picturesque – it is fun to just wander down one of the medieval streets and see where it leads. There is a lot of interesting architecture and it is a bustling area with lots of restaurants and shops.

    We went back to the hotel and decided to eat dinner there in their restaurant, which turned out to be surprisingly good. We had shrimp glazed with coconut sauce, kind of an Asian dish. We had a nice long sleep, as we’d been up for a long time!

    July 20
    We had breakfast in our hotel, which was another nice buffet with lots of choices. Today, I decided we would go to see the Art Nouveau district, so we walked to the Freedom Monument and stopped in to see a ----an Orthodox church. We walked through the park to Elizabetes iela and Alberta iela and went in the Art Nouveau museum. I really enjoyed seeing the Art Nouveau interiors and period clothing on display. After we went through the rooms, one of the women who worked there asked if we’d like to see a video on Art Nouveau in Riga. We said yes and watched a very interesting 10 minute video of the history of the style in Riga. The staircase as you walk in the building is quite stunning. After that, we walked back through some lovely parks toward the river. We had lunch at a restaurant called Zivju Krogs (Fish Pub) on an outside deck. We both had the pan fried trout and potatoes and beer. It was excellent.

    We walked back toward the old town, going again through parks. We walked by St. Jacob’s Cathedral, but it was closed, so we couldn’t go inside. We saw the Three Brothers buildings on the way also. We went inside the Dome Cathedral. There is a lot of renovation work going on there. They have cannons and other artifacts on display in the cloisters. They had some Art Nouveau elevator doors that were very pretty. If I recall, it was a lot of architectural artifacts from buildings around the city.

    Our next stop was the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. It is free, but we paid for the audioguide. I was absolutely transfixed by the exhibits and the audioguide. I remain horrified at what the Latvians went through. I had a tiny bit of knowledge about what happened during the German and Soviet occupations, but I had no idea of the absolute terror they lived under. DH was very disturbed and I was too, but couldn’t stop listening and moving from display to display. They had displays of ballots from the “elections” that were staged, where people had written in “Joke” or “Free Latvia” instead of a candidate’s name, they had items that people brought back from the Gulags and a wiretap machine found in the Hotel Riga when it was renovated in 1999. We spent nearly 3 hours here and I had to speed through the last part of the museum to get through before they closed. If I get back to Latvia, I will definitely go back to this museum. It is a piece of history that is hard to hear and see, but more people should know about this. I learned almost nothing about the Baltic states and their fate during my schooling. I have been trying to find books on this era since I have returned and have read “Walking Since Daybreak” by Modris Eckstein and “Between Shades of Grey” by Ruta Septys (fiction – and not to be confused with the popular book now of similar name!). If anyone had any further suggestions, I would be most grateful!

    We had dinner that night at Domini Canes. I had pasta with chicken, spinach & mushrooms and DH had pasta Bolognese. Both meals were very good and inexpensive. We sat outside and watched people have their pictures taken by the Bremen Town Musicians statue outside St. Peter’s Cathedral.

    July 21

    After breakfast at our hotel, we walked to Riga Castle. We went through the History Museum in the castle. We walked to the Anglican church, but couldn’t go in because they were having a wedding. We went to Our Lady of Sorrows and took a quick look in it, then it started raining and we stopped in at a restaurant nearby. I didn’t see a name outside, but on the menu was written “Dabigai Labsajutai” so that may be the name, unless it means “menu” in Latvian! I had a pasta with mushrooms and stroganoff-like sauce, DH had a hamburger and fries. Both hit the spot and the service here was very good. It stopped raining, so we headed back in the direction of our hotel and while we were in Dom Square, a massive wind blew up, toppling table umbrellas and chairs! We hurried back to the hotel, just as the sky opened up! We had a rest in the room while it rained.

    When it stopped, we decided to go see about a ride on one of the canal boats that we saw when we had walked through the parks the day before. Just as we approached, it started pouring again! We put up the umbrella and stood under a tree for a little while, and then it stopped, so we headed to the boat dock and got on board. Since the rain had raised the level of the canals, we had to all go up front and stand in the “wheelhouse” to lower the boat with weight so we could get under one of the bridges! We had a very interesting conversation with three Russian students from Moscow while we were on the boat. They were on a road trip. It’s encounters like this that make travel so interesting! We ate dinner again at the hotel restaurant that night – I had the chicken, mushroom & coconut milk soup, DH had pan fried chicken and pasta. It was all excellent.

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    July 22
    Today after breakfast at the hotel, we were heading to pick up our rental car to drive up to Parnu, Estonia. We took the Baltic Express back to the airport to pick it up. We had thought we’d get a GPS there, but no luck, they didn’t have one. So we asked about a map. They didn’t have those either. There was a convenience store type place on the airport grounds, but they only had maps of Riga. I don’t think many people rent cars here. Hmmm. The man at the rental car counter said to look for green signs that said “Tallinn.” Well, we head out and there are no such signs. We wrong turn, and bumble around the Art Nouveau district for a while, then finally see a blue sign with a tiny square that says “A6” or something like that, which was our highway. We follow that and get on a road that seems to be heading in the right direction. We see a gas station and stop there and lo and behold they have a road map of the Batlic States! Yay! Turns out we are on the right road!

    We drive on and at lunchtime, we see a place that looks like it might have a restaurant. It is called Pernigele Pub. It has apparently been there a long time, according to their brochure. On the menu it said they had “burgers” so we ordered that, expecting a hamburger. Well, it wasn’t a hamburger. But we discovered that Latvian burgers are excellent. It was bread that was smothered in cheese and tomatoes and peppers! It was really, really good! We stopped at Vitrupe to go down to the beach. The water was not terribly cold, surprisingly. It was very brown.

    It was interesting to go through the “border” between Latvia and Estonia – it is a ghost border now – the booths are all still there – the new road routes around it – but there is grass growing up through them all. It’s a little spooky and I’m now regretting not stopping and getting some photographs.

    We made it to Parnu and found our hotel, the Alex Maja. It is right in the middle of the town. We parked and walked all around the town and down to the beach. It is a very nice, wide sand beach. I rolled up my capri pants and waded in to mid-calf. The water was kind of nice, but murky and brown. DH got an ice cream at a stand next to the path to the beach. We went to the Tourist Information center and got some local maps and brochures. We stopped by Ammende Villa on the walk back to our hotel and made reservations for dinner there for the next night. In a park, there was a massive skateboard and “trick bike” event going on with lots of teenagers and loud music. We watched for a few minutes, then went on to find some dinner. We ate at Peetri Pizza and had a thin crust “Mafiosa” pizza. It was yummy.

    July 23
    We had breakfast at the hotel. The day was overcast and a little drizzly at first. We went to St. Elizabeth church, which was just about a block away. It was pretty plain inside, but had an interesting modern stained glass window with organ pipes around it. We then headed to the Church of St. Catherine, a Russian Orthodox church that was commissioned by Catherine the Great. It was just beautiful inside. If you made a small donation, they allowed you to take photos and video. We tried to go see the Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, but it was closed. They did have some lovely flowers outside and the building itself was interesting. We did a little souvenir shopping at a linen shop and at the Mary Magdalene Craft Guild, where we got a pretty blue ceramic bowl.

    We decided to go to the Parnu Yacht Club for lunch. We walked to it, about a 15 minute walk, as it’s a little ways from the main town. They were having the Nordic Youth Championship racing going on, so it was very busy! We had hamburgers, fries and onion rings in the restaurant along with Saku Original beer. It was soooo good. We enjoyed watching all the activity and after lunch DH bought a shirt and then we walked out to a jetty. It was extremely windy and we could see the sailboats racing out in the water. There was a memorial to the MS Estonia ferry boat that sank in 1994. (I had to look it up after I saw the memorial and what a tragic story that is.) We went back to the hotel after a walk through the park area next to the beach, which is very peaceful with paths and big pine like trees. We went to Ammende Villa for dinner. It is a very large house that was built by a father for his daughter’s wedding reception. It is in the Art Nouveau style and the room we ate in was so pretty. We both had fish with vegetable risotto and a glass of wine. They gave us an appetizer of vegetable foam, which was very good. Service was very good. It was fun to eat in the historic house (it is also a hotel) and we were glad we splurged a little on that dinner.

    July 24
    After breakfast, we checked out of the Alex Maja hotel and drove (with our Google map directions, which we looked up and wrote down) to Cesis. We had a nice drive through some very pretty countryside, down little two-lane roads. It is such a pretty area. Not dramatic scenery, but very peaceful and pretty. We checked in at the Kolonna Hotel Cesis. It is a large looking hotel, but no elevators – glad we only brought our little suitcases and left our big ones at the hotel in Riga!! We had a nice room that looked out over a park. We walked around the town, stopping at Bar Sarunas for lunch. I had a salad Nicoise and DH had the Caesar salad with grilled chicken and Cesu beer.

    We then walked up to Cesis Castle and bought our tickets. They give you a candle in a lantern when you get your tickets because the stairs going up through the Western Tower of the castle are not artificially lighted. They were very dark and narrow – it was a real adventure and really gave a feel for what these castles might have been like in the “old days.” It really was great fun to climb! We also went down a ladder into a dungeon. How awful that must have been for the poor people imprisoned there – gave us the creeps! They have a museum on the grounds as well, with English explanations on a paper you can read in each room. They had an interesting display and history of the Latvian flag, which is supposed to have originated in Cesis. We climbed to the top of the new castle tower which has great views over Cesis. This is one of the best castles to explore that I have seen and I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area!

    We went to St. John’s Church and went in there, then went to Christ Transfiguration Orthodox Church, but it was closed. We walked back through Castle Park, which is well worth some exploration. It is very nice. We went by the Cesu beer brewery, but it was closed for an exhibition change, someone told us. We then walked back to Livu Square and the Square of Roses and back to the hotel. We ate at Bar Sarunas for dinner again. I had tomato soup and chicken tortillas and DH had fried chicken strips.

    July 25
    After breakfast at the hotel, we got on the road to Riga so we could get the rental car back in time. We took the shuttle back to the Old City Hotel and got our same room back! We went to the Old Town to look for lunch and got pizza at a place called Il Patio. It was good thin-crust pizza again! We went to the Museum of Riga’s History & Navigation. They had everything from prehistoric artifacts to rooms with Art Nouveau and Biedermeir furnishings. They had a display of dresses from the 1800s to the 1940s that I enjoyed and old photographs of Riga. There was also, in an exhibit about money and counterfeiting, two or three chopped of hands of counterfeiters – they were pretty gross!

    We ate dinner at Domini Canes again. I had a seafood pasta and DH had a beef & tomato sauce on penne pasta. We had made reservations earlier that day – reservations here are a must! It was a little chilly and they had nice blankets on the chairs outside. Next day we’d head to Prague.

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    I enjoy reading your report and the details you give. You certainly have chosen some off the beaten path places to visit. Touring Cesis Castle sounds a little frightening, especially climbing down the ladder into the dungeon! Were there a lot of people at the castle? Are there a lot of tourists in Latvia and Estonia?

    It seems like a lot of the food is pizza & pasta, which kind of surprises me. I guess I would expect more meat, game & potatoes.

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    Also want to say that we spent 2 nights in Cesky Krumlov several years ago and loved it! So glad we had two nights and a whole day instead of just a day trip from Prague.

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    Hi Kwoo, there were some people at the Cesis castle but it certainly wasn't crowded. It actually wasn't scary. There were lots of tourists in Riga, but not in Cesis. Parnu in Estonia is a vacation town, so lots of "tourists" but I don't think any were speaking English. I think most were Estonian or Latvian.

    There were places that had meat and wild game on the menu, but those tended to the more expensive - since our trip was so long, we tried to economize! Also, sometimes we just didn't want a long meal - so stopped where it was quick and convenient.

    I will write the rest of my report - the Prague/Cesky Krumlov part next week - am in Hong Kong this week! Glad you enjoyed the report so far!

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