From The Baltics To Ireland

I had to leave Bali by January 2016 and I spent one month afterwards in Vietnam to celebrate Lunar New Year.
My third celebration of new year was in April in Sri Lanka.
New Year’s Eve in Bali was great and I had a memorable start in the year of 2016. I came back to Europe in March and visited the Baltics, went on a trip with my cousin to Zurich, Switzerland and spent some time in Dublin.
Actually I would like to share the stories about my hosts and me while I visited the capitals of the Baltics, Zurich and Dublin.
I went to Riga- Latvia in March and in the freezing cold I trembled incessantly. First I had problems to adapt myself to hot tropical weather, but in Latvia I missed this kind of weather more than the Indonesian food.
My sweet host Svetlana was shy at the beginning, after a while  she opened up to me and later I spent a lot of time with her friends and met her husband, Paul. Three days together and it was perfect: She brought me to downtown and we had kind of desserts tourism during my time in Riga.
She can speak and write in Japanese, so we exchanged a lot about Japan, since we figured out how much affection we have for the land of the rising sun. At night we spent time at some bars and drank different flavours of beer and the Ginger beer was surprisingly better than I thought.
The other night we played together with her friends all kinds of games which would spring to our mind like ‘Who Am I?’ and so forth.
I was quite surprised that the prices in Latvia are incredibly low compares to other European countries.
If you can, go to Jurmala the fifth biggest city in Latvia with a stretch of 33 km (20 miles) white-sand beach. In summer it’s fantastic to go to this beautiful spot, in March it is better just to have a beach stroll.
But if you like to go for a swim, go ahead, each to their own :). And it is only 40 minutes drive far away from Riga.

Another fact: More than 30 percent of Latvian population are Russians. In 2012 there was even a referendum on whether Russian should be the second official language. 75 percent of the Latvians voted “no”. In order to obtain the Latvian nationality, a language level test must be passed. As a result, roughly 300000 members of the Russian minority are stateless. Also the Russian influence is noticeable, even my host is Russian.
During one of our breaks and tea time, I tried a honey cake also called Medovik. The primary ingredients are honey and condensed milk.
It is very popular in Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Street art in Riga, Svetlana’s favourite one.
Tea time with Honey Cake and another cake.
Pancakes for 0,50€ apiece. Breakfast starts.
Nearly empty downtown and somehow gloomy weather.
Strolling through the alleys of Riga.
We paid 5€.

Hitch-ability in Latvia is super high and friendly people will pick you up easily.

Vilnius has a small Old Town and you can visit it perfectly in 4 or 5 days. I watched during my time in Vilnius with a couchsurfer called Danylo ‘The Revenant’ in the cinema, and he is also the person who inspired me to go to Sri Lanka. So I just did it- in April I traveled to Sri Lanka and fell for this beautiful and terrific country!

Back to Vilnius. It has one of the best museum I’ve ever been to:
KGB Museum (Genocido Auku Muziejus). The museum will remind you not to take freedom for granted and is more than well-organised.
The courtyard and prison is a highlight, as the experience of entering them is inevitably moving.
More museums? – You can pop in the special Museum of Illusions if you have enough time in Vilnius.
The Old Town is like in most European countries more or less charming, but you won’t miss it anyway.
Gediminas Avenue and Gediminas tower are spots you will definitely go to, since they are listed in every guidebook.
From the Gediminas tower you have a normal view over the city.
The Cathedral Square is nearby, take a short rest there.
If you are asking yourself now why so many places are named ‘Gediminas’.
Here is a short information: Gediminas was the Grand Duke of Lithuania in the early 14th century. At the time of his death he expanded the Lithuanian territory from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

Benardine Gardens is terrific in the summer time.
Do you like Gothic architecture? Then Church of St. Anne is on your must-go-places-list and easy to reach, since it is located in the Old Town of Vilnius.

At the Cathedral Square in Vilnius. So gloomy.
Church St. Anne in March.
I smiled but missed the hot weather.
My friend Sunny in Vilnius with a tree pose. Do you see the Lithuanian flag in the background :)?
Night in Vilnius. Summertime.
Amazing Vilnius!

Okay, forget what I told you about the coldness in Riga. Now it got worse, welcome to the spring time in Tallinn, Estonia.
It was not spring but I landed somewhere in a winter wonderland.
Tallinn was my favourite capital out of the 3 Baltic capitals I’ve visited.
You can take the ferry to Finland if you want to feel colder.
My host Dejan was Slovenian, but he traveled a good deal through the world history and then he settled down in Tallinn for one year and worked in a circus. He was more than well-traveled and we shared plenty of good and funny stories, most of them – of course- about traveling.
Studied philosophy but never settle down somewhere, Dejan could inspire me in his own way and I couldn’t stop myself to ask him questions upon questions.
Unfortunately he was living far away from the Old Town and the first evening I tried to walk back from the center to his apartment.
But I failed completely. I usually trust the offline maps in, but this one evening it led me somewhere through a huge park and some remote areas. It was hell of a darkness and I got lost and stamped through huge amounts of snow, loosing my sanity and asked myself whether I should learn more how to survive in the wild. I know I’m exaggerating right now, but if you would be in my situation, wouldn’t you be scared at all?
Somehow after 2 hours I got back to his home and he cooked for me a nice dinner, while I thought that I should better to go to bed after this horrible homecoming and sleep to forget the events of what has been happening.
Actually Tallinn is small enough to walk everything in distance.
But it is pricier than Vilnius and Riga, although you can do dumpster diving around supermarkets and street markets.

Some pictures of Tallinn:

Old Town
Alleys in Old Town.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the evening.
View from the top.
What is that?

I came primarily to Zurich to see my friends Steffi and Daniela, which I made in Bali. But my cousin and me didn’t see each other for a long time, so we tried to meet up in Zurich and yes- we did!
Jason was our lovely host and one of the most charismatic persons I’ve ever met in my life. He is American but left home very early and traveled more than 7 years so far. I connected instantly with him and we talked most of the time about – what else- traveling. He is a person who just comes into other people’s life and can brighten it immediately, he was the person who inspired me to go to India.
All of his stories about traveling and jobs are so hilarious, you just can’t stop yourself to laugh. When he used to be a teacher in China, the children have their English names, chosen by themselves. One of his student’s name was seriously Hamburger.
McDonalds is a multi-billion dollar company. And to be called Hamburger may not be the name you would give to your child in the western world, but in China it stands for prosperity, wealth and success. And if someone is just called ‘Cherry’, this child will get laughed at by the other childen. Firm but not fair.
Jason told me he would love to see if this Hamburger- child has become a BigMac now.
We spent one night just watching youtube videos about incredible India and the other night his roommate threw a party. So far he is one of the people you don’t need to stay in touch all the time, but once we will meet again, I have no doubts that everything will remain unaffected.
Zurich is beautiful, but I’d recommend Bern/ Berne with its Old Town in the center which is an UNESCO World heritage. Another city would be Lucerne, where you can pay a visit to the wooden Chapel Bridge from the 14th century. Lucerne is not an insider’s tip and has long been a destination for tourists.
Zurich is more a traffic hub for travelers, since its airport and railway station are the busiest in Switzerland and it’s the financal centre of the country. But besides many galleries and museums can be found in the city.
Lake Zurich is a picturesque place to spend a day or an afternoon. It has parks, gardens and promenades and is flourishing in the summer time with sun bathers and picknickers.
Joggers will find the ideal place to pound the grounds. There is a great view of Zurich if you are taking a boat ride on the lake for 90 minutes,  whoever has the ZurichCARD, it will be free.
Uetliberg Mountain ( roughly 2900 feet) offers loads of trails for hiking and biking, and it will praise you with stunning views.
There is a direct train leaving from the Hauptbahnhof station to the mountain and costs approximately 18 $ for adults, while children
(6-16) pay half of the adult price.
Maybe you will  think about to stroll through the old medieval town of Zurich, which run along Lindenhof or Bahnhofstrasse– the quintessential attractions in Zurich. Talking of Bahnhofstrasse, it is one of the must-dos since it is stretching from Hauptbahnhof to Lake Zurich. On the way you can have a look oround luxury shops or do some window shopping, unless you’re ready to drop serious cash. Swiss confiserie like Sprungli will also be found on this stroll.
Who travels with children can spend a day in the Zoo Zurich, which features a miniature rain forest and a petting zoo. More than 2000 animals all over the world resides in this Zoo. Admission fees are 27$ for adults, 20$ for students and 13$ for children (6-15).
Last but not least: Lindenhof is an elevated park with Linden trees, chess sets, benches and offers a stunning city vista with great views of the Limmat River and Great Minister church. The best way to get there is by foot, but you can also take the train to ‘Rennweg’.

So the main reason why I came to Zurich, was to see Daniela and Steffi again. We visited the American restaurant called ‘Movies’, which was pricey and the right atmosphere to exchange stories and to remisnisce about our time back in Bali.
Altogether it was a wonderful stay in Zurich.

I went to Dublin already twice, it is more or less a place for me to go and to relax. It’s weird, I know, I don’t know anyone who goes to Dublin for relaxing. But it reminds me back to those days when I used to live in Walsall, England. The second time I got the pleasure to explore Dublin and the surroundings with my lovely and close friend Isabella.
But staying with Loch and at his home always give me a warm and welcome feeling, which is hard to describe. Ireland is more famous for Galway or Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, but Dublin deserves a special place in my heart and is attached to fond memories.
The main tourist attractions I went to:

  • Christ Church Cathedral. The elder of the two medieval cathedrals in Dublin. The other one is St Patrick’s Cathedral in Gothic Style.
  • Dublin Castle, a major tourist attraction and the castle is used for the inauguration of Irish presidents.
  • Kilmainhaim Goal is a former prison in Ireland and nowadays a museum. A guide tour can be booked on the internet in advance, which is more recommended, since it’s one of the main tourist attraction. Many Irish revolutionaries were executed in this prison by the British. During the tour you will get to know the history of the prison, while getting an authentic feeling of alienation for the onerous and miserable conditions of the former prisoners and the imprisoned existence in Kilmainhaim Goal.
  • Guiness Storehouse
  • Phoenix Park, the largest recreational and enclosed park I’ve been to in Europe. With a bit of luck you can observe Fallow Deers.
  • Temple Bar has a lively nightlife. A popular venue is The Temple Bar Pub.
  • National Botanic Gardens is a free attraction and located in Glasnevin, north-west of Dublin downtown.
  • Chester Beatty Library
  • The Little Museum of Dublin, it is better to do a reservation in beforehand.

Loch is living in Clontarf which provides visitors at the Clontarf Promenade a 3 km long walk. A walk in St. Anne’s Park nearby will offer plenty of activities. Via the wooden bridge you can have an access to Dollymount Beach with a marvellous view stretching out towards the Irish Sea and a great place for walking.

If you have a car,you can visit the Newbridge Farm, I can recommend it due to good living conditions the animals have there compared to most of the zoos.
Nearby is the brilliant Ardgillan Castle, do a guide tour there :).
Our guide was so passionate and guided us in a private tour around the castle for 3 hours.
All in all, I will come back to Ireland the next time I’ll be in Europe.

May your blessings outnumber
The Shamrocks that grow.
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go. –  Irish Blessing

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