Running The World: Riga, Latvia (Blaze Travel Guides)

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We wander around one of the villages. The bus runs four times a day, but only if you call in first. A sign points the way to the post office, the doctor and the library, all of which are typically located in the same building. For centuries, this ethnic minority has lived in the borderlands, undisturbed by German or Russian occupiers.

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The couple have plenty of stories to tell, and the table is piled high with books, photos and recipes. In between courses, they serve us home-brewed spirits. Seto culture is a happy mix of orthodox Christianity and natural religion, and the Seto are proud of their independence. Does he consider himself European? This is Setomaa.


Drink it yourself! Our next destination is the Gauja National Park. A bus stocked with groceries crosses our path, and Rita, the driver, flashes us a smile. She supplies half Estonia with food. We pass Valka, a border town, and the road turns into a track. Boney M and Mireille Matthieu records lie scattered around the common room.

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The underground bunker was built to shelter people for three months. Today, it sometimes hosts adventure game events for adults, so not much has really changed. I am surprised to discover how different the Baltic countries are. In the West, we tend to lump them all together.

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Estonia is Scandinavian. Lithuania, as I will find out later, has been strongly influenced by neighboring Poland. Latvia is home to a large Russian minority, nearly one third of the population, including the mayor of Riga. The relationship is peaceful but slightly tense. Anete, a Latvian photographer, shows us her city, the young Riga. Something new always comes up, then disappears again. Sculptors and painters set up their studios here during the Soviet era, and artworks can still be found in some of the rooms.

In the courtyard, we meet the brothers Sima and Pijus. The brothers have been jamming with a dozen other Baltic musicians since their arrival the day before. Later we spot them hunched over their computers, searching for a groove. The air is filled with a sweet, pungent smell from the Laima chocolate factory close by. Not for the first time on this trip, I catch myself thinking how boring German beer is.

And they are entirely handmade. How does he know when a board is finished?

They take a seat and turn the music up. Anete mockingly rolls her eyes. Or is it amber? Cars are parked across the road, and mushroom gatherers and berry pickers are heading into the woods.

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The sun casts patches of pale light onto the forest floor, where mosses and grasses weave a carpet of colors from white to red to bluish-green to purple between the slender birches. Nature is not awe-inspiring in this part of the world; its quiet magic affects you gradually. Normally, the two currents are distinguishable by their different colors, but today, a bracing wind mixes everything up.

We continue south, stopping at a former military zone near Irbene. Barbed wire juts out of the ground in the forest like plants that are impossible to uproot. A ferry takes us to the Curonian Spit, a long, narrow strip of sand, half Latvian, half Russian, covered with dense trees. To get to the sea, you have to use the wooden walkways built above the dunes.

We wander through Nida, the village where Thomas Mann spent his summers. A police car has pulled up beside her and is trying to scare her off the road with loud bursts of its siren. But not because of you. We meet Asta in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

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Her eyes are still slits after a short night. Asta takes us to her favorite house of worship, the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in the embassy district.

Completely white on the inside, it has a model ship hanging from the middle of the ceiling, and two drums dating back to a battle with Russia. Demons, half-hidden in the plasterwork, grin down at visitors from between scenes from the Bible. There are more Catholics in Lithuania than in the other Baltic states, but natural religions are everywhere here, too.

Heathen rituals are even gaining in popularity. I want to become a citizen. I ask him what he was doing when we disturbed him. In his hand he holds the constitution: 10 articles in postcard format, the souvenir shop version. Do not defend yourself! This is an update after our recent return visit.

What an amazing city! The Loire Valley is known for its lovely chateaux, delicious wine and food, village markets, and idyllic countryside. See our 3 day itinerary of where to stay and what to see, do, eat, and drink! Learn how to make this delicious flatbread from Alsace, France. Time for our yearly wrap-up spotlighting some the highlights of our time in Europe over the last nine months. Why do we travel? Sometimes I do miss having a home, a place to call my own, and a regular routine. I enjoyed working in a rewarding career, attending church, exercising consistently, making dinners and participating in a community.

We definitely miss seeing our friends. But we travel to experience the world and all it has to offer.

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We travel to hopefully make a difference in some way -- to learn, to grow, to participate in the global community and meet the people on this remarkable planet. We want to understand and appreciate the different cultures of the world. If not now, when? The second year of traveling across Europe. Travel clothes, gear, and gadgets.

Find out what we added to our suitcases this year to make traveling easier and more comfortable. In this post we talk about our return to the Barolo region in Piedmont and why you should consider visiting a favorite spot more than once. Volunteering to be bumped from a flight is a good way to earn travel vouchers for future travel. But sometimes there are consequences.

Read more here. Euro Travel Coach specializes in travel coaching, custom itineraries, and small group trips. We just celebrated our two year anniversary.

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  • We have compiled a list of our absolute favorite spots, events, museums, concerts, cities, restaurants and more of our nine months traveling across Europe. After nine months traveling across Europe we are back home with family and friends.