On my last trip to Sweden, way back in 2004, Jeff and I took an overnight ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki. The boats leave in the evening and travel through the night. You get a cabin (we had a tiny one with bunk beds), and there is entertainment on board (movies, casino, performers) as well as food (casual restaurants, nicer restaurants, and a traditional Swedish smorgasbord). You arrive at your destination in the morning, disembark, and have an entire day to explore before reboarding the boat in the evening and returning to Stockholm. It’s a fun excursion that provides you with a taste of a place in a novel way without costing too much.
We’d like to take one of these trips again while we’re here, but we’re having trouble deciding where to go. Although we enjoyed Helsinki, we don’t want to go back, so we’re left with two options: Tallin, Estonia; or Riga, Latvia. Jeff’s actually been to both; he took the boat to Tallinn, and he had a day-long flight layover in Riga. I, on the other hand, have been to neither, and must admit that I know very little about either.
So help us out and vote for which one we should visit in the poll at the end of this post. Here’s a little background info on both.
Tallinn, Estonia: Occupied by Soviet forces in World War II, Estonia became a part of the Soviet Union, not regaining its independence (which it had first secured from earlier occupiers in 1920) until 1991. Tallin is the capital city, and its Old Town was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. The main attraction would be wandering the cobblestone streets and exploring the gothic buildings. We could visit what was the tallest building in the world in the 13th century (not quite a skyscraper) and check out Fat Margaret’s Tower (with a name like that, could we pass it up?). If the weather is nice, we could see it all by bicycle, row ourselves down the Pirita River, or visit the Botanic Gardens.
Riga, Latvia: Like Estonia, Latvia was also occupied by the Soviets, becoming part of their empire until its demise. And capital city Riga, like Tallinn, has also been recognized by the UNESCO World Heritage committee. Specifically, Riga’s Historic Centre has received this award, with its extensive Art Nouveau architecture noted as being unparalleled. Again, the main event here would be walking around and checking out the town. We can climb to the top of the tower at St. Peter’s Church for a 360 degree panorama, check out the Occupation Museum, and visit the largest church in the Baltic.
Do you see our problem? They’re very, very similar. Former Eastern bloc states, well-preserved old towns, easily walkable, etc. Which to choose? Is it cooler to go to Estonia or Latvia? Have you been to either and can offer some kind of insight?
I think we’ll be plenty happy with either. I seriously don’t think it matters which we go to. But we do have to choose one. So vote and make the decision for us. Vote because you actually know something about either of these places. Vote with your eyes closed. Vote because you think Estonia is a better sounding name than Latvia, or vice-versa. Vote because I asked you to.
Please? And Tack.
(That’s “thank you” in Swedish for all you non-Swedish speakers.)