We got an early 6am train from St Petersburg and I think the carriage was colder inside than out.
We had 2 seats together facing forward and one opposite a little facing back both facing into a large grey container box. After about 3 hours, we reached the border of Russia / Estonia. By this time I was desperate for a coffee, at least just to warm up! The lady brought back 2 coffees in a very Russian metal decorated glass holder but didn’t like it as I got up out my seat to stretch my legs. I soon realised why…The Russian border control came on in Russian fashion and took their time examining the passports but without comment this time, unlike the Mongolian/Russian border. They stamped our passports looking annoyed as they do and the train trundled on a bit more. We passed over a river, which acted as the natural border and reached another desolate looking building which must have been the Estonian border control. Immediately, there was a different atmosphere on the train. The guards smiled, asked a few questions and even asked if we wanted a stamp. When I said ‘sure, yes please’ they gave us their stamp to do it ourselves! First friendly border guards we’ve met in a long time. The train continued to go at a snail’s pace just as cold but we reached Tallinn as we had all fallen asleep. We were know officially in Europe! It felt weird but slightly exciting that we had traveled from Asia to Europe all by train.
The taxi driver spoke English, paid in Euros on the metre and arrived at apartments nearby. They were spotless, very cool over 2 levels with high speed wifi.
There was a kitchen so we were looking forward to cooking ourselves instead of eating out again that night.
Tallin was beautiful! It felt Medieval with lots of small cobbled stone streets, cafes to sit outside (although many were still closed as it was cold) and lots of churches. We did see a few Russian Orthodox churches too. It felt so different from the formal vast buildings and spaces of St Petersburg and we really loved exploring them. It was Sunday afternoon so it was quiet. We ate lunch and the learned how to say thank you. We always learn at least to say Hi and thank you every country we are in.
We only had one night here as we made a mistake on our bookings a while back. So, we bought food at the supermarket and went home to cook and book the next few nights using the super fast wifi in the flat. We had nothing booked up so we had to book a few nights in Latvia as well as buses / trains etc.
Next morning, we headed to the bus station to go to Riga, capital of Latvia. It was caalled ‘Buusijamm’!! Couldn’t believe it! Just like saying Bus Stop in Cantonese!
The bus was 4 hours and had been faster Wifi on the bus! Trays that came down, movies in English and help yourself to hot drinks. All for 10Euros! It was luxury and by far, the fastest wifi we’ve ever had…. Probably ever!
I caught up on the blog and we arrived in Riga at around 3pm. We looked at the map and walked to our apartments, like an Airbnb. It took us about half an hour to walk and we were to meet someone outside. No one came, so I went to find some wifi to contact the host. People were very friendly and helpful and just as I was logging on in a florist shop, the guy turned up.
Our flat was in a back alley down a cul-de-sac and had Fort Knox type security! But above all- it had a washing machine! Much needed!
We ventured out to see the city and again, it was beautiful! Everyone spoke flawless English, we had a local dish of sausages Latvian beer and played foosball with Jack’s own foosball all the way from RCHK!
It was still cold but we checked out a few places and bought food on the way home to cook.
Next morning, we walked to the KGB museum. Jack is thriving on learning about all types of history of the country that we happen to be in. He learned about the KGB in Moscow and wanted to find out more, so when he learned that there was a KGB museum un Riga, of course, we had to go. We knew there was a tour every day at 1.30pm so we bought our tickets and had a coffee opposite until it was time. We got there just in time and there was a group of what looked USA Army Vet. We were taken into a room and it was locked. Our guide was a very blonde, serious 20 something historian who lead us round this museum as if it were still in use. We learned about the torture that became of anyone against the USSR and how they treated the Latvians. They showed us the prison cells that were meant to be used for 2 – 4 prisoners but were used for 40+. The outside exercise yard was used for hundreds of men at the same time for 5 minutes per day. It was so tight, they had to shuffle round arms by their sides. We spent 2 hours here and ended on the execution room. It was all too much.
We left and walked back to Riga. We bought some food for tea and headed back to our apartment. Washing done, packing done, ready to move on again.