Baltic Cruise – regal Riga

Aside from creeping Swedish cottages, Riga was by far the highlight of our holiday. It seems Royal Caribbean saved the best for last. We were so taken back by Riga and unfortunately we [rather embarrassingly] knew very little about it or Latvia and didn’t know what to expect. We boarded our tour bus, buckled our seat belts and proceeded to have our minds blown …

One of the first places we drove past was the former KGB Headquarters. Back in the day they would roll a red carpet down the entry way and along the street outside of the building. Why red? To masque the blood stains leading into and out of the building, and thus was the origin of the phrase to ‘roll out the red carpet‘. Unfortunately we did a drive-by on this building and didn’t have the opportunity to go in, or take half-decent photos for that matter. But you get the idea. 

Our tour bus dropped us off in the centre of Riga and husband and I attempted to double-back to see all the incredible architecture again. 

The city of Riga has the largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in the world. 40% of the city consists of architecture from this era thanks to a boom in the economy in the late 1800’s. And when I say the architecture is insane, it’s IN. SANE. 

To perfectly juxtapose the intricate and over-the-top Art Nouveau architecture, dotted around the city are old wooden buildings as well as ultra-modern sky rises. We learned that in the beginning, Riga was built strictly out of wood. The reason was that if the city was breached, the residents could easily burn the city to the ground, any intruders had nothing to claim and Riga could be rebuilt again. A few of these wooden buildings still remained. Seeing them along with the Art Nouveau and modern sky rises sit side-by-side complimenting each other so well was very cool.  

One of the best streets we wandered down was Elizabetes Street, where Mikhail Eisenstein designed numerous buildings [above and below; a small taste of his mad skillz]. I think I have to stop typing because nothing will truly caption how beautiful the architecture is. 

We had to board the cruise ship by 16:00, so we meandered along Kronvalda Park and daydreamed about ditching Dublin and moving into any one of the buildings. I’m not picky. I’ll even resort to moving into the corner suite of this old place … 

Riga, there are no words. It took me a world of willpower not to upload every single picture from my camera. For anyone reading this, before you book your next holiday to Portugal or Spain, take a long hard look at Latvia first. Seafood, scenery, history and wine. It is well worth it, I promise. We will definitely be back. 
So what’s the most unsuspectingly amazing place you’ve been? I love when I visit somewhere that takes me off guard. Riga was for sure one of our all time favourite destinations. Having just written this post, I want to go back so badly. 

Baltic Cruise – Tallinn, Estonia

My attempt to evenly disperse our holiday pictures and avoid saturating my blog with travel photos all in one go is now kinda dragging on a bit. We went on holidays in July and it’s now almost October. I promise it’s almost over as Tallinn, Estonia was our second last destination. And I should say, I’m saving the best destinations for last. 

The Old Town section of Tallinn was within walking distance from our cruise ship. I wasn’t feeling the best that morning [I sure drew the short end of the stick on this holiday], so we took our time and without a map, wandered the purely in.cred.ible streets of Tallinn. We didn’t know where we were going, I couldn’t tell you where we went, but our eye balls didn’t care … 

The only thing I can say is that my husband has the patience of an absolute SAINT. I don’t think I took 4 consecutive steps without stopping and taking a picture. A living and breathing saint. 

We came to the Oleviste Church. There was a sign saying for 2 euro you could walk to the roof of the church where there were some promising views of the city. “Oh, that sounds nice“, I said. “How about we climb it before lunch?“. Not my finest idea, and it took only 5 minutes for me to realize this. We entered the church and were pointed in the direction of an ancient, stone, very steep tightly-spiraled stair case with a very lax rope dangling around the edge. Not too bad, right? Just hold on! NOPE. 

After about 20 steps we heard voices and quickly realized this wasn’t a one-way staircase. Our suspicions were confirmed when 10 people came down the staircase and we were left trying to figure out how they’d pass us. Badly, that’s how. Did I mention I have a fear of heights so knowing you’re climbing higher and higher up a set of stairs and moments away from possibly tripping and falling all the way down made me a bit nervous. Not to mention I also have vertigo so repetitive movements such as oh I don’t know, going around a spiral stair case, makes me VERY dizzy. Then I’m so dizzy I think I’m going to trip. Basically, it was all bad. 

After 20 minutes of avoiding passer-byers, not falling our deaths [slightly dramatic, I know] and holding on for dear life, we reached the top. And it got worse. I won’t go into detail about how incredibly flimsy the wooden planks were. All I’ll say is not all of them were secured onto the roof. So husband walked around and took some picturesque photos while I held onto the doorway [seriously. Thank you, crippling fear of heights] and I envisioned the 10,000 ways I would fall to my death. 

The views of Tallinn were pretty immense. Or so I saw when we got back on solid ground and I clicked through the photos husband took. I sure was grateful for lunch after that.

We wandered for a couple more hours before we started heading back to the cruise ship. Towards the outskirts of Old Town, possibly my favourite building that perfectly merges old with new, as Old Town turns into modern downtown … 

That building / house is perfection and I need something like this to happen in my life. I love the juxtaposition between old and new, jagged and curved, bright and dark. My eye balls can’t handle it. Tallinn, you’re way too much. 

StockholmHelsinkiSt. PetersburgTallinnRiga

Baltic Cruise – sweltering St. Petersburg

The next destination on our Baltic Cruise was St. Petersburg, Russia. We had been there before on our honeymoon, close to 2 years ago. Our honeymoon was in late October it was a lot colder than we had anticipated. We adored St. Petersburg. Wandering the streets, heads constantly gazing up, drinking chili infused hot chocolate, and adjusting to the unusual social hours [before I start reminiscing too much, you can read and see more about our honeymoon here]. 

We were really looking forward to going back to St. Petersburg, but in the summer. Little did we know it ended up being the hottest day of the year. A great day to be dressed head to toe in black, yeah? We also didn’t know it was a national holiday, so thanks to everyone flocking towards the city centre, it ended up taking us almost 2 hours to get into St. Petersburg, leaving us only and hour an a half to reminisce. We covered as much ground as we could in the 35 degree heat. 

Since we had such limited time in St. Petersburg, we made sure to visit the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood, wander down Nevsky Prospekt, and [attempted] to escape the heat by going back to one of our favourite cafes, Cafe Singer. Unfortunately, Cafe Singer, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, acted like a massive greenhouse and was hotter inside than outside. We still reminisced with carrot cake and this time, behemoth milkshakes. 

We begrudgingly walked back to the bus and back to the cruise ship. We felt a little robbed of what we were hoping would be our second honeymoon, but maybe it’s the perfect excuse for us to go back again. Third time’s a charm? We ate dinner and like the anti social introverts we are, we retreated to our usual evening spot – the lounge chairs in the adult pool that face massive windows so we can watch the scenery go by. After dinner, this area was always deserted. We spent every evening on these chairs, with wine, talking complete rubbish and reading books. 

We were treated to once again, a pretty awesome Baltic sunset. And to top it off? We passed a Russian submarine. No big deal. 

Stockholm – Helsinki – St. Petersburg – TallinnRiga