I read several times that there was not a direct train from Riga to Tallinn and that the bus ride was a bore, so when I stumbled upon a one-way tour, I booked it right away. I came across this tour on Like a Local. You can also book it here. It cost 55 Euros for the 12 hour tour, lunch not included. Since the tour is only one-way and is still a relatively new undertaking for the company, you must book in advance. You’ll notice that it does not depart every single day, so plan your trip accordingly. Worth every penny. My guide was great and it was a wonderful way to see a bit more of Latvia and Estonia while being economical with my limited time.
Our first stop was to the Soviet-constructed bobsleigh track in Sigulda. There were teams training as we walked along the track. I only wish I had gotten a pro to take me along for a ride!
Stop two was in the little town of Cesis. Outside the castle ruins, a group of school boys trained on the stairs. The backstreets were filled with old wooden houses. The main square, like many main squares, featured a stone church. Tucked away in the greenery, a precious Russian Orthodox church.
The third, and probably my favorite stop, was Sietiniezis. Along the river banks tower sandstone cliffs where thousands of bees have excavated individual tunnels.
At the top, a view of the river and trees with a sign that translates to, “Gaze upon Latvia.”
These shaven trees used as mating grounds for insects:
Next, a slippery walk along wet leaves to the Spring of Helme. Legend has it that ancient rituals and sacrifices were still practiced here by young maidens long after Christianity was adopted in the region. The water from the spring was said to make your skin as soft as silk. The fortress ruins above once enclosed a virgin who was believed to strengthen the defence efforts. Around the way, Livonians carved caves and tunnels into the sandstone for protection against invaders.
Our last two stops were the Valga Military Theme Park, and the lovely ruins in Viljandi. I wouldn’t call the first a theme park so much as an extensive museum including tanks and an impressive display of guns. It has a lot of paraphernalia from the German and Soviet occupations of the Baltics.
We arrived at Viljandi with only minutes of sunlight left. The ruins here are used for a music festival every year. I’d love to check that out in the future!
Finally, we arrived in Tallinn. Our guide was nice enough to drop me off at my AirBNB where I was more than ready to crash for the night.
Next up, Tallinn!