Sent by Jessica Goliday '05 on
Sorry for the long delay in my e-mails! (I've gotten quite a few complaints about this!) I've been really busy and then went on vacation in the Baltics. So, as I promised, here's how the vacation went!
Five other students in my group and I went to Estonia, where we stayed in Tallinn (the capital) and Tartu, and to Latvia, where we stayed in Riga (the capital). We took an over-night train from Moscow to Tallinn, which lasted forever because we could buy tickets for a sleeping car, so we had to sit for like 15 hours or something. But it wasn't too bad.
When we got to Tallinn, we basically explored the first day. The weather was nice and sunny and the city is gorgeous! I was totally expecting a gloomy soviet-style city because of the soviet control of the nation, but to my great surprise, the city actually looked more like a Western European city! Something right out of a fairytale! Tallinn is a medieval city, so the old town wall complete with huge towers still exists! One day we climbed up and walked along a part of one of the walls and even climbed up into the towers. It was awesome! The city is located near the Bay of Tallinn, so when stand up on the big hill where the older part of the city is, and look out over everything, you can see the sea of in the distance. The city was a neat combination of very old and very modern architecture. Everything here was so pretty and the people were really nice. This was my favorite city that we visited!
Next we took a bus to Tartu, another very old city in Estonia. This was also very pretty, but not quite as big as Tallinn, so there wasn't too much to do. The main thing to see is the town square the university. Unfortunately, I can't remember exactly, but I think this is one of the oldest universities in the world. It's very pretty. We also explored a park here, which was fun. We stayed in a cool hotel and got a really big room, so that was really fun!
Next we took a bus to Riga. I was waiting to see this city because my host mother in Moscow told me that it was very beautiful because it has German-gothic architecture. She said you feel like you're in a fairytale! When we walked around the first day, I could definitely see the German/European influences. Like Tallinn, this city was a cool mix of old and new architecture, except this city seemed to be much bigger. There was so much to do here, there just wasn't time to do it all! The most, I don't even know what adjective to use, amazing? A moving/powerful thing we saw/did was to visit the site of a former German concentration camp outside of the city. We took a train that dropped us off basically in the middle of nowhere, by a forest, and we had no clue where to go. We walked around asking people who walked by, and we finally were pointed in the right direction. We walked through woods and came to the site, which is now a memorial. It was amazing. In the field/yard where the camp used to be, four huge statues were built of people representing "solidarity", "the mother", "the humiliated", and "the unbroken." It was very powerful. There were also remains of some of the barracks. I never in my life thought that I would stand on something like that. I am really glad that we went and didn't give up when we couldn't find it at first.
There were so many other cool things we did, but it's just too much to mention everything. The best thing will be for me to show all my pictures sometime. The trip had kind of a funny/frustrating end, though, when one of our friends misread our train tickets to return to Moscow, thinking the train was at 5pm, but it was really at 4pm! Ah! So we missed our train!
I was very disappointed because this time we got a sleeping car! Oh well. We all remained pretty calm and managed to find a bus to Moscow. So, 15 hours on a bus plus a two hour stop at customs was no fun. But, at least we made it back!
So, it was a totally amazing trip! I'm so glad I went. I would highly recommend a visit to these cities!! Everything back in Moscow is good. Yesterday it snowed! It was crazy! There's still snow outside now, so winter is officially here! Ahhh! The temperature during the day is around freezing or a little below. Brrr. But my apartment is nice warm, so that's good! Hope you all are doing well!