During our summer travels around Europe, we were making our way from Tallinn, Estonia, to Riga, Latvia. Instead of going by bus or train, we chose to explore both countries a little more. So, we booked a 9 hour trip to do this, which took us to some very interesting locations along the way.
Our first stop was in a village called Viljandi. Located in southern Estonia, Viljandi is a cute town, hosting a number of traditional folk festivals each year. We were taken over an old moat, across to the ruins of a castle, which was the former home of the ruling Livonian Order. These impressive ruins were lovely to wander around and aside from the castle, the view down into the valley was picturesque too.
Here we also got to try this Estonian swing. This type of swing is nothing like any swing I have ever been on. Firstly, you do not sit; you have to stand. In addition, it only works with 2 or more people on each side. Pushing down with your legs and hips on each cycle, makes the swing increase dramatically in height. Once you get your rhythm going, it’s great fun and a fantastic work out too. I am surprised I have not ever seen one before. It was so much fun!
Military Museum, Valga
We then made our way to Valga Military Theme Park. Outside the main building, we saw military vehicles, armoured vehicles, a tank and an awesome helicopter. Inside the museum itself, it was interesting to learn about the Estonian military’s history, with lots of information to read and a large quantity of weapons and many other items.
Lunch: Hotel Metsis
At this point, it was lunchtime and we were starving. We headed to a local restaurant in Hotel Metsis. The food was amazing; however, the venue was interesting! All over the walls, literally everywhere you looked, there was the biggest collection of taxidermy I had ever seen outside of a museum. Every local animal and a few exotic specimens were included- so many just staring at you while you eat. #
After lunch, we travelled across the border into Latvia and arrived at Sietiniezis National Park. Once we had parked, we walked through this gorgeous wood, high up along the right bank of the Gauja River. The rock itself is a naturally formed beautiful and bright sandstone. Eventually, we reached a fantastic viewing point looking through the trees and down to the river valley.
Our penultimate stop was in a lovely medieval town called Cesis. Full of cute winding streets, an impressive church, a castle and a wonderful park with a lake, it was a great place to stop for a coffee and to explore the true spirit of Latvian culture.
Sigulda Bobsleigh and Luge Track
Located just outside the town of Sigulda, our final stop was to see the Bobsleigh and Luge track, which hosts bobsleigh, luge and skeleton competitions in the wintery months. However, in the summer, the track is open to the public to try out a bobsled on wheels. Unfortunately, the track was being used for some competitions during our visit so we didn’t get the chance to try this out. Luckily, we still managed to go to the top and walk down half of it. It was such a cool experience.
Overall, it was a great experience seeing the less touristy areas of both countries and getting the opportunity to find out about the local cultures and traditions.