latvia

Cycling Lisbon to Tallinn: A Look Back and Thank Yous

Eyebrows done: check

The route I took to cycle across Europe from its southwestern to its northeastern point.

The route I took to cycle across Europe from its southwestern to its northeastern point.

Hair cut: check

Perfume on: check

New change of clothes: FINALLY

Clothes washed: check

Tent laid out to dry: check

Bikes still disassembled in their boxes and tidily placed in the garage: check

Camping gear placed in its special bag in garage: check

Watch Come Dine With Me, the Jeremy Kyle Show, and Big Brother (in other words, all the crap British TV there is to watch): check

My husband and I stepped onto a RyanAir plane in Estonia to head back to our home in the UK last Monday afternoon. We had just spent a very lazy and relaxing two days in Tallinn, much of it sleeping and some of it walking around the enchanting old town and the city port. The highlight for me was the food. Those Estonians really know how to eat! I had a most amazing omelette my first morning in Tallinn. Who says that about an omelette? But that one was special. It had huge chunks of red onion, tomato, and mushrooms in it. I hogged down the special Estonian black bread with almost every meal. I had duck breast one evening and lamb on another. It was a great opportunity for us to recover before heading home.

Since I returned to the UK, I’ve kept myself busy washing, tidying, resting, watching crap TV, and gathering GPS data from the trip. It’s been nice. I was worried that I would have a bit of a culture shock coming back. I had settled into a nice cycling routine while in mainland Europe. I was enjoying having something to be involved in that I was passionate about. But by the time the trip ended I was ready to come home. I have a few things coming up that will keep me occupied over the next few weeks, including the Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan. So I should be all right, at least for awhile.

During the trip, I was incapable of looking back at what I had done or looking forward at what still remained. I found that if I

Lisbon to Monaco

Lisbon to Monaco

tried, I was overwhelmed with the immensity of both. As a result, I found myself, with no physical or emotional effort on my part, living in the moment. While I was cycling, my focus was on keeping myself safe and getting through the next ten kilometers. When a day was finished, my focus was on getting a shower, eating, writing my daily blog diary, and getting some rest. The following morning, my focus was on understanding the route I would be taking for the next few hours.

On my last day of cycling in Estonia, I thought that the gates to all the memories of the past two months would come rushing at me the moment the trip ended in Tallinn. Instead, I somehow managed to keep those gates closed. I wasn’t ready to deal with the emotions that would come with the collective memory.

I’m still not ready. (more…)

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Cycling Europe Day 59: The Final Countdown – Tallinn Minus Two

I cried today when we crossed my last border from Latvia into Estonia. I couldn’t easily

I have lots of pictures with fun poses in front of this sign. This is the one Colin took just before I composed myself.

I have lots of pictures with fun poses in front of this sign. This is the one Colin took just before I composed myself.

tell you why. It was mostly a feeling of exuberant accomplishment. I cycled from Portugal to Estonia. If you told me two years ago that I would do something like that I would have fallen down in a fit of hysterical laughter. I was also a bit sad that the sign we were standing under would be my last. Those blue signs with yellow stars and the name of a new country had been such a source of joy for me on this trip.

As our day of cycling came to end, all I could think, though, was that I was so relieved this trip was nearly over. Today we cycled more than 100km. I’m tired. I was very tired of cycling every day just before my husband joined me twelve days ago. But his arrival gave me a second wind. That second wind lasted about eleven days. Now it’s gone. I’m still enjoying the trip immensely. But I’m ready for its end. I’m glad I feel this way. Perhaps it will make leaving this wonderful journey behind me and going home a little bit easier.

Latvia and Estonia are both such beautiful countries. They are going to end up being

Some of you asked what the evil eye was. THIS is the evil eye. Just as we were finishing our commemorative pictures in front of the Estonia sign, Colin's bike fell, breaking the air inlet on the tire. He had to change the whole inner tube.

Some of you asked what the evil eye was. THIS is the evil eye. Just as we were finishing our commemorative pictures in front of the Estonia sign, Colin’s bike fell, breaking the air inlet on the tire. He had to change the whole inner tube.

among my favorite from the countries I’ve passed through in the past two months. After we cycled across the border into Estonia we immediately got onto a back road that took us along the coast of the Baltic Sea on our left with woodlands of birches and firs on our right. I wish you could record smell. I would have recorded the smell of Estonia for you. It is so fresh and fragrant. We passed through tiny little ten-house villages on the sea. They weren’t rich people’s villas. They were small middle class homes just standing there with the sea in their front yard and the forest in their backyard. I couldn’t believe there was still beach-side land anywhere on this earth that hadn’t been overtaken by developers and the rich. Children were walking all alone along the quiet road. It must be a safe place, I thought. This must be such a great place to spend a childhood. (more…)

Cycling Europe Day 58: From Atlantic to Mediterranean to Baltic

I wish I was smart enough to have come up with that myself. It just happened. I knew

Getting my feet wet for the first time in the Baltic.

Getting my feet wet for the first time in the Baltic.

when I was organizing my route that I’d be on the Atlantic in Portugal, the Mediterranean in Spain, France, and Italy, and the Baltic in Latvia and Estonia. I knew that. Then I completely forgot about the Baltic when the trip started. And I had never thought about this trip taking me from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean to the Baltic. I just hadn’t put two and two together.

I did though a few days ago. Since then, cycling towards today has been tremendously exciting. And now today has come.

Dudes, I HAVE CYCLED FROM THE ATLANTIC TO THE MEDITERRANEAN TO THE BALTIC!!! Woooooooooohoooooooooo!

It was an amazing feeling to get my first sight of the Baltic Sea and to wet my feet in its waters for the first time. I had never really thought about visiting the Baltic before. I live in a country that’s on two seas already. But now that I’m here, now that I got myself here by the sheer force of my own two legs, I am overjoyed.

We saw the Baltic for the first time midway through today’s ride. (more…)

Cycling Europe Day 57: My Body Told Me to Properly Visit Riga – My Body Was Right

Listen to your body. I’ve learned that time and again over the years. People about you will always have brilliant advice on what is good or not for you. They will have objections on your lifestyle. They will tell you what to eat and how to exercise. We all have common sense and most of us already know what is healthy and what is not.

I live what I believe is a generally healthy lifestyle. I listened to my body yesterday and it told me I needed a rest. So I gave it a rest.

This morning my husband and I slept in. What that means is that instead of getting up at 6am we got up at 7am. We ate our breakfast slowly, even though neither of us are ever ones to rush through what we feel is the most important meal of the day. We then spent the morning walking around Riga, Latvia’s capital city, and, because I’m listening to my body, I then took a short but much needed nap.

As a rather frequent traveler, I’m surprised and ashamed about how little to nothing I know about the Baltic states. I am incredibly impressed with Riga. It rivals cities like Vienna and Prague in its architectural beauty, in my opinion, yet if you asked me three months ago what the capital of Latvia was, I’d ask you, “Where the heck is Latvia?”

(more…)

Cycling Europe Day 56: Good Latvian Vibrations

When I grow up, I want to be a Latvian motorcyclist.

We crossed the border today from Lithuania to Latvia. The 70km ride through northern Lithuania was similar to the past few days: rural. Latvia, on the other hand, almost immediately had a more modern, urban feel to it.

After reviewing our maps, Colin and I found a route that would allow us to get to Riga, Latvia in one 153km-long day instead of my originally planned three shorter days. We decided we would give it a go and if we got too tired midway we’d find a roadside hotel.

It was a whopper. I was fine till kilometer 100. Then a truck passed me way too close. I screamed but kept the bike under control. That episode just took all the energy out of me. We stopped for a big lunch but nothing gave me my energy back. It was a rough 53km until we reached Riga.

Just after we crossed into Latvia and took our commemorative photos at the border sign, we started off on the major road we were on and heard a police siren give an attention signal behind us. I started to pull over, thinking, “This was bound to happen. We’re on a major road. It’s probably illegal for cyclists to use it. To stay out of Latvian jail, Nadia, CRY!” (more…)