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Journey through the Baltics

Journey through the Baltics

Stockholm, Riga, and Vilnius: March 29-April 2, 2017

I can’t really tell you why, but when I came to Oslo, my goal was to travel as much of Eastern Europe as I could. I became especially fascinated with the Baltic Countries (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) mostly because I had never really even heard of them. I decided no matter what, I was going there before I leave for the states in June.

Towards the beginning of the semester, my friend Graham feverishly planned all his trips for the semester in the cheapest way possible, including a trip to the Baltic countries. In our group chat, he invited anyone to join. I loved that I didn’t have to plan anything to go there (logistics has always been my downfall), so I took the opportunity he presented! When it came down to the final date there were eight of us total: Graham, Trond, Sam, Andy, Brad, Kersti, Remy, and I. The trip was extremely fast paced and exhausting. We took a train to Stockholm, then a cruise to Riga, then a bus to Vilnius, followed by a flight home. Everything was done as cheaply as possible, so many of our travels were at odd hours in the morning. This is my blog post to recount our adventures…

Stockholm, Sweden:

Our lovable friend Sam (Adelaide, Australia) of course forgot his jacket when we all met up to depart for our train—he is always the one to screw up our timely departures. He had to run all the way back to his apartment as we started walking down the hill at Sogn to catch the metro. After that set-back, and with Sam caught up, we got to Oslo Central Station to board our train. My lucky number (which appears everywhere in my life) is 14, so it was fitting that our train to Stockholm happened to be on track 14; it was destined to be a good trip!

I get terrible motion sickness, and therefore can never sit backwards on any moving vehicle. Unfortunately, my seat for the next five hours was exactly that, and I had to just suck it up. The five hours flew by in my opinion (my friends thought otherwise). I read a good amount of my book and then took a break to eat dinner. Andy came over as soon as I started eating and sat with me for a while. I think he was bored and was looking for someone to talk to. Eventually we all moved seats to sit near each other which was fun, but that quickly ended when heaps of new passengers entered our car at one of the stops.

I moved back to my seat since all my stuff was there and that’s when this friendly, hippie girl sat in the seat next to me. She had on a tie dye shirt, old 90s styled jeans, blond hair that was half up in a messy yet cool way, and a nose ring like mine. Immediately she was so talkative and we got busy chatting. We ran through our lives, what we study, how we like school and where we live. She is from Stockholm but studies in a town 2 hours away. She chose to go there to live with her then boyfriend but then they broke up and she admits that she wishes she hadn’t based her decision on where to attend college based on a guy. Nonetheless, she’s grown to love it. She really loves the life of the big city though, with all the people moving about and so much to do. She’s quite a lively person herself so it makes sense to me that she enjoys that environment.

At one point, we are laughing as she tells me how she pretends to be Norwegian when she is drunk and that some people have believed her. She begged me to try to pretend to be Spanish at some point since I know some Spanish. I told her the next time I’m out, I’ll give it a shot! The kind person she is, she friended me on Facebook to give me all these recommendations of stuff to do in Stockholm. I was so grateful for that since I traveled there with my friend Nick the very next week! Unfortunately, she stayed with me only for about a half hour because she was meeting her sister to go skiing. What a cool chick, I thought—I was glad I met her. As she hugged me goodbye I couldn’t help but continue to be so surprised at how warm and friendly she was. My friends in Oslo know her as my “soul mate” because she is everything I hope to embody when I met new people.

After many hours, we arrived at our hostel, and I was the last person to check in. Ironically, the guy couldn’t find me in the system. After a few minutes, I started to panic. All my friends had already checked in, and now I’d be the only one stuck outside in the cold with no place to stay! Luckily the guy soon realized I was somehow already checked in and that’s why he couldn’t find my reservation. For some reason the other two girls got in a different room so it was the 5 guys and I placed in the tiniest room I have ever stayed in while at a hostel. We dropped our stuff off and then went out to a local bar for a beer since it was already quite late.

Graham (left) and Sam (right) in our hostel room in Stockholm. Clearly they were excited.

When we came back to the hostel to go to bed, we all got in the tiny elevator in the building. Yet, when Andy (our big football player friend) entered, the alarm went off. When he stepped off, the alarm halted, and when he entered again the alarm came back with a vengeance. As we are all laughing, the doors closed and Andy had to take the stairs. Don’t feel bad though, Andy still beat us to the room. Once there, we got ready for bed. As I am trying to fall asleep, the guys are blasting Ugly God—an artist they have become obsessed with since studying here in Oslo. Thinking about how we all had to meet in the lobby at 9am, I tried to tune them out and drift off to sleep…

The next day we explored as much as we could in Stockholm before we had to make it to our cruise. We went to the castle and saw the guards change as soon as we got there (perfect timing, I know!). Following that, we walked through old town, ate a kebab, then headed over to this cool outlook on the other side of the city. We just sat up there for quite a while, soaking up the sun, as it was a really beautiful day. Stockholm – Check!


The group on the lookout that we found in Stockholm. We sat on the ground for a long time, just soaking up the rays and the sights.

Riga, Latvia:

I had never been on a cruise before, in fact none of the people in my group had, so it was unbelievably exciting when we first saw how big the boat was. Then when we entered they had live music and dancers to greet us. We were like kids in a candy shop, we were so excited. I even got my own cabin!! Remy however ended up staying with me because she had an old Russian woman in her room and wanted to skirt out of that real fast. We all met for beers at the pub and then broke off for dinner. Kersti, Remy and I ate peanut butter sandwiches in my room that we had bought before we left in Stockholm. It was cool to bond and talk with them, since I don’t really have any girlfriends in Oslo except for my roommates. The rest of the night got rather crazy, as we explored the boat and all the things it had to do. We practically all got split up, and luckily when I went to bed, I accidently left the door open which was good for Remy since she needed to get in to sleep.

A picture of my cabin on the cruise! The couch opened up to another bed, where Remy crashed for the night.

Once off the boat, we started walking to our hostel. The city didn’t seem great except for this prominent bridge until we hit old town near our hostel. Our hostel was so nice, with a cool hangout area and bar for the guests. I roomed with 4 of the guys and in our room we met this guy (whose name I forget) who was 24 and living in Germany, even though he’s American. He invited himself to lunch with us, and stayed with us for much of the day. I thought it was interesting how open he was to do such a thing, not that I minded.

After we settled, we set out for lunch including that guy. Our hostel made reservations for us at this really interesting Latvian restaurant that was all underground. I sat in a throne like seat of the restaurant. The food was just amazing, I ordered an extremely traditional Latvian meal which consisted of Grey peas inside a hollowed-out loaf of amazing bread, with a fresh salad on the side—the salad even had pickles! It was so dense and filling which was perfect after the long night on the boat with no real food. Honestly, looking back, that meal was probably my favorite meal I have had all semester in any of my travels. I could almost cry tears of endearment just thinking about it…

Not the highest quality photo, but this is my favorite meal of the semester that I got in Riga. Very traditional Latvian food and very filling.

Afterwards we set out to explore more of the city which proved tough with 9 people. Trond, Graham, and Andy disappeared soon after we departed and then Sam and the guy that tagged along wanted to just sit in a café. We were only there for a day and a night, so I didn’t want to just sit in some café, I wanted to see as much as I could! Luckily the girls felt the same way, so together we split off to continue exploring. This was a great part of the trip because I was able to get to know the girls better and we explored so much of Riga. We found this really cool park with an overlook hill to climb and even a jam-packed lock bridge. We then made our way to the famous market which was so cool! It was this massive building and each section was specialized in a different food group. The first was meat—heaps and heaps of meat. There were types of meat I couldn’t even recognize! The second was all veggies and the last was fish (it smelled awful so we spent very little time in that one). There was even a spice section with so many different types of spices! I wish I lived there just so I could food shop there every week, I loved it so much!

At this point we were exhausted and just wanted to find a cafe to get a pastry, since we were in the land of cheap everything. We found a cute one down the road from our hostel and we got delicious cake things before making our way back to the hostel to meet up with the rest of the crew and to nap.


The meat market in Riga! You can imagine how large it was, and there were several other buildings of this size specialized for produce, and also for fish.
The large amount of spices sold at the markets! This was just one stand of many!
The beautiful cakes that Remy, Kersti and I got at a cafe after exploring. Together these cost $3 USD.

I took a quick nap and then awoke to everyone starting to drink at the hostel bar downstairs. Me and the other girls set out to get something quick to eat and we settled on kebabs (yay second day in a row!). The kebab I got was probably the best one I’ve had since Krakow so I was quite pleased. When we came back, we played cards with some other people we met at the hostel. We taught them spoons and bullshit; ya know, the typical American card games we all grew up playing.

Everyone was participating in the pub crawl that night and the hostel gave us four shots spread out over an hour and then we set of for 3 bars and 1 club. The first bar was called the “Ausie backpacking bar” and it was set over several floors with a funky style featuring a 70s van at the bar—very unique. I was not really feeling the bar crawl, despite the fact that there were about 30 people from my hostel on it. I tried to enjoy myself though, since we were only there one night. The next bar was this cool coffee shop looking thing with just a big dance floor. It was fun to dance with the people from our hostel there. This Canadian guy who was the most outgoing, carefree, type of person I’ve ever met, even made me take a picture of him. We never even finished the bar crawl, and opted to instead just wonder the city a little before calling it a night. What we actually did though was sit outside a fast food burger place for like 45 minutes in the cold (why we didn’t go inside is beyond me) before I headed back with Trond to go to bed. It was a good day in Riga but we had to be up so early the next day to head to Vilnius so there wasn’t much time to rest!

That glorious kebab… tbt to the good times…
At the Ausie Backpackers pub, the bar was located inside a renovated 70s van! Very unique.
Pictured is the spunky Canadian I met. He just came up to me, posed like so, and said, “Take a picture!”


Vilnius, Lithuania

Despite all odds, our group managed to get up early and embark on our way to the bus station. I got a lot of pastries, a sandwich, and some more fruit for the four-hour long journey to Vilnius (I don’t like being hungry). While on the bus, I couldn’t stop thinking how unbelievable it was that we were traveling to yet another country already. No one was next to me so I tried to sleep as much as I could and then opted for watching a movie with Jonny Depp called Public Enemy Number One, which I never even finished.

The scenery along the way was interesting in my opinion, yet Sam begged to differ. At first it was raining and there was just trees everywhere (in fact so much of the country and even the city is heavily forested). We soon came across some quaint houses and before we knew it, we had arrived.

The walk from the bus was “sketchy” as the boys put it. I wouldn’t necessarily declare it such. It just wasn’t in the nicest area but shorty we entered the outskirts of old town where everything started to look as we imagined. We came across this beautiful church and we somehow entered the church right when they were practicing their music. It was beautiful inside and the two women singing had a beautiful voice. I felt lucky (number 14!) that we managed to go there while they were practicing.

Inside the beautiful church we came across in Vilnius where we heard the choir practicing.

The city got nicer and nicer the closer we got to our hostel. However, our hostel was in this street under construction. We had to walk through mud through this strange door to get in, only to find out later we could have walked around through an alley and avoided the mud completely. The hostel was cool but we couldn’t get our rooms until 3pm and at the time it was only 12. Thus, we headed out for lunch and exploring.

The entrance to the hostel. We had to walk through the mud to get there, and we all felt it was a strange location.

We had the largest group meal ever at this extremely hip bar. The owner had this strange beard and pictures of him were everywhere around the place. At the end of our meal, we even took a picture with him because he asked us to and he had the other two girls take hold of his beard for the photo! As for the food, we all got like 3-4 dishes—clearly we were starving after having not eaten practically anything all day. I am still amazed at the amount we could eat. The guys got some strange stuff too, such as pig ears. I tried it and it oddly tasted like rubber, aka not my thing…

The group at lunch. From left to right it is Trond, me, Sam, Graham, Remy, and Brad (Kersti took the photo). You can see just how many dishes we all ordered.

After lunch, we set out to just explore and ended up coming across the republic, Uzupio Respublika, holding their Independence Day celebration. There were people all dressed up, laughing and singing. As we crossed ‘the border’, we even got our passports stamped. This usually doesn’t happen but because it was their holiday, they were doing it for tourists. Once in, there was all this funky art, quirky shops, and even decorative boats in the water. It was really cool and we felt lucky to be there on this day. Plus, we had just visited four countries in four days! Well, sort of. If you google the Republic, you’ll learn it is slightly a joke, even to its own people. But hey, we found it cool.


The official entrance to the Uzupio Republic. We actually got our passports stamps just before on the bridge over.

Following that, we wanted to get to the Three Crosses Monument which was located on top of the hill in the city. To get there, we walked through this beautiful park and had to climb what I deem to be the Mantinu Springs Incline of Vilnius. In other words, it was this long wooden stair case up the hill There were a lot of trails on the hill that I took the opportunity to explore and then we just sat on the grass for over an hour talking and relaxing in the sun. It was so hot we didn’t even need our jackets. I laid down and even fell asleep for a little—it felt good to relax after so much traveling. On the way back to the hostel we stopped at the big river too which was so nice and moving extremely fast. Graham proceeded to dunk his head in the water—honestly that dude is a riot.

The famous Three Crosses Monument located on the largest hill in Vilnius.
A picture of the group where we sat on the hill, looking out onto the city of Vilnius.

Finally it was time to get our rooms. Only me and graham were in the same room in the main building while the others had their own room in a separate building. We entered our room to find these two Irish guys hung over as hell still sleeping at 4:30pm. They had the strongest accents I’ve ever heard and their humor made talking to them a fun pass time for me. We napped for a little and then all gathered to go get some ice cream in old town.

The first ice cream place was closed for some reason and we were so upset until we found several places further down the road. We opted for this incredible one that had a long line, but it was very worth it. After that, we sat in the main square watching the people walk, skate, and scooter around. The sun was shining and it was beautiful just to chill there on the marble seat for a few hours with everyone. At one point a man in the window of the main building started playing the trumpet, which is my favorite instrument. The square, overall, was awesome. I could have spent days just chilling right there.

In fact, we loved it there so much that we decided to go grab a quick dinner and bring it back there to eat. Everyone got a Lithuanian fast food meal while Kersti and I found a cafe to get a sandwich and I also got a slice of yummy cheese cake—I was treating myself since soon we’d be back in expensive Norway where I can’t even afford to look at a cheesecake. While there I got locked on the bathroom though, which is probably one of the scariest things that has happened to me in forever. I tried for a good few minutes to get out, before messaging Kersti, “SOS STUCK IN BATHROOM”. She came to the door and I could hear her laughing. The laughter stopped though as she soon realized the door wasn’t opening. After another 30 seconds it opened and I flew out. Phew!

We took our food back and just chilled again at this square. The bells ran on the hour and lasted for a while. We weren’t even talking much. I think we were all tired and just very at peace with relaxing there in silence. The next day when I boarded the plane back to Oslo, I happened to be sitting in row 14… Started and ended the very same way. Everything happens for a reason, man. It was a good trip.

The beautiful square where my group spent so much time relaxing, eating, laughing, and mostly people watching.








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