Day 31: Rural Latvia and Lithuania

Today I took a long, winding drive from Riga, Latvia, to Vilnius, Lithuania.

I’m struggling a bit with how to write sensitively about some contrasts I’ve observed among the Baltic States. At an admittedly quick glance (roughly a day in each country), there are profound apparent differences in economic status despite their shared history of gaining independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s and subsequently joining the European Union.

Herewith, some photos from rural Latvia and Lithuania.

I would have loved to explore the old town of Vilnius, where I am now staying, but while it was daylight, it was raining hard here. (When I drove in, a car in an adjacent lane hit a rut in the pavement and kicked up so much water that I could not see for a couple of seconds!)

Tomorrow and Thursday, there will likely be no photos as I’m moving place to place quite a bit (Amsterdam and then Cologne) and spending time visiting people in both places rather than making new photos. See you on Friday, when I’ll be traveling solo again.

Riga, Latvia, to Vilnius, Lithuania · 310 mi / 499 km

Riga, Latvia, to Vilnius, Lithuania · 310 mi / 499 km

Day 30: Estonian Countryside and into Latvia

I left Tallinn this morning (I’ll be back 😘) and headed south through some rural roads and then into Latvia. I had fully expected to have a similar reaction to Riga as I did to Tallinn, but I found a lot less charm here in Riga than I did farther north.

Today’s photos are all from rural Estonia.

Waiting for the Spring · Hälvati, Estonia

Waiting for the Spring · Hälvati, Estonia

Tallinn, Estonia, to Riga, Latvia · 248 mi / 399 km

Tallinn, Estonia, to Riga, Latvia · 248 mi / 399 km

Day 29: A New City Crush

Today I took a ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia. Rather than use a taxi, I walked the 20-30 minutes from the ferry terminal to my hotel and … my, oh my … swoon … I love Tallinn’s historic old city.

This makes three European cities that I have full-on crushes on … the other two being Amsterdam (see you soon!) and Barcelona. Tallinn goes high on my must-revisit list.

Here’s a little taste of why:

Helsinki, Finland, to Tallinn, Estonia · 62 mi / 99 km

Helsinki, Finland, to Tallinn, Estonia · 62 mi / 99 km

Day 28: Hanko and Fiskars

Based on a great tip from a friend who is originally from Finland, I ventured west from Helsinki today and visited the coastal resort town of Hanko and the inland village of Fiskars. (Yes, in case you’re wondering, that is where the scissors and garden tools got their name.)

If Scars Could Sing · Päiväkumpu, Finland

If Scars Could Sing · Päiväkumpu, Finland

Enjoying a sunny day on the beach in Hanko.

Enjoying a sunny day on the beach in Hanko.

Helsinki to Hanko and Fiskars, Finland · 204 mi / 329 km

Helsinki to Hanko and Fiskars, Finland · 204 mi / 329 km

Day 27: Points East from Helsinki

Decided to take it easy today, so I hit the motorway east from Helsinki for an hour or so and then took the old / slow roads back to the city.

A friend who is originally from Finland recommended some places to see west of Helsinki, so I shall spend some time on those tomorrow.

Still New to Me · Lovisa, Finland

Still New to Me · Lovisa, Finland

Helsinki and points east · 148 mi / 238 km

Helsinki and points east · 148 mi / 238 km

Day 26: Goodbye Family, Hello Finland

This morning I watched as my wife and daughter walked through security and on towards the flights that will take them home. Our paths diverge today and I continue on for another three weeks or so on my own. As I write this, their flight is said to be somewhere over that great frozen tundra known as Greenland.

A couple of hours after they left Oslo, I also left Norway and headed east to Finland. I am writing from my hotel in Helsinki, watching the sun make a semi-futile attempt to set at almost 10pm. This is summer at 60° latitude!

After a long day of driving (yesterday) and a day of flying and airports (today), I desperately needed a walk. So … here are a few photos from a walkabout in central Helsinki. Tomorrow I shall hit the road and explore some of nearby rural Finland.

Oslo, Norway, to Helsinki, Finland · 536 mi / 862 km

Oslo, Norway, to Helsinki, Finland · 536 mi / 862 km

Day 25: Back to Oslo

Today we returned to Oslo. We were anxious to get through the city before commuting time began in earnest, so there are no photos from today. We will spend the night in the airport hotel and then tomorrow bid farewell to Norway and to each other.

Tara and Ayla will return home tomorrow (sniff) and I will continue on my own through mid-August.

Mandal to Oslo (airport), Norway · 261 mi / 420 km

Mandal to Oslo (airport), Norway · 261 mi / 420 km

Day 24: On a Boat Again

This morning we drove into Kristiansand in search of coffee (yes, we are those American tourists who like fancy coffee drinks!) and a little shopping. We went back to Mandal village for a very tasty lunch and then back to our resort.

We rented a boat to go exploring the islands around Tregde, but Ayla quickly decided the salt spray and waves were not for her. (I think she may have found the simple fiberglass boat we rented a bit … sparse? … compared to the livable boat our friends in Oslo had.) So … back to the resort for Ayla (to spend time with Tara, who had already decided it was too cold to be out on the water) and then I went back out to shoot some photos from the water.

Tomorrow we are headed back to Oslo and then the next day we will make our farewell to beautiful Norway.

Around Kristiansand and Mandal by car and by boat · 86 mi / 139 km

Around Kristiansand and Mandal by car and by boat · 86 mi / 139 km

Day 23: A Lazy Day

We had good intentions of going exploring today. Many friends told us that seeing Stavanger — and the coast along the way — would be a great idea.

But there comes a point when one needs a break from the road. So we laid low today and enjoyed our immediate surrounds. Seems like that was what we needed. After a game of mini-golf and some time to walk lazily around the resort, Ayla told me mid-afternoon: “I’m actually gonna throw away all those pieces of poop that were the other best days and call this the best day ever.“

Colorful praise, but I’ll take it.

Most of today’s photos come from the nearby town of Mandal and the area around our resort.

Around Mandal, Norway · 14 mi / 23 km

Around Mandal, Norway · 14 mi / 23 km

Day 22: South to Mandal

Yesterday we left Oslo for the south coast of Norway.

A friend suggested that we spend some time in the coastal village of Kragerø. We did and it was absolutely charming. Most of today’s photos are from there.

The problem was … we spent so much time there that when we left we kind of had to bee-line it for our final destination. There were about a million photos I would have liked to have taken along the rest of the route, but they shall remain only in my mind.

Oslo to Mandal, Norway · 250 mi / 403 km

Oslo to Mandal, Norway · 250 mi / 403 km

Day 21: Oslo

Today we accepted an invitation to meet some friends on their boat for a tour of Oslo harbor. The weather could not have been better for the occasion (72°F / 22°C and sunny).

Thank you, Audun and Veera, for making the time for us today!

Around Oslo harbor · 11 mi / 17 km

Around Oslo harbor · 11 mi / 17 km

Day 20: Norway!

Today, we left Ireland and flew to Norway. No photos from today, as we needed to focus on getting to the airport on time. Our first glances of Norway on our drive from the airport to the hotel suggest that we will love, love, love it here (as we did in Ireland, too, just to be fair!).

Tomorrow we have been invited onto a friend’s boat for a tour of Oslo harbor. Very much looking forward to it!

Galway, Ireland, to Oslo, Norway · 1027 mi / 1652 km

Galway, Ireland, to Oslo, Norway · 1027 mi / 1652 km

Day 19: The Fanore Coast and Galway

Yesterday (again, with the slow Internet and such) we left the farm and drove up to Galway.

A friend suggested that we should take the “scenic route” via Fanore and it was a great suggestion. Most of today’s photos are from that portion of the drive.

In the evening, I got to meet a long-time Facebook friend (Sean McCormack) for the first time in real life. It was a real treat. Thanks for making the time, Sean!

No Time for Looking Back · Leamaneh, County Clare, Ireland

No Time for Looking Back · Leamaneh, County Clare, Ireland

Panorama of the River Corrib as it meets the Atlantic Ocean, Galway, Ireland

Panorama of the River Corrib as it meets the Atlantic Ocean, Galway, Ireland

Newmarket on Fergus to Galway, Ireland · 85 mi / 137 km

Newmarket on Fergus to Galway, Ireland · 85 mi / 137 km

Day 18: A Farm and Some Cliffs

We are staying at a farm / B&B near Limerick last night and tonight. Ayla has been looking forward to this part of the trip for some time because she love, love, loves animals. The surprise is that she bonded with the farm’s dog more than the cattle or horses here.

We took a day trip today to the Cliffs of Moher, which was great to see. I think something like 17 trillion photos of the cliffs were taken today and it was hard to find much of a view that didn’t include the busloads of tourists who were there with us.

So … given that, and the relatively slow internet here, we’ll share just a few photos from today.

Leaving My Sacred Ground · Lahinch, County Clare, Ireland

Leaving My Sacred Ground · Lahinch, County Clare, Ireland

To Cliffs of Moher and back · 94 mi / 152 km

To Cliffs of Moher and back · 94 mi / 152 km

Day 17: Dingle Peninsula

Today (ok, yesterday – since I am late in posting this) we left Blarney for a new location, staying at a farm near Limerick.

Many friends recommended that we should see the Dingle Peninsula. This made what would have been a 90-minute drive into about a six-hour thing, but oh, was it worth it.

Herewith … photos (mostly) from the Dingle Peninsula.

Last Ray of Hope · Inch Beach, County Kerry, Ireland

Last Ray of Hope · Inch Beach, County Kerry, Ireland

Blarney to Limerick via Dingle Peninsula, Ireland · 215 mi / 346 km

Blarney to Limerick via Dingle Peninsula, Ireland · 215 mi / 346 km

Day 16: Kinsale

Today, based on a recommendation from a friend of Tara’s, we explored the coastal village of Kinsale. It was absolutely charming!

Tomorrow, on to the Dingle Peninsula and a farm stay for the next couple of nights.

Drifting Out to Sea · Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland

Drifting Out to Sea · Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland

Panorama of Kinsale’s harbor

Panorama of Kinsale’s harbor

Blarney to Kinsale, Ireland · 53 mi / 86 km

Blarney to Kinsale, Ireland · 53 mi / 86 km

Day 15: South to Cork

Today we left Dublin and made our way south to Blarney, just outside of Cork.

My ladies were sleeping in the car much of the afternoon so most of the photographs are in my head and not in my camera.

A couple from a stop in Wicklow here:

Dublin to Blarney, Ireland · 195 mi / 314 km

Dublin to Blarney, Ireland · 195 mi / 314 km

Day 14: Around Dublin

Today it was mostly sunny here in Dublin, so we took a city tour on one of those infamous double-decker buses. They were very popular today. After that we drove to the waterfront village of Howth, which is out on a peninsula north of Dublin center city.

Tomorrow, we leave Dublin for points south.

Around Dublin and Howth, Ireland · 37 mi / 60 km

Around Dublin and Howth, Ireland · 37 mi / 60 km

Day 13: And Now We Are Three

This morning, we welcomed my wife Tara into the trip. Travel is hard for her; she has become an increasingly nervous flyer in recent years. Despite that, she braved not one but two flights yesterday and this morning to make her way from Seattle to Dublin. We’ll be together as a family for roughly a week each in Ireland and Norway and then I will continue solo for some time after that.

Today's agenda was getting to the airport in the morning to pick her up and then giving her some space to rest and recover in the afternoon. After that, she spent some time with our daughter and I went on a walking tour of central Dublin.

When I Found You · Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

When I Found You · Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

Around Dublin, Ireland · 22 mi / 36 km

Around Dublin, Ireland · 22 mi / 36 km

Day 12: Northern Ireland

Borders are like magnets to me. If there’s one nearby, I am compelled to cross it just to see what things are like on the other side. So, naturally, the thing we did on the first full day in Ireland was to cross the nearest available border.

Given “the troubles” of recent decades, the crossing from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland and back is remarkably understated. There’s a small sign telling you that the speed limits use different measures (Ireland uses the metric system on its roads; the UK does not); the lane striping changes subtly; and that’s about it. They don’t even really announce the national border, making it even less ceremonial than border crossings in the Schengen area of mainland Europe and nothing resembling the enormous advertisements that announce most state borders within the US.

Today’s photos are all from Northern Ireland. Given that I hail from Bainbridge Island in Washington State, I could not pass up the chance to visit the town of Banbridge, just a few miles over the border. The rural area near Banbridge offered some fun farmscapes.

Until You Come Back Home · Banbridge, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

Until You Come Back Home · Banbridge, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

Dublin, Ireland, to Banbridge, Northern Ireland · 173 mi / 279 km

Dublin, Ireland, to Banbridge, Northern Ireland · 173 mi / 279 km