Cycling the Baltics
I sit writing this from within our tent, which we have pitched alongside a beautiful lake somewhere in north east Poland, wild camping after cycling 821km across the Baltics.
Departing Australia on April the 25th, we set out to cycle across the European continent, starting from the capital of the most north eastern country, Tallinn in Estonia. However, while waiting for the rest of our camping gear to arrive, we decided to spend a couple of weeks exploring nearby St Petersburg, Russia, which turned out to be an architectural wonderland with a masterpiece on nearly every single city block. We also decided to visit a friend in Turku, western Finland. Knowing nothing about the city, we were pleasantly surprised to see it full of character and people appreciating the cafes & pubs that line the river which pierces the city.
On May 13th, we left from Europe’s most northerly east country, Estonia, to cycle across eastern Europe. Destination unknown. Perhaps the Croatian coastline, or maybe even Istanbul. Time will only tell. Saying goodbye to Tallinn, as we cycled beneath the old city fortress walls, was bitter sweet. Although excited for our challenge ahead, I will miss one of the beautiful cities I’ve seen.
Starting out was a little slow as we had done no cycling preparation prior to this cross continental trip. So fatigued muscles, cramps and tiredness were a common theme throughout the first week. But by the end of the second week, we could cycle 80 – 100km multiple days in a row, while still feeling quite healthy at night. It’s amazing how quick our bodies fine-tuned themselves for the journey.
The roads across the Baltics have generally been OK. We have spent approximately 50% of the time on national highways, and the other 50% on minor back roads, which generally provide better scenery (even if it occasionally reduces speed and increases kilometres for the day). Researching the days route prior to leaving on Maps.Me, Komoot & Google Maps has helped out dramatically and virtually eliminated any getting “lost” we would of experienced otherwise. Occasionally we would end up on a gravel road or one plagued with a million and one “repair” jobs that make riding difficult. But it’s all part of the game.
We have been impressed with much of the countryside, albeit some of the stretches can be a little bland with farming fields – this is the case with every country visited. On a whole, small country roads have provided beautiful settings and made cycling across the Baltics a delight. What is even more impressive is all the towns and cities. They really know how to impress when it comes to that. We spent multiple days in some locations, purely because of how wonderful it was walking the streets. Colourful medieval architecture, lined with curves of cobbled streets, is what really shines out to me about all three of the Baltic countries.
The consumption of food has been incredible while cycling these long distances. Nuts, fruit, yogurt, and chocolate are all consumed regularly between each meal, in which there is 3 and sometimes 4 a day. My bike weighs in at about 60kg, and hauling that 85km up and down hills each day, you burn quite a bit of energy, sending the metabolism in overdrive.
One of the best parts of the trip though, has certainly been the people. There is always someone to help out when in need, and it’s always with a smile on their face. Even when we can’t speak a word of their language. One night, we were even invited back to their countryside home to feast and spend the night. Incredible hospitality.
So, after 821km across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Due to how flat these three countries are, it’s also a wonderful place to start cycling, before the terrain gets a bit more “rugged” further south in eastern Europe.
This article continues on to Cycling the length of Poland.
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