It’s time for Steve and Quick Whit’s annual Trip of a Lifetime! Each year, Steve and I take 10-14 days in August to explore a new and faraway land neither of us has visited before. This year, it’s the Baltic States! Several people I’ve spoken with have been confused about the Baltics versus the Balkins, so I thought I’d shed some light on this former portion of the Soviet Union that sees so few American visitors!
What countries make up the Baltic States?
Estonia (Capital, Tallinn)
Latvia (Capital, Riga)
Lithuania (Capital, Vilnius)
Where are they?
These three countries actually have Russia both to the east and the west. The small portion of Russia called the Province of Kaliningrad borders Lithuania’s southwestern border, and of course the rest of Russia borders Estonia and Latvia’s eastern sides. Latvia also shares a border with Belarus to its southeast, and Lithuania shares a border to the southeast with Belarus and a small portion of Poland to the southwest. Portions of each Baltic nation touch the Baltic Sea, and Estonia’s northern shore touches the Gulf of Finland. Here’s a graphic:
Who’s in charge over there?
Well, each of the countries has been independent since 1991, so they each have their own governing bodies. But they have previously been occupied by Germany, Sweden, Poland, and Russia. They’ve had a rough go of it the last 800-1000 years, but now they’re experiencing independence all their own!
What’s their currency?
The Euro! Each of the three countries had their own currency: Estonia had the kroon, but they made the Euro switch in January 2011; Latvia had the lat until January 2014; and Lithuania had the lita until as recently as January 2015. Being on the Euro makes it easier for tourists, so perhaps more people will be visiting the beautiful Baltics soon!
So, what do they have there?
Old world charm! Despite being occupied so often over the years, all three countries have maintained beautiful architecture reminiscent of old world Europe and fairytales. And they have amber–lots and lots of amber in a variety of colors! They have lush green hills and valleys, mountains, lakes, seashore, and beautiful landscapes. They also have beautiful linen textiles, long summer days, and many many castles!
Some Good Things to Know
- The symbol for the Ladies Restroom is an rightside-up triangle
- The symbol for the Men’s Restroom is an upside-down triangle
- In Lithuania and Riga, Numbers 1-7 represent the days of the week, with 1 being Sunday; this is important to know when looking at opening days on businesses, restaurants, and museums
Intrigued? I’ll be writing about our experiences in each country in the coming days, so stay tuned and follow along!