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Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia Trip Pictures from August 19 to 22, 2012

A speedy and sightseeing packed trip through the baltic countries.  To read more about our visit beside the picture captians proceed to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia Journal.

Our Route through LITHUANIA, LATVIA & ESTONIA. Covered approx. 1700km with the Toyota Landcruiser.

August 19, 2012. We enter Lithuania from Poland on a minor road close to Kaunas.

Lithuania is part of the EU and therefore no border formalities.

We wind our way to TRAKAI and its impressive Island Castle.

Lake Galve serves as a natural moat around the castle. We access the island via a wooden footbridge.

The castle consists of two circular defense towers.

Vytautas the Great built the castle.

Inside the castle walls locals reenact life once upon a time�

�dressed in traditional folks wear�

�and even cooking the old-style way.

The large courtyard.

Entrance to the Ducal Palace�s Keep. The tower stands 30m tall.

The commonly seen draw bridge to keep the entrance safe.

The arched gateway to the Ducal Palace.

The inner courtyard of the palace and its wooden stair galleries.

The cylindrical vaults of the palace cellar and those of the first and second floors are ribbed arches.

Today this area houses the History Museum.

August 20, 2012. In the morning we first visit the capital of Lithuania, VILNIUS.

We park at the Applied Arts Museum and wander straight up to the upper Castle�

�for a 360 Degree view over Vilnius.

We pass the Royal Palace�

�and the large square�

�almost empty of people�

�it is magical to be almost all alone gazing up�

�at the Neo-Classical exterior of the Vilnius Cathedral�

�and its beautiful sculptures. After a look inside the cathedral�

�we make our way down Pilies Street�

�to the Church of St. Anne�

�with its Gothic red-brick fa�ade and free standing bell tower.

Immediately adjacent is the Church of St Francis from Assisi (Bernardine).

Just outside the churchyards surrounded by beautiful flowers stands the statue of Adam Mickiewicz.

The Baroque wooden altars�

�and confessionals of the Bernardine Church.

Continuing our walking tour we pass through the Basilian Gate of the Basilian monastery.

Our turn around point is the Gates of Dawn�

�which holds the painting of the Virgin Mary�and therefore is a major pilgrimage place.

The interior of the Church of St. Theresa, which stands in front of the Gates of Dawn.

Enough of churches�the Town Hall and...

�the Presidential Palace are our last sightseeing points in Vilnius.

Enroute to Kernave, in the middle of the country side we spot the SUDERVES BAZNYCIA (Suderve church).

The significance of KERNAVE, besides its later built church�

�and old wooden houses�

�is its archaeological finds which indicate that this area was inhabited as far back as 9000BC.

The mounds contain buried medieval ramparts and fortifications and are great lookout points over the Neris Valley.

As we head for Latvia we detour to the HILL OF CROSSES.

Mainly for some great picture opportunities.

The legend has it that the first crosses were erected at this hill�

�after the 1831 rebellion.

During the Soviet times the crosses were destroyed numerous times.

However the crosses kept on coming back.

Today it is another major Christian pilgrimage place.

The number of crosses, crucifixes and rosaries is estimated at over a 100,000.

August 20, 2012. With lots of daylight left�

�we enter Latvia, driving along some deserted back country road�

�until coming upon ME�OTNE PALACE.

The question arises why build a palace at this seemingly remote place.

It was built in 1802 for Charlotte von Lieven.

As we arrived after 5pm the inside of the palace was already closed�

�however the massive English garden was accessible.

We wander around in the perfectly manicured garden�

�and take in the peace and quietness of the place at the fountain.

38km from Riga we find this great little campsite with a home-made sport activity playground.

August 21, 2012. On the quest to explore yet another UNESCCO World Heritage Site we enter RIGA, the capital of Latvia.

The Town Hall Square with the statue of Roland at its center and the House of Blackheads�

�is surrounded by some beautifully restored historic buildings.

The St. Peter�s Church Tower impressively overlooks the square.

The beautiful entrance to the St. Peter�s Church.

Strolling along we come upon this�

�beautiful street, lined with wine barrels�

�inviting us to stay.

In the early 20th Century this used to be the Riga Stock Exchange�

�today it houses the Art Museum Riga Bourse.

The Riga Dome Cathedral constructed in 1211.

The inside of the Cathedral is simple.

The organ was built in Germany in 1884.

Fancy woodwork of the 17th century pulpit.

Part of the Cathedral is the Cross-Vaulted Gallery of the Dome, a Romanesque cloister and courtyard.

The Riga Castle and the former headquarters of the Livonian Order.

The St. Jacob�s Cathedral built in 1225 and now the seat of Riga�s Catholic archbishop.

These three (3) houses on Maz� Pils Street (also called Three Brothers)�

�have each distinct architectural styles dating from the 15th, 17th and 18th Century.

Wandering around cobble stone streets�

�inside the old town.

The Swedish Gate built in 1698. The only one out of eight still standing.

The Powder Tower, one of Riga's medieval fortification wall towers, originally called the Sand Tower. Built in 1330.

The Freedom Monument built in 1935 marking Latvian independence.

Leaving the capital behind we head for the Gauja National Park and the town of CESIS.

Of interest to us is the castle�

...which used to be one of the seats of the German Crusaders�

�and now the resting place of Lenin�s Sculpture.

Construction of the Castle by the Brotherhood of Swords started around 1209.

It became the residence of the Livonian Order masters from 1239 to 1561.

It consists of fortification towers�

� a granary and a stable-coach house and numerous other buildings.

We scope out every building,�

�but the most unique feature was when we were given oil lanterns to enter and climb the dark tower.

Remains of an imposing wall.

A scary place, the prison, accessible only through a small vertical hole which opens up to the bottom of the tower.

The historic town itself has beautiful restored wooden�

�and stone houses and some not restored buildings�

�which make for an even better picture opportunity. This is it for us in Latvia and we are onwards to Estonia.

August 21, 2012. We set up Camp in the woods on the northern coastline of Estonia and enjoy some noodles and each a bottle of Cesu Beer (Latvian Beer).

August 22, 2012. In the morning we check out the northern coastline of the Baltic Sea�

�along the Pakri Peninsula�

�where massive limestone cliffs provide a great view over the sea.

Following the northern coastline east we enter TALLINN, the capital of Estonia.

We head straight for the Toompea Hill and�

...its impressive limestone fortifications.

The Pikk Hermann Tower stands tall in the corner of the Toompea Castle.

The Toompea Castle with its Baroque fa�ade.

Opposite the castle is the famous Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

A beautiful Russian Orthodox Cathedral�

�dominates the castle square.

It also seems to be a major tourist attraction.

From the Patkuli Viewing Platform located on Toompea hill�

�we have a great panoramic view of the old town below.

We enter the old town through this gate�

�into the L�hike Jalg, the gateway between Toompea and the lower town�

� The street used to be lined with coppersmiths and locksmiths in the Middle Ages.

The massive wooden door of the gateway.

Walking down the cobblestoned Pikk Jalg�

�to the Pikk Jalk Gate Tower into the old town�

�which dates from the 14th century.

On our way to the Church of the Holy Ghost or Church of the Holy Spirit�

The oldest public clock in Tallinn adorns the outside of the Church of the Holy Spirit.

Inside the church the galleries are richly decorated�

�with scenes from the Bible�

�painted in the mid-17th century and probably by different artists.

The Renaissance-era pulpit�

�and beautiful stained glass.

We keep on following the cobblestoned streets�

�exploring each alleyway.

The Dominican Monastery was, unfortunatley, closed upon our visit.

Stone houses are built into the outer walls of the old town fortification.

The medieval passageway to the Dominican Monastery.

St. Catherine Passageway another medieval alleyway.

Several gravestones dating from the 14th century�

�line the surviving wall of the St. Catherine Church.

The uneven stone walls and overhead vaulting of the St. Catherine Passageway.

The stone towers of the Viru Gate.

En-route to the Town Hall�

�we stop for some salted almonds.

The Town Hall Square with its imposing Town Hall�

�and bustling with merchants.

We enter the Town Hall, and its Citizens Hall�

�and Council Hall.

However the main reason for us to visit the Town Hall was to climb up the 115 steps�

�to the top of the tower and�

�get a birds eye view of Tallinn and the Town Hall Square.

From Tallinn, Estonia we head all the way back to Poland covering 650kms...

...and hitting a massive Thunderstorm in Lithuania.

The windshield wipers could not keep up and our tires kept being pulled...

...into the deep water filled ruts of the road. Check out Poland for a continuation of the trip.