Baltic Exploration: Pleasant Poland, Lovely Latvia, Low-key Lithuania & Endearing Estonia!

After Copenhagen, we went through Germany to Gdansk, Poland.

Lithuania & Latvia were next, then up to Tallinn, Estonia! (From there we were heading across the Finnish Gulf to Helsinki, Finland, but I’ll cover that in a separate post.)


#1: Northern Poland

Having only been to southern Poland before (Krakow and Auschwitz 👈a must-see BTW), I was curious to see how different or similar the north of the country would be.

We took a train to Gdansk, a city we really enjoyed! (Gdansk, Poland is quite close to Kaliningrad, Russia. Ah so close! Check it out on a map!)

Gdansk felt relaxed and comfortable, and we got everywhere we needed to go thanks to Uber drivers and directions on the right trains to take (from our first Uber driver, who also taught us some key Polish phrases since I’d totally bombed preparing our family learning any basic Polish phrases😆–compared to the months in advance my daughter and I spent learning Portuguese when we went to the Açores–but I can see now that’s the difference between knowing we’re going to be living somewhere longer-term versus visiting short-term).

The town was beautiful, relaxed, easy to walk, and full of cafes with good coffee and good food, so…right up our alley! 🙂

While traveling is an education in itself, we do fit in some more “typical” educational activities (such as spelling tests) here and there. 😉

This child BEGS to be given spelling tests…interestingly enough.
Many of us parents stopped to let our kids play in these fountains (and on top of the lions)!

The “tunnels” to the main canal in the centre…

There’s quite a long canal area running through the centre of Gdansk, with shops and restaurants on the sides.

There was also an interesting blend of old and new buildings alongside each other…

Of course, our daughters quickly spotted the two-level vintage carousel and begged to go check it out.

And of course we had to ride it! 🙂

We had it all to ourselves…

We’d researched where we could find the best Polish food for lunch, and it was even better than we expected!

“Pierogi” was recommended by all the Poles as their favorite traditional Polish food. It can be filled with all different kinds of ingredients, and we tried several–as well as other Polish dishes–but pierogi was still our favorite.  

Our lunch was interrupted by one of the bridges over the canal being raised and lowered for a boat, so the girls had to go watch! 🙂


#2 & #3: Latvia & Lithuania Highlights!

As you travel northeast of Poland, you find Latvia (Latvija), which borders Lithuania (Lietuvos) to the north, Belarus to the east, and even a bit of Russia!

We hiked through some beautiful, quiet woods in northern Lithuania, which eventually opened up to the Nemunėlis River. (This is what forms part of the border.)

We also kayaked on the Nemunėlis River, with Latvia on one side and Lithuania on the other!

It was incredibly peaceful there, and we spent hours quietly dipping our paddles in and enjoying the quiet.

Even our youngest barely talked the whole time (miracle of miracles!), was taking it all in…

…and even rested her eyes at one point. 🙂

The guy we’d rented the kayaks from was super sweet and, upon meeting us at the end point, brought us some Latvian treats! They were a chocolate-covered cheese-curd-kinda conconction in a variety of flavors (from kiwi to caramel to even a brownish chocolate interior).

It’s not something we’re familiar with but we were all pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed them! 🙂 Either that or we were just hungry after hours of kayaking.

Crossing the border between Latvia and Lithuania…and back again a couple times.

The last random noteworthy thing I’ll mention about Lithuania was also thanks to our kayak guy. He was driving us back when he asked if we’d like to stop at an “interesting place the kids might like.”

Turns out, it was the private home of a man who has carved massive wood statues and houses for 50+ years, and has been visited by thousands of people from around the world. It would deserve an entire other post…

Many of the creations he made were in honor of someone’s birthday, or for one of his grandchildren…and some of them were even like mini-carousels that went around…or giant swings…it was unending.

Even below, at the tops of some of the structures you can see where he made sorts of spinning metal “windcatchers,” for lack of any other term.

He spoke no English, and our kayak guy was a bit limited in his translations, but we made it and had some good laughs.

We have hundreds of pictures from this “short stop” that turned into a couple hours (many of the photos orchestrated by the man himself, which were so comical I wouldn’t even know where to begin and they will NEVER be put onto the internet🤣)…but I share it to encourage you while traveling to “Just say yes” to interesting stops the local people might recommend to you. Even if it ends up being weirdly funny and unexpected, that means you (and your children) will NEVER forget it!


#4: Estonia

Tallinn, Estonia, was one of our biggest surprises of the trip! We really, REALLY liked it!

Now, was it their chocolate specialty shops everywhere in the city that lured me in? YOU’D THINK, right?🤣

But the city itself was beautiful.

One of many chocolate shops in Tallinn.

All the chocolate certainly didn’t hurt its high rating for us.

I especially enjoyed this one shop full of hand-carved wooden pieces, and even bought something to bring home with us! (Yep, carried it around in my bag for countless months! That’s dedication!😄)

After all the exploring and shopping, we sat down in the main square with our 27 different kinds of chocolate and sampled each one!

The town had constructed new wooden seats in the center of the plaza, which were perfect for sitting in the sun on a cooler day.

From liquer-flavored chocolate to fruit and nut-covered chocolates and coconut balls and gold-dusted chocolate bars, we had a great tasting experience! 🙂

We enjoyed these medieval “dragon gutters”:

We found a quiet coffee shop a little outside the main area and enjoyed chatting with the young guy working there. We’ve added Estonia to our list of places we’d actually go back to and explore for longer.

Isn’t it beautiful? Who knew we’d enjoy Tallinn so much?!

The Flower Market
Amazing buildings that reminded us a bit of Visby, but that’s the island off “mainland” Sweden…but also Baltic-esque area…


From Tallinn, we took a boat to Helsinki (Finland).

If you missed the earlier places we lived in (or traveled to) in Europe, you’ll enjoy seeing

  1. living in the Azores
  2. Madeira
  3. The Canary Islands
  4. living in Sevilla, Spain
  5. Morocco
  6. living in the Scottish Highlands
  7. northern Italy
  8. living in Austria for the summer
  9. Norway
  10. Copenhagen
  11. …and any others I’ve forgotten to include HERE! (includes our trips through South and East Africa!)

PS: Following these steps has enabled us to make our dreams a reality, create a home that worked FOR us (instead of the other way around)!

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