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Finland
Normally my trips start with a mad dash because I'm late for a ferry, and so it was with this trip. I arrived in Vaasa, Finland at 2 o'clock in the morning and headed south along the Baltic coast. The plan for this trip was to ride around the Baltic Sea, alternating between exploring the countryside and sightseeing in the cities. So my first stop was Helsinki, a compact clean city and easy first day's ride.


Finnish ferry


Typical backroads


Helsinki


Helsinki harbour and fish market


View from my tent

Russia
From Finland I headed east into Russia and St. Petersburg. This was the biggest unknown of the trip for me. Would I be able to figure out Cyrillic signposts? Would there be problems with my visa? Would the bike get stolen? As it turned out travelling in Russia is pretty straightforward, the border crossing was quick (but not easy), and I felt no less safe than when in London. After the relatively Western nature of St. Petersburg it was interesting to ride through the countryside, which appears to be stuck in a timewarp.


Statue on Nevskiy Prospekt


Church of the Saviour on the Blood


The Winter Palace


Street vendors


MIL Mi-24 helicopter, NATO designation HIND


Nuclear power station

Estonia
Tallinn was my next stop, which has retained it's medieval character and is popular with day trippers from Helsinki. There's more to Estonia than Tallinn though, so I got the ferry to the islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa. Gravel roads pick through the pine forest to quiet thatched villages. Back on the mainland I met Margus (of HUBB fame) and he showed me around the highs (highest point, 300m above sea level) and lows (Piusa sand caves) of the south east.


Tallinn city walls


Blacksmith does his thing for the tourists


Estonian gravel roads


One of many windmills


Most extraordinary accomodation of the trip


There was no surf, and I'm not too sure about paradise

Latvia
Latvia carries on the Estonia theme of pancake flatness and pine forests. I stopped in Riga for a couple of days, mainly because of the amazing totty on display. It's like a genetic experiment gone right. The motor museum also held my interest, whilst the Holocaust memorial was truely sobering. Eventually it was time to leave and follow the coast line south. The unbroken white sand beach is an understandable attraction to both Latvians and tourists, mainly Germans.


View from Tauride castle


A lunch break


Monument to the Latvian Riflemen


Houses in Riga


Hostoric Auto Union race car


Early BMW adventure bike

Lithuania
The Curonian Spit is an extension of the Baltic sandy coastline and a deserved national park. Never more than 4km wide, this sand spit has always been popular with tourists, and the 50m tall dunes are a sight at sunset. Riding cross country with the GPS pointer set to Vilnius reinforced my view of how far the Baltic countries have to go to catch western Europe. Vilnius has it's own character and a corking nightlife to boot. Before leaving Lithuania I had to visit Stalin World, a sculpture park full of old Soviet era statues. But too many Lenins for my taste.


Dunes on the Curonian Spit


Camping in Klaipeda


National Drama Theatre in Vilnius


Cathedral Square in Vilnius


One of only 3 sitting Lenins in the world


Inside an abandoned Soviet missile silo

Poland
After the flatness of the Baltic countries it was nice to get reaquainted with the edges of my tyres in Poland. This is a land of lakes and, finally, changes in elevation. There was a festival at the castle at Malbork to mark the anniversary of the defeat of the Order of Teutonic Knights, which heralded the end of their empire. The castle itself was almost completely levelled by the Russians when they pushed the Germans back across eastern Europe sixty years ago. The subsequent reconstruction has done a great job.


Cobbled road in the Polish countryside


Castle of the Teutonic Order of the Hospital of St. Mary


Archers preparing for competition


A little less luggage than my fellow campers


Polish RD04 meets British RD07

Sweden
The island of Gotland falls into the usual Swedish mould; sandy soil, pine forest and painted wooden houses. The beaches at Fårö are some of the best I've lain on in the northern hemisphere, and the old town of Visby has managed to avoid the fate of many European cities and thus retains buildings up to 800 years old. Unfortunately time was short so Stockholm was bypassed as I rode north towards home and the end of my Baltic odysey.


Rock formations on Fårö


Windmill on Gotland


The Swedish Baltic


Backstreet in Visby


Imagine the tyre levers you need for this!


The High Coast suspension bridge



Tracklog of the trip


The muppet & the bike :lol:
 

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Yep totally agree...most impressive.
 

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Awsome writeup. I really want to do something similar.

out of interest, what sort of cost is involved ?
Is Fuel a major concern or is there adequate petrol stations ?
How long did it take ?

What sort of Helmet do you have ?

Jason
 

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jvaughan said:
what sort of cost is involved ?
The cost of living in most of the countries I visited is low compared to the UK :) . Fuel was usually about 50p per litre. A night camping cost £2 and a night in a hostel was about £7-£10. I ate out every day of the trip, and apart from Finland and Sweden it generally cost about £3-£4 for a hearty meal and a beer. Half litres of beer were consistantly around the £1 mark. The ferries to Finland and Sweden were about £50 each, and the visa for Russia cost about £60 to arrange.

I haven't totally up the receipts I brought back, but I estimate the actual trip cost me about £600 for the month. Having said that I bought a few essentials (tankbag/rucksack) and gadgets (digital photo storage) before I left and I burned way more cash on those than the trip! :shock:

jvaughan said:
Is Fuel a major concern or is there adequate petrol stations ?
Fuel is no problem at all, with loadsa fuel stations all over. I was a little concerned that Russian fuel might not be up to scratch, but 95 octane is available everywhere. Strangely you can also get 72 octane in a lot of places :eek: , so I guess it's important to double check the pump before filling the tank :wink: .

jvaughan said:
How long did it take ?
The trip took 28 days, from Sunday 4th to Saturday 31st of July. I spent 4 to 5 days in each country apart from a shorter stay in Finland. Total mileage was almost spot on 4000, so the bike needs a service now.

jvaughan said:
What sort of Helmet do you have ?
I've got an Arai Tour-Cross. I like being able to wear tinted goggles, as a day wearing sunglasses really hurts the sides of my head. Also dry gravel roads generate a lot of dust, which goggles keep out of my eyes a lot better than shades.

Hope this all helps, Iain
 
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