Kleipeda/Palanga 2000      Last Updated: 13-May-03

We flew for 1.9 hours from Vilnius to Palanga which is the closest airport to Kleipeda. Kleipeda in turn is the closest city in Lithuania to Kalinigrad. Kalinigrad is a Russian satelite state bordered only by Lithuania and Poland. It has no physical connection to Russia and I liked to call it the Russian Hong Kong.

We rented a car in Palanga and drove along the Curian Spit from Kleipeda on the North end, through the national park, to Kalinigrad on the South end. The spit is a wonderful, if unexpected, natural phenomenon. It is a penninsula / sand bank of approximately 10 km width, which is heavily under re-forestation. Flora and fauna are unbelievably varied. It was extremly peaceful. Except for the fact that Roswitha managed to get pulled over for speeding in Lithuania. Right, she only had a rental car for three days in 2 month, and still got a speeding ticket!

The Curian Spit is the home of Thomas Mann, whose house we visited when we stayed in the town of Nida.

We rented a very beat up Renault 
Thomas Mann's house where he lived a good portion of his life  The view from Thomas Mann's house. With a little fog, one could imagine a similarity to Venice 
The trims on the local rustic houses' rooflines were beautiful  And another one, Roswitha started to think how to integrate an Internet Version of this in California 
Church tower in Nida  The church was set on a hill 
Nida's Lighthouse  Wood pile  Wild Irises ... 
... were everywhere 
The beach on the West side of the Curian Spit toward the East Sea  View along the spit 
... with reforestation ongoing (see the grid laid out?)  More mature re-forestation efforts 
Miles and miles of dunes  Rosi in the dunes 

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Kalinigrad 2000     

Kalinigrad is a Russian satelite state bordered only by Lithuania and Poland. It has no physical connection to Russia and I liked to call it the Russian Hong Kong. We rented a car in Palanga and drove along the Curian Spit from Kleipeda on the North end, through the national park, to Kalinigrad on the South end.

The population of Kalinigrad - or Königsburg (King's Castle) - was originally predominately German. The entire area used to be called North East Prussia. Since 1989 many people of German heritage who where moved by Russia to the North East have returned. The area is in serious dis-repair. However, we found the people to be much friendlier than in St. Petersburg. One of the customs guards even gave Roswitha the needle from his hat, since he had never before met an Austrian before.

Immanuel Kant lived and worked in Kalinigrad. We saw pictures of his home in one of the exhibits.

Overal the visit to Kalinigrad was extremely depressing. The path to capitalism and improved standard of living seems to be long and steep. One of the highlights was to use our ATM card to get rubels out of a teller.

City gate?  Cathedral of Kalinigrad on Kneiphof Island 
Main Entrance  Detail  The cathedral is now under restoration and holds a museum. Kant is buried in the graveyard nearby 
One of the few intact windows  Kant's home relative to church  Kant's bust in museum  and in the park 
Opposite the University ...  ... we visited the bunker museum which spans under the entire park and beyond. 
Worker's paradise and modern Russian architecture ...  ... falling in disrepair. 
Nearby shopping mall  Ah, a bank let's see if the ATM card works!  YESSS 
Good, so we can get lunch at the lunch counter next to a hotel (which looked much better than the overpriced hotel food!) 

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Riga 2000     

The flight from Palanga to Riga took 1.6 hours on a wonderfully sunny day with feathery clouds.

Our visit to Riga stood completely in the shadow of the Annual Meeting of the European Bank. Fearing intrusions like the ones at recent World Bank meetings the police was out in huge numbers. We saw almost no locals except as sales or wait personell, or selling tickets to museums, churches, etc. Unknowingly, we were lucky to get a room. We only figured out the special circumstances when we saw all the suits and badges. The local currency - one Lats - was worth app. 4 US$, which made prices look cheap, but if you did your math, everything was shockingly expensive. To this day we do not know if the high prices we encountered in this town where due to the conference, or if they are typical. The police precautions were either unnecessary or paid off. It was a very peaceful time in Riga.

The buildings in Riga where already very well restored. Downtown is very walkable and compact, clean, fresh, open and western. We only saw very few construction sites. It was quite a contrast to Kalinigrad.

Riga Airport  Lots of grass ? 
What's with all these badges?  Ah-Ha  Well, money seems important to this town, as can be seen on this mural 
One pair of socks 5 Lati = 20 US$ ???  The local cuisine consists of beans and grains. Of course you can also get more Western and French food 
Occupation Museum with St. Peter in back  Tower of St. Peter, rebuilt after WWII, elevator to 103 m spire was added in 70s 
The four semicircles are the main train station, in the distance one can see the new TV tower  Our hotel was in the lower right quadrant  The main road to the airport 
Occupation Museum and square from St. Peter  We spied the place for dinner from St. Peter, by following the path to the large white awning on the right edge 
Freedom monument - Milda - and Orthodox church from St. Peter  Dedicated in 1935 to Latvia's brief independence, it soon had to become a Russian symbol of Mother Russia  Now the three stars again represent the three Latvian states 
On our way through the park we stumbled across the opera  Opera closer up 
Many huge buildings and styles as behooves a former major commercial center  Is this an English castle?  Detail  Another detail 
And another detail  Big streets ...  ... and small streets 
The HERB (mural) house  Another merchant took his revenge on a neighbor by putting cats on the tops of his building 
A gateway to dinner  Narrow buildings  Small courtyards 
   
Occupation Museum  Statue in front of Occupation Museum 

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Tallinn 2000     

After a 1.9 hour flight from Riga, we arrived in Tallinn just ahead of a serious front. We ended up staying an extra 4 days after we visited St. Petersburg. This was not all bad, since it allowed us to get the compass at least rudimentary fixed. On the flight from Riga I noticed that the liquid in the compass seemed to be less than it used to be. When we returned to the plane after three days, it was entirely empty. The only mechanics available only spoke Russian, and I only spoke English, German and a little Japanese. So with lots of charades, grunts, drawing, and some supplies from my emergency medical kit, we were able to make the compass functional enough to fly to Berlin, where we were able to get it fully repaired.

Tallinn for me was the city of towers and winds. The city wall is still mostly intact and has at least 7 towers. The downtown square as well as the small curvy roads in old town have many outdoor and downstairs restaurants. We were suprised to find a local desert wine which was quite good.

In search for lodging we also visited the hotels built for the 22. Olympic Summer Games in Moskau in 1980. Part of the games were held in Tallin.

On a clear day one could almost imagine to see Helsinki, which is only about 50 km straight North from Tallinn.

On the day of our arrival at Tallinn airport the weather was still pleasant 
Not so three days later when we wanted to leave  We got to know the airport really well. It was a very well organized, modern building, and the free internet terminals were very welcome for frequent weather checks 
Downtown Tallinn and its towers  The city walls are still in good condition  The parks around the city walls are very pleasant 
The city walls are an integral part of the traffic pattern  MacDonalds - as always - has a prime spot 
Politsei, adapted to some very small roads  Along the city wall  Up and down hill 
Orthodox church  Detail 
Olde Hansa  Good beer ...  ... and food 
Restaurant on main square  Chicken wings and Greek Salad ?  Here we found the local wine 
View from the Olympic center. Still not going to fly! 
Olympic flame and pedestal for winners  Finally clearing up 
Church ruins near Olympic Center   

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