In just two hours I fly with Baltic Air in all comfort from the renovated VIP Lounge at Schiphol to Lithuania. Completely relaxed and richly equipped with (also alcoholic) refreshments we land in the lively and hardly touristic Vilnius.
Vilnius is a combination of baroque/renaissance and old Gothic and of course modern, bulking up of top restaurants. I stay at the stately Pacai Hotel,which is perfectly situated to explore the hip city on foot. We take a guided tour of the old town and visit the Castle of Trakai,the most famous and photographed castle in Lithuania. For lunch we choose the beautifully located La Provence. Very nice cuisine, with flavours of ‘La douce France’ and a nice wine list. Also recommended is the tight Dziaugsmas; top kitchen, funky with a zen/Scandinavian décor.
A beautiful drive of about 300 kilometers brings us to the busy but enchantingly beautiful Riga in Latvia. Heritage of 800-year-old Gothic churches, medieval and wooden buildings in the mix with art nouveau make Riga an architectural masterpiece. On a guided tour, the passionate guide tells us all about the fascinating history of the rich city and leads us through beautiful Jugendstil streets. We have lunch here at the Mediterranean Riviera among the locals and are surprised by the great wine list. In the old town we settle down at Micanos,which delights us with the fair and good value for money. We dine at NR3,100 meters away from St Peter’s. Here, too, the cuisine is Scandinavian and funky.
Through the baroque treasures of Gauja National Park we drive to Parnü in Estonia,a rural route of about two and a half hours. The landscape is varied. Back, forests, meadows, cornfields and the occasional farm pass us by. Beautiful. Parnü is the holiday village for the Estonians, which is about 100 kilometres from the capital. It has style, is a great outdoor (little Flower Daal or Knokke but then 100 years ago) and rich in stylish hotels, from resorts to boutique. You will find large playgrounds and blinding white sandy beaches with boulevards. We stroll to the center for the fine terraces from pizza/burgers restaurants to more classy. Very pleasant and for everyone, for both families and couples. A nice place for lunch and cocktails is Villa Wesset.
We drive from Parnü to the ferry, after which we cross the island on the way to the luxurious Pädaste Manor with our noses covered in butter and cranes with chicks. Once we arrive, we dine at Alexander,which can compete with a star-studded restaurant and serves innovative Nordic Cuisine with lots of fresh produce from our own garden. Muhu turns out to be a wonderful natural destination, far away from everything and everyone, where rest determines the rhythm of the day.
We top our trip with a visit to Tallinn, where we have a magnificent view of the harbour at hotspot Noa and enjoy fine dining. We walk to the creative heart of Estonia, the Telliskivi area,and feast on street art. From the Telegraph Hotel in the old town, we explore countless landmarks with 180 Degreesas the absolute highlight , the brainchild of Michelin-starred Chef Matthias Diether.
The Baltic States are not gloomy and grey as expected, but rich in historic cities with funky hotels and colourful cafes, great northern European cuisine and beautiful nature. Add to that professional guides and the warm-hearted locals and you have all the ingredients for a top trip. Close by, for anyone who loves culture and nature, and plenty of space, especially in the countryside where time seems to have stood still. Where the world can’t find you…