There is one main road connecting the Baltic states with the rest of Europe. The E67 road officially runs from Prague to Helsinki, including a short ferry trip for a total of 1,673 km (1,040 mi). Luckily there are few traffic lights between Warsaw and Tallinn, the section that I drove, which is called the Via Baltica. Since it threads between Kaliningrad (Russia) and Belarus, it is a popular commercial shipping thoroughfare full of trucks, buses and cars. Unfortunately it is often one lane.
Obviously the cars and buses drive faster than the much-heavier trucks, leading to a daring game of frog jump: cars around buses and trucks, buses around trucks and slow cars, and trucks around trucks. Often drivers pass by two, three, and more vehicles at a time. Sometimes they start to pass but have to break quickly when they notice oncoming traffic. Occasionally a car misjudged the traffic and would drive in the middle of the road while the other two vehicles drive partially in the breakdown lane. Thrilling to watch but I am glad I wasn’t driving.
At this point I’m pretty convinced that Europe is upside down, the farther north I go on the map the warmer the weather gets. The sun has been shining for the last few days and I have finally thoroughly dried all of my clothes. Being so far north, the sun is also setting later. My first night in Tallinn I went down to the docks and watched the sunset about 10pm. Then in Helsinki I watched the sunset over the harbor at 10:30pm but the sky didn’t get fully dark until after midnight.
Tallinn has the historic old town with cafes on the cobblestones and beaches along the Baltic. Helsinki is pricey like the rest of the Nordic countries will be, but it is vibrant with rugged parks, seaside bars, delicious Lonkero (grapefruit and gin drink), and sun bathers on the grass. My hosts in both cities have been Finnish, in Tallinn they were Finnish students and my host in Helsinki owns an ice cream stand, which we may or may not have indulged in twice in one evening.
As my travels through Europe are coming to a close in the next few weeks I’ve started planning my next stop. I will have a definite answer when a flight is booked but currently I’m considering visiting Oman, then Israel, and then Turkey. Thinking a few months in the future I have started to apply and inquire about volunteer opportunities in Africa. Since Africa is massive and I could easily spend a year backpacking just in Africa, I decided to try to find internships and places to stay for a week or two to help narrow down the many places I could go. Also, I would get to know the culture and people to a much greater depth in addition to having a positive impact on the area. Again the destinations are subject to change but I’m considering Morocco, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Uganda, South Africa, and just about anywhere in between.
So stay tuned and feel free to make suggestions, if I don’t make it there this trip then I’ll go next time!
Fun fact: One of these countries does not belong.
Some of the 2 Euro coins incorrectly include a country on the map of the European Union, but it has not actually joined. See if you can spot which country is included on the right coin that shouldn’t be there.