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Baltic Delights Travel Guide

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A guide to 8 cities
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22. Into the Snow Globe

Susan Spano Roaring Forties Press ePub

22

INTO THE SNOW GLOBE

It is 260 steps from the entrance of massive St. Isaac’s Cathedral in the heart of St. Petersburg to the colonnade that encircles the base of the dome. I climbed slowly and counted. It was winter, and the stone staircase was slick with ice, ending at a high, snow-coated corner of the great Russian Orthodox church.

There, horrified, I realized that to reach the colonnade, I had to cross a metal gangplank, about 40 feet long, slung over the cathedral’s sloping roof from where I stood to the dome. I steeled myself and started walking. Halfway up, I felt a blast of cold wind pluck at the gangplank like pizzicato on a violin string. When I reached the narrow walkway behind the colonnade, I clutched the slender handrail and tried to calm myself. Finally, I looked out and claimed the prize for having come to St. Petersburg in January: a 360-degree view of the city—its bridges, parks, golden spires, and fuming smokestacks in the suburbs writing in white on a baby blue sky.

Fulfilling fantasies is a big part of why I travel, certainly what drew me to this famous Russian city, where I imagine myself riding in a sleigh along a canal. My jet black hair is pinned in a diamond tiara and my pale, flawless shoulders draped in white fur. I have waltzed with princes, eaten caviar from crystal, lived in palaces of malachite and alabaster. My name is Anna, or Lara, or Irina. Doubtless, I read too many Russian novels at too tender an age and never stopped seeing them through rose-tinted glass, because I still sometimes imagine myself in Anna Karenina’s tiara and Dr. Zhivago’s sleigh. Though my passport picture shows a middle-aged woman, my dreams reflect a beautiful Russian girl in the perfect world of a snow globe.

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Medium 9781741795813

Estonia

Lonely Planet Lonely Planet ePub

Includes

Tallinn

Lahemaa National Park

Lake Peipsi

Tartu

Setomaa

Otep

Viljandi

Prnu

Muhu

Saaremaa

Haapsalu

Hiiumaa

Vormsi

Estonia doesnt have to struggle to find a point of difference; its completely unique. It shares a similar geography and history with Latvia and Lithuania, but its culturally very different. Its closest ethnic and linguistic buddy is Finland, and although they may love to get naked together in the sauna, fifty years of Soviet rule in Estonia have separated the two. For the last 300 years Estonias been linked to Russia, but the two states have as much in common as a barn swallow and a bear (their respective national symbols).

With a newfound confidence, singular Estonia has crept from under the Soviet blanket and leapt into the arms of Europe. The love affair is mutual. Europe has fallen head-over-heels for the charms of Tallinn and its Unesco-protected Old Town. Put simply, Tallinn is now one of the continents most captivating cities. And in overcrowded Europe, Estonias sparsely populated countryside and extensive swathes of forest provide spiritual sustenance for nature-lovers.

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Medium 9781741795813

Lithuania

Lonely Planet Lonely Planet ePub

Includes

Vilnius

Trakai

Auktaitija National Park

Druskininkai

Kaunas

iauliai

Panevys

Klaipda

Curonian Spit National Park

Palanga

emaitija National Park

Rebellious, quirky and vibrant, Lithuania (Lietuva) is one of Europes best-kept secrets. Though the country rarely makes it into newspapers outside its borders (and when it does, its for some basketball exploit), the southernmost of the three Baltic countries holds a bag of treats.

Foremost among these is the countrys majestic Baltic coastline and the unique sliver of white sand known as the Curonian Spit. Inland, lush forests watch over lakes that twinkle between the pine trees, and lonely coastal wetlands lure migrating birds by the tens of thousands.

The capital, Vilnius, is a beguiling artists enclave, with mysterious courtyards, worn cobbled streets and crumbling corners, overshadowed by baroque beauty beyond belief.

Further afield, remnants of Soviet times a disused nuclear missile site (now a museum to the Cold War) and a Soviet sculpture park fascinate and shock. The Hill of Crosses and Orvydas stone garden are two more oddities of this awe-inspiring land.

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Medium 9781741793222

Gdańsk & Pomerania

Planet, Lonely Lonely Planet Publications ePub

POP 6.5 MILLION

     Includes »

     Gdańsk

     Sopot

     Hel Peninsula

     Kashubia

     Toruń

     Golub-Dobrzyń

     Chełmno

     Malbork

     Łeba

     Słowiński National Park

     Ustka

     Kołobrzeg

     Szczecin

Cream-hued beaches shelving smoothly into the nippy Baltic Sea, wind-crafted dunes vivid against leaden skies, stern red-brick churches and castles erected by a medieval order of pious knights, and silenced shipyards that once seethed with anti-communist tumult – this is Pomerania, Poland’s north, a place with many faces.

The epicentre of Pomerania is Gdańsk, northern Poland’s metropolis, a forward-looking city with a fascinatingly photogenic historical centre. Like most of the region, Gdańsk has changed hands many times over the centuries, each invader and overseer bequeathing a layer of architecture and culture for today’s tourists to ogle.

Away from the beaches and Gdańsk’s miracles in red brick you’ll discover Kashubia, a region that keeps the traditional fires burning, including its own language – the perfect place to slow down and escape Poland’s beaten tracks.

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