My adventure in the Baltic countries

This adventure began on a cloudy day in the city of Alicante in the south east of Spain. I headed towards the airport where a few hours after I boarded my plane to the city of Kaunas (Lithuania). Waiting for me are 2 weeks of solo adventure through the Baltic countries. After a 4 hour flight my plane finally landed in Kaunas. I could not believe my luck when I saw the sun shining at is best since I was mentally ready to welcome the rain, the cold weather, also temperature was pretty awesome about 20 degrees Celsius, it was a very good first contact with the country.

At the other side of the arrivals hall a man, holding a sign with my name was waiting for me and provided me with a car that I rented days before. From that moment on and until the day I embarked the ferry in Tallinn´s harbour (Estonia) in my way to Helsinki (Finland) that car and myself would be best friends.


After hitting the road for about an hour, I arrived in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. I did found a place to stay that night (a nice and cosy apartment in the centre of the old town of Vilnius) I decide to go for a short walk since I still had a few hours of sunlight before the day was gone. I crossed the entrance walls to the old town of Vilnius I could already feel the Russian influence (especially in the elderly people) but there was also a European spirit promoted by the younger generation that constantly tried to overthrow the Soviet spirit.

On the flight I met Vladi a 50-year-old Lithuanian who told me that I could not leave Lithuania without eating Zeppelines, so without really having an idea of what I should expect I entered a tiny bar and not without difficulties due to the language barrier between me and the waiter I managed to order the desired dish. Zepelines are a kind of a massive potato gnocchi, stuffed with meat, bathed in oil and topped with crispy bacon, as you see all very healthy, but hey, as they say once a year does not kill anyone and aniways Vladi told me that if I do not try them they would not allow me to leave Lithuania, so I guess, Mission completed.


After spending a couple more days exploring the capital, getting to know a little bit more about the history of the country and after visiting some emblematic buildings, palaces and castles such as Trakai castle a beautiful red stone castle on a lake connected by a footbridge and with a clear medieval atmosphere I kept moving towards the north to the country to the city with unpronounceable name of Anykščiai. A city in the middle of the nature, surrounded only by forests and endless plains. At the hostel that I was staying someone mentioned about a beautiful forest with a 2 kilometres tree walkway built on the top of the Sequoias and that offered some dream views of the valley, trees and dream views sounds good to me, said and done, I took my map and in less than a minute I was already on my way. When I first arrived I was surprised in what a perfect condition the structure was conserved taking in consideration that the entrance fee was only 1 euro. I was surprised of not having heard anything else before about that place considering that it really was something unique. It was a short walk on a metal structure where you could see thru the surface you were walking on. I believe the height must have been somewhere between 20 and 30 meters, being honest at moments like that is when you put all your faith in humanity and you can only hope that the engineer in charge of that mega construction had not bad day. Although I must confess that I was a bit scared I really enjoyed the walk, I was walking through the treetops and the only thing I was able to hear was the sound of birds and some noisy squirrels fighting for a pine. After finishing my walk and just before hitting back to where I was about to stay that night I walked down to the river to sit next to it and chill for a bit. I was carrying some matches and paper and decided to make a mini fire in an authorized area to do so to prepare myself a hot chocolate in order to warm up my hands as the afternoon was taking over and it started to get a bit cold.


After a goodnight sleep another day started, another day of endless plains, I started to miss mountains a little bit but I was enjoying the numerous lakes and forests I was coming across. Without even noticing I was welcomed by a sign to Latvia and just a few minutes after I had cross the border I was ready for my first tourist stop in Latvia. I visited Rúndale palace, a baroque palace with some beautiful gardens built in the 17th century by the Dukes of Courland, which was abandoned after the different wars suffered by the country and that has been restored over the past 20 years for me luck and the one of so many others.After spending a couple of hours visiting their different rooms and walking through their colourful gardens I continued my route towards the north and so I made it into Riga.


I did arrive earlier than expected and my apartment was not ready yet, that’s when Tarek crossed thru my mind a Canadian guy that I talked to some days ago while in Lithuania who told me that the best thing in all Latvia was the beer and most particular a local beer called “Valmiermuiza” and since myself and beer get really well along I decided to find out if that Canadian was right or not. I have to admit that the beer was good but the best was yet to come when suddenly the waitress asked me if I would like to try “Ķiploku grauzdiņi” and when I am offered something that I have no clue what it is I never hesitate to accept. I was served some deep fried black bread sticks sautéed with garlic along with a ranch dip, something that sounds very simple and in fact it is but that honestly made my day, it was simply delicious. From that moment on I declared myself a fan of those bread sticks and there would not be day during my stay in Latvia that I did not had them at some point during the day. How I was supposed to burn all those calories was something that I was not even worried about.

Finally, I made it into my apartment, It was a long day so I went to bed. The next day after I woke up I decided to go and explore the Latvian capital, being honest I did like Riga a bit more than Vilnius, the atmosphere was more cheerful, I could see people smiling more and the city itself was more modern and sophisticated, the old town was beautiful with lots of colourful buildings and  something that I was really impressed by was the little details in many of the emblematic buildings.

After spending the morning in Riga, I decided to head towards Jumarla, just over an hour drive north. Jumarla its probably the most famous coastline area all over Latvia, it is an endless beach where the view cannot quite reach the end of it, the day was so sunny again, I really could not believe my luck these days, it was Sunday and it was packed with people enjoying the perfect weather, there was even some brave souls having a swim (considering that we still continue in the month of April) in the ice-cold waters of the Baltic. It was a really enjoyable morning, but it started to be time for me to head towards the east in order to get on time to Gaujas National Park where a long day of hiking, lots of nature and a bunch of medieval cities were waiting for me.

Finally, my thing, nature and a lot of walking I could not wait for that moment.  My first stop at Gaujas National Park was at the medieval town of Sigulda, a fairy-tale town in the middle of a dense forest well known for its famous red fort castle at the top of the valley and visible from several viewpoints along the national park. Observed from a distance surrounded by the wild nature and the fog makes time go back to medieval times and for moments your imagination flies and pictures how that mystic place may have look like a few centuries ago.

Since I was surrounded by nature I took advantage and had a snack in an area free of trees next to the Guajas river. It was Monday and I felt that in the entire national park it was only me and the absolute loneliness, there was only silence and the sound of the river slowly going down its channel, I was loving that moment for myself so much that I decide to stay there sitting for about an hour not doing nothing, just enjoying that moment of peace and loneliness that the national park was offering me, but as much as I would have liked to stay there longer I had to continue. So, I started to walk back to my car and when I did so I drove for another hour before arriving at Cēsis another medieval city and where later I was about to sleep that night. Cecis received me with the majestic castle of Cesis. In my opinion the best preserved and the greatest exponent of medieval building in the entire Baltic. For my surprise and after I had pay a 2 euros fee for the entrance I was provided with a glass chandelier and a candle to explore the dark corridors of the castle, something different but very authentic and an unforgettable experience, once again I found myself immerse in a world of Fantasy.

A new day dawns and after an overdose of medieval history it was time to keep moving north to reach the neighbouring country of Estonia searching for more adventures. After driving 3 hours I arrived at my first stop in Estonia, the city of Pärnu, it did not take me long time to realize that the Baltic feeling in this country was not as strong as in the other two, it was more a kind of Nordic feeling perhaps because of the Finnish influence, here people were more fashion, more cool if I may say so, prices also raised a lot and I noticed that after I entered a supermarket and a bag of potato chips which 50 kilometres further south (Latvia) was fifty cents now was one euro fifty cents.

While I was searching for local restaurant to try, some Estonian food I ended up in a pizzeria that everybody was talking about “Steffani Pizza”. Oh my god, yes, what a food experience believes it or not but after have visited over 104 countries who was going to tell me that I had to go to Estonia more accurate to the border city of Pärnu to have the best pizza I have ever tasted, it was so delicious and unique it was so amazing that I even felt sad to finish it, while I am writing these words my brain cannot get rid of that wonderful sphere of toppings that made my day.

The rest of the day I walked thru the colourful streets and also took a short walk along the beach of this small, but at the same time beautiful city of the Estonian coast.

A new day and a new adventure was about to begin, it seemed to be a good one because again it was time for national park, this time the national park of Soomaa in the central area of ​​the country was waiting for my visit. After I arrived and once again the park seemed to have been reserved in its entirety for myself, once again I was not able to spot anyone else but me during my endless walks through the National park, I walked through wetlands, large areas of pine trees, forests with swamps and natural pools surrounded by a rough tundra. I spotted a deer that also looked surprise of the presence of humans in the area and you know what dear friend I am glad that it’s only a few of us who come to your beautiful forest to bother you.

I was enjoying as a child, when suddenly from the distance I could see that a storm was approaching, so without further delay I started walking back to the parking lot where my vehicle was located since I thought to myself that being on the middle of a plain terrain with a storm on top was not something I would have like to experience.

On my way back, it started to rain like if there were no tomorrow, my luck had last already for too long and for the first time on this trip I got some rain, after sometime I finally made it to my car I was completely wet but happy to have spent another perfect morning surrounded by nature and enjoying some amazing spots that the National park of Soomaa offered me.

After another 2 hours of driving I arrived at the city of Tartu a university city with a young atmosphere and a lot of life going on, but before I went to sleep I gave myself a tribute in a very traditional local restaurant called Pussirohukelder.

After a massive breakfast and a small tour visiting a couple of Orthodox churches and the old university of Tartu I continued my route towards the north, that day I would end up in Tallinn the capital of Estonia but before that I made a stop in Rackvere, an impressive castle, of very Large dimensions that could perfectly have been used as a shooting location for movies such as Braveheart or tv series like games of thrones. Here you could not only enjoy the majestic architecture of the castle but also understand how they use to live in medieval times and participate from medieval activities, the price if I do remember right was about eighteen Euros but it included a guided tour thru the castle, access to the catacombs and as mentioned before a bunch of medieval experiences such as archery shooting, horseback riding, making homemade wine and visiting the torture room among others.

After I did my doctorate in medieval culture and with the growing feeling that the Medieval era was starting to wake up an massive interest inside of me I returned to the road heading to the modern city and capital of Estonia Tallinn. My first contact after I arrived did only confirm what I already knew, Estonia is a sophisticated, modern and organized country with a complete different mentality from their Baltic neighbours. The old town of Tallinn was by far my favourite of the 3 Baltic capitals, it was the most charming one, the most picturesque and the one that invites you the most to make your brain go back in time and replace the cars for floats with horses and the multiple bars for wine cellars and street markets.

For the first time in my entire trip the tourists appeared, Tallinn is full of people from all over I got to hear people talking in German, Russian, English, Spanish, French and for some weird reason Italian a lot Italian. The city offers several viewpoints to observe the picturesque reddish roofs of the old town and combines the magic of a perfectly preserved ancient city with an innovative and modern city that has nothing to envy other major European cities.

Two days where gone in Tallinn and my adventure started to get to his end, It was time to say goodbye to my lovely car, the one with whom I did travelled thru 3 countries in 12 days and made more than 2000 kilometers together, but that was not enough reason to be sad since as soon as we said goodbye to each other I already found myself boarding the ferry that for the next 3 hours was about to take me across the Baltic Sea from Tallinn to Helsinki the Finnish capital where 2 days later I had to board the plane in my way back to Spain and my adventure was about to end.

Helsinki welcomed me with a temperature of 2 degrees and a complete cloudy sky, but that did not stop me from exploring the city. It reminded me a lot of St. Petersburg (Russia) there was a clear Russian influence in his architecture being “Tuomiokirkko” the Lutheran cathedral the greatest exponent of it. I have to confess that Helsinki disappointed me a little, perhaps because of my high expectations. Helsinki it’s a pretty city, but nothing out of the ordinary, at the end of the day just one more average European capital.

This has been a bit of my 14 days experiences in the Baltics and I did mentioned some of the things that most caught my attention, if I had to summarize in one sentence my personal experience about the trip. I would say that none of the countries visited will enter in my top 10 places to visit, however they will remain in my brain with unique moments and unforgettable memories, such as the other more than 100 countries that I have had the fortune to visit did.

Traveling and going out there to explore the world is the most beautiful thing that life can offer us and I do encourage everyone to do so. Only destiny made you born in one country or another, you are not an inhabitant of the country you were born in, you are an inhabitant of planet earth and for that reason, give yourself the privilege to know the different countries, the different races, the different cultures, the different ways of approaching life, all of them so different but at the same time so unique and special.

Do not limit your senses, your adventurous spirit, don’t hold that crazy desire of going out there to know the world, your world, leave your comfort zone, be brave enough and discover by yourself the amazing adventures out there who are waiting for you. And if someone tells you not to, just smile look forward and go and after you did, ask yourself if it was it worth it? I already know what you will be answer, but this I will let you discover that by yourself.

Vanlifers journey to Croatia

My friend Laura and I jumped into Janis, our van and home for the next 20 days, with nothing but the road in our minds, and getting to Croatia as a goal. It took us four good days to get all the way there, driving across Italy and Slovenia, until we reached our final and not yet defined destination.

The best thing about travelling living off a van, is that you have all the freedom in the World. It changes your mind set, and you are “forced” to live in the Slow Life movement, living in the present, with no rush at all, just enjoying whatever the day brings you. And so we did! We took this by heart and made it our life moto, we explored all the places we could, driving through Northern Italy, we stopped by the Alps, drove through them on their winding roads, with all the Fall colours showing off the beauty of the place. We got to Slovenia and decided that the Soča Valley would be a pretty place to spend a couple of days. We camped out, near the Soča River and the mountains behind. Probably one of the prettiest places we ever camped at. It was freezing cold outside, so we cooked some delicious warm meals to warm us up.

We continued our way toward Croatia, making another thousand pit stops along the way. When we got to Premantura, Croatia, it was already dark, so we camped at a place we thought was the woods. But when we woke up the next morning, we got to see the Sun rising over the sea, we camped by the shore. Such a magical moment, we couldn’t even say a word to each other. We made our way to the interior part of Croatia, visiting the turquoise waters of the lakes and waterfalls located in the National parks of Krka and Plitvice followed by the Dalmatian mountains, and thought we would spend the rest of the trip wandering around, exploring and meeting the locals.
There came the time when we had to drive back home, and so we did, but of course, we took the scenic route. We could not go back home without stopping by the Italian Dolomiti. We drove over to the Lago di Braies, where we thought of having a wonderful vegan meal sitting on a rock by the lake and the mountains behind it.

We thought this was the perfect way for us; enjoying the wonderful little things, like having supper watching the sunset, or camping under the stars. Because that’s whats it is all about, the little things.


We thought we had seen the best of Norway already but we were proven wrong, the best was yet to come.

Even though in Ålesund we were just 400km away from Bergen, it took us another 800km to get there as we tried to take as many detours a possible, and I must say they were very worth it.   It’s on every tourist’s list to visit the Geirangerfjord when travelling to southern Norway, but what they won’t tell you is how overcharged everything there is and how crowded the roads are in the area. Instead, we took the neighbouring Hjørundfjorden, a very quiet and beautifully narrow fjord with a fine amount of opportunities for hiking. And guess what? We had it almost for ourselves. A nice (but slightly challenging) hike in the area is to climb up Saksa, which is approximately 1073 metres, from up there you get to see a full 360 view of all the surrounding mountains. Unbelievable.

The highlight of this last stretch of the journey was the area of Utladalen, one fantastic and unexplored valley full of the most incredible waterfalls. On a very moody day, we walked to the top of Vettisfossen, a waterfall tipping to a 275 metre vertical drop ending almost in the abysm. You can pop your head over the edge to try and see the bottom but I can assure you; your heartbeat will increase heavily. It was definitely the most impressive experience of the whole journey. And once again… you’ll barely see a soul. Autumn starts early in Norway and when we arrived here by the beginning of September the trees were already turning yellow and red, making the whole place look even better.

In comparison to northern Norway, finding food, water, gas, clothes or anything else, becomes way easier as towns are bigger and closer to each other in the south. We enjoyed most of our Forestia meals and bars on our hikes as a reward when reaching the top in order to gain some energy before descending – which, believe me – in Norway is as difficult (if not harder) as going up. It’s just important to remember to bring all your rubbish back with you as we found it heart breaking to see loads of abandoned trash and toilet paper on the most trafficked hikes. We should appreciate the amazing landscapes we are gifted with and therefore we must preserve them for future generations and others to enjoy. Clean up after yourself, leave no trace!

It has taken us 2725km and four months to complete our bicycle tour around Norway and on the way we’ve learned how important it is to have the time to enjoy every single place you visit. For us, this experience wasn’t only about getting to Bergen as quick as possible but to get to know a country we have both admired for a long time. Next on our list are the Alps. We want to chase the mountains as these are the kind of scenery that bring the most astonishing views, and although winter is coming closer, I’m sure what we’ll see will make us forget about the cold temperatures. See you on the road!

Urho Kekkonen NP Finland

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” (Jim Rohn)

It is 6:30 in the morning. Our alarm is ringing. How fortunate! In the last couple days, it did not always work because of the cold. Since then we keep it close to the body during the night. This morning we get up disciplined because we have quite a long route in front of us. The way will lead us along the exclusion zone of the Russian border. Our goal today: Anterinmukka – an open wilderness hut with a sauna!

Who we are: Olaf, Roberto, Mo and Leo – four friends in their late twenties that have already shared quite a few meals in nature. We love being outdoors always searching for adventures on the less traveled trails, if there are any where we are headed! Together we already did some tours usually in summer or fall. For Olaf and Roberto winter tours have become quite a regular thing to do. This time it will be the four of us since they convinced Leo and Mo to join them on this adventure. For Mo it will be the first time on skies ever. You can find further photos of tours from Olaf and Roberto on Flickr: Olaf.R and roberto_mottola.

In the preparation of the trip to the Urho Kekkonen National Park we looked for an area where we would have snow for sure. One condition for Mo was that there would be huts for some nights but we all agreed that we would also like sleeping in our tents for some nights. Our agreement was that we would do it 50/50, not knowing how comfortable and beautiful the wilderness huts will be.

Where we are: Urho Kekkonen National Park (Finnish: Urho Kekkosen kansallispuisto) is a national park in Lapland, Finland, situated in area of municipalities of Savukoski, Sodankylä and Inari, 250 kilometres north of the arctic circle. Established in 1983 and covering 2,550 square kilometres, it is one of Finland’s largest protected areas. It is named after Urho Kekkonen, late President and Prime Minister of Finland.

Back to our morning in our hut close to the border. We start packing our stuff and preparing our usual breakfast: Porridge with chocolate chips and dried fruit – delicious! This morning we do not fire up the oven because we want to get going soon and a warm hut will not make that easier. The wood ovens for warmth, cooking and melting snow are in every wilderness hut together with nicely dried Finnish wood, sometimes even already chopped. The best part about it – it is all for free. Thank you, Finnish taxpayers!

If we are we quick in the morning and not to sleepy we are ready for takeoff after two to three hours – same this morning. But after a couple hundred meters over a huge frozen lake we have already been walking on a couple hours the day before we need our first break – the snow is sticking heavily to our skies we need to put on our skins, which makes it a lot better and we make our way to the border quickly, additionally rewarded with our first sightings of reindeer. As expected we find really good snow-mobile tracks there and we are able to make quite a long distance in short time with only a few hot teas and delicious Forestia cereal bar breaks. For the first time in days we even meet other people – border patrol on snow-mobiles who drive up and down our track.

During midday, as almost every day, the temperature raises to around 0° C and the snow starts sticking again. Sticking means after a few steps you have 15 cm snow sticking below your skies which leads to breaking off sidewards almost every other step. At one point we decide to take off our skies and walk, which makes it a lot easier but also slower.

After a short break at a lean-to-shelter we continued upstream along the river Anterinjoki. We are now on a less traveled on track heading away from the border. Less than 5 km before reaching the warm shelter of today’s destination, it starts snowing heavily. Since the air is still quite warm the snow melts on our clothes and we are starting to get wet. As long as we keep on walking this is not a problem but as soon as we stop to orient ourselves with map and GPS-device it is freezing. Because of the heavy snow and the more secluded area the snow mobile tracks are getting harder to find. During our travels we also learned not to trust them all the time although they stick to the summer routes on our map most of the time they do not always. Which can lead to learning the hard way that not all routes are suitable for skiers and snow mobiles the same and that not every snow mobile is heading towards the same destination as you are.

At one point we leave the tracks and decide for the direct way on the frozen stream although leaving the woods means snow and wind whips us heavily in our faces. It is freezing cold now and getting dark which does not make the walk even more uncomfortable. But after a couple hundred meters what seemed to be at least two hours the struggles finally come to an end and emerging from the snow we see a wooden cabin at the riverside which soon reveals to be the small sauna we were promised to have according to our map. Happy and relieved the short but extremely steep climb to the actual hut is even with a 35 kg pulk not a problem for us.

Leaving the pulks outside curious to explore our camp for the night we head into the hut. It was one of the biggest open wilderness hut we encountered during our trip with a vestibule for jackets and shoes, a big open fireplace, a gas stove and room for sleeping for at least ten people. But as luck would have it (and maybe also due to the weather outside) we are the only ones there.

Without losing much time we start preparing for the evening: lighting the oven, chopping new firewood and of course the most important thing – firing up the sauna.

The sauna was a small hut with two ovens inside: one with stones for the heat and one with a big kettle of water. It was located right at the stream where someone dug a whole into the ice so you could get water for the sauna and for cooling down. After two sauna cycles quite close together because the only room for relaxing was a tiny vestibule for the wood were the four of us could barely fit and where it was almost as freezing as outside we finally are able to take a warm “shower” again. Shower meaning taking a big bucket of hot water outside standing naked in the snow and pouring hot water over ourselves. Although after a while you are not able to feel your feet the setting was quite breathtaking being in the middle of nowhere beneath the most beautiful starry sky with faint northern lights on the horizon.

All there was left to do was having dinner which fortunately only means heating up some water for having tasty hot seafood paella. Finally we crash deadbeat but more than happy into bed. Unsurprisingly the next day we decide to take a break at this hut to give our sore legs a little break, gathering strength for the days to come and of course enjoying the sauna for another day. Because being in a sauna is really a simple thing. And in the right moment it can be the best thing in the world (Finnish saying).

Cycling Norway’s coast – Tromsø to Moskenes II

We are about to start the third month into our bike journey although it feels like we have been on the road for much longer, I guess because of all the things that we’ve seen and experienced in such a short timespan. When travelling you generally loose track of time, it’s hard to tell whether it’s been a week or a month, or whether it’s Monday or almost the weekend. Every day is full of unexpected turns and always ends up as a travel/work session, because enjoying and absorbing what we see is as important as creating content to share.

The best thing about travelling without a deadline is that you can design your route and routine according to the weather or how your body feels that day. We have found a pattern in our journey as we noticed we’d travel long distances on days with stable weather and rest on rainy days or very sunny ones. This second leg of the trip has brought less impressive landscapes in comparison to northern Norway and that’s why we’ve covered a bigger part of the country and increased our daily mileage to 40-70km. Nevertheless, the Helgeland cost was lovely to cycle as its still quite undiscovered, allowing for quiet roads and plenty of options for camping. During this past month we wanted to get close to Trondheim as fast as possible as this city is known to be the gate into the southern Norway’s spectacular scenery.

One of the first compulsory stops in the south west area is the Ocean Atlantic Road, known to be one of the worlds most beautiful drives. We cycled all the way there to find ourselves crossing in between a series of small islands spanned by several bridges and I must say… what a view from up there! (And windy too!)

Trollstigen is the other main attraction as you get closer to the Sunnmøre Alps, southern Norway’s heart of beauty. This mountain pass is a visual feast as you make your way up the 700 metres on a climb of 8-12%. Cycling all the way to the top certainly brings rewarding views, but I’d say my favourite part was to descend from there into the 35km long valley called Valldalen. On the way you can find plenty of wild fruits, waterfalls and very nicely designed architecture.

Unfortunately these two last spots have become very famous and are therefore a magnet for tourism. That’s why waking up early to make it there before all the busses and caravans do is a pretty worth it.

It’s time now to set out for the last hikes and mountain passes of this journey as we zig zag our way towards the city of Bergen. Loads of meals, tea and coffee to share with you all – without leaving a single trace.