Gosh! Riga in Latvia is gorgeous: 10 reasons to go there right now!

Photo@ J-O Eriksson

Bring out the pimms!

Things are definitely moving for me as The British Berliner.

Not only did I participate in a [VIDEO] interview that I contributed to as a representative of the Berlin Travel Massive Blogger Community at the ITB Berlin last month,  but I was again approached by a respectable Berlin on-line newspaper to do a video interview about my views on the upcoming British national elections!

I’ll let you know when it’s done!

Spain - Here we come!
Spain – Here we come!

As far as travelling is concerned, at the end of the week I will be on a very, very, very short break to Spain.

Hoooooola!

Unfortunately, it won’t be a long break of sunny bathing and tequila drinking as I still have to hand in and complete my Masters’ Dissertation at the University of Chester. In England.

Oh dear me no.

Sigh!

Bloggers at the ITB in Berlin.
Bloggers at the ITB in Berlin.

I’ll be going to the Travel Bloggers Exchange Conference otherwise known as TBEX to do a little networking, learn something new and meet other international bloggers. I’ll tell you all about it in May, after I’ve walked all over town and I’ve gorged myself on tapas.

For now though let’s get back to where I was just a few weeks ago in the Baltic Region.

So I’ve written about our adventure in Lithuania and the very excellent but enormously cheap food that we had in Vilnius.

Ah! Good Times!

Get ready for the other country in oh-my-gosh-is-it-or-isn’t-it-in-Eastern-Europe….

LATVIA

A song and dance festival in Latvia.

The Baltic States might be small in landmass but the countries are considered to be old European in look, rich culture, enchanting history, and long-established tradition. In fact, quite enchanting!

Latvia, also known as the pearl of the Baltic States and officially as the Republic of Latvia, is situated in the Baltic Region of Northern Europe – on the shores of the Baltic Sea.

I absolutely love the Baltic Sea and make every effort to go there every two years but from the Polish side rather than the German one!

Harmony of the countryside in Latvia.  Photo@ Arturs Jasinskis
Harmony of the countryside in Latvia.
Photo@ Arturs Jasinskis

Latvia is a multi-cultured state and right in the middle of Lithuania, Belarus, Estonia and Russia! As the Lithuanians, the Latvians are Balts by ethnic and linguistic origin and although separate independent countries, have closely related languages. The Latvians also have indigenous people called Livs and the two neighbouring countries both speak an Indo-European language and are the only two true Baltic languages that have survived!

Happily, all the traditions have merged together creating a unique environment, a vast cultural historical heritage.and a country-state of about 2 million people.

Latvia, is also a country not well-known and even within the E.U. itself, many Europeans have a hard time remembering what the capital city is.

It’s Riga by the way!

RIGA

Lovely Riga in Latvia.
Lovely Riga in Latvia.

Riga is the capital city of Latvia and also the largest city in the Baltic State Region.

You might not have ever heard of Latvia, but surely you’ve seen those pictures of elegant men and woman strolling arm in arm on the tiny streets of Riga nourished by Russian glamour and elegant Art Nouveau boulevards!

It's Me! Don't I look fabulous?
It’s Me! Don’t I look fabulous?

Riga is a metropolis pulsing with life, romantic walks and live music and celebration. It’s a medieval city that has been preserved and still shows traces of its religious and Romanesque past and has been proudly inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for the wonder that is it’s unique architecture in the “old town” and also as one of the European Capitals of Culture designed to highlight the richness and diversity of cultures in Europe and increase the sense of belonging to our common cultural area that is the European Union. And this took place in all of 2014!

Wow!

WHY GO TO RIGA?

Art Nouveau in Riga, Latvia.

So let’s get down to brass tacks. Riga in Latvia is gorgeous. I’m going to give you ten (10) reasons to go there right now!

  1. The architecture is amazing: Everywhere you look is an impressive piece of art from each and every era. Whether you like art nouveau, romanesque, gothic or baroque architectural style, if you wanted it, you would find it within a few paces. The only city that I can think of that would be similar is London. Do you know that if you looked hard enough, you would even find parts of the old Roman London Wall!
  2. It’s in the “other” Eastern Europe: It’s still pretty unknown, very far “East” and not on either the backpackers or tourist run, so it’s pretty cheap and is never going to break the bank.
  3. It’s a Baltic hub: If you’re looking to go to the Baltic States then of course, you have to either go through Latvia, start in Latvia, or end in Latvia. It’s quite easy to get to as pretty much every airline in the Nordic-Baltic region does a stop-over in Riga, so you might as well give it up and stay a while!
  4. OMG the food: We ate terribly well and ate and drank to our hearts’ content. It’s that cheap, you should! Unlike Lithuania where we pretty much ate only rustic food, Latvia has a combination of both elegant and of a better class. More about that next week!
  5. Romance: Pretty much every European capital city has an “old” part of town and a “new” part of town. Cities taken over by the Soviet Union were able to hold onto the “traditional look” mainly due to the lack of interest in changing it, and a distinct lack of finance. However, these capital cities now have the last laugh as they still have the feel and look of centuries past, when royal or local aristocrats would probably chop people’s heads off, but would also walk the cobbled streets or ride across them and hunt for “spoil.”
  6. It’s small: Although Riga is the largest city in the Baltic State Region, it’s population is only a little over 600,000 inhabitants. I mean, the whole country is only about 2 million people! It’s small size means that it’s easy to meet people and to move around.
  7. Sausages: It seems to be a thing in Riga, so we had loads LOL!
  8. Communication: Most people speak English and have an endearing accent mix of American English, Swedish and Dutch. Oh, and they also have a warm sense of humour!
  9. The farmers’ market: An intriguing place where you could get the head of a pig, live fish swimming on the bare table, exotic vegetables, and tiny little cupcakes that didn’t cost more than 30 cents! More about that next week!
  10. Because Art: The best place in the world to find living pieces of Art Nouveau is indeed in Riga! 

TAKE ME THERE?

Our extremely funny walking tour guide in Latvia.
Our extremely funny walking tour guide in Latvia.

As you know, we were so lucky to be on a part-sponsorship of the largest international express route coach-bus operator in the Baltic region. An Estonian company called Lux Express, taking us through the Baltic Region by road from Germany, all the way through to Estonia, and back again!

In travelling from Berlin to Lithuania, we were on the cheaper arm of the coach-bus company called Simple Express but once we got to Latvia, we were switched to the more aptly-named Lux Express.

Lux Express.
Lux Express.

And was it luxury?

It was certainly different from any other coach bus company that I have either travelled with. And I’ve travelled with a lot LOL!

The seats were wider and bigger, there was a toilet on board and because there were fewer people, was fairly clean!

At the back of the bus was the even more luxurious V.I.P section. I had originally wanted to book that part of the coach-bus but it wasn’t to be as the reality is that most travellers would be at the front LOL! I nevertheless, had a peek. The V.I.P. section was curtained off for privacy just like a plane and there were one person seats rather than two. Each seat also had a small flat screen.

Bring your own blanket!
Bring your own blanket!

Even so, whichever part of the coach-bus you sat in was pretty awesome. We practically had the place to ourselves and could recline back quite well, there were night lights on the floor, individual screens on the seat with which you could watch films, comedy or TV series, listen to music, play games or go on-line. And this time the WiFi was fantastic, so if you had a smaller laptop rather than the huge one that I have, you could do as much work as you wanted!

The headphones were complimentary and there was also as much complimentary tea, coffee and hot chocolate as you liked. You just helped yourself as there was a huge drinks machine in the middle of the vehicle. And we did.

Very nice indeed!

The journey from Vilnius to Riga was only 4 hours and 15 minutes, so I watched part of “The Chronicles of Narnia” and a silly little film called “The Watch” although the  improvisation performed by Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill was brilliant!

IS IT GOING TO BE CROWDED?

Just me and my er...goat!
Just me and my er…goat!

Hardly!

Well, a little, but only because Riga is tiny. It was low season, the weather was wet and windy, and we all swarmed to the same place in order to have something to do however, the bars and restaurants had plenty of space. In fact, you only had to stand outside for a second when at least five (5) or six (6) various staff members would rush out to “help” you choose where to go!

WHAT IS RIGA LIKE?

We were only there for three (3) days but Riga definitely made an impression on me.

Unlike Lithuania, I didn’t find Latvia to be Eastern-European-like. Quite the contrary. At first glance, I found Riga utterly charming but then I haven’t lived there for five (5) years, unlike my crazy Irish friend Linda who became Latvia’s “most-wanted” on her utterly scathing but hilarious blog…

Riga is an Old Europe type of place very eager to welcome tourists and entertain you as every corner had some sort of bar, pub, or steak house! Having said that, they’re very easy to avoid if you’re not into that stream of entertainment, as every other place is of historical interest, art-inspired or a lovely cafe or restaurant. In fact Riga is stuffed with museums, art galleries, historical squares and places of worship!

I DON’T SPEAK LATVIAN.

It has really surprised me that in every Baltic State English is widely spoken however, if you speak Russian, you won’t be out-of-place. Having said that, a rather wonderful American-Russian blogger friend of mine was rather alarmingly, pretty much insulted, so watch out for that!

AM I GOING TO LIVE IN A HUT?

If things get too bad, you won't be able to live here 'cos it's peasant history!
If things get too bad, you won’t be able to live here ‘cos it’s peasant history!

I don’t think so. It might be a country from “the other” Eastern Europe but you’re definitely not going to be living in a cave!

I’M ON A BUDGET. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

There are plenty of hostels to be had.

I can’t give you any details but catering to the more budget conscious traveller is still fairly new and we even saw the very first Latvian hostel ever, and other moderately priced accommodation.

I’M LOOKING FOR A BIT MORE LUXURY, IS THERE SOMETHING FOR ME?

Hotel Justus in Riga, Latvia.

Hell yeah!

We stayed at a rather lovely four-star boutique hotel in the heart of the old town of Riga which I first saw on the website of a personal fitness trainer/sailor called Victor.

Our hotel was called Hotel Justus. Hotel Justus laid right within the architectural UNESCO protected area, was a Bishop’s residence in 1210, was part of a tavern in the 20th century and had just 48 rooms designed to embrace the architectural charm and historical delight of Riga. We were in the Family Suite which had two separate bedrooms and a joint bathroom.

Heeeeeaven!

It was nice to have the luxury of separate but joint bedrooms especially when you’re travelling and knick-knack is just thrown everywhere!

It was lovely just to have the space LOL!

Hotel Justus in Riga, Latvia.

Whenever we go on a family holiday, I like to mix things up a little in order to experience a wide variety of accommodation possibilities, to meet the locals, and to stretch our budget in a more comfortable way.

In Lithuania, I decided to book a small family Bed & Breakfast consisting of just seven (7) rooms, and located between the Old Town and a park. This B&B was called Vilnius Home Bed and Breakfast and we were in the Family Room. This time around, it was time for a little more comfort.

Our stay at Hotel Justus was an indulgence.

When you book a room on-line, you can never be entirely sure what you’re going to get and can only hold your breath and cross your fingers.

I didn’t know what to expect in Latvia and was surprised at what we received.

"The Tall Young Gentleman" enjoying his "space."
“The Tall Young Gentleman” enjoying his “space.”

Our Family Suite consisted of two separate bedrooms, a hallway, and an en-suite bathroom. The Master Bedroom had a double bed, two (2) rather nice fancy armchairs, a writing-table, a large antique wardrobe, a mini-bar and a large-screen TV and AC unit.

The second (2nd) bedroom had a chaise longue that could be converted into a single bed, a writing desk and chair, a large antique wardrobe, a large-screen TV and an AC unit. “The Tall Young Gentleman” was in his own private little world, loved it and was pretty ecstatic!

We had an en-suite bathroom that was very clean and fitted out with hair and body wash items body lotion, and plenty of fluffy towels as well as free WiFi and a generous buffet breakfast of both Baltic and Nordic origin.

Breakfast in Latvia!
Breakfast in Latvia!

For breakfast, we had delicious cold cuts, a variety of sea-food, vegetables, sauces, pickles and cream, scrambled egg, sausages and bacon. As well as a wide variety of cereal, fruit, bread, cake, pastries, tea, coffee and juices.

All this from €140.00 per night in the Family Suite which for three (3) people would be €47.00 a pop!

Delightful!

WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN I GET TO LATVIA?

Gorgeous stuff!
Gorgeous stuff!

We only went for three (3) days so this was a sloooooow cultural family trip.

There is plenty to do in Riga. You can:

  • Go on a free walking tour. We went on Yellow Riga Free Tour.
  • Explore the urban history and architecture of Riga.
  • Take photographs of the Riga Castle.
  • Walk by the riverside and imagine living in the historic seat of power. It’s closed until 2016 but after that you’ll be able to take as many panoramic pictures as you want.
  • Check out some of the lovely churches and places of worship which are just bursting to be visited.
  • Go to the lovely Museum Riga Art Nouveau Museum and Centre.
  • Glide into the National Opera.
  • Wander around the Freedom Monument.

Down the side-streets in Riga, Latvia.

  • Stroll freely through the side streets.
  • Go to the oldest public museum in Latvia  – the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation.
  • Visit the Latvian National Museum of Art.
  • Take in all of the Art Nouveau.
  • Pay your respects in the Jewish Quarter.
  • Go people-watching inside the Zeppellin hangars of the Latvian Central Market.
  • Merely ramble along the cobbled historical streets.
  • Check out the various cafes, bars and restaurants for a quick bite and a few rounds of Latvian beer and vodka!
  • Go shopping.

WHAT ABOUT TRANSPORT POSSIBILITIES?

Riga is pretty small so that everywhere is walkable.

Taxis are cheap. A taxi from our hotel to the international coach-bus station cost a marvellous €5.00!

Full of joy & relief!
Full of joy & relief!

ANYTHING ELSE?

If you’re flying with a budget airline, be prepared for delays.

My husband was only on the trip for a week and would rather eat his own hat than travel back to Berlin by road.

On his lonesome.

He decided to fly back to Berlin with airBaltic!

It was an ordeal!

His plane had left Riga and then due to technical difficulties had to turn around and fly right back again!

Bearing in mind the horrible accident that took place a few weeks prior, I was obviously a little nervous and for the first time in my life – anxious and was all over Facebook and Twitter trying to get the latest flight updates. Thankfully, all went well and he arrived home safe and sound.

MY VERDICT:

Photo@ Graham

I really liked Riga.

It’s lovely. It’s old. It’s got history, Art and culture, and looks absolutely gorgeous. It’s not as cheap as Lithuania, but is certainly reasonably priced.

If you’re looking for the next best European city that’s safe, quiet, and away from the tourist throngs, you’ve found it.

WOULD I COME AGAIN?

Absolutely!

I intend to do just that and can’t wait to visit again.

Let’s do it!

Photo@ Avisionn Photo

For more information about coach-bus travel to Riga, please contact: Lux Express.

For more information about a four-star boutique hotel, please contact: Hotel Justus.

For more information about an independent free walking tour, please contact: Yellow Riga Free Tour.

This article is part-sponsored by Lux Express and we get a little discount on the hotel, but all opinions and the wonderful art-deco architecture that I was fascinated by, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you.

Stay tuned!

Next week, I’ll be writing about the wonderful Latvian food and drink. Yummy!

After that, there will be posts on what we did in Tallinn, Estonia with the help of the Tallinn Card, what the view was like on the ferry crossing from Estonia to Finland with TALLINK SLJA LINE and what we thought about Helsinki in Finland!

I’ll be going to TBEX Europe (Travel Bloggers Exchange) an International Networking Conference, for the first time! It’ll be taking place in Costa Brava, Catalunya, Spain from 30.04.15 – 02.05.15.

Strictly Stand Up English Comedy Night will be taking place at the Quatsch Comedy Club on 29.04.15.

Eddie Izzard will be back in Germany and will be front-lining a killer international night of comedy at the Admirals Palast on 08.05.15.

The Berlin Music Video Awards will be taking place from May 27.05.15 – 30.05.15. Anybody can apply!

The Berlin Fashion Film Festival will be taking place on 05.06.15.

I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you’re not in Berlin right now, then come meet me in Spain!

April is going to be bright and sunny.

Watch this space!

Art Nouveau in Riga.
Art Nouveau in Riga.

Have you ever been to Latvia? Do you think Riga is gorgeous or all hype? Is Latvia in Eastern Europe?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

Please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

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I’m going to the Baltic Region. You know, the “other” Eastern Europe!

At the ITB Berlin.
At the ITB Berlin.

So last week, I wrote a bit of a controversial post about what it is to be a blogger.

Any regrets?

Absolutely, none at all!

I like pushing buttons and gong to places unknown, which leads me to the next question?

What is this blog about? You know THIS blog. The blog called The British Berliner.

MY Blog.

Victoria looking quite model-like, in a Berlin summer, 2014.
Victoria looking quite model-like, in a Berlin summer, 2014.

Well, to put it in a nutshell. It’s about me.

There. I said it.

I write this because an experienced blogger recently asked me (rather nicely I might add) whether last weeks’ post was wavering away from what this blog is about.

That got me thinking?

So let’s go back a bit. What is this blog about? Well according to the About Me page. This blog was about being British in Berlin. And that is true but isn’t exactly accurate and since I started this blog in October 2013. Yay! This blog has developed a life of its own.

God Save the Queen in Cool Britannia!
God Save the Queen in Cool Britannia!

As a result, The British Berliner is now a lifestyle expat travel blog about culture, history, travels around the world, AND being British in Berlin.

It’s about what I do in normal every day life and where I go, and one of the things that contributed to that change was the ITB.

I learnt a lot about how to prepare to go to the biggest travel trade fair in the world, back in 2014. I mean, for goodness sake, I hadn’t even known what Twitter was back then. Thank goodness there was a workshop on it hosted by the European Vice-President, and let me tell you, I learnt pretty quickly so that by the end of the week, my Twitter account was up and running.

Yep! My Twitter account is only one (1) year old!

A WYSE Travel Confederation lecture at the ITB. If you look closely, you can see the back of my head and my red handbag on the side-corner!
A WYSE Travel Confederation lecture at the ITB.
If you look closely, you can see the back of my head and my red handbag on the side-corner!

I write this because before going to the ITB, I had never ever met a blogger in real life! Oh yes, I was fully engaged in the virtual world but I had never met anyone.

In 2014, I met loads of people so before I delve into my next travel adventure of 2015, I would just like to acknowledge and thank all the bloggers or social media professionals that I have actually met since the ITB in March 2014! Since there’s a long list of people, please forgive me if I leave you out.

Bloggers at the ITB in Berlin.
Bloggers at the ITB in Berlin.

I’ve met:

  • Maja Benke of Low Budget Travel. She was lovely and actually the first blogger that I had ever met! I met her at the pre-ITB Travel Massive party in 2014, and kept on bumping into her!
  • Anula Galewska is the Chapter Leader of Travel Massive Berlin. She’s a great girl and I was very interested in meeting her as she is also the marketing person for ExploRussia as I was, and am still, interested in going to Russia via the Trans Siberian train!
  • Adam Groffman of Travels of Adam is a very sweet American guy based in Berlin and apart from the fact that we constantly bump into each other all over town, every now and again we go for cocktails and gossip!

  • Kate McCulley of Adventurous Kate. I met Kate an hour after I returned from our trip to Poland. I knew that she was in Germany, and I had reached out to her that if she were ever in Berlin, to give me a buzz. She did! She’s a cool industrious girl. Even more petite than I am LOL! She was really nice and gave me some blogging tips and a blog leg up. She still does!
  • Kash Bhattacharya of the Budget Traveller. I met Kash the same time that I met Kate. He’s a fellow Brit and a tiny bear of a guy with hugs and jolly laughter for all, but behind the merry exterior is a man with hard-core ideas and a pair of high-flying shoulders! A great guy.
  • Ciki of CC Food Travel. I met Ciki from Malaysia in Berlin along with Kate and Kash. She’s a beautiful girl with a huge sense of humour, and delicious photographs of exquisite food. She’s a real pro. and we still send each other hilarious tweets. I can’t wait to visit her country anytime soon!
  • Mario Cacciottolo of Someone Once Told Me. Mario wasn’t a blogger in the strict sense of the world but a British photographer. He was embarking on a world tour of quotes from random people and asked if I would participate. I sure did! I also showed a bunch of international bloggers where anyone could participate in outdoor tango dancing on the Berlin river-side for absolute no money at all! Oh, and also having great beers whilst pretending to be on a beach. Good Times!
  • Kemkem of the Next Bite of Life. Kemkem is an American married to an Italian. We met as she reached out to me because she and her husband were thinking of perhaps emmigrating to Berlin from Malta. I offered to meet up and show her around and invited them to the Carnival of Cultures or Karneval der Kulturen. They opted to move to Spain instead, but we remain friends.
  • Dale & Franca of Anglo Italian Follow Us. They are an Anglo-Italian couple whom I met at a local bloggers meet-up one morning. They mainly write about slow vegan travel.

At ITB Berlin.

At the ITB a fortnight (two weeks) ago, I met:

  • Melvin Böcher, the founder of Travel Dudes. He’s a young German guy with a crazy hairdo. We met virtually when he asked whether I would like to join Travel Dudes and write something. I wrote about how to order a pint at an English pub. We met for the very first time at the ITB. I’m thinking of interviewing him!
  • D. J. Yabis of Dream Euro Trip is a flamboyant stylish guy from The Philippines, living in Cologne. He was a great laugh and so bitchy and funny. A great new friend to have LOL!
  • Raphael Alexander of A Journey of Wonders is a writer/photographer from Mexico. I met him at the Travel Massive party and it wasn’t that difficult to spot him LOL. He’s going places and I like his blogstyle!
  • Keith Jenkins of the Velvet Escape. Keith is a quiet unassuming man but a man with brains. He is the founder of iambassador and such projects as Blogville.
A yummy shrimp roll from #WeAreInPuglia!
A yummy shrimp roll from #WeAreInPuglia!
  • The lovely Stefania Albanese, of #WeAreInPuglia. She and her team were so kind and friendly and encouraged me to make Focaccia and not only that, but stuffed my bag with the bread dough, Italian bread sticks called Taralli, olive oil from Puglia, and a huge bottle of red Italian wine!
  • Christina Nagel-Gasch of Mrs Berry. When I was originally looking for information about the ITB last year, this was the only place that I found it. In German! This year, we found ourselves waiting for the same Dresden contact and as soon as I heard her name, I just wanted to hug her. Oh, and I also gate-crashed a bloggers event that she was hosting, but nobody seemed to mind LOL!
  • Carly Hulls of Austrian Adaptation. Carly is a fun-loving Australian expat who lives in the Sound of Music Hills of Austria. We met at the ITB and with jolly glasses of wine, we bonded rather well. I can’t wait to see her again somewhere LOL!
  • Natasha Semmence of Eat Shoot Travel – ESST. I met Natasha ‘cos she followed me while I was looking for space to hang my coat in the press room. She’s a British photographer, a close mate of Kash, and a very good person to have a natter with.
  • Astrid Zand and the lovely ITB press and marketing team. Again, they were absolutely fantastic and I even got to meet and hang out with them at the Press /Editorial Office. A great bunch of people!
  • And lastly, Lee. A. Evans. Lee is the President of Guides Berlin – the official Berlin Guide Federation – and I’ve known Lee personally for probably three (3) years now, well before blogging was ever part of my répertoire. Lee and I are both Committee Members of the Boy Scouts of America – Troop 46 – in Berlin. One of my expat activities even though I’m British LOL!
Kash & I at a bloggers after-ITB party!
Kash & I at a bloggers after-ITB party!

People may say that bloggers are introverts.

I disagree.

Most of the ones that I’ve met can talk the hind leg off a donkey and are as extroverted as they come. Myself included LOL!

And so, back to the topic of this week.

Drum roll pleeeeease!

A map of the Baltic Sea.
A map of the Baltic Sea.

THE BRITISH BERLINER IS GOING TO THE BALTIC REGION. YAY!

 

WHERE AM I GOING?

All the details are not yet 100% cut and dried, but I’m going to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia & Finland.

Lithuania.
Lithuania.

LITHUANIA:

Lithuania is the oldest state of the Baltic countries and according to Lonely Planet, was named third (3rd) in the top 10 countries to visit in 2015. If Lonely Planet have pinpointed Lithuania as the next trend, I’m in good company LOL! I will be going to Vilnius which is the capital city. The city has been known as “the Jerusalem of Lithuania” because of its strong Jewish past until WWII. Vilnius has also been known as “Little Rome” and “North Athens” and is a treasure-trove of Baroque craftsmanship.

I can’t wait to go there.

This will be a cultural family trip so we’ll be staying at a small family Bed and Breakfast consisting of just seven (7) rooms, and located between the Old Town and a park. This B&B is called Vilnius Home Bed and Breakfast.

Latvia.
Latvia.

LATVIA:

Latvia is a small economy based in between Lithuania, Belarus, Estonia and Russia! It is known as the Pearl of the Baltic States and is on the shores of the Baltic Sea. We will be going to Riga which is the capital city, the largest city in the Baltic State Region, and also listed as historical significant by UNESCO.

Due to other engagements, The Music Producer will only be travelling with us for a week and will be flying back to Berlin. As a result, “The Tall Young Gentleman” and I will continue the rest of our Baltic cultural adventure together.

We will be staying at a four-star boutique hotel in the heart of the old town of Riga. The hotel
is called Hotel Justus.
The Medieval Old Town in Tallinn, Estonia.
The Medieval Old Town in Tallinn, Estonia.

ESTONIA:

Estonia, officially called the Republic of Estonia, is a country surrounded by Finland, Latvia, and Russia. It is considered one (1) of the smallest countries in the European Union, as it only  has a country-wide population of 1.3 million people!

We will be going to Tallinn which is the capital city. An advanced, highly economic country, its history with Finland is tightly connected, coming from an ancient type of Finnish people!

We will be staying at the oldest hotel in Estonia, the luxury 5-star boutique hotel – The Hotel St. Petersbourg and on our return back from Finland, we will also be staying at the 4-star charming My City Hotel.

Visit Finland.

FINLAND:

Full of interesting contrast such as the Midnight Sun and days full of darkness in Winter, over two-thirds of the world’s people who experience the Midnight Sun, actually live in Finland! Wow! In fact, in the most Northern part of Finland, the sunlight can be present for a consecutive number of over 70 days!

I would like to go to Lapland one of these days, but for this journey, we’ll be going to the very cultural city of Helsinki which is the capital, and also has a 100 km long shoreline and around 300 islands!

We will be staying at the very artistically designed GLO Hotel Art which is an exclusive, charming lifestyle hotel built around a century-old Art Nouveau castle, located in the heart of the Helsinki Design District.

Very exciting!

WHY THE BALTIC STATE REGION?

shutterstock-92810047-zob

As of now, the region above has not really been discovered by tourists and travellers. I mean, have you ever heard of Latvia? What about Lithuania? And to be honest, we all know of Finland, but how many of us have actually been there?

Exactly!

These countries are based in Europe and their capital cities have stories of richness, history and grandeur unspoilt by the full-board package set and the larger louts of stag and hen nights. They are sparsely populated, and not your typical cheap and friendly destination. As a matter of fact prices in Finland border on the insane and Estonia has prices that would make your hair stand up, although still considered to be “budget” destinations.

I want to experience these countries for myself.

That’s why!

HOW AM I TRAVELLING?

The Lux Express. And free WIFI!
The Lux Express.
And free WIFI!

We will be on a part-sponsorship with Lux Express.

The Lux Express Group is the largest international express route coach operator in the Baltic region with its head-office based in Estonia. It offers frequent connections to the Baltic States, and to parts of Russia such as St. Petersburg, Moscow and Minsk. ‘Such a shame that we don’t have the time to nip into St. Petersburg as there is a legal way that you can go to Russia for 24 or 72 hours visa-free, as long as you arrive by ship and pre-organise your hotel or sight-seeing activities!

The next time I’m in Finland or Estonia, I’m going to do just that, as I’m desperate to go to Russia. Even for a day but hopefully, for much longer LOL!

We will be travelling with the Lux Express Group from Berlin to Estonia and back again!

HOW AM I GOING TO CROSS THE SEA INTO FINLAND?

Sailing away! Photo @AS Tallink Grupp
Sailing away!
Photo @AS Tallink Grupp

We will be on a sponsorship deal with TALLINK SLJA LINE.

TALLINK is an Estonian shipping company currently operating Baltic Sea cruise ferries and ships from Estonia to Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Germany. We will be sailing with them from Estonia to Finland and back to Estonia. In fact, the E-commerce Manger offered us a complimentary sailing to Sweden but in this trip, I had already fixed the itinerary and moreover, I wanted to go via overland. However, watch this space for a future visit to Sweden, Finland, Latvia, and Estonia!

It’s going to be quite a trip!

Food Glorious Food!
Food Glorious Food!

This article is part-sponsored by Lux Express and TALLINK SLJA LINE, and we get a little discount on the hotels, but all opinions and the exquisite shrimps that I ate, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you.

Next week, I’ll be writing about the British Shorts Film Festival 2015.

In the next few months, I’ll be travelling to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland.

I’ll also be going to TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) an International Networking Conference, for the first time! It’ll be taking place in Costa Brava, Catalunya, Spain from 30.04.15 – 02.05.15.

I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you’re not in Berlin in March, you’ve lost your way!

March is going to be warming up.

Watch this space!

Pelmeni, a type of dumpling served with sour cream in Latvia.
Pelmeni, a type of dumpling served with sour cream in Latvia.

Have you ever been to the Baltic States? Have you ever heard of Lithuania or Latvia?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

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I went to the ITB in Berlin, so am I a professional travel blogger?

At Travel Massive - 2015.
At Travel Massive – 2015.

Last week, I told you that I would be revealing where I’ll be travelling to in the next few months. I can’t tell you exactly when for security reasons, but you’ll be the first to know next week LOL!

But first:

WHAT IS THE ITB BERLIN?

Learning stuff at the ITB Berlin.
Learning stuff at the ITB Berlin.

The ITB Berlin is the world’s leading travel industry think tank in which the convention trade fair establishes itself as the industry’s main knowledge platform.

As the leading Travel Trade Show, ITB Berlin is the foremost business platform for global tourism business. This year, we had participants from:

  • 5 Continents.
  • 180 Countries.
  • 600 Qualified Top Buyers.
  • 10,000 Exhibitors.
  •  20,000 Convention Visitors.
  •  50,000 Private Visitors.
  • 110,000 Trade Visitors.
  • Bloggers from all over the world.
  • 160,000 Square meters.
  • Over 5 days within 4th March – 8th March, 2015.
  • Bringing in a €6 billion turnover to Germany.
Mongolia at the ITB Berlin.
Mongolia at the ITB Berlin.

The ITB Berlin is a big deal and the partner country for 2015 was Mongolia with the motto: Nomadic by Nature.

Wow!

This is the first time that I have participated as an accredited blogger and with travel blogs becoming popular, interest in them has begun to grow within the tourism industry. I mean, last year was the first time that I had even heard of Twitter! As such, ITB Berlin went all out and organised a platform in which international contacts could meet up with bloggers, and bloggers could network with each other and industry, via discussions and presentations.

In 2014, I did not go to the ITB as an accredited blogger as by then, my blog was roughly only four (4) months old and I gate-crashed networking events! However, the ITB ladies were amazing and sent me a VIP ticket to encourage and motivate me.

Myself with the photographers. Courtesy of Pascale Scerbo Sarro
Myself with the photographers.
Courtesy of Pascale Scerbo Sarro

I’ve improved a lot since then. In fact, I’d even go as far as saying that I’m a professional blogger.

Wooooooh there missy!

This topic is a controversial one and begets no real solution.

Last year, I met one of the biggest bloggers in the German market, I approached this person for advice and was dismissed because according to them “I was only a hobby blogger!”

Exxxxxxxxxcuse me!

I have to confess that I was upset and annoyed but most importantly, I refuse to take that comment lying down.

Celebrating diversity at the British Embassy.
Celebrating diversity at the British Embassy.

WHAT’S A PROFESSIONAL TRAVEL BLOGGER ANYWAY?

According to the Professional Travel Bloggers Association, The association consists of travel bloggers from various career paths who come together for the purpose of furthering the profession of travel blogging, aim to legitimize travel blogging as a business, and facilitate business relationships within the industry, with emphasis on the following goals:

  • Accuracy.
  • Accountability.
  • To not plagiarise or knowingly accept plagiarism.
  • Being polite, upholding the freedom of speech and refraining from personal attacks and hate speech.
  • Being professional in the way the blogger works. Upholding all applicable laws, regulations, and rules concerning the prevention of unfair, deceptive or misleading advertising and marketing practices. Disclosing financially benefits or discounts and not abusing the position as travel bloggers.
  • Not pressuring travel companies into working with bloggers, or discounting services.

REQUIREMENTS TO JOIN THE ASSOCIATION:

A minimum of nine months blogging and more than 3,000 page views in the last thirty days, and an annual fee of $75.

On the red carpet at the Internationale Filmfestspiele, Berlin or at the International Film Festival, Berlin.
On the red carpet at the Internationale Filmfestspiele, Berlin or at the International Film Festival, Berlin.

According to MIke Snowden. A professional travel blogger is:

According to TBEX (the Travel Blog Exchange), you are not a blogger unless you are:

  • A talented story-teller (regardless of whether your stories are told via print, audio, or video).
  • Constantly trying to improve your craft and provide value to your sponsors and readers.
  • Have entered an agreement with a client or a sponsor, and that agreement includes the expectation that you will act like a professional for the duration of that relationship.
  • A professional blogger who looks for mentors and teachers from whom they can learn.
  • A blogger who networks with their peers, copy their successes, and tries to avoid the mistake of others.
Me. Myself & I. Summer In Berlin.
Me. Myself & I.
Summer In Berlin.

According to Matt Kepnes, otherwise known as Nomadic Matt, the tips he gave on the real business of travel blogging were simple:

  • Be an expert.
  • Find your niche.
  • Don’t dismiss traditional writers. Learn from them, as they are people who really know how to write, and write well.

According to Dave & Deb from The Planet D:

  • Put in long hours.
  • Love what you do.
  • Do research on respective destinations.
  • Take countless photographs.
Asian girls having lunch together.
Asian girls having lunch together.

According to Kate McCulley otherwise known as Adventurous Kate, her professional advice can be read on her piece –  The reality of being a professional travel blogger and includes:

  • Travel blogging requires a tremendous amount of work.
  • It also requires a hell of a lot of investment in time and effort, before any benefits can be seen.

According to Liz Carlson otherwise known as the Young Adventuress in her piece  – So you want to be a travel blogger, do you? Professional travel blogging is all about:

  • Having a passion.
  • Having a purpose.
  • Becoming an authority.
  • Not giving up.
  • Setting goals and building your audience.
  • Owning social media.
  • Knowing your own value.
  • Being ethical.
  • Producing good content.
  • Joining other professional bloggers associations and groups, in order to get mentoring, advice, and support.
Fresh fish that we caught. Bones and all, although they chopped off the head on the boat!
Fresh fish that we caught. Bones and all, although they chopped off the head on the boat!

As much as travel blogging has become the new brain child, not everyone is convinced or think it’s worth a second of your time, and so I enclose a piece from Theodora Sutcliffe also known as the Escape Artistes. She wrote a scathing piece on Why I’ll never be a Professional Travel Blogger.

So back to my original question, am I a professional blogger?

Well, let’s see.

I am professional in the way I work and when I meet clients and travel industry. I also qualify to be a member of the Professional Travel Bloggers association. I make presentations and talk about everything. I write stories and constantly strive to improve my craft by going to seminars, lectures and workshops, and learning from my blogging peers.

If only you could read my thoughts. Oh, you can!
If only you could read my thoughts. Oh, you can!

I love my traditional job of being a corporate teacher and trainer. I love imparting knowledge and leading and advising entrepreneurs. I also get a hefty salary and a respectable position for doing so.

That’s not going to change anytime soon.

I went to 10 countries in 2014, if that’s not working as a professional travel blogger, I don’t know what is.

My niche is Europe and believe you me, I put in more hours than I can ever recommend. I have a corporate job, a husband, a child, a Masters dissertation to write and yet, I still spend 38 hours a week working on my blog in some form. 38 hours! I refuse to let anyone say that blogging for me is a hobby.

It isn’t.

I have a passion for what I do, and as I told you earlier in the year, not a single dollar has been exchanged but I perform, as if it has. I have a purpose: lifestyle expat travel blogging, and I enjoy and love what I do.

I am a professional travel blogger.

In Vietnam.
In Vietnam.

This article is not sponsored and all opinions are my very own!

I have so much to share with you.

Next week, I’ll be giving you more details about the International Travel Trade Fair – ITB, what I did there and whom I met, as well as the next travel destination!

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you’re not in Berlin in March, you’ve made a mistake!

March is going to be excellent.

Watch this space!

In Kurdistan at the ITB 2015.
In Kurdistan at the ITB 2015.

What do you think? Are you a professional travel blogger. Do you want to be a professional travel blogger, or do you think travel blogging is over-hyped?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

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