In a few hours I head to the airport to begin my journey to Europe to visit countries #35 (Lithuania), #36 (Latvia), Finland, and #37 (Estonia). I will be away for two weeks, which is my longest trip since my three-week sabbatical in 2015, and my longest trip overseas since Amy and I went to Japan for two weeks in 2010.
The Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) have always been a particular interest of mine. I am a (not active) stamp collector with a fairly decent collection of stamps from those three countries between the two world wars, and I wrote my senior thesis at UC Santa Barbara about the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and its affect on the Baltic states. I have wanted to visit these countries for a long time, now, but this has been my first opportunity to do so.
I’m a little nervous about the trip out there, because I didn’t pay enough attention to the itinerary my travel agent put together. I only have a 55-minute layover in Brussels. I suspect I will have to clear customs, and unless my flight gets in significantly early, I don’t think there will be enough time. But, that’s a problem for a future me. If I get stuck in Brussels for a night, well, there are worse places to be.
If all goes according to plan, I’ll be in Vilnius, Lithuania around 12:30 PM Sunday their time (UTC+3, or eight hours ahead of Omaha currently). Vilnius has been the capital of the republic since regaining its independence 1990. It was also capital of the republic after it first gained its independence from Russia in 1918. However, the city was then a Polish-majority city according to most censuses of the time, and Poland invaded and annexed it in 1920. Lithuania never recognized that, and continued to claim Vilnius as its constitutional capital, with Kaunas considered its temporary capital.
The rest of my itinerary is:
One destination I really had hoped to work into my schedule was St. Petersburg, Russia. I took two years of Russian in high school, and several Russian history courses in college. However, to travel there visa-free means taking an approved ferry from either Helsinki or Tallinn, and the timing of those versus the rest of my travel plans just didn’t work out. I would have had to give up visiting one or more of the Baltic states, and I didn’t want to do that. So, I’ll set that aside for some future trip…
My plan is to post each morning before continuing on to my next destination. That of course, is dependent on time and WiFi availability (though the latter shouldn’t be much of an issue). See you in Lithuania!