travel isn’t always pretty. it isn’t always comfortable. sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. but that’s okay. the journey changes you; it should change you. it leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. you take something with you. hopefully, you leave something good behind.
— anthony bourdain —
the journey continues to estonia. when i first started planning this trip estonia was the one place i really wanted to visit. i never knew where this burning desire came from, i must have read about it somewhere and always kept it in the back of my head, but here i was, finally in estonia, completely hungover. latvian hangovers are for real. i wasn’t entirely sure they were going to even let me on the plane. luckily i was able to stumble right into my room at the hotel where i decided i was never drinking again, not going out to see anything until the next day, and desperately needed something unhealthy to eat.
after 30 minutes of feeling horribly sorry for myself, i changed out of my sweatpants (which i wore on my flight…i was in no condition to wear normal clothes, brush my hair or wipe the mascara off my face) and rolled out for some fresh air and to seek out something covered with cheese to eat. two steps out the door, i instantly fell in love with tallinn. my hotel (hotel telegraaf) was right in the middle of everything. i didn’t have to walk very far to be apart of the christmas market that was in full swing, or to find cobblestone side streets with picture perfect churches flanking each side. as i wandered around i came across a strange dark path that i decided i desperately needed to find out where it led. as i was sweating out black balsam climbing an old stone set of stairs i came across the most amazing view of the city. it was breathtaking. exactly what i pictured tallinn would look like. somehow revived with this new explorer spirit, my hangover dissipated, my desire for cheese subsided and i was magically cured. the estonian air revived me. well, maybe not, but i felt like i could at least walk around for a few more hours before i undoubtedly turned hangry and needed a beer. estonia delivered everything i hoped it would and it has easily become one of my top 5 countries in europe.
next top, lithuania. litha-what? i had to look this one up on a map. terrible, i know. i wasn’t sure where it was in the mix of poland, germany, and the czech republic. little did i know i was only a few miles from belarus when i landed in vilnius (see ya in march minsk!!). the tourists in vilnius were few and far between, so it felt like i had the city to myself. exploring castle ruins, quiet streets and beautiful baroque architecture were just a few of the highlights. i also found some pretty inviting graffiti.
but one of the best parts about my quick trip to vilnius was the dinner i had across the street from my hotel. i went in with my usual hello, showing i only speak english and should be given a kids menu, and found a nice window seat to creep on everyone walking past. it was at least 3o minutes of literal alone time, as i was the only one there since it was 630pm, but i was soon joined by a girl and her boyfriend. as the scene unfolded it turned out that they met when she travelled to china and he would be meeting her mother for the first time tonight. the mother walks in, not speaking one word of english. this should be interesting. between lingering silence and the mother and daughter speaking rapid latvian with one another, the night went on to be the most awkward dinner i have ever been apart of without being apart of it. to the guy’s credit he did bring the mother some beautiful tea cups and tea from his hometown (yes, i was that close that i could see the gift. the tea cups were pink). after three beers i was ready to call it quits and prepare for my journey to denmark in the morning.
back to my first repeat country to spend friendsgiving with my bestie from back home and her family. and i should mention, she and her husband, who i have also known since high school when he was shipped off to iowa as an exchange student from denmark, have THE CUTEST family ever. i’ve seen all 3 of their children as babies and if i were to ever kidnap anyone it would be them. sorry, b. spending a few hours in copenhagen was enjoyable even as the weather turned cold and rainy. the colorful houses always make up for shit weather in scandinavia. plus, it’s never a bad time to be in copenhagen and slurp down some of their local beer.
to keep me occupied, b and i took a day trip to køge, which was beyond charming. doing local things with a local is one of the best travel experiences you can have. i would have never gone to køge because not only do i not know how to pronounce it, but i never knew it existed until then. the weather was perfect, the sun was shining and it was a great way to finish up my holiday.
and just like that, my first solo trip had come to an end. i made it without shedding a tear, without being lonely and without any regrets. it was amazing and i was offically addicted. i was ready for another adventure, and guess what, adventure finds the adventurer because in 13 days i was about to be embarking on an epic first trip to asia.
keep reading, keep checking in… i promise it gets better.
NEXT POST: an invitation of a lifetime.