Estonia and Latvia

A very rainy and windy Sunday. We rolled off the ferry and try to find the way through Tallinn. What a little town compared to those metropoles that we want to bicycle across! It’s already 11 am when we still are struggling with finding the right direction but no stress! As Fredrika Ek said: “I don’t have more time than other people, but a newly found tranquility to let it go by.” So if you are tired, sit down and rest. If you are hungry, eat. We did so in a little bus stop somewhere on our way to our first goal, Rapla and in a little town – whose name we forgot – in order to refill our water bottles. Valentin went into a restaurant where the lady refused giving us tap water for free. He came back a bit disappointed while Sam stood next to the bikes with two huge bottles of water that a man gave to him in the parking lot. Words stood still! God closed a window but opened a door.Anyway, in February we still had a concern that made us pedal as fast as possible: early sunset! We were pedalling to Rapla where we found a guest house. Because the prices were way to high, we asked for permission to pitch up our tent on the property. The lady looked at us with doubting eyes: “Do you really want to camp in February?” “Oh, no worries, we are from Sweden.” πŸ™‚

After rain and wind sunshine was our companion in Estonia that is a wonderful country to cycle in, because most of the country is flat. We won’t forget that cold but sunny evening in TΓΌri where we had a big dinner at the local pizzeria and after a short negotiation we could spend the night in the gym of a swimming pool.

After TΓΌri we headed to Viljandi where we stayed at our first Couchsurfing host on our trip, Joosep who is an adventurer as well. Those days in Estonia and later in Latvia were the coldest that winter. -6 degrees but pretty humid and windy.

Surprisingly our hands didn’t freeze in our gloves that were way thinner than the very thick thermos ones. The most exposed body part was our feet. We wore three layers of socks and a pair of usual training shoes. Freezing as hell! We were recommended to put on our shoe covers that are very useful when raining, but to be honest we were too lazy to pack them up from our panniers. πŸ™‚ So when we entered Latvia and found a guesthouse where we could pitch up the tent in a barn and we could take a hot shower, it took about 10 minutes in the hot water until we could feel our feet again. The freezing feet are a typical exemple for an unpleasant physical condition when your body actually doesn’t get any damages, you just feel inconvinient with the situation. If you can bike 50-60 km in -6 degrees with this unpleasant feeling, you have taken one big step towards winning over your own mental barriers. And wow, next day you can do the same thing, because you have realized that you don’t always have to react to everything that your mind tells you is a problem. You just ignore it. My feet are freezing in the Baltic winter for hours but I don’t care. Just don’t try this in -15 degrees maybe. πŸ™‚

What are you thinking to yourself while sitting on a bench having lunch in the middle of nowhere in Latvian winter? Sam would say: “Can we keep on biking? I am freezing my ass off.” Valentin says: “It’s cold but still better than the hot humidity in Thailand.” Just wait when we get to Middle East in summertime. Valentin will get a nervous breakdown saying “I am a polarbear and wanna go home to Svalbard!” or “Why am I not sitting in an office in Sweden with air conditioning and a fix monthly salary?!”

The answer is easy. But you don’t always have the answer the same minute when you need it.
In Valmiera, Latvia we visited an SOS Children’s Village. This is a global organization that is taking care of children without biological parents who are able to take care of them. SOS Children’s Villages exist in more than 130 countries and territories around the globe and our goal is to not only explore the world on our bikes but even make it a bit better.

In Valmiera we were welcomed with so much warmth, love and for the Scandinavians so precious coffee that the struggling on two wheels in minus degrees simply got a new sense. All those people who follow our journey and all those who work and live in the Children’s Villages are telling us: “You guys can do it.” And once we read one of the wisest quotes ever: “They can, because they think they can.” (Virgil)

We had our first free day in Valmiera. One of the lessons we learned on our Sweden trip is that you have to rest more than you think because cycling is a hard work. Sometimes pretty hard. And you better don’t wait until you get exhausted because it kills your motivation. Maybe not for a too long time but when you feel really down and out on a hard day… Don’t make any long-term decisions when hungry and tired. Hunger and exhaustion are very bad advisors and we have noticed it a few times. Choose always the fatter food and the fetter yoghurt! It saves life! You need a huge amount of calories and you need them right away. Sometimes we feel that we cannot eat more but we still need to do it. Because those calories burn very fast on a steal bicycle with four panniers and a huge 80 liter bag.

And gosh how we needed those big portions in the forest between Valmiera and Sigulda! A milder winter day when the temprature hardly rose above zero, the frozen path in the forest is defrosting just so much that it would turn into halv-frozen mud. And push the fully loaded bikes in the twilight in the Latvian forest on such uphills while you still have 35 km left to the destination. And about 15 of it takes you to a busy main road full of trucks. Good luck! And the last part was the riskiest one. Traffic, traffic, traffic! The biggest risk factor for every cyclist. This is something you most of the time just cannot avoid. But you still can do your best. Risk and stress don’t need to be something bad. Sometimes it’s hard to bike relaxed on such a busy road, but if you are focussed and bicycle smart, things almost always work out.

Anyway, we were extremely tired when we arrived at our Warmshower host in Stiveri, and it’s no exagguration to say that so far this was the hardest day of our journey. And even a day that seems to be endless has an end. And what an end! Janis treated us with a private cabin with sauna and a huge Eastern European dinner with his lovely family. We had a long conversation about cycling adventures in different countries while we ate the very best chocolate cake in the world. πŸ™‚

Life is so beautiful when you do something that makes sense. πŸ™‚ Latvia, we love you!

One of the disadvantages with a nomadic life is that we always move around. We have a very limited equipment that makes our trip easier, but at the same time we must take good care of everything we carry with us. And it happens so easily that we forget something and we notice it 50 km further away.

It happened first in Stiveri that we lost something. It was Valentin’s toothbrush that is definitely replaceable, but it was still annoying… And he even dropped the Swedish flag that was put on the rear rack on his bike somewhere between Stiveri and Riga. It might be lying around in the ditch until we have cycled around the world. Can you imagine if you drop something in a place where there are no pedestrians and the thing you lost absorbs really slowly, it might be there for decades? Oh my Swedish flag in the ditch along a remote road on the Latvian countryside in 2040. πŸ™‚

Without toothbrush and flag we arrived in our favourite Baltic capital: Riga on February 9. Valentin had already been here three times so he could orientate more or less. We stayed three nights at our German friend, Ben who treated us with a delicious dinner and told us about his amazing round the world journey he made a few years earlier. We had a fantastic time in Riga! Thank you for that again! πŸ™‚

Latvia to be continued…

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