I am so afraid I’m going to jinx it that I can hardly type these words: Our long-term railway adventure, so often interrupted and delayed, is back on track. At last. Rich and I leave Monday with our roll-aboard bags, Eurail passes, and sighs of relief. Our work in California is done, and we are once more free to roam the world. Yay! (Short pause while I jump up from my desk to do the happy dance.)
If you suddenly had three months to travel, where would you go?
Industry pundits say that today’s travelers want authentic experiences that let them feel like adventurers and offer unique ways to connect with locals. And yet most international travelers choose to vacation in Western European capitals where they can count on being part of a massive herd.
For as long as I’ve known him, Rich has been coaxing me towards the outer edges of civilization, the cultural equivalent of the places that on the old maps said, “Here there be dragons…” In our younger days, that meant the Peruvian Amazon, the Himalayas, and other rugged territories. Now it means heading to unknown countries in parts of Europe that were once in the forbidden zone behind the Iron Curtain; we still get to have adventures, but with a bit more creature comfort.
So where are we heading next?
For us, the choice was simple: restart the long rail journey we were calling our Balkans-to-Baltics Tour. However, we’re now doing it in reverse; we'll land in Paris and head north to the Baltic Sea.
For those of you who, like me, tend to get a little fuzzy about Baltic geography, the Baltic Sea is situated between Scandinavia and Northern Europe. This morning I Googled a map of the region to include in this post and found this.
The alert reader will notice the large red arrow pointing to the Baltic Sea Anomaly. Five years ago today, Swedish divers uncovered a mysterious shape on the sea floor. Geologists insist it’s rock, military personnel suggest it’s a WWII anti-submarine device, and UFO experts are certain it’s a space ship, possibly the Millennium Falcon. I’d love to think someone from another planet dropped by the Baltic Sea in search of off-the-beaten-star-route intergalactic adventure. But I suspect it’s just a freak rock formation. Of course, I've been wrong before . . .
So what’s our travel plan?
We’re going to pack light, each bringing a small roll-aboard plus a shoulder bag for maps, water, etc. Much as we enjoy luggage-free travel, this journey involves far too many climate changes for a single set of fast-drying clothes.
Travel will be leisurely. We'll take trains for no more than a few hours in any given day and spend three to seven days in each destination, lingering or moving on as the spirit moves us.
Our goal is to get off the beaten tourist path as quickly as possible. From Paris we’re heading to Amsterdam to visit friends who are opening a coffee shop (or possibly a “coffee shop”) there this summer. After that we intend to seek out obscure, smaller cities we’ve never heard of, places that haven’t been turned into theme parks of themselves by an excess of visitors.
We’ve pinpointed the first jumping-off place. After Amsterdam, we’ll head north to the port of Lübeck, Germany, gateway to the Baltic Sea and the place, locals claim, where marzipan was invented. How sweet is that?
From there . . . we’ll decide as we go. Ferries sail from Lübeck to ports in Denmark, Sweden, Latvia, and Finland, with easy rail connections onward. We plan to hang out in Lübeck for a while, nibbling marzipan, reading up on various obscure cities in the region, and deciding which route to take.
The journey will include all three Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. Beyond that? Our original itinerary called for touring the Balkans as well, but since we’re shortening the trip to a “mere” three months, we aren’t sure we can squeeze them in and still maintain our leisurely pace. But as I say, we are making this up as we go along . . .
Whatever happens, Rich and I are very, very excited to be back on the road again. Wish us luck and watch this blog for updates from the road.
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I'm an American travel writer based in Spain and currently living in California.
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