Baltic States Baltic States Baltic States Baltic States Baltic States

Baltic States

The section through the Baltic may be relatively short in terms of EuroVelo 13 as a whole, but it offers a remarkably wide range of countryside, culture and history, as well as the opportunity to discover three countries (and two capital cities) in quick succession.

Your journey through the Baltic States starts in eastern Estonia, or more specifically, at the little port of Silamäe, which in earlier times was not marked on official maps because it was an important producer of fuel rods for Soviet nuclear power stations. The town centre still bears traces of ‘Soviet Baroque’.

From Silamäe you first follow the coast road heading west. This brings you to Estonia’s oldest national park, Lahemaa, or ‘land of inlets’. Tracing Estonia’s Cold War history, you can visit the ‘Memorial Park for the Victims of Cruelty’ in Hiiemäe, which commemorates those deported to Siberia.  Many of Estonia’s representatives have planted memorial oaks here.

 

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The route then takes you past Cape Purekkari, Estonia’s most northern point and the location of a Soviet radar station in the Cold War. You continue over the Pärispea peninsula, go past a large cemetery with graves dating to 500 BC, and on through Loksa to the Estonian capital of Tallinn, which was known as Reval until 1918.  In Tallinn, the medieval centre, which is still mostly surrounded by a city wall has been an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. For those interested in history, the Museum of Occupations is a must.

 

Once you have explored Tallinn you continue your journey heading south-west. After just a few kilometres you go past Estonia’s national open-air museum ‘Rocca al mare’, which takes you back to the past with its reconstructed village houses from different regions of Estonia.

The route continues through the coastal villages of Laulasmaa and shortly afterwards Kloogaranna, and then over the Pakri peninsula, which was a missile launch site for the Warsaw Pact countries during the Cold War. In Paldiski, a port that used to be a secret Soviet naval base, you can still see the ruins of the Red Army installations. From here the trail continues through Padise and Nõva to the old cathedral town of Haapsalu.

From Haapsalu you can either continue by ferry via the islands of Hiiumaa and Saaremaa, or on land to Pämu. The two islands are particularly worth a short visit for nature-lovers. Those opting to continue by road will head through flat countryside in the direction of Latvia. You pass the lovely 13th century Gothic church in Ridala, and you can take a break in the Nehatu nature reserve or visit one of the many islands off the coast. You also pass Pärnu, Estonia’s 'Summer capital', which thrives in the warmer months. You will then finally reach the Latvian border near Ikla.

Once in Latvia, EuroVelo 13 first runs through the North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve, an area of mixed woodland, moors, dunes, coastal meadows, natural lakes and rivers. Those who like sailing will love Ainaži, the site of Latvia’s first sailing school where a museum is now located providing information on the subject.  Continuing along a section of EuroVelo 10, you then come to Limbaži. In this Hanseatic town – one of eight in Latvia – it is as if time has stood still. People are only just beginning to discover its cultural heritage.

A better-known piece of history from the Cold War is to be found further south in Ligatne. Below a sanatorium there is an atomic bomb-proof bunker that was used by the government of the Latvian Soviet Republic. It is particularly interesting since it is still in its original condition.


On the road towards Riga you will also find the town of Sigulda.  The cable railway over the Gauja Valley between Sigulda and Krimulda Castle is worth a visit and on the other side of the river, in Turaida and Krimulda, there is another impressive castle - one of Latvia’s most popular attractions.


Further to the south you will pass through Ulbroka-Stopinu, where the first Latvian radio station was set up after the war - the125-metre radio tower still stands. On 22 August 1991, soldiers from the Soviet special operations unit OMON broke into the radio station during the ‘August Putsch’ and attempted to blow up the equipment without success.


Riga, the capital of Latvia with a population of approximately 730,000, is the largest city of the Baltic States. The old Hanseatic city on the Daugava is famous for its art nouveau architecture and well-preserved centre. As in Tallinn, Riga also has a Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, commemorating the sufferings of Latvians under German and Soviet occupation (1941-1991). In this museum you can read the section of the Hitler-Stalin Pact that was kept secret.


On leaving Riga, the route then heads for the sea. On the way is the biggest spa town in the Baltic, Jūrmala.  During the summer season the town offers a first-class cultural programme.  From Jūrmala you follow the beach until you come to Klapkalnciems, where you will find Finnish, Soviet and German military cemeteries. If you head further south, shortly after Engure you will reach the Lake Engure National Park, where you can relax by the lake.


About 20 kilometres beyond Kolka a particular cultural surprise awaits you in Mazirbe, which is the centre of one of the smallest ethnic communities in Europe, the Finno-Ugric Livonians - called Livs. Traces of the Iron Curtain can be visited a little further on in Irbene, where the abandoned and ruined tower block houses and military installations are all that is left of what was once a strategically important base on the Baltic coast for the Soviet army. Although the complex was abandoned, both antennas have been reconstructed and are used by the Astronomy Center of Ventspils. Guided tours of the antenna will start from April 2016.


If you follow the coast road further south you pass the old hanseatic town of Ventspils, whose well-restored old town is worth exploring. The Livonian Order Castle now houses the Ventspils Museum, which depicts all aspects of Latvian and Livonian fishing and farming life. Today this wealthy port is the main Baltic outlet for Russian oil and coal.


You leave Ventspils to the south on a well-constructed road. Near Priednieki you pass a monument commemorating the inhabitants of the area who drowned while trying to escape from the Red Army to Sweden in 1944/45.


A few kilometres further south you come to Liepāja, one of the jewels of the Iron Curtain Trail. Western tourists are only just beginning to discover this city, whose architecture appears to have been frozen in time at the turn of the 20th century. Visitors are entranced by its six-storey houses, mansions and in particular the villa district by the spa gardens with its art nouveau buildings. Liepāja Museum, which includes a detailed section on the town’s German past, is also worth a visit.
You will also be surprised to discover, among the tower block buildings, the breathtaking St. Nicholas Cathedral. Equally impressive is the former Russian Baltic navy base at Karosta, north of the town, which was located here because of its proximity to Germany and because it is permanently ice-free. The open spaces created when the Russian fleet withdrew have been discovered by artists, and today Karosta is a trendy centre for contemporary art projects from around Europe. The route then continues via Nica and Rucava to the Lithuanian border. After crossing the border into Lithuania, the trail continues through the little tourist town of Šventoji with its popular promenade and holiday houses dating from the Soviet era. A few kilometres further you will find yourself on the Palanga pier, visited by hordes of tourists in the summer.


Just a short ride further south, you will pass a small historical curiosity: two houses in the woods are all that remains of what was once Nemirseta (Nimersata in Curonian). Until 1920 it formed the northernmost point of Germany and was known by the name Nimmersatt (“Nimmersatt, where the Empire ends”). The former customs house and what used to be the last restaurant before you reached the border have now been converted into houses.


The Iron Curtain Trail continues on to Klaipėda (formerly Memel), which was founded by merchants from Dortmund in 1253 beside a medieval castle built by the Livonian Order. Today the town is an important ferry terminal and commercial port. The Simon Dach Fountain on Theatre Square is a popular tourist sight and the town’s landmark.


Leaving Klaipėda, the remaining kilometres of the Lithuanian section take you along the Curonian Spit, which can be reached by ferry. A well-marked cycle path along the Curonian Spit hugs the dunes. In Nida, you can visit the Thomas Mann House right by the lagoon.


That takes you almost to the border with Russian Kaliningrad, the last stop on this section of the Iron Curtain Trail.

 

  • 2
    European
    Capitals
  • 98 Km
    Length of the
    Curonian Spit
  • 1991
    Independence restored
    In Estonia and Latvia
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  • Riga Sprats, Latvia

    A simple but delicious snack utilising the tasty ingredients available from the Baltic Sea. Spread some butter on a slice of bread (the best is the local rye bread), and lay down as many Sprats as you want on top of a slice of boiled egg. Photo credit: Vidzeme Tourism Association

  • Northern Forts of Liepāja

    The Northern Fort is an integral part of the Liepāja Fortress. Here you can walk subterranean labyrinth and bunkers; a team game "Escape from the USSR" is also offered at the Fort – the essence of the game is to work closely as a team to find a friend who has been taken prisoner by Soviet frontier guards and to transport him to a submarine.

  • Curonian Spit, Lithuania / Russia

    The Curonian Spit is a 98 km long, thin, curved sand-dune spit that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea coast. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site shared by Lithuania and Russia.

  • Jūrkalne Seashore Bluffs

    The Jūrkalne Bluffs are one of the most picturesque parts of Latvia’s seashore, with a quiet beach untouched by civilisation and bluffs of up to 20 metres high

  • Certified EuroVelo Route
  • Developed route with EuroVelo signs
  • Developed route
  • Route under development
  • Route at the planning stage

The stages