harbour days in Riga
The harbour in Riga has been the most expensive so far: 28€/day. We had been warned and told to use another harbour, but we wanted to stay as close to the city as possible.
For 28€/day you get the music of a very, very noisy discotheque in the harbour for free, which prevents you from sleeping at the week-end. Otherwise you just have to deal with plenty cars and trains passing by. There is no lovely view to the city - as in Gdansk, and the Wi-Fi was not working when we were there. People were stumbling on badly maintained squeaky quays, the fresh water hoses were really dirty and sticky (left black mark on the boat) and from time to time there are some idiots speeding around in their motor boats causing waves, and just like in Poland and Lithuania, there does not seem to be any harbour control for speeding boats.The sauna comes at additional costs of 16€/h! However, the harbour master was very helpful and organised a new gas bottle for us and again we received a map of the city with a suggested walk and descriptions of sights - very useful!If you want to shop for clothes, Riga might be a good deal, shopping for maps is another rip-off: We were searching for maps for Estonia and Finland. For Estonia there exist 3 sets of maps, each of them for the price we paid for one set we bought in Germany, which covers all of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia including digital maps. And even the Rimi in Riga charged the double price for breakfast buns compred to the Rimi in Liepaja - same shop, same country, less selection, double price!But enough bad news about Riga.We finally had yummy-blueberry-marmalade with fresh breakfast buns here!
The rookie sailor's corner
I mean it's quite cool to hang out with my folks on the boat, but man, what really gives me the kick, you know, it's clover!
For the city itself I am running out of words to describe it.With around 717.000 inhabitants it is considerably larger than Gdansk and the largest city of the Baltic States. Therefore it is not surprising, that the historical centre is also larger, and despite the high amount of tourists this place attracts, it does not feel as crowded as Gdansk.The houses in Riga are majestic: lots of them have extensively ornamented facades worth of a palace, so the place is actually overloaded with palace-like houses, no wonder that the castle seems quite dull around this display of wealth. And that is it really: an incredible display of wealth. By the end of the first day in Riga we agreed not to say: "Look at that fantastic house" anymore. Instead we just looked and said: "WOW".
German traders arrived in 1158 and established an outpost at Riga. With them, they brought (or more to the point: forced on) Christianity. A sub-branch of the Teutonic Order, the Livonian Order was established, and in 1225 Riga was granted city rights. In 1282 Riga joined the Hanseatic League, probably the base of the incredible wealth, which is still visible everywhere in the city. From 1561 to 1581 Riga was then a Free Imperial City, before coming under the rule of Sweden, which largest city is was until 1710. Riga was then annexed by Russia.During all these centuries the Germans in Riga remained in their dominant position, being the largest ethnic group (in 1867 about 43% of Riga's population was German) until replaced by Latvians in the mid-19th century. German was the official language until it was replaced by Russian in 1891. (And we had thought, the last old German city on this trip was Memel). Then Riga became also the centre of the Latvian National Awakening.
Houses which are lacking the real ornamented facade, have facades painted on in different colours, which makes it very nice to look at.
During WWI, the German army annexed Riga. At the end of WWI the Baltic States claimed independence and Riga became the capital of independent Latvia in 1918.During WWII Riga was first occupied by the Soviets and then by Nazi-Germany, then concentration camps were constructed outside Riga. At the end of the war, it was the Red Army again who occupied Riga. By then a large number of citizen were gone. Until the fall of the iron curtain many Russians migrated to Riga, changing its demographic composition significantly in favour of Russians.
The Captain found his favourite street name in the city!Besides the houses and churches the market in Riga is worth seeing. It is the largest market we have ever seen in Europe and takes partly place in 5 Zeppelin-halls, which have been bought in another place of pre-WW-Germany and moved to the side of the channel. Besides the area in the halls at least the same amount of space is used around the halls. Total area must be at least 10 football fields!
The independence of Latvia was restored in 1991 and since then the population of Riga has decreased continuously from more than 900 to 717 thousand people. One of the reason being, the emigration of Russians, who did not automatically became Latvians, when Latvia became independent. Therefore again the Latvians became the largest ethnical group in Riga (42% in 2007).Latvia is taking incredibly well care of its capital: Most of the houses are in supreme conditions, and if anything was destroyed during the WWs, it is not visible anymore. The whole inner city is full of beautiful old houses and churches, one next to the other, block after block after block. You won't find such a city in Germany. This investment seems to pay of: Riga is attracting tourists from all over the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with an unparalleled extensive Jugendstil Architecture - and you can see it!
The second day was mainly spend with shopping and more "WOWing" at fantastic houses. The first mate then wanted to visit the orthodox church. However, wearing shorts, she was not allowed in, which would have been perfectly understandable, if the woman in front, wearing a mini mini-skirt much shorter the the not-so-short shorts, would had to stay outside too, which was not the case. The god in Riga seems very selective. Time to leave and move on.
We left Riga around 0830 and searched for a fuel station on the way out. Big signs telling you where to find it - NO. Fuel station seems to be a hidden secret. When we found it, we also found out, that it was closed and our next harbour Salacgriva was not supposed to have any at all. After this fruitless experience we sailed and sailed and sailed all the way in wind changing from 13-8kn from SW-S and arrived around 1800.We have not said anything about the landscape lately, for one plain reason: the white sandy beach and the pine forest behind it continues. Since East-Germany nothing but beach and forest behind! Unbelievable. We spend part of our last winter vacation at a "Long Beach" in Asia. Then we did not really know, what a long beach is. The one here is just interrupted from time to time by a river, otherwise is stretches over COUNTRIES.
The city consists of some building blocks, a shop and 2 churches. For the night the forecast was near gale from 0300-0700, then decreasing.
The harbour in Salacgriva was managed by a young couple (brother and sister), and was just a quay in the river with electricity. No water, toilets or shower or Wi-Fi and to start with they wanted 1 Lats (1.40 €) per meter +VAT, meaning around 20 € in total and therefore more than in Copenhagen, Stralsund and Gdansk. We convinced them that this price was really unreasonable and agreed on a lower one. Besides us, two other boats were staying, a German and a Finish, no Baltic.
In addition there is a restaurant (no English spoken), and a beer garden ( the tent to the right).
Top wind speed during night was only 25 kts. and not the promised near gale, but it was bad enough and the quay was wobbling. The next morning we slept long and started relaxed into the day. The plan was to go to Pärnu, just 33nm away, like the Finish boat, which laid next to us. Until the moment the first mate consulted the map: Pärnu was actually quite a detour on our way to Tallinn. So we decided to go to Virtsu instead.
Heading out to get clear of the shallows, with the Finnish boat ahead.The wind was strong (20-26kts) and cold from S-SW and the waves were high. It did not take long before the first mate got sea sick, then one of the dogs threw up too, then again the first mate. The captain being the only one left standing and managing the boat. And he did it sooo well. Splendid sailing thru 1-2 m high waves at speed of up to 8-9 kts. In the end the wind decreased a bit and the sea was sheltered by an island, so that the waves decreased too and the rest of the crew became alive again. After 8-9h heavy sailing the destination Virtsu was reached.
During the trip the captain managed to escape the rain clouds which were forming all around us. However, in Virtsu when taking the dogs on a trip the first mate finally got wet - and now she wants to go HOME! The place here cannot be recommended. The quay for sailing boats is next to a very busy and noisy ferry quay. Toilets, shower and a cantina like restaurant, which serves quite basic food heated up in the microwave until 20:00 is in the ferry building. Wi-Fi is supposed to be here, but it seems the harbour master did not know the difference between a GPS and a router.
The rookie sailor's corner
During these rock'n roll trips at the open sea, it is an art to find the most comfy place, here are some of my favourites.
So there is no wonder, that the Wi-Fi was not working. A small town with about 1000 inhabitants and no restaurants (that's what we have been told) is about 2 km away, if the stray dogs allow you to pass. For this place again we had to pay 20 Euro! Just 20 m from the boat is the jetty for one of the 3 ferries, but of course it was not there when this picture was taken.
The other Estonian boat, which arrived with us, stayed only shortly and then continued directly to Tallin overnight, saving the harbour fee. We were the only sailing boat here, and if we had a larger crew and no dogs, we would have also not stayed. We made the decision to hurry out of this expensive place as fast as we can, visit Tallinn and then enjoy some natural, peaceful natural harbours in Finland. It is really no wonder, that there are so few sailing boats to be found travelling the Baltic countries, considering that the harbours i.e. in Germany are nicer and cheaper, and in Poland they are much, much cheaper.
4 h on engine - nothing really to write about. Most of the time it was raining, so it was quite unpleasant. The first mate wants to go home! However, she felt quite better after a long hot shower in the hotel next to the Marina: Shower, Toilet, electrify, water and internet and a nice quite harbour place for 10€. What more is there to ask for? SUNSHINE! YES, PLEASE, NOW! But we got quite some nice Fata Morganas on the way, here is Haapsalu floating in the air.
Haapsalu is a nice place to stop. The harbour is good and cheap, the city small and nice with castle, restaurants museums and plenty hotels. The sea mud here seems to have curative effect, which even caused Peter I of Russia to stay here. Unfortunately you have to go quite some distance on engine to get here, and the first mate was not very much impressed by the local food store.
The harbour fee is actually zero - you only pay for power and shower if needed, Wi-Fi is included. You even get fuel here (which we couldn't' get that in the last 4 harbours)! In Haapsalu the first mate took the dogs on a land trip combined with some shopping. While she was in the shop a heavy rain shower started and would not end until she arrived back - soaking wet, with two wet dogs. Just outside the shop she discovered some type of old city wall - does this place have an old history?Back on Welkin we found on Wikipedia: In 1279 Haapsalu became the centre of the Bishopric of Ösel-Wiek, which is again linked with the Teutonic Order. It remained that centre for 300 years. The wall near the shop was not a city wall, but belonged to the Episcopal castle, which has the largest single-nave cathedral in the Baltic states.So the next morning the first mate investigated the castle together with the two dogs, but without camera. The captain was not happy about that, so off she went for a third time, without dogs but with camera instead.
The rookie sailor's corner
So what?! I like to roll in the clover! How could I know that there was some brown, smelly, unmentionable stuff there?
We left late, but it was not a long way to go towards Dirham Sadam (Der hamn - the harbour :-). We had to motor out the fairways until we got to the Gulf of Finland, then we could sail in NW 20kts broad on the beam. The harbour is well protected, but just with strong NW winds the swells starts, and as one can see the swells are hitting the nice beach by the quays. So our night was not particular calm. You find a lot of places in Estonia called SADAM like Dirhami Sadam, nothing arabic, sadam means port.
Once more "Welkin" was witnessing a dramatic rescue at sea. The Estonian Border Control manages to get a line over to the distressed boat and get it back to safety to a relieved crowd at the quay!
From the harbour the only thing you see are pine trees, no houses and no village, but just behind the first rows of trees there are nice paths for the Second Dog to wander.
You find a lot of places in Estonia called SADAM like Dirhami Sadam, nothing Arabic, sadam means port. This port has Wi-Fi, fuel, outdoor bar/restaurant and Border Control.
Among the trees you suddenly bump into wooden houses and beautiful gardens
Only 300m from the harbour is this nice combined mini-supermarket and post office.
Beautiful sailing in NW 15-28kts, again broad on the beam and nice surfs up to 10kts. There is no harbour in the Tallinn City, the old harbour is taken over by huge cruise and passenger ships and blocking the access (and view) from the old city. No place for Welkin here.There is however a nice harbour complex , in the old Olympic city, just 6km outside the city. From there one can take the bus or walk along the coast towards the city.
When we arrived we received the usual useful information from the harbour master, including a map, but this time without a walk. The harbour costs about 20€/night. And: the harbour master switched on the sauna, so that was the place to find the first mate after she took the dogs on a walk. Really nice here, now she does not need to go home anymore.There are 2 harbours, we stayed at Kalev Yacht Club, which is furthest in and thus more protected from wind and swells. The other harbour, Top, is further away from the shopping mall and bus stop and more unprotected. In the Olympic city there are some boat chandlers and a liquor store.
Harbour days in Tallinn (Reval).
It rained. Around 10 we took the bus to the city, got off and it rained even more. It did not seem the right day for sightseeing. On and off the rain went. From the tourists information office in the city centre free guided tours are starting. But because of the rain, we did not join and stopped at a outdoor cafe instead. There were not many place were you could sit outside in the rain with the dogs. Reval has a very similar history to Riga, yet another old German city: In the 11th century a small wooden fortress was build, in the place where you have today's Tallinn. In the beginning of the 13th century Danes and Germans arrived and from 1219 the place belonged to the Danish King until he sold it to the Teutonic Knights in 1346. In 1230 the city Reval was founded, which joined the Hanseatic League as it northern most member and with a largely German population it became the most important city for the eastern trade. It was not until the mid-19th century that ethnic Estonians replaced the local Germans as the majority amongst the residents of Tallinn. From 1561 to 1710 Reval became a dominion of Sweden, then of Russia. In 1710 the plague reduced Reval to a city of 2.000 inhabitants. During this time the city retained more or less it autonomy, until The Magistracy of Reval was abolished in 1889. In 1918 the city was renamed to the Estonian name Tallinn and became capital of the independent republic of Estonia. Before WWII, Hitler relocated the German population from Tallinn allowing the Soviet Union to occupy it in 1940. In 1941 Nazi-Germany then occupied the city and murdered more or less all Jews in Estonia.
Then came the annexation by the Soviet Union in 1944 again, and only in 1991 became Estonia once again an independent republic with Tallinn as capital. The old German Hanseatic medieval town of Reval is very much intact and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site since 1997. Some restaurants and cafes are using the old name of the city Reval. It is here, where you can find the houses of the old guilds.
In addition the Domberg (cathedral hill) which was until 1877 a separate town with its own city wall is worth visiting. You can find here the old castle, a stunning Russian Orthodox cathedral from 1900 and the Dome Church, which once served Reval's nobles. The walls in the church display huge wooden coats of arms of these nobles. Taking pictures was not allowed - Sorry.
After the sight seeing trip the first mate and first dog walked back to the harbour. This trip is not really to be recommended: the seafront smells terrible! As you would expect with all the ferry boats and cruise ships the city is full of tourists from all over the world. We met a Swede who had a relative from Tallinn, complaining, that Estonian is not spoken in the city. The Estonians seem to be outnumbered by the crowds of tourists and the large Russian population. We wanted to leave on the 17th to Helsinki and did some extensive shopping in the morning. However, it turned 1400 and we still were there. Too much rain, wind, waves. So we stayed and the first mate used the sauna again. The evening was spend with Olli and Conny from Berlin, a young German couple on a 6 month sailing trip around the Baltic.
Started relatively early, could sail out in 10kts wind from west, but at soon as we left the coast, the wind disappeared and we had to rely on the iron genoa to cross the Gulf of Finland. On the way into the city we were passing of Suomenlinna (Sveaborg), a huge naval fortress build in 1748, when Finland was swedish to fortify the Russian frontier. It is build in star-fort-style, over 6 islands and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991. Today nearly a thousand people live here and the fortress is a popular tourist and picnic site.
We are back in the Nordic Countries: temperature is 14C, the sea with 15.5 C the coldest we have experienced so far. The landscape has changed dramatically: The never-ending beach has disappeared somewhere in Estonia. Instead islands popped up. After crossing over to the north the area is loaded with hundreds, if not thousands of islands. Absolutely fantastic!
After we arrived at the harbour, got the internet connection to work, we were off to a short sightseeing trip. We had both been to Helsinki before, on business. Therefore the sightseeing was relatively short.
Our first sight is the Orthodox church.
Helsinki is a relative new city: the Swedish King Gustav Vasa founded Helsingfors (now Helsinki) in 1550 as a rival to the Hanseatic city Reval (now Tallinn), which did not turn out a success. Wars, plague, poverty kept it a small town. When Sveaborg, the huge naval fortress was build, things improved and in 1809, when Russia annexed Finland, Helsinki became a major city and later the capital. The core of Helsinki is built in neoclassical style to resemble St. Petersburg.
You can see this style on the pictures: The core city is full of huge buildings with big surfaces. The roads are wide, and you do not want to be here in winter, with temperatures at -20 C and a wind blowing. In the Finnish Civil War 1918, German troops fighting on the side of the Finnish White Guard recaptured Helsinki from the Red Guard, which were supported by the Soviet Union. The victory of the White did not result in lasting peace: Between 1939-1944 Helsinki was attacked by Soviet bombers. However, the damage was minimal, compared to other places. The buildings are as proud and stout as the statue of the Finnish poet Eino Leino!
Today Helsinki is home to about 580.000 Thousand people, the greater Helsinki area constitutes of 25% of Finland's population (1.3 Million). The city is lacking the charm of the medieval Hanseatic cities on the other side of the Baltic. However, other things make up for it: According to UNICEF, Finland ranks fourth in the world in child well-being. In no other city have we found so many children playgrounds and DOG playgrounds, too - one next to our harbour. Very convenient. The industrial working hour is among the most expensive in the world, therefore it was no surprise to us, that the harbour here topped the one in Riga: 30 Euro/night.
In many ways Finland is totally different than the countries at the southern side of the Baltic: The Helsinki area is loaded with harbours and in less than a day we have seen more sailing boats than during a whole week in Poland and the Baltic states taken together. We have also seen more navigational marks than along the whole stretch from Poland to Tallin. The water supplied in the harbour has again proper drinking quality. When the first mate tried to drink the Polish water, she had to spit it out at once, and did not dare to try it in Kaliningrad or the Baltic states again. But here it is like back in Norway. Real good quality. While the population of the cities in the Baltic states are shrinking, here it is rising. The city feels clean, no waste baskets overflowing with empty vodka bottles, and plenty of biking paths. No stinky dirty sea water. No noisy wave-making motorboats running around in the harbour. The market is - compared to Riga or Kaliningrad, ridiculous small. It makes this up with prices about 2-5 times higher. The market hall is also quite small, but the food is displayed so tempting, that despite the high prices you are ready to sit down for a glass of white accompanied by small crab salad and a piece of bread with graved salmon - delicious northern European food, which we missed so much. And yes: the market hall is not only for shopping, but you can eat and drink here, too in a lovely atmosphere.