A Day in Riga, Latvia

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Black cats and cobblestone, gothic spires, a self-serve dumpling bar, and penthouse view of the city’s skyscape – we arrived at Riga, Latvia after saying our goodbyes to Tallinn, Estonia with renewed spirits and an eagerness to explore. 🇱🇻❤️

 

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The sky was overcast but unsurprisingly, Riga was still alive with life – tourist groups with tall flags and dslr cameras, local vendors selling wool mittens and winter wear, and then us, cozily wrapped under layers and layers of warm sweaters and oversized scarves, with our eyes wide open, trying to soak in everything before the day reached its conclusion.

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Out of the Baltic cities, Riga is the largest in population and is characterized by its Art Nouveau styled buildings, historical old town, and rustic cafes and wine shops. While walking through the Old Town, there was an air of elegance and tradition, as if we had suddenly stepped into a painting from five hundred years back.

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Adventures in Tallinn, Estonia

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Labas!! Hi friends, I’m Nysha, one of the social media and photography interns for this semester along with two other wonderful girls, Jemi and Ellen, who will be actively updating the Study Abroad Lithuania Instagram.

We will be sharing travel tips, food recommendations, and recaps about our quirky and spontaneous adventures to come and posting weekly on this blog! Last weekend, our group of 24 study abroads packed our bags (and many layers of warm clothing), then headed north towards Estonia…

After an overnight bus ride of nine hours, we awoke in Tallinn, Estonia to sunlight peaking through the windows – miles of forestry and farms transforming into the tall pastel buildings of Tallinn’s old town.

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Despite the long commute, we were energized by the lively streets of Tallinn (along with some needed cups of coffee) and even came across a street performer blowing iridescent soap bubbles.IMG_4288.jpg

The child within of all of us came out as students began running after rouge bubbles and trying to catch them in their hands before they disappeared into the quiet morning sky.

IMG_4424After a tour of the city, nine of us rented bikes and rode from the city park into the forest then to the sea and back. There is a bittersweet feeling when you know the moment is going to pass but you want it to linger a little longer. Under the 2 p.m. sun, wind tugging at our hair and the sound of waves crashing against the pier, I forgot about everything else just knowing that there was nothing between me and the sea – no distractions, cellphones, snapchat filters, or the bulky Canon camera hanging from my neck.

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Cuties haha!

Two hours of bike riding later, here we are with just the same amount of energy and smiles that we began with.

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At night, the streets were empty aside from the sound of our laughter and footsteps. The buildings were backlit with an orangish glow and the sky, a muted purple like the color of Xi’an, China in mid-January.

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I loved the stillness of the Tallinn at night – it’s the feeling that despite the busyness of work and school and worrying about the future, everything is going to be okay.

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(The next morning before leaving for Riga)

While others were exploring the morning antique markets, some of us were busy at the local bakery snacking on some sweets….  We grabbed some freshly baked pretzels and a strawberry cake bar and quickly devoured them on the way to the market.

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Twenty minutes before it was time to depart Tallinn, we finally did arrive at the antique market to admire the variety of vendors selling fishing gear, pins dating back to the Soviet era, dresses, and rusted household goods. The time was too short and with a last glance, we ran back to pick up our luggage from the hostel.

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Psalms 33:5 reads, “The earth is full of His unfailing love,” and I see it here in the midst of our travels. Thank you Tallinn for welcoming us during our short stay here,

– Nysha

 

 

 

 

Dear Future Travelers

Dear future travelers,

With just over 10 days left in the semester it’s time for the last blog post from yours truly! It’s been so much fun to share our experiences and memories with you as we explored Lithuania and invested four months in the culture here and beyond. I’ve made some of the best friends and memories in these months abroad and have changed in numerous ways as a result. If you’re at all considering coming to Lithuania for a semester, please do! Let me highlight a few last things.

When we first got here, the cultural differences were a little bit rocky and intimidating–Eastern Europe feels like a world of its own, so different at times from the States, that the first few days are overwhelming. You walk around and hear Lithuanian, Russian…basically everything but English everywhere you go. But after a few days to adjust, you learn how beautiful and peaceful that is. You learn how beautiful it is that you can communicate with people without verbal language.

After a few months of exploring Klaipėda–walking through the cobblestone roads of Old Town, spending hours in a coffee shop people watching out the window, restaurant hopping every night of the week to try all the traditional foods and drinks, and buying ketchup in the grocery store thinking it’s a jar of tomato sauce–you fall in love with the place you’re in. And, if you give it time, you fall in love with the people too. You learn that the experience isn’t an experience without the people, it’s just a mindless semester abroad.

No other study abroad program will push the limits of your comforts academically, spiritually, and personally as much as this one. Living with Eastern European roommates is a blessing, traveling to Russia, Latvia and Estonia as well as many other independent trips is the best lesson in cultural awareness you’ll ever get, and meeting the people here is life changing. To see God working in yourself and in those around you is the best gift you can receive from a semester spent anywhere–to take something with you and leave a part of you behind in its place–and I have never experienced that as genuinely and deeply as I have here. So, I promise, if you spend four months in Klaipėda you’ll quickly be ready to spend four years here next.

I have had the best semester of my college experience at LCC. As much as I miss my friends and family at home, and even good old Gordon College, I will miss LCC, Lithuania and the Eastern European vibe just as much. So my wish for you is that you take the risk and visit the most underrated part of the world–take the first step in changing your life and your world perspective. You won’t regret it! 🙂

Much love,
Caitlyn

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Final Video Projects

We have less than 2 weeks left in Lithuania, so almost every project or conversation is beginning to center around re-integration and what that will mean heading home. As a final assignment for our cross cultural seminar, the study abroads were all asked to make a group video showing their semester in 5 minutes and reflecting on what it meant to them. It was a pretty open-ended project and our class ended with five amazing (and tear-inducing) videos! We’d love to share them with you so you all can see our adventures and life-changing experiences! Check them out below! 🙂

5 Must-Do’s in Klaipėda

As the semester comes to an end, I have been in a panic trying to fit everything in that I want to see, do and eat in Klaipėda! Here’s a list of some must-do’s for your time here here so you don’t miss out on anything:

  1. Go to the Baltic. You can walk or run there fairly quickly, and there’s a bus that runs every 15 minutes from just down the road from LCC. It’s super easy and definitely something you don’t want to miss–especially at sunset!
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  2. Go for a walk in the woods. There’s a cute walking trail in the woods just a 15 minute walk down the road from LCC. If you’re in there at the right time you might even see a moose! But either way, it’s a quite and peaceful place to reflect on things or get some fresh air. A lot of us didn’t realize they were there until late in the semester and wished we had known sooner.

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3. Find the Klaipėda statues. There’s a list of cool statues to find throughout the city–a mouse, a ghost, and a bunch of other random animals/figures. One thing we’ve spent the past weeks doing is hunting them all down, so start early!

4. Get baby arms. WHAT? Yes, baby arms. There’s a bar in Old Town called Old Town Bar, and they have Old Town Fingers (Baby Arms) that are to die for! They’re cheese or chicken filled bread you dip in a spicy/garlic mayo sauce and they are heavenly. Trust me, you’ll start craving them.

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5. Donut Tree. Don’t question anything with the word ‘donut’ in it, just go. Find the shop, eat donuts, be happy.

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Klaipėda may seem like a small city in comparison to Boston, Chicago, and other cities we’re used to, but there are so many things to do that one semester is hardly enough time to scratch the surface. This is my top 5 bucket list (though there are SO many other things I could add in as well)! I’ve come to love this little city. 🙂

*Shout out to Luke from Messiah for winning our photo contest with 97 likes–thanks for voting!

Lithuanian word of the week: food – maistas

Tallinn & Riga Recap

Our last trip as a group was this past weekend to the other two Baltic capitals, Tallinn in Estonia and Riga in Latvia. It’s bittersweet to think that our semester comes to an end in less than 20 days! Time has FLOWN!

It’s funny to think about how our travel style has changed since the first day we landed in Lithuania–we got here wanting to see every big tourist attraction there was to see and check things off a bucket list we had. This trip felt more relaxed and “chill,” and we all spent more time investing in local places than the tourist traps. We went to a church service in Riga (in English) and got to experience that part of culture apart from going inside to say we say the inside of another cathedral we may or may not be able to differentiate from the rest in 5 years. We will remember this service and we will remember taking communion alongside the Latvian congregation. We went to a karaoke bar and just sat and talked for hours, occasionally making fools of ourselves with some singing and dancing! It was a nice change of pace from some of our other trips (which were also great, don’t get me wrong!). In Tallinn, we had a walking tour and got to walk around and had some free time to explore outdoor markets, coffee shops, etc and just get to know the quaint town on our own. One of the highlights of this trip was our visit to a medieval Estonian restaurant where we ate traditional food from that time period–the main course included bear, bore, elk and an assortment of other odds and ends. It was interesting but not as bad as some people thought it would be! 🙂 Both places were super cute and welcoming, but words don’t do them justice. So enjoy some photos from our weekend!

*Friendly reminder that our photo contest ends TOMORROW, so if you want to vote for your favorites head over to the Study Abroad Lithuania Facebook page and check out the album!

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