THE BALTIC CAPITALS - Talinn, Riga, Vilnius & much more
17 – 29 August 2012
with Mark Powell
PROVISIONAL COST: Including flights to Talinn, return from Vilnius, both via Helsinki, 12 nights accommodation in twin bedded rooms with breakfast & dinner at 3* and 4* hotels; all transport and touring by private coach, entrance fees, guided visits. £1745
EXTRAS: Insurance, Single room supplement £395, additional meals, tips.
The journey between the Baltic States capital cities: Tallinn in Estonia, Riga in Latvia and Kaunas (the pre-war capital) and Vilnius (post-war and present) in Lithuania is a delightful experience of overlapping waves of European architecture. The Baltic Germans created castles, brick built Hanseatic churches and classical manor houses. The 17th century Swedish Empire filled the churches with ebullient monuments and erected fine fortresses and a network of logbuilt wayside inns. The Russians of Tsarist days added vast palaces and onion-domed Orthodox churches. Between the two World Wars the fledgling Baltic States eagerly made their contribution with a flurry of public administration and entertainment edifices, many of which adapted in a quirky local style the latest expressionist and modernist ideas. Even the Soviets left a few fine buildings in their take on grandiose classicism. In addition to the capitals, we explore the Estonian University city of Tartu, with its odd multi-storey museum built in the chancel of a huge ruined church, and Cesis with its Grand Master's castle built by an order of German knights.
Day 1 Fly to Tallinn via Helsinki. Check in to hotel in Tallinn.
Day 2 We explore the old walled town of Tallinn, starting with the plateau with the castle and cathedral . The gothic cathedral has some of the best furnishings of any church in the Baltic, including elaborate and colourful hatchments and monumental tombs of a Scots and a Baltic German admiral. We can get a splendid view onto the lower town and peek inside the Russian Orthodox cathedral from Czarist times. In the afternoon we descend to St Nicholas Church-Museum and see its "Dance of Death" painting by Bernt Notke and excellent collection of ecclesiastical art. We also visit the town hall, the Holy Spirit church, the Estonian History Museum and Olav's church.
Day 3 We drive out of the city to see some Baltic German manor houses, stopping briefly at Sagadi with a rococo decor and continuing to the outstandingly restored Palmse, famous for its park, outbuildings and furniture. We return to Tallinn via the Skansen at Rocca Al Mare. In Tallinn we take an architectural walk including fortifications , town houses, the embassy district and the former Dominican monastery.
Day 4 We leave Tallinn to a hotel in Tartu, Estonia's original university town, stopping at Adavere, where there is a windmill that has been transformed into a cafe. On arrival we visit the university museum, picturesquely fitted into the chancel of a ruined gothic cathedral. We continue into the cobbled streets and squares of the centre.
Day 5 We leave Tartu for a hotel in Riga, capital of Latvia. We stop first at Sangaste, a brick house built in "Windsor Castle gothic" .
We go on to cross into Latvia and arrive at Cesis, once the headquarters of the German "Sword Brothers" Order of knights. We break for lunch and explore the ruined castle of the knights. We continue to The Sigulda park and the castle of Turaida, before arriving at Riga
Day 6 In Riga: we make our way into the old town centre via the "Swedish Gate", and visit the Cathedral and Town Museum in its former cloister. We pass the palace used by Peter the Great, visit the reconstructed House of The Black Heads, used by young Hansa merchants and enter the museum of Applied arts. We also visit the Art Museum passing the the line of moated bastions which are now a park with the freedom Monument and Orthodox Cathedral.
Day 7 We make an excursion to Kurland, a province within Latvia with two extraordinarily large palaces of the Kurland dukes. After a brief stop at Bauske with its castle and church of the Holy Ghost, we make a visit to the Vast summer palace of Rundale, built on the model of those in St Petersburg. We go on to the winter palace at Jelgava. The interior is not preserved, but there is the remarkable crypt of the dukes' tombs. On return to Riga, we stop at the bridge for a view onto the city.
Day 8 We drive north to the "Brothers Cemetery", with its sculptural ensemble of soldiers one of the most important artistic achievements in the Baltic. We also visit the Skansen of Latvian rural architecture. We return to the city via the biggest concentration of National Romantic/Art Nouveau " houses. We continue with the church of St Peter, the southern part of the old town and the unique market in a series former Zeppelin hangars.
Day 9 We leave Riga for a one night stay in Kaunas, the interwar capital of Lithuania, stopping at Siauliai to see the famous Hill of Crosses. In Kaunas we see the remains of the castle, St George's church, the Town hall, guild houses, cathedral, Perkunas House, Vytautas church and do an architectural walk of the New Town.
Day 10 We leave Kaunas for Vilnius, first making a visit to the baroque church of Pazaislis. In Vilnius we visit the Applied Arts Museum in the old arsenal, and see the nearby cathedral, and the exquisite brick Gothic church of St. Anne, together with the nearby Bernardine church.
Day 11 In Vilnius. We start at the Gate of Dawn, a very important Catholic shrine, always busy with pilgrims from Eastern Europe, especially Poles. We look in at the Orthodox churches of the Holy Spirit and the Trinity, the town hall, the Casimir church. We enter the University with its beautifully muralled bookshop, its observatory and baroque church of St John. We also walk the oldest streets of the town, with gothic merchant houses and baroque palaces and see the centre of government, the former czarist Governor's Palace.
Day 12 In the morning we drive to Trakai, to visit the island castle, reached by a wooden causeway, which is also a branch of the National Museum of Applied Arts . In Trakai we see the houses and place of worship of the Karaite minority, whose culture shares elements of Jewish and Moslem faiths. On return to Vilnius we visit the completely stuccoed church of Peter and Paul, with hundreds of modelled figures.
Day 13 Fly home via Helsinki