11-Day Guided Adventure to the Baltics and Saint Petersburg — the Rich Wonders of the Old World
We can’t fully explain why our international tours have so far drawn us to former Soviet republics (Armenia and Slovakia) and satellites (Cuba) but all of these places have fascinating histories, architecture, food, and culture, are less traveled than many other parts of the world, and each have a compelling story of renewal since the collapse of the Soviet Union. So once again, we’re off on an adventure to explore the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia (all former Soviet republics), and visit the regal and magical Russian city of St. Petersburg where, over 11 days, we’ll see and enjoy the rich cultural heritage, architectural marvels, food, music, art, and fascinating history of this part of the world. We are delighted to once again be traveling with Peter Blazicek, the excellent guide we engaged for our Slovakia tour and, making this an even more special trip, we’ll have the good company of fellow AARCH members and friends.
We hope you will join us!
Highlights from the Itinerary:
LITHUANIA – VILNIUS, TRAKAI, SIAULIAI
We begin our adventure in Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania. We will have some time to relax, stretch our legs with a nice walk around the Old City, and enjoy a warm welcome with wine and cheese with our guides.
Here, we’ll visit the city center’s rich architecture, church spires, and green space, including a walking tour of its Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture in the form of a Bishop’s Palace, the University (the oldest in the Baltics), and several historic churches. We will also witness the more challenging side of the city’s historic backdrop – the Holocaust Museum, preserved KGB torture chambers, and cemeteries where many who perished in wartime lay buried. Next, we will board a bus to Trakai and experience its enchanting lakeside castle. You will also have plenty of free time to explore the Old City on your own, then we will travel to the Hill of Crosses in Siauliai, where ordinary people placed roughly two million crosses of Russian and Soviet occupational regimes.
LATVIA – RIGA, GAUJA NATIONAL PARK
After our time in Lithuania, we will travel to Riga, the capital city of Latvia. The city boasts a vast number of unique Art Nouveau buildings, including 50 in the medieval part and over 300 in the rest of the city center. Here, we will embark on a walking tour of Riga’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’ll see St. Peter’s Church, the Three Brothers, and the Riga Cathedral. After our time here, we will visit the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum, one of the largest and oldest open-air museums in Europe, where we will see traditional farmsteads and dwelling houses belonging to farmers, craftsmen, artisans, fisherman, and others. Before leaving Latvia, we will visit the Gauja National Park, the country’s oldest and largest national park. Here, we will witness a variety of one-of-a-kind land-forms, natural springs, sandstone outcroppings, and other cultural and historic places dotting the park.
ESTONIA – PARNU, TALINN, LAHEMAA NATIONAL PARK
Travelling along the Gulf of Riga, we will head over the Latvian border into Estonia, where we will enjoy the sites, sounds, smells, and lunch at the seaside beach town of Parnu. After that, we will continue on to the Estonia’s capital and largest city, Talinn. We will enjoy a walking tour of the city’s Old Town, another UNESCO World Heritage Site exhibiting 13th century medieval walls and buildings, Hanseatic League-era gabled houses and hidden courtyards, the Luhike Jala Gate, and the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a gold-domed symbol of Russian power and influence here. You will also have plenty of free time to explore the Old City on your own. Talinn’s ancient churches, medieval streetscapes, merchants’houses, food, and culture will draw you in. Lastly, before leaving Estonia, we’ll stop at Lahemaa National Park, which features 7000 year old bogs, 18th century manor houses, dense forests, and the famed Jagala waterfalls.
To cap off our tour of the Baltics, we will experience the depths and architectural wonders in St. Petersburg, Russia. Through an early locally-guided walking tour, we will explore the city’s iconic sights, including visits to the Tsar’s Winter Palace, Nevsky Prospekt, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and the statue of Peter the Great, who transformed the city into an elegant metropolis. We will explore more deeply several other sites in the city, including the 18th century Peter and Paul Fortress, as well as the spectacular Hermitage Museum. This space features one of the largest and best art collections boasting pieces from da Vinci, Rembrandt, and the Adirondack region’s own Rockwell Kent. You will also have a full day of exploration on your own here followed by a group farewell dinner.
Registration Instructions, Pricing, & Deadlines
To Register: Express interest via email, or by mailing request to AARCH, 1745 Main St., Keeseville, NY 12944. Deadline for registration is February 28, 2020.
Please include a paragraph or two explaining why you are interested in this unique trip and about any previous international travel experience. If you have previously traveled with AARCH to Cuba or Armenia, there’s no need to include your past travel history. If there is a high volume of requests, we will choose tour participants via a lottery process and will inform participants by March 13, 2020.
Pricing: The total cost for this eleven-day adventure is $3,850 per person (based on double occupancy; please add an additional $700 for single occupancy). Airfare is NOT included; each traveler is responsible for his or her individual travel to Vilnius, Lithuania and from St. Petersburg, Russia. A one-time, tax-deductible $500 per person deposit is required by April 17, 2020.
- All hotel accommodations (4- and 5-star lodging)
- 10 Breakfasts, 7 Lunches, and 6 Dinners
- English Speaking Guide
- Entrance Fees for All Sites
- Bus and Shuttle Transportation
- 1-Year AARCH Membership
- Airfare to Vilnius, Lithuania and from St. Petersburg, Russia
- Single Supplement
- Personal Expenses
Why Travel with AARCH
Adirondack Architectural Heritage has organized and offered several hundred day-long and multi-day tours across the Adirondacks for over 25 years. In 2016, we made the leap into international travel by organizing an exciting and enlightening trip to Cuba. We took a group of intrepid members and friends to this country, little-known to Americans for decades, and were surprised and energized by what we learned and saw there (READ this blog from 2017 about our trip). Rolling on the success and excitement of this first trip, we organized a second adventure to Cuba in 2017, and then in 2018, we changed gears and brought a group of our members and friends to Armenia. This past year in 2019, we traveled to the off-the-beaten track country of Slovakia with an intrepid and enthusiastic group of close friends and members.
These trips are not only great opportunities to explore the rich diversity in architecture, culture, and landscapes that are found around the globe, they are also wonderful opportunities to make life-long friends. This unique travel experience allows you to explore new landscapes with a group of preservation- and architecture-minded individuals from diverse backgrounds. Plus, these trips directly support AARCH’s important and growing work here at home across the Adirondack region.