Baltics Small Group Escorted Tour: Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania
An escorted small group tour to the Baltic States of Europe that explores the key destinations of this region starting in Berlin, then making its way through Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and concluding in St. Petersburg. Each day has scheduled itineraries supported by local guides who share knowledge and authentic experiences of the places visited. This is small group travelling to the Baltics for like minded people.
- 1. In Berlin visit the Reichstag, Brandenberg Gate, and remnants of the Berlin Wall.
- 2. Visit Russia’s old Imperial Capital of St. Petersburg. Tour the Imperial Palace, and see the Hermitage Museum.
- 3. In Vilnius, explore the remnants of the Communist era including the KGB museum.
- 4. Tour includes some 16 days with local guides sharing their knowledge as we visit some 40 places together.
|27 September 2022 |
Ends 17 October 2022 • 21 days
|11 May 2023 |
Ends 31 May 2023 • 21 days
|26 September 2023 |
Ends 16 October 2023 • 21 days
|10 May 2024 |
Ends 30 May 2024 • 21 days
|25 September 2024 |
Ends 15 October 2024 • 21 days
Small Group Tour of the Baltic states
This Baltic small group tour for senior and mature travellers examines how Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania have developed historically and culturally since the 1980s. The Baltic tours group formed for each guided tour is typically made up of senior travellers, be they couples or solo travellers who are interested in learning as they explore the Baltic countries. The adoption of change and integration into Europe and Scandinavia has been an important transition. This small group tourexplores the way our destinations flex their economic muscles, continuing to become a focus of interest for the rest of the world. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent reunification of Germany bound the region into the engine of the European economy. Rarely, though, have any places been comprised of so many differing ideologies, peoples, and languages: German, Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, and Finn. It is this diversity that makes the Baltic nations small group tour so fascinating.
Baltics Small Group Tour Itinerary & Highlights
The Baltic small group escorted tour explores the diverse histories of the Baltic countries, and influences on, the countries that make up the Baltic state. During this fully escorted tour you study how each of the Baltic republics is making the most of its different form of independence. This group tour with a tour leader covers the history of the Baltic region, seeking to show how it has developed since the 1980s. We also recognise the events and significant places associated with the Second World War and the Baltic nation relationship with the former Soviet union and Moscow. We visit many significant places following the seaboard of Northern Europe that contributes to our overall understanding of world history in the last century.
We stop in 8 places and 7 countries over the 21 days. We travel through Germany , Poland , Latvia , Estonia , Lithuania , Finland and Russia . This Baltic tours group has some 16 days on a escorted tour with local guides who share their knowledge of each of our destinations with the group often as part of a managed walking tour through the cobbled streets of the old town of the Baltic capitals and significant places along our way.
Germany is one of Europe’s largest countries and the second most populous European state after Russia. The country is now known as an economic powerhouse and the biggest force in the European Union, but it has a turbulent and complex history: from tribes to loosely connected sovereign states, monarchs, a short lived republic, the Third Reich, the divide of East and West Germany and reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This rich history is especially on display in Berlin, the starting point for our Baltic tours group. We’ll spend a day learning about the modern history of the city and Nazi Germany, as well as visiting the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate, remnants of the Berlin Wall and more.
Poland lies at the heart of the European continent, between Western and Eastern Europe, and because of that, the country’s history is full of wars, invasions, occupations, partitions, and ever-changing borders. They finally gained independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union and was the first post-communist country to reach its pre-1989 GDP levels thanks to a booming economy. Memories of the turbulent history are visible all over the country, but Poland also made great efforts to preserve and restore its monuments. Our tour takes us to Warsaw and its Old Town, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its unique architectural style.
Melding pristine nature and historic cities, Lithuania is a nation with a truly unique history and culture. The Baltics region has always been a clash zone between Russia, Western Europe and Scandinavia, and the country often struggled to maintain its independence. Finally being able to leave the Soviet Union in 1991, the country successfully converted to a market economy, joined the EU and the Schengen Area and adopted the Euro as its currency. The capital city, Vilnius, is a baroque masterpiece, dotted with churches and cathedrals, while the power of medieval Lithuania is tangible at the looming Trakai Castle. And Lithuania is also a natural wonderland, home to pristine beaches on the Baltic coastline and a lakeland seemingly designed for summer boating, kayaking, and berrying, and we’ll be able to see the best of the country during the next leg of our trip, as we stay in Vilnius and make daytrips to nearby attractions and monuments.
Latvia is one of Europe’s hidden gems, despite the fact that the history of the country has been one of centuries of foreign rule, invaded by Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Poland-Lithuania and Russia through the years. Latvia finally declared its independence in 1991 (just as all the other Baltic countries) and been on the rise since then, successfully converting to a market economy, and joining the EU to strengthen their Western ties rather than Russians. We pause in Latvia in the second of the Baltic capitals, Riga. The capital city, Riga has a cosmopolitan atmosphere with a distinct and well-preserved historic quarter. It is home to architectural jewels both medieval and modern, including the 13th century RigaCathedral and the world’s most extensive collection of Art Nouveau architecture, and we all get to see it often on a walking tour with a local guide through the old town as we continue to make our way North. Outside the capital, Latviacan claim some of Europe’s most pristine landscapes, including dense forests contrasted with beautiful sandy beaches.
Estonia is often labelled as the ‘most Scandinavian’ Baltic state as it is the northernmost and culturally the closest to Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. It is also the smallest of the three Baltic republics, but it embraced modern times the best: faced with the struggle of adapting economically after the fall of the Soviet Union, Estonian leaders saw the fledgling internet as an opportunity for a small country to make a mark, and put considerable resources into getting Estonia online. The country became a tech hot spot when Skype was invented here, and anyone can become an e-resident of the country to found a 100% paperless e-company within minutes. The capital, Tallinn itself will take visitors on an amazing journey through time: the Old Town with its castles, domes and spires mixing with cafés, restaurants and start-up hubs, and we’ll have plenty of time to explore this blend.
Influenced by Russia and Scandinavia, yet maintaining its own distinct culture, Finland is one of Europe’s most intriguing countries though sits outside the Baltic tour. Even though they’re sharing 700 years of history with Sweden, Finns often pride themselves in not being Scandinavian due to their different origins, and most notably, their distinctively different language that is only one of the 6 in Europe not part of the Indo-European language family. They are also the only Nordic country to join the Euro zone. After World War 2 Finland managed to maintain its independence and have a market economy despite some very strong ties to the Soviet Union, and achieved rapid growth, building one of the most extensive welfare states. Finnish education is also world-famous and often cited as a role model by other countries. The capital, Helsinki, is a showcase for architecture both old and new. Under the Russian rule, it was built in a neoclassical style, modelled off the then Russian capital, St. Petersburg. At the turn of the 20th century, Finnish architects inspired by the nationalist movement designed in art nouveau style, incorporating influences from Finnish folklore and nature into the ornate style. And we’ll spend a day exploring the best of this mix.
We finish our Baltic tour in Russia, the world’s largest country, spanning 11 time zones and bordering 16 countries, spread over a vast expanse of eastern Europe and northern Asia. It extends from the Baltic Sea in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east. To the north is the Arctic Ocean, and down south is the Black Sea and the Caucasus. Russia’s huge territory incorporates a wide range of environments and landscapes, evident on a ride on the Trans-Siberian Railway: the landscapes change as the train moves across Siberia. If Siberia were a country in itself, it would be the largest country by area at 13.1 million square kilometres (5,100,000 sq mi), and it accounts for 77% of Russia’s total land area.
We’ll take the train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg , labelled as Russia’s most European city. In Saint Petersburg and have plenty of time to view the most famous iconic sights and attractions, such as the Hermitage Museum, Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and Catherine’s Palace and enjoy a canal cruise as well. This small group spends the last 3 nights in Saint Petersburg, our tour guide will ensure we see city's iconic sights as part of the city tour program. The tourconcludes with a farewell dinner in one of the Saint Petersburg restaurants chosen.
If you're interested in learning more about the Baltics and this classic Baltic tour, we prepared a Baltics State Guide, and the article on their history. You can learn more about each country this tour visit with our profiles: Germany, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland and Russia.
For more details about this Odyssey Traveller tour, click the ‘Top 5’ or ‘Itinerary’ buttons above! If you’re keen to experience this tour, please call or send an email. Or, to book, simply fill in the form on the right hand side of this page.
Day 1: Berlin
Accommodation: Abba Berlin or similar
Upon arrival in Berlin, we will transfer to our hotel individually. Suggested arrival at our hotel is no later than 16:00 pm. In the evening, we have an orientation tour of central Berlin, before enjoying a welcome dinner with complementary wine.
Berlin was founded as a small provincial town, but became the militaristic capital of the Prussian state. Its standing grew with the rise of the national socialist party, until Berlin was the much-maligned capital of Nazi Germany. Defeat meant that Berlin became a divided city and it is remembered by many for the wall that ran through the city’s heart. It also conjures up the many, often suicidal, attempts to escape from east to west. In the post-communist era, Berlin is now the new capital of the united and democratic Germany.
Day 2: Berlin
Accommodation: Abba Berlin or similar
We will see icons and monuments in Berlin today, including the Reichstag dome, Checkpoint Charlie, the victorious Brandenberg Gate, the Reichstag, and the Kaiser Willhelm Memorial Church, which was left as a bombed ruin to remind people of the ravages of the Second World War. We also see the site of the former Democratic Republic’s Parliament and the city’s ancient cathedral. With our local guide we also visit Alexanderplatz. We enjoy a group dinner in the evening.
Day 3: Berlin
Accommodation: Abba Berlin or similar
Today we will travel to Potsdam, where a our local guide will take us through the Prussian Palace of Sanssouci as well as Cecilienhof palace. We stop to view the Russian and Dutch villages as well as the Gleinicke bridge (a site of spy exchanges during the Cold War). We enjoy dinner in a local restaurant.
Day 4: Warsaw
Accommodation: 3 nights at Hotel Leonardo Royal or similar.
After breakfast, we take the train from Berlin to Warsaw. After arriving in Warsaw in the afternoon, the rest of your day is at leisure. We meet again for dinner at the hotel. Poland has long suffered from the vicissitudes of war as its geographical location on the flat northern European Plain means that it has acted as a thoroughfare for great armies of Europe. From Swedish invasions to the north, to Napoleonic armies from the west, the Grand Duchy, and later Kingdom of Poland, never benefited from great periods of peace. The latest occupation by the Soviets followed an almost complete destruction of the city of Warsaw by bombing raids. It took the efforts of Solidarity to commence the removal of the Soviet forces from Polish territory. Warsaw, therefore, is a completely reconstructed city rebuilt from medieval plans and follows the painstaking paintings of the Italian artist Canaletto.
Day 5: Warsaw
Accommodation: Hotel Leonardo Royal similar.
After breakfast, a local guide will take us on a tour of Warsaw. We will visit the mains sites of the city, including the Palace of Culture and Science, a gift to the city from Stalin. During De-Stalinisation in the 1950s, after the dictator’s death, any reference to Stalin (including his name in the title) was removed from the building. We take time to visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum that focuses on events of 1944, followed by a trip to the regal Wilanow palace and gardens. During the afternoon, you may explore the city at your leisure. We have dinner together at the hotel.
Day 6: Warsaw
Accommodation: Hotel Leonardo Royal or similar.
For our third day in Warsaw we will first travel to the Royal Castle, a shell of a building made from contributions from the Polish people around the world, which stands in contrast to the the Wilanow palace viewed the day before. We will then visit the Historical Museum and learn about Poland’s greatest cultural hero, the composer Chopin. We enjoy a recital of his most famous works a the Archidiocese museum, which will offer a unique insight into Poland’s cultural history.
Day 7: Mikolajki
Accommodation: Hotel Mikolajki or similar.
As we journey across Poland to the Baltic states, we stop along the way to view historical sites and natural wonders of regional Poland. The first stop is at the Treblinka memorial, on the site of the infamous concentration camp. We then travel to the Polish lake district to the very pretty town of Mikolajki. We take a cruise around the the lake. Tonight, we stay in a hotel overlooking the lake. Mikolajki is a very small place, but it is beautiful and the perfect place for a pleasant stroll.
Day 8: Mikolajki
Accommodation: Hotel Mikolajki or similar.
Now an excursion in the area, first to the marvellous baroque church at Swieta Lipka – the interior is astonishing. Additionally, the Roman Catholic church was an important part of the people’s resistance to communism. Then, in the afternoon we continue to Ketryzn and a trip to the infamous Wolf’s Lair. Now a collection of ruins hidden away in the forest, Hitler spent more time here than in Germany during WWII. We enjoy dinner together at the hotel tonight
Day 9: Vilnius
Accommodation: 3 nights at the Novotel Vilnius or similar.
We continue our journey across the countryside to Vilnius. We make a couple of stops to break the journey. One of these stops today is at the Grutas park – it has lots of old Soviet era statues and other memorabilia. The owner made his fortune in the post-Soviet era, but wanted to create something to remind people of the repressive past. We enjoy dinner as a group this evening.
Day 10: Vilnius
Accommodation: Novotel Vilnius or similar.
Lithuania is the southernmost Baltic state and in some ways the most vibrant. Along with its neighbour, Poland, it once shared an empire stretching to the Black Sea. Like Poland, it harnessed the devout faith in Roman Catholicism to strive for independence from the Soviet Union. Vilnius is the historic and lively capital of Lithuania and is often regarded as the greenest of the Baltic capitals. It has winding medieval streets and many fine Baroque and classical buildings. We will learn about Lithuania’s history and culture, as well as its economic and political situation, with an introductory lecture on the country and its capital. We take time out to stand on the Stebuklas (Miracle) paving slab near the cathedral – this site marks the end of a two million person, hand-to-hand human chain that spanned 650 kms, from Tallinn to Vilnius. This remarkable event took place in 1989, and represented the locals’ protest for their freedom from the Soviet Union. We will follow up with a visit to Vilnius’s KGB Museum, to further understand the country’s fascinating but complex relationship with its own past. We will then head out of the city center, and sample Lithuania’s rich heritage with a guided tour of the 13th century castle of Trakai. We enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 11: Vilnius
Accommodation: Novotel Vilnius or similar.
We will take a full day tour of Kaunas, a city which includes a former Nazi Camp. Kaunas is the former Lithuanian capital (founded in the 13th century) and it is often considered to be more “Lithuanian” than Vilnius.
Day 12: Riga
Accommodation: Radisson Blu Elizabete Hotel or similar.
En route to Riga, we will stop off at the Hill of the Crosses in Sauliai. We then cross over into Latvia, where our first stop will be a guided tour of the fine 18th century Baroque Palace of Rundale and its famous gardens. From Rundale we head straight to Riga. Latvia lacks Estonia’s close proximity to Western Europe, and Lithuania’s fame achieved on its path to independence. But Riga has always been the Baltic States’ major metropolis. In lieu of the picture postcard appeal of Tallinn or Vilnius, it has a distinctive cosmopolitan atmosphere, and a well-preserved Historic Quarter. During the 1930s, the city was the West’s major post for listening in to “the Russian Bear” to the east. It was a thrumming mix of diplomats, traders and intrigues, earning it the accolade, “the Paris of the East.” Later, we enjoy dinner at the hotel.
Day 13: Riga
Accommodation: Radisson Blu Elizabete Hotel or similar.
In the morning we will visit some of Riga’s most iconic sites. We will see the facade of the Blackheads House, a 14th century guild hall which was recently renovated, before visiting St. Peter’s church and the iconic Cathedral. We will finish at the Art Nouveau museum, which offers some context to Riga’s iconic architecture, most of which dates to the decade before world war one. We will then visit the Baltic Sea resort of Jurmala, where we will have lunch at a local restaurant and a guided tour of the city, before returning to Riga in the evening.
Day 14: Tallinn
Accommodation: Radisson Blue Olympia or similar.
Today we travel onto to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. En route, we visit Sigulda Castle and Turaida castle, before heading on to Talinn. We have dinner together at the hotel.
Day 15: Tallinn
Accommodation: Radisson Blue Olympia or similar.
This morning, we learn about Estonia’s history and culture, as well as its economic and political situation, with an introductory lecture on the country and its capital. Estonia is the most northerly of the three Baltic States, and the most Scandinavian in atmosphere. Ethnically, the Estonians and Finns are cousins, and with Estonia just 80 kilometres across the Gulf of Finland from Helsinki, the country is creeping socially and economically closer week by week to the western-style economy of Finland. Tallinn has an aura of the 14th and 15th centuries, with its jumble of medieval walls and turrets, spires, and winding cobbled streets. We will experience the history and architecture of Tallinn with a guided walk of the city. Our walking tour includes a visit to the Dome Cathedral, views of the Town Hall, and St. Nevsky Russian Cathedral. We also benefit from a fascinating insight into the rural economy of Estonia, with a visit to the open-air ethnographic museum. We enjoy dinner as a group this evening.
Day 16: Talinn
Accommodation: Raddisson Blu Olympia or similar.
Today is set aside as a free day. You may explore beautiful Talinn at your leisure.
Day 17: Helsinki
Accommodation: Hotel Sokos Helsinki or similar
We travel to Helsinki by ferry. Finland is a large country with friendly people, pristine nature, and interesting culture. It is usually considered a Scandinavian country, a categorisation based on geographic proximity that ignores Finland’s unique character. Finland has shared almost 700 years of history with Sweden, but the Russian tradition has also been a strong influence in the East. The Finns have one of the longest traceable tenancies and have stubbornly resisted servitude or eviction. However, the blooming of Finnish nationalism was late and delicate. Helsinki is a small and intimate city with buildings designed by C. L. Engel, who had been responsible for much of the work in St. Petersburg. There is a half day tour of Helsinki organised for the group. We take briefly to the water for a short archipelago cruise. We see the Suomenlinna fortress, then, winding through the small islands, glimpse the waterside homes of the more wealthy Finns. Dinner is provided tonight.
Day 18: St. Petersburg
Accommodation: Radisson Sonya hotel or similar or similar.
In the morning we will travel by train from Helsinki to St Petersburg. If Moscow is Europe’s most Asiatic capital, St. Petersburg is Russia’s most European city. It was created by Peter the Great as his “window on the west”, at the only point where traditional Russian territory meets a seaway to northern Europe. It was built with 18th and 19th century pomp and orderliness by mainly European architects. The result is a city that reminds us of Europe’s most beautiful metropoleis, relatively untouched by Stalinist reconstruction. A group dinner is provided this evening.
Day 19: St Petersburg
Accommodation: Raddisson Sonya hotel or similar.
We learn about recent Russian history and culture with an introductory lecture on St. Petersburg. We also experience the extravagance of Russian architecture with a visit to Catherine’s Palace. We experience the history and architecture of St. Petersburg with a guided walk of the city, including a visit to the Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and Catherine’s Palace. We enjoy a group dinner in the hotel this evening.
Day 20: St Petersburg
Accommodation: Raddison Sonya or similar
Today, we experience a full day tour of St. Petersburg including a short canal cruise. Since St Petersburg is built on many small islands, this cruise reveals parts of the city that are usually hidden. This makes it a very interesting – and relaxing – travel option in a busy city. This afternoon we visit Peterhof. We travel as the architect intended, across water. The palace was designed to impress those arriving this way and it most certainly does as you walk along the landing and up past all the fountains and waterfalls. The inside of the palace is not so startling, as it was destroyed in WWII, but it is still a great visit. On our return by coach we visit the superb Hermitage Museum. Our group dinner this evening includes a Russian folklore show.
Day 21: St Petersburg
Our tour concludes after breakfast in St Petersburg
- Group size is limited to a maximum of 12 participants.
Includes / Excludes
What’s included in our Tour
- 20 nights accommodation.
- 20 breakfasts, 1 lunch, and 15 dinners.
- Applicable entry fees and services of local guides.
- Touring by comfortable and modern coach and rail services.
- Service charges and gratuities.
- Services of an Odyssey Tour Leader.
- Detailed tour information booklet.
What’s not included in our Tour
- International airfares and departure taxes.
- Comprehensive travel insurance.
- Meals not specified in the itinerary.
- Items of a personal nature.
- Visa processing fees.
Participants must be able to carry their own luggage, climb and descend stairs, be in good health, mobile and able to participate in 3-5 hours of physical activity per day, the equivalent of walking / hiking up to 8 kilometers per day on uneven ground.
Make it a private tour
Easing your journey
Crossing international borders with restrictions
The list of requirements to travel internationally has changed and will continue to change for several years. Odyssey is here to assist you in managing your way through these requirements:
For more information see our Crossing international borders with restrictions page.
Book With Confidence
If less than 30 days before your tour starts you are unable to travel as a result of Government travel restrictions, Odyssey Traveller will assist you with a date change, provide you with a credit or process a refund for your booking less any non-recoverable costs.
See Terms and conditions for details.
Peace of Mind Travel
The safety of our travellers, tour leader, local guide and support staff has always been our top priority and with the new guidelines for public health and safety for keeping safe for destinations around the world, we’ve developed our plan to give you peace of mind when travelling with us.
See Peace of Mind Travel for details.
The Baltic States tour was very interesting and informative. The local guides were very good, the food lovely and the locals were friendly. Peter G. May '19
Continue to be very happy with Odyssey: people, places and systems. After five excursions with you it remains truly a privilege - keep up the good work. Erin L. May '19
The Baltic States tour was very interesting and informative. The local guides were very good, the food lovely and the locals were friendly. Peter G. May'19
Continue to be very happy with Odyssey: people, places and systems. After five excursions with you it remains truly a privilege - keep up the good work. Erin L. May '19
The tour to the Baltic countries was a marveallous experience. In perfect weather we saw an amazing variety of scenery and so many interesting palaces, churches etc . The local guides were particularly informative and so happy and proud to tell us so much of the history and culture of their own country. Participant 2018
Berlin is a great city to navigate and experience its history, museums and galleries. The Baltic lakes, forests and cities with their old towns were beyond our expectations in terms of scenery and culture. St Petersburg is a spectacular city, we were pleased we added a couple of extra days to the end of the tour. Participant 2018
Reading List Download PDF
A History of the Baltic States
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania experienced a sequence of foreign regimes, including Nazism and communism, before recovering their independence and joining the European Union. Clearly and accessibly written, this book is one of the first to provide a general overview of their histories from the stone age to the present using a comparative approach.
'Winner of the Baltic Assembly Prize in Literature, 2011, Kasekamp has produced a detailed but readable synthesis of the most current literature, which all scholars venturing into the field should consult as a point of departure. An educated general reading public - with some familiarity with European history - should also find this book of value, as an introduction to a strategically important region with a complex history. As a textbook, it supersedes most others, though its meticulous style and content makes it more suitable for advanced undergraduates and beyond.' - The English Historical Review
'Kasekamp's book is an innovative, comprehensive and balanced treatment of the history of all three Baltic States. Starting from the earliest times and taking the narrative up to the present day, it shows how developments in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia both diverge and intertwine. There is no better book to introduce the student to the fascinating story of the Baltic region.' - Professor James White, University of Glasgow, UK
'Required reading for all persons interested in Estonian, Latvian or Lithuanian history. Kasekamp's command of the scholarly literature is unsurpassed.' - Guntis Smidchens, Assistant Professor of Baltic Studies, University of Washington, USA
'A History of the Baltic States is an excellent publication opening the history of the eastern Baltics to the English-speaking audience. It is concise, well-written, and made with professionalism and competence.' - ERR News
'Andres Kasekamp's graceful history of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia is an excellent guide to the history of the three Baltic States.' - Russiaprofile.org '...an excellent up-to-date summary of the main issues and the accompanying secondary literature that will be an invaluable resource for teaching...The book can be highly recommended as an accessible historical introduction for anyone wishing to visit the region.' - David J. Smith, University of Glasgow, Europe-Asia Studies Read an interview with the author here
By Andres Kasekamp
The Baltic: A New History of the Region and its People
In this long-needed history of the peoples and nations surrounding the Baltic Sea, we pass through the legendary castles of Elsinore and Halsingborg to enter a unique landscape and culture.
Alan Palmer traces the history of the Baltic region from its early Viking days and its time under the Byzantine Empire through its medieval prime when the Baltic Sea served as one of Europe’s central trading grounds. Palmer addresses both the strong nationalist sentiments that have driven Baltic culture and the early attempts at Baltic unification by Sweden and Russia. The Baltic also dissects the politics and culture of the region in the twentieth century, when it played multiple historic roles: it was the Eastern Front in the First World War; the setting of early uprisings in the Russian Revolution; a land occupied by the Nazis during the Second World War; and, until very recently, a region dominated by the Soviets. In the twenty-first century, increasing attention has been focused on the Baltic states as they grow into their own in spite of growing neo-imperialist pressure from post-Soviet Russia. In The Baltic, Alan Palmer provides readers with a detailed history of the nations and peoples that are now poised to emerge as some of Europe’s most vital democracies.
By Alan PalmerAmazon
The Baltic: A History
In this overview of the Baltic region from the Vikings to the European Union, Michael North presents the sea and the lands that surround it as a Nordic Mediterranean, a maritime zone of shared influence, with its own distinct patterns of trade, cultural exchange, and conflict. Covering over a thousand years in a part of the world where seas have been much more connective than land, The Baltic: A History transforms the way we think about a body of water too often ignored in studies of the world’s major waterways.
The Baltic lands have been populated since prehistory by diverse linguistic groups: Balts, Slavs, Germans, and Finns. North traces how the various tribes, peoples, and states of the region have lived in peace and at war, as both global powers and pawns of foreign regimes, and as exceptionally creative interpreters of cultural movements from Christianity to Romanticism and Modernism. He examines the golden age of the Vikings, the Hanseatic League, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, and Peter the Great, and looks at the hard choices people had to make in the twentieth century as fascists, communists, and liberal democrats played out their ambitions on the region’s doorstep.
With its vigorous trade in furs, fish, timber, amber, and grain and its strategic position as a thruway for oil and natural gas, the Baltic has been―and remains―one of the great economic and cultural crossroads of the world.
By Michael North
Latvia: A Short History
The history of the Latvian people begins some four and a half millennia ago with the arrival of the proto-Baltic Indo-Europeans to northern Europe. One branch of these migrants coalesced into a community which evolved a distinctive and remarkably robust culture and language, and which eventually developed into a loose federation of tribal kingdoms that stretched from the shores of the Baltic sea to the upper Dniepr river. But these small independent kingdoms were unable to resist the later invasion of the Teutonic Knights in 1201, an invasion that initiated nearly eight hundred years of helotry for the Latvians in their own domains.
In the centuries of domination by successive European powers that followed, the inhabitants nonetheless preserved a powerful sense of identity, fostered by their ancient language, oral literature, songs and customs. These in turn informed and gave impetus to the rise of national consciousness in the nineteenth century and the political activities of the twentieth which brought the modern nation-state of Latvia into being. This book traces the genesis and growth of that nation, its endurance over centuries of conquest and oppression, the process by which it achieved its independence, and its status as a member of the European community in the twenty-first century.
By Mara Klanins
Baltic Facades: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania since 1945
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are often grouped together as the Baltic States, but these three Eastern European countries, tied together historically, are quite different. Although each is struggling to find its place within Europe and fighting to preserve its own identity, the idea of the Baltic States is a façade. In this book, Aldis Purs dispels the myth of a single, coherent Baltic identity, presenting a radical new view of the region.
Baltic Façades illuminates the uniqueness of these three countries and locates them within the larger context of European history, also revealing the similarities they share with the rest of the continent. He also examines the anxiety the people of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania feel about their own identities and how others see them. Giving equal weight to developments in politics, economics, and social and cultural trends, he places contemporary events in a longer perspective than traditional Cold War-inspired views of the region, tracing the countries under Soviet rule after the end of World War II through their declarations of independence in the early 1990s and their admission to the European Union in 2004. Baltic Façades is an enlightening look at these three separate, though related, Eastern European countries.
By Aldis Purs
The Edge of the World: A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe
Saints and spies, pirates and philosophers, artists and intellectuals: they all criss-crossed the grey North Sea in the so-called "dark ages," the years between the fall of the Roman Empire and the beginning of Europe's mastery over the oceans. Now the critically acclaimed Michael Pye reveals the cultural transformation sparked by those men and women: the ideas, technology, science, law, and moral codes that helped create our modern world.
This is the magnificent lost history of a thousand years. It was on the shores of the North Sea where experimental science was born, where women first had the right to choose whom they married; there was the beginning of contemporary business transactions and the advent of the printed book. In The Edge of the World, Michael Pye draws on an astounding breadth of original source material to illuminate this fascinating region during a pivotal era in world history.
By Michael Pye
Baltic Lenin: A journey into Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania's Soviet past
The fall of the Soviet Union marked a new era of independence for the Baltic states. But what remains of the former Soviet Union in this tiny corner of northeastern Europe?
With humor and compassion, travel writer Keith Ruffles tells his story of visiting the little-known countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. On his quest, he discovers how Soviet rule impacted the infrastructures, environments, and cultures of these areas.
Travel highlights include the medieval capital of Tallinn, Lithuania’s baroque-style capital of Vilnius, the Estonian island of Saaremaa, and the cities of Narva and Nida, which border Russia.
Along the way, Ruffles meets quirky characters—from academics to alcoholics—and truly discovers what life is like in the region today. Perhaps, most importantly, he discovers the legacy of the Soviet Union. What does it mean for the future of this region, as tensions reminiscent of the Cold War increase between Russia and the West?
By Keith RufflesAmazon
Concise History of the Baltic States
The Baltic region is frequently neglected in broader histories of Europe and its international significance can be obscured by separate treatments of the various Baltic states. With this wide-ranging survey, Andrejs Plakans presents the first integrated history of three Baltic peoples - Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians - and draws out the common threads to show how it has been shaped by their location in a strategically desirable corner of Europe. Subordinated in turn by Baltic German landholders, the Polish nobility and gentry, and then by Russian and Soviet administrators, the three nations have nevertheless kept a their distinctive identities - significantly retaining three separate languages in an ethnically diverse region. The book traces the countries' evolution from their ninth-century tribal beginnings to their present status as three thriving and separate nation states, focusing particularly on the region's complex twentieth-century history, which culminated in the eventual re-establishment of national sovereignty after 1991.
By Andrejs PlakansAmazon
St Petersburg: Three Centuries of Murderous Desire
This extraordinary book brings to life an astonishing place. Beautiful prose renders brutality vivid' The Times - BOOK OF THE WEEK
From Peter the Great to Putin, this is the unforgettable story of St Petersburg – one of the most magical, menacing and influential cities in the world.
St Petersburg has always felt like an impossible metropolis, risen from the freezing mists and flooded marshland of the River Neva on the western edge of Russia. It was a new capital in an old country. Established in 1703 by the sheer will of its charismatic founder, the homicidal megalomaniac Peter-the-Great, its dazzling yet unhinged reputation was quickly fashioned by the sadistic dominion of its early rulers.
This city, in its successive incarnations – St Petersburg; Petrograd; Leningrad and, once again, St Petersburg – has always been a place of perpetual contradiction. It was a window on to Europe and the Enlightenment, but so much of the glory of Russia was created here: its literature, music, dance and, for a time, its political vision. It gave birth to the artistic genius of Pushkin and Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, Pavlova and Nureyev. Yet, for all its glittering palaces, fairytale balls and enchanting gardens, the blood of thousands has been spilt on its snow-filled streets. It has been a hotbed of war and revolution, a place of siege and starvation, and the crucible for Lenin and Stalin’s power-hungry brutality.
In St Petersburg, Jonathan Miles recreates the drama of three hundred years in this absurd and brilliant city, bringing us up to the present day, when – once more – its fate hangs in the balance. This is an epic tale of murder, massacre and madness played out against squalor and splendour. It is an unforgettable portrait of a city and its people.
By Jonathan Miles
The Last of the Tsars: Nicholas II and the Russian Revolution
In March 1917, Nicholas II, the last Tsar of All the Russias, abdicated and the dynasty that had ruled an empire for three hundred years was forced from power by revolution. Now, on the hundredth anniversary of that revolution, Robert Service, the eminent historian of Russia, examines Nicholas's reign in the year before his abdication and the months between that momentous date and his death, with his family, in Ekaterinburg in July 1918.
The story has been told many times, but Service's profound understanding of the period and his forensic examination of hitherto untapped sources, including the Tsar's diaries and recorded conversations, shed remarkable new light on his reign, also revealing the kind of ruler Nicholas believed himself to have been, contrary to the disastrous reality.
The Last of the Tsars is a masterful study of a man who was almost entirely out of his depth, perhaps even willfully so. It is also a compelling account of the social, economic and political foment in Russia in the aftermath of Alexander Kerensky's February Revolution, the Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917 and the beginnings of Lenin's Soviet republic.
By Robert Service
The Russian Revolution: A New History
At the turn of the century, the Russian economy was growing by about 10% annually and its population had reached 150 million. By 1920 the country was in desperate financial straits and more than 20 million Russians had died. And by 1950, a third of the globe had embraced communism.
The triumph of Communism sets a profound puzzle. How did the Bolsheviks win power and then cling to it amid the chaos they had created? Traditional histories remain a captive to Marxist ideas about class struggle. Analysing never before used files from the Tsarist military archives, McMeekin argues that war is the answer. The revolutionaries were aided at nearly every step by Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland who sought to benefit - politically and economically - from the changes overtaking the country. To make sense of Russia's careening path the essential question is not Lenin's "who, whom?", but who benefits?
By Sean McMeekin
The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia
The Danes are the happiest people in the world, and pay the highest taxes.
'Neutral' Sweden is one of the biggest arms manufacturers in the world.
Finns have the largest per capita gun ownership after the US and Yemen.
54 per cent of Icelanders believe in elves.
Norway is the richest country on earth.
Michael Booth has lived among the Scandinavians, on and off, for over ten years, perplexed by their many strange paradoxes and character traits and equally bemused by the unquestioning enthusiasm for all things Nordic and hygge that has engulfed the rest of the world.
He leaves his adopted home of Denmark and embarks on a journey through all five of the Nordic countries to discover who these curious tribes are, the secrets of their success and, most intriguing of all, what they think of each other. Along the way a more nuanced, often darker picture emerges of a region plagued by taboos, characterised by suffocating parochialism and populated by extremists of various shades.
By Michael BoothAmazon
Articles about the Baltic States
Baltic State History: The Definitive guide for Senior Travellers
History of the Baltic States The term “Baltic states”–used to describe the countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania–is a geopolitical term, a shorthand to group together these three Northern European sovereign states. But though the…
Questions about Latvia for senior Travellers
Baltic States Guide for mature & senior travellers
Baltic States Guide for mature & senior travellers Odyssey Traveller offers a 21 day tour of the Baltic States for mature and senior travellers. We explore Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, as well as parts of…
Riga Cathedral, Latvia
One of the most recognisable features in the Latvian capital, Riga Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church and the largest medieval church in the Baltic states. Found in 1211, the cathedral has been updated and renovated over the centuries meaning the architecture is an amalgamation of different styles from the 13th to 18th centuries. The majority of the church is in the Gothic style, built in the 15th century but the oldest portion has Romanesque features and the tower is 18th-century Baroque. While the cathedral is still used for church services, the complex includes the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation. This museum features more than 500,000 archival items and tells the story of 800 years of Riga's history.
Rundale Palace, Latvia
80 km south of Riga, the Latvian capital, one will find Rundale Palace, a magnificent Baroque and Rococo-style mansion used as the summer residence for the Dukes of Courland. Often referred to as the 'Versailles of Latvia', the dazzling complex features wonderful formal gardens and the grand residence is a sumptuous monument to aristocratic opulence. The gardens and around 40 of the palace's 138 rooms are open to visitors and feature glimpses into the everyday life of 18th-century aristocrats.
Turaida Castle, Latvia
The beautiful Turaida Castle looks like it came straight off the pages of a storybook. One might expect to see a princess peering down at them from the castle's tall cylindrical tower, built in 1214. A medieval castle on a strip of land between two ravines at Gauja River, Turaida Castle is the highlight and most visually impressive element of Turaida Museum Reserve. The reserve encompasses the castle and the surrounding area and includes small galleries and exhibits, an art studio and a sculpture garden. Within the castle, there is a museum which offers an insight into the history of Livonia between 1319 and 1561. The name 'Turaida' comes from the Livic language and translates to 'Garden of Gods', which is a fitting name from the largest protected cultural monument and the oldest visible castle in the country. Less than an hour's drive from Riga, Turaida Castle is a must-see.
Grutas Park Lithuania
A communist statue graveyard, Grutas Park is a dark homage to one of the worst periods of Lithuanian history. Eight kilometres east of Druskininkai, a spa town on the Nemunas River in southern Lithuania, Grutas Park is essentially a sculpture garden of over 100 Soviet-era statues and artefacts, providing an unprecedented insight into the Red Terror that was unleashed against Lithuania and the stifling atmosphere of Soviet rule. As well as statues, visitors can see an impressive collection of documents, newspapers, propaganda posters, video footage and audio files from the time.
Hill of Crosses, Lithuania
Just outside the northern city of Siauliai lies a small hill in the middle of farmland that has been crowned with around 100,000 crosses in all different sizes. There are tiny crosses, massive wooden crosses and crosses handcrafted from metal. Known as the Hill of Crosses (Kryziu Kalnas), it is both a pilgrimage site and a testament to Lithuanian strength and defiance under Soviet rule. It has come to represent the peaceful endurance of Lithuanian Catholicism in the face of so many threats throughout history.
Trakai Island Castle, Lithuania
Trakai Island Castle is like something from a fairy tale - there is nothing quite like admiring the view of the coral-coloured brick towers surrounded by moss-green trees as you cross the wooden bridge, with the castle's reflection glimmering in the surrounding waters of Lake Galve. The Gothic style castle is more than 600 years old and houses the impressive Trakai History Museum, which showcases a range of interesting exhibits including medieval weapons, chainmail, 19th-century embroidery and glassware and religious art. Trakai was one of the main centres of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and with just one glimpse of the castle you can feel the majesty and splendour of this place. Less than an hour from Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, this beautiful attraction is a favourite day trip from the city among travellers.
Article for mature and senior travellers interested in small group European escorted tours for couples and solo travellers. Explore European and Baltic history in Estonia and Latvia Lithuania and the cultural relationships to Germany, Poland, Finland and Russia and the historic importance of Tallinn.
St Petersburg, Russia
St Petersburg is the second largest among the Russian cities, after Moscow, and is famous for its important role in Russian history and its cultural and architectural landmarks. The historic centre of St Petersburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscribed on the list in 1990.