There is hope so: With the financial help of the EU more and more roads are getting overhauled now and that means that usually a picture perfect bike path is built alongside. There is only one thing that Baltic road engineers have not learnt yet: to lower curbs. I have seen so many brand new bike path with almost unsurmountable curbs. Also, some new bike paths just end as abruptly as they start: More than once I ended up in front of a road barrier, dirt track or curb.
|Pavement turns to gravel|
But in all fairness I also want to mention that half of the time I have been cycling on quiet country roads
through scenic landscapes that are every cyclist's dream. My personal highlights were
- the route along Lake Peipus
- the stretch from Tallinn to Hiiuma and Saarema (circling the islands) and on until Pärnu (EV 10)
Drivers in the Baltic States are usually peaceful and try to give you a wide berth. I was honked at very rarely. But as there are not many cyclists in these counters, drivers are not used to them. Cars and trucks sometimes pass you way too closely and cars racing down dirt roads at 100 km/h cover you in dust or throw gravel at you.
But that is enough of negative points. As I have stated earlier I have really enjoyed the Baltic States - so what makes them so interesting?
|Forest managed by RMK|
|Yogurth and kohupiim|
Another positive practicality is the wide availability of free internet. Estonia is best here. Almost every little village had one spot with free wifi - usually the library or community hall. This was even signposted from the roads! Latvia had Lattelecom, which comes in a paid and a free version. To get free internet you have to watch an ad for 15 seconds and then you can surf for free. Very convenient. And even in Lithuania there was usually free wifi somewhere in town. Of course there was free internet and computer use in libraries - and on all ferries! Every single hotel, hostel and B&B had free wifi which is a standard in all Baltic countries. Actually it was easier to find free wifi than potable tap water.....
Bottom line: All three Baltic States are fascinating countries, full of contrasts and definitely worth visiting for their unspoilt nature and interesting historical sights. Just don't expect picture perfect cycling conditions - you'll have to bring some sort of sense of adventure.
In the end some more practical tips:
Maps: None of the maps of the Baltic States that I could get in Germany showed which roads are paved and which are not. For obvious reasons this is important to know for cyclists - and therefore these maps are not very useful. Don't spend too much money on them - buy country maps in the Baltic States were you can get them very cheaply. Often visitor information centres give away free district maps that have this information as well.
|Baltic supermarket chain|
Bike parts: As I have already described you will be on dirt roads a lot which will be bad for your bike. If you cycle here for a longer period of time, bring spare spokes and tires.