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Travel stories

Exploring the Baltics: Memories from a free tour

Jun 28, 2018 by Jamie Mc Laughlin

We celebrated Canada’s 150th anniversary by giving away a free trip—and Canadian travelers Amanda and Greg ran away with the prize! Here’s how they celebrated their big win on our Highlights of the Baltics tour, which took them from Poland to St. Petersburg, Russia.

What are some of your most memorable moments from tour?

One of the most memorable moments was visiting Wolf’s Lair in Poland. The guide was very knowledgeable and the history was fascinating; we walked where Hitler had walked and was almost assassinated in 1944.

The Hill of Crosses was just breathtaking. It’s a Lithuanian pilgrimage site, and whether you’re a religious person or not, it’s truly moving. To think that these crosses were destroyed by the Soviets and then quietly replaced by the people who risked their lives each night to show their solidarity is incredible. We also could have spent hours looking at the architecture of the buildings in the Old Town of Riga, Latvia! All three sites are a must-see.

I’d love to hear about the food! Any dishes you’re still craving since returning home?

Some of the foods we enjoyed were Latvian piragi (small onion- and bacon-filled breads), Lithuanian cepelini (potato dumplings filled with meat), and Lithuanian koldūnai (which are like beef-filled ravioli). I also tried some of the local wines, and Greg would ask the waiter or waitress to bring a local beer that they would recommend. They were very good.

How did adding excursions make your journey even more meaningful?

We always like to add the extra excursions because they give you a more in-depth look into the culture and history of a destination. These excursions are also usually led by local experts who have their own philosophy on areas and events.

We added the Trakai Island Castle excursion, the Cultural Traditions of the Latvian Countryside excursion, and the Old-World Latvia: Castles Valleys & Villages excursion. Each was interesting—the castles and buildings in the open-air Ethnographical Museum were all wonderfully preserved. Also, we learned that the old buildings in the town centers of Riga and Estonia have to be maintained in their original designs and no buildings can be built higher than them.

What’s next on your travel list with Go Ahead Tours?

We’re contemplating the Grand Tour of Australia paired with New Zealand: Untamed Landscapes—we hear they’re gorgeous countries. Or, we might do a Walking Tour!

As two people who are so well-traveled, what would you say is the benefit of going on a guided tour rather than setting off on your own?

We enjoy guided tours because we have nothing to worry about. Our transportation, accommodations, and meals are all taken care of. If there is a language barrier, the guide is always there to assist us. Also, taking a guided tour gives us a chance to glimpse a country and decide if we want to return or stay longer and explore on our own, which we try to do whenever possible.

How has traveling and uncovering different cultures changed you for the better?

We traveled for many years with our children, and have traveled for the past seven years on our own, and we always enjoy seeing how others live and hearing about their history (since Canada’s history is not that old). Traveling also reminds us how lucky we are compared to some people in other parts of the world.

Where would you go if you won a free tour? Tell us about your dream destination on our Facebook page!


Traveler stories
About the author | Jamie Mc Laughlin
It was Jamie’s homestay in Germany that made her fall in love with travel (and her studies in Florence that really sealed the deal). When she’s not writing and sharing the magic of seeing the world with others, she’s usually on the lookout for her new favorite memoir, testing out recipes at home, or visiting her family on Cape Cod.

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