“We’d need to know within the next hour,” is not precisely the words you want to hear when having to decide whether you’re taking a last minute trip to the Baltic or not.
I’d known for a while that my CrossFit box was going on a trip to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, but not until the previous week did somebody cancel for another spot to open up. I had wished I could go when my friends first mentioned the trip. When my coach Vroni told me on Wednesday that there was a last minute cancellation, gave me those puppy dog eyes, and when another coach, Niki, followed up with a call, well, I finally caved.
Only catch: I had one hour to decide. Second catch: we were leaving 1.5 days later.
Friday, June 6: Munich – Tallinn Fast-forward to Friday, a broken and emergency-repaired radiator, a last minute PTO request and scrambling to finish up 3 projects, I’m on the tiniest plane I have ever seen in my life (approximately the size of this plane), headed to Tallinn, Estonia. We’re a group of 10 people. 3 gals, 7 guys, all CrossFitters at our box, CrossFit eo in Munich.
Marco, one of the coaches and owners of the box had been to Tallinn before. He’ll be our guide for the first few days. After we settle in at the hotel, we’re off to explore Tallinn’s old historic center and find a place that’ll do something against that immense hunger. And thirst. Thirst. Plenty of thirst. Beer. Beer = good. Beer plenty. We end up in a pub, Hell Hunt. Apparently, Hell Hunt stands for Gentle Wolf. And for sure, despite messing up our reservation, the staff is gentle enough and finds a way to seat all 10 of us. The food and local beer is approved by our crew and flows freely. After more Shepherd’s Pie than a person should ever eat, we head back to the hotel, excited for our adventure to start.
Saturday, June 7: Tallinn Yawn. We start the day with a morning workout. Marco leads us to an old complex, built during the Soviet rule. That’s exactly what it looks like. Big. Impressive. Raw power. Ugly. After long travels and too much food the night before, it feels amazing to move our bodies. I’ll even take the hated broad jump – burpees and push-ups. Or the Every 2 Minute on the Minute sprint up the stairs. 10 rounds. Go, go, GO! During my time in New York, I used to do a lot of stair work at my fitness classes. Sadly, I have to realize how rusty I’ve become. (Memo to self: run, jump and bear crawl more stairs.) Given how Vroni isn’t much taller than me, blaming it on my short legs won’t even work. Hm.
After breakfast, Marco leads us on a fun sightseeing trip through Tallinn. Having been to the city before, he’s an expert guide, who not only makes sure we see plenty of beautiful buildings, but that we’re also fed and thoroughly caffeinated throughout the day.
We finish our day at Olde Hansa, a medieval themed restaurant. After we chose Christian as our tablemaster in honor of his birthday the next day, we begin our feast. Our waiter is fun and an expert at explaining the different dishes we eat and the medieval traditions we have to adhere. Fish, meat, bread, more meat, onion jam, more meat, some more bread, a vegetable or two. Finishing with more meat. We’re already full by the time the main course starts. Being CrossFitters, everybody in our group has a healthy appetite, but still, that much food is even too much for all of us to eat. Regardless of how delicious it is. Among common dishes like boar and rabbit, we also taste elk and bear. As we roll out of the restaurant, we all feel like we will never ever in our lives eat again. In fact, I feel like I’m still digesting this meal.
Our next stop is an Irish pub to drink until midnight and then have a toast to Christian. What a fun night!
Sunday, June 8: Waking up with a food hangover is not my favorite thing in the world. It’s certainly a bit of a struggle to leave the comfort of bed and get ready for our day’s adventure. A bike tour! We’re renting mountain bikes and take a trip along the coast of the Baltic Sea. Along the way, we stop at Kadriorg Palace, where we walk around the gardens and goof around. Cartwheels, leapfrogs, crawls and push-ups across an (empty) fountain and the show-offs do handstand walks. We laugh a lot.
We continue on and enjoy the scenic route with the sea to our left. The beach we stop at is fairly empty since the weather isn’t really all that great for bathing. The water’s chilly but not freezing cold. However, the sun’s not out and it even drizzles a handful of times. It won’t spoil our mood though as we enjoy the beach for a workout to ourselves. After some warming-up, we do 15 (?) minutes AMRAP: sit-ups, walking lunges in the water and burpeess (the crazy ones also do the burpees in the water). On the bike ride back into the city, we stop at another playground for some pull-ups, muscle-ups (well, the boys), dips and other silly exercises.
Lukas made a video, which can be found here:
Monday, June 9: Again, we start the day with a short morning workout. We find a soccer field just across the hotel and throw in some jogs, handstands, somersaults, lunges (for the big guys) with us Hobbits (Vroni and myself) crawling through their legs, leapfrogs, wheelbarrow walks and piggyback carry. After breakfast, we have the morning to ourselves.
We decide to stroll around and enjoy the beauty of Tallinn some more. After another coffee stop, we decide to visit the ancient city walls:
In the afternoon, we head to CrossFit I&M for a workout. The box just recently opened box; it’s still got that brand-new smell. Our goal: heavy back squats. After a quick warm-up, our workout is as follows: 2 rounds of 7 – 5 – 3. Us gals team up and let the boys throw around their (at least for me) way too heavy weights. I haven’t done back squats in a while, so I’m confident I can PR. In fact, I feel comfortable with my first set of 7 reps with 30 kg. I feel like there is a lot more room. I move up to 40 kg and finally 45 kg. Even after the 3 reps of 45kg I know that I stand a fair chance against 50 kgs (even if it’ll feel heavy for sure). I start my second set with 40 kg, move on to 45kg and complete my 3 reps of 50kg. At this point, I have a 10 kg PR in the books, but I’m still hungry for more. Once Vroni and Sylvie are through with their final rounds, I go ahead to try 55 kg.
And I get 1 rep in! I probably have a second and third rep within me, but somehow my concentration is gone and I miss it. But still. I’m ecstatic because I PR by 15 kilos! This is huge for me.
There’s something really grand in working out with people who are a lot stronger than you. It’s hard to describe, but I think it goes beyond motivation to want more reps and higher weights. There’s also the safety in knowing that you might as well attempt the lift because your max weight is the warm-up weight for the person spotting you. Nothing will happen if you fail the rep. You might as well try.
On the way back, we get caught in a downpour. We’ve been relatively lucky with the weather thus far, but on Monday afternoon, it’s as if the sky just opened up and dumped all its water at once. After a quick stop at the hotel, we head to dinner at a pub where more beer is enjoyed, as well as cheese, chicken wings and for me, this delicious lamb meatloaf. [At this point, I’m certain I’ve already gained a gazillion pounds. I have a hard time not freaking out.]
Tuesday, June 10: Tallinn – Riga After 4 days, we have to say goodbye to Tallinn and hello to Riga. We take a coach for a 4 hour trip. It’s luxurious and comfortable. After settling in at the hotel, we find a lunch spot and start exploring the city center for a bit. Riga is a lot more different from Tallinn than I had imagined; the first impression is positive.
Part of our group heads to the sauna, but I feel like moving after having sat in the bus for so many hours. I’m starting to struggle with body acceptance and coming to terms with the fact that I’ve for sure gained weight/am constantly bloated, so I’m hoping moving a bit will help clear my head. It does a little bit. Sylvie joins me for a short run in a nearby park. Our first encounter with the canals that flow through Riga.
Wednesday, June 11: After our morning workout, Wednesday brings a special surprise: we go sightseeing by kayak. I had kayaked once before a few years ago. Back then, we were in single kayaks. This time it’s teams of two. It’s certainly a challenge at first, but after a few minutes of going in circles, Vroni and I get the hang of it and become a great teamt. Turns out kayaking is a perfect exercise for team building. The weather is great and we have a lot of fun. While a handful of teams go a little or, in the case of Simon and Chris, a lot slalom, we thankfully only have one casualty falling into shallow water. Riga is built on three islands and our guide is an expert who takes us past sights, points out interesting buildings and tells us about Riga’s history. After the kayaking trip, another guide takes us to old, historic market halls where we taste local specialties. We have a blast. [No pictures yet.]
Lukas also made a video for Riga:
Thursday, June 12: Riga – Vilnius Our stop in Riga is the shortest of the tour. After another short workout, the morning’s free again and since we haven’t had a chance to take pictures during the kayaking trip, some of us head back to the city center to snap some pictures.
In the afternoon, we travel to Vilnius by bus. Our hotel is a cute, family style hotel with only a handful rooms. Located right in the heart of the Old Town, it’ll prove to be a blessing and a curse in the next few days.
Within a short walking distance, we find Smoke House, a BBQ restaurant with a spectacular hot chocolate lava cake. There’ll be a story to tell.
Friday, June 13: Friday brings another quick morning workout before we’re off to another sightseeing tour. This time, we’re being led through the city on bikes. Our guide is a lovely and very knowledgable Lithuanian lady. We see churches, market squares, more churches, town halls, more churches, a castle, a borough full of artists, and some ugly Soviet buildings. The weather is fickle and from sun, drizzle to hail, it offers all.
By the time we break for lunch, we’re dripping wet. However, we’re lucky and the rain stops by the time we’re back on our bikes. By the time we make it back to the city center, we’re even (mostly) dry.
Getting back to the hotel, we split up. Some have a first dinner and then second dinner later in the night. Some (myself included) have one dinner at a later time. We try a pub right outside of our hotel. The Asian-style tagliatelle with beef are a welcome change in taste and the wine is good and plenty. The rest of my dinner company decides to rejoin the rest of our group (who are done with second dinner and a round of cake, lava cake at Smoke House, but not enough for everybody so an alternative had to be ordered.) I’m cramping pretty badly and decide to go to sleep instead. However, sleep won’t come quite as easy. It turns out that the street outside our hotel is fairly popular with Lithuanian party goers and that Friday is their party night. [I assume that they don’t party much on Saturday because they head to mass early on Sunday morning.] To make matters worse, there’s a bunch of Norwegian ladies in our hotel and they too like to party on a Friday night. The walls are not very thick.
Saturday, June 14: Sleeping in. Bliss! We have a long, hearty breakfast and then no further plans for the day. Many options are discussed but eventually we decide for some additional sightseeing, now that the weather has cleared and it’s safe to take our cameras for a walk. Even Manni, who’s been seriously ill the previous days, can join us. It’s nice to end this trip the way we started it: exploring the city as the full group.
We start with a couple of churches, the university and presidential palace and the cathedral, before we head up to the castle ruins.
After some sightseeing we had coffee and ice cream. Eventually we split up; some of us went to sleep and rest, others went on a Segway tour and the rest walked around some more for pictures. Later we then meet in the city center for a last round dinner & drinks together.
Sylvie, Sevi and I walk around a bit more and visit a handful of churches and other sights.
Our last evening is then spent eating a burger at a newly opened burger joint. It’s a little chaotic and instead of the chocolate and peanut butter cake, we have to settle for the cheesecake. Finally, we had back to Smoke House for drinks and to watch the Uruguay – Costa Rica match. Together with an obnoxiously drunk group of Finns. Oh boy.
Final video of the trip, made by Lukas:
Sunday, June 15: Vilnius – Munich Sunday marks our last day. We start with a nice breakfast before a van picks us up for the airport. Our flight takes us from Vilnius back to Riga and then from Riga to Munich. Our plane’s a little bigger this time, a little more comfortable. We’re all dead tired after 10 days of eating a lot, drinking a lot, being active a lot, experiencing a lot. Yet, the chatty lady in the row right behind us has other ideas. Sleep won’t come for us.
Looking back, I’ve had an amazing trip. I learned that my ignorant assumption of sort-of-lumping the Baltic states together has been dead wrong and that the three cities are fairly different. Each is beautiful in her own way and I have a hard time picking my favorite. I PRed my back squat, I got to know new people, got to know some other people better, visited a beautiful region in Europe that I never would have visited by myself and generally had a blast. My only regret is that the time between deciding to go and actually going was so short. In retrospect, I would’ve have loved to have a little more time to educate myself better about the cities and countries I was visiting. However, that’s a fairly small regret to have. I can’t wait for the next trip.
Lukas made the videos. All pictures taken by myself unless otherwise stated. The full album with lots and lots more pictures can be found here.