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A SOAS adventure: Road trip through the Baltics

By Katerina Veliskova, BA Middle Eastern Studies

When we first heard the engine light beeping in our car in the middle of a Lithuanian highway, thousands of miles from our home in the Czech Republic, we knew we’d have stories to tell.

It’s been proven numerous times that the best holiday plans are always the last minute ones, created in a half-ecstatic, half-drunk mindset, with a couple of crazy people and a couple of beers. This year, the idea was to take my friend’s gigantic eight-seat car, bring some sleeping bags, tents and a ton of canned corn and take off for about two weeks towards the Baltics.

From the very beginning, things were a bit hectic. At the last minute, two of our friends backed out, which made room for my friend’s dog and the various hitchhikers we found on the road. We left Prague on a lovely sunny day, during which we then managed to tear off our wind mirror and get into an argument about whose music is the most suitable for a road trip.

This rocky start was nevertheless more than made up for by the hot summer days we found in Poland. We passed by Krakow, a beautiful, vibrant city with a medieval castle and numerous narrow little streets that everyone falls in love with at first sight. Further on, we had a curious encounter with drunk Polish oldsters in a village in the middle of nowhere, during which we found out that regardless of how close our languages are, alcohol erases all similarities.

Entering Lithuania, we exhaustedly searched for a place to light a fire and spend the night, close to the country’s second biggest city, Kaunas. What we found instead was an abandoned military bunker with huge dilapidated hangars. Of course, we went through the place and stared in amazement at the flaked signs in Cyrillic and the forgotten equipment.

Exhilarated by this, we decided to step on the gas and arrive at the seaside overnight. However, in the middle of a Lithuanian highway, our car decided to break down, leaving us to spend the next two days on a lovely rest area next to the highway, waiting for our car to get repaired in a local garage.

A few days and several other car services later, we ended up on the outskirts of the Latvian capital Riga, with no car available for at least five days. The group decided to split, and I along with two other people took a train to the Latvian natural parks close to the city. Our next days were marked by stunning nature, peat lakes, Russian tourists on holiday and a quite unbelievable number of bloodthirsty mosquitoes. Returning to Riga, we managed to see its historical centre with the huge cathedral, musicians at every corner and friendly locals.

Only slightly delayed, our car, our beloved car, was up and running in all its yellow glory just in time to allow us to see Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, on our way home. Fifteen days later, we emerged at the same place from which we had started, with a little less money and a lot more stories and mosquito bites. The car was fine, the dog survived and Estonia still awaits discovery, on another crazy journey. What are your plans this summer?

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