Having seen much of Riga’s special charm, we decided on a little side trip to the Baltic Coast.
The Jaumeri area has long been popular with the city’s inhabitants due to its proximity to the capital, the white sands of its blue flag beaches and the pine fresh air that invigorates visitors.
Riga to Majori
Majori is only 32 minutes by train from Riga and has some of the best beaches in the area.
Having first taken in the marvellous nearby Central Market (see previous post), we ventured to the station to buy return tickets costing less than €6 each.
We caught the 12.16 and arrived bang on time to bracing sea air, a good 4-5 degrees colder than in the city.
The short trip had seen us firstly crossing the Daugava River crossing, followed by industrial Riga and then the Baltic Coast.
Majori is perhaps best known for the fine wooden villas erected in Soviet times for the privileged to enjoy a seaside retreat from the political scene of the day.
Everybody equal when it suits.
We strolled through the town full villas that had been converted into restaurants and amber shops (The Baltic region is home to the largest known deposit of amber or succinate, dating from 44 million years ago).
It immediately reminded me of Svetlogorsk in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave on the Baltic Coast sandwiched between Poland & Lithuania.
Kaliningrad is where an incredible 90% of the world’s amber comes from, so don’t expect Russia to give up its Baltic fleet home any time soon.
At the end of the promenade stands the striking Russian Orthodox church.
From there we hung a left past a few tacky looking restaurants & hotels and onto Majori’s blue flag white sand beach.
We were joined by a few hardy souls wearing considerably less than us, together with a few dozen collared crows.
It was bracing indeed. We witnessed one chap wearing waders up to his waist in in the icy sea water operating a detector device under the tranquil waters.
We presumed he was searching for amber to make into some earrings perhaps, or if he was extremely lucky one of those huge tree sculptures you see in the shops selling for several thousand euros.
Having walked a kilometre or so, we decided we needed warming up and headed back into town for some delicious bowls of soup.
It was soon time to take the train back to Riga. It had been an enjoyable three-hour jaunt to satisfy my train trip craving for the day.
Riga to Tallinn
Sunday morning saw the exciting prospect of a few hours on the train from one Baltic capital to another.
This would see a change of trains at the border town of Valga, the 280km journey taking around 6 ½ hours with a 30-minute wait at the connecting station.
We took the 10.34 from Riga’s main station, which would take us just over the border into Valga, arriving at 13.29. The tickets cost the princely sum of €4.80 each.
The train was very comfortable with free WiFi and plenty of room to stretch out. We were glad we had bought coffee & croissants at the station though as nothing was available to buy on board.
We set a serene pace as the Latvian countryside passed by our windows. A good time for me to catch up on some writing & thinking.
Thoughts turned to the Trans-Mongolian adventure that I and a friend would be undertaking in September, which would itself give loads more time for sedentary pursuits.
We arrived bang on time with our new transportation already in situ. We scoured the station and immediate surrounds for somewhere to buy refreshment for the second leg, but frustratingly nothing was open on this particular Sunday.
We had pre-booked tickets via the Estonian Rail website (Elron) and purchased first class tickets in order to secure seat reservations, which were not available on standard fares.
These cost €20, whereas standard cost €17. There was however no obvious difference to be seen between the classes.
Buying advance will also save you €2-3 on the on-board price.
The train was much more modern than we had on leg one, however the seats were a tad less comfortable and there was still no coffee to be had.
We left bang on schedule at 13.51 and were to arrive promptly too at 17.04. If we had a little more time we could have broken the journey at Estonia’s second city of Tartu. From what we read it would’ve been well worth it too.
The Estonian countryside slipped past much as its Latvia counterpart had done. Nothing spectacular, but plenty of pleasant rural scenes.
We reached 124km/h on this journey. Far from bullet speed, but a lot quicker than leg one.
We arrived at Tallinn’s compact station as the light started to fade and made our way on foot to the fabulous old town for a coffee and cake fix.