A Picturesque Adventure through Estonia and Latvia

A photo gallery by Sonja Stark

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Villa Ammende in Parnu, Estonia is also an upscale hunting lounge. Ask for the room with the built-in Banya on the top floor.
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The fascade of the Villa Ammende is a marvelous example of Art Nouveau architecture.
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Come hungry for a copious morning breakfast of rich cuisine in the Salon Cafe at the Villa Ammende in Parnu, Estonia.
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Animal lovers beware, the Villa Ammende is not for the faint of heart. Walls and ceilings are adorned with hunters trophies.
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Kihnu Island folk costumes are normal attire for ladies who carry on the culture. Bring euros for unique handcrafts and fragrant soaps made by the folk legends.
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Travel by boat to Kihnu Island for overnight stays and catering offered by several folk farms.
Folk customs and traditions are part of everyday life on the island of Kihnu. Women play a key role in preserving the culture. LINK: http://www.visitestonia.com/en/holiday-destinations/the-islands/kihnu-island
Folk customs and traditions are part of everyday life on Kihnu Island. Women play a key role in preserving the culture.
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The women of Kihnu Island provide tours of their island including a museum, church and a climb to the top of a 19th century lighthouse overlooking the Baltic Sea.
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Translated as "Land of the Bogs" Soomaa National Park is open all year for walking, bog-shoeing and canoeing.
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Dip your toes into a refreshing sinkhole at the Soomaa National Park in the low-lying southern section of Estonia.
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Soomaa National Park intern, Karolis Keturka swims like a tadpole in a refreshing sinkhole.
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Some of the roads go from paved to gravel when crossing borders from Estonia into Latvia.
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Relax in the bathhouse with a steam and a swim at the Lantus Country Spa.
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The romantic countryside charm of Lantus Country Spa is a truly unique Latvian experience.
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Accommodations at the Lantus Country Spa include stocked kitchens, fireplace-warmed dining rooms and shared bathrooms.
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The Lantus Country Spa is literally in the middle of a working farm with plenty of friendly dogs, cats and hired hands to keep you company.
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The national flower of Latvia is the Chrysanthemum but visit in the summer and you'll be equally pleased with over 1600 species of flowering plants at the Lantus Country Spa.
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A fairytale-like Livonian castle called Cesis. Built in 1209, constant repairs keep the garrison from falling into ruins.
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Views from top of the historic Cesis Castle.
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The well-fortified medieval Cesis Castle has survived fighting for over 800 years.
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Be careful carrying a candle-lit lantern up the circular stairs of Cesis Castle.
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Participate in playful medieval games played by actors in period costume at Cesis Castle.
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A jewelry artisan uses her blacksmithing skills to bang out a beautiful bracelet at Cesis Castle.
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Immerse yourself in medieval castle culture by participating in role-playing games with actors in period costume.
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Old Town Riga is one of the best walking capitals in Europe with popular squares for thirsty tourists.
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The Latvian tradition of music and song is popular in the summer when dozens of festivals dance through the streets of Old Town Riga.
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Rich heritage and strong ethnic traditions keep Latvian close to their heritage in Old Town Riga.
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The perfect playground with a river running through the middle of one of Kronvalda Park in downtown Riga.
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The spires of Old Town Riga are one of the most beautiful symbols of faith and community.
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Peter Stumburs loves to reflect on the changes that his city of Old Town Riga has survived through the centuries. To hire him as your guide (wise idea), visit his website HERE.
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Feral cats enjoy the good life living off handouts and acceptance in Old Town Riga.
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Or, adopt a stray from the popular pet kiosk rotating through parks and squares of Old Town Riga, Latvia.
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A life of leisure and friendly sport on Sundays in the park in Old Town Riga.
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The plentiful seasons of spring and summer are the most popular times to visit Old Town Riga.
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The Cat House of Riga. Notice the arched back of a black cat atop the round cuppola? There's a great story worth repeating when you book your tour with Latvia Travel and Tourism.
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The delicious bounty from the countryside can be enjoyed at the Riga Central Market inside four UNESCO German zeppelin hangars. You're welcome to browse, sample and buy but be aware that vendors do not appreciate photos.
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Consuming beer while cycling the streets of Old Town Riga will work off the buzz and the bulge.
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A secret soviet bunker called Ligatne now operates as an unusual attraction.
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All underground equipment and maps meant to survive nuclear war are preserved exactly as they were when the Cold War ended at the Ligatne Soviet Bunker.
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Set in south Latvia, Rundale Palace includes a Gilt Hall, Great Gallery and White Hall.
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The Rundale Palace Rose Garden features over 20,000 blooms in the summer.
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Some visitors refer to the Rundale Palace the "Versailles of Latvia."
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With over 2,400 varieties of roses, the splendor of the Rundale Rose Gardens is unlike anything you'll ever experience
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For a few euros, transform yourself into an 18th-century Duchess in the Rundale Rose Garden.

Read the feature story about Soomaa National Park in Estonia