The landscapes are flat… very flat. Everything is flat, even Peipous Lake, the 5th largest lake in Europe, which is never deeper than 15 m! And Bertrand adds: “Flat landscapes are boring. On the one hand, we can see a long way, but on the other hand, there’s not enough height to get a better view point. It’s challenging to get good photos. ” He isn’t very inspired by the Baltic countryside and has trouble deciding where to aim his lens, especially when he thinks about the stunning Scandinavian panoramas.
Bertrand is kind and I’m conciliatory. We are both profoundly averse to conflict. But every once in a while, we get on each other’s nerves. It’s not easy to be with your other half 24/7 in 6 m2. Today the argument was over what we should or shouldn’t take photos of. Bertrand, the artist, focuses on quality and doesn’t see the point of taking a photo of something he says is “useless”. Me, the hyperactive, would rather have too many than too few. I’m getting out to take photos that we might not use. At least we’ll have the option. I’m tired of always having to push him to take photos. He’s tired of taking useless photos. We stop talking. The van is silent for a while. We stop in front of an abandoned building that we’re visiting and take photos without saying a single word. I hate this kind of atmosphere. Before getting back on the road, I ask him if we can make up. He puts his arms around me. Everything feels better. We were irritated for nothing and we know it. Just like that, it’s over. Fortunately.
When we talk to the Estonians, they’re courteous and polite. When we pass them—while out walking for example—we say hi and smile. They look at us like we’re strange and don’t return the greeting. Maybe it’s not something people really do around here.
It’s more difficult to connect with the locals than we thought it would be. It’s not because they aren’t welcoming and we aren’t friendly… it’s more that we don’t have time. The truth is, time is short with 25 countries to visit in 6 months. Sometimes we only have three days in a country and with driving time, we don’t have enough time to meet people and build relationships. It’s a shame, but that’s part of our journey. We share a few words and smiles but not enough to deepen the relationship and immerse ourselves in their culture. But when we have more time, we make connections and experience incredible moments of sharing and generosity.
We encounter old farms with rough uneven stones, doll-like houses with pastel coloured wood, and gloomy dilapidated estates. While on the Latvian roads, we pass a multitude of abandoned buildings. Farms, houses, barracks and more that remind us of this country’s painful past filled with invasions or occupations. These desolate landscapes hold deep melancholy and painful memories. We didn’t really see any typical houses. But they all had impeccably-green and carefully-mown lawns!
Baltic Sea beaches, especially those on the Lithuanian side, are known for the amber hidden on their shorelines. A million years ago, during a time of extreme heat, trees were sweating resin, forming rivers that sometimes caught insects and vegetation. These resin flows spilled into the sea where they cooled. As it cured, the resin cracked and was ground by the water and the tides. And still today, waves bring pieces of this resin that’s as old as the earth to the shore. It’s called amber. We dream of finding some, especially since it’s Elsa’s favourite stone. So get to work, Bertrand! We kneel down, search through algae, watch how the people next to us are doing it… We scrape the sand, sort rocks, and YES, it’s true, there is amber right next to us. We found a dozen in less than an hour.
[On the road, between the 59°26’06.3″N 24°45’04.1″E and the 54°18’40.5″N 23°09’31.3″E]