Most Inspirational Moment
My husband and I liked the day exploring the Curonian Spit the best, just because it is a beautiful place with quite a lot of different things to see and do - the freshly smoked fish lunch was a brilliant experience (if slightly not for the faint hearted!). Rundale Palace was amazing (largely because of our brilliant local guide there) and we also really enjoyed the Hill of Crosses, which for us was unexpectedly moving in a curious way. All three capitals were good, but we both liked Tallinn the best; however the Art Nouveau architecture in Riga was also a highlight of the trip. The Cold War Museum in Plokstine, which was in fact the main reason for us choosing this particular trip rather than one by another company, was also well worth visiting.
Thoughts on Group Leader
Lukas was so so good - utterly dedicated at all times and also determined that we should learn as much as possible about every place that we visited. He was very conscientious and precise about timings! He was also very patient and prepared to answer our questions about life in Soviet times and kindly told us about his family's history. When one of our cases, and also one of another couple's in the group, were delayed, he was very helpful about helping us to keep in the loop about their whereabouts and delivery.
Advice for Potential Travellers
This trip is advertised as grade 1 (leisurely) but apart from the 9am starts on most days it isn't! One of our group had a fitbit and we walked typically 17,000-18,000 steps per day, including on the days which were "travelling" ones. This is mostly on often uneven cobbled streets and sometimes up/down lots of stairs in castles etc! Weather - we went in July/August and had several days with torrential rain, luckily often in the evening or when travelling. But you really needed to have both a good waterproof and an umbrella to stand any chance of staying dry, and ideally bring two pairs of waterproof shoes if you can as well. I would say that the weather is very like Scotland... You definitely need to bring insect repellent and bite cream; pretty much all of group were thoroughly bitten at various points in the trip (some through tucked in socks in long trousers!). The two hotels in Estonia catered well for both gluten and lactose free diets; the other hotels had rice cakes as the gluten free option and no lactose free alternatives. Vegetarians will be reasonably fine in restaurants as long as they are happy to eat lots of dairy, especially cheese (although still limited choice), but vegans will really struggle. Bring snacks if in any doubt!
If Exodus book group flights through Schipol (Amsterdam) airport, try to get them to do an alternative route if at all possible and if not make sure that you have a minimum of 2 hours' transfer time. We had one hour allocated on our outward journey and only made it because our first flight landed early and the second one took off late, and even then it was a close thing. Both us and the other couple on the "official" group flight had one of our suitcases delayed between Schipol and Tallinn - the lady at Tallinn airport told us that this is basically a daily occurrence for flights with Amsterdam transfers. They had a good system in place with couriers, and we got our bags the next afternoon, but it was still 24 hours of worry. Two others in the group asked for alternative flights and were given a transfer at Helsinki instead; not only were both their journeys at better times of the day but their whole transfer process was much easier and more pleasant (and no bags were delayed!).