The Rough Guide To Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania, written and researched by Jonathan Bousfield
In reading this book, I had a general goal as well as a specific one. The general aim, of course, was to get background on the Baltic states as I get ready for the Feast of Tabernacles in Estonia . The more specific goal was to see what information I could get about the place where the Feast is being held this year in Estonia, the island of Saaremaa. As far as the specific goal, the guidebook had this to say about the island in its summary: “For Estonians, the island of Saaremaa epitomizes the nation’s natural beauty more than any other place in the country. Cloaked with pine forest, juniper heath, and grasslands, its coastline girdled with sandy beaches and tawny reed beds, it has long appealed to nature-loving, well-to-do Tallinners and increasingly attracts Scandinavian and Western European tourists too…There is a scattering of farmstead-based B&Bs across Saaremaa, although most accommodation is concentrated in the island’s alluring capital, Kuressaare, site of the one must-see historic attraction, the Bishop’s Castle. North of Kuressaare lie some of Saaremaa’s best-known sights, notably the enchanting Angla windmills and the mysterious Kaali meteorite crater (98).” The book certainly achieved its expected purpose of providing me with something to be particularly excited about, assuming we get to tour a bit in the island during the Feast.
In terms of the overall structure and content of the book, it has a very straightforward and informative format. After a color section that shows tourist sites not to miss, and an area that talks about the basics of travel to the Baltic states, transportation once there, festivals, outdoor activities, and travel essentials, the book then spends the core of its material providing a detailed look at lodging, food, and tourist attractions in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Each country is divided into three sections, with the lion’s share of information being provided for each of the national capitals. In addition, the countries are also divided into eastern and western sections aside from their capitals, with some maps and a lot of textual description, with a special focus on backpackers and the need to get by bus from town to town, as the rail infrastructure is very limited. After a discussion of various places to visit, many of which sound like wonderful places to see, and most of which are told with a fair amount of enthusiasm as well as a dry sense of humor, the book then discusses the contexts of history, books, and music and also provides some basic language hints for the three main languages of the Baltic states.
Ultimately, a book like this is judged by whether it makes someone more knowledgeable about a part of the world that is not very well-known. By that standard this book is a success. Looking at the book, I saw plenty of books about Estonian history and literature that were worth reading, if they could be easily found. Likewise the book provided some titles to use in future writings, such as Ei Ole Uksi Uksi Maa, or “No Land Is Alone,” which sounds like a very Nathanish blog title. There are few pictures, mostly in the beginning, and the maps are black and white, and not all of the symbols make sense until you look at the legend in the back, but the book is full of information and interest, and is written with an enjoyable style. This book is therefore a success, and is a worthwhile read for anyone who is planning on traveling to the nations of Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania. What can reasonably be asked of a book, this book provides.
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