This is my review of DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by DK Travel.
Since I read this book after visiting the Baltic States, I may be judging it with the wisdom of hindsight, but I regret not consulting it before my holiday, since its systematic, well-illustrated approach is very effective both as an aid to planning and as a step-by-step guide to “making sense” of complex historic city centres like Talinn in Estonia or Riga in Latvia. Perhaps because sites of interest often do not seem to be very clearly signposted in Baltic States, and the written languages are so different from English, there were several occasions when I struggled to work out “where to go and how to get there”, notably the Gauja National Park near Riga and the fascinating Curonian Spit accessible by ferry from Klaipeda. I nearly failed to find the Art Nouveau area in Riga (put off by roadworks on the way) and did miss the historic centre of Klaipeda (arriving late at a disappointing hotel) and the Church of Saint Peter and Paul, “further afield” from the main centre of Vilnius so requiring extra effort to get there on a hot day. If armed with this guide, with its double-page spreads to feature key buildings and detailed maps of specific areas of interest I would not have made any of the above errors and been spared a good deal of frustration.
This book provides an excellent synthesis of useful information, based on sound knowledge of the area. The opening section suggests 14 day itineraries for each country, from which one can pick a shorter version e.g. the 3-4 days I spent in each one. Background history is covered concisely for each country, with an initial section which highlights the common factors for all three e.g. the influence of the Swedes and the Russians. Architectural styles, landscapes and wildlife, and religion are all covered in the same way.
The whole book, including maps, is designed to provide an accessible “at a glance” insight which is very convenient in helping one to “grasp” an overall picture, but the guide also enables one to “drill down” easily to the next level when planning a visit.