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Red Corner: Vilnius, Tallinn, and Riga
The Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were the last to be incorporated into the Soviet Union, and boy do they show it. The extra 20 years of European influence can still be seen today as these three countries, now independent, are rapidly becoming hot tourist destinations-thanks in large part to this quaint European vibe still very much alive.
The flavor of these three capitals is succinctly captured in an LA Times piece by Beverly Beyette who heaps accolades upon the Art Nouveau façades of Riga, the walled old town of Tallinn, and the hidden courtyards of Vilnius. Vilnius, however, was Beyette's least favorite of the three capitals, but one which I particularly like; it just takes a little bit more exploring to fully enjoy it.
This fairy tale ambience of the Baltics, however, is offset by dark memories of Soviet and Nazis abuses. Although she doesn't write too much about it, Beyette does delve outside the idyllic comfort zone of her travels to visit the horrific Museum of Genocide Victims in Vilnius and The Museum of Occupations in Tallinn. A few hours in either one of these museums can ruin your whole day with the horrors contained within; it is a necessity, however, when visiting the Baltics.