The old town of Tallinn, Estonia
The old town of Tallinn, Estonia

Travel to the Baltics

Recently, our very own Sarah Simione traveled on our Baltics tour, along with 16 guests.
This is what she had to say about it...

I was recently invited to join the Baltics tour, visiting Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, as a staff member in order to see what the guest experience on an Archaeological Tours tour was truly like. I was ecstatic for the opportunity and, as I boarded my flight at JFK with all my tour documents in hand, I wondered how the trip would unfold. I wondered what our guests would be like and what kind of experiences they were expecting. I quickly discovered all the answers to my questions and I invite you to read on to hear about my experience on this tour:

As soon as I touched down at Vilnius airport, I spotted the complimentary transfer that is provided for all Archaeological Tours’ guests from the airport to the hotel. In the transfer with me were several other guests as well as the tour manager and we all became acquainted. As a member of the staff, I was more accustomed to seeing their names on emails or only recognizing their voices on the phone, yet, I was delighted by how cordial and friendly they all were with me, even after flying such long distances.

After arriving to our centrally-located hotel in Vilnius’ Old Town center and freshening up, the guests and staff met up in the lobby. We mingled for a bit before being escorted to our privately reserved conference room for our first group lecture. It is here where we truly met Professor John Hines, our guide lecturer for the tour. Archaeological Tours prides itself on its amazing guide lecturers and claims that they are the true heart of our tours; on this tour, the claim was verified as I saw, firsthand, how essential and beneficial having a knowledgeable and, perhaps more importantly, an approachable and friendly guide lecturer is. John was beyond well-versed in terms of both the subject matter at hand and about all things historical and archeological. He fascinated guests with his introduction to the Baltic region and, soon, the guests were invited to offer up their own opinions and ask new questions. The first thing that struck me was the scope of backgrounds and interests that our guests had. Some wished to hear more about the various churches and cathedrals that we would be seeing along our journey; others inquired further about burial sites, Viking artifacts, and linguistic development throughout the region. These individuals were thirsty for knowledge and I instantly felt transported back to my college days, being enthralled in the midst of an intellectual discussion.

As our touring progressed over the subsequent days, we walked through city centers and hillforts, massive cathedrals and small ethnographic museums, and the stimulating discussions continued to flow. The guests, with their varied backgrounds in engineering, archeology, artistry, and so on, continued, captivated by John’s explanations that were not only accurate but were also interesting and engaging. He guided at a good tempo and all 16 guests were more than able to keep up with the set-pace, handling any new figurative and literal terrain with ease. Moreover, Simonia, our tour manager, maintained a hold over the logistics of our tour, managing everything from museum vouchers to transportation to dietary restrictions during group meals. She preemptively removed any possible obstacles and paved the wave for us to have smooth days of touring.

Our local guides were also exemplary. Of particular interest and expertise was our guide, Raza, for when we visited Klaipeda and Nida in Lithuania. Raza, a native Lithuanian, guided us through both the archaeological ruins and ecological splendors of the Couronian Split. Guests were invited to learn all about the plethora of plant and animal species on this Lithuanian peninsula and walking in a more natural setting was indeed a breath of fresh air. I found that Archaeological Tours balanced northern European natural settings with Baltic city centers, Latvian burial grounds with fascinating museum exhibits, and historical churches with Scandinavian architecture. Moreover, the guests benefitted from this marriage of archeology and cultural heritage and, in fact, one guest even remarked “we want to learn about the past in order to understand the present”.

All in all, the jovial and refined demeaner that the guests embodied made the tour an incredibly enjoyable experience and the professional, yet approachable expertise of our guide lecturer allowed everyone to learn and explore new worlds. As I returned to New York, I felt sad to leave all these new wonderful people (and amazing sites!) behind, but I felt secure in the fact that I was returning to the office with a more effective means of interacting, communicating, and serving our guests. I am grateful that I was able to have this opportunity and I look forward to the next opportunity to travel with guests and assist them with their Archaeological Tours journeys!

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Travel to the Baltics was published on July 10 2019