One day in Riga

So, I went from Lithuania to Riga, Latvia. On my way there I thought that I also wanted to see Jūrmala and visit the memorial in Salaspils… But it didn’t happen, I didn’t have time at all. I stayed just one night in Riga, in a hostel in the city center.

Here is some information about the hostel: Seagull Garret Hostel, situated in the very city center in a ten-minute walk from the main square. The prices vary, but on average it’s around 7-8 euro per night. All the employees speak Russian, it’s very clean, and there are good rooms with separate bathrooms. And the best perk for travelers is that for 5 euro your clothing will be washed and dried in a special machine in just one night. It’s very valuable, as due to my frequent trips my clothing has no time to dry after washing. All in all, I recommend you this hostel.) The only problem was that they lost my sock while washing. ><.

Памятник мэру города Рига и его жене - Рига
Monument to the Mayor of Riga and his wife

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Lithuanian Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Several times, I came across promotional leaflets with photos of private schools. Clean wide corridors, spacious classrooms, large windows, new whiteboards, good furniture, pleasant colors and neat interiors…

This is how the public school for deaf children in Vilnius looks. It is the biggest educational center in Lithuania, and almost the only school for deaf children. The center comprises a kindergarten (for children from 3 to 7) and a school (for children from 7 to 18).

Children in Lithuanian general education schools study for 12 years (like in Latvia), while deaf

children in special schools study for 13 years. And the school that I visited is a dream school.=)

Литовский центр образования глухих и слабослышащих - Коридоры детского сада
Corridors of the kindergarten

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Užupis. A state within a state

There’s a unique district of Užupis in Vilnius. It sounds a bit weird, yes.:) It’s a district of local Bohemia… Here, there live artists, musicians, sculptors… This city district has its own constitution (!) and its own population, different from others. I read about this place as long ago as at school, and I’ve wanted to visit it for a long time. So, having reached Vilnius, I went there first of all. The district is connected to the city by small bridges, the walls are painted everywhere, and the center is decorated with a statue of the Užupis angel. There is a wall here with dozens of constitution copies in various languages.

Here again, I got assured that travelers are lucky. After deciding that I needed at least something to eat, I bought some food in a supermarket and went to look for a garden to sit in. A rain started, and I had to take cover in one of the courtyards not to get completely wet. I had hardly started my meal before a door of one of the nearest buildings opened and a man said to me in pure Russian: “Why are you sitting here? A tourist? You’ll get cold. Come in.” The man turned out to be a Lithuanian called Vitaliy. He served in the army in Russia, so he knows Russian well. Vitaliy treated me to wild rose tea and talked for several hours about Lithuania, Vilnius, Užupis and his life to the day we met.

Мост, ведущий в Ужупис
The bridge leading to Užupis


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Vilnius. First Impressions

I’ve already been in a new country for several days, and haven’t sent any news! Not good.

I don’t even know where to start! It’s the second time that I’ve been in Vilnius, in Lithuania. But my adventures in this city in the last two days can’t be compared with a guided tour: “Look right. Now look left.” To say the truth, my meeting with the city started with a disappointment… My expectations to have a warm trip were disappointed by +8°C in the morning and a hat pulled over my frozen ears. The awakening city welcomed me with ice-cold wind and Saint-Petersburg-like architecture. At a certain moment, I felt like I hadn’t left Russia: there were people speaking Russian everywhere, typical five-storey blocks on the outskirts and dumpy plastered buildings in the city center. However, the difference feels in the atmosphere. Everything is somehow… simpler. You don’t see preoccupied people in a hurry, grim cashiers and peevish drivers. The mood is steady, calm and moderately amiable.

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Estimated Itinerary

So, here is a little about the itinerary itself. From the moment I started working on the project, it changed significantly… First of all, I left out the most dangerous countries, those, where military operations are held. Then, I had to exclude several Muslim countries, where I wouldn’t be let in without my father, brother or husband accompanying me (and there are countries like this!). I left out of the list some countries with hard-to-get visas.

At the moment, the work is still going on, I’m obtaining my visas, and there is a chance that some applications will be turned down. Thus, the given itinerary is an estimated one, but you can rely on its geographic range.

The first part of the itinerary includes European countries, Great Britain, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and others.)

The second part of the itinerary will lead me a lot further, but it isn’t that defined yet.

Estimated Itinerary - A Special Educator’s Journey
Estimated Itinerary

On visas

So, what’s with the visas?

For now, I have only obtained a Schengen visa for the first part of the journey. Maybe, I should briefly tell you about it.

After all, I didn’t dare to submit my application to the embassy, as my status is dubious.) I’m a student who doesn’t work, with no salary or sponsor letter. I submitted it to a visa application center, as according to reviews, the process is taken to the assembly line there, and they grant visas more easily. I submitted my application in late April, and got the answer only a month later due to the May holidays and a rush of tourists. The documents required are:

  • The foreign passport,
  • Photographs,
  • The form.
  • карта Европы

They didn’t take ANYTHING else from me. Neither a certificate of enrollment, nor a ticket reservation, nor a hotel room reservation. Though, I brought everything.) Even the bank account statement.

I applied for a Finnish visa for two years (it is easier to visit Finland than other countries to comply with the visa terms), but they gave me a visa for half a year. I don’t know the reason… I already have over eight Schengen visas in my passports… Maybe, it’s because I’m going alone. Maybe, because all the previous visas were only for the duration of the trips.

Due to this, I had to rearrange my itinerary and leave Europe earlier.

Also, I had plans to get a British visa for the first part of my journey. However, I won’t do it now: it’s a detour, and it costs extra money to get the visa, while I was only planning to spend several days there. Thus, only Schengen. Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan are visa-free, so I’ll be hanging out there when I leave the Schengen Agreement countries.

I’ll post a detailed daily itinerary later

Detailed Daily Itinerary

Here is the detailed itinerary scheduled day by day.

Yes, every country takes several days. In case of emergency, I will cut the itinerary and increase time spent in a country.)

Lithuania—the night from September 3 to 4, September 4, 5, 6: train or bus

Latvia—transfer on September 6, September 6, 7, 8

Estonia—transfer on September 9, September 10, 11, 12

Finland (by ferry or via Russia)—September 13

Finland—September 14, 15, 16

Sweden (air transfer Helsinki–Stockholm)—September 16, air transfer

Sweden—September 17, 18, 19

Denmark—transfer on September 19, September 20, 21

Germany—transfer on September 22, September 23, 24, 25

The Netherlands—September 26—transfer, September 27, 28 29

Belgium—transfer on Sept. 29, September 30, October 1, 2, 3

France (a little, crossing of the English Channel)—October 4

Great Britain—October 5, 6, 7

Belgium–France—October 4

France—October 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Italy—transfer on October 12–13, October 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Slovenia—transfer on Oct. 19, October 20, 21

Hungary—transfer on Oct. 22, October 23, 24

Serbia—transfer on Oct. 25, October 26, 27

Greece—transfer on Oct. 28, October 29, 30, 31

November 1–2—Greece–Turkey, transfer

Turkey—transfer on Nov. 17, November 18, 19, 20, 21

Turkey–Armenia—air transfer, November 22

Armenia—transfer on Nov. 22, November 23, 24

Georgia—transfer on Nov. 25, November 26, 27, 28

Azerbaijan—transfer on Nov. 29, November 30, December 1, 2, 3

Azerbaijan–Russia—December 4, 5, transfer

Then, I’m going back to Russia for a month, because I’ll have to submit my documents for a Schengen visa, which will be expired by that time, for the second part of the journey.)

Whoever wants to join me at any moment of the trip—I’ll be happy to meet you! Feel free to write to me


Finland. On schools

During the first trip, I could only learn a little about schools for children with hearing loss, because I had to go back to Russia. In Helsinki, the last school for deaf children was closed around 10 years ago, as they decided that children with hearing loss are better off studying with their peers who hear well. So, we are talking about integration of children with hearing loss into the environment of their peers who hear well. Nowadays, we hear the words “integration” and “inclusion” more and more often. I would like to explain the major difference. Both terms imply different involvement of a child with limited health capacities (“a child with limited health capacities” is an official term in Russia) in the education system. Integration presupposes that a child with disability is integrated into the environment of ordinary peers, and studies and develops according to the standard requirements. In other words, we just place a special child from a special institution to an ordinary one, and he or she studies there. During integration, A CHILD WITH LIMITED HEALTH CAPACITIES ADAPTS TO THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE ENVIRONMENT.
Integration can be different.
 Full integration: a child with limited health capacities constantly studies with ordinary peers and constantly spends out-of-school time with them;
 Non-full integration: a child with limited health capacities studies with ordinary peers and spends most of his or her out-of-school time with them;
 Partial integration: a child with limited health capacities spends only a part of his or her school and out-of-school time with ordinary peers;
 Occasional integration: a child with limited health capacities is only united with ordinary peers on special events and festivities. The purpose of this kind of integration is to organize at least minimum interaction between children.
As for inclusion, it implies acceptance of each child’s personality, and the studies are organized so that all educational needs of the child are satisfied. An individual study program is created. Thus, inclusion presupposes that THE ENVIRONMENT ADAPTS TO THE NEEDS OF A CHILD WITH LIMITED HEALTH CAPACITIES. Thus, we can consider inclusive education more humane. And more advanced.
So, the last school for deaf children in Helsinki (Albert’s School) was disbanded and moved to a general education school. Thus, we can call it partial integration, as despite the fact that all the children study in one school, children with limited health capacities (in this case they are children with hearing loss) study in separate classes and interact with their peers who hear well only on walks, special events and festivities. Moreover, some lessons are held together. I managed to get to the school and talk to the director. She turned out to be very friendly, though she was utterly amazed by my visit. I couldn’t contact this school in advance, as Russian search engines didn’t give me any information even for a search in English. These were my acquaintances in Helsinki who helped me find this school through Finnish search engines, and even this took a lot of trouble. The school looks like in a traditional American movie: friendly children, light corridors, everywhere there are children’s handicraft, models, drawings, good repairs… The atmosphere is that of a festive day.
As I said before, children with hearing loss study in separate classes. They have one hearing teacher and two deaf ones. All the three speak Finnish and English excellently and write skillfully. As I had to return to Russia very quickly, I couldn’t observe the lessons, but now I’m corresponding with the school’s teachers, and I will surely let you know about the new information that I’ll be able to get! I will go back to this school during my future journey, in autumn.
The school’s name: Albertin koulu
Address: Finland, Helsinki, Viinenkuja, 6

The US visa

Finally, it is more clear how my next year will go! I got a US visa! So, now I can plan this large journey for the winter months. To say the truth, I didn’t expect that my visa application would be accepted. Right before me, visas were denied to two people, and I was the third to go to the interview. I submitted my documents not to the embassy, but to the visa application center. I know that it’s more expensive. But it seems to me that it’s more reliable. I submitted the following documents:

  • My foreign passport;
  • 2 photographs;
  • Confirmation of the ticket reservation;
  • Confirmation of the hotel room reservation;
  • A certificate of enrollment from my institute (confirming that I study there);
  • A copy of my student ID card;
  • A bank account statement;
  • A certificate for immovable property (if any).

If you are a student, it is best to provide them with a sponsor letter. However, a bank account statement will also do and, if possible, a certificate for immovable property. If you’re married, I recommend you bring the marriage certificate. All in all, you should show them that you have a lot of ties in Russia and you will by no means want to move to the US. Many people have written about it, but I’m repeating it here. You can see accurate details on the website of the visa application center where you’re planning to submit your documents, or on the website of the US embassy in your country.

After submitting the documents and filling out a form, you are registered on an interview and given back your foreign passport in several days. I was given an interview a month later.

The embassy itself came to me as a great surprise! It turned out that from 10 to 15 people are registered for one time. We all waited outside, under the rain, and were let in two people at a time. We had to leave water outside. In the embassy, they went through my pockets once and found all electronic devices. At the second check, all these devices were put away into a safe. I went through a metal door, they checked my documents (the fourth time now!), and I stood in another line. After half an hour of waiting (everyone thought it was the interview!) they checked our fingerprints again, and we stood in the third line—to the interview. Contrary to expectation, the interview was not held privately in a separate room, but through a window in the common room. They talked in Russian to me, as I was going to the US for the first time. I was only asked five questions:

  • If I was going to the US for the first time;
  • The purpose of the visit;
  • If I have relatives there;
  • What cities and towns I was visiting;
  • How long I was staying in the country.

That’s all. After this, a rugged man with a severe accent said that the visa application was accepted, and left with my foreign passport. The passport was given back to me at the visa center, and there was now a visa in it. The visa was given me for three years!

All turned out to be simpler than I had thought.


I’m happy and joyful!

The Estimated Itinerary, Part II

As I now have a US visa, I can travel throughout the two continents of America, from the north to the south. Feel free to join in! And remember that in South America there are the hot countries of Brazil and Argentina, and they are visa-free for citizens of many countries.

Russia–Iceland (air transfer)—January 9

Iceland—January 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

Iceland–Canada (Montreal)—January 14


Montreal—January 15, 16, January 17—transfer

Ottawa—January 17, 18, 19

January 20—transfer to New York, the USA


New York—January 21, 22, 23

January 24—transfer to Washington

Washington—January 24, 25, 26

Washington–Nashville—January 27–28

Nashville–Memphis–Little Rock—January 29

Little Rock–Dallas—January 30

Dallas—January 31, February 1

Dallas–San Antonio—February 2


San Antonio–Nuevo Laredo–Monterrey—February 3

Monterrey—February 4

Monterrey–San Luis Potosí—February 5

San Luis Potosí–Mexico City—February 6

Mexico City—February 7, 8, 9

Mexico City–Costa Rica (air transfer to San José)—February 10


San José—February 11, 12, 13

San José–David—February 14


David–Panama City—February 15

Panama City—February 16

Panama City–Bogota (air transfer)—February 17


Bogota–Popayan—February 17


Popayan–Quito—February 18

Quito—February 19, 20, 21

Quito–Machala—February 22


Machala–Piura—February 23

Piura–Trujillo—February 24

Trujillo–Lima—February 25

Lima—February 26, 27, 28

Lima–Santiago—February 28, air transfer


(Santiago)—March 1, 2

Santiago–San Luis—March 3


San Luis–Buenos Aires—March 4

Buenos Aires—March 5, 6, 7


Buenos Aires–Paysandú–Tacuarembó—March 8

Tacuarembó–Porto Alegre—March 9, 10

Porto Alegre–São Paulo—March 12

São Paulo—March 12, 13, 14