This is a special time of year, the brief intermezzo between summer, when the city is full of visitors, and winter, when it is covered in snow, like a sleeping fairy-tale city.It’s the best time to explore the Baltic region, and that’s what photographer Fabian Weiß and I intend to spend the next ten days doing.So this is the outermost EU and NATO frontier: a small pine wood with a low wire fence that we could easily scale.There are benches on the Estonian side, but what could there be to see here? The bus runs four times a day, but only if you call in first.I am surprised to discover how different the Baltic countries are. Latvia is home to a large Russian minority, nearly one third of the population, including the mayor of Riga. Anete, a Latvian photographer, shows us her city, the young Riga.“New things keep coming up,” she says, “and disappearing again.” If you want to open a small shop, you have to do it in the spring and hope that business thrives throughout the summer.Seto culture is a happy mix of orthodox Christianity and natural religion, and the Seto are proud of their independence. He doesn’t join us at the table but instead sits beside it, in Seto tradition.“We have learned to live outside borders,” says Aare. We are unaware that the polite way to refuse more drink is to say: “It looks like water! ” By the end of the evening we are quite tipsy, whereas our host is not. A bus stocked with groceries crosses our path, and Rita, the driver, flashes us a smile. We pass Valka, a border town, and the road turns into a track.
Part of the road also briefly crosses Russian territory, which means stopping, getting out of the car or walking are strictly prohibited.We almost miss our next appointment, a tour of the Soviet bunker in Līgatne, from where the Russians intended to rule the Baltic states in the event of a nuclear war.Boney M and Mireille Matthieu records lie scattered around the common room.That’s the only way to survive the long Baltic winters when people prefer to stay indoors.