Cycling for Libraries Day 10-11: Last Days on the Road

Day 10 - 47 miles

Rakvere Library

We began the day by touring the delightful Rakvere Public Library. In the photo above you can see Katarina Jee, Estonia's only bookmobile, parked next to the library.

The Katarina Jee is part of the Tallinn Public Library system, and she followed us throughout our journey from Vilnius to Tallinn. We had many fun events that involved Katarina Jee, including this fantastic performance of a folk song performed by Estonian school librarians.

Later that day we cycled to the Palmse Korts, an amazing restaurant that is on the grounds of one of Estonia's manor house. We had a very tasty meal that included some of the best pork we've ever eaten.

Palms Korts

Day 11 - 49 miles

The last day had finally arrived. It was a long ride in a headwind and took forever. I think we were just getting excited to be in Tallinn and to reach the our final destination. When we had lunch at the half way mark, it felt like we had already been riding for the entire day. We had been on the  highway and then took a detour through the forest. When we stopped for lunch we understood why we had taken this route, we walked past the lunch tent to discover this amazing waterfall! What a wonderful surprise and beautiful backdrop to our last lunch on the road.

Estonian Waterfall

To pass the time on the long, hard last day. We belted out the hits of the 70s, 80s, and today. We definitely entertained ourselves and our captive audience seemed to enjoy the musical styling of the Texas Girls (the name of our new coverband!). When we hit the city limits of Tallinn we were so excited. Our trip into the center of town was along the coast and we had this incredible view of Old Town. Cycling by the ocean is pretty, but the wind was blowing so hard we had to concentrate on not blowing over.

View of Old Town from Tallinn Coast

We cycled through the cobble stoned streets and were greeted for the last time by the smiles, waves, and cheers of the Estonian people. When we got to Freedom Square, we jumped off our bikes and hugged and congratulated everyone. We had done it! We cycled a total of 366 miles over 11 days. We met the most incredible librarians from around the world and we were changed by the international experience off a lifetime. Where are we going next year?

Celebration in Freedom Square

By April Kessler and Karen Holt of Librarian Lifestyle. April & Karen are librarians at the University of Texas at Austin.

Cycling for Libraries Day 5 & 6: On to Estonia

Day 5  - 34 miles After waking up at the mountain day spa in Ligatne, Latvia, we were treated to a delicious breakfast buffet and we got the see for Cycling for Libraries videos of the trip on the big screen. Hopefully, you have been following along with the videos. It was truly amazing for have an entire film crew following our every move. This just wasn't any film crew. These guys are from the Finnish Library television station, Kirjastokaista. Their job is to film library events and promote libraries full-time. How cool is that?!

Mountain Biking

One of the many forest trails we rode (or maybe walked :) in Latvia

We set off for Cesis on a cool overcast morning. We had no idea what a treat we were in for. We cycled down the mountain and then did some real mountain biking over the river and through the woods. We biked to a castle in Cesis where we were greeted by the local librarians and the mayor. To top it all off our fearless leader Mace Ojala was knighted during the reenactment ceremony. Although it rained on us, that didn't stop the party atmosphere. While waiting  for lunch, we danced in the drizzle to disco and the Beach Boys.

Cesis Librarian

Cesis Castle

The knighting ceremony

That afternoon we arrived in Valmeira and were treated to a feast of traditional Latvian food and local beer at a museum. After dinner there was a ceremony of folk traditions and peals of laughter rang out as we attempted to dance some traditional Latvian dances. One of the highlights of our trip was the focus on the singing culture of the Baltics. All three countries, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, have strong folk song traditions, and many of our Cycling for Libraries cultural events involved singing. We loved it!


Our delicious meal in Valmeira

Day 6 - 50 miles

This was another long day of riding that took us to the half way point of the trip. We saw two very different types of libraries as finally made our way to Estonia. Our first stop was the Valmeira Library. It is a combined academic and public library with the Vidzeme University College in one half of the building and the public library in the other. The library just opened in 2007 and it was  a beautiful space. Questions raised during the presentation and tour were about shared spaces and resources and how it was possible. Valmeira is making it work and it brings to light a different approach to allocating limited resources.

Valmiera Library

Valmiera Library

Our next stop was what we called the prairie library. The Jaunklida Public Library is located in a rural community of 250 inhabitants. Because it is so remote, the library also serves as a community center. Once a month the library hosts the local doctor, social worker, and even the hairdresser, making the library the epicenter of the town. It is such a cool space that patrons also have their weddings there.

Jaunklida Community Library

The Jaunklida Public Library

The sister cities of Valka, Latvia and Volga, Estonia share a border where you cross seamlessly between countries, but they don't share the same language or currency. We were greeted with music and fruit in Valka.

Valka Town Hall

Valka Town Hall and Mayor (in the distance)

Latvian Berries

The delicious berries and water that were presented to us at nearly every Latvian library we visited

Then, we rode our bikes across the border to Estonia. We were hours late by the time we got to the town of Volga, but our greeting party was still there waiting. We toured the local library. Then, we met the mayor and saw an entire show put on by the dance/singing troupe in Volga. We were blown away by the talent and generosity of the people there.

Dinner that night was a traditional Estonian meal and it was worth staying up late and cycling in the dark to get there.

Stay turned for more Cycling for Libraries adventures!

By April Kessler and Karen Holt of Librarian Lifestyle. April & Karen are librarians at the University of Texas at Austin.

Cycling for Libraries - Day 2 & 3

Day 2 - 23 miles cycled After the fist day and and a whirlwind of library tours, day 2 was double the cycling and only one library visit. The 23 miles seemed more difficult, because it was unseasonably warm in Lithuania. That day we got our first glimpse of the types of cycling we were in for - mountain bike trails and hills. Along the route we were surprised and thrilled to be supported by members of the Lithuanian Library Association. The group wore bright green t-shirts and followed us in cars along the route and honked and waved and met us at our destination in Trakai. Their support made a huge difference  long, hot ride.

After lunch we had one of our first cultural visits when we visited the beautiful castle on the lake in the picturesque vacation town of Trakai.

When the castle tour was over we loaded our bikes on a truck and filled up two buses with librarians for a 4-hour ride into Latvia.

During the bus ride we got to meet more of colleagues when we had discussions about our library careers and future plans. We arrived in Riga a few hours late so we skipped the showers and jumped on a train into the city for a traditional Latvian dinner.

Day 3 - 13.5 miles

On day 3 we had another police escort through the city of Riga. This was the first time we saw what kind of press was following the tour. It reminded us first hand that one of the goals of Cycling for Libraries is to bring awareness to libraries and library services. That morning we were interviewed by the Latvian news as were waiting for the Latvian Minister of Culture to meet our group.

The backdrop for the interviews was the construction site National Library of Latvia which opens next year.

Even though Day 3 was spent in the city of Riga, we had a packed day. After meeting with the mayor, we cycled through the city to a charming public library. There is nothing quite like cycling through a city with a police escort. All of the streets were open to us and it felt like being in a parade. We greeted many curious passerbys with rings of our bells and shouts of hello.

Following the ride in the city and a tour of the Turiba University Business Library, we turned our thoughts to current library issues, namely librarians and entrepreneurship. We gave a very brief talk about the way libraries could foster entrepreneurship among staff. Åke Nygren followed us with a very interesting talk about his work and his powerful ideas on libraries and entrepreneurship.

We capped the evening by taking a Riga tour of our choice. On offer were tours of a bike shop, an adventure tour, the Art Nouveau tour, and a craft/maker evening. Being an architecture lover, Karen choose the Art Noveau tour, which featured a fascinating personalized tour of the Art Nouveau architecture in Riga and the beautiful Art Nouveau Museum. (Highly recommend for anyone traveling to Riga.)

Then, it was off to bed to prepare for our longest day of cycling.

Day 2 & 3 Videos

By Karen Holt of Librarian Lifestyle and April Kessler. April and Karen are librarians at the University of Texas at Austin and had an amazing time at Cycling for Libraries.