Cell phones or cell service providers


I am moving to Riga next week from Canada. In Canada there is a terrible monopoly on all things cell-phone related. I hear that Europe is better, much, much better. But I don't want to get lured into the first company I visit because it seems so much better than anything here.

So here is my question(s):
- Should I buy a cell phone in Germany on my way in and only get a SIM card or is it better to get a cell phone plan and a cell phone together?
- What are the best companies? What type of plans should I look for? I would like a plan that allows for travel across Europe if possible
- And ... my parents are a little older and I while I am hoping to get them comfortable with Sykpe, I do see future phone calls. Any recommendations on plans or should I instead be exploring the phone-card route, if so - what are your recommendations.

I am very excited about the move ... and probably have so many questions. But all in time.

My US phone worked in Russia after I put in a Russian SIM card, and then when I visited Switzerland, I did the  same thing. I took my iphone to a Swiss phone company and for $10, they put in a Swiss SIM card and it worked fine the whole time I was in Switzerland. I am now headed to Latvia with the same iphone to see what happens.

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