13 November 2009
LIthuanian Lovin’ in Vacant Vilnius
Nearly right at the center of our trip, Lianne her brother Nigel and his fiance Chris joined us in Lithuania for several days of non-stop fun and excitement (minus the fun and excitement). Just kidding!
We rented a car so as to cover as much ground as possible despite their traditionally British intuition of thinking a 20-mile car journey is some great distance. After pick-up at the Ryan Air airport located in the middle of nowhere we headed back to Vilnius via the spectacular Trakai Castle which is set amidst a collection of islands in the middle of the lake.
For whatever reason, this nation’s gorgeous capital - Vilnius - was oddly deserted over our stay. By deserted I mean there were no people anywhere at all. Anywhere. At all. Anywhere. I have been in remote African villages with more happening on the streets. Fortunately, it made it feel like the city was our own - a comfortable sensation for Imperialist Britons who view the entire world as their plaything (just kidding!).
A big night out and a lovely day wandering the Old Town set us up nicely for a day of adventure on the road. Our first stop was the Hill of Crosses, where - as the name so obviously suggests - a hill is in fact covered with more than 200,000 crosses. It was completely surreal and unlike anything I have ever seen. We even contributed to the collection with our own cross that was both names and dated (that’s a shout out to my date-loving father).
From there it was directly west to the Curonian Spit, where a small island less than a mile wide runs along the coast of Lithuania and into Russian’s mini me - Kaliningrad. We arrived just in time for sunset then cruised down the enchanting land of forests and dunes to Nida at the southernmost point of the Lithuanian side. A near empty town meant we were had the pick of the litter for lodging, food and fun (read: we were the only people in the hotel).
Day four found us trekking on mile after endless mile of sand dunes (yes, sand dunes in Lithuania! Amazing!) and through mile after endless mile of magnificent pine forests before heading back to the Ryan Air airport located in the middle of nowhere. It was an excellent visit that came at just the right moment! A few other highlights:
Photo Shoots - We did lots of them, most of which included people jumping in the air. What really changed was the location. First a town square, second a beach and third a mysterious sand dune.
Nigel’s Positivity - While he wasn’t the happiest camper when it came to long journeys, every city and site was followed with a comment like “this city has charmed me. I love it.” or “this place is just beautiful. Lets stay here all day tomorrow.” It was much appreciated.
Picnic Lunches - It’s the only way to eat on the road. A quick stop at the grocery store and - for about $2 a person - we had a feast of deli meats, cheeses, chips (crisps), fruit, juice and delicious deserts. If this isn’t perfection I don’t know what is.