LithuaniaPosted: June 3, 2011
We are traveling at the speed of spring and have been accompanied by blossom from Italy to here. Crossing the border from Poland into Lithuania sends tingles down my spine. Never in my life have I once imagined I would visit this country. All others we have traveled to so far were on my radar to visit at some stage, but not Lithuania, not the Baltics. I never even knew where they were!
All up, we know very little about the next 3 little countries we will be visiting. We do know that they were subject to Russian rule until as recently as 1991. We also know they are countries rich in the resin stone, Amber, and have heard of romantic stories of Amber being picked up on the Baltic beaches after heavy rains; of a quality piece of Amber holding the same value as a young and healthy slave and of of the Ancient Amber Trading Route that goes from the Baltic coast as far as Northern Africa.
The landscape here is instantly different to Poland. The land is lumpy – tiny undulations but bigger than moguls, of green or chocolate brown. The soil is fantastic. Some fields are cultivated, but most is grass, growing to provide silage for barn kept animals.
The architecture too, is different. Mostly the houses are made from what we can only assume was a Communist issue – white blond brick! If not “white blond brick”, they are timber. It seems like months since we have seen so many timber houses, not being the building material of choice further south. The trouble with the timber here, its not been painted and the homes and buildings do not look like they will survive the long haul.
Our first stop into Lithuania is its capital, Vilnius. Arriving late we score a stella park right on the river Neris. We are just a 5 minute walk from the old center and enjoy an early Sunday morning stroll absorbing the Baroque architecture of the city, the grandest example north of the Alps! It’s well preserved and restored, although some Soviet hang overs still linger. We don’t have time to stay and explore the 19 museums, 30 art galleries and 5 concert halls the city has to offer but we soak in the atmosphere and enjoy.
Its then due west across the breadth of the country to Curonion Spit . The landscape on the way is pleasant but ordinary, now I am so used to seeing green grass again, the novelty has worn off.! Its unusual to see so much pasture without fences, there are no fences dividing farms, delineating ownership. With animals kept in barns due to snow and cold winters, the few animals we see are tethered, not wandering around paddocks. That’s a lot of money saved on fencing I’m thinking, although I remember an adage of one of my old style farmer uncles, “Good fencing means Happy neighbors.” I wonder how it impacts here.
The Spit area is pretty and the service surprising and friendly. (We asked a girl in a restaurant directions to our campground. She did not speak English very well so decided to show us where to go. After following her in her car for around 20 minutes we arrived at our destination. She was about to head off with just a smile and a wave but we managed to place in her hands a bottle of wine and a small Koala bear before she did.).
Still, the facilities of the area remind me of the 50’s. Very little is developed or resourced and its not quite “all facilities open to the tourist season” yet, but a relaxing get away none the less. Unfortunately, due perhaps to the prevalence of still water, there were thousands of insects flying through the air. Whilst they certainly looked like mosquitoes, we were told they were a non biting type.!!