Lithuania I

Crossing from Poland into Lithuania was clearly not a big deal. It seems so different, almost exotic, so far away, but really is just another EU country and not even that far away from Berlin – although it used to be a republic of the USSR not too long ago, which I can still not get my head around.
Our first stop was Druskininkai, a spa town in the South known for it’s fresh and healthy air (better than in Davos, Switzerland they say…) and mineral springs. We went more for the scenery: dark woods and clear lakes.

The sights on our first day included a “Devil’s stone”; the Lithuanian-Belarus border (or a rest area about two kilometers from the border as we didn’t dare to get closer as that is a serious border!); Grūto parkas, an exhibition of old Soviet monuments (apparently it’s some millionaire’s hobby to collect them and put them in his backyard – a little creepy to have dozens of Lenins and Stalins in the woods there); and an old monastery high above the Nemunas river.

And on to our next stop: Vilnius. Certainly a city with a history and fine barock architecture, but the Soviet history (and architecture) is also still quite visible, maybe even dominant and the weather – unfortunately – didn’t do much to add charm either.

The Geographical Center of Europe was just a quick stop on our way to Ignalina in the Northeast and the Aukštaiktijos National Park: more woods and lakes and beauty (and rain, which meant no hikes, but taking the car for a tour).

And the last stop on the first leg of this trip: the Hill of Crosses near Šiauliai in the center of the country. Over 200,000 crosses in all forms, shapes and sizes have been put on this hill plus many, many rosaries. As much a display of faith as a symbol of protest during the Soviet rule it has become a major tourist attraction. Fortunately one that does not charge admission – and parking was only 90 cents.

We’ll be back in a few days. Now we are off to Latvia.


Travel companion needed

I don’t mind travelling alone and I don’t mind driving for several hours by myself either. But twice on my trip today (5 hours on the road) I really missed a travel companion. 

I wanted (needed) to stop for a break and pulled into a service station directly on the Autobahn. There usually is a gas station and a restaurant, not necessarily in the same building, often even a few hundred meters apart. As was the case where I pulled in. So I followed the signs to the restaunt – and ended up amongst all the trucks already parked there for the night. And as you cannot reverse or turn around I had to park there too.

I have no idea how I ended up there instead of the nice car parking – I would have needed someone to help me interpret the signs. It made me feel a little better though when I noticed another car also parked in my area when I returned from my coffee break.

The nice weather made for the most beautiful sunset a little later. We had the brightest, clearest sky! There was snow on the fields. The trees were backlit by the most perfect round red sun – slowly sinking lower and lower.

And I did not have anybody to take a picture. Really! Not just to post – that one would have been a keeper to go up on a wall somewhere.

In that moment travelling alone really didn’t cut it at all.

Warning! When your car is not happy

We are on our next trip already – a weekend at the beach with a group of family and friends and we had a bit of an exciting start.

We were driving up to the coast in a long line of other cars in the middle of some serious road construction on the Autobahn – single lane no way to escape left or right. Suddenly, the dreaded “bling” and a light comes on at the dashboard with a message saying:

Loss of pressure in your left rear tire.

No way to go! At least it didn’t say that the tire was totally flat. Images rushing through my head: having to stop, holding up hundreds of other cars, unloading, looking for the spare… Ahhhh!

We made it to the next rest area and the tire looked fine. We stopped at the next gas station and checked the pressure. It was just a tiny bit lower than the right rear tire. We filled it up a little – and then found the screw stuck in the tire.

Yes, we left the screw right there and are now wondering

a) if maybe we have been driving around England with the screw in the tire already and

b) if the air will hold or if the tire will be flat when we pick up the car from the parking place at the ferry when we return on Monday.

Fingers crossed that it will look like this: