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.


Road Trip to England…

A few years ago, we took our car all the way to England and had a wonderful trip exploring the South coast from Dover to Torquay with some side trips a little futher north.

We loved it so much that we said then and there that we’d do that again – and here we are! After quite a long drive (we are more than 1,000 km / ca 600 miles from home) through Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, we finally arrived at our first destination.

This is Ellie getting cozy on the ferry from Calais to Dover:Uk1

Now, we are in the West in the little town Great Malvern and we went on a wonderful hike on “the hills” today. The highest peak is Worcester Beacon with 485m /  530 yards – and we climbed all the way to the top.

We walked right into a marriage proposal and I got to give it to the guy, he picked a very romantic spot. The views up there are spectacular! There were also dozens of other people around, but the happy couple probably didn’t even notice.

Here’s Ellie with Great Malvern in the valley in the background:


Back in town, we needed a British cup of tea:

Thus refreshed, we visited the Priory that dates back to 1085 – quite impressive and equally beautiful. Apparently, some of the windows are especially old and noteworthy as are the tiles (which I have now duly mentioned).


Quite a first day with many more to come…

More summer dreaming

Dear friend Wilbur has taken the clue and has sent a few pictures from one of his trips this past summer. It was a road trip along the Danube river in Germany and I’ve got to tell you, the pictures surely got me dreaming of  summer… and travelling… and sunshine…

First was a boat trip of course.


Also, a stop in Kehlheim at the Hall of Liberation, which looks a little bit like a huge cookie jar and was built in rememerance of the battles against Napoleon in 1813-1815 by King Ludwig I of Bavaria (I hope I am getting all the history right). It’s built on a hill overlooking the river.


Inside there are 34 mable victory goddesses, each 4m (13ft) high. You can walk around the entire cuppola on the higher balcony.


Other stops included Noerdlingen, where sweet Wibur posed in front of a quite unique fountain with the Hotel Kloesterle in the background, that once was a monestary.


And beautiful Rothenburg with the Gerlach Smithery in this picture. The picture was taking from the city walls.


But my favorite looks like a side trip to Greece and a Greek temple…


The Walhalla!

Also built by Ludwig I in 1842 it commemorades famous Germans. There are busts and statues inside.

And it’s not just the perspective, it’s huge!

And look at the blue sky and puffy white clouds…