I have been thinking hard in order to find a way how to write this blog without always writing about the weather:-)) So I will try to sum it up and make it “quick and dirty” this time… So: rainy, sunny, thunderstorm, blue skies, rain, grey sky but dry, blue skies, fall wheater – that pretty much sums it up until today.
As far as the initiary is concerned, I am a little bit in a hurry: my parents love to keep me busy and have booked a flight to Riga. So now I am trying to stick to a schedule and make it there mid July. That’s the reason I decided to do another detour. Yes. Never go with the obvious. If you don’t have time, extend your ways 🙂 So for those following on a map – here are the stops: Marijampole to Skirsnemune to Silute. In Silute I took the ferry to Nida on the Curonian Spit. From Nida to Nemirseta to Bernati (attention – this is Latvia already) to Pavilosta.
So my time in Lithuania was rather short. However taking the boat to Nida was very nice, reading Thomas Mann and visiting his holiday house also felt good and in the end standing on yet another sand dune – but this time – if I am not mistaken – on the highest one in Europe (70m), was beautiful. The whole Lithuanian coastline is lined by a cycle path which basically made it super nice to ride northwards. The beaches are georgeous with very fine white sand and the national parks with trees similar to pine trees and lots of wild life (thankfully all the wild boar, elks and the like stayed well hidden) are a pleasure to ride in. On the way I visited the witches hill with great wood carvings based on Lithuanian fairy tales.
Something that always keeps me busy on this route: ever since I have left Berlin I have read a lot on the history of the different regions I went through and particularly about their role in the 2nd World War. One sort of doesn’t really come around that, as there are many memorials along this route. It is really very interesting, even though if sometimes we feel we know all about it – there is still so much to learn.
Lithuania, as Poland and as now Latvia are countries I had never been to before. And even though my days in Lithuania were really limited, I really enjoyed those days. And I am always sooooo impressed by how easy it is to talk to people here. So I would say the 50+ generation mainly still speaks Russian as a second language, but even if they don’t understand English they will do everything to help you, or – more likely – they will quickly call out to some teenager or school kid who will be happy (and very pourdly) translate into flawless English. And many, many people speak excellent English – it’s like it’s always been like this and looking at history it clearly hasn’t. I am so impressed. Another thing I really enjoyed in Lithuania is that camping spots are most of the time super nice. They often have their own little lake or pond (ready for you to take a swim) and they almost always come with a kitchen for everyone to use. In general the price level is low, but then there are these exceptions – like paying suddenly more for a camping spot than you would pay in France or making the error of ordering a Spritz – which will certainly be about +50% from what you would pay in Vienna.
Then I have mainly had two nice encounters with locals. And funny enough – both times they were living an expatriate life, being back home for the summer. I think something that is not so unusual, looking at statistics. Anyway – the first guy was Lithuanian (and hey – I am not kidding – his name was seriously Robert) and living in London for 22 years. He couldn’t believe I was travelling by myself. Asked about 5 times why I was travelling by myself and couldn’t believe, that I would acatually enjoy that:-)) And the second couple I met were Latvians having basically lived all over the world – currently in Dubai. I am not quite sure I got all the details, but I think she said she is into banking or something. It did sound a bit like the World Bank or so – anyways, we had nice talk in a super nice Cafe called “Boulangerie” in Liepaja and I got many tipps of where to go in Lithuania and on which places are worth seeing. Liepaja was a nice stop. Apparently there are more “art nouveau” (Jugendstil) buildings there than in Riga. And it seems to be the hot spot in Latvia for music – there were notes in the pavement all over the city. What a nice detail!
So – here my new favorite story – sort of explaining why I chose this title for the blog: Yesterday I was (as many days before) once again following the trail paths in my book called the “Iron Curtain Trail”. I had a coffee in a super nice spot about 16km after the border and was counting on doing another 1.5 – 2 hours (about 30km) until I would put my tent up. Well – this is what it said in my bike about the first 13km: “Dort radelt man geradeaus in den nicht aspahltierten Weg immer an der Ostsee entlang.” (basically this means: you ride into the forest and follow the path – always along the Baltic sea.) Eeeeaaasssyyy.
When I started to ride into the forest I was somehow lost in tought and didn’t pay a lot of attention as to where I was going. But according to my map there was really no way to do any wrong turns anyway, so I didn’t bother too much. Well this changed quickly after about 10min as the path was getting really sandy and super difficult to ride on. So I double checked the map, went back and forth and finally got my phone out to check my current position via gps – no signal. So back to the old-skool style: map and sun. Direction was correct. So I continued. The path got worse and riding even more difficult. I stoped. Bad idea – the worse attack so far happened: about 50 Moskitos showed up – trying to eat me alive. I tried to continued and realized I simply couldn’t. The thing is – as long as you ride, those beasts won’t attack you, but as soon as you start to walk or worse: stop – they are all over you. So I saw only one solution: I quickly put my bike on the ground and instead of stoping I ran a circle around it. After the the first round I took of the bag where I had my repellent hidden. Next circle. Opened the bag. Next circle. Pulled everything out of the bag. Next circle. Found the repellent and ran about three circles around the bike, spraying me at the same time. Relieve. So yes, it must have looked like Rumpelstilzskin dancing around the fire, excpet that I was running around a bike. But – first challenge of the day managed (unfortunately the Gods must have mistaken it for a rain dance – as it was pouring at night). The next challenge made me rely on my capabilities as part-time squaw (Pocahontas). Winnetou would have been proud. I basically found my way by looking at the sand and finding some bycicle tracks every now and then.. Or let’s say, those tracks were the only thing that rassured me I was not completely off-track for a while. To make a long story short (as i always tend to extend them) there was no way riding in this forest and on that path, but there was also no way around it. So I ended up pushing, dragging and pulling my bike for about 13km, which took me about 3,5 hours (!!!). I had never been so dirty on the whole trip as last night….. But I learned my lesson: I will stay on pathed roads for now! See for yourself and send me more sunshine – that feels great!