#7 Lithuania/Latvia, July 15, 2011

Dear Everybody,

Nida was pine-tree covered, had sand dunes, was small and quiet, and was a nice respite for me. It was so laid back that I couldn’t find breakfast as nothing was up and going in the morning. I went for a walk about 6:45, hoping to encounter some coffee, but no. At 7:30 I finally noticed that the supermarket was open and so I bought 6 eggs, some butter and blue cheese and a fresh baguette. My hotel has a little kitchen, so I prepared my own breakfast there. About 9:45 I was finally able to buy a cup of coffee!

I did a little exploring and later had an outing on a very nice boat, along with some German tourists. We went as far as Russian waters, then turned around. There was a nice view of the Parnidis Dune, which used to be twice as tall. People that walk up and slide down are the reason it has shrunk.

Lithuanians are very fond of memorial statues. I encounter them everywhere and often. Here there was one of Vytautas Kernagis-Benas, an entertainer who started cantabile poetry and song theatre, whatever that is. There was even a ‘Memorial to All Traffic Victims’ at the Freeway rest stop where the bus stopped on the way to Nida.

 

 

 

 

I found a couple of interesting museums—the Neringa History Museum, which had displays on old times in Nida, including photos of a man biting the neck of a crow to kill it (they ate them), then taking a shot of vodka to kill the taste. (Couldn’t they have just rung their necks? No vodka, then, I suppose!) The Amber Museum had magnifiers placed so one could view the insects in the amber. Actually, a bee got in my beer the other day and it looked very similar! Outside of the museum were carvings based on old amber amulets from Neolithic times.

The next day I had quite an adventure when I went to Siauliai (pronounced approximately shoe-lay’). First I used the rest of my provisions to make my breakfast as there was none to be had at 7:00 AM! Then I got the 8:00 bus to Klaipeda, but only to the ferry, which I took to the city proper. Then I got a taxi, who overcharged me (don’t they all?) and then a bus to Siaulaia. While I was waiting for my bus in Klaipeda, I noticed that two buses were backing out at 90 degree angles and were going to hit each other, and then, CRASH!! Yes, they did. They broke some glass but nothing too serious, I don’t think. Luckily neither was my bus. In the meantime, a man, who appeared to be very drunk, fell down and hit his head, which bled profusely. An ambulance came and took him away.

 

 

 

 

My bus left at 11:00. We began seeing many storks, like one does in the rest of Europe. The countryside was beautiful, as always. I arrived Siauliai at 2:30 and walked a long ways with my pack to a hostel—-that was closed. So, I’m actually staying at a conventional hotel, which I’ll admit, is kind of nice. I even have TV with CNN, but who can stand to listen to the row about the debt ceiling??

Thursday I went sight-seeing, but unfortunately Lithuania (Land Where It Rains is what the word means) did its thing, and I got pretty wet. I did manage to buy two pair of socks as for some reason, I managed to get old socks with me, and all three pair sprung holes.

 

 

 

Then I got some info at the bus station, and visited St George’s Church. The whole world seems extra enamored with St. George killing the dragon, as it is a common motif in many countries. The church has a Russian onion dome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the rain stopped I went to visit the Frenkelis Villa, the home of a leather baron built in 1908. It is still in the process of restoration but one can tour it. I especially liked the table setting in the dining room. If I were a leather baron, I’d eat like that—-!

 

However, since I’m not, at lunchtime I had to settle for being entertained by some street dancers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day I took a bus 10 km out of town to see the Hill of Crosses. I had not planned to see this, as I avoid war memorials, in general. Still, two people recommended it, saying that it wasn’t a cemetery or a war memorial. Indeed, it isn’t, although it’s hard to say exactly what it is. According to my LP guidebook, crosses were once symbols of national identity and sacred fervor, both Pagan and Catholic. They first appeared on this hill in the 14th century, becoming a symbol of hope in bloody antitsarist uprisings. During the Soviet occupation, people were arrested for planting a cross here. The Soviets bulldozed the hill at least three times (’61 and ’77 after the student, Kalantas, set himself on fire, being two), still the tradition continued. I thought the naïf carved crosses especially interesting. The hill now includes crosses to commemorate those who were killed on 9/11 in the USA.

I rounded out the day by checking out a few local landmarks, the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral (plain vanilla), the Clock Tower, and the Sundial (lovely even with only watery sunshine).

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