En de grens over!June 19, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C
Weer een land afstrepen op ons lijstje!
Weer een land afstrepen op ons lijstje!
This morning, after saying our goodbyes to Daiva amd Kees, owners of the wonderful Camping in Pajiesmeniai, we set off northwards towards Biržai, a town just 20 minutes drive from the Latvian border.
Eventually finding street parking, we went on the hunt for an ATM, locating one easily using Maps.Me. Next stop was IKI supermarket. Vicky had a short rest on the bench outside where a pensioner started a friendly conversation with her, although Google Translate wasn't able to take it much further. Inside, the minister of a local church saw Will's kilt and introduced himself, saying how happy he was to have us in his town.
On the way back we dropped in at a bakery we'd spotted and picked up a couple of pastries. We haven't seen many bakeries since arriving in Lithuania so we were interested to see what this one was like. The employees were friendly despite us not speaking their language and them not speaking ours. There were a range of crusty breads, biscuits, tarts and pastries, non of which stood out like the colourful, drool-inducing cakes at many supermarkets. We chose a poppy seed pastry and a tart filled with mixed nuts and caramel. They went down very nicely with a cuppa later that day.
It was getting close to lunch time and as we hadn't eaten out for a while we decided to find somewhere in town. Retracing our steps we came to the windows of a nondescript building. Peering through maroon vertical blinds we could see people eating at small tables inside. The only clue that it was a business was a faded sticker displaying opening times and the word 'kavinukė'. Will plucked up the courage to open the unsigned brown painted door as we both kept our fingers crossed, hoping we weren't about to step into someone's living room!
To our relief we were greeted by a girl in a cooking apron standing behind a counter. The room wasn't much larger than a living room, but with half a dozen small square tables. We had the usual five seconds of wide eyed stares before the few individuals went back to eating their meals. A whiteboard displayed a handwritten menu that we would have struggled to decipher but luckily the girl spoke English. She looked about 12 and told us later that she was Norwegian, visiting her grandmother over the summer to help in the café.
Sitting ourselves down we looked around the stark decoration and serving hatch through to the kitchen. It dawned on us that we'd walked into a traditional soviet era canteen; an institution serving basic and cheap food and one that is becoming increasingly rare in Lithuania. We watched and learnt, placing our used cutlery and crockery through the hatch when finished with it.
The grandaughter ensured we were well cared for, making suggestions as to what we may like. Vicky began with a salad and Will, cold beetroot soup with potatoes. She brought us tomato juice and gira to drink with some morish curd stuffed pancakes, creme fraiche, chia seeds and red berry compote.
The bill came to an incredible €4.10! It had taken guts to walk through the door, but we are so glad we did and happy to have experienced such an integral part of Lithuanian culture in this café with no name.
Next stop was Biržų Regional Park. The area, spanning 14,659 hectares, earned its protected status in 1992 due to its rare karst geology. Water soluble gypsum underlyies the soil and every so often, is eroded to the extent that the top layer collapses in, forming a sinkhole. Over 9000 can be found in the park, a number that increases each year!
Karvės Uola or Cow's Cave is the largest sinkhole at up to 12m wide and 12.6m deep! Pulling up at a woodland car park in the Karajimiškis Landscape Reserve, where there are over 200 holes per square kilometre, we got out to investigate. The first thing that caught our eye was a couple of solar panels mounted on a pole, providing free phone charging and wifi for visitors! Walking between deciduous woodland trees we began to see distinctive large dints where the earth had collapsed. The path wound between these smaller, unnamed sinkholes to arrive at the sign announcing Karvės Uola. A story tells of how, when it collapsed, the earth swallowed an entire cow, leaving just her chain protruding!
Steps leading down into Cow's Cave were unfortunately taped off. Previously people have been able to descend 9m to where it forks into 4 smaller caves, one of which contains a lake. That would have been an exciting exploration, but we admired the hole from above, then contented ourselves with inspecting the granite model of a cow nearby and reading the information boards. We appreciated this text written in English: "Here in Lithuania, we have a common old curse on another person: ‘Kad tu prasmegtum!’ (Literally: Be swallowed by the Earth), but local People in Biržai region doesn’t say that even to a foe because it might actually happen!".Read more
Martha is dwarfed by the tall viewing tower here at Kirkilia. We're settled in the large tarmac car park which provides free, solar powered phone charging and wifi for visitors, as well as the usual compost toilet. At nearly 32m high, the tower (which itself looks like an upended wooden canoe) has views over the 30, water filled sinkholes which knit together to form Kirkilių Ez or Lake Kirkiliai.
Climbing the stairs, the stainless steel mesh flooring allowed us to see through to the previous flights. When walking out accross the top platform at over 30m, we could see our feet, the grating, then a straight drop to the ground below!
We spent some time taking in aerial views of the blue sky, lush green forests, paling wheat and flax fields and the rich brown, interlinked lakelets that were the unique attraction of Biržų Regional Park. Their unusual shapes were enough to catch the eye, but learning that mineral concentrations within them support colonies of suphur bacteria that are found nowhere else was fascinating.
Back at ground level a small table at the edge of the car park offered strawberries, pastries and homemade drinks. For the second time that day we found ourselves communicating with the young grandaughter who knew a little english and translated for her friendly grandmother. Vicky fetched a Tupperware box from the van and Will tipped several of the small 50c punnets into it, hoping they could reuse the plastic containers. He also picked up a pastry that looked like an empty mini sausage roll. Tasting it, he found it to be sweet and passed it to Vicky to try. He should have known better than to expect it back after a bite... We think it may have been a banana roll, but whatever it was, it was a bargain at 20c!
Staying two nights beside the viewing tower, we decided to occupy ourselves on the 2nd day with visit to Kirkilai Community and Heritage Centre. An information board in the car park advertised the attraction, just a mile away, showing exhibitions on traditional knitting, crocheting, weaving and carving. It said you could take part in activities, buy souvenirs and if you called 20 minutes ahead, they would cook blynai; rough wheat pancakes made from hand milled flour to a very old recipe. Vicky dialled the number but the person who answered didn't speak english so she said thank you and we set off anyway, along the country lanes with wooden houses, unfenced gardens growing vegetables, fields with crops and the odd tethered cow.
Arriving at the brick built centre we looped around to the back garden, peering through the large windows at an old spinning wheel and weaving loom among other things, trying to find a way in. The woman who emerged and greeted us was guarded at first. She didn't speak english but we got Google Translate running and when Vicky mentioned pancakes, uncertainty turned to action and she set about hosting with determination.
Judging by the paddling pool and washing line outside, she appeared to live at the centre with her family. Ushering us into a large, long, newly built wooden cabin, we were invited to sit at the rustic tables and benches running the length of the building, while our host loaded the brick oven with wood and got a fire going. The cast iron hob came to temperature and we were cooked a feast! Soup made from fish caught in the karst lakes (so very local!), with bread and piles of pancakes with a savoury spread a little like stuffing, rhubarb jam and red berry jam. The first lot were tasty, and the second lot too, but by the time the third batch was presented on the glazed earthenware plate we were too full to manage another bite! We finished our homemade apple drink and coffee made from grounds while our host found a doggy bag.
As we walked (well, waddled) back to the van, we were on Cloud 9. Our language barrier had prevented us from taking part in the craft activities advertised but we felt we'd had a wonderfully genuine experience. The fire had been lit and the meal cooked just for us (for only €15). With it we got a taste of Lithuanian cultural heritage.
We moved on from Kirkilai Viewing Tower and Biržų Regional Park the following day, knowing we were leaving behind so much we hadn't seen, such as the Green Stream (the deepest cave) and the longest footbridge in the country, crossing Širvėna Lake in Biržai. Lithuania really is a land of hidden gems; the more you discover the more you realise there is to discover!Read more
Heute war ein recht ruhiger Tag. Zunächst wurde die letzte Wäsche gewaschen und aufgehangen und der schöne Campingplatz nochmal ausgiebig begutachtet. Nach dem Mittag sind wir dann nach Biržai gefahren. Wie der Name schon sagt dreht sich dort viel um die Hopfen Kaltschale. Zunächst aber wurde das eigentliche Highlite der Stadt besichtigt: eine 525 m lange Holzbrücke, die leider Ihre besten Tage schon hintersich hat. Auch ein tolles Schloß auf der Insel wartet auf seine Sanierung. Sehenswert war es aber allemal.
Im Anschluss ging es dann in ein Restaurant mit Brauerei. Dort gab es sehr leckeres Essen und vorallem auch gutes Bier zu sehr günstigen Preisen. Mit Johanna spielten wir dann noch etwas im grünen, ehe wir dann nach Lettland in die Nähe von Riga weiter fuhren, um einen Strandtag zu machen.
Litauen hat uns sehr gut gefallen. Es ist sehr weitläufig, dünn besiedelt, flach und noch nicht sehr touristisch, wodurch es sehr entschleunigend wirkt.Read more
You might also know this place by the following names:
Biržai, Birzai, Biržai District Municipality