Orijos Paplūdimys, Lithuania!May 21 in Lithuania ⋅ 🌧 21 °C
We have arrived in Lithuania!
To watch a video of our first day, click here:
This will be the 19th country we'll explore in depth on our big European tour. It feels like a very long time since we've been in this position, so we are thrilled to be embarking on this new adventure that will extend over the next 8 weeks!
With this amount of time we could drive north and tick Latvia and Estonia off our bucket list, but we plan to embrace the joys of slow travel, savouring experiences, favouring quality over quantity, giving ourselves time to plan, to learn about the Lithuanian language, the people, the landscape and to reflect. In Lithuania we hope to find a balance between discovering towns and the countryside, keeping up with day to day chores and maintenance as well as indulging in our favourite outdoor activities, and relaxing with indoor hobbies.
Driving along the A5 we stopped just before the border at what looked like a rest area supermarket, in search of groceries, but it soon became clear that 'Super Alko' sold only drinks. There were no border checks as
we 'time travelled' over the Polish - Lithuanian border to GMT +2. Our first job was to choose one of the many fuel stations and fill our almost empty tank. As well as the time, the currency had changed from zloty back to the familiar euro and at €1.26 per litre, the diesel is significantly cheaper here.
We didn't have far to go to the wild camping spot Will had programmed into the sat nav. We hoped to stay there for several days so were relieved to find a supermarket in Kalvarija, one of the few towns between us and where we were headed. Unfortunately the car park wasn't designed for vans like Martha so we looped round and parked on the street. Within 15 seconds of setting foot on the pavement we were accosted by a persistent beggar who trailed alongside, imploring us in Lithuanian. A bit rattled, we dived into the Maxima shop. Vicky kept peering out, keeping an eye on the van while Will focussed on food. It's always a bit disorientating with a new language and culture and it took us a while to get our heads together. We obviously drew attention to ourselves, looping around the fruit and veg stands several times, not to mention Will wearing his kilt and Vicky in her patchwork hippy skirt and dreadlocks. We got a few sideways looks and a few more direct stares, but nothing hostile. Near the end, a pensioner in tweeds and flatcap came up to us and said 'Irish'. It turned out to be one of the very few English words he knew but he was keen to talk so we pulled out good old Google Translate and had a broken conversation of sorts. His name was Jacob and we gathered that he'd never left Lithuania. He offered to be our interpreter and we repeated a few lithuanian words (eye, nose, hair, ears) but they went out of our heads as soon as we heard the next one! Jacob welcomed us to his country and wished us good health and an enjoyable stay. What a lovely person!
Driving out into the countryside we followed a narrow, hard sand track and came to a small concrete parking area overlooking a tiered, grassy bank. Orija Beach had a band of pine trees growing either side and a rustic wooden bench stood adjacent to a small circle of bricks that was used to contain campfires. At the bottom of the clearing, a T shaped wooden pier led out into the sparkling blue waters of Orija Lake.
We believe this is one of a number of free campgrounds in the country. The only facilities here are bins (that unfortunately haven't been emptied in a long time), parking, flat ground to pitch a tent and space to have a fire, but oh what a beautiful view!
Will bounded down to the lake edge and was in the water in a flash while Vicky climbed a ladder and sat on the small platform at the end of the pier, taking in our stunning surroundings. When Will came to get changed he found a huge brown bug on his kilt, one of many Cockchafers we were to see over the course of our stay (also known as May Bugs and Doodlebugs).
After lunch we took a walk up the sandy track, exploring a broken down pier with an angular wooden boat, before passing by fields of wheat and rape. Homesteads were dotted here and there, one with a little old tractor, another with a man scything long grass. Each sat inside their own generous plot of land. It was only a mile to the end of the track but it turned into a real nature walk as butterflies and ungainly cockchafers flittered through the air. We spotted a couple of White Storks in their nest, which was built on a specially designed pole. The White Stork is the national bird of Lithuania, which has one of the largest breeding populations and the highest breeding density in the world! If this wasn't enough, we spotted a Common Crane strutting through the long grass just 20m ahead of us, before it took off and flew away. At the end of the track we were drawn towards a repetitive choral sound which we thought may be some other exotic bird, but we narrowed it down to a pond and concluded it must be frogs. We couldn't see any in the water but we'd seen many squashed on the way here.
The heat of the day made the lake very enticing when we got back to Orija Beach so we both went for a longer and wonderfully refreshing swim, followed by a cuppa and varškės spurgos (lithuanian curd donuts!). As the afternoon wore on, Will took his fishing gear to a nearby pier. Lithuania allows those over the age of 65 to fish without a licence so there was no need for him to try and buy one. People came and went on foot, bikes and in cars with music blasting from their stereos. Locals of all ages brought picnics, bathed and generally enjoyed the beautiful natural surroundings and warm weather.
After a glorious sunset people drifted away and we were left with the peace and quiet of nature. We suddenly felt very tired, although with all the excitement and the change in time it was difficult to sleep, especially when we were woken by a dog raiding the bins early the following morning!
We spent 3 blissful nights at Orija Beach, relaxing, fishing and swimming every day. Will caught several fish and even kept a perch for his tea. The second night we were joined by a German couple with two toddlers in their small campervan and on the third an older German couple took their place in a motorhome with a deflated tyre. On the morning we left, a recovery vehicle jacked up their rear axel and took both their wheels to have replacement tyres fitted. The couple didn't need anything when we asked, but said that the puncture was down to the poor roads. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the same fate doesn't befall us during the coming weeks!Read more