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    • Day 70

      Russia to the Left, Belarus to the Right

      September 18, 2023 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

      It’s an early start to catch the Flixbus to Vilnius this morning. I hop on a local bus to a place called Metro Marymont which drops me on the opposite side of a highway from the bus station. I drag my case through the underpass and come out right in front of the Bus Station- perfect and with plenty of time to spare. I walk through the doors of the bus station… Except the bus station is a supermarket. Bugger.

      I wander around, lost and trying to make sense of google maps which seems to be as clueless as I am at this point. I spot a woman crushing cardboard boxes up outside the supermarket and in possibly the worst attempt at Polish she’s ever heard, I say excuse me and follow it with the word ‘autobus’ in about 6 different accents with an apologetic face until she miraculously understands what I mean and points me in the right direction. I thank her profusely and follow her directions which take me to the actual ‘bus station’, which has no station and 8 bus stops, none of which mention Flixbus whatsoever and they’re usually big green coaches so they’re hard to miss. There’s no station or building in which to find someone to ask and so I ask a few bus drivers who all keep sending me to different places. Eventually I find one female bus driver who takes pity on me and sends me to the right place.

      Finally the big green bus rolls up and I find my seat. Just as I settle in for a nap, the woman beside me pulls out her phone and starts chatting loudly. The woman behind sushes her loudly and then starts kicking her seat. Eventually, phone call over, peace returns.

      Driving from Poland into Lithuania however has another conflict on my mind. We’re currently driving through the Suwałki Gap, a stretch around 100km between Russia and Belarus, in fact the whole reason I’m on a bus at all is because the train would have originally taken me through Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic coast and somewhere I’m keen to avoid given the current situation with Russia. Deemed ‘the most dangerous place on earth’ in an article by Politico last year, the Suwałki Gap is most likely the first area Russia would attack if they decide to take NATO on directly. By extending their reach from their ally Belarus into Kaliningrad they could effectively cut the Baltics off from their NATO allies. Today however, as we drive along just 9km from the Belorussian border, it’s business as usual. People tend to their day to day tasks in small sleepy towns, and no sign of any problems with the neighbours.
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    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Grūta, Gruta

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