Lithuania
Šalčininkai District Municipality

Here you’ll find travel reports about Šalčininkai District Municipality. Discover travel destinations in Lithuania of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

1 travelers at this place:

  • Day1111

    The River Gauja, Dieveniškės Appendix

    July 12 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    You know somewhere is going to be 'interesting' when locals stare at your van with wide eyes and slack jaws. Today's adventure takes us to the Dieveniškės Appendix. As we can see from people's expressions, not many visitors make it this far; which is one of the reasons we wanted to!

    If Lithuania's eastern border were coastal, the 'appendix' would be called a headland. As it is, 110km of the perimeter extends into Belarus like a tongue. The area within it is known as the Dieveniškės Appendix and has protected status as a historical regional park. The story goes that when redefining border lines, Stalin placed his pipe on the map. No Soviet officer had the courage to move it, so they merely drew around it! In reality, the small number of Lithuanians living here expressed a strong desire for their homes to remain part of their homeland, so despite the majority of people identifying as Polish, the land remained Lithuanian.

    Upon entering the Appendix we were required to pass a border control of sorts. There is only one road in and out. It is a lot easier to manage access at this point than patrol the 110km perimeter. No passports were needed, we merely slowed to 30kmph over a couple of speed bumps while two officers sized us up then waved us through. As we understand it, the Belarusian border has a barbed wire electric fence all the way around the Dieveniškės Appendix. With Lithuania's accession to the EU it became part of the Schengen area. This meant abolishing borders with other EU nations, while reinforcing those with non EU countries like Belarus. The fence, completed in 2007 runs through the middle of small settlements and has divided families and friends. There are few cars in this mainly agricultural land, poor infrastructure and poor public transport. We read about a case of an 85 year old woman needing to take a 90 mile round trip via the nearest border crossing, to visit her sister who lived just a mile away, in the same village, but on the other side of the fence.

    Driving between patchwork fields we came to roadworks on the mainstreet of a village. There being so few roads in the region we were required to drive through a section that was being worked on, in order to reach the detour. Bearing in mind the road we'd been driving on was unsurfaced, we were hesitant, but there was no other way round so Vicky steered Martha past the dumper truck and onto the soft sand road surface. Honestly, it was like driving in a nursery school sandpit; diggers and lorries with big wheels forging deep tracks in the sand. Squeezing alongside the yellow JCB, workers stared at us, seemingly trying to figure out if they were really seeing a couple of nervous looking Brits in a big white motorhome with canoe on top, slipping and sliding along a dead end farmland route... we could hardly believe it ourselves!

    Relieved not to get stuck, we stopped for lunch by a lake in Poškonys; one of the few villages whose residents are predominantly Lithuanian. We were almost tempted to stay, but decided to delve further into the appendix to a place Will had found on Park4Night. The two spots were only 12km apart so we could easily return if we wanted to spend the night in Poškonys.

    We are so glad we carried on! A small gravel car park gave access to one of the most wonderful nature reserves we've ever visited. The Gauja botanical path ran in a loop of about 1km around a small, sandy bedded river of the same name. The valley was overflowing with flora and fauna. The scent of Meadowsweet hung in the air while hundreds of butterflies of many different varieties flitted between brightly coloured meadow flowers. Looking closer, the flowers and seed heads overflowed with insects. A boardwalk made up much of the path, with regular information panels showcasing plants, animals, the geography and management of the Gauja valley reserve. Some even had a paragraph in English. They cleverly left it until the 7th board to share information about the adders that called this place home! From meadows, we were led through forests of pine, spruce and juniper. The alders took over as we reached the bog, lush with springy moss and grasses. We enjoyed seeing froglets hopping in front of us, but stopped and stared in amazement as a couple of baby Common Lizards darted between shadows of foliage amongst the wooden slats! We thought on first sight they might be newts, but with a lot of research, found these creatures, who measured 3-4cm long, were new born lizards!

    To see 2 minutes of the drone footage we filmed, click here: https://youtu.be/acJV4UgOJ4o

    The reserve is less than 3km away from Belarus, a country Vodafone classes as 'rest of the world', (not part of the free EU roaming zone). We were aware of being caught out like we had been in Tariffa when our signal attached to a Moroccan network, so manually selected a Lithuanian provider. Sure enough, a text came through; 'Welcome to Belarus!' Vodafone snuck a cheeky 60p charge into our bill all the same but it wasn't enough to argue over. Interestingly this is the first time we've seen Trip Advisor totally stumped as to what to do or where to eat nearby!

    Will's desire for a swim and a fish took us back to Poškonys for the night.
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  • Day1111

    Poškonys, Dieveniškės appendix

    July 12 in Lithuania ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    A small dam has been built across the River Gauja, creating a lake on the outskirts of Poškonys village. We are parked, with a border of pines, overlooking this lake, after an exciting day exploring the Dieveniškės Appendix.

    After Vicky had indulged in her photography at the Gaujas Botanical Path, we returned to the car park at Poškonys so Will could indulge in his swimming and fishing. Getting back to the village was a challenge due to the road being dug up and layed with soft sand in preparation (we assume) for its first taste of tarmac. Martha's wheels span nearly all the way up the long hill, but Will drove well and we made it to the bright yellow flapboard village store. Stepping back into the van after picking up a few groceries, a drunken local wedged himself in Will's door as he tried to close it, asking for euros. He wasn't aggressive, but he was forceful and invaded our space. It put us on edge but we decided to go ahead and stay at the lakeside camp 400m away as planned and everything worked out ok. The group of 3 middle aged women in the shop had been buying beer. We wonder how much of a problem alcohol abuse is in the Dieveniškės Appendix? The main occupation is farming but with the controlled border, poor infrastructure, little public transport and few people owning private vehicles it is difficult to sell produce outside of the area. Depopulation is more extreme here than in the rest of Lithuania. The isolation is an alluring charm to people like us, who stay short term, but we can see there are many difficulties and hardships endured by those who call it home.

    The following morning we went in search of an 'ethnographic museum' Vicky remembered seeing signs for, but which we couldn't find any trace of online. Maps.Me showed a tourist information office on the other side of the village so we thought we'd ask there. Entering the traditional looking, grey painted, wooden clad building we were surprised to find a large, modern space within. The staff member didn't speak english but enthusiastically passed us an i-pad with audio tour of the exhibits in 5 languages, including our own. The ethnographic centre and tourist information office must be one and the same, as the tour covered the poitical and cultural history of the appendix, together with flora, and fauna, while the second storey exhibited a whole load of artefacts including a spinning wheel, wood and leather shoes, weaving loom, farmimg equipment and even a moonshine still. The walls were hung with beautiful handwoven tartan-like fabrics whose colours stood out effectively against the rustic wooden beams.

    We've gained so much from visiting Lithuania's national and regional parks that we decided to buy another voluntary annual ticket. Using speech to text translation, we'd just managed to communicate what we wanted, when a coach load of Lithuanian tourists surged in, surrounding and jostling us as they peered at the beeswax candles and magnets for sale on the desk. The harrased member of staff hurriedly found our ticket, a usb wristband (containing printable tickets and additional info) and accepted our donation with gratitude before focussing on the task of guiding these other visitors. We gladly escaped into the street, appreciating the space and quiet Lithuania has been so good at providing!

    Yesterday's inward bound passage past the border post had been simple. The outward bound jouney was more official. On the approach we could see the car in front of us being searched. We too were told to stop and asked for our passports. We'd read yesterday that Belarus was the only european country that still had the death penalty, a fact which put us more than a little on edge. One of the camouflage clad officials asked to see inside Martha, but after a cursory check he seemed satisfied and concluded the search, allowing us on our way.

    Our trip to Dieveniškės put us a little out of our comfort zone, but at the same time it opened up a world of discovery. We saw some wonderful wildlife, learnt more about Lithuania's history, about how it had shaped local culture and the lives of Dieveniškės residents. We came away feeling enriched and grateful for the freedom that had afforded us these experiences.

    To see a 3 minute video of our journey out, head over to the VnW Travels YouTube Channel: https://youtu.be/OuSYvjJxg2E
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Šalčininkai, Salcininkai, Šalčininkai District Municipality, Şаlçininkаy, Горад Шальчынінкай, Σάλτσινινκαϊ, شالچینینکای, シャルチニンカイ, 샬치닝카이, Šaļčininki, Soleczniki, Шальчининкай, Šalčėnėnkā, Шальчинінкай, شیلچینیکئی, 沙爾奇寧凱

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