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  • Day1111

    The River Gauja, Dieveniškės Appendix

    July 12, 2019 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:

    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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  • Day1085

    Vilnius Day 1

    June 16, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    It's time to explore Vilnius, the largest city in Lithuania and its capital! A barrier controlled, tarmac car park near Gediminas Hill is our home for 2 days. There are no specified bays for motorhomes but they are mentioned in the pricing, which can be charged hourly, or €9 per 24 hours. Number plates are scanned on entry and you can pay at a machine by card or cash when you leave. It is a pleasant spot with the Vilnia tributary river running along one side, a border of trees, a few other motorhomes and most importantly great access to the centre! We'd been anxious about how difficult it would be to drive in, but the Sunday morning traffic was minimal and it all went smoothly.

    We'd planned to visit Vilnius with our sister and brother in law, Sue and John this time last year. With unexpected medical appointments we made the decision to stay in the UK while they went ahead with their pre booked flights. We were therefore particularly keen to explore the city we'd waited so long to see.

    The weather had swung from searing sunshine to overcast rainy skies. We clad ourselves in waterproof coats and grabbed our brollies. Crossing a little bridge and walking through a park we arrived in the central square, with the imposing form of St Stanislaus and St Vladislav Cathedral Basilica looming above us. The rectangular building with its white pillars and statues appeared quite modern. It's cylindrical bell tower which stood separately didn't seem much taller than it.

    We'd marked a few sites on Maps.Me but the white canvas of market stalls on the main street, Gediminas Avenue, caught our attention. Two beautifully constructed lifesize floral mannequins stood in the roadway, with a sign welcoming visitors to the 'herb market'. Within it we found two sellers wearing fresh garlands while bouquets of wildflowers and grasses decorated the stalls. The items for sale were similar to those in Palanga a few weeks ago, although with a little more variety; honey, herbs, amber jewellery, clothes, especially linen, cheese, street food including the Gira drink, and woodwork. There was real individuality and skill expressed in the crafted products. There aren't many things that are practical for us to buy but Vicky persuaded Will to get a beautiful wooden trivet, made from cross sections of small tree branch arranged in a pattern.

    Having done a bit of research we knew the weekly changing of the flags was due to take place at the Presidential Palace at noon, so this was our next port of call. The two storey pale yellow building had rows of white pillars like the cathedral, but was more subtle in its communication of power and wealth. Sure enough at 11:50am four armoured knights marched onto the public courtyard. There was nothing subtle about them! Next came four officers, each in different uniforms, whose job it was to prepare the flags by untying their ropes, before standing aside for the marching band, from which a further four officers emerged. The flags of the EU, Lithuania, Vilnius's Coat of Arms and NATO were in turn lowered, folded, exchanged, unfolded and raised with much pomp and ceremony. By now the rain had begun falling hard, soaking the uniformed assembly who, credit to them, remained professional throughout.

    To see an abbreviated video of the changing of the flags go to the VnW Travels YouTube channel:

    We were grateful for our umbrellas as we trudged through wet streets into the Užupis neighbourhood; described as a 'breakaway state' for artists within Vilnius. The self proclaimed Republic of Užupis even has its own president, anthem and 41 point constitution! Last summer we'd visited Freetown Christiania, an independent state within Copenhagen and had expected a similar setup. However Užupis residents seemed far less extreme than Denmark's rebels, to the extent that (to our inexperienced eyes) we didn't notice much difference when crossing the bridge into the 4000 strong community. Passing by the small main square with a large bronze angel statue (a symbol of Užupis) and a collection of generic looking eateries we found a small café, with tables and mismatched chairs on a narrow pavement. We were seated on antique cushioned chairs with a fresh carnation on the table and a small cover above our heads that managed to protect us from the worst of the rain. We were a little nervous about cars that could have drenched us by splashing through a large puddle, but thankfully drivers were considerate. Keen to sample the national cuisine we ordered Lithuanian sausage and potato pancakes from the friendly manager, along with a beer and freshly made apple, carrot and courgette juice. The juice and sausage were delicious, but Vicky's fried pancakes were a bit too oily for her.

    From our lunchtime seats we'd seen groups of tourists admiring 37 silver plaques that stretched out along the wall we'd been sitting next to. Each displayed the Užupis constitution in a different language (additional versions can be found on the internet). The more we read the more we liked it. Our favourite decrees included;
    "Everyone has the right to be happy.
    Everyone has the right to be unhappy.
    A dog has the right to be a dog.
    Everyone has the right to die, but this is not an obligation.
    Everyone has the right to make mistakes.
    Everyone may be independent.
    Everyone is responsible for their freedom."

    The rain really started to come down as we navigated through the quiet, Old Town cobbled lanes towards the B&B Sue and John stayed in last year. We don't mind a bit of rain but this was the sort that bounced back once it hit the pavement to soak through your shoes. Water overflowed gutters and pelted our umbrellas. Downpipes were backed up and spurting like fountains at their joints. Water streamed over paving slabs and formed large puddles stretching right the way accross the road. We were becoming fed up, so decided to call it quits. Heading back, we took refuge in the cathedral where a choir and organist were practicing in the stalls. They helped mellow our mood as we admired the beautiful, white, arched ceiling dotted with plaster flowers set in to circles.

    When we emerged, the rain had all but stopped. After a welcome cuppa in Martha the clouds began to clear and typically gave us a blue sky evening!
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  • Day1086

    Vilnius Day 2

    June 17, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ☁️ 19 °C

    Thankfully the weather was kinder to us on our second day in Vilnius; Lithuania's capital city. After a late start we began our mission to find the Cat Café! Will's sister Sue had discovered this place when in Vilnius last year and we'd been keen to visit ever since. Maps.Me showed it on the other side of town so we were confused when we came accross it while walking up the main street. It was early for lunch, so double checking the map we decided to investigate the other location.

    Further up Gediminas Avenue we found peope's names inscribed on the side of a building with origami paper doves, exhausted candles in glass jars and fresh flowers layed against the wall and a stone memorial. After a little research we discovered it was the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights (previously the Museum of Genocide Victims) and Memorial of the Victims of Soviet Occupation. On this day (June 17th) in 1940 the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania fell under Soviet Occupation. This place, which had previously been used as headquarters for the Nazi Gestapo was taken over by the KGB. People were imprisioned, tortured and executed in its cells, before being buried in the gardens. There are so many histories within different countries that we have very little awareness of. Coming accross the tributes was a sobering experience.

    Just around the next corner we found the old Cat Café that Sue had visited, with a note saying it had relocated. Our curiosity satisfied, we looped back via the Neris riverside. Several bridges crossed to the opposite bank; a real contrast to the historic old town, with glass walled skyscrapers belonging to big name companies such as Barclays and Huawei.

    Entering the new Cat Café we were required to place protective covers over our shoes and wash our hands before being seated. A list of rules, such as not stroking sleeping cats, was clearly displayed. The establishment is home to 15 cats. They all appeared very healthy. Some sat in the picture windows watching the world go by, others lounged in cat trees, on chairs or strolled accross the floor inspecting visitors' bags, doing what cats do best and ignoring the humans that vied for their attention. The whole place was very clean. Chilled music played, photographic portraits of each cat hung on the walls together with a few large anthropomorphic cat paintings.

    None of the cats was interested in a cuddle, but several came close enough for strokes and we petted those that looked keen. The food was good, with cold beetroot soup and dumplings for Will and a feta and beetroot salad for Vicky, which she accompanied with a freshly blended mango smoothie - yum!

    Since seeing the 57m high bell tower in Cathedral Square the previous day, Vicky had been keen to climb it. The interior was mixed. A super narrow, spiralling stone staircase led to modern platforms of glass and metal with electronic displays, including CCTV feeds of the surrounding area. Joysticks, zoom buttons and presets allowed you to control their direction and see specific sights. Steep wooden stairs gave access to higher levels with a row of bells for you to play, a couple of old clockfaces leaning against the walls
    and solid timber frames surrounding the huge hanging bells, which we were strictly forbidden to play, however tempting! The top deck had arched windows open to the elements, with just some nylon mesh accross and good views of the cathedral and mainstreet.

    Exiting the tower we took a few minutes to search for the Miracle Tile set into the pavement. Legend has it that those who turn 360° on the tile and make a wish, will have it granted. In fact, this was the point from which, on 23rd August 1989, 2 million people formed a human chain, stretching over 370 miles, through three countries and three capital cities, ending in Tallinn, Estonia. This peaceful demonstration was a stand against Soviet rule. Two years later the Baltic countries gained independence. Further round the tower was another understated installation commemorating this incredible, revolutionary stand. A second tile with two huge footprints was layed in 2013 with a time capsule underneath. Identical 'footprints for freedom' tiles link Vilnius with the two other capitals through which the chain passed; Riga, Latvia and Tallinn, Estonia. When they were layed the Mayor of Vilnius made a speech: "Famous French writer Victor Hugo once said that we all walk the same roads in life, but that not everyone leaves the same footprints. The footprints of those people who stood here 24 years ago in the Baltic Way will remain for all time".

    From Cathedral Square we wandered the short distance to the cobbled streets of the old town, lined with trinket stalls, terraced bars and buskers. After a while searching for groceries (harder than it sounds) we ticked off another of our aims for Vilnius: to find and eat black vanilla icecream as Sue and John had done on their visit last year. Vicky cheekily sampled some of Will's double scoop in a black cone. It was tasty, but its flavour paled in comparison to the servings of mango and strawberry vegan icecream with 'natural ingredients' that she ordered from the stand over the other side of the street.

    There was one last stop on the way back to Martha; Vilnius Castle on Gediminas Hill. During our time in Lithuania we've appreciated the lack of commercialism and advertising, but we could really have done with some better signage for the entrance to the castle grounds! After what seemed like an age and with some help from a local, we found our way to the base station of the small funicular railway. Vicky said hello to the attendent and asked if he spoke English. An exasperated 'PLEASE!' was his reply- she was only asking! The glass and metal carriage was more like a diagonal escalator, with a self service call button and internal control pad. Standard entry to the broad round tower was €5. We thought this a bit steep in comparison to other Lithuanian attractions, but our decision was aided by a sudden downpour and the fact that as an OAP Will got in for half price, so we coughed up.

    The quality indoor displays validated the price. While rain torrented down we sat half way up the tower, watching images projected onto screens in front of each large, arched window, creating the illusion of a view to the outside. Images told the story of historical events taking place outside the castle over the centuries, of wars and development. There was also a whole level dedicated to the freedom movement and the human chain, with moving photos and video footage.

    The weather had driven others away, so when the front passed, we were lucky enough to have the open air platform at the top of the tower to ourselves. There were amazing panoramic views of the surrounding hills, old town, Neris River, the modern and residential areas. We found it all the more interesting having investigated a little on foot. It was a great way to end our exploration of Vilnius! We love how compact it is. There is so much to see within a small area, yet it doesn't feel crowded. Whilst we spent two days here, you could easily spend longer and enjoy disvovering more.

    That evening there was a knock on the door. David was a Brit travelling in his motorhome from Switzerland, where he lived with his Swiss partner Marlyse. He invited us round for a drink and nibbles! When we were settled, there was a knock at their door from their Swiss neighbour Leila, who was travelling with her Springer Spaniel Kiki. They had the same make of van, so each was interested in taking a look 'through the keyhole'. David and Marlyse were good hosts and the 5 of us spent a relaxing evening chatting about vanlife and travelling to far flung places like Russia, Iceland and Morocco. Vicky especially enjoyed having Kiki with us! If any of you are reading this, then thank you, we wish you well on your future voyages!
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  • Day1109

    Tapelių Ež

    July 10, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ 🌧 16 °C

    Despite being fewer than 20km away from the centre of Lithuania's capital city we are parked in a forest just over the road from a sandy beach and natural lake.

    This being our last week in Lithuania, we are slowly (and somewhat reluctantly) heading back towards the Polish border. We haven't deliberately revisited Vilnius, but we wanted to see the eastern border and there weren't any sensible routes that didn't go via the capital.

    After our visit to the forest viewing tower this morning, we got on with day to day activities, picking up groceries at a Maxima XX and filling up with diesel, LPG and drinking water at a Viada fuel station.

    The recreation area at Tapelių Lake has a couple of portaloos, a wooden jetty with covered end (handy for Will to stay dry whilst fishing in the rain showers), someone we believe to be a lifeguard, a board displaying the air and water temperatures (16°C and 19°C) and access to forest trails for walkers and cyclists. It's great!

    One of the disadvantages about many of our overnight spots has been the lack of walking trails, but perhaps because of its proximity to Vilnius, Tapelių Lake had plenty. The second day saw us heading out with a packed lunch, through the pine forest. We chose a route that led around three consecutive lakes. It seemed like ages since we'd been on a proper walk and it felt good! The forest wasn't too thick, the tall, spindly pines allowing enough light through to sustain a rich web of life. We snacked on wild bilberries and rasberries, neither of which have thrived following the weeks of extreme heat early in the season. Finding a tree stump and fallen trunk we tucked into our sandwiches, thinking that we must do this more often!

    There were only a few other walkers out and about but at Balžio, the final lake, we found a wakeboard installation with overhead lines to pull boarders along. We watched as two people zipped back and forth, jumping off ramps and sliding along curved apparatus as skaters would in a skate park. Almost as soon as we turned for home the heavy rain started. It soaked us but the air was still warm so it wasn't too bad. It certainly didn't dampen our spirits as much as it did our clothes!
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  • Day1081

    Kempingas Slėnyje, Galvės Ež, Trakai

    June 12, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

    Martha Motorhome is resting her wheels on well trimmed grass, under the shade of mature trees at Slėnyje Camping.

    After 17 nights of wild camping her waste tanks were full and her fresh water almost empty. We needed all the services a site had to offer so Will programmed one into the sat nav. Arriving after a bumpy drive down an unsurfaced road we were greeted with the sight of a barrier blocking the entrance track with nobody around. It would have been strange for this tourist business to be closed in June but whatever the reason we didn't feel like getting out and trudging around in the baking heat in search of someone who would take €20 for the privilege of letting us in.

    A search on Park4Night came up with Slėnyje Camping on the shore of Galvės Lake which, when we arrived had a welcome plaque and open area for parking while we booked in. Signs advertised €10 for a vehicle and €5 per person so we were taken aback when the total came to €26.20! Apparently these prices were for day visitors, with campers being charged €7.50 plus a 60c resort fee each! We weren't happy but we needed services and access to the lake would help keep us cool on this hot day so we paid for one night only. It was a large site and we'd hoped to get our laundry done. Upon enquiring we were told there were no washing machine facilities, although we could use the staff machine at
    €6 euros for a 5kg wash. Comparing it to the €3 we paid at Honey Valley we weren't impressed.

    A dozen or so other campers were parked up in grassy fields that could accomodate more than a hundred, but many of the pitches weren't flat. We found shade near the toilet and shower block and chocked the wheels to make the van more level.

    We couldn't see Galvė Lake from the pitch, but the site hosted boat moorings and a beach resort with restaurant, bar and concrete steps leading down to a sandy cove with loungers and a small wooden pontoon. You could even see Trakai Castle perched on one of the distant islands. Vicky's symptoms were flaring up badly in the heat, especially her fatigue, so while Will enjoyed several swims, she only went for one quick dip in the clean, warm water. It was a shame as we could have quite happily spent the day lounging on the beach. It was a little cooler here than at the van where it reached 35°C in the shade.

    We were grateful for the good quality showers within private cubicles (even if we did need to share them with frogs). Each of the stalls seemed to contain one that had taken up residence! Will managed to bear the heat and hand wash our clothes in the sinks.

    The following morning we made use of the waste facilities, recycling and one of the frequent fresh water points, while the gardener moved the temporary sprinkler around to try and keep the dried out grass alive.

    Camping Slėnyje was a pleasant site with good facilities and access to the beautiful Galvė Lake. We would have been happy to stay there longer had it not been for the high prices that weren't advertised when we first arrived.
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  • Day1082

    Galvės Ež car park

    June 13, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

    We are once again on the shore of Galvė Lake, just 1km from Slėnyje Camping, where we stayed last night. This free car park for half a dozen vehicles is closer to the water and even has a portaloo for us to use.

    Galvė is a beautiful lake, surrounded by reeds, trees and secluded sandy beaches. It is dotted with islands, one of which is home to Trakai Castle! The forecast was for temperatures of 34°C over the coming days so Will quickly got the camp chairs out and took them down the steps to the grassy strip of land that ran adjacent to the shore. He claimed a spot under a tree that would provide shade all day long. The car park soon began filling up and before long cars were spilling over onto the roadside. Families, friends and couples young and old came in their swimwear to enjoy their slice of summer, but it never seemed too crowded.

    Vicky was still very weak, so relaxed under the tree while Will swam and escaped the masses with the canoe and fishing rod. A Bewick's Swan did its best to terrorise food out of those with picnics, a Merganser with its brood would occasionally zip by, filtering the water for bugs while Damselflies and Dragonflies showed off their aerial dexterity. It was a great place to be able to sit out the heat wave for 3 days!

    On the final day Vicky was feeling a little stronger so Will paddled her to Trakai Island Castle 2km away. The red brick fort was originally begun in the 14th century and is reputedly the only island castle in Eastern Europe. The waters close to our little beach had been relatively quiet, but as we approached we encountered pedalos, motorboats with music blasting, SUPs and tour boats. Paddling round the accessible shore and under the low, wooden bridge, we docked at a quiet spot on the lee side, leaving the canoe and taking a slow stroll beside the castle walls. Cutting back through a dry channel that once formed a moat when water levels were higher, we found the canoe where we'd left it (phew) and escaped the business.

    Our general travel plan is to journey north in the summer to avoid the extreme heat; something we don't cope well with. It was therefore a relief that evening when the wind picked up, the skies darkened and a delicious tingle of chill crept into the air.
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  • Day1087

    Geographical Centre of Europe, Girija

    June 18, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    We're parked up side by side with a few other motorhomes off a quiet road running through a golf course. Through the windscreen we can see a small lake between a smattering of Alder saplings. The clouds of the last few days have cleared, the sun is once again baking hot. Oh, yes, and we're just a few hundred yards away from the Geographical Centre of Europe!

    In 2016 we stayed a few days at the most northerly point you can drive to on the continental mainland; Nordkapp, Norway. In 2018 we visited Tarifa, the most southerly point. Now, in 2019 we are at the very centre, near the village of Girija, Lithuania. In the future we plan to travel to the most westerly point, Cabo de Roca, Portugal, but not the most easterly, a peak in the Ural mountains, Russia!

    There are several places claiming to be the centre, some with rather dubious or unknown methods of calculation. When looking at the geometrical figure of europe, Girija is at its gravitational core and is recognised by Guinness World Records.

    It was a pleasant walk through the golf course and over a pond in a small woodland to the monument marking the spot at 54°54' 25°19'. The tapering white granite pillar, created by Lithuanian artist Gediminas Jokūbonis hosts an impressive crown of golden stars. A giant compass made of paving stones sits at its base and a wavering line of european flags fluttering on tall white poles lead towards it. The arrangement is eye catching but each element is humble enough not to dominate the woodland clearing. Typically Lithuanian! We took some photos, did some filming then made it back to the van for lunch.

    Click here to watch a 2 minute video of our drone footage!

    It was a hot afternoon so we stayed inside and relaxed, watching small groups of golfers wheeling their trolleys past the windows (the really posh ones drove theirs with remote controls!). Being at this central point prompted us to ponder our travels so far and what awaits us in the coming years. We've been on the road a long time now and for various reasons have only really focussed on western europe. The more we see, the more we realise there is to see. We are definitely looking forward to forging new paths eastwards in the future!
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  • Day5

    Uhps......da fällt das Bett mir auf den

    July 25, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    Bon Giornigno Signioritta....wahr das erste, was ich heute Morgen zu hören bekam, als ich die Türe von meinem WoMo öffnete. Mehr Italienisch konnten die Deutschen , zu meiner Rechten auch nicht. Ich ja auch nicht, .... das enttäuschte vor allem den zu meiner Linken, campende Italiener. Rund um mein Auto kleben italienische Sticker und ein Spruch in italienisch, ....Reise mit Spass!
    Ob ich den heute hatte..... 🤔😕
    Ich bin nicht in Wahrschau geblieben, habe mir die Stadt auch nicht angesehen.
    Als ich am Morgen in der Rezeption war, lief im Fernsehen gerade der Wetterbericht : Deutschland, Österreich und die Schweiz fühlen sich wie im Backofen 38 - 40 C , in Belgien bis 42C stand da!! Hatte der Belgier doch recht 👨‍⚖️ ich hätte es ihm nicht geglaubt.
    Auch die bis 36 Grad in Warschau sind zu heiss um sich eine Stadt anzusehen, die mich nicht sonderlich interessiert.
    Auch ist der Campingplatz absolut überteuert, 46.- Fr. umgerechnet, das gibt es noch nicht mal in der Schweiz.
    Also haben wir zwei uns wieder auf die Tour gemacht , den in Litauen, nicht weit von Kaunas entfernt, liegt an einem sehr idyllisch gelegenen See ein Plätzchen was auf uns wartet, da bleiben wir dann etwas länger..... und es soll angenehme Temperaturen haben.
    Ja , was wollen wir mehr, nichts wie hin, nach Litauen 🇱🇹 !😎
    Es ging aber noch eine lange Strecke durch Polen, mit seinen riesigen , flachen Ebenen. Als Schweizer kann man sich kaum vorstellen, das es über Kilometer an Fläche, einfach alles platt-flach ist!
    Je mehr es an die Litauische Grenze ging, umso grösser wurden die Wälder!
    Ob Polen oder danach Litauen, es hätte auch Schweden sein können, nur die Tafeln mit den springenden Rehen , wären dann Elche gewesen.
    Auch der Verkehr wurde wie in Schweden, immer rarer!
    Also überquerten wir den offenen Zoll 🛃 von Polen nach Litauen 🇱🇹 die Strassen sind meist sehr gut , die Autobahnen schon fast perfekt...... und dann kommt‘s:
    Bei Kilometer Stand 2397 fällt mir auf einmal mein Hochklappbett auf den Kopf !!!😕🤔😏😣 Wie kommt das denn....
    ich Rutsche immer tiefer auf meinem Fahrersitz, kann gerade noch so über den Lenker kucken und das WoMo rechts an die Seite lenken. Finde kaum den Schalter vom Pannenblinker, da sich Romeo vor Schreck nach vorne zwischen die Sitze klemmt..... und ich da jetzt rauskriegen müsste!
    „Romeo,.... beweg jetzt deinen A....da unten durch, ich kriech dann hinter her“

    Ja, leider gibt es von dieser Szene keine Videoaufzeichnung, ich war mit anderen Dingen beschäftigt 😱😰

    Als ich dann von der anderen Seite mein runtergelassenes Bett, begutachtete, sah ich, das der Gurt, an dem es den Tag durch oben gehalten wird, regelrecht aus der Verankerung gerissen ist .

    Wenn das Bett unten ist, kann man auf dem Fahrersitz nicht sitzen, schon gar nicht fahren! Das wieder mal abends 18.45uhr wenn die Buden schon zu haben!
    NAVI sagt, in 1,5 Std. bin ich an meinem Campingplatz, bis dahin muss ich mir was 🤔, ich habe einiges ausprobiert, wie ich dieses Bett da oben festhalten kann, leider klappte nicht‘s so richtig.
    Bis ich mein Trampolin auf den Sitz hob und es unter das Bett schon, ....nicht ganz oben, aber so, das ich mich gerade noch auf den Fahrersitz klemmen konnte .
    Ich mache drei Kreuze, wenn ich heute Abend mein Ziel erreicht habe.......und morgen wird es ein Donnerwetter in die Schweiz und nach Italien geben.
    Da fing das mit dem Italienisch doch heute morgen soo gut 😊 an...
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  • Day1111

    Poškonys, Dieveniškės appendix

    July 12, 2019 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:
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  • Day120

    Kaunas - Trakai

    August 26, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    Reisekilometer 13.667 km
    Tageskilometer 75 km

    Nachdem wir letzte Nacht, zum ersten Mal von der "Bauchgefühlsregel für Übernachtungsplätze" * Gebrauch gemacht haben, sind wir heute Morgen mit überraschend schönem Blick auf den Stausee von Kaunas aufgewacht.
    Der zum Baden einladend schön grün leuchtende See, entpuppte sich bei näherer Betrachtung als voller Blaualgen.
    Baden wurde direkt abgesagt.
    Auf der Fahrt nach Vilnius, haben wir uns spontan, wegen der 27°C, entschlossen, doch lieber an einen See (ohne Blaualgen) zu fahren. In einem offensichtlich stark von den Hauptstädtern genutzten, touristisch erschlossenem, Gebiet bei Trakai haben wir noch ein Plätzchen gefunden.
    und das Coolste, als wir Baden gingen, hatten wir Aussicht auf die Burg Trakai, eine spätmittelalterliche Wasserburg und es stiegen 12 Heißluftbalons in den sommerlichen Abendhimmel.

    * Die Bauchgefühlsregel für Übernachtungsplätze besagt, wenn nur einer von uns kein gutes Bauchgefühl hat, dann wird nicht geblieben, sondern weitergefahren.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Vilniaus apskritis, Vilnius

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