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  • Day1088

    Arimaičių Ež

    June 19 in Lithuania ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    We've stayed at so many lakeshore parking areas in Lithuania we are almost forgetting how lucky we are to be able to do so. Tonight's spot at Arimaičių Lake is yet another of these lovely venues, backed by trees and fronted by water.

    Now that we have visited the capital city, our plan is to head back west towards Lake Plateliai for their midsummer celebrations. We got a reasonable number of kilometres under our belts today, stopping at the biggest Maxima supermarket Will could find on route. We've gravitated towards the Maximas because the largest ones in some areas have been the only places we've found selling a range of organic produce. They also have a selection of vegan products such as cheese alternatives that we haven't seen elsewhere. How and where our food is grown and sourced is important to us and we are finding it difficult to balance our desire to support smaller local shops here in Lithuania with our aim to eat a healthy diet that has as few as possible negative effects on animal welfare and the environment.

    Interestingly we noticed a sign at the checkout stating the legal minimum age for purchasing alcohol was 20 years old. When researching this we found that the alcohol law was changed in January 2018, increasing the age for purchase and consumption from 18 to 20, banning advertisement, restricting permitted hours of sale (10am-8pm 6 days a week and 10am-3pm Sundays), limiting the strength sold at outdoor restaurants, fairs and exhibitions to 13% and from 2020 banning the sale on beaches and at sports events. We knew the Scandinavian countries of Norway and Sweden have strict rules, but hadn't previously been aware of these changes to tackle alcohol abuse in Lithuania. In contrast cigarettes were on display for sale to 18 year olds at less than £3 for a pack of 20.

    Once we'd parked up at Arimaičių Lake the temperature in the van began to creep up, sliding quickly past the 30°C mark. There was a nice sandy beach not far away so Will cooled off in the water with the other bathers before finding some shade to fish from.

    The following day he took Vicky for a paddle in the canoe. Vast swathes of Yellow Water Lilies covered the surface near to shore, rigid stalks holding their simple bright blooms above the green pads to catch the attention of passing insects. Red coloured dragonflies buzzed quickly by, their clumsy flights occasionally leading to collisions with the canoe.

    Much of the lake surroundings were rural, but we passed the occasional building, including a hostel with a metal water slide and a
    holiday home with wood fired hot tub and stone pizza oven. We would almost feel tempted to settle down were it ours!

    Evening came and thunder grumbled quietly in the background, competing with the boom of a nearby Bittern, but there was no sign of rain to cool the hot, dry earth.
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  • Day1067

    Parnidis Dune & Curonian beach car park

    May 29 in Lithuania ⋅ ☁️ 11 °C

    It's been a full and fun day today. We haven't travelled far but Lithuania's Curonian Spit has a lot to offer!

    There was a bit of good(ish) news this morning. The good part is our replacement door handle has been delivered. The 'ish' part is that it arrived at our billing address in the UK, not our shipping address in Lithuania! Oh well, you can't have everything! Thanks to our niece Vicky for waiting in to sign for it and Will's sister Sue for checking it was the right handle.

    We left our payed overnight parking before the charge period renewed at 9am and shuffled up the road to a free car park where we whiled away a leisurely morning. We'll often catch people peering at our registration plate as they go by, but two tourists seemed particularly interested and signalled they wanted to talk when they saw us sitting inside. It turned out they were on holiday from Israel and curious to know what 'GB' stood for. They asked about our route and told us that even though they didn't need a visa to visit nearby Russia, they wouldn't go because it would be dangerous for them, warning us that there were lots of criminals in the country. It's always interesting to hear the viewpoints of those from different backgrounds, although it is a shame that the most forcefully expressed opinions are often negative.

    We might not be able to visit the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad Oblast without a visa but we wanted to drive up to its border all the same, so off we went. The main road grew quiet as we drove beyond the most southerly Lithuanian settlement and a sign in the native language warned of customs. Rounding a bend we saw the standard muted buildings, wire fence and barrier. One thing we didn't expect to see was a fox approaching the guard hut! They must feed it because it was obviously looking for something before it got scared off by a vehicle coming from Russia. We pulled over on the verge and got out. Vicky began snapping away excitedly (mostly at the fox) before Will read the English section of a sign prohibiting photography and filming- oops! Luckily no officials emerged with a reprimand so we turned Martha around and headed back up the spit. There wasn't much to see at the border but the travelling bug pushes us to explore our boundaries and we are glad we visited.

    Next stop was the Parnidis Dune, a 52m high sand dune that was somewhat crowded (by Lithuanian standards). The Curonian Spit has the tallest drifting dunes in the whole of Europe, with an average height of 35m but with some that reach up to 60m! Depending on conditions, the sands drift between 0.5m and 10m eastwards each year. They are a fragile environment and the National Park has a difficult time balancing their preservation with access for tourists, whose footfall breaks down the unstable structure of these windblown hills.

    The little parking area near the top of the dune was full of cars. Not wanting to take up any of the three coach bays, we found a pull in a few hundred metres back down the track and returned, walking past the icecream and coffee vendor and stalls selling amber trinkets. A wooden boardwalk led us to a granite obelisk reaching almost 14m into the sky, on a semicircular base of rune inscribed steps. The structure is a sundial and calendar, with each step representing an hour and special stones marking the equinoxes and solstices. Will was especially fascinated but soon we were both drawn to the wooden platform looking southwards over 'Death Valley', a desert like landscape of 'dead' dunes that, like a slow wave, had swallowed 14 villages over the centuries. It was an awe inspiring sight with the forests of Russia beyond, the shallow sandy waters Curonian Lagoon on the left and the deep blue Baltic Sea on the right.

    In contrast to yesterday's constant drizzle, the sun was shining and the air warm, so after nipping back to the van for lunch we followed the board walk and steps down through intermittent woodland to the characterful seaside town of Nida. Brightly painted flapboard houses and wooden weather vanes were the standout features in this hub of activity. It was obvious that several coach loads of visitors had disembarked and it was strange to hear people talking English to one another, albeit in American and Australian accents.

    Despite seeming like a small town, Nida absorbed the numbers well and didn't feel too crowded. We found ourselves passing the Ethnographic Fisherman's Homestead Museum and stepped through the burgundy picket fence into the grassy grounds. There was a couple of old wooden fishing boats, a selection of painted weather vanes and a few thatch roofed dwellings. For the very reasonable total of €2 we were granted entry to one, where we stepped into the past to see what it was like for fishing families living on the spit. There was very little written information, even less in English but it gave you a good idea through the displays of people mending nets or spinning wool.

    Nida was such a tourist attraction it even had its own Tourist Information Office, where Will asked whether we were allowed to park overnight on the spit, to which the answer was yes! We'd been prepared to hot foot it back to the mainland but were really pleased to be able to stay another night. He also asked about a fishing licence and was told he could buy one from any supermarket if he showed his passport. A source on the internet says that over 65s don't need one, but at €15 for a year they are cheap and having one would save any confusion or the need to prove his age.

    We stayed at a quiet and free beach car park that night and were joined by two little campervans, one German and the other French. Will went for a dip in the Baltic and we took a stroll just after sunset to the see the sky colours grade from blue to flame orange over the water. It had been an idyllic day.
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  • Day1098

    Camping in Pajiesmeniai

    June 29 in Lithuania ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    We feel right at home here in this little campsite! Daiva and Kees have created a welcoming space for campers in what is effectively their garden. Set within the village of Pajiesmeniai, their lawn pitches are surrounded by pink shrub roses and other bushes, allowing us (and their neighbours) some privacy.

    As Martha trundled down the narrow drive (helpfully adorned with a painted tent, motorhome and corresponding arrows) we were greeted warmly and told we could have our pick of places as everyone had just left. Each pitch had an upright log with a number made out of colourful plastic bottle tops.

    Daiva and Kees gave us the guided tour of facilities which included a gazebo with a book and information leaflet exchange, a couple of shower and toilet rooms, dish washing sinks, a washing machine and clothes lines (yey!), waste water and toilet emptying, fresh water, bins and full recycling facilities, including composting! It may seem odd, but a compost bin is one of the things we really miss from our old lives! Another thing we miss is growing our own food, so it was lovely to see the fruits, vegetables and salads being grown at the campsite. We were even given a small bowl of freshly picked cherries and encouraged to pick our own!

    Daiva told us she never threw anything away and indeed, there were artfully placed curios indoors and out. Pottery jugs covered the ends of branches, keys were screwed to the outside of a door and spoons hung from wooden beams. We really loved the feel of the place.

    Inside the old wooden barn, the downstairs area had been transformed into a small museum of the communist era, with old radios and toys lining the shelves. Daiva apologised for the fact that it was roped off; she was in the process of creating a mosaic floor from oddments of tile they had been collecting! The space also hosted a wet weather area for those in tents to relax. A cupboard displayed knitted garments and a table held 1kg tubs of honey for sale, both made by friends of the owners.

    We were told about of the nearby shop and advised to look carefully for it, as like many Lithuanian businesses, it did not advertise itself. Will picked up some bread for lunch then took his fishing gear to the lake a few hundred metres away while Vicky made use of the washing machine and caught up with some blogging.

    The following day was 30°C +, so we took a slow, morning walk around the lake, well it was supposed to be a round route but after we'd passed the beach, the play park and crossed the small dam, we were faced with a 'private' sign a small distance away from someone's house. Our map showed a footpath beside the lake but after a while it petered out and we were forced to retrace our steps. During the afternoon we really appreciated being able to wind the awning out, sit in the shade and take frequent cool dips under the shower (Vicky) or lake (Will). We even ate tea al fresco watching the swifts flying expertly against the backdrop of a rich blue sky.

    Having been referred to the camping website, Vicky spent time scrolling through its pages, picking up some useful information about points of interest and learning that Daiva and Kees also own an organic farm. This got us thinking. We'd looked into volunteering for WWOOF Lithuania (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), but decided against it because of Vicky's poor health. We returned to the WWOOF online info about the 5 participating farms and sure enough, Daiva and Kees' biography was there!

    We brought this up when checking out the following morning. The couple had hosted 44 WWOOFers in their time, but had taken a few years off, as the role of host can be very demanding. We paid for our stay (€15pn), our use of the washing machine (€3 a go) and a 1kg tub of Spring honey (€8). Servicing the van and signing the visitor book, we left with the strong urge to return the next time we visit the Baltics!
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  • Day1107

    Siesartis Ež, Labanoras Regional Park

    July 8 in Lithuania ⋅ 🌧 14 °C

    We are once again feeling grateful for the beautiful view out of our windscreen. A branch of the glacial Lake Siesartis begins just 2m in front of where we are parked within a woodland grove. A floating wooden jetty extends onto the water and a sandy slipway for swimmers, small boats and canoes sits to the left. Green reeds line the shore either side of our clearing and the thick forest enveloping the lake gives the feeling that we are the only ones here.

    The journey seemed like a long one because there were several hitches along the way. We set off in search of a treetop walk we'd known about for some time, but it was more difficult to get to than expected. The first location the sat nav took us to was an unsurfaced road in the middle of a wheat field a few kilometres away from the site. There was a teeny layby and a possible walking track, but it wasn't a suitable place to leave Martha. A reprogrammed 'Aunty Satia' led us down another narrow, unsurfaced track, this time within a wood. It might have turned out ok if someone hadn't built a house with gated garden in the middle of the road... Faced with this blockage we turned down an even smaller track, realising too late that the surface had changed from porous sandstone grit to slick hardpack mud. The forest closed in a couple of hundred metres ahead of us. There was no way our big van could squeeze between the saplings sprouting up from the sides of the track. We tried reversing but the front tyres are coming to the end of their lives and just spun, while Martha lurched from side to side. Vicky ran on and thankfully found an area of flattened grass the size of the van, at a 90° angle to the track, where it might just be possible to turn. With Will's expertise, four non slip mats placed repeatedly in front of and behind the tyres, a lot of wheel spinning, mud splatting, some elbow grease from Vicky and a pause to disentangle the tandem from the 2 hazel saplings it had become entwined with, we finally managed to turn. Vicky grabbed the mats, now heavily coated with mud and legged it after Martha, yelling at Will not to stop as he hoofed it up the hill and with the momentum, crested the peak to our joint relief.

    Vicky was ready to give up trying to find the treetop walk, but Will persisted. It really was a case of third time lucky as we drove past plenty dedicated parking bays alongside the road and pulled into a reasonable size tarmac car park. Phew!

    Following the signs, we arrived at the first attraction on the woodland trail; the Puntukas Stone. This huge boulder weighing around 265 tonnes is the 2nd largest stone in Lithuania (but a big deal is made of it because until 1957, it was believed to be the largest). Having lived in the UK for most of our lives and travelled through many mountainous and rocky regions, it seems a little strange to us, that such focus should be placed on a hunk of granite 6.9m x 6.7m but Lithuania is a low lying land whose soil is mostly soft and porus. Thinking about what we've seen over our time here, we can recognise how unusual the stone is. The country's recent pagan past probably has a lot to do with how the stone is revered, indeed, legend portrays it as a pagan shrine and the oaks surrounding it, relics of ancient sacred groves. Legend aside, the boulder is an eratic dumped here during the latest ice age. The images of two Lithuanian pilots were engraved into face of the granite in 1943 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of their death during a transatlantic flight.

    Climbing steps up a hillside we came to an office building. We'd looked the ticketing system up online before heading out and it seemed to be the same National and Regional Park scheme with which we'd already purchased an annual family pass for €25. Taking our receipt with us we showed it to the administrator, who seemed more than happy enough to give us two QR coded passes to scan at the turnstiles. The treetop walkway had a metal frame with mesh floor and fencing, allowing you to look down to the forest underneath. At the end we joined the straight sided tower, part way up and scaled the remaining steps to the large, open air platform. This afforded us views of a river and over the tops of trees, from which a light, post rain mist was rising.

    As we hadn't paid entry, we bought a couple of scoops of ice cream each from the café back down at ground level and sat sheltering under the canopies while the rain poured down. The experience was well worth our perseverance!

    Driving a further 60km we turned down yet another unsurfaced side track lined with trees. We were nervous after the bad experience earlier, but breathed a sigh of relief when the track opened out into a secluded clearing on the edge of Siesartis Lake.

    Will had a refreshing swim, diving off the end of the jetty after he had acclimatised, then fished while Vicky sat out until the wind picked up, the temperature dropped to 16°C and the rain blew in. A few people came and went. We spent the first night with German neighbours but were alone for the second.

    The following day had predicted rain most of the time but we took advantage of the forecaster's mistake by taking Little Green out to explore the lake in the sunshine. Despite the shoreline appearing undeveloped from our overnight spot, we discovered many individual dwellings, a few campsites and other guest accomodations, all built amongst the trees in harmony with nature. We estimate our round route covered about 7km, paddling along the northern shore, passing a large island then crossing over to the southern bank and returning on the far side of the island. There were many Great Crested Grebes, a few Coots, some Swans and a far off bird of prey soaring on thermals. We pushed our luck and 15 minutes away from the van, got caught in a stormy downpour, which could be seen and heard racing accross the water before it enveloped us.

    Setting off in Martha the following morning, Will had a surprise for Vicky. He had found another 'bokštas' or viewing tower with views over Siesartis and a neighbouring lake in Labanoro Regional Park! This design was 36m high and significantly more stable than the privately built tower secured with guy ropes that we visited the other day! Again it was free entry and we felt good knowing we'd made a contribution towards the National and Regional Parks by purchasing a voluntary annual ticket.
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  • Day1109

    Tapelių Ež

    July 10 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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  • Day1078

    Vilkija, Nemunas River

    June 9 in Lithuania ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Martha is once again overlooking the Nemunas River although her surroundings are decidedly more urban than last night's stop. A grassy park shaded by mature trees sits to our left and in front of us, in place of a bridge, a small, flatbed ferry takes cars, bicycles and people across the water. The parking area is large enough for about 10 vehicles and its surface is cobbled with rounded, uneven stones of different colours.

    The sun was still blazing when we first arrived, with temperatures reaching 29°C in the shade and 35°C otherwise. With its twin towered church (typical of this region), the town of Vilkija looked as if it might be interesting to explore but after this morning's excursions to Raudonės Castle and the viewpoint we didn't have the energy to climb the hill, so Will joined 20 or so bathers on the sandy beach while Vicky relaxed in the van.

    Come evening time we were grateful for the cooling breeze that picked up and after depositing our overflowing recycling in the large bins for plastic, glass and cardboard, we took a stroll along the grassy riverbank, keeping moving so as not to get caught up in the hords of flies. The sun was setting behind us, silhouetting the ferry and painting an orange light onto the woodland edge as it curved round a meander ahead.
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  • Day1079

    A visit to Kaunas

    June 10 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    We'd set a day aside to visit Kaunas, Lithuania's 2nd city. We'd originally planned to stay 5km out of town and cycle in along the river, but it was a scorcher of a day so parking in the castle car park in the old town at just 30 cents an hour was a lot better option.

    As we approached the city, we passed roadside plant sellers and a few fruit stalls. The closer we got the more tram wires criss crossed over our heads. The trams and trolleybuses had real character, around half were lime green, but the rest had been decorated in different styles; animal prints, outer space, flowers and cartoons were just a few. There was a real mix of buildings too. Run down concrete walled factories were interspersed with modern car washes, glass fronted offices and the now familiar flapboard houses with corrugated rooves. We'd been spoiled with the miles of open road in Lithuania's countryside. If a fast moving vehicle came up behind you there, it just overtook, but the city phyche ruled here, with close knit gridlocks whete cars pushed in front with inches to spare. Keeping their place in the line of traffic was of the highest priority.

    The castle car park was already pretty full when we arrived late morning but we managed to find a space. Martha will just about fit into a regular sized bay with her rear wheels up against the line so long as there is a verge for her back end to overhang.

    We set off up Vilniaus Gatve, the pedestrianised main street in the Old Town, towards a couple of vegetarian restaurants the guide book had recommended. Either side was an interesting selection of colourful townhouses, some with dormer windows in their tiled rooves, others sporting decorative flushes of plasterwork around their doorways and window frames. People enjoyed cool drinks as café tables and chairs spilled out onto the thoroughfare. The area was quite touristy, but thanks to Kaunas's two universities there was a good mix of students too. Arriving at the first eatery, a sign told us it was closed on Mondays. Lithuania is the first country we've encountered that uses symbols such as Roman Numerals or dots to communicate opening days and times instead of the names of days or abbreviations of them. We like it!

    Will's feet weren't on best form thanks to the cuts he had sustained on successive wild swims, so we didn't venture as far as the new town that stretched eastwards, where there were a few other veggie places. Instead we looked around at what else Vilnaiaus Gatve had to offer. Dismissing Hesburger (the Lithuanian McDonalds) in favour of Casa Della pizzeria. Whilst pizza isn't traditional Lithuanian fare, it seems to be one of the most popular contemporary food choices. Vicky got the pleasure of choosing between four veggie pizzas, opting for the goat's cheese with fresh spinach, while Will ramped up the heat with pepperoni and fresh chilli. Sitting on the metal runged chairs at the melamine covered table outside, we were approached by a persistent (but well dressed) beggar, until a member of staff asked them to leave. She then went over to a burly looking man who gave her a cigarette and sent her off in a different direction... The pizzas were delicious and together with nectarine juice for Vicky and a large can of beer for Will, came to only €9.30. It seemed mean to only tip 10%!

    After lunch we went in search of a viewpoint from which the guidebook promised the best views of the old town. Dominating one side of the main square, St Francis Xavier Church, college and Jesuit monastery was easy enough to find. A point of entry was not! We'd walked almost all the way around the large complex before we found a small gate under a brick arch. An A4 printed sheet pinned to a notice board advertised the viewpoint. Stepping through the portal we came to a closed wooden door with entry buzzer. We pressed the button, half expecting to speak to a random resident who knew nothing about any observation deck, but no, to our relief we were buzzed in and met by a warden who knew what we were talking about! Another setback came when they couldn't find the keys to the tower, but they led us out of the building and to the entryphone on the main square, hoping the door at the top of the staircase was open! Thankfully it was and we were left to our own devices on a large rectangular rooftop area beneath the church's pink and white steeple. The views were definitely worth the hassle, encompassing the river, rusty tin rooftops mingled with modern tiles of different hues that covered dormer windows. Trees in full leaf bordered the grey paved square and various steeples protruded, vying for attention. The winner had got to be that of the historic, white painted town hall.

    Having seen the Nemunas riverside from up high, we now crossed over to reach the funicular railway leading up the steep hill on the opposite shore. It gave us a different perspective of the city. From here we could see the small university, the residential areas and the basketball painted on the bank, showing the country's enthusiasm for the sport. It was a hot day and we were both getting tired, so we swung back to the mainstreet and found a café serving icecream cones. Ahh, that was better.

    Back in the days when people first settled in this area, they chose the land where two major rivers joined, not least because of the natural protection these waterways offered in terms of defence. Wandering back towards Kaunas Castle, we strolled through a park on the tongue of land between the Nemunas and Neris, following a path right to the point where the two confluenced. Taking off our shoes, we cooled our feet in both, finding the Nemunas to be faster flowing, cooler and clearer than the Neris.

    Last stop in the city was the humble red brick and cobblestone castle, built back in the 14th century, its coat of arms flying proudly on a red flag. After admiring it from outside we returned to Martha. Kaunas is the first Lithuanian city we've explored on foot and it had been a good experience. The old town was compact but not crowded, the people we interacted with were friendly and happy to speak English, food and attractions were very affordable and there was a good mix of sights. It's a thumbs up for Kaunas!
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  • Day1112

    Merkines Apžvalgos Bokštas

    July 13 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Will has found yet another tower for us to climb! This one is in a pine forest in Merkines, South East Lithuania, with views over the Nemunas River and Dzūkija National Park. Located on a raised bank, the Merkines observation tower is designed to merge with its forest surroundings. It rises to canopy level at 25m, with a lower platform at 15m. The five bark coloured colomns represent trunks and the switchback staircase a forest path.

    Given our proximity to the Polish border and the fact it is a Saturday, we shouldn't be surprised at the relatively high footfall, compared to the sparsely populated areas we've been enjoying of late.

    Arriving in the afternoon we are both little tired from the day's drive so take a break with a cuppa and some Lithuanian tinginys which we'd picked up at the grocery store in Poškonys. The tasty treat is made from cocoa, butter, condensed milk and crumbled biscuits so even one slice is filling.

    Keeping the viewpoint as a reward, Vicky managed to tackle her self assessment tax return with more than a little help from the VnW Travels accounts manager, a.k.a. Will!

    After scaling the tower we set off on a footpath towards another signed local attraction, marvelling at the variety of summer flowers growing amongst the trees. The signs eventually led us to a mound, which we expect had more views over the surrounding area, but to our embarrassment we couldn't face climbing another set of steep steps, so returned to the van to put our feet up.
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  • Day1064

    Dovilų Karjeras, another nameless lake

    May 26 in Lithuania ⋅ 🌧 10 °C

    We're wild camping once again, this time in a small gravel car park looking out over the calm waters of a shallow lake with sandy shore. No doubt this lake has a name locally, but it isn't published on any of our online maps.

    We've had a bit of good news. The replacement door handle we ordered from an Italian company has been shipped so with any luck, it will arrive at the UPS office in the Lithuanian seaside town of Klaipeda before too long 🤞 We've therefore headed westwards today, deliberately avoiding the motorway for most of the time in order to get to know the country better. The weather has turned chilly and wet, so its a good day to travel.

    Keeping our eyes open for fuel, we pull in at a station selling cheap LPG and diesel for just €1.09 per litre! It's cash only, but luckily we have enough notes to fill the tank. Accross the road is a kebab trailer in a small car park with wooden shelters and picnic tables. We've made our own meals since arriving in Lithuania 5 days ago so we make an impulse decision to sample some street food. The servers speak a little English (and take cards) so Will ends up with a tray of skrudinti koldūnai (roasted dumplings stuffed with sausage meat) while Vicky has fries with a salad that includes pickled cabbage, carrot and gerkin. The whole lot comes to €4.30.

    Continuing on, passing through the outskirts of Kuliai town, we skirt round our nameless lake on a narrow track, choosing the farthest parking area. Here, a backdrop of pines and shoreline reeds make it feel more rural, although its a shame about the litter. Will picks up the worst and disposes of it in the large bin provided.

    The only other car belongs to a fisher, but other vehicles soon arrive. A family with teenage children bravely bear the intermittent rain to bbq and spend quality time together. Meanwhile groups of guys in their mid twenties, huddled in hooded puffa jackets, stand around their cars listening to loud music and getting noisily drunk. Somehow it doesn't seem as antisocial as it would in the UK. Possibly because we're new to the country, possibly because more people do it. But they are no trouble and in a way its nice to see friends outside, talking and enjoying each other's company.

    Well, the evening wore on and it rained and rained and rained, right through to the following afternoon. The EU election results were announced and the success of the Brexit Party was the first headline in every bit of news. Although analysis shows remain votes outnumbered leave, we worry what Nigel Farage's populist success will mean for the Conservative leadership election, the future of the UK and our post October travels. Here in Lithuania, we've seen very few political posters, despite the country electing a new president on the same day. At 53% their turnout was better than our mere 37%.

    With the pitter patter of raindrops on the roof, we stayed indoors, editing videos, updating our journey map, blogging and binging on YouTube with plenty of cuppas on the go. After lunch Vicky got her wellies and umbrella out for a wet walk. The snails were certainly enjoying the weather on the tarmac cycle track alongside the lake, less so on the muddy road that branched off to the side. We've seen a number of good quality walking and cycle routes which look as if they've been recently created. There is definitely a sense that Lithuania is working well to improve its infrastructure. At this stage many routes lead to a dead end. We've no doubt that in time, the country will develop a great network of paths, providing options for circular hiking and biking trips.

    The evening sees the return of the sun and with it, the groups of guys in their cars. Come 10pm Vicky goes to bed, only for the van walls to start reverberating with the booming bass of their 'music'. It's disappointing when we look out in the morning and see more litter strewn on the grass than when we first arrived. Oh well, time to move on.
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  • Day1079

    Kauno Marios (Kaunas Reservoir)

    June 10 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Martha Motorhome is tucked into the shade at the start of a slipway leading into Kauno Marios (Kaunas Reservoir). The medium sized tarmac parking area is busy for the two days we stay, with many locals visiting in order to keep cool under the trees, have refreshing dips in the shallow waters or take their small boats out to catch the gentle breeze.

    After a full day visit to Lithuania's second city Kaunas, we were grateful for the chance to relax. We took the canoe down so we could fully open our skylights, letting out some of the heat. During our stay, Vicky rested while Will paddled, swam and fished. There were bins but no WC, so our time was limited by our toilet capacity. (Sorry if that was too much sharing)!
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You might also know this place by the following names:

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