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  • Day1077

    Nemunas River car park

    June 8 in Lithuania ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    We've found ourselves back at the Nemunas River, close to Honey Valley campsite where we stayed a few weeks ago. We'd planned on sleeping at another stopover but as we drove along the riverbank we saw a number of car parks and decided to set up home by the water instead.

    On route we'd managed to fill our depleted fresh water tank at a Circle K fuel station. Having not used a lot of diesel or LPG, we weren't able to buy much of these fuels to repay them, so we decided to join the many others getting lunch from their takeaway. Will's chicken hotdog was easy to order, Vicky's request for something vegetarian proved more complicated. Google Translate helped out and through her experience of different languages she was able to recognise when they offered her a tuna sandwich. Luckily she'd scouted out the pastry counter beforehand and helped herself to a spinach and feta pasty along with a couple of cinnamon rolls when there was no veggie option at the hot counter.

    Arriving at the Nemunas car park we rolled the awning out to shade the side of the van from the scorching sun. A couple of people were sunbathing on the stony shore, the occasional damselfly flitted by and a small fishing boat made several trips upstream, floating back down with a rod dangling over the side.

    As the temperature rose we waded into the water to keep cool. Despite the fast flow there was a smell to the river and even a bit of scum in places. Sediment meant we couldn't see what was under the surface and Vicky kicked something that cut her foot. We got out shortly after this but Will slipped on the stony bank and cut his thumb. Oh well, not all wild swims are fun and at least we had plenty of water for a shower.

    Later on a family drove by to cool their hot German Shepherd in the river. The heat wave is taking people, including us, by surprise. For the second night in a row we saw lightening and heard thunder but very little rain fell and the temperature remained high. We left all the windows open until midnight when Will got ready for bed. Vicky was woken by panicked expletives and pulling back the bedroom curtain saw a swarm of flies inside the van. As Will had opened the fly screen to close the windows, they'd rushed in. We don't like to use strong chemicals but the Moskill coil came out and did its job. Vicky spent an hour the following morning wiping dead flies off the table, seats and fly screen as well as brushing them off the outside of the van. Hundreds of them had attached themselves to the leeward side with something similar to spider's silk and died without us having anything to do with it. We've never seen anything like it!

    Driving off, we looped back to a nearby castle we'd found on Maps.Me. Raudonės Pilis was built in the 19th century but previous castles have inhabited this site since before the 1500s. Walking through the grounds, we passed by several people in medieval costume and 3 ponies grazing, but saddled up ready to take little ones for a ride. There were also an archery target board, and a sword stuck in the ground. The actors greeted us and we continued on past the small lake to the grey plastered walls and towers topped with orange terracotta tiles.

    The entry price of €2 each was reasonable. A large part of the building is now used as a school but there were some displays showing what the kitchen would have looked like and at the base of one of the round towers, a hole in the floor leading down to the dungeon, in which a white plaster budda seemed to be sitting. We're not sure what that was about! The real attraction for Vicky was chance to climb one of the towers. There was conceptual and photographic art on the walls as we climbed one of the steepest wooden staircases we've encountered in public (the steps in the Dutch windpump we had a private tour of were pretty steep too). The loft space had a conical ceiling and overhanging wooden beams, but set into the terracotta tiles were small windows you could open for views over the surrounding countryside and river, reminding us what a green country Lithuania is.

    Down in the castle courtyard were 3 gazebos with stalls selling dehydrated seed and fruit strips (which we sampled but weren't persuaded to buy), handmade lace and leather adornments, soaps, creams and organic herbs, spices and teas. We chatted with the organic stall holders and got some chamomile. We mentioned how difficult it had been to find organic produce here, but they didn't seem to think it was a problem. Perhaps it isn't if you know where to go, but we don't.

    Just a kilometre or so along the road from Raudonės Castle was a small car park with a hilltop viewpoint, accessed via flights of very new wooden steps. We had a spot of lunch, shut the blinds on the sunny side of the van in an effort to keep it cool, then set off up the steep (but thankfully small) hill. There was a good view stretching along the Nemunas River and its shallow, green valley. A gravel footpath (also newly created) stretched down the other side and into woodland, but the day was too hot to do much walking, so we drove on to our next overnight spot, grateful for Martha's air conditioned cab.
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