Lithuania

Lithuania is the only Baltic country with more than eight hundred years of statehood tradition, while its name was first mentioned one thousand years ago, in 1009. Wedged at the dividing line of Western and Eastern civilizations, Lithuania battled dramatically for its independence and survival.

Flag

Basic Information

The third and final of the Baltic states during this trip. Lithuania has so much history and has been a country for so long, making it a very interesting place to visit. For almost a thousand years its people have developed their very own identity. Evidence for this can be found in their language, customs and overall culture.

I'm really interested in the local folklore, which, according to locals, is among the most captivating in the world. The country used to be much bigger, so modern Lithuania is only a small view into all of which was once part of the empire. Luckily there's enough cultural heritage left to visit throughout the country, like hill forts and castles.

The local cuisine is really hearty. Which is logical, since you need good food in order to defend your country for centuries against foreign invaders. I'm especially looking forward to sampling some of that food.

The national sport is basketball. While the rest of Europe plays either football or ice hockey, depending on the climate, Lithuania has chosen basketball. And they're quite good at it as well, apparently.

Map

External Info
Distance traveled 372 km
Time spent 2 days

Places of Interest

disclaimer   These are only places that make up 90% of the plan for this trip. Whether or not I've actually managed to visit each and every one of them can be found in the ride report.

Dzūkija National Park

Keeping the tradition of following the eastern border in Estonia and Latvia, which has now become the Belarus border, I'll enter Lithuania from the north-east. Passing through more forests, I'll end up in Dzūkija National Park. Created by Lithuania after re-gaining independence to protect important Lithuanian landscapes.

A huge pine forest, hilly and sandy with lakes, rivers and small towns. Because of its protected status, animals like wolves and snakes are abundant. I might even get lucky and get bitten, eh, see one.

According to tourist information, there's an abundance of cultural activities in and around the park.

Merkinė
Merkinė, Dzūkija National Park

Courtesy of Dzukijosparkas.lt

Vilnius

Continuing south I'll end up in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Not that I want to visit another city, but it's right on the route and the ideal place to spend the night and maybe even fill my tummy with delicious Lithuanian food.

The city has been there since the middle ages, so I expect to be able to see some varied architecture. What I do know is that the inhabitants are pretty multicultural. Lots of Russian, Jewish and Polish influences, with even some Germans here and there.

If I've got the time, I'd like to find out what's the all the fuss about Uzupis District. Apparently, it's sort of a ghetto full of dreamers and artists. The biggest holiday if the district is April 1st. They've even got their own president and national anthem. Some even say it's an independent state.

Vilnius
Rotušės square

Courtesy of Wikitravel


Ride Report

This is only what I remeber of Lithuania and quickly wrote down during the trip. I'm sure I've missed some details here and there. Sorry! It's chronological, mostly.

Because of the new focus on cities instead of riding and the ongoing bad weather, the route from Lithuania was almost entirely made out of highways. This short ride had some of the worst weather yet. Strong winds, bad asphalt and plenty of rain. Visibility was minimal, traffic was dense and the speed was almost constantly over 130 km/h. I was glad for a change to find myself in the thick city traffic of Vilnius.

Hotel Congress was easy to find and would serve as my base of operations for the coming two days. Because of the high tempo on the way over I arrived early. The uptight Russian lady behind the counter told me to wait until my pre-booked check in time. Ugh, I really hate bureaucracy. While I was waiting in the lobby she occasionally looked at me with these makeup covered spiteful eyes of hers. Very disturbing.

The next morning, after breakfast, the third city of my city trip was next. Check out the city, have a few beers and leave. It felt like a new routine. The weather wasn't that much better, although it did stop raining in the morning. Like a real tourist, I planned on visiting old town first. The city center with all the nice buildings, squares and cafes.

Old town is beautiful. Most of the buildings are nicely restored, the streets are cozy and clean. Lots of old, monumental religious buildings are dotted across the city center. But once you step outside of old town, and this border is quite obvious, it's like stepping back in time. The nice cars are replaced with old wrecks, the nice buildings are replaced with dull Soviet architecture and the cobble stones turn into cracked concrete. But things are rapidly changing. With the recent economic growth you can clearly see several projects underway to modernize Vilnius as a whole.

After seeing most of the old town it was time for my beer. I spotted a bunch of empty chairs and tables in a park where I could enjoy peace and tranquility while having a taste of the local brew. Because of the rainy weather I had the park for myself. The first beer was a nice German-ish pilsener. Švyturys. Nothing special, but an easy drink. The waitress convinced me to try Baltijos, of the same brewery. Now that's a nice, interesting beer. With a hint of caramel and roast grain it's not too sweet. This might work well with a hearty meal.

Just when I was enjoying this Baltijos, the heavens opened and it started raining. There was only one parasol not leaking, so I took a seat under that. The waitress had the same idea. With rain like that she didn't have to worry about any potential customers. The rain didn't stop for the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening. We got to know each other rather well.

The next morning, after breakfast, we said our goodbyes. When I wanted to check out of the hotel I noticed the same Russian uptight lady behind the counter. This bureaucrat was definitely going to make a fuss about this. But, as it turns out, the iron Russian wasn't as cold-hearted as I thought she would be. No extra charge. I thanked her and went on my way to Poland.


Photos

These are the photos taken during the trip through Lithuania using this gear. Hopefully they're in chronological order. If you'd like a larger version of a particular photo, just let me know and I'd be happy to make it available to you. All photos can be redistributed freely under the Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license.