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Published: December 16th 2014
Although my Erasmus time has finished, I will still write some blogs after holidays and other important events. And this latest one will come in two parts - my Baltic Tour.
Although it was only a week long, the trip took me and my sister to four countries and six cities - its therefore no surprise that we had forgotten much of what went on at the beginning before the end was even upon us!
The first day involved us leaving home at 5:30am to make it to the airport for a 7:30am flight to Vilnius. However as we were about the board the plane, there was a technical issue that delayed us by almost 2 hours. Although we didn't mind arriving later, as we already knew that we had plenty of spare time and we couldn't check into the hotel straight away had we arrived at our original time, it was a shame as we still had to get up so early for the flight.
Eventually we arrived in Vilnius, capital of Lithuania at 1:30pm local time (2 hours ahead of British time) and took the bus into the city before
walking to our hotel. Vilnius, like the other cities we were visiting were all on the small side, and so walking around them to see everything is an easy job. Having the rest of the first day and the whole of the second day in the first city meant we could have a relaxing start after our very early wake up, and so we decided to walk around the city centre which was the closest part of the city and then have an early night - little did we realise this meant 8pm local time!
Having had a very nice rest, the second day we woke to feel very relaxed and stress free - ideal for a long walk up a hill!
Having seen the town hall and many churches the day before, the second day involved us walking back through the city centre, past the parliament towards the Cathedral Square. Luckily today was a much nicer day with blue skies and the sun shining - ideal T-shirt weather! As yesterday it hammered down with rain as we were walking, leaving us drenched. After visiting the Cathedral, we walked up the main shopping street towards the
Parliament building and the KGB museum.
The museum would give us the most saddening part of our trip, where we went down to the former torturing rooms that were in use until Lithuania broke free from the Soviet Union in 1991 - the year I was born. Although seeing the execution chamber and rooms used to torture people was not the most pleasing thing to look at, much like visiting the concentration camp in Germany I did in 2009, it is a very eye opening experience and definately worth the visit.
After visiting the museum, we crossed the river and walked along the other side of the city, seeing what must have been our 7th bride of the day - we then crossed the bridge back into the city seeing a total of three on the same bridge! We still don't understand why...
After seeing the whole of the city our last place to visit was the Three Cross Monument on the top of the hill overlooking the city - Although it was a long walk in hot weather, the view was definately worth it, as we could look over everything
we had just seen.
The next day was an early start, as there was only three trains a day to out next destination - Klaipėda, at the inconvenient times of 6am, 9am and 5pm each day - which would cause a problem if we were to miss it. Luckily our alarms didn't fail us, as we took the 5 hour train across the entire country to the city on the Baltic Sea. Arriving in the early afternoon, we had just a few hours to enjoy the city before sleeping as this was our only time in the city. Unfortunately we missed our ferry crossing, and had to wait an hour, but we rearranged our day instead so it wasn't a problem.
After two days of McDonalds, in Klaipėda this was not an option for us, so instead we bought dinner in a lovely supermarket going by the name of 'Iki' where they too have the same woman trapped inside the self service machines shouting "Problem in the bagging area" as in our own ASDA shops. We then took the food with us as we made our way to the beach. After taking the short
ferry across the river, we found ourselves on the Curonian Spit, one of the longest spits in the world and then we walked across the spit, which had become forested for15 minutes before finding what can only be described as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It was so sandy and from where we were, we could just see the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
The next day, our final in Lithuania was also the most stressful. Much like the previous day, we had to get up early and take one of the few trains that ran to the city of Šiauliai, in northern Lithuania. From there we took a local bus, which ran just once an hour to the middle of nowhere. It is made even easier by the fact that very few people in this place knew English, and we unsurprisingly didn't know Lithuanian or Russian. But nevertheless we succeded in our plan, with a helping hand (well, eye wink) from a local who understood our plan, and we made it to the Hill of Crosses.
The hill is a pilgrimage site for Christians, and contains more than 200,000 crosses
of varying sizes. Three times in its history it has been destroyed, but each time it has been rebuilt. Once there the site was full with tourists, however most of whom had arrived on coach trips (a pity that with a bit better infrastructure many more people like us could also visit). We also decided that as we had quite a few Litas left over we would purchase a Cross and place it with a message on the hill.
Afterwards we made our long way back to the bus stop to wait for the bus, where we met a couple from Huddersfield - although my sister didn't understand anything they said, and it turns out they were doing the reverse of what we were..and were on their way to Vilnius from Riga and the rest of the Baltic states.
Once we made it back to the centre of Šiauliai, we decided to buy with the rest of the Lithuanian money we had left, food for breakfast and lunch in our next destinations - however miscounting exactly how much we had at the end meant at the tills we were short by 8 sentimas (about 2p), which luckily we let off for before boarding our minibus to Riga.
The second part will deal with the other three countries of the holiday.
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