Sunday 9th October
We set off this morning to head towards Lithuania eventually. There was glorious sunshine and we decided to head to Kemeru Nacionalais Parks. Apparently there are wild horses there and some very beautiful scenery. It is basically a peat marsh and although at the part we didn’t see the ponies, we did come across evidence of beavers. We’d taken a couple of little tracks deep into the scrub and it was as described, beautiful.
|This is beaver damage on a tree. We had to convince ourselves, but to the size of the chips and the footprints around it confirmed it.|
|Just how big were this critters teeth ?|
We got back on track and drove through the main route to Lithuania. It has been quite interesting seeing the contrasts in the country. Riga, the capitol has obviously had a lot of money poured into it and has a lot of western influence, where as in the countryside you feel as if you have stepped back in time and into Russia as it was. Certainly in the towns, everyone speaks English and that has helped as I don’t think I could possibly have got by trying to speak and understand the dialects that are spoken.
We entered Lithuania and waved to the border police man. We are raising quite an amount of interest in Gromit. Obviously it looks the part, but I’m not sure if that is the interest or the fact there are two oldies in the front, the steering wheel is on the wrong side and that the driver seems to be asleep or has binoculars fixed to their face, and well when they spot the cat, I think it just about finishes them off.
This first part of Lithuania is very flat and you can see for miles either side of the road. We spotted this herd of deer. They were huge and beautiful.
|How beautiful are these.|
Slightly further up the road we stopped at this quaint little “road chef” for lunch. Knocks the spots of motorway services on the M6.
|The mushroom (Boleta - Hmmmm) was served up in this bread bowl ! Our meal, including beer was £5.25|
|The outside eating area|
|The front of the restaurant.|
After lunch we headed for The Hill of Crosses. We had seen this in one of our travel books and made towards it. I was driving and Ray could see it as we passed it and then had to turn back, following the route, not driver error. It is quite surreal. It is described as a sacred place where people from all over the world can come for a quiet time, either in joy or sorrow and reflect.
Extract from Wikkipedia:
Over the centuries, the place has come to signify the peaceful endurance of Lithuanian Catholicism despite the threats it faced throughout history. After the 3rd partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795, Lithuania became part of the Russian Empire. Poles and Lithuanians unsuccessfully rebelled against Russian authorities in 1831 and 1863. These two uprisings are connected with the beginnings of the hill: as families could not locate bodies of perished rebels, they started putting up symbolic crosses in place of a former hill fort.
When the old political structure of Eastern Europe fell apart in 1918, Lithuania once again declared its independence. Throughout this time, the Hill of Crosses was used as a place for Lithuanians to pray for peace, for their country, and for the loved ones they had lost during the Wars of Independence.
Most recently, the site took on a special significance during the years 1944–1990, when Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union. Continuing to travel to the Hill and leave their tributes, Lithuanians used it to demonstrate their allegiance to their original identity, religion and heritage. It was a venue of peaceful resistance, although the Soviets worked hard to remove new crosses, and bulldozed the site at least three times (including attempts in 1963 and 1973). There were even rumors that the authorities planned to build a dam on the nearby Kulvė River, a tributary to Mūša, so that the hill would end up under water.
On September 7, 1993, Pope John Paul II visited the Hill of Crosses, declaring it a place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice. In 2000 a Franciscan hermitage was opened nearby. The interior decoration draws links with La Verna, the mountain where St. Francis received his stigmata. The hill remains under nobody's jurisdiction; therefore people are free to build crosses as they see fit.
|A whole family of partizans wiped out after WW2|
|The number of crosses as at 2006 was estimated at 100,000|
We left there and detoured through a small town and they had a reminder of the Russian rule, there was an old water cannon in rather a prominent place, now being dealt with accordingly.
|A old Russian tool of public oppression - The water cannon - better than guns I suppose !|
|In keeping with last years graveyard in Eastern Europe - these were also kept immaculate.|
|Another survivor of the Russian era|
From there it was a steady drive to our next campsite which is Kauno Kempings. It is a little site on the outskirts of Kaunas. We are the only ones here and we had to pay for the cat, a whole £1.50. It’s the first time we have had to pay for him. On the theme of paying, diesel is only £1.05 a litre. Food and drink is actually quite cheap.
We had a very noisy and cold night. The site is under a motorway and next to the main route into town.
Monday 10th October.
Today we are off to the capitol, Vilnius. It is a very grey day again and the temperature is hovering around 6 degrees, but at least it is dry.