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Lithuania
 

 
country summary

 

We arrived in Lithuania in the first week of July - knowing very little about the country. We plan to travel from the Polish border through Kaunas and Siauliai before reaching Riga in Latvia. We were in Lithuania for 5 days.

 

 
map

 

 

 
entry & visas

 

As we are both EU citizens there are no restrictions or entry requirements for Lithuania.

Lithuania

language

Our little basics in Slav are now wearing very thin. Lithuanian is one of the world's oldest languages still spoken today, related to Sanskrit (Indian language for those who don't know) and Old Prussian. How Sanskrit got there, we are not sure. We have learnt the basic Hello, thanks, goodbye and we are thinking about doing a language section one of these days. Just watch this space... (you may have to watch for a long time!).

 

 
camping

 

A visit to the tourist information has yielded a result - a list of campsites in Lithuania - all 6 of them. None of the sites are on our intended route so wild camping it is.

 

 
cycle shops

 

In our wandering around Kaunas (the second city of Lithuania) there has been not a single bike shop. We crossed Siauliai, famous for its bike manufacturing. Although we did not really stopped for long, not a single bike was to be seen other than ours.

cycle routes and maps

We have bought a map of the three Baltic countries (1:750 000 by Falk). It shows the areas of interest (one star or two) and it helps us in planning our trip. We did not need to buy any detail maps because the tourist information centres supplied us with little touristic maps (free), which were good enough for us to see all the local roads. The maps also indicated the type of road (tarmac, gravel or sand), which ended up being a very important piece of information.

In Poland, we discussed the types of roads and we were told that in the previously Russian owned part of the country, the roads are dead straight because the Russians (tsarist at the time) were not bothered by stepping on private properties. Now we are in Lithuania, we fully understand the extend of this statement. The roads are desperately straight and furthermore, only the main roads are tarmac. The secondary roads are also straight and there are not much more to see than on the main roads, so the choice of route comes down to cars and tarmac or peace, dust, gravel and slow progress.

To make the cyclists life a bit easier, there are cycling lanes around most town and cities in Lithuania, but they usually suddenly end and off you are on the main road with the cars again.

Drivers give a wide berth and we got a little friendly beeping and waving. Very encouraging in harsh conditions!

__

Sometimes the roads just go on and on - straight on

 

 
food & drink

 

Decent bread is getting very hard to find, and normally on the stale side. All the villages have a local shop, stocked with most necessities for the cyclotourist. Of particular note is the quality of the raw/pickled herring - this is available everywhere and is delicious.

Locally made quality ice cream is also a thing of the past - everything is turned over to the big national companies - all bright colours, vegetable fat and pretend chocolate.

 

 
weather

 

5 days in Lithuania and all of them above 27 degrees C - well above the seasonal average of 20 dC.

The extra hour forward on the clocks has helped with the hot sun in the morning, the sun now rises at about 5.30 am, and it is intolerable in the tent by about 8.00 am (perfect for wild camping.)

 

 
medical

 

Plenty of chemists everywhere, but none of them seemed to speak much English. Isa was trying to buy eye drops to alleviate hay fever symptoms - a very frustrating episode.

 

 
flora & fauna

 

The national animal of Lithuania is the stork, these were visible throughout the country - but nowhere near in the numbers found in Poland.

The land is very flat and turned over to intensive arable farming, none of the local village farming and subsistence living seen in Poland. This was also bad for the opportunity to spot interesting wildlife - although we did come across wild boar, freshwater lobster and a frog field.

The heat and abundance of wide fields have their good effect: the mosquitos only come out quite late in the evening and do not trouble us much during the day. Having said this, Lithuania territory is covered with 60% of forests, but we do not really know what goes on if you really go deep in these.

 

 
graphs & stats

 

We spent a total of 5 days in Lithuania, with one day of rest in Kaunas. Overall our route was straight and not the best to see the best Lithuania has to offer, in particular when it comes to landscape.

Distance Cycled : 346 km

No of days Cycling : 4

Average Distance per day : 86 km

Highest Point : 220m just past the Polish border

Furthest Cycling in a Day: 130 km from Wizajny in Poland to Kaunas (100km in Lithuania)

Most Altitude Climbed in a Day: 448m the same day, it is all pretty flat!

Number of punctures: 1 for Terry

 

 
Cycling Lithuania
 

7th July - Wizajny to Kaunas (Lithuania) - 130km

The border crossing to Lithuania was particularly uneventful - not even a welcome to Lithuania sign. We continued to follow the Via Baltica Northwards to Marian. The countryside was initially gently rolling before giving way to wide open plains of intensive agriculture. None of the small scale farming seen in Poland.

At Marijampole we found the most helpful tourist information that anyone could hope for. After a search on the web and various phone calls we were booked into a guest house in Kaunas for two nights. It meant a long cycle (130 km) for the day - but a rest day in Kaunas and time to get to grips with the the first Baltic state.

 

 

What does it mean, a break in the space time continuum ahead?

 

 
 

 

 

During the discussions another cyclotourist turned up at the tourist information. He was an American on a 5 month tour, starting from Belgium and taking in the UK and Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and now the Baltic states. During 3 months cycling his highlight had been the three Baltic states - fingers crossed that we have the same experience.

Basilica in Kaunas

 
 
We covered the 55 kms to Kaunas in record time - trying to stay in front of the coming thunder storm. We thought we had done well to reach Kaunas at 7.30 pm - only to find that we had lost an hour (Lithuania is one hour ahead of Poland). We had relied on an extremely unreliable source for our time zone information - the CIWEM diary - please beware this is not the reliable, authoritative publication that it purports to be.
 

Gallery in Kaunas

 

 
 

Isa with a famous Lithuanian poet

 

 

We climbed the long hill up to our Guest House and reached it at 9.30pm local time - to be greeted by a rather ugly, overweight women who looked fifteen years older than her 40 years saying "Nei, Nei" - this was before we had even got inside the front door. We were in a strange city, in a new country at 9.30pm with the least helpful person in the world saying we couldn't stay where we had booked for 2 nights.

A helpful chap from Russia translated a little but the expression on his face showed that we were dealing with a hopeless case. We left rather disgruntled but our linguistic shortcomings left us with very little option - she wouldn't even call another hotel to see if their were any vacancies - she just couldn't be bothered.

In the end we trawled around the town and found a very pleasant guest house (at twice the price) without too much trouble.

 
 

8th July - Visiting Kaunas

Top notch luxury - a proper hotel and bed to sleep in - even a mini bar and breakfast provided - we might have to knock the camping on the head, it's too much like hard work.

Kaunas is the second city of Lithuania and is situated on the confluence of two rivers. It has an old historic centre with various styles of churches, old buildings and a brick castle. In contrast to this the new city has wide straight avenues and stark functional architecture of the Soviet era - it makes for a great contrast. It is certainly a change from the overdose of baroque that we have seen further South.

We wandered around the city all day - it provides a wonderful environment to relax with a 3 km pedestrianised street linking the old and new parts of the city. With their entry into the EU and the increasing numbers of tourists coming to the Baltic states this is definitely a city that many more people will be visiting in the coming years.

 

 

 
 

Old house in Kaunas

 

 

9th July 2005 - Kaunas to Dotnuva - 71 km

Terry forgot to mention the girls in Kaunas. They are all beautiful, tanned and slim. There was no way we were to hang around there for too long: Terry's neck was starting to hurt.

We left the town at midday and cycled up the Nevegis river valley. Woody, slightly hilly, it was all very pleasant as the heat was at its strongest. After the valley, the landscape open up and we were once again amid the wide endless fields we saw between Marijampole and Kaunas. We were heading for Kedainiai, which we have been told is a rather pleasant market town. We arrived around 18.00 to find it totally empty apart from a folkloric group finishing their show and a gang of kids who took a liking to us and our bikes. The town has the strange feeling of a film set, clearly we hit it at the wrong time despite it being a Saturday evening. We managed to left the kids behind: the cheeky buggers were starting to ask for money and saying they were hungry (despite eating bags of nuts).

We carried on North, this time in search of a camping spot for the night. We chose a quiet road, the wind was with us, the speed was good and to quote Terry: "at this rate, we will be in Riga tomorrow night". This is when the tarmac suddenly ended, in the middle of nowhere. We were facing a wide and straight gravel road and the last 10 km of the day turned out to be more painful than expected.

 

 
 

We finally found a discrete spot in a field. As the usual mosquito attack started, we quickly retreated in the tent and tried to sleep (it is still light after 23.00). But no doubt, after a while we heard heavy footsteps approaching through the bushes, stopping at a few meters and then starting to circle the tent. We were a bit uncomfortable until we heard a friendly snorting (well, we like to think it was friendly). Pfff! We were quite reassured. (PS: we assume it was a wild boar indeed, but neither of us had the courage to get out and check).

And by the way, that day we celebrated our 4000th km with a well disserved wafer biscuit!

 

 

Small rural town graffiti

 
 

To most people a beautiful lake, to cyclotourists a luxury spa, bathtub and shower all rolled into one.

 

10th July 2005 - Dotnuva to Kairiai nice lake - 85 km

This was again going to be a hot day and we suffered from the heat and a few lingering mosquitos before even jumping on our bikes.

The first few kilometres were a hot race against the forest flies (they love our sweet sweat) on the wide gravel road we found the evening before.

The wind was strong and this time blowing right in our face. The going was quite tough. The landscape, well, still not exciting at all. You guessed it: massive fields right and left, straight road in front of us and the occasional wooden farm house with barking dog. We opted to follow the main road as it would make our cycling a bit easier, despite the cars.

 

 
 

 

The afternoon cycling was still tough, hot , windy and boring so we were quite happy to find a couple of lakes on our way. The biggest lake was a reservoir, but many people were swimming, windsurfing and fishing. It was too hot, we needed a rest and we decided to camp in the vicinity after a swim and a clean in the lake.

The lake was beautiful and despite the rubbish left all around by the locals (a real pity), the quality of the water must have been good because we spotted a lobster, which would not let itself be caught by Terry using our soap box (we were trying hard to put exciting pictures in the fauna section of this page). We felt sorry for the poor lobster because a few people came to our spot and also had a wash, but unlike us, they were sparing no foaming shower cream and the lake became quite bubbly.

 

 

 

The impressive hill of crosses, with bikes

 
 

11th July - Kairiai to Eleja in Latvia - 90km

One more hot day, and nothing more exciting to report in term of landscape. We crossed the city of Siauliai, which is famous for its bike factory, but we did not spot any other bikers. We kept on heading North, fighting the wind, again, and the heat.

 

Hill of crosses

 

 
 

But finally, something well worth it was coming up (two stars on our map, how exciting!): the hill of crosses! We were expecting a large landmark and were quite disappointed by the small hump that welcomed us beyond a large car park. But after a few minutes wondering amongst the crosses (it is say that there are a quarter of a million crosses here and the number is growing daily), we were totally taken by the magic of the place. It is piled with small, big, beautiful, broken, fancy, all types of crosses. It started as a pagan tradition (nobody is quite sure when and why it started) and is a symbol of Lithuanian nationalism. Not surprisingly, the Soviets had a good go at it and bulldozed the site twice. Yet crosses kept reappearing and the site is today absolutely fantastic.

 

 

 
 

 

We kept heading North to the border with Latvia, which we finally crossed after a good stop at Joniskis (we were frankly beaten by the heat and wind at this stage). We both felt like it all came a bit too quick and that we did not give Lithuania a fair try, but what can one do when all the roads are dead straight. Looking back, we did not choose the best way and the South, the East and the coast would have been more interesting. Still, they all have the same straight roads thought!

 

 
     

 

 
 

 

     
         
         
         

 

     

 
For more information or questions please contact us at isaetterry@mac.com