unallersimple: (hectopus)
Klaipeda was a lovely place to take a sunshine stroll and wonder around the quaint and cobbled streets, but there wasn't much to do there and boredom began to sink in after the first day. Normally I would move on and travel elsewhere except there wasn't anywhere else I wanted to go so I was left to sit it out until my flight home. I did however appreciate the time I had to do some much needed loosing and then finding of self.

A few days later I took a bus up to Kaunas (there was no train service there :S!) and discovered that there are no motoways, crash barriers or lamp posts on the roads between towns and cities. I spent my last night in a hotel that was worn down but still seeped in a faded grandeur of Soviet days gone by. I struggled to find something to do other than flick through Lithuanian & Russian TV channels (Kaunas doesnt really have any attractions or tourists) and puzzle over why the hotel didnt give me any soap or towels, but for some reason felt I would need a packet of screws which had been left on the sink. I hoped that this wasn't an sign of any dangerous construction and kept a suspicious eye on the ceiling and furniture!
The day after I had a long but uneventful journey back to Norwich.

I had an interesting stay in Lithuania, yet I was also very glad to go home. It was good to cross another country off the list which is all Lithuania was to me sadly. I know I shouldn't treat countries that way, but I can't be excited about and get to know well every single country I go to. It gets too much!
In Lithuania there was little to do outside the capital, as you can see from the fact that I havn't really written about anything in these last two posts! There are few attractions and museums, few places of interest to walk around in the cities I went to. The things that Lithuania does have to offer such as a beautiful old town, will be bigger and better in similar countries such as Latvia and Estonia. I think perhaps one would have a better experience than I did if they know someone there to show them round and spend time with. On your own though, well I wouldn't go back there, there just wasn't anything that really captivated me you know?

I'm glad I looked around through, and as I settled into my comfortable world back home I decided I needed to appreciate everything more. I'm fortunate enough not to have to worry about accommodation or food. I have everything I could want and I can travel, go to university, work and do whatever I please. I can't imagine what it must be like to live in a country that was occupied and repressed by a foreign power for so long. But change is happening now. Lithuania has survived and has been moving on from those past horrors. The place will be so different in another 20 years or so from now...and I still think about the elderly man who ran a bed and breakfast with an indoor fishpond. :)

^ The new centre of Klaipeda. Here you can see two of the city's most famous buildings which in the shape of letters k and d, built because they are letters which feature in the city's name. Construction was completed on them in 2006, the year before I visited.

To read more about Lithuania: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithuania

unallersimple: (hectopus)
To travel from Vilnius (the capital) to Klaipeda (coastal town on the other side of the country) I ended up on a train that reminded me of Famous Five or something from J. K. Rowling's imagination. Along one side there was a small coridor with compartments behind slidy doors to the left hand side, rather like something George, Anne and Timmy the dog would take back home once summer hols began! I had expected a long and boring six hour journey but the rather fetching mode of transport brightened up my day, especially as to get on the huge beast of a train I had to literally climb on board. The gap from the platform to the first step was as high as my knee. I had to grab hold of the railing (which was above my head) and pull myself on board, which was made more challenging by the weight of my 55 litre backpack.

The staff at the hostel in Klaipeda had made a mistake with the bookings and could only offer me a stay in a local bed and breakfast. I thought it would be cool to stay in a local person's house and see what it would be like, not realising that a 70 year old Lithuanian male would come to pick me up in his car! We sadly had a bit of a translation dilemma as he could "only" speak Lithuanian, Polish, Russian and German whilst I speak English, French, Spanish & Japanese... What a linguaphile's nightmare! It just goes to show that you can never learn too many languages. In my excitement I made the mistake of blurting out the only German sentence I could remember from school (something like "Ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch!") which prompted him to ramble on in German while I pretended to understand. I nodded my head every once in a while saying ja, hoping that he didn't ask me any questions.

The next day I was served a rather alarming looking breakfast in a room with no fewer than 6 cages of budgies and one indoor goldfish pond! I couldn't work out what I was eating. It didn't taste very nice either but I couldn't bring myself to say no when he offered more as he had gone to so much trouble to prepare the food and was such a lovely man. I was sad to leave him behind that morning and I wish that I could have spoken with him about his life, his home and his country throughout the past 50 or 60 years because I got the impression that he was one very special guy.

^ That impression was confirmed by the fact that there was a globe lamp in my room - clearly a sign of a great person! Anyone know where I can get one?

Typing entries like this makes me smile, because it's a reminder of how traveling is never what I expect but is everything I want it to be. I havn't actually mentioned anything about Klaipeda, but the over 70 year old Lithuanian and his weird and wonderful home was the best thing about my time there. :)

unallersimple: (hectopus)
Am feeling especially random today, so here's something random from Vilnius!

^ I was confused to find that along all the main roads in the capital there were piles of dirt every few meters on the edge of the pavement. I really have no idea why they were there! On the way back from the tv tower I saw a guy in workman type clothing with a broom and a shoval making them and to be honest, this really didn't enlighten me any more! Why would someone be paid to do that? Snow, sure, very useful to shovel off the road, but this dirt would either be blown back onto the road or be washed by the rain to cause muddy pavements. Some form of community service perhaps..? Public works scheme?! Weird. Anyway, I knew as soon as I saw them that you would love a photo, you've probably been waiting months to see what a pile of Lithuanian dirt looks like.

Sooooo after a day or two in Vilnius I had a truely amazing train ride from one end of the country to the other, capital to coast! Update on it's way whenever...



Mar. 25th, 2007 02:30 pm
unallersimple: (hectopus)
I started the next day with a wonder around the quaint little old town of Vilnius, the historic centre of the city. It's similiar to the other Baltic states in that they have a central old town which is usally very touristy (less so here than the other two), and then you can see newer buildings circling round and the most recent development at the edge, skyscrapers and posh hotels peeking down on you as you explore the churches, galleries and museums. Due to a large number of trollybuses there were cobwebs of electric cables weaving between buildings from street to street. I liked the place but to be honest I found Riga and Tallin touched me more.

In the old town I stepped into a few churches, walked through an endless amount of streets. (I love just walking, roaming and seeing with eyes wide open). I also accidently stole a copy of the Baltic times.

^The building in the top left is the Town Hall with a building site in front, or is that a car park..?

^ Some buildings in the Old Town

I went to the castle, or the little of it that remains and felt saddened to see so many youths at the top sitting around lost in wafts of cigerette smoke and alcohol. They were all under 20? Did they not have jobs or college to go to? It reminded me a little of Kendal castle, except this was 1pm on an ordinary weekday and there must have been about 50 - 100 young people in and around the area where the castle was. Maybe it was a school holiday?

I later found an art gallery but was disapointed to find it only housed one room with no more than 12 photos (I counted). Still, I only paid 20p to get in so I can't grumble too much. Being from Britain I could throw Litas around all day and not notice anything, we really don't realise how much we have here.

^ A random poster that had been stuck everywhere.

The next day didn't flow quite as planned, but I achieved the only thing I wanted to which was to find the tv tower and consume a beverage in the revolving restaurant at the top. (It's the little things isn't it?) At the train station I managed to buy a ticket through pointing and copying out Lithuanian phrases, only to board the wrong bus which took me up back past the hostel. I wasn't best pleased! Determined not to let my spirits be dampened I found the correct vehicle but couldn't work out where I ended up in the suburbs of Vilnius! I got off 20 mins later, only to find I was nowhere near where I wanted to be. Cue walking, lots of walking.

^ After 20 mins of walking I was this far from the tv tower!

I walked, walked and then I did some more walking. I ended up wondering around some very scary Soviet era style flats which were very oppressive and depressing. I cut through a playground and eventually emerged triuphant, if not a little embarrassed, at the back fence of the tv tower. I followed it round to the front and rode the lift to the top. I was all proud of me! (There were no signs or friendly English speaking people anywhere to help you see.)

I actually spent about an hour walking in the end, it got me thinking about how I could write something deep and meaningful here comparing my struggle to find the tv tower to the struggles of finding what you want in life. Sadly my writing isn't that elegent! I'm going to share some rambles with you anyway though.

How long do you keep going to achieve something you really want? When you're on a path that causes more harm than good, would it be foolish to stay on it when you're not sure of the outcome? Is it best to give up, cut your loses and head back to square one? Is is better to try and not succeed, than to try and try and waste all day/months/years in not succeeding?
I made it to the tv tower in the end, though I wonder if the Lizzie before mum died would have done it. Would she have even traveled at all at this point in her life if she had a mum and hadn't spent the last three years just struggling to get by?

It was great at the top though, I loved it! Settling into a booth in the revolving restaurant I worked out that one revolution took 43 mins (I timed it) and I enjoyed the view along with the chance to rest my weary legs! I felt a bit of a prick when the restuantrant revolved past the bar though, there isn't really much you can do but sit on a moving chair while the bar staff watch you go by! It must be strange to work there, the waiters seemed to have some trouble finding their customers. I was there for ages in the end, lost myself amongst the images of hi-rise flats and shades of greens, greys and browns in a landscape that seemed to float round for ever... :)

^The signs said no photos (and this was enforced by patroling waiters!) but I had to sneak some after walking for so long to get there. :)

unallersimple: (hectopus)
Back on British soil safe and well, though I apologise to everyone who I told to read my journal while I was away, I didn't think the internet would be so unavailable! In the capital I could sometimes log in at the hostel for about 10 minutes, and I was very alarmed to find that outside of Vilnius there was no internet access at all!

~ ~ ~

I knew I would be in for a more challenging adventure this time from the wait to board the plane at the airport. Everyone was queuing up patiently until we were allowed to get on the plane, when everyone just rushed and pushed forward to form a big crowd of people at the door. Such a shock for a English person to experience. We may be reserved and well known for our awkward social skills but darn it, we are brilliant at ordering ourselves into lines fairly and efficiently! I think it's one of the hardest things to do when you travel, gain the ability to see things without using your culture filtered vision, especially somewhere where you may be the only person from your country around. (You may think a queue is a really petty thing to mention here, but to see how much it is installed in you note your reaction next time someone pushes in, or gets serves before you at the bar when it was your turn!) It's hard to open up to new experiences and overcome that feeling of panic and clinging on to your values when everything is strange and unfamiliar.

I was cheered up by the fact we left the airport in snowfall though, so pretty!

A few hours later we landed at the smallest airport I've ever seen. I take back all the jokes I made about the "shed" in Tasmania. We were led to the terminal by a car which had a flashing "follow me" sign on the top. This confused me as there was one runway and one building with only place to stop the plane. Surely the driver could find his way without needing a cute vehicle to trail behind?

^I've never followed a car while sat in a plane before!

I was rather amused to find the airport building looked like a conservatory display at Great Mills (none of this Focus DIY rubbish) and I felt foolish for asking how to get into the city centre because there was clearly only one bus into town! I must have looked such a wally, standing and wobbling about trying to hold on to my baggage, desperately peering out the window trying to figure out where I was on the map. I hate having to try and work out where to get off. I always, always get off to early. This time I ended up with a 30 minute walk to the train station - whoops!

^ My hostel in the capital

Everything is so different in Lithuania, the country is a lot poorer than the UK. The transport system is very underdeveloped, there are no motorways, lamp posts, crash bariers and a lot of the time no road markings either! (Crossing the road felt like being that frog from early computer games - lots of dangerous traffic dodging. You just have to make a run for it!) There are few pavements, and those are usually filled with holes. Buildings look tired and worn down, usually crumbling and falling apart if not already left in a state of ruin because no one can afford to rebuild them. Ambulances look liked they were built 50 years ago, like many of the trains and buses! It was upsetting actually to see the country like that, as you know things would have been so different without decades of occupation with their people being murdered and sent to the camps.

Having mentioned all that though, it would be unfair to leave out how beautiful the place is. It has some gorgeous scenery and buildings seeped in grace and history. There are great people and cool places to meet them. There are signs of wealth and new buildings growing too, it's just hard for someone from a place like the UK (which has everything so easy in comparison) not to talk about those things...but more on the good stuff later, I've written too much already! :)

^ Before signing out Klim just wanted to show his confusion when he found straw holding the door frame to the wall...

unallersimple: (hectopus)
At last the term has finished for Easter and I can leave Norwich with Abigail (what I've named my backpack!) to add another country to my mission 101. I leave today and will get back on the 27th March.

A lot of people have asked me where Lithuania is:

I'll be flying into Kaunas then getting a bus to the capital Vilnius. I'll then move on to Klaipedia after wondering around for a few days. It's a gorgeous little spot on the coast recomended to me by someone I met in Latvia two years ago.

I like the cheapness of Eastern European travel; a night in a hostel is one third of the price in London!

^ Lithuania

As I'm not leaving until this evening (getting the overnight bus to the airport to fly out at sillyAM) I don't really have much to do except be cold and hope the plumber comes today. Our heating broke on Saturday and has been leaking water onto the electrics (always fun) and making scary noises like it's about to blow up. This of course happens after a week of warm weather when the snow starts! Brrrrrr.

My dad and his partner Joan came to visit this weekend and we had a good time catching up and eating an amazing Moroccan meal - I'm so having my birthday party in the Moroccan themed bar above the restaurant!

Everyone has gone home for Easter now so it's just me and a pile of DVDs (I think you can guess which ones ;) with lots of chocolate. Time well spent I believe, time well spent!

I hope you all have a good Easter holiday :)



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