Four Strong to Lithuania

We’ve merged as a foursome and have adjusted reasonably well to new travel dynamics.  It’s great to have new conversation partners, and to have more eyes and minds open to observe and to process sights.  We’re still working on our collaborative process for route planning and navigation, and we’re getting there.

2013/05/24: 80 km to Olecko
The hotel where we met was selected largely because its breakfast had good reviews. The blinis (stuffed pancakes) were a hit, but we weren’t sure the Nescafé made the grade.

We made it to the town of Olecko, in the wooded and hilly Masuria region of north east Poland, and found a small hotel so as to avoid rain and mosquitoes. We felt we needed a rest day; the forecast was for more rain, and S &T had ridden three long days and we’d ridden five.

2013/05/25: Day off in Olecko
The highlight of the day was making good use of the town’s brand new aquatic centre, where the solemn-faced lifeguards were kind enough to turn on all the water jets in the childrens’ pool for a group of cavorting 60-year-olds. The facility was almost empty, and we realized only upon leaving that there was a surcharge for the sauna where we’d spent quite a bit of therapeutic time. The facility was state-of-the-art-impressive, but we wondered as we left how the locals could afford to use it. Was that why it was nearly empty and was it destined to remain that way?

2013/05/26: 94 km to Vilkaviskis, Lithuania
As we left, smartly dressed couples were walking to mass and church bells rang. We were heading toward the nearest road border crossing to Kaliningrad (Russia). One blogging cyclist claimed to have used it, but the road was only shown on one of several maps we had. Concerned people at the hotel seemed sure we’d be used as  target-practice by Russian soldiers  if we attempted this route. We were determined to avoid the main roads across the border, however, because the visa hassles posed by Kaliningrad and Belarus create an obvious long-distance traffic funnel here.

There were lots of these German WW2 bunkers along our route.

Chris, Suzanne  and I met a Polish cyclist (T had raced off the the tri-border point while we waited) whose highly detailed Polish map showed no road across the border on our proposed route. More dour warnings. Off we went, though, once T returned,  and we found the road newly paved by the EU near the border, as Chris had predicted.

In Vikaviskis we found a lakeside campground where I managed to compare surgical scars with the owner in Russian. He later came back to comment on our pierogie supper dismissively as “Tourisky!”

2013/05/27: 78 km to Kaunas

We always encourage them to cross the road quickly.

After a limited breakfast of cardboard breakfast cereal, we found better maps for Lithuania at a gas station. It was a day of an excellent lunch picnic which included Norwegian smoked salmon, stops to observe amphibians and reptiles, and clothing adjustment as thunder showers moved around us.

Typical Weathered Wooden Farmhouse

Arriving in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second largest city, a former capital and an academic centre, we dove first into coffee and pastries, and later into an Ibis hotel where we were allowed to wheel bikes right into the rooms.

Dinner was delicious traditional Lithuanian fare served in a rather non-traditional setting of something like the West Edmonton Mall. One could say it was an incongruous juxtaposition, or one could say it demonstrated that Kaunas is booming and that  Lithuania is on the rise. With the knowledge that  Lithuania was the first of the three Baltic States to regain its independence during the  Singing Revolution , I think I’ll choose the latter.

M

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