Constraints on Suzanne and T’s holiday time – and bookings made in Estonia – resulted in mileage pressure on the first part of our collective trip. These three long days were a bit tough on the old bodies. We were all looking forward to two off-bike days in Riga by the time we straggled into the city.
2013/05/29: 123 km to Tytuvenai
We took a less than ideal route out of Kaunas which added a few kilometres. Having survived a segment of busy road, we fortified ourselves with coffee and pastry. Along our way on smaller roads, we visited an ancient hill fort site, and came across a Jewish cemetery as well as memorials to resistance fighters.
We found a campground and cooked a supper based on kasha (buckwheat) under the watchful eye of the campground’s tomcat before collapsing into our sleeping bags.
2013/05/30: 116 km to to Zeimelit
We woke to find the tomcat had helped himself to our cheese during the night. We got off to an early start, however, and rode to Siauliai, where T – as is his wont – dove into the tourist information office and returned to load his panniers with an even greater excess of maps. He can collect all he wants, just as long as he carries them!
We rode north to the Hill of Crosses, which came to be more of a nationalist symbol than a religious one in the lead up to independence. Each time the Soviets would remove crosses planted here, more would be planted in their place. A few older crosses commemorate resistance fighters, but newer ones are now planted for a host of reasons that may have descended to the banal or trivial.
As we approached the site, passing cars decked with balloons honked loudly and formally dressed youths shouted and laughed. When we arrived, it looked as if the entire cohort of college graduates of the region had descended to plant crosses and climb the hill in inappropriate footwear. This is the new Lithuanian graduation ritual.
Heading onwards on more dirt road than we would have liked, we stopped at a picnic area just before the Latvian border to cook supper, and later to discreetly camp.
2013/05/31: 99 km to Riga, Latvia
Crossing into Latvia on a small dirt road, we came unexpectedly upon an impressive building – some sort of stately residence, beautifully renovated and proudly displayed. This was how we came to visit Rundale Palace, one of the two residences of the Dukes of Courland.
After more dirt road and an unpleasant final haul on the shoulder of the highway into Riga, we arrived at our hotel. We were all tired, sunburnt, and mosquito-bitten. We were happy to deposit bikes in a luggage room and not see them for a few days as we became city tourists.