Friday, 30 May 2014

Week 4 – Lithuania’s National Parks, Devils, Crosses and Curonian Spit

Week 4 – Lithuania’s National Parks, Devils, Crosses and Curonian Spit
Due to ill health, a fast paced itinerary and intermittent access to good internet, we are moving to a weekly summary so family and friends know we are alive and keep up with the highlights! Goodbye Poland, hello Lithuania our fifth country in three weeks. We started with the National Parks of Wigry and Trakai (meaning "crowded holiday destination full of people, vehicles, stalls") and cruised around Trakai’s impressive castle on an island in lake connected by walking bridges.


Took trolley bus into Vilnius old town - granite brick stone roads, old timber houses. Through Dawn Gates with Madonna of Mercy on the balcony (shrines were built-in to bolster defense of city). The wood carver’s trolls and statues of Christ with spiky Crown of Thorns were quite distinctive. Amber museum had artefacts, clear and opaque Baltic gems of different colours, and displays of geology and geography, and glass to magnify embedded insects. BoyRob kept firm hold of the purse in the enticing shop!! 


Gediminas rules....


Palace more impressive when made of amber!
Saw the many church spires from Gediminas Tower - gothic, baroque, Russian Orthodox, Christian, synagogues, cathedral, basilica, chapels. Impressive Saints Peter & Paul boasted alabaster ceilings and a suspended metallic gossamer boat.


The Devils in the Kaunas Museum Kaunas were in sculpture, ceramics, pottery, fabric, metal, painting – mostly by Zmuidzinavicius, but a small collection from other cultures.

False bottom in hosts cup - stay sober drinking MEADE!

The Ninth Fort pulled no punches in memorials to Jews and soldiers exterminated by Nazis.
Find GirlRob to get idea of monument size

Since we’d found towns drab, graffiti on ruined Soviet buildings, it was a pleasure to pass deer in the lush rural greenness on the way to Klaipeda and the Curonian Spit. Did a lot of climbing – Hill of Witches (carvings from folk tales), Great Cormorant rookery (raucous noise from nests, trees stripped bare, guano covering forest floor), Grey Dunes (colour of flora) and Parnidis Dune with its granite sundial and views overlooking Russia and Baltic Sea.
Spot the witch....



Our final destination was Siauliai’s overwhelming Hill of Crosses, laid from C14 for spirit, battle, country. The crosses were razed by Soviets but people risked lives of a night creeping past soldiers to plant more. Today there are thousands (memorial, devotional) of stone, wood, metal, ceramic, plus other religious icons and thousands of rosary beads. 

We will miss Lithuania’s fevered nationalism, with its bold yellow, green, red on car bonnets, houses, clothes, McDonalds chairs (won't miss poor roads, roadwork delays, slow drivers). 


Friday, 23 May 2014

Day 18 - Satopy to Suwalki - Fri 23 May

Day 18 - Satopy to Suwalki - Fri 23 May
Driving through Great Masurian Lakes – over 2000 filling from glaciers.
Storks abound.

If I find the stork who left these twins...

Arrived early at Swieta Lipka to see stunning 17th century Baroque church, with its dancing angels on organ when it is played. 



Masurian embroidery handed down by mothers 


Passed Ketrzyn to our destination for day – Wolf’s Lair. Obviously Hitler’s hideaway was chosen for its key geographic locale - any further north and we would be in Russia. Took the hour’s walk through Gierloz woods – the Masurian Lakes a natural obstacle for unfriendly forces. Encampment had been surrounded by minefields (glad we didn’t think of free camping here last night), along with four road exits, railway plus airfield - plenty of strategic ingress/egress. We read that the road was also covered in camouflage tenting. Now it’s only ruins of bunkers and storerooms used by Hitler, and the leaders of his forces - Goring, Bormann and Keitel. Stood at site of failed 20 July 1944 assassination attempt by consortium of generals led by von Stauffenberg. Most of the bunkers and buildings were blown up later by liberation armies, Hitler’s bunker (aptly numbered 13) was split asunder.


Lunched at Gizycko by Lake Niegocin. Unlike Australia, in most places you can’t get down to lakes - owned privately, gated entry (even to hotels and restaurants). Heaps of shirtless men and sunburnt people enjoying today's temp of 29ยบ. Strong winds, good for the plentiful wind turbines. Lush green dairy country, no unused land except small woods. Arrived Suwalki mid arvo looking for camp ground with washing machine. Tourist info pointed us to pristine AquaPark, but all locked up (fortunately - it would have cost fortune!). Drove out to Wigry national park, camp ground attached to boutique hotel let GirlRob do washing upstairs in their attic three floors up. Helpful daughter (home from school sick), one of so few Poles who smiled! Sailboats, dinghys, buoys, smoke oven, wood for fire pit, fish grillers, log seats, small deck - little piece of heaven these folks have. Pretty colours as sun set, swan gliding silently on pink water reflecting evening sky. Very tranquil sitting outside.