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). 


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