Lithuania, smoothly leaving the Baltics

The Baltics … since we travelled from north to south our last stop was, of course, Lithuania; the most populated and biggest of the three but also a box full of surprises … let’s see …

So, as it was to be expected, Latvia waved goodbye with a bumpy and sandy road which drastically changed soon after the border South of Daugavpils. To cut a long story short, there was tarmac. It would be a lie to say that cycling in Lithuania is like a day at the beach but we left the country with a much better general feeling than when we arrived. Sure, there is also sand here and badly sealed roads but it’s a lot easier to predict which roads will be hospitable and which will not also thanks to the national numeration system. Another thing which makes a huge difference is the fact that, having a bigger population, there are actually a lot more villages, hence more roads, hence less traffic on them … simple math really 😉

We actually crossed into Lithuania in the afternoon which meant that we only cycled a few kilometres before our first stop. Initially we only thought that the name was kind of funny but even about 5 kms before arriving to our daily destination we realized that this was no normal town. The huge, obviously unnecessary double carriageway leading us to the centre had a very sovietic feel and look to it and was a bit over the top really. For the first time since the start of our trip we had a whole lane to ourselves not that it mattered because we didn’t come across another car anyway !

Visaginas is a town built in the 70’s to house the working population of a nuclear power plant nearby and, well, it reminded us of those sovietic cities that you typically see on TV; everything EVERYTHING is designed at a 90 degrees angle, huge and almost empty avenues, enormous pipes (carrying hot water from the plant I suppose) in the streets. There is a forest and a lake on the outskirt and there it has a campsite which is very well equipped BUT the showers don’t work ! The lake it is then ! Luckily our soap is biodegradable 😉

In that campsite we had the first encounter with the local population; a mother and son who live in the capital and decided to escape its heat for a couple of days and came here with their tent. Vilnius (yes, like the capital) and his mother Vilija gave us a really special first insight into Lithuanian personality that we later became fond of; their forthcoming and conversable nature. Unlike in any other country so far people came up to us, asked us questions, enquired about our trip … it’s like if people from the baltic states become less and less shy the further south you go. We wonder what people would be like if there was a forth state (hint about Polish people that you will understand in our next post) …

We could bore you with many examples of openminded, friendly, extroverted people (a fisherman remembering his school day’s French in order to exchange some words with us, a B&B host’s grandson and his girlfriend driving 45kms just to spend a few hours with us and making us a great, refreshing cold beet soup (local delicacy) and offering some amazing strawberries grown in the back garden) but, please take our word for it, we met tons of smiley locals and had many interesting and funny conversations with them.

And as always, it’s downside time so … what can we say … while we definitely felt thankful for the better roads, we also felt that Lithuanians are a bit impatient when driving, almost like they are eternally late for a flight or maybe they just keep on forgetting to turn off the oven but anyhow, we often observed fast driving and unnecessary risk taking which is a pity really … no one likes to have a near death experience on a hot Sunday afternoon …

Last but not least, just a few words about Vilnius, the capital; diversity seems to be the key word here and it’s incredible to see how the melting pot philosophy really works here. The “hippy” campsite where we spent our first night was right between a posh neighbourhood, an artist one, the historic city centre, a Franciscan monastery … At one street corner you may see huge german cars parked and just a few meters away a vegetarian self service restaurant … in definite a continuous feeling of awesomeness that, as a tourist, we love to have. And we could still spare a few words about its great and unique layout and beautiful architecture, but we won’t ! It’s up to you to get on your bike and go and find out. Or you could always just cycle there …

We also have an amazing YouTube channel with lots of different videos (in lots of different styles) from the road; 421adventure on YouTube

And please don’t forget that part of our adventure consists of fundraising and raising awareness for two incredible NGOs so please help us to spread the word and, of course, if you’re feeling generous, donate here; DONATE

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