Leaving Latvia and onto Lithuania

For my last day in Riga, I spent most of the day in the KGB Corner House on a tour.  This was not some regenerated museum, it was a KGB building which was in tact with the prison cells and other rooms left as they were when the building ceased being a KGB building only in the early 90’s.

The tour was epic, the guide was brilliant, he worked for the Soviet Union in something or other but clearly knew his stuff and was telling us lots of stories about people who had been on his tours who had experiences in that very building.  It was a harrowing tour, and the state of the cells and isolation units were grim, and knowing the background stories of the KGB made them even worse.  Still, I avoided the KGB museum in Tallinn because people said this one was the best, and I can see, would take some beating.

After the KGB corner house, I went off to chill in the park for a bit, and then to the School of Sciences to go up the panoramic tower to take some photos.  Was a decent view but the School of Sciences was like a scabby old stinking school.

I had dinner close-by today in an Italian which was amazing, I’d been craving some pasta for a while so to have ham/melon followed by some Salmon pasta was much needed.  Tomorrow I was heading to Lithuania which had been buzzing about!

The coach to Vilnius was again great, these Lux Express coaches are a Godsend to be honest and cheap.  When I arrived in Lithuania it was against scorching, I cannot believe how lucky I have been with the weather in the Baltics, it’s been roasting almost every day.

I checked into my Air B n B and this one is by far the best, it’s a modern apartment you’d be happy to live in back home so I was buzzing.  I had a nice balcony too so I am glad I was staying here for 4 days or whatever it is.  Given the weather, I dumped bags and headed straight out to see some of the main sights in town for the afternoon.

I walked around old town taking in some of the main sights like the Town Hall and some of the churches (there are loads, since Poland wanted to impose Catholicism on Lithuania so they built many churches).  I wandered up to the castle tower on the hill which was a good trek and some good views too.

I also managed to squeeze in the Cathedral and the bell tower in the afternoon so I’d done quite well.  I went back for an hour or so before heading back into Old town to go a traditional Lithuanian restaurant.

Before going to Lithuania, I had researched the main traditional dishes.  Two that repeatedly come up are Saltibarsciai (cold beetroot soup) and then Cepelinai which are like massive potato dumplings with meat in.  So I had the Saltibarsciai which was surprisingly nice (even though it had a random egg plonked in it), but the Cepelinai (with minced beef inside and bacon/crackling on top) were nice but absolutely belly busters.  I could eat the parts with mince but the random, starchy dumpling things where there was no meat I just couldn’t handle. I rolled back to the hotel after that and watched some TV series’.

The following morning I grabbed some breakfast at this famous place with these traditional pastries with Jam.  To be honest, they just tasted like a massive square cherry dohnut, way too much for breakfast but luckily I was just about to go on a 2.5 hour free (tips) walking tour around Vilnius.

The tour was great, got to chat to loads of people in a huge group, although one woman from Sydney was clearly a classic Aussie bullshitter.  She was chatting to me about how she was a travel writer and been to all these countries (30 odd, but she counts them twice if she goes twice…) and she was writing a book about doing 50 states in 50 weeks (something she said had never been done before).  I thought it was pretty cool and I asked if could have her business card so could keep eye out for the book, she agreed and we cracked on with the tour.   We chatted a few times along the tour and at the end she made a sharp exit without business card.  After a quick google search I could see it not only had been done before but there were websites and forums dedicated to doing it.

Anyway, the tour itself was excellent, not a standard boring tour but a cool local Martyna taking us around some of the less touristy spots with in-depth info.  We did go to Užupis which is claimed to be a republic, it’s basically an artists area of town but they’re bat shit mental and have their own constitution, president, congress etc.  It’s all very light hearted and arty farty but their constitution is great and they have ambassadors around the world, the latest addition being a cat who lives in the library in Užupis so they are the ambassador of literature in Užupis.  There are so many cool art pieces around the ‘republic’ and some funny stories, it’s a cool place to visit but I know if this was near me back home I’d hate how these arty farty types are running amok 🙂  After tour I spent the rest of the afternoon just chilling with a few of the tour members and baking in the sun again.

I then went back to watch Hoffenheim Liverpool and was left fuming because Hoffenheim should have scored more goals.  I’ve been looking forward to going to Trakai a lot and tomorrow I planned to spend the whole day there.

I was up bright and early for a 7:20am train to Trakai which was going to take me about 30 minutes.  When I got there the sun was coming out and I was one of only a few people to get off.  I wandered the 30 minute walk to the Trakai castle along the amazing lake.  When I got there I realisd why the train was quiet, everything opens at 10am but that gave me the opportunity to take photos without little rats running around everywhere.

I was the first into the castle at 10am and the castle is impressive inside but not as impressive as outside in it’s position smack bang in the middle of the lake.  I sent a postcard from the castle post office and saw all the exhibits, then went out and spent the day in and around the lake.

In the afternoon after having the traditional Kribinai (like pasties) for lunch, I hired a pedalo to go on the lake around the castle.  I used FB live for the first time and those lucky enough to see this elite programming should feel very blessed.  It was a good hour to be fair although I was going way to hard on the peddles as realised I’d done the loop in about 15 minutes so had another 45 minutes to burn at a much more relaxing pace.  After a great day and proper chill out in the sun, I headed back on the scenic 40 minute walk to the station for my hour train back.

For my last full day in Lithuania I went to the temporary capital city (when Poland had laid claim to Vilnius) on the train.  It was absolutely toasting out again, there’s been absolutely nothing baltic about the Baltics when I’ve been here!

I did very little here to be fair, I went to an English pub for a Full English breakfast then went around the 3 or 4 of their main sites (including their castle).  I chilled out in the park and was on the laptop (and free wifi) for a few hours before heading back and having dinner in Vilnius.

I marathoned ‘The Jinx’ all 6 episodes in the night so it was a late one and left the packing for the morning.  Now the fun starts, can I actually get into Belarus without hassle, I bet not.  The 5-day visa rule is ok but it;s the proof of worldwide travel insurance is my problem and will they be funny about my flight out being not to UK but to Berlin.  Ah well we will see.  My flight is tomorrow evening so annoyingly I have a day of wandering about with my uber heavy bag tomorrow.