Latvia 2 & Lithuania 3
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7th September 2009
Latvia 2 & Lithuania 3 (eastern euro trip part 1 of 3)
Current Mood: Familiar
Category: Travel and Places
New summer meant more skydiving and with a ridiculous amount of Litas in my pocket I was soon once again flying my way into Latvia, only this time I had Kiwi Kylie on tow and we were meeting our very own Latvian, Liva. We get to Latvia, meet Liva, get in the car, two minutes later I wish I was back on the plane – the girl can’t drive for shit. A few hours later the car she’s borrowed from her parents has a few extra scratches and we learn that she passed her driving test via a cheque book. And this was going to be our driver for our road trip across Latvia and Lithuania? Fuck skydiving for near death adrenaline sport – hopping in the motor with Liva surpasses any adrenaline rush I’ve ever experienced...
From Riga we drove on up to Sigulda where I done my cable car bungee two years earlier and would you believe there were absolutely no new brides standing on the bridge that day (see Latvia Euro Trip Part 3 blog) No brides which can only mean one thing – every woman in Latvia is now married. It was also here I learned from Liva that the Baltic tradition of marriage is once the newlyweds / potential divorcees leave the church the groom must find 7 bridges to carry his bride across. Which begs so many questions – what if the bride was really fat? Or the groom really old? Who chooses these bridges and could the bride be a complete bitch and choose a bridge as long as Golden Gate??
After Sigulda we road tripped a little further up the road to Turaiva where we saw some caves, ruins, some red brick medieval castles and we made a movie of a pony called Spotty being sexually assaulted. Hmmm, that’s probably one of those stories where ‘you had to be there...’ Driving on from Turaiva we soon crash landed in Cesus, well almost crash landed considering Liva’s driving, and there was yet more ruins and a stage which I soon learned is found in every major town, whereupon I performed an amazing 60 second stand up comedy show – just ask my sell out audience of two. At Liva’s place in the Vidzeme region we met her family and her pet cat, which was a proper fat let me tell you – all I ever seen it doing was eating. We were told the cat was shy and run away from people. That’s bollocks. It wasn’t running away from people – it was running towards more food. We on the other hand had to run onto Lithuania...
Crossing the border into Lithuania our first stop was to reach Sialau, famous for The Hill of Crosses. In a nutshell it’s a hill with too many crosses on it and if you want o learn a bit more on it then see my earlier blog Lithuania Euro Trip Part 4, cos I’m not re-writing that lot again. What has changed since my last visit here though is that someone’s gone and built a church – so morbid couples resembling the Adams Family can get hitched surrounded by symbols of death. Whatever takes your fancy I guess...
Reaching the Capital of Lithuania, Kaunas, we watched Liva park the car over two spaces before the 3 of us went and booked into a fancy looking hotel. Outside the hotel a load of youths was setting up a street basketball tournament cos the nation is mad for the sport. I’ll have some of that, I thought, but first I needed a partner to help my hustle all the locals out of their litas. Forget the movie ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ – this was ‘White Man Can’t Jump, Dribble, Shoot, Pass...’ but for what I lack in basketball skills I make up for in body contact. It is a full contact sport after all, right? So elbows, foot stomps, eye pokes and head locks are all game for me. Unfortunately after explaining all this to the hotel receptionist taking our booking she was still reluctant to become my hustling partner. As it was the locals got to keep their cash and all I got was a hotel room. The receptionist did however kindly offer us he option of parking the car in their secure car park all for a mere 50 litas or, quote, ‘leave it on the street under threat from vandals’ I told her it was a risk I was willing to take, after all it’s not my car so I’ve nothing to fear – there’s plenty of busses to Vilnius. Besides, the way Liva drives the thing already looked vandalised.
Kaunas was a night for chilling before heading towards Vilnius Via a quick stop at Trakai – that big red castle on the lake which holds no interest for me. Neither should it for you, but if it really does then read the other Lithuanian blog – you lazy bastard.
From there it was on to skydive dropzone but cos of the British weather following us over to the eastern bloc, all jumps were cancelled. Ah well, mine weren’t to be until next weekend but for Kylie and Liva it sucked. So it was we decided to head north of Vilnius and a column officially declaring the location as the Centre of Europe. Considering the column is approximately 25km west from the border of Belarus and 3000km east from the west coast of Ireland made me ponder several questions, like how much money did it take Lithuania to bribe the French National Geographical Institute to place their latitude and longitude equation results in their country? What if the latitude and longitude equation used ended up pointing to someone’s toilet – would they have built a column on the thing leaving the poor bugger who owns the location a long climb to the top every time he wanted to ‘drop the kids off at the pool?’ Either way you look at it the French people weren’t very considerate when deciding their final destination cos the Centre of Europe was a right bugger to get to, although the incorrect map we were using probably didn’t contribute either.
With the evening spent in Vilnius the following morning saw Kylie and I say are goodbyes to Liva who was returning to Latvia. We on the other hand had a bus to catch elsewhere and were soon leaving the hostel, though not before stopping at the hostel receptionist who at half asleep looked like death warmed up to making a booking for the following weekend. In fact I was tempted to kidnap her and take her with us, cos the country we were heading to had in recent decades experienced enough death to make this chick feel right at home. Belarus.