Latvia 2 & Lithuania 3

Lithuania Travel Blog

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16th September 2009

Latvia 2 & Lithuania 3 (eastern euro trip part 3 of 3)

Current Mood: Very Familiar

Category: Travel and Places

 

LITHUANIA

 

Returning to Vilnius and the hostel we were crashing in we were greeted by the receptionist telling us we had no reservation and were fully booked. Yesterday we were supposed to be there apparently. That’s what happens when you make hostel bookings with a chick that’s half asleep – I made a mental note to throw a glass of icy cold water in her face before making my next booking. Our new hostel dormitory across the road looked more like a mortician’s morgue – the bodies all slotted nice and neatly into the wall. Up early next morning it was time for some skydiving and after I reached the dropzone more excited than a virgin boy on visiting a Bangkok massage parlour, I’m told that the instructor was out of town - that’s like the virgin boy discovering he suffers from impotence. Turns out my instructor Dalius, who by the way you should know is a complete twat, reckoned I never let him know I was on my way. I mean come one, I’m not going to travel a thousand miles or whatever it is, rock up to a dropzone unexpectantly and start jumping up and down with my hand in the air saying, ‘Teach me! Teach me!’ On the blower to him I told him he ought to re-read the emails we’ve been sending each other and he’ll see we made a booking. Back to Vilnius it was where I caught up with Kylie and decided to catch a 3 hour Vilnius tour – only we went and bloody missed the start of that and all. This day wasn’t going very well was it?? So we went on our own free tour instead – well we’re hardly going to charge each other are we – with the hope of eventually running into the original tour we were meant to catch. The plan was to ask, ‘Oooh could you repeat that please?’ and let them ask which part whereupon we’d reply, ‘Er, all 3 hours of it??’

 

All this agro with the skydiving and Vilnius tour had made me to forget a very important appointment, one involving a certain Mr Brown. My mind had been so pre-occupied that I completely forgot I was back in a civilisation that had normal toilets. I was so excited to be able to sit on a pan again that I forgot to take my pants down. Right mess it caused, but I didn’t care cos I was that happy!

 

On Sunday Kylie returned to London whilst I decided to visit Kaunas again – fuck knows why now that I think of it cos the place is rubbish and it wasn’t long before I was deciding to leave already. But before bussing it back to Vilnius I did stop of at a couple of museums. In Kaunas you can visit The Great War Museum which has enough military bollocks to make Alexander The Great get a semi erection if he were still alive to see it. Though it was neither military bollocks nor semi erect penises I came here to see, instead it was an aircraft. Or at least it used to be an aircraft until one day the ‘air’ decided to be taken away from the craft leaving just a craft several thousand feet in the air. And there’s only one thing that can happen when that happens – just ask anyone who worked for Spanair in 2008. The story is in 1933 two Lithuanian dudes by the name of Darius and Girenas attempted to fly non-stop from New York to Kaunas only to succeeded as far as Germany. Of course, as you’ve already gathered the landing wasn’t anything to be impressed by and some historians even go as far as to suggest that the Nazi’s shot the plane down after mistaking it as a spy plane but really this suggestion is absurd – the how could the Nazi’s do such a thing? So now on display at this museum is the temporary coffin / plane wreckage of this plane disaster whilst the memories of the two pilots live on printed within the Lithuanian bank notes. I always wondered what that plane was…

 

There’s also the Sugihara Museum which recognises the heroism of Chiune Sugihara after the Soviets invaded Lithuania at the beginning of WWII. He was a Japanese diplomat based in Kaunas serving as the Vice Consul for the Japanese Empire at the time the Soviets began to occupy Lithuania. Oskar Schindler of Schindler’s List fame went and saved over 1000 Jews whilst his oriental cousin Sugihara here stamped the visas of no less than 6000 Jews looking to escape the country. That’s a lot of stamping. And Ink. Sugihara sent most of these immigrants to Japan but not before he made them promise they wouldn’t stay in his country too long after their arrival. Apparently all of them promised. Anyroad this museum tell the story of this dude, but cos know you’ve now read this blog I’ve saved you the trip of going to Kaunas and discovering it for yourself.

 

Back in Vilnius I caught up with Aiste who I met last year as well as a couple of couchsurfers for a beer before catching a night bus to take me to Riga and to begin my journey home.

 

 

LATVIA

 

Coming into Riga at the unearthly hour of 5 in the morning you can imagine what the fuck was there for me to do – we all know eastern Europeans work hard but they’re not stupid enough to start work at that hour. So it was I decided to visit somewhere I usually can’t stand and do my upmost best to avoid. Jurmala beach is considered to be the holiday beach resort of the Latvia and the USSR back when it was a running unit and attracted around 300,000 visitors a year. Fuck knows why cos I reckon the place is fucking crap and after some research into the 300,000 visitors each year I discovered that over 350,000 visitors left. That’s right, even the sea life realised Jurmala was wank and decided to leave. So after a couple of quick snaps in this sleepy sea side town I was soon leaving too. And sure, I could explain the place was empty cos it was 5:30 in the morning but really, I don’t think the time made much difference.

 

I found myself hopping on a train leaving Jurmala and on my way to search for a Nazi concentration camp hidden somewhere in a forest the other side of the city. On the train I was listening out for the Latvian audio announcement telling me we had arrived at Drazini – a pretty distinctive sounding word – and I gave myself a high five when I heard it and jumped off at the station. I should mention now that I have somewhat shit hearing. Whichever station I jumped out at I couldn’t tell you cos I couldn’t pronounce the sign, which is bad cos I have no trouble pronouncing Drazini. So I had got off my train early, no real problem I thought, just start to walk my way up the track to the next stop which was bound to be this Drazini place I’m looking for. I mean it seems like I can’t visit the Baltics without walking up some train track or another (see Lithuania Euro Trip Part 4 blog) Soon enough I was walking adjacent to the tracks in knee high grass wishing I had some sort of Indiana Jones machete to hack away at the foliage. Forget ‘off the beaten track’ mate, I created and ‘off the beaten track,’ two weeks later and my socks and trainers are still drying out. But for what Del lacks in train reading skills he makes up for in good karma and I soon spotted an almost hidden plaque with a Star of David sign screwed onto it. Time to investigate I thought and after a quick butchers at the map I’d discovered a Jewish Cemetery hidden in the Rumbula Forest. Ages ago a load of Nazi’s took a load of Jews into the forest and shot them all down, which wasn’t very nice of them. You know I’m starting to suspects these Nazi fellows might have had a problem with Jews.

 

Finally another couple of kilometres up the track I found the stop I was searching for and was presented with a sign pointing into the woods saying ‘go that way’ So I did. And soon I got lost. You see it was the only sign in the entire forest – a forest with dozens of optional trails to take. So there I am wondering around a forest like a steroid pumped Little Red Riding Hood somewhere in Latvia when again I stumble across something unexpected – a village. A-up I thought, this isn’t on the map. This is cos it happened to be new village, so new that it wasn’t on any map. Even newer in fact that the village hadn’t yet been completed and I saw one lone woman digging away at her garden – which I thought was odd considering her house wasn’t even built yet. As an attempt not to scare her I shouted from a distance in broken Latvian ‘Hello!’ and told her what it was I was looking for. Obviously I was now speaking in English – my Latvian isn’t that good you know. She turns out to be Russian anyway and starts telling me to go to the end of the village and swing a right, it should be down there somewhere. And off I set again back down a road surrounded by more Latvian forest. Half way down the road I hear a car zooming up behind me like it’s carrying 5 thieves who’s just robbed a post office. Slamming on the breaks beside me it was the Russian woman along with her 5 year old child telling me that she sent us the wrong way and to hop in the car. Result! Almost immediately once she started driving I knew she was going the wrong way but shit, I was having too much fun to mention it. And it’s true what they say about Russians when they talk in their language, to me she was normal but once she got onto the blower to her brother to find directions she started screaming her head off. I could even hear him on the other end sounding like he was having a right go back at her, although this to them is talking normal. Anyroad a 15 minute chinwag and drive later we were still no closer to finding this bloody concentration camp. Why are these camps so well hidden – it’s like they want nobody to find them. In the end I said to just dump me out here in the middle of the forest, which to my surprise she actually did. Er, thanks! Back into the woods I went stopping every so often to try and hear a steady beating sound. You see part of the camps attraction is a heartbeat sound that never stops echoing across the camp and after I short while I thought I was hearing it. Though it did sound a bit, say accelerated. Actually it sounded like the heartbeat was having a major coronary failure, pap pap pap pap pap pap like a 50’s Tommy Gun it was, until I spotted the culprit – a woodpecker destroying a telephone mast. A little further up the path I finally stumbled upon it and was surrounded by huge statues of Mothers and Fathers protecting their children, statues pleaing for mercy. Sure enough there was the heartbeat too which sounded like a slow motion version of a drum n bass nightclub in London – I almost started dancing slow motion to it too, but I didn’t have any valium on me.

 

Returning to Drazini station I translated the timetable to tell me I was going to have to wait fucking hours for my train to arrive – unless I ran ahead and beat the train to the next couple of stops down where an earlier one was due to arrive. Sounds like a challenge to me! Fuck knows what any locals thought if they spotted me but there I was running down the track like a nut job making loud choo choo noises which anyone whose run down a train track before will tell you, making choo choo noises just has to be done. I beat the train, jumped on it when it arrived and made my way back to Riga.

 

Nothing of any note happened whilst I was back in Riga, though I did purchase a smashing traditional mean in the form of a burger and fries from TFI Fridays – traditional in the American sense, before flying my ass back to London minus the skydiving license I was expecting. Bastard Dalius!

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