Baltic beauty (part 3)

It needed to take a couple of months, but now I really learned to slow down. Maybe a bit ironic that it came just now on my way home. With slowing down I mean in particular taking ‘detours’. To be a day or two later at home won’t make much of a difference. Since I am here now and with my bicycle I have all the freedom to go (almost) anywhere I like, I want to use that freedom as much as I can. That is a bit relative, because at the same time I long to get back again as well, because it’s not without a reason I am on my way back. And freedom is relative term in another way. I’ll get back on that further on.

I wrote in a previous blog that I went from Riga (Latvia) to Daugavpils. It was a two days ride. I wasn’t that enthusiastic about the city itself, but the route to that place was in one word splendid! It took me along the river Daugava and it was one of the best and most beautiful stretches of my whole trip! It learned me that taking detours pay off.
Since I arrived in Lithuania I was considering continuously if I would go to Vilnius after paying a visit to Kaunas. It would be another ‘detour’. I am not on this trip to just go to every city – or capitol for that matter – or look for every old stone there is to see. Most of the time I enjoy the ride and the smaller places much better than the crowded cities. Kaunas was beautiful as it was. So why go to Vilnius? Just because I can? Just because it is no more than a days ride? Just because a day or two more won’t matter? At a certain moment I decided that I wouldn’t do it. It’s plain silly to go there just so you’re able to say you visited the city, but that deep in your heart you didn’t want to go there. I wanted to take a slow tour down to Poland, pay a visit to Guras Parkas. Alytus would be on my route, I thought I would like such a small place better than the capitol of Lithuania. Done, decided, just needed to go.

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Kaunas (sorry for the little smudge, I can’t get it off)

But… still there was a little bit of doubt which gnawed on my consience and I couldn’t shake it of. Wouldn’t I regret going there? Come on, it is just about 100 km. Than I came to speak with a Dutch woman at the camping in Kaunas. ‘You should really go there, it was one of the highlights on my trip. Than you would’ve been to all the capitols of the Baltics.’ The last argument didn’t convince me, because I don’t care about that. But that it is a very open, musical and creative city did more than I probably wanted to. If I would go to Vilnius, I was close to Trakai. An interesting town with a great (although restored) castle in the middle of a lake. My girlfriend could recommend that place as well (just like Guras Parkas). I thought to let fate decide, if I could get a Warmshower-host for one night in Vilnius, I would go. Fate definitely wanted me to go there, because I had one pretty quick. So I took the ‘freedom’ to go to Vilnius. Was it my decision and therefore still my freedom?
On Wednesday I left the City Camping in Kaunas where I had a pleasant stay. From there I saw the city in a relaxed way and did a lot of writing. I got up early. It started to rain before I could pack my tent. It didn’t stop until midday when I reached Elektrenai. I had a hard deal getting out of Kaunas, where roads were cut off, which didn’t show on my App. I had to unload all my stuff in order to get on top of a stairway to cross a railroad. And it kept on raining. Finally I got out of the city. My spirit was about to raise a bit – also because the road was good – but than I hit a sort of sandy gravelroad. The road was wet, so my tyres sunk in deep. The gravelroad kept on far too long, I had to push the bike up 6% sloops. Excuse me for saying so, but drivers in the Baltics drive like maniacs, so I had the dirt behind my ears when someone overtook me. At a certain point I almost regretted I ‘decided’ to go to Vilnius. The terrific scenery kept me going. The fantastic little villages with a lot of wooden houses and with churches which are as big as the villages themselves. The expressions of disbelieve – I constantly have the feeling they see me as an alien – on the faces of the old inhabitants on their way to the nearest shop. Rain, though roads, ahard ride, it is of course all part of the adventure, so I pushed on.

When I reached Elektrenai and did my shopping, the sky actually cleared and it stopped raining. I was as happy as a child. And I saw on my navigation-App that I could better go to Trakai that day instead of when I would leave Vilnius, which was my initial plan. Than I could take a more direct route to the south of Lithuania. All of a sudden it struck me that I actually could best go the same day to the castle, because it would still be open. Better that than to camp a little outside the town and go to the castle the next day. Since I am an early riser, it wouldn’t be open for hours. I made the right decision to say the least. Having arrived there, having seen the town, the famous castle from the inside as well as the courtyard (which was free, because there was the counter you had to pay), I drank my coffee outside the walls to be away from the tourists. Why not ask if I could camp there? The woman at the cash desk asked the security and it was fine if I would put up the tent after closing time and I had to leave before the castle would open the next day. She warned me that it could be a bit noisy, since people can freely walk around the castle, which many do in the evening. Well, that wouldn’t bother me, although she was right. A little price to pay to have the best damn campingspot you can possibly imagine!

The next day I had a rainy day in Vilnius, but nevertheless I really liked the city. I do did play a bit like the tourist and saw a church or two and other highlights. Marius, my Warmshower-host, picked me up with his car and drove me around and then to his place where he is staying with his family. One big happy family. I had a really nice and cozy stay there. We made a little cycle trip, we practised with airguns, we had delicious food, nice conversations and laughs and at the end of the evening we played a boardgame. I’m a great fan of boardgames and it’s been a while I last played such a game (although in Anykšciai I played chest with Mantas, my host over there). I lost big time, but I couldn’t care less. Maybe that was because the homemade wine was so tasty…

Marius said that beauty costs. For me it cost just a couple of days to see a lot of beauty and experience a bunch of things! It doesn’t matter if the choice wasn’t technically mine. The freedom it took me on those detours was. At least I like to think so. Anyway, take a  detour in your life when you have the liberty to do so!

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