We got in at about 5:30 in the morning today after an overnight bus from Poland.
We found our hostel, dropped our bags off and, since we couldn't check in until
noon, we went into town. The city was obviously quiet at that time, but we saw every
piece of architecture the city could offer and still had to wait for restaurants
to open for breakfast.
As we waited for the city it wake up we grabbed breakfast, which was not real authentic
Lithuanian, but filled me up. After breakfast, we went to a museum that had the
original KGB basement intact; the highlight was a padded room with a straightjacket
in the middle. It was pretty incredible and the museum was well organized and laid
out. At noon we headed back to the hostel and relaxed for a bit, trying to figure
out what to do for another day and a half in the city.
July 11, 2005
We slept in today. At noon or so we met one of Derek's friends, well actually
Derek doesn't even know him, but they graduated together from Colgate. He is
now an advisor to the president of Lithuania and told us all about Lithuania, including
the political tension between them and Latvia, and the great relations they maintain
with Estonia and Poland. He also talked of the Russian minority being fairly well
accepted, but the still sticky relations with Russia itself.
We ate at a four star restaurant with Derek's friend, at which I could justify
ordering nothing more than the pelmeni (a Russian dish, similar to meat
ravioli), which was good. After lunch we headed to the top of the city's hill
and got a great view from the top. The view, however only confirmed my beliefs of
it being a small city.
At this point Derek decided to go see a movie and Dan went to an internet café then
another museum. I went back to the hostel to read and relax. We played cards to
pass the time that evening as I dined on my noodles, the Lithuanian equivalent to
In the afternoon we headed to Trakai, to see a castle on an island. It was completely
renovated recently and it was obvious, which took a little from the sight. The lake
was nice, the island was nice, the people were nice, but nothing here really moved
me. After seeing the castle and eating some ice cream we made a quick stop at a
synagogue then headed out of town.
Derek and I caught an early bus and made it to the hill of crosses without too much
difficulty. The bus to Saulai went smoothly, but then we had to wait quite some
time to catch a connecting bus to the actual hill of crosses. While waiting we met
some Mormons and talked to them for a few minutes. They were really nice, and I
get the impression that the one was desperate to talk to an American about everyday
American culture. There's a stereotype that missionaries spend every waking
moment trying to convert everyone, but he didn't bring up his religion other
than when I asked why he was here. Only after finding out he was a missionary, did
I learn he was a Mormon missionary. He was really nice and seemed more energetic
about what American TV shows he was missing than he was in trying to convert me.
The conversation was quite pleasant, and it helped the time pass more quickly.
We then got on our bus and headed to the hill of crosses, at which point we met
another man, who helped point us in the right direction. He said that he comes up
to this area a couple times a week, because his uncle used to own this farm, but
recently passed away and he inherited it. He didn't seem to have a lot of interest
in farming, but it was extra money. It was a rather large farm and he had some cows,
but his motivation for keeping the place up seemed entirely financial. He was extremely
nice and seemed to go out of his way to help us and point us in the right direction.
He was kind, but his English was poor and our conversation failed to make it past
the kind formalities that every conversation begins with.
The hill of crosses was quite a sight, but the Mormon expressed that it he believes
it says more about of the character and will of the people, than it does about their
beliefs. The people are generally catholic, but the Mormon said that their energy
towards their religion is ordinary in this ever-more materialistic world. On the
way back we bought strawberries from a girl on the side of the street and I think
she had a crush on Derek as she watched us leave then came out of her giant strawberry
stand in order to get a view of him one last time.
Continue the above trip to: Latvia