After travelling in Estonia and Latvia, it was time to travel to the next and last Baltic country on my list, Lithuania. My first destination was Klaipeda, a coastal town of 160.000 residents that is famous for its proximity to the Curonian Spit, a very long but thin spit which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
My plan was to hitchhike from Liepaja (Latvia) to Klaipeda. There is a long highway connecting the two cities and I wanted to give it a go.
Well, it turned out that most people drove to the close-by villages, offering me only rides for 5 or 6 kilometres. After 2 hours, I was close to giving up: I had only come 18 km – I was still more than 80 km away from Klaipeda and in the middle of nowhere. Just when I was weighting my alternative options (taking the bus two days later? going back to Liepaja? skipping Klaipeda?), a car stopped. The man behind the wheel later told me that it was the first time since a long time that he had stopped for a hitchhiker as the last one had left his trash in his car and had been no easy companion. It turned out that he was not only driving directly to the city centre of Klaipeda but also that we shared many interests, first and foremost our interest in organic lifestyle. We talked about travelling, our hitchhiking experiences, my trip to the Baltics and of course how to live in an environmental-friendly way. I couldn’t believe my luck and when we said goodbye in Klaipeda some 90 minutes later, I felt like a free bird.
My encounters with Latvian people had set the hospitality bar high but after just one night in Klaipeda, I understood that the Lithuanians can easily compete with their neighbours. Two guys in my hostel offered to have dinner together and we ended up discussing relationships, the USSR time, current politics, alcohol, military and, of course, basketball (the Lithuanians’ favourite sport)! 🙂 My first and later reconfirmed impression was that the Lithuanians are sensitive, emotional and incredibly thoughtful people. I love to have deep and meaningful conversations and found it easy to have them in Lithuania.
I spent the next day on the northern part of the Curonian Spit which belongs to Lithuania (the southers portion belongs to Russia, Kaliningrad Oblast). I took the ferry and then the bus all the way down to Nida, a town near the Russian border where I was very close to where my grandfather had spent his childhood.
I decided to rent a bike for a couple of hours and was lucky to find a rental station where the owner agreed to take care of my backpack until we would meet in Juodkrante where they had their second rental station and where I would spend the night. Cycling through the sandy woods and along the coast was an amazing experience. The Curonian Spit is home to several national parks and to high sand dunes. I actually took only a handful of pictures because I enjoyed the view so much. If you have the chance to come to Klaipeda, go visit the Curonian Spit as well, it is rich in everything that touches the heart – beautiful landscape, seaside atmosphere and a long history.
My next stop was Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital city where I was welcomed by fantastic weather. Altogether, I spent three days in Vilnius and had two lovely couchsurfing hosts who showed me around and were prime examples for the Lithuanian hospitality. Vilnius was not as crowded as Tallinn or Riga and I enjoyed walking the streets where I was happy to find many beautiful buildings and churches, street food and art. I basically only walked around the city for two days and could feel the pride and love of the Lithuanians for their city (the picture above says “ir as tave” / “(love) you too”, a response to the message on the opposite site which says “as tave myliu” / “I love you”). Of all three Baltic capital cities, only in Vilnius I felt at home, maybe because it felt so authentic and lived in.
A special district where I even returned to the next day was Uzupis, a neighbourhood that is home to many artists and that even has its own constitution: the residents declared the Republik of Uzupis in 1997, although I believe it was a rather playful political decision 🙂 The pictures below show some of the sculptures, paintings and features that can be found in Uzupis, a place that felt magical and that may best represent my 2-weeks stay in the Baltics where I experienced culture, art, beautiful nature, solitude, historic buildings and many warm-hearted people that made me feel welcome and at home.
I hope you enjoyed this little series of my tour through the Baltic countries. Have you been to Lithuania? Which were your favourite places?