Lithuania & Latvia

Monument to the victims of fascism located at the Ninth Fort, Kaunas, Lithuania

Monument to the victims of fascism located at the Ninth Fort, Kaunas, Lithuania

We had just a few days in Lithuania and to be brutally honest my hopes weren’t set too high for what we could see in that time. We were pleasantly surprised. We even extended our visit by a day.
Firstly, everyone was really friendly and welcoming. In Poland, smiling at strangers is supposedly a sign of stupidity!  Having said that the Polish are really lovely but more guarded at first. Back to Lithuania. People were stunned to hear that we were from Australia (“AustraLEE!???? REEEEELY?!” was the phrase of the day).
We drove into the capital city of Kaunas for a walk around it’s city centre and Old Town. Lithuania has been through the wars, to say the least. It only gained its’ independence in 1991 from the USSR. Kaunas itself has been been destroyed 12 times and that’s before the Nazis got there.

The city of Kaunas as seen from the Ninth Fort

The city of Kaunas as seen from the Ninth Fort

Kaunas itself isn’t really anything to write home about, but the Lithuanians sure do like their art – particularly sculpture. The city is littered with greens and parks. There are stone-carvings and monuments everywhere, and they are fantastic. The vibe was relaxed and happy.

 

One of many stone sculptures in the city

One of many stone sculptures in the city

We had one night at a city camp on the outskirts of Kaunas next to a big river. The Lithuanian chap running the joint told us that a tour bus stops at the campsite daily, taking people around the Old Town. He gave us a map of it’s route and the next day we did the tour, but on our own in the Troopy hehehe.

Watching the sun go down over the River Nemunas from the city camp

Watching the sun go down over the River Nemunas from the city camp

The Old Town had some nice old buildings and churches – everyone seemed to be getting married though! We parked in the main square and at the first church we walked past we counted four brides and their entourages. Must be the season for it.

The main square of the Old Town, again artwork scattered around

The main square of the Old Town, again artwork scattered around

We strolled though the town to the castle

We strolled though the town to the castle

After visiting the castle we stopped at a market for some meat and veg before heading to the Ninth Fort.

The gates marking the Ninth Fort museum entrance, adds to the feel of the area.

The gates marking the Ninth Fort museum entrance, adds to the feel of the area.

The Ninth Fort was built in the 15th century to defend Kaunas. It was used by the Nazis as death camp for Jews, Slavs, and Soviets. It was then used by the Soviets as a political prison. The fort is now home to a museum dedicated to the victims of the war.

A series of stained glass pieces entitled Undefeated, and undefeated 2 inside the museum

A series of stained glass pieces entitled Undefeated, and undefeated 2 inside the museum

 

 Just past the museum and on top of a hill sits 3 huge monuments built in memory of the 30,000 people who were slain there. Just beyond the monument is a field the size of a football pitch where their remains lay.

Just past the museum and on top of a hill sits 3 huge monuments built in memory of the 50,000 people who were slain there. Just beyond the monument is a field the size of a football pitch where their remains lay.

The 32m high monuments were breathtaking and we sat there absorbing the sadness that lingered in the air. The Lithuanians have done a great job of honoring the victims and keeping the the subsequent generations educated on the brutal history that we can only hope will never be repeated.

Part of an execution wall riddled with bullet holes sat just before the monument which really brought home the atrocious crimes against humanity committed beneath our very feet.

Part of an execution wall riddled with bullet holes sat just before the monument which really brought home the atrocious crimes against humanity committed beneath our very feet.

Our next stop was more upbeat, in the form of Europas Park. Europas Park spans 4 hectares of forest and little ponds. It is home to over 100 sculptures that are scattered and sometimes hidden within the greenery.

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Europas Park is also classed as the geographical center of Europe (Just outside Vilnius, the countries’ capital). The chap who owns it started popping some of his own work (inspired by the surrounding natural beauty) in the forest and since then has had a huge amount of artists from all over the world contribute their own pieces for the public’s viewing pleasure.

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When we rocked up the gatekeeper asked if we wanted to camp in an adjacent field for the night – perfect!

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We spent the evening strolling around pretty much all of the park. We bought a book detailing every sculpture with a short blurb about the artist and their statements about each piece. The place was beautiful and the spread of genres, concepts and materials used means that everyone comes out with their individual highlights. What a brilliant place!

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Unfortunately as I was leaving the car park for the empty camping field I stupidly reversed into small post which broke our right hand rear indicator and park light. (No other damage at all thankfully).

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We spent the next day searching for a replacement in Vilnius (it’s just a LED trailer light!) to no avail. We went to over 10 bloody places, including an LED trailer light company with the smallest selection of the wrong type of lights ever.

The glued together shards look pretty good!

The glued together shards look pretty good!

Luckily I had gathered all of the broken tail light and in the end Jerome super-glued it back together and re-mounted it. You can barely tell it’s broken from a distance but we will need to replace it when next possible as coppers will pick on that to extort money from us for sure. Don’t give them ammo!

From Lithuania we blazed it into Latvia to camp next to an abandoned nuclear Missile Silo that Jerome found via google maps ages ago. This would be our last night of camping before we hit the Latvia-Russia border………. stay tuned! J 😉

 

It rained SO HARD here - packing up was interesting but our waterproof roof boxes rocked. Nothing is too much trouble!

It rained SO HARD here – packing up was interesting but our waterproof roof boxes rocked. Nothing is too much trouble!

 

 

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