We’ve just arrived in Gdansk, Poland, where we’re starting what will likely end up to be perhaps two weeks across the country. First, though, it’s time to say farewell to the Baltics. We arrived in Tallinn on July 1 and have loved our time in the region. It’s amusing to note that a couple years ago Mark and I wanted to plan a 10-day trip in the Baltics and couldn’t schedule the time off; it was just too stressful. Now, in this new life, we had just short of three weeks – and of course, even then we didn’t get to see absolutely everything we wanted to.
Here are a few closing shots that include some of my favorite things – beautiful rivers and books. On one of the few sunny afternoons we’ve had recently I walked down to the Vilnia River, really little more than a stream that flows into the much larger Neris River, around which Vilnius was built. I found a little rock just the right size for my little butt, took off my shoes and socks, and sat in the sun with my feet in the water reading. That to me is heaven.
For our last day in Vilnius, we decided to hike to an iconic TV tower outside the city. It’s tall – the tallest structure in Lithuania – and draws attention, and in the winter they decorate it as the tallest Christmas tree in the world. What really sets it apart, though, is the role it played in Lithuania’s independence. In 1990, Lithuania declared itself independent of the Soviet Union, but Gorbachev and company had not accepted that outcome. In early January 1991, Gorbachev ordered Soviet troops into Lithuania, a key target for whom was the TV tower, important, of course, for control of the media. Soviet troops attacked on January 13 – Bloody Sunday – and 13 Lithuanians were killed trying to defend the tower. It was the last straw; the Soviets did not again use force to stop independence, and in February Lithuanians voted overwhelmingly for independence. Of course, none of that was obvious at the time – brave fighters took on the Soviet military to fight for independence, and some of them died for it.
For us, naturally, half the fun (and most of the time!) was getting there. Instead of just taking the tram out there, as Lonely Planet suggests, we walked there. It wasn’t clear exactly how to get there, but how hard can it be to find the tallest structure in Lithuania when you can see it from our hotel? Eventually we made it, after a hike of maybe five or six miles. What was interesting was that we left our hotel, walked through the Old Town, walked down the major shopping district in the new city, and within an hour or so were deep in a beautiful park on a trail as though we were in the middle of a wilderness area. It was a great way to get out there. The only down side was that when we caught the bus back to the city, we ended up catching it the wrong way. So we got an extended tour of suburban Vilnius. About as uninteresting and unattractive as you might think.
OK, that’s it for the Baltics. Because of terrible land connections on either rail or road, we caught a cheap flight from Vilnius to Gdansk. So far it’s been great – we got here in time for lunch, which for me consisted of … you guessed it … Polish sausages! They were yummy.
One final note. Perhaps the strangest observation we’ve had over these weeks is how cool it has been, except when it’s downright cold. Here’s a preview of Gdansk; Mark at lunch on July 20. The only way to stay warm is with a blanket. If it’s this cold in late July, when exactly does it warm up here?