Getting out of any city is usually a trial, but even more so if you coincide with the morning dash to work. After 12km and riding mainly along cycle paths, I was clear of the city, but then I had to contend with the narrowest of shoulders along a busy road. In Lithuania, you either stick with the asphalt, or go gravel riding along what we would call country lanes.
I would have said it was just another routine day at the office, except that I took a detour to stand and gaze in wonder at this sumptuous pile….
Trakai Island Castle, some 25km outside Vilnius. When I saw a few dozen tour buses parked up, it told me the kind of tourist hotspot it was, and knew I wouldn’t be joining the crowds inside. Besides, this medieval pile from the Grand Duchy days has obviously had a recent major face-lift, giving it a bit of a Disney film set appearance. But worth the detour nevertheless….
In the past, I was in the habit of following recognised historic routes, like routes of pilgrimage and the crusades. Ever since, I have gone ‘freelance’, largely making up my own routes across countries and continents, just like this route through the Baltics. However, when leaving Vilnius, I stumbled across this sign…..
…a clear reminder of how far people were prepared to walk centuries ago to reach their holy destination, in this case Santiago de Compostela. Lithuania is the most Christian (indeed Catholic) of the Baltic states, reflected by the impressive density of churches in the capital.
An important footnote about my route: my intention was to go via Minsk in Belarus, but I have now been assured they won’t let me across the border without a visa. I’m sad about this because I’ve heard good sccounts about the beauty of the Belarusian countryside and its people.
After 115km I arrived in Alytus, and spied a wayside restaurant behind a service station, and ‘admired’ the grassed area behind an extension marquee…..they obviously use it for weddings and such like. When I asked a young waitress if I could pitch my tent there, it was obvious she had never been asked that kind of question before…..but all credit to her, she went off to consult someone, and came back with a ‘yes’!So here I am, behind a restaurant (that doesn’t close till 22.00) with use of the facilities, including charging ponts and WiFi (well, the WiFi doesn’t actually work, so the waitress linked me to the mobile data on her own phone).I’m now just 70km from the border with Poland, so tomorrow I move out of the Eurozone and into the Zloty-zone…..