The Baltics

Labas friends!

I realise it’s only been a week, so apologies for my over zealous desire to communicate so soon.

A lot of people travel to see places. In an effort to be a little different, I am employing my favourite sense, and eating my way across Eastern Europe instead! And it’s well worth it! Although, I am sure I’ll be cursing myself when I have to grace the Croatian sun in just my swimmers..

My first few days in England were greeted by the bipolar weather – warm, rain, rain, rain, warm, cold… I guess it will take a little getting used to. Hopefully by the next time I write I will be over whining about it. The Cotswolds were amazingly quaint. Like, a condensed Tasmanian experience of thatched roofs, stone buildings with ivy crawling all over, and green fields dotted with sheep and horses. My new retirement location. Oxford was stunning, and I can now claim I’ve been to Oxford Uni! (well, the jumper I bought says so anyway…Proud of me Hugh?!). We don’t have unis like this one back home! Bath was lovely too, although I thought it was ridiculous you had to pay to enter a park, or go to the bathroom. Welcome to Europe.

Then we flew to Lithuania. We landed in Kaunas (old capital), before taking the cleanest train in the world to Vilnius (new capital since it was released from Poland after WW2).

I know it’s only been like a week, but I can assure you, you will not recognise me and my new found culturedness!! (is that a word?). I am feeling more cultured than someone who goes to the Sydney museum on the weekend for fun! I have learnt to appreciate architecture, crumbling buildings and local cuisine (even when I can’t read the menu). I have even learnt to not complain about my aching feet, as it means I have done some form of exercise to counteract my culinary experiences!

For the singles, this is your number 1 destination. The Lithuanians are a very attractive race of people. It’s obvious why they’ve distanced themselves from the Russians! They all smoke though. For the longest time I was trying to work out if they all wore the same perfume or something, then I realised it’s the stale smell of tobacco. I even saw a black bird in the park with a cigarette in its beak!

Back to food. Wow, you’ve got to get to Lithuania, if only for it! Although, the language barrier could prove dangerous with smoked pigs ears and chicken stomachs the local favourites (and unlike Australia, to claim I’m Jewish and can’t eat pork apparently isn’t as appropriate here…). To keep it safe I’ve pretty much consumed a Lithuania forest worth of mushrooms.

I went to the KGB headquarters and saw where the prison cells and execution chambers. It only finished operating here in 1991. 1000 people died within the building’s walls. The entire city is shrouded in remnants of Soviet rule. So I had no qualms in exploiting them back, paying only $2 for a bag of cherries from the Russian markets.

Today I embraced Lithuania’s famous beauty, heading out to A-Au-Aukstaitija National Park. It was a bit of a journey there, as no one speaks English out that way! But we made it, and wandered around this magnificent lake. Oh, and the forest! It was like an edible fairy tale, with a layer of strawberries covering the ground, with blueberries, and raspberries and mushrooms everywhere. Then, sprouting above them was this mystical fog-like plant that made the whole place look like the fairy land from little girl’s dreams.. Then, it rained. And didn’t stop (Leah – seriously, water proof those shoes we bought!!!) My goodness, we got absolutely drenched, and saved only by our Sydney aquarium poncho freebies.

Apparently, I’m a naive traveler – according to Andrew anyway! I’ve managed to somehow offend 2 Europeans here without knowing it.. One such occasion was today when I ducked into a shop to buy some supplies for the journey to the forest. The lady inside ranted and raved at me endlessly in Lithuania. I wasn’t sure why… and when I told her I only speak English, she refused me service. I promptly left, then burst into tears. I’ve certainly taken it for granted that everyone (well, everyone outside of Sydney), speaks English!

Tomorrow I head for Riga in Latvia, up on the Baltic coastline. They say it’s a little more dangerous than here. I am going to miss the Lithuanian food!

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