Wednesday, July 13: Hello again everyone. It’s a delightfully cool Thursday morning here in Lithuania as we depart the city of Vilnius for Warsaw, Poland. Yesterday was a fantastic day, mostly because I was well rested. Sleeping may not be the most exciting thing to do on a trip around the world, but you still have to get some in. You know, I read somewhere that not getting enough sleep is the unhealthiest thing possible for your body. Really I cannot say enough about how much better I feel after all that sleeping I did yesterday. I may have missed a lot of Latvia, but the funny thing is that it just so happens to look an awful lot like Lithuania.
Anyway, the drive yesterday was the shortest of the trip so far – only a little more than one hundred miles. After we got out of Latvia, which only took about 20 minutes of driving, I took over driving duties while Grampa took care of some overdue emailing. One of the first signs that we might have easier travels ahead was the Latvian/Lithuanian border. It was only a sign and most of us drove right by without even noticing it. Hopefully that trend continues because as you well know, border crossings have been a nightmare for us so far. Late in the drive we had a small scare when I pressed the gas pedal to accelerate up a hill and nothing happened. Having learned from our previous mishaps, I immediately shut off the engine and pulled over to the side of the road. Upon inspection we could find no obvious problem with the engine so we started her back up and kept on moving down the road.
Our destination was Vilnius, Lithuania, which is the capital city and I found it to be quite pleasant. It is the first city we have visited that I would describe as truly European. The streets are narrow and winding, the buildings are crammed into every possible space, and most of the people know English. It’s a great feeling because, even though it’s not quite home, it’s enough like home that you can go down the street for a bite to eat or check into the hotel without it being some giant ordeal. And the scenery! Oh the scenery! For reason’s unknown to me, crossing the Russian border was like a fog being lifted right in front of our eyes.
In Russia there were only trees and gray forests, but across the border everything is green and there are rolling hills and the houses all look so quaint and peaceful. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have good feelings about the days ahead.
So, as I said, we had a pretty short drive and we arrived in Vilnius very early in the day. Early enough, in fact, that we went out and about for a nice lunch on the town. Grampa, Mary, Jack, Dennis, and myself all took a stroll down the block and had a fantastic lunch at a local restaurant. Afterwards, while the others visited a few shops and picked up a few trinkets, I headed back to the room to get caught up on my blogging responsibilities.
At 4 it was time for those who were interested to gather in the lobby for a short tour of the city. The tour was nice – not especially different from any of the others, but still enjoyable. It did provide a nice opportunity to learn about the history of a country that I pretty much knew nothing about.
The one thing that I thought was out of the ordinary was the church that we visited. Even though I was skeptical, already having visited what seems like dozens of various churches, cathedrals, mosques, temples, etc. on this trip, this one was something special. Once again I’m probably going to have to rely on the aid of a picture or two, but we walked in to discover almost the entire inside of the church covered with statues and carvings. I was different from anything we have seen so far and I think I got some good pictures so you can see what I’m talking about.
After the tour we took the bus out to a local restaurant for a taste of Lithuanian cuisine. Potatoes. They love potatoes. The first thing we had was a literal trough of potato foods. There were potato pancakes, potato dumplings, potato tubes with meat, and potatoes stuffed with more potatoes with potato sauce on a bed of mashed potatoes (is that last one real? You’ll never know!). I think, as unhealthy as it was, this food was more than enough to stuff every person at the table. And it was the appetizer. Next they brought the salad, which was soon followed by the main course of salmon and rice. Just when we thought they were done with us, they body slammed us with a huge piece of chocolate cake. Even though we were all ready to vomit by the end of the meal, I think everyone enjoyed the atmosphere and the chance to eat at a restaurant that wasn’t located in our hotel.
So that about wraps it up for this post. Everyone is counting down the miles to Paris – I think the current count is about 1500. All we can hope for at this point is that the car holds together until then. I think the plan is to take it in for a check up when we hit Berlin in a couple days. Anyway, have a nice Thursday, I’ll tell you about ours as soon as I know how it turns out.