Running hot and cold (and hot again) travel blog

At the castle

The gardens cost more to maintain than the building

Hill of crosses

The big jesus

A foggy start to the day. 100% humidity according to the weather app. It's so foggy it's wet. On the bus and moving onwards by 8.30.

They take their dogs everywhere. Yesterday there were dogs in the meat market. They all seem to love their pets very much. Some of the biggest billboards we see are for pet food and pet products. We've seen cats following people in the street like dogs as well. Odd.

Everybody uses their phone whilst driving - texting and talking. Yesterday we saw one texting, followed by one talking followed by a police car. It mustn't be illegal. Nobody seems to care.

We started our tourist stuff with a trip to a palace which Rita kept calling a castle. It was a bit of a bummer because by the time I'd been to the loo I'd missed out on buying the ticket that let me take photos in there. So I had to just look and admire. No gilt, much more modest and after the war it had been used to store grain and a school including one of the best rooms doubling as a gym. It was quite lovely. The silk wallpaper different colours in each room but sort of toned so that when you could see the next colour through the door it didn't clash with the one you were in. This one had plaster moulds of cascades of painted flowers hanging down some walls and many painted ceilings. It also had some every early photos which was interesting along with a room that had clothing in it. Tapestry shoes, huge dresses and what looked like oriental tunics. We had a simple but luscious lunch there at their little restaurant. We had a soup which was a gentle spicy carrot and tomato creamy number with bacon, some veg and a soft cheese ball. Sort of like bocconcini. It was delicious. This was followed by what they called chocolate fondant but was another example of the melting chocolate cake. Like a chocolate self saucing pudding with the saucy bit in the middle. Finished by a strong coffee that I needed to make really sweet to drink. We gave the guy a fright when we all wanted to pay separately and with different currencies but we managed. Back in the bus we crossed the border into Lithuania and continued to drive through very lush, damp countryside, farmland and forest. It's very flat, and alternating between foggy and bright sunshine. Soon we were at the Hill of Crosses. A place that at once was wonderful and a bit strange. What it is - is a place where people were buried although not really a cemetery and when locals weren't able to go to church because it had been outlawed, they started to congregate there. These days it's become a destination for all kinds. It started as some sort of a memorial but now it's something else. I'm not sure what. An example of human perseverance under persecution? People bring a cross, beads, pictures, other icons and place them here. I bought a 30cm cross and wrote UnitingCare tasmania on it, along with Kelly and my name and stuck it in the ground near a big cross with Jesus on it. Libby left her mums special holiday worry beads at the Madonna. Libby called her Our Lady. So that was special for her. It was a happy and sad place, with all kinds of things including a big Jewish thing, I can't call a sign, it was more a glass box with a star of David and other Jewish icons inside it on a stick. So the place had relevance for other faiths as well. It was a moving place but also maybe a bit gone mad? There were literally thousands upon thousands upon thousands there. I guess it shows the number of people who go there. And another example that everyone wants the same things... Freedom to love, live and worship.

This was our first exposure to pay to pee this trip. You don't mind as they need to maintain these places which after all are in the middle of nowhere. Lucky they don't mind what currency you pee in, because none of us have the new currency, so we had to pee in the old money...Latts... or nobody's currency like me.... Euros.

This holiday we will change currencies quite a few times more. Really because of those women I still have way too many euros I still have to contend with. I'll try to exchange some when we get to Vilnius.

The countryside is sort of boring, but shows more signs of organisation that Latvia. Crops are in, or going in. Harvesting was happening as well. I've only seen 1 cow since we left home, but David said he's seen a few throughout Russia, Estonia and Latvia. My cow was Lithuanian. The soil is a rich dark brown and we've been told we will enjoy all things potato here. I'm not surprised when I look at the dirt. Again the terrain could be any place in the south southwest of Vic or tassie. We could be anywhere. I only just seen my first lot of gorse. I'm surprised I haven't seen more. Maybe they keep it under better control than we do.

I am very surprised by the radar ears on this bus. When we have little quiet conversations at least one of the nanna's turns around and involves themselves in our conversations. Lucky we don't say anything bad.

Raymondus leaves us tomorrow. He's worked as many days in a row as he's legally able. We get to keep the bus but change drivers. Ray has been good even though he has no English at all. Not even hello. That's ok. I don't have any Lithuanian. We are trying to work out if we are going to give him a tip.

The rain has finally caught up with us.. We now have fog and rain, so Lithuania isn't showing itself off as well at Latvia did. The cold is coming in through the bus windows and we are growing more and more grateful for our doonas (our thick coats from 'Lands end' the online US store).

We finally got to Vilnius just before 5. I was starting to worry as I checked my bank this am and the money I loaned Lynne still wasn't in my bank and she said it was definitely gone from her bank this am, so I really wanted to check the bank again. I think I gave her the wrong numbers, so I checked as soon as I could but wasn't expecting anything as I had convinced myself it was my mistake. It wasn't there.

Nothing to do except check out the place and get it off my mind, so we headed out and Kevin and I both got local currency. I finally got a stamp and sent my kremlin postcard to Scott , my dog walker and friend. I've been carrying it since Moscow... I finally got stamps in Estonia but hadn't posted it. So jobs done we trotted to the supermarket got some beers and pretzels and sauntered back. We crashed into the others just as we walked back in but politely excused ourselves and came back upstairs. We had our snacks and around 8 we went back out to find dinner. We ended up over at the crepe joint across the road and had a light but delicious cheap dinner. I'd only just gotten back into my room and was half stripped off when the door went. It was Lynne to say the money was re credited to her account. I said I was sure I'd mucked up the numbers so we got that sorted. Lynne said the others had the crepes as well and loved them. She has been pretty good about trying to get the money paid back. Whilst she was still in the room someone rang me and asked if I had ordered room service but of course I hadn't. Not sure what that was about. I'm not really sleeping well so if it had been any later and I'd been asleep I would have been a bit stinky about it. I assume she thinks it was the boys calling. The others are quite fascinated by the three of us. (Which is funny because we are so boring and ordinary). Anyway, not much of a news day. This is however a great room, there's plenty of space. Quite modern. Separate shower...decent towels...reasonable toilet paper..... Simple pleasures really are the best.

Motel rooms are sort of a thermometer for the country. Here there are only 'Eco friendly' paper cups. No real ones. No bathroom plug, no free water. A water saver shower head so efficient that no water comes out. I had to use it as a handheld as the water shoots out sideways like lights out of a spaceship. I had to run around o get wet. And it's that kind of water that kind of rolls off you and you aren't really wet, and so you don't feel clean. Weird. Anyway, a full day of not much, clothes drying all over the place, the bin full of beer cans, and looking forward to a big sleep.

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