Day 4 Again: The Baltic Sea

While we were on the Curonian Spit we got some good views of the Baltic Sea.  Curiously, the coast looks alot like the west coast of the US.  But how many of us have ever had the chance to see for ourselves.  Well here it is–The beautiful Baltic Sea.

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And then there is the beach on a nice sunny day.

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Kind of makes you want to ditch the bike and take the plunge.

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Day 5: Klaipeda, Lithuania, to Riga, Latvia. Hill of Crosses.

We spent the night in Klaipeda and had a good evening walking around town and the harbor.  This morning we biked 25 miles to Palanga then transferred on to our bus and headed for Riga, Latvia.  But on the way we visited one of the truely interesting sites that we saw along the way.  The Hill of Crosses located outside of the town of Siauliai, Lithuania,  has a very unique history and its future looks to be the same.

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After the third partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795, Lithuania became part of the Russian Empire.  Poles and Lithuanians unsuccessfully rebelled against Russian authorities in 1831 and 1863.  These two uprisings are connected with the beginnings of the hill, as families could not locate bodies of perished rebels, they started putting up symbolic crosses in place of a former hill fort.

Most recently, the site took on a special significance during the years 1944-1990 when Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union.  Continuing to travel to the Hill, Lithuanians left their tributes of crosses to demonstrate their alligiance to their original identity, religion and heritage.  The Soviets worked hard to remove new crosses and bulldozed the site at least three times including as recently as 1963 and 1973.

In 1993 Pope John Paul II visited the Hill of Crosses, declaring it a place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice.  In 2000 a Franciscan hermitage was opened nearby.  The hill remains under nobody’s jurisdiction; therefore people are free to build crosses as they see fit.

In the 1800′s there were over 3000 crosses on the Hill. In 1922 there were only 50.  When destroyed by the Russians in the 60′s and 70′s there were several thousand.   After a count in 2006, over 400,000 crosses were found.  Today hundreds of visitors come to the site and plant crosses each day.  I’m sure there are over 500,000 there today.  It is a truely unique place.  Enjoy your tour.

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HOC 3    photo

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Blog issues

I hope that you are receiving the blogs via email.

We are also aware that the site is not allowing comments.  We haven’t figured out why.

Stay tuned for that one.

Also as a reminder, if you click on any of the blog pictures, it will enlarge them for better viewing.

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Baltics: Day 4 Scenic bike ride–Nida to Klaipeda on Curonian Spit

This morning we awoke to a beautiful day.  Our ride today would cover 38 miles along the coast of the Curonian Spit which separated the Lagoon from the Baltic Sea (see route map).  The start of the route was on a bike path that hugged the coast line.

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Our first stop was a hill along the coast.  We climbed to the top to get a beautiful view of the Baltic.

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This sign showed where we were.  Our location on the hill is the red area in the lower right-hand corner.  This was the Parnidis Landscape Reserve.

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Georgie told our guide, Romas, what a good time she was having.  She’s so cute.

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As we continued our biking we started to ride on a bike path through the woods.  It was beautiful and refreshing.  After several miles we stopped at another site to view the Baltic.  In the parking lot there was a girl who had backed her car up and was offering various coffee blends to the tourists.  Very unusual but an interesting idea.

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After a little hot coffee we climbed up the dunes to a viewing point on top.

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We biked a few more miles through the woods and it was time for lunch.  Oh, yeah, dessert too.  Yummm!.  Must maintain your strength when biking.

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We ate outside at this restaurant.  The surroundings were quite beautiful. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA     OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After lunch we biked to the harbor at the end of the Spit and borded a ferry to take us across the Lagoon to Klaipeda, the main seaport of Lithuania.  At our hotel, Georgie put together another great Happy Hour.

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And after another great dinner we  turned in for a good night’s sleep.  Tomorrow we head for Latvia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Baltics: Day 3 Bike Ride to Coast, Boat Ride to Nida

After a 25 mile bike ride to Vente Horn, we headed to the coast to board a boat for Nida.

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The shuttle to the boat took about three trips, so some of the ladies took the free time to practice their Rockette routine.  Kick it girls.

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Once on the boat, Our Lady of the Happy Hour fired up the tastey beverages and snacks.

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When we reached Nida, we were once again greeted with young musicians playing on the street.  These kids are really talented.

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After a relaxed afternoon in Nida, we enjoyed just strolling around the city and turning in early.

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Baltics: Day 2 Vilnius to Kaunas

We left Vilnius in the morning by bus to Trakai.  From there we off loaded our bikes and began to bike.  Weather was good.  At some point along the way we stopped to tour one of the old forts that were resident along our path.  As we walked to the fort we encounter these two lovely young ladies playing music.  We later learned that this was a custom that we would see frequently on our travels.  Boys and girls of all ages were playing various instruments and looking for donations for their efforts.

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After pausing to enjoy their music, we continued on to the fort.  Unfortunately I can’t tell you much about it cause I didn’t take notes.  But it was rather cool inside and it looked like it could keep out the barbarians.  Here, judge for your self:

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Back on the road we continued to pedal toward Kaunas along the Nemunas River.

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At one point we stopped by the river side and a few of our group went for a swim.  Entering the town of Pastrevys, I was amazed to see that it looked very much like any other small American city.  Who would have thought?

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We pedaled a bit further down the road and came upon this old fort.  There was an interesting sculpture set in front of the fort.  It resembled the face of a man with a watchful stone eye on all comers.

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As we continued to follow the flow of the river, our guide, Romas, veered off and took a road that lead down to the river.  We all dismounted and followed him down the road to the river.  We then realized that we were getting our first view of Russia.  If you look back on the Route Map, you’ll see that Russia ended up with a small section of land on the Baltic adjacent to the southwestern tip of Lithuania.  And here we stood looking at what appeared to be a nice town with a bridge and buildings.  Could have been St. Louis. Interesting.

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As we made our way toward Kaunas again, I was struck by the fact that the country side here in Lithuania could be anywhere in the midwestern United Stated.  I saw these same plots of land and waterways when riding across country last year.  This was clearly not Burma or Cuba or Turkey.  On the other hand it was comforting to see that this land was not dissimilar to ours.  And so far, there people do not seem to be much different than us.  Maybe younger and more fit.

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Finally we reached Kaunas and after a very nice dinner we turned in for a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow we take a ferry and ride to Nida on the Curonian Spit.

 

 

 

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Vilnius Picture–The Baltic Way

If you didn’t get the picture I posted, here it is.

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A Significant Event in the Baltics–The Baltic Way

In August 1989, the people of the Baltics staged a peaceful political demonstration.  This demonstration marked the 50th anniversary of the pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.  The pact and its secret protocols divided Eastern Europe into spheres of influence and led to the occupation of the Baltic states in 1940.  The protest was designed to draw global attention by demonstrating a popular desire for independence for each of the countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.  It also illustrated solidatity among the three nations.

The Soviet authorities in Moscow responded to the event with intense rhetoric but failed to take any constructive action that could bridge the widening gap between the Baltic states and the Soviet Union.  Within seven months of the protest, Lithuania became the first of the Republics of the Soviet Union to declare independence.

After the Fall of Communism, August 23 has become an official remembrance day both in the Baltic countries, in the European Union and in other countries.

The Baltic Way or Baltic Chain was formed by over two million people who joined their hands to form a human chain spanning over 370 miles across the three Baltic States.  People carried with them portable radios to be able to tell the exact time when to form the human chain from Tallin through Riga to Vilnius.

Below is a picture of footprints in Vilnius,Lithuania, that we believe was the start/end of the Baltic Chain.  It is amazing the courage of these people to stand up peacefully in their efforts to claim independence from the Soviet Union.

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The Baltic Bike Trip 2014–Villnius, Lithuania

In July, Georgie and I departed on an interesting adventure to the Baltics.  Neither of us had ever been there and the current tension in that part of the world made the trip even that much more interesting.

We were once again riding with our friends from BRAG along with about 20 other bikers.  Our tour would start in Villnius, Lithuania, progress through Latvia and end in Estonia.  A map outlining our course of travel is shown below.

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The miles we covered were not all by bike. Twice we travelled by ferry to reach some off-shore island and a lot of time was spent on the bus as well.  Villnius, the capital of Lithuania, was our start point.  It is a beautiful city with European style architecture.  The country is approximately 83% Catholic and that is evidenced by the number of church steeples we see in the skyline.  On the first day in town we walked from our hotel to the village, passing this beautiful cathedral.

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And, of course, the church had a beautiful altar and side chapel.

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A group of us then did an independent tour of the town, noting the village had many restaurants, botiques  and  churches lining its streets.

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We then climbed to the top of the castle that overlooked the entire city.  The view from the top was spectacular with many tiled roofs and church steeples dotting the landscape.

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One particularly notable thing that we saw as we walked through the village, was that most botiques offered AMBER items, including jewelry and other artistic items for sale.  AMBER is a big thing in Lithuania.

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During our tour of the town we also came across these figures atop the entrance to the local playhouse.  It look very cool and really got your attention.

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By the way, we had two wonderful guides on this trip, Vaida and Romas.  Vaida is pictured below on one of the village streets.  Vaida is a super biker.  It was hard to keep up with her at times.  Romas was our historian and joker.  You could pass a rock or a tree in the country-side and Romas could tell you what event took place there in 1745.  He also had a great sense of humor.  Just what I needed.  Romas’ picture will show up later.

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So after this interesting tour, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for tomorrow’s ride.  We will bike west to the Baltic Sea.

 

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Here we go again.

In my last post I indicated that we were having trouble with the WordPress email notification.  That has apparently been fixed as you can tell if you are reading this.  We are not trying to figure out why comments are not being allowed.

Until we find the answer to that problem, I am going to start posting about our bike trip to the Baltics.  I hope you enjoy it.

By the way, some of you have my direct email address.  Feel free to send comments to it in the mean time.

Mike

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