Welcome to Lithuania.
Country with approximately 3 million inhabitants, surrounded by Poland, Belarus, Russia (Kaliningrad), Latvia and the Baltic Sea, where basketball can be a religion and with the easiest and fastest rides obtained in Europe.
At the worst moment in this small but charming country, I had to wait 9 minutes at the roadside for a vehicle that could carry me along.
Most of the time I’ve spent more time doing my sign with the name of the next city than actually waiting for someone to help me. And it was with this ease that I met Gaspar, a taxi driver who took me from Riga to this new country, being followed by a truck driver (who offered his home for a night) and a young Lithuanian who turned aside from his path to leave me in front of the house of Monika, my first Lithuanian hostess.
The last ride was a little rough because of the rain that did not give way. Standing at the bus stop, alternating my hands between my sign and the umbrella, I had to watch out for trucks passing by and throwing water everywhere. Wet but happy I got to the destination.
Monika’s message was clear: if I had no problems with pets or mess, I could spend the night in Panevėžys, a small town in the middle of the country.
With 2 dogs, 3 cats, 1 tortoise, an excellent musical taste and a few more things in common, we had a great day between bars, parks and conversations.
Although she does not believe in human kindness much more, I know she’s part of the excellent people out there.
Qu’est-ce que c’est
The next day after a bike ride through the surroundings, I followed again to the road, this time to Kaunas, the second largest city in the country. A Lithuanian father, but living in Norway, had returned to visit his son, and guided me to where I would like to go, leaving me at a gas station, always a good place to talk to people. Many are afraid to accept hitchhikers, but as I approach and politely ask to continue with them, I can break that ice a little, and that’s how I got to be accepted by 3 locals (Saulius being one of them) in their Mini Cooper.
Ride with a Mini Cooper: check!
It was only for 10 km, to the next station, from where I would walk to the residence of Albina and Povilas. She is Russian and he is Lithuanian. In common the kindness, adventurous spirit and taste for motorcycles. For one night we exchanged ideas about travel, animals (they had a tarantula in an aquarium posted just above the couch where I would sleep), and life projects.
The next day they showed me the city, their favorite coffee (which Povilas apologizing said not to be the Brazilian) and the thousands of churches that spread through Kaunas, and then left me at the side of the road, from where I would go to Vilnius, current capital of Lithuania.
Well, I almost forgot to say that all this ride was in a convertible vehicle.
Ride with a convertible: check!
Before we left, Povila hoisted the Lithuanian flag in their garden and I had to show that I carried the Brazilian one with me. That was reason enough to take pictures together, even inside the vehicle. Brazil-Lithuania connection.
In Vilnius I could not get anyone to host me, and I was in great trouble to get there. Not that the ride was bad, never!
Again it was ridiculously easy to get someone to take me, Marius and Egle this time, a young couple who was going to visit their nephew who had been born in Vilnius.
Near the arrival everything started to go bad, sweat cold, I needed a toilet as fast as possible, or else a nightmare could happen inside the vehicle.
Trying to demonstrate lucidity, and at the same time taking a deep breath, I started to check the map and it was still 5km to the destination. I asked them calmly to stop at some station if we passed by one.
3 km to reach and the urgency knocks again. Desperately, I indicated them to leave me at the side of the road, because I did not feel well, I thanked them, apologized about it, wished the best for them and ran to the bushes.
Lesson of the day: always carry toilet paper with you!
Yes, I had it with me.
Relieved, but disappointed by what happened, I walked the last few miles to a café, where I used the internet to check if I had been accepted into couchsurfing.
Negative, so it was time to find a hostel.
With couchsurfing you get to know the local culture better, and in a hostel you know the visitors of that place more. Both have their positive sides, but I was not happy this time around. But everything was solved by meeting good Belarusians and Englishmen (Daria and Ulyana among them), and the night of Vilnius.
An addendum about the local food, strong, heavy, with lots of potato and meat, but extremely delicious. Highlight for Cepelinai (a mass of stuffed potato) and the most diverse local beers.
Vilnius is a charm. With more than 40 churches and towers, an alternative community called Užupis (formed by artists, with its own constitution, even jokingly, a backpacker Jesus and great advice: smile when entering), and several narrow and captivating streets, it offered me many awesome moments.
With a great free tour offered by Jūratė, or meeting Vassily, a Brazilian from Belarus, who reminded me of one of the most important lessons of all: do not believe everything people tell you.
In search of his ancestors in the neighboring country, he was informed that he could not enter the Belarus by land, because the visa would not be granted. Frightened, he canceled all the tickets and was already looking for an air ticket, but after our conversation, he checked again and saw that everything was just a misunderstanding.
India and Indians always try to preach this play, even if it is not intentional.
Among the curious facts are the films made in the past. Being part of the Soviet Union and with budgetary difficulties, the scenarios chosen for filming did not portray the real image. To exemplify South America in a film, but without having how to travel there, they decided to choose the shortest local artists and darkened their skin through makeup. As you can imagine, the result was not the best.
After a few days on Lithuanian soil, I have only one thing to say: Ačiū!
Imagine you will sneeze, and say Atchu. This is the “Thank you” in the local language.
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