Out in the countryside
12th July 2016
The weather was not looking brilliant. There are lots of places to visit nearby but I really didn’t feel like driving a great distance to look at picture-skew countryside if it was going to be wet.
I decided that we would follow the Neris river through the National Park. According to the Tourist Board’s information there were lots of interesting points where we would get some nice panoramic vistas.
The GPS was set and off we went. I made quite certain that I was not being sent via the railway station again. Enough excitement for one week thank you. The roads were still rutted but I had begun to learn to watch what I was doing and stop worrying about what was going on behind me. We were all weaving in and out around the holes in the ground or trying to stay on the cobbled ridges. Once out into the countryside the roads were much better and we could sit and relax as we tried to spot Lithuania’s State Cow.
They have a lot of dairy produce but last time we only saw the one cow. They have obviously been busy increasing their livestock since 2014 because at one point we saw a full herd of : four cows. I bet that farmer is considered as rich as Croesus in his village.
We reached the village of Dūkštos which housed the local information office. This was closed but there were a few panels showing the area. Not to worry because the mapping system says that we just have to cross the road at the church and that will take us down to a small hillside fort and a lookout.
Right enough there was a sign : Buivydų piliakalnis. There was even a road, which about a hundred metres past the church became a corrugated track. I’ve done worse getting to cemeteries and despite the interesting surface the road was reasonable hole free. We went through a group of houses where old people peeped out from behind their curtains. What do you reckon Gladys ? I give ‘em five minutes before they realise they are on the wrong road !
But in fact we were in exactly the right place because suddenly the road stopped at a small parking area with signposts. Over to our right we could see the wee mound and off we went. The pathway veered off to the right and we could see that it went down only to come back up again. Some enterprising souls, however, had made a track that cut across the flat directly to the base of the mound. This was the first mistake of the day. Yes it did go directly, just that part of it was missing somewhere down in the ravine ! The grass was too long to cut back to the main pathway and besides there might have been wolves lying in wait in the grass. So, I braced myself against a tree to form a wall as mum and dad crossed through.
Well that was exciting so we won’t do that again. The mound was only about ten metres high but it was clear that there was a path around it as well as the steps gong over it. Youse two walk around and I’ll go up and over I said.
I got to the top and all I could hear from down below were howls of laughter. My steps had been most civilised but the pathway around the mound consisted of steps that were in some places forty centimetres high. Mother was almost on all fours at some of them trying to climb up and was hanging onto dad’s wrist for all she was worth for leverage. The more she laughed the less force she had.
We met up again at the bottom of my flight of stairs and they decided that enough was enough. Dad was going to rest and let the blood circulate back into his arm. They would leave me to walk the last twenty odd metres to the lookout. Has to be said that they didn’t miss out on much. Yes you can see the river down below but it didn’t look much more than a stream. With foliage, all the camera recorded was a lot of green. Never mind it has been an experience.
For the return, we all went over the mound. Well that hadn’t been a great success, so let’s try somewhere else. We drove back down our corrugated road laughing at the villagers exchanging money as we waved good-bye. Turned left and came out at a large roundabout. I was suddenly under the impression that I actually knew where I was.
Dad wanted toilets so I turned left and instinct suggested that just down the road was the restaurant where Vytautas had taken us two years ago. A place where the menu included : Salmon with a chip, or as an alternative, salad with a pig.
I parked up and dad knew where the toilets were. The rest of us declined because we remembered his description of last time. They had, however, been renovated, though the bucket for the paper remained.
A kilometre or so back up the road was a track off to another of these hill forts called Karmazinų piliakalnis, which was close enough to the word Kamikaze for us to want to give it a try. We were better prepared this time as to what to expect of the road and once again we emerged onto a grassed area with a lookout and notice boards. Nothing in English but we could see the mound down below us in the valley and there were buildings just around the corner and the river was in view.
We walked down to the mound and this time I decided to do the climbing whilst my parents walked on further to see what there was. The steps up to the top of the mound were in good order but with the thick foliage, once there you couldn’t see anything. So, like the Grand old Duke of York I marched back down again to the sound of a dog barking its head off in the distance. Had my parents been savaged by those wolves ?
I was greeted by a puppy who was obviously curious to see who the strangers were. Although it had been overcast, the sun was trying to make a breakthrough and the temperature was definitely mounting. With that in mind we made our way back to the car followed by the dog and having made certain that he was neither in the boot or under the rear wheels set out for Kernavė. It was only just up the road and it would be nice to go back and see it in the sunshine.
We were not disappointed for in the ten minutes or so that it took us to get there the sun broke through. We recognised where we had been the last time and retook our photos to compare them to those of us in the pouring rain of 2014.
This time we could actually see the river so we walked down between the three main hill forts. I climbed the last one, the Altar Mound, to get a better view and we all then cut through a track in the fields towards the river. Lots of interesting wild flowers on the way down to the river bank, no doubt weeds but I reckon that if they can grow without having to be looked after they can have a place in my garden any day.
As we reached the Neris the sun decided to call it a day and disappeared again behind a thin layer of clouds. Probably a good thing because it had become very hot and we had the kilometre or so to walk back across the battlefield ! Why ? Because the BBC had used these fields and the view from the mounds in their version of War and Peace.
Next time you watch it you can just make us out on the bench by the river behind the 161st regiment !
The same location was also used for the crossing of the Nemen near Kaunas (in which town it meets the Neris).
We needed something to drink and I remembered spotting a bar as we came arrived in the village. The Kerniaus malūnas baras. As ever, the track down to it was dirt and a bit rutted but it was comfortable inside with the furniture looking as though it had taken an entire tree to each chair. Solid or what ?
We decided to try a salad and when it arrived were happy enough. I have been going through various critiques of the places we visited and eat at. This was another of those eateries that gets a good rating by most people and then a couple of really bad ones. I wonder what some people are expecting of a bar out in the cuds. The setting was very pretty and if we had realised that the sun had come back out again we might have sat out on the terrace with the other clients who had followed us down.
What we did find intriguing were the tiny red berries on the salad. Took me a moment to realise that they were in fact red peppercorns that must have been soaked in oil because they were quite soft. That I must give a go.
I was going to take some photos of the place but the camera battery decided to choose that moment to give up the ghost. However, mother to the rescue because she had already taken some. I do carry a back up battery charger and that gave it just enough energy ten minutes later to photograph some storks in their nest.
Here we were then, our last night in Lithuania. Packing had to be considered and that meant buying things to pack so mother and I set off down to the square and the Rimi Market to pick up our bottles of drink and any other odd bits that we might want on the plane tomorrow. Having had such a good lunch we had decided that tomorrow we would do the same, rather than rely on cheese rolls to sustain us.
Now that we had cottoned on to things War and Peace we knew that our street and the archway we had walked through every day had been used as Moscow in 1812 and the castle as an Austrian outpost in the Alps.
In front of us at the supermarket was a family stocking up and I remarked that they had only bought the one doughnut. Nobody buys just one. What if they’re nice ? The father of the group obviously understood because he smiled and informed us that he was on a diet — the beers were not for him.
For our last night we had an organ concert at St Kaziemierz church which we had walked past so often but never actually visited. Mum and I had popped in on our shopping run just to have a wee look and spy out the land. The concert began at 1900 hours and we were there a good fifteen minutes beforehand. The place was packed, in stark contrast to how it had been thirty minutes earlier.
At first we thought that we were going to have to perch on a table but they opened up the choir stalls as well. It wasn’t long before these were filled and we joked that the late comers would be getting the comfy chairs up on the altar.
The concert by the Italian Luca Ratti was pretty good though I knew none of the pieces. Bach sounds like Bach but as for the rest I had no idea what was playing. The hardest part was staying awake. There is nothing to watch at an organ recital, it had been a long week and we were pretty packed in. The quiet tunes were the hardest and I was kept alert by watching a guy in the stalls opposite trying not to nod-off either.
The concert lasted just an hour and I admit to being relieved to get out into the fresh air. As we sidled towards the door (nobody had thought of opening both), there was a lady in front of my mother who was so tall that my mother’s shoulders only reached her waist. Brienne of Tarth.
Last meal was going to be where we had started a week ago. Straight across the road to Amatininku Uzeiga. I knew full rightly that mum and dad were going to stick with the chicken Kiev but I decided to try the halibut. Before that though I was determined to have a bowl of cold beetroot soup — šaltibarščiai. How can cold soup and hot potatoes be wrong ?
Our waiter had the excellent attitude that every time we asked if we could have something he replied : Why not ? This included a black beer for me which came in a glass tankard that must have weighed a kilo on its own. Pretty certain that the beer was Volfas Engelman and it tasted pretty good. I did consider buying the glass but, deary me, the thing was heavy and Ryanair would have had a field day on the luggage allowance.
Our final walk around the square before returning to the apartment and resolving the problems of all those opened but not yet finished bottles. In the morning we would have to pack.
Posted : 12 July 2016