5th July, Riga to Vilnius, Lithuania.
Up at sparrow fart again to be on the road by 8am. Easy to get out of town on onto the highway, but there are a lot of road works for quite a few kms which makes the going a bit slow. Nice countryside, farming crops, and woods interspersed. The whole of the three Baltic States are very tidy, farm buildings all in good repair and it just looks healthy. Having arrived in Vilnius just after lunch was great. Had a bit of a snooze then hit the streets to do some people watching and drink beer and wine and yes have another pizza. We had such a fabulous meal last night we had to downsize! Off to Warsaw tomorrow and have nearly 600kms to cover. The Vilnius we saw today was the old city and we love the old buildings. Lots of people about, families, obvious students, and the beggars. They just come up to people while you are sitting having a beer and quietly ask for money. Some of them young adults which is pretty sad. But lots of people having a lovely time and enjoying life. That’s what we all need.
6th July Vilnius to Warsaw, Poland.
Today’s tiki tour takes us out of Vilnius and heads us in the direction of Poland. The countryside is pleasant. We have to avoid taking the most direct route that the GPs wants us to, so are driving on secondary roads. Not such a bad thing actually as we seem to be avoiding heavy trucks. But it is mostly a two-way highway so not lots of opportunity to pass as there is always something coming the other way! A very hot day and at about midday we pass through a town with a lighted temperature board telling us it is 32deg. Arrived in Warsaw 5pm traffic but wasn’t too bad as we seemed to get to the Novotel reasonably easily, apart from the diversion we had to take to avoid the huge hole in the middle of the main road, which is for the new Metro Line. It is still hot when we head out for a meal. Wherever we have been we are experiencing hotter temps than normal this summer. And even the locals are commenting.
7th July Our day in Warsaw.
Once again another scorcher, punctuated by a small thunder storm mid- afternoon. We managed to return to the hotel just as the rain started. Have had a pleasant few hours wandering the city, or some small part of it. We set off early morning and found ourselves a Historic Tram ride around the old and new city areas with a Polish guide chatting away. Luckily we were procrastinating about how to buy the tickets when he (the young guide) heard us. We tried with one credit card which got declined, and as the tram was leaving in 2minutes he said it was our lucky day and we could go for free as he didn’t have time to wait to try another card. He obviously spoke English, so he would speak to us personally at pertinent places of interest. What a sad city history, 85% of the city destroyed during the war and over half the population killed. Just mind chilling. So the buildings are relatively new accept for some that survived the war. It is clean and tidy and had a huge Park and gardens in the central area. An interesting morning, but were ready for a zizz when the thunder struck and we were nearly back to the hotel .We plan another exciting meal tonight I suppose but I can’t tell you about it yet as it is only 5pm.
Mikes Thoughts on the Baltic States.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are known collectively as the Baltic States which implies that they are similar and work together. However this does not seem to be the case and they are quite different. Estonia, the smallest seems to have its act together. As we left Russia the farming looked well organised and efficient, the houses were clean and tidy, with gardens around them and the people were helpful and smiling. And they used Euros. Latvia, however seemed to be years behind and looked scruffy. They had their own currency and the prices seemed quite cheap. and the people were helpful and happy with tourists. The food was excellent. Lithuania, again had their own currency and thing seemed expensive, the people were dour and unhelpful. The countryside in all three countries is green and rolling like the Waikato but in Lithuania it still resembles peasant farming, with small plots of different crops being grown on what appear to be the same farms. Spending only one day in each country it is hard to be sure what things are really like but it was great to get across the border into Poland where the people seem to be smiling, helpful and happy.