Camping Seeblick near Mragowo was in a beautiful spot, over looking a lake with stunning scenery. We had booked an additional night to the tour. We parked April at the top of the terraced site, overlooking the lake. It was a lovely sunny afternoon.
Here is a short dash cam of our drive to the start of the tour. ( approx 3 mins )
Even Buzz was excited about the trip! Here he is soaking up the sun.
The following morning dawned a bright day but deteriorated quickly into an enormous rain shower. We were so pleased we had arrived the previous day, fortunately the rain was short lived and as the ground was so dry, the water was quickly absorbed.
We soon met with our fellow campers and the tour leader Sabine. The first group meeting was organised for that evening. Everyone was very pleasant and friendly. There were 12 units in all. We were a real mixed group of people, mainly retirees, with lots of travelling experience between us. We had an assortment of campers and motor homes, so we had much in common. Sabine had brought the only caravan. We all introduced ourselves, before we were briefed on the next days activities. We were given a wine glass and Sabine kindly provided the wine to fill it.
Later that evening we had our welcome meal, a traditional Polish home cooked meal.
The restaurant overlooking the lake.
The site was pretty full and the facilities not really able to cope with the numbers of people using them. Nevertheless, we settled ourselves in and had a pleasant day taking in the magnificent views and visiting the resident stork.
We travelled through some fabulous countryside before crossing into Lithuania and made sure our watches were put forward an hour. Our first stop was at Drunskininkai a lovely little spa town. The campsite seemed very pleasant and we each had a hedged pitch.
We set off for a first group visit to the Russian Orthodox church in the town.
The town was compact, a lovely resort with lots of hotels and bars. After we had been to the church we wandered off on our own. We stopped in the square and had another drink and watched the fountains. There was a cable car that went to the nearby mountains and an artificial ski slope, The Snow Arena, completed in 2011, one of the biggest indoor skiing slopes in Europe. So lots for the energetic to do! During the winter Druskininski is a popular ski resort, some of the party took a trip up in the cable car.
We enjoyed strolling around the old town. We even manged to get lost but a friendly Lithuanian couple helped us out.
Day 3 & 4
The next morning following instructions, we headed for Grutas Park. This is a place which contains over 80 former Soviet statues from all over Lithuania. The car park was pretty full with all our campers!
We saw a pretty impressive collection of Soviet statues brought from all over Lithuania. There was also a children's playground and an art gallery.
After wandering among the statues for a couple of hours we headed to Trakia and the next stop, a farm type site. After a happy hour or so sorting connections out and waiting for an electrician, we were all on the site and connected. Toilet facilities were in the barn, which mirrored the electrics. Was this really a campsite? At least the water was hot. We coped.The evening meal and entertainment was surprisingly good. The folk group was fun and the food was good traditionally, home cooked, using produce from the farm.
The next day we were off to Trakia by coach with a guide, for a visit around the 14th century Trakia Castle. This was followed by a trip around the town and then lunch out. We tried Lithuanian dumplings, kibinai in a local restaurant, like pasties really, very tasty. We enjoyed the tour of the castle but would have preferred some more time on our own to explore or take a boat trip on the Lake Galve. There were lots of interesting shops selling Baltic amber which is very popular.
Day 5 & 6
Off again. This time we were heading for the capital city of Lithuania, Vilnius. The campsite at Vilinius was situated next to an exhibition centre a bus ride into the town. Sanitary facilities were in solar powered containers but satisfactory. Hot showers and quite clean and tidy.
Fairly sized pitches here, although it was a busy site. Hop On, Hop Off buses went from the site.
Vilinus is a town worth visiting and we did a guided tour with the group. We would have liked longer to actually go inside some of the buildings we looked at. The guide took us to all the main highlights of the old city including the Republic of Uzupis and the Jewish quarter. It was all very bohemian and in some cases rather bizarre.
Anyone for a dance down by the river? There were also a lot of weddings going on.
In the city there are masses of things to see and the people are very friendly. Certainly a place to go back to!The Gate of Dawn. It houses the famous Madonna who is said to have miraculous powers. It was painted in the 16th century and placed over the gates to protect the city. Sadly there was no time to visit her.
We took a stroll up the hill and a lift to the top of the Vilinus TV Tower with Sabine and some of the group. A very pleasant hour was spent with a glass of wine, spotting landmarks from the panoramic windows in the revolving restaurant. This was a prime site when Lithuania went for it's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. There is a small museum on the ground floor and markers in the grounds which show where Lithuanian people died whilst trying to maintain the blockade against the Russians.
We returned to Vilinus by public transport on our own the next day and went to the KGB Genocide Museum. A very thought provoking place. We did not realise how much the Lithuanian people wanted to split from the Soviet Union and how many of them suffered for their independence and were consequently shipped off to Siberia. The museum graphically shows what happened in this place and in our own life time.
Cells in the KGB Museum. A frightening, grim, place which houses the original death cells.
A memorial to some of the freedom fighters.
Day 7 & 8
We were off to the Open Air Museum in Rumsiskes. This is an open air museum with reconstructed buildings from around Lithuania. The morning dawned rather dark and dreary, by the time we reached the museum it had started to drizzle and the mozzies were out in force. Not to be deterred it was macs on and mozzie spray out!
The lucky campers were taken around the site on a bumpy, damp, horse and cart ride. The unlucky ones, us, followed in Sabine's warm, dry, comfy car.
Despite the wet it was a very enjoyable day out and the tour guide was very entertaining. From here, we set off for Kaunas, Lithuania's second largest city and another city centre campsite. The campsite here was by a man made beach. The beautiful weather helped.
As the sun comes out so do the locals.
Some hardy souls actually went for a swim. Kaunas City Camping was a secure site and the facilities were not too bad. Toilets and showers in containers, although there was a proper kitchen. Easy to get to the town and we used public transport again. Kaunas of course has a castle and some strange street art.
There are lots of churches in Kaunas. Inside the Jesuit Monastry we climbed up to the roof terrace, from where you can see right across the city.
We found a very nice local restaurant for lunch.
Later we finished our trip to Kaunas, by climbing up the hillside in the furnicular railway. Not much to see at the top but the ride was exciting!
The dash cam of our journey to the campsite at Kaunas, then onto Birzai.
Our next destination was the town of Birzai, well known for it's strong local beer and castle. The campsite was down by the river, by a sports stadium. Toilet facilities were adequate. Our group were the only campers there and we just about squeezed in around the trees.
Soon we were off for the short walk from the campsite to Birzai Castle built in 1586 and now beautifully reconstructed.
A large manor house destroyed in 1704 and reconstructed in the 1990's. Our visit here was one of the trip highlights. The very knowledgeable curator was our tour guide. She shared many interesting facts about the museum and we ended the evening sampling the local beer and being entertained by a local folk group in the cellars of the castle.
We rounded off a pleasant evening with a lovely meal in the cellar restaurant.
Day 10 & 11
The following morning we were off to Latvia. First stop was at Rundale Palace, sometimes known as the Versailles of the Baltic States. We managed to follow the scenic route but made it eventually meeting up with the group for a tour of the castle. Rundale Palace was truly spectacular!
The Castle tour was well done and it was not too busy, although there were a lot of tourist groups there. From the palace we moved onto the next campsite at Sigulda. The campsite at Sigulda turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Absolutely beautiful location by a river, under the trees. There was plenty of room either on the grass or hard standing by the edge of the site. Shame the showers only had cold water! Fortunately, we had our own facilities and were able to use our own shower.
The river was used for canoeing and you could actually swim in the water if you could brave the temperature.
From the campsite we had a local tour guide who took us by coach to see the sights.
We went to Turaida Castle.
We did manage to climb to the top of the tower and saw the fabulous views across the countryside.
We looked at all the love messages on the wall at Gutmanis Cave and heard the story of the estranged lovers.
We bought some local delicacies, homemade sweets and gingerbread, a speciality of the area. Next we travelled to Cesis and had a wander around the old town and finally lunch in a local restaurant.
A short dash cam of the journey from Lithuania into Latvia.
Tomorrow off to another country Estonia.