Monday, April 5, 2010


... or about an old castle and frozen lake.

Trakai is famous for its castle from the 14th century, situated near the picturesque lake. We went there from Vilnius by train, covering the distance of 30 km quite slowly. After getting off in the Old Trakai station, we kept on walking by the lakeside, and what I saw around was quite unique. Old boats, sunken boats, frozen boats, colourful and wooden boats, abandoned buildings, children walking on the ice and, finally, the solid walls of the castle. Unfortunately, we didn't have much time to visit the castle inside, because we were asked to leave after 6pm, so after about 1,5 hour... However, we managed to see quite many exhibitions - the one with old coins, information about Lithuanian history and politics, the Polish-Lithuanian Union, the Crimean Karaites, and Tataras...

We didn't manage to climb the highest tower, but we really enjoyed the interactive exhibits, e.g. treasure hunt. Actually, we were almost alone there. It seems that this time of year doesn't attract many tourists, although we met a group of Poles who asked to open the gates of the castle, because they had covered 2 500 km to get there...

Our Lithuanian friends told us that summer is the best time to visit Trakai, because you can swim in the lake, rent a boat, restaurants and bars are quite full. Now everything has come to a standstill, frozen, sunk in the cold lake surface, just like the boats on the lakeside... But I prefer it that way.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

3 days in Vilnius

... or about Lithuanian hospitality, travel innovations and colourful places.

It's been ages since I last travelled like that. By car, I mean. And with a group of friends. There are of course pros and cons of this kind of travel, but I feel that I prefer travelling in my own old way. Which means: alone or with a very few friends, and definitely not by car. Of course, it was quite amusing when we were all together, but somehow I didn't have time for lonely photographic walks in the city.
But to the point. We (this time we=2 girls, 3 boys, all from Poland) were exploring the city together with our Lithuanian friends. Well, in fact these were Bartek's friends, but soon we made a Polish-Lithuanian Union, as well:) And so, one of the Lithuanian guys let us stay in his student flat and also invited us to a pub for his birthday party, the other Lithuanian welcomed us with hot lunch (unfortunately with meat), was our guide and told us a lot about Vilnius and the country. He said that many Lithuanians go to Augustów (Polish city, near the boarder) for shopping, and that there are a lot of Poles and Russian living in the capital. Our friends prepared for us also a delicious Lithuanian cold soup. Just perfect! Even better than the one we had in a restaurant the day before.

We had also an opportunity to watch how the Lithuanians enjoy they free time in pubs. Well, it's not the way we do it. It seems they weren't so eager to dance, they preferred to sit and talk and drink and just listen to the music. On the dance floor you could see just a few of them, and many were already after couple of drinks.

As for the city - it's full of contrasts. Nicely renovated monuments, clean houses, colourful façades disappear after few steps and give their way to clumsy buildings, walls with graffiti and grey streets. A kind of mishmash. Peaceful and cosy centre and then (e.g in Užupis): alternative, neglected, greyish areas... But it's charming, as well. Old walls covered with graffiti are very photogenic, indeed, and wandering across the changeable landscape is quite impressive.

Vilnius is also a city of churches. Here and there you can see a Catholic or Orthodox church. There's also a synagogue. Unfortunately, we couldn't visit it, because it was already closed. Near the synagogue there's also a huge Easter Egg on a column, but I really couldn't find out why it stands there.

We've also visited the most popular monuments, e.g. the Gate of Dawn, Castle and the Rasos Cemetery, but the most attractive for me were the tiny narrow streets, full of colours. And the square near the Cathedral, which is the main meeting point in the city. It's a place, where skaters and roller-skaters practice various tricks and where young people spend their free time. Some of them also choose the Barbican for their meeting point and transform it in a kind of night local;) Actually, it's a place with a nice view of the city, worth visiting not only by night.
The University is among my favourites, as well. I need to mention it, as I feel it's full of surprises, e.g. you can find there an old room covered with mysterious frescos or a colourful old church, where we met some students working on their drawings.

Vilnius is not a big metropolis and I even didn't get the impression that I'm in a capital city. It's more like a nice, cosy town It occurred funny to me that about 1/6 of Lithuanian population lives here and time passes here quite slowly and peacefully. There are no trams, no metro, no big crowds, no impression of living in a hurry. And the people here are really friendly and hospitable. I will surely get back to Lithuania and Vilnius, as I feel I haven't explored this region well enough.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

14-16.08.09 Time to get back

....or how we changed our plans again and decided to head for Poland...

The least attractive part of travelling is that you have to get back sooner or later. Too bad. I would really love to keep on hitchhiking till the end of August or September, but there were few things that are calling me to Poland (or from Poland, or to get back to Poland, anyway - something was caaaaaaling!) And MIchał insisted on coming back.

We planned to leave from Zabljak by bus and then keep on hitchhiking to Vysehrad Unfortunately, it turned out that there were no more tickets for the bus at 11am, although the bus wasn't full at all. Well, I didn't really regret it and was happy we would hitchhike now. But then it started to rain and no one wanted to drop us, although we kept on changing our standing points and they weren't bad at all. After few hours we decided to get back to the bus station and took the 2 pm bus. With a heavy heart, we had to resign from visiting Vysehrad... After 1,5 hour there was a first break in the journey and no one told us that we have to change the bus now. Other passangers knew it, but we and a group of Polish students - not. Luckily, I noticed that our luggage was being carried to another bus, so I knew what's going on.

Then we arrived to Uzice and spent there 4 hours. It was quite dark already and we decided not to explore the city so much. What was the most attractive there, was the river going through the city centre. In the distance you could see old skyscrapers, poorely lit. But we spent most of our time on the train station. Michał came up with the idea that it's better not stay overnight in the city, but just get on a night train and go through Serbia for a really small amount of money. The train was late, of course, and there was no information about the delay and we landed up in a compartment with 4 other hitchhikers. A Serbian couple and a Lithuanian girl with Czech guy also decided to go buy train instead of hitchhike in the rain. The Serbs were going back home to Novy Sad, the other couple was heading for the mountains. And we were all coming back from Montenegro.

Finally, we arrived to Subotica, early in the morning, and from now on we planned to hitchhike Unfortunately, we couldn't find any signs with direction to other cities, we asked several people about the the way, but finally we landed up on the wrong road.. Actually, we covered a distance of few kilometers and we still hoped that there would be a sign soon with a name of a Hungarian city. But nothing like that happened. None of the cars wanted to give us a lift and then it turned out that it was a wrong direction. So we got back to the station... And to my dissapointed, we covered the whole way back by trains... All in all, there were 10 of them. And we were lucky enough that we didn't have to wait for the next connection, although we did not know about the next train. Just a lucky freestyle:) We also spent 1 night sleeping in a tent near Hungarian-Slovak boarder, in a town called Szob. Then we hitchhiked to Sturovo and when the next car stopped for us, we were dropped only to the train station. The dirver didn't like the idea of us hitchhiking, so he just stopped by the station and told us to go by train. We were too tired to get back on the road, so we just got in the train to Bratislava, then the next one to Zilina, then Bielsko Biala, Katowice, Poznań.... It was actually quite a quick journey and not so interesting as hitchhiking. Anyway. New adventures will surely come soon:)