When In Lithuania
Trip Start Apr 04, 2007
115Trip End Oct 22, 2007
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This entry contains nudity, mild obscenities, and heaps of ranting! Not recommended for younger or older viewers. Any emotional scarring incurred is entirely the responsibility of the reader.
It's Eastern Europe... we warned you.
We woke up fairly early in the morning to catch the '0'dark stupid' train to Klaipeda with the stewardess from Hell. She was fairly young, probably not yet out of her 20's, but was already gearing up for her future as a embittered, sour faced old hag witch. Just to give you an outside opinion of what the Lithuanian transit systems are like, this is quoted straight out of a travel brochure we obtained in the area. "Although it is advised to arrive two hours before your departure time for domestic train rides in Lithuania, it is more fun to cut it close. Upon arrival at the station, realize that you're on your own sunshine and there is no one to help. I know, you see the sign that says information, but they have more important things to do, like not answering the phone or reading Russian tabloids. Approach the ticket counter with caution as a short Babushka or drunkard could cut you off at any time. Be sure to know your precise destination, as well as how to pronounce it in perfect Lithuanian, regardless of accent. 3.5 Million people speak this language, why can't you??? Once you have received a ticket, proceed to the unmarked and identical platform stairwells that lead you to the train that is probably not yours. A good tip is to go up the one that smells of stale piss, as this is the ones that bums frequent this popular route to get coin from the commuters. When in doubt, ask a young woman as they are usually educated and willing to help. Don't hesitate to walk on the tracks, as electric rail systems are things of science fiction novels. Once on board and seated on the park bench, hold on tight the doorbell sound means take off... 40 KPH MAX!! Feel free to explore these relics, toilets that have been out of toilet paper since you were born, free chewing gum on the walls, and if you're lucky the guy next to you may share his home brewed vodka with you. And, no, there is not a first class carriage."
So as well as these sunny words, we also had our travel stewardess who would not unlock the bathrooms for the 5 hour trip, heaven forbid she would have to clean them afterward. Nay, you had to trek to the next carriage and deal with the stewardess ogre from that side to use the toilet. Mmmm, one toilet between two packed carriages for 5 hours. Every time we encountered either of these shining examples of the LIthuanian hospitality services they greeted us (and everyone else) with glares, yelling, and general rude gisticulating. This also became more unpleasant after the carriage turned into a giant sauna from the blazing sun. And we had both become quit ill in Vilnius and were still suffering the side effects. All in all, it was a memorable experience. Let us never speak of it again... until our next train trip.
So we arrived in Klaipeda and found our way to the hostel despite the complete lack of road signs or signs to the hostel. We were greeted with two lovely young ladies who were cleaning the hostel... kind of. Unfortunately cleaning interfered with painting their nails, watching trashy TV, talking on their cell phones, and practicing dance routines to Justin Timberlake songs. Questions from the backpackers also interfered with these important activities and were greatly discouraged through huff, scowls, and general loud ranting in Lithuanian. We decided to follow the advice of the badly spelled sign asking us to vacate the premises whilst the 'staff' 'cleaned' (practiced dance routine) from 12 till 3 pm. Feeling like utter rubbish from our train trip, we got as far as a cafe and chilled out under an umbrella for awhile, trying to down a little bit of food into our uninterested stomachs.
We ventured back to the hostel when we thought we could entice our way back in. The reason we chose this hostel is because it advertised that it did trips to an abandoned Soviet nuclear missile base. We spent the rest of the afternoon in recovery mode and chatting with the other hostelers. We met a few cool people, but could only find one other person interested in going to the missile base with us, so it wasn't affordable to do, as you payed a set amount for the car (more people, less price each one pays). After another sauna like sleep, we woke up the next day and had to flag the missile silo idea. We also had to find another bed to sleep in that night as our current hostel was apparently full that night. After much searching, we came across a nice sounding guesthouse that didn't cost much more than our hostel and was fairly close by. The owners even came down to pick us up in the convertible. It turned out to be a fantastic place, very posh, with a beautiful kitchen and sun deck downstairs and a proper double bed upstairs (as opposed to two beds pushed together as was the usual). The people were lovely too, which slightly restored our faith in the possibility of pleasant, backpacker friendly Lithuanians, instead of the disproportionate amount of surly, unhelpful, and just plain mean people we'd encountered so far.
The room has yet vacated though, since the check out time was noon, so we dropped our bags and headed off to the other main attraction in Klaipeda... the beach. It took a bit of a walk, and a short ferry trip over to the Coronian spit - a 50 km spit of land that ends at the border with Kalingrad, Russia. The beach itself was very interesting. As you walk to the beach you encounter a few interesting signs. One is the rules, which include no swimming to Russia. Another sign post directed the pathways to the different areas of the beach. The beach consisted of four different areas. Men, Women, Families, and Nude, however these can better be described as 'sausage-fest, naked grandmas, everyone else, and those dang naked hippies'. As a couple, we decided to follow the 'families' sign where most multi gendered groups seemed to be going.
We arrived on a not to crowded beach with white sand and a beautiful ocean view over the Baltic Ocean. Looking down one way, the beach extended on for ages and you couldn't see the end. Looking down the other way the beach soon ended in a giant oil and fuel storage facility for tankers... right, looking down the other way. Although, it must be said, that wasn't all that was down that end. We found ourselves very close to the sign that stated the 'women's' area of the beach. It was a simple sign, and yet seemed to serve as a magical barrier between ordinary families in bathing suits and stark naked elderly women in sun hats. No one thought to put a stretch of beach in between areas, no one asked for one. As soon as one crossed the 'sign line' the cloths came off. This was grandma's territory sonny, in all her glory... and she's NAKED!!! (some had hats).
After getting changed in the fun booths that dotted the beach, we relaxed on the sand for awhile and enjoyed the cool water. Gabrielle eventually took a trip into the women's territory to explore the phenomenon and returned later, somewhat shaken, after a large, naked (must we say?), middle aged women with her bosom somewhere around her navel grabbed her wrist and asked her the time in Russian. She must have looked conspicuous because she was the only women there with two pieces of bathing suit on.
After much more beach relaxing we went for a walk down the other end of the beach. It extended for quite a ways, and took us some time to cross the 'safe zone'. However, soon we came across the next area... the Men's area! A stark and barren land, it consisted of a total of nine elderly gentlemen in their birthday suits (and the occasional gold chain) and tumbleweed making its way across the almost barren stretch of beach. Not a popular hangout. There was the occasional person walking through this area, so we didn't feel so bad passing through. This took us to the final section of the beach... NUDES!!! (wait a sec... what was the rest of the beach then? Mostly cute older couples walking hand in hand into the water, pasty bums jiggling in delight. There was also a young couple playing frisbee... which seemed to be rather dangerous. I mean... what if you didn't catch it and.... you've got NO protection... think of the children!!!
Maybe it was the hours in the sun, and the mass nudity we'd already seen, but we though 'when in Lithuania, do as the Lithuanian's do'. We found a quiet corner of the beach and got our gears off. We didn't stretch it as far as prancing down the beach, but we made ourselves quite comfortable in our quiet corner and worked on our tans. We eventually headed back to our nice guesthouse and enjoyed the wonderfulness of it. Tomorrow we've got another early morning trip to Riga! Looking forward to the 5 and a half hour bus trip to Riga. Hoping for some improvement!
All our best from Lithuania
Dan and Gabrielle