Fun and frustration of independent travel

Trip Start Jul 07, 2006
Trip End Aug 16, 2006

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Where I stayed
Old Town Hostel

Flag of Lithuania  ,
Tuesday, July 18, 2006

It was a nearly sleepless night at the Old Town Hostel in Vilnius. The room is already very cramped with 8 beds. Some of my 'roommates' came back , like, 4am and very drunk. They obviously forgot there are other travelers would have a long way to go next day and need a good sleep...

Sometimes I wonder why at my age, why am I still staying in 'youth' hostels? Oh, yes, it is much cheaper than a regular hotel. Also, as a single traveler, I would need to pay (sometimes much) more for a single room. It is much more economic to stay in a youth hostel. Also, traveling alone, all by myself, it is better to stay in a hostel since I will have opportunities to meet other travelers, exchanging travel stories, and maybe receive some emotional support and feeling less lonely. Well, not that I love to travel alone...just none of you, my friends, are available, damn....

Of course, I can try to join a tour group like Intrepid, GAP, or Dragoman. But I just did not find any itinerary I wanted this time. And yes, there is a lot of more freedom to travel independently. And freedom has its price.

I decided to check out the youth hostel and take a overnight bus to Tallinn, Estonia. Because it is a 10 hours drive, I should have enough time to sleep on the bus. And no, I don't think there will be many noisy Spanish teenage girls like that bus from Athens to Corfu.

So I still had a full day in Vilnius. After seeing some more churches and museums, I decided to take a trip out of town. Where can I go for destinations just outside of Vilnius? Trakai Castle, just 29 km west of Vilnius. It is built on an island in the middle of a lake. But no, too much castle viewing in Europe already...Panerial Memorial, a touching and haunting memorial where 100,000 Lithuanians and Jews were murdered by Nazi. It is meaningful, but no...too depressing. One Dachau was enough for me.

So I decided to go to Europos Parkas, or translated as European Park. Which is said to be the 'geographical center of Europe'. Wait?! The center of Europe is not in Berlin? Okay, I forgot Russia is a part of Europe and it occupies a huge chunk of Eastern Europe. Not only a park with some boring geographical monuments, Europos Parkas is also a sculpture park with works by many famous sculptors. The most famous one is called 'InfoTree,' which is a labyrinth made of nearly 3000 TV sets (It is certified by the Guiness Book of World Record as the largest structure made from TV sets).

Okay, so I needed to make my own way there (again, something you usually need to do as an independent traveler). Referencing both 『Let's Go East Europ』 and 『In Your Pocket Guide』, I managed to take a trolley bus to north suburb and immediately found a small 'private' bus to the Park. Just as the books says, the fare is still 2 Lithuanian Leveta. As I was making my way to the Park, I found I was obviously the only non-Lithuanian on the bus.

The park is sort of fun, with a lot odd sculptures and artworks. There were not many tourists there and it was just nice to wander around. But oop, where is the TV-set labyrinth? Only 20% of the labyrinth still has some TV sets around. Most of TV are gone. There were many broken screens scattering on the ground. With only Lithuanian posting, I was not sure if it was under renovation or permanently gone. Damn...I guess the clerk at the entrance was actually trying to warn me about it when I bought the ticket. But she spoke in Lithuanian, so...

So, that was just some frustration you get to encounter when traveling independently. If I was with a tour operator, maybe I would be forewarned by our guide.

Also as an independent traveler, there would be no coach waiting outside just to take me back to my hotel. But maybe, if with a tour group, I would have never even made it to this park. I might have ended up in Trakai Castle, like most other tourists do.
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