Tuesday, 14 July 2015
Vilnius to Kauruna
Republics, royal palaces and fairy tale castles
I had a morning in Vilnius solo whilst the rest of the group did a town walk and I wandered round the Utzis Republic where free thinkers have set up their own Republic . The constitution was on the wall and included such articles as a cat is free not to love its owner but must show affection at time of need.
I then spent an amazing hour in the brand new Royal Palace Museum. The palace has been revamped at extraordinary expense and now has a wonderful museum depicting the history of the rulers of Lithuania from 1200 - 1600. This period included the rejection of both Eastern and Western Christianity and then its acceptance. There was also hunting and music at the end of the gothic period. This was followed by the Renaissance and the spread of those ideas. There were panels about each remaining ruler Sigismind, Alexander etc. and accompanying ornaments. The top floor recreated the rooms that would have been there for the last king of Lithuania, complete with Swedish stone floors and wood burning heaters with Italian ceramic tiles which were also clearly the state of the art things then. It was also good that I only had an hour for the museum, otherwise I would have got engrossed in the detail about the royal families. I was also almost the only visitor to this 4 star museum on a Tuesday morning.
We reached Trakai by lunchtime, this is the red brick castle on a lake that is used to illustrate many Baltic books, and indeed it has a fairy tale quality. I walked over on the bridge; the tower walls were thick and could repel an attack for months. In the main tower a summer folk festival was taking place within people queuing up with flowers. I lunched by the lakes side eating wild strawberries that were for sale.
We then got our bikes, these are very sturdy German ones that are real country side bikes. Mine is a ladies bike which I have not seen for years, so I can slip on and off in my skirts. The countryside was beautiful with small mixed forests and rolling barley and wheat fields. The villages are quite mixed with wooden houses and newer plastic ones. There are also schools and libraries there, the village we stopped in had an old church with a tower and a dome.
Our day ended in Karunas where we had a speedy walk around the square, notable for a bicycle sculpture in the centre and a large mural of Eisenstein on a wall. Sadly our hotel is 3km from the centre so it is not possible to walk back down.
The group is mainly German-speaking with just 3 English speakers, fortunately the other two are a pleasant Aussie couple who have walked and travelled a lot and are interesting. The Germans are keeping to themselves.