We left Tallinn for Riga, Latvia and had more fun roads and trucks to deal with. Think single lane each way, some dirt roads, strange arrows and half a lane for over taking, not a full one. I’m not the most patient driver at the best of times but I must say this trip, and driving Scarlett has certainly helped me improve. The highlight of the drive was waiving to three other motorhomes that passed me by while Brad napped. Riveting stuff. We did stop off and get a photo of the beach though!
A campsite ‘just outside of Riga’ was recommended to us and it was another farm. I wouldn’t be in a rush to stay there again but we did have a campfire and spaghetti bolognese, which made it an enjoyable evening. ‘Just outside’ was also about 90 minutes away so we drove in to the city on Wednesday, found some parking and ventured to the Museum Of The Occupation Of Latvia.
The museum is one of the largest private museums in Latvia and covers the history of Latvia’s fifty-year occupation which occurred between 1940-1991. I have always been been fascinated and truly horrified by Nazi history and have soaked up the information through school, and also through my visit to Europe in 2013/14. I never knew the impact of it on Latvia though. After being invaded by the Soviet Union, the Nazis, and then World War II, Latvia lost about one third of its population. Only in 1991 did they regain independence. In 1989 two million people from the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) lined the streets from Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius and joined hands to form a human chain that spanned 675 kilometres to show that they wanted, and deserved to be independent. How incredible is that?! The museum does an excellent job of retelling the violent century and pays tribute to the lives that were lost. It is a must see if you are travelling to Latvia.
After the museum we walked around the local markets, and city gardens, grabbed a pumpkin spiced latte and hit the road to Lithuania. Once again, it was recommended to us that we give Vilnius (the new capital) a miss and head to Kaunas which was the old capital of Lithuania.
As we drove in to the Lithuania the fun began. We had to drive on easily the worst roads we’ve seen, we were on the road with over 100 trucks and when we stopped at a restaurant to access wifi to find a campsite, they were closing (it was 5pm) and the toilets were a hole in the ground. I kid you not, literally a hole. Brad had a great laugh at my reaction and knew convincing me that staying in Lithuania was a good idea was going to be a challenging task.
We persevered on to Kaunas, and arrived at around 8pm after around 4.5 hours of slowwww and draining driving. We discovered that both campsites were closed, barely anywhere had free wifi and the Lithuanian people we came in to contact with weren’t that friendly. We ended up having some questionable sushi just to access the wifi and found a carpark that a few people travelling in motorhomes have stayed at. We took one wrong turn which lead to us and Scarlett bouncing and rocking our way down the worst street in history. Actually I wouldn’t call it a street. I’d call it an undiscovered ruin.
We drove in to the carpark and noticed a group of men who I would put money on being in a gang acting strangely, a bunch of people with bags full of alcohol causing a raucous and as we went to park, 3 cars started parking us in. Brad did a great job of navigating Scarlett out of there, we got to a fuel station, looked at each other and said “yep, let’s get the hell out of here!” It was the only time we have both felt unsafe on this trip and the vibe of the place was completely off. It was 10pm by this stage but we kept driving and stayed at a truck stop on the outskirts of Lithuania, rather excited to cross in to Poland in the morning. The best thing about Lithuania? The trucks would put their indicator on when it was safe for us to overtake them.
Has anyone been to Lithuania? I’m sure it can’t be as bad as what I think and it might be worth a second visit at a later date but right now whenever I hear of Lithuania I think NO DEAL.
We took the bus and a tram to the city. It took over 1 hour and after a delicious lunch of polish dumplings, cocktails and pasta we decided to catch a taxi to the Old Town. We told the driver that we only had a credit card and he said that was fine and to jump in. 10 minutes in to the ride he was saying how much he hates plastic and no plastic machines will ever be in his taxi. He was a lovely old man but it dawned on us we were going to have to find an ATM. Brad got out to find one after I tried to get cash out and the lady in the cafe said no, and that she didn’t know where any ATM’s were… lovely.
What ensued was me engaging in a very animated 20 minute conversation with Jan the Polish man and him wondering where my ‘husband’ had disappeared to. Well didn’t Brad get a promotion! I won him over in the end, he taught me some Polish and Brad finally returned with some Polish Zlotys. Yep, time for a beer!
We wrapped things up around 8:30pm and ordered an Uber. $14 and 20 minutes later we were home. Much more efficient on time and a lot easier than the public transport system and taxi issues.
Next stop: Krakow!