Day 60: just to the north of the Lithuanian town of Siauliai (shoo-lay), we find the Hill of Crosses. As you drive up to it, you are feel a bit cheated because it's just a hillock or two, but then as you get away from the cluster of crapware vendors in the parking area and walk up to the collection (which looks like a junkyard dealer's conception of a cemetery), the sheer volume of crosses starts to take hold - a force of will against the Soviets who repeatedly bulldozed the 600 year old site.
From the Hill, it was a long slog down the highway to Klaipeda, Lithuania's 3rd largest city, and principal port & resort. It sits at the top of the Curonian Spit, a hundred kilometer inhabited sand dune, split between Lithuania, and the Russian exclave, Kaliningrad. It's also a big disappointment for visitors, with no identifiable heart to the city.
We crossed the Latvian border not far to the north (perhaps the most dilapidated border facility I've encountered), continuing up the pot-holed coast road, never really seeing the sea, to Liepaja. This seemed as grim as Klaipeda, reminding me a bit of Proprad in the Tatras, and so I abandoned the coast, for another slog back inland to Riga. Latvia is flatland like Lithuania, and the country scenery is not remarkable, but with the bad roads, for much of the time you have to focus on the overtaking cars approaching you in the "middle lane".
I'm renting a little apartment for three days, but the owner hasn't disclosed that there are no lifts and 9 flights of stairs to the top. After 9 hours of driving, and getting Bondi and bags to our level, I feel like Mildred Natwick in "Barefoot in the Park." After showering and putting a couple of weeks' worth of laundry through the washer, I decide it's time to venture downtown, having eaten nothing but a banana and trailmix all day. It was cold when we left Vilnius this morning, and it's way colder now, hovering around 2 degrees.
Waling into the older centre, I was a bit shocked by the weird assemblage of buildings, like a Politburo-Disney arrangement of old and new.
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