We cycled south to Lithuania from Daugavpils on an excellent road that turned into a gravel track 5km from the border. We were heading for Vilnius and planning to stay in the Aukstaitijos national park on the way. The roads were excellent and very quiet. We camped in the park and spent a day hiking through the woods. It is a beautiful area with a variety of wildlife including Golden Eagles and White tailed sea eagles.
Our ride to Vilnius was the longest so far 125km which was easy until about 10km from Vilnius when we had to get off the main roads as they were too busy and went in on a very bumpy cycle track. Vilnius is noted for its old town and multitude of Baroque churches so I was pleased to discover that we had arrived just in time for their Music Festival. This took place over 4 stages in the New Town area along Gediminas Avenue. The whole street had been shut off and was filled with stalls selling everything from local produce to ceramics, art work, clothing, books, hot food and bars. It must have stretched for about a kilometer.
We had never heard of any of the bands, most of them sang in English and were from all of the Baltic states. We spent a couple of days enjoying the music and the food. The weather was great and the bars and restaurants very cheap. Highlights for us were Pilnatys https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxjrV6wUaVo and Astro’n’out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dn3E_lMGuXM We ventured into old town which was full of churches often sitting opposite each other. Vilnius has the feel of a European city and we really enjoyed our stay.
Wood sculptures adorn many of the roads in Lithuania, They pop up at seemingly random places and are often very intricate. It is a centuries old tradition and sculpture as an art form seems very popular.
We continued south to the city of Druskininkai which is a spa town. 5 km north of Druskininkai is Gruto Parkas http://www.grutoparkas.lt/ a sculpture park of many of the Soviet statues that were pulled down after independence in 1991. Appropriately it started raining as soon as we got there. It was a fascinating exposition, as well as the sculptures there was a museum which documented some of the atrocities the Soviets carried out. They finally killed off armed resistance from the partisans in 1953, we had seen many monuments to the partisans along the roadside.
Druskininkai is a very smart spa town with some lovely old wooden buildings. It is right next to a national park and as well as the spa there is a snowdome, aquapark and treetop climbing park. The spa offers every treatment you can imagine from honey massages to enemas! It is one of the few places in Lithuania where you can safely drink the tap water. It was our last stop in Lithuania before heading on to Poland. We have enjoyed our stay, the drivers are better than in Latvia and the roads are excellent and apart from around Vilnius very quiet.