We crossed the border to Lithuania pretty early, as Vainode where we had stayed was only a few km’s away from it. Now, as bad as it sounds, i knew very little of Lithuania other than that I thought it was the poorest of the 3 Baltic states (wrong: their GDP per capita is higher than Latvia’s), and that in Swedish newspapers you can read about Lithuanian gangsters, or as a destination for stolen vehicles. That said, Lithuania has a surface of 65.300 square meters, about 3 million inhabitants, their official language is Lithuanian (which sounds nothing like any language I know) and they have a female president.
At first it all looked very similar to Latvia, same small trails, same dusty farmland. The tractors we encountered were definitely much older and rusty, almost like that one I worked on a while ago.
Meanwhile we’ve gotten into a habit of riding next to each other so we don’t ride in each others dust plumes.
Our stop for the day was Plokstine Missile Base, an ex-Soviet ballistic missile site abandoned in the late 70’s, that has only recently been turned into a pretty good Cold War museum. The base was the USSR’s very first underground missile base and had four R-12 Dvina missiles stored in the silos, aimed at various western European cities.
The museum is inside the underground complex , spanning the central command bunker and one of the missile silos. It only cost like 3 euro per person and was really well done, clear english audio guide and all. You were supposed to only go on a guided tour, but we were allowed in by ourselves.
Since the route was a bit better planned and adjusted, we managed to put up camp before dark for the first time! We found a nice spot behind a forest patch in a field.
The sun rose just in the right spot the next morning.
We rode for a while on some tiring, long, straight, dusty roads through a lot of farmland and then just as we felt we really needed a break, we pulled into a blocked-off driveway leading up to some abandoned building. I swear, I didn’t find this one on purpose, it must be these countries, these kinds of buildings are just everywhere!
The site had a path leading into the forest to a site marked as a holocaust mass execution grounds, but there was not much to see or explained. The building looked like some 60/70’s road stop that was never even finished and then abandoned.
The road after that was asphalted, but actually quite nice. It followed along the Nemunas river banks, which lay in a valley with forested hills and the occasional town with twin-towered church. The towns had this great different feel to them, on the side of the hills, with these old, special houses.
We ate something there as well, and it became clear this country is amazingly cheap; lunch for two people was just 2.60 euro each. You can barely get a drink for that in Sweden.
We took to some smaller roads (I ended up flipping/dropping the bike due to some hidden rut on a bumpy track, no harm done though), that all of a sudden turned into a bicycle path. There were no signs at all leading up to it, it even looked like cars had been on there before, but we were glad to get off of it.
We headed for Kaunas, a major city, where I could find some special 10w60 oil to replenish my bike. Right across the oil store there was a small airplane museum so of course we visited (cost: 1.5 euro each). The younger man manning the counter was very friendly and commanded great English, he gave us some interesting background stories; Lithuania used to be strong in aviation, but that was all destroyed by the second world war. They still have a glider factory though.
It also became clear that Lithuania still isn’t a rich country; they only have one or two 1960’s Soviet jets in their airforce, next to 8 planes and helicopters, and the museum was sometimes overlooked by people because it’s dilapidated exterior state made it seem abandoned (that has the opposite effect on me though).
Finally we are now in Birstonas, where we booked an AirBnB to avoid the rain passing over. They gave us some buckets and sponges to get all the dust off our bikes, much appreciated. Next we head for Poland!