The Rally Part 3: Lithuania and Latvia

 

The Baltic States or, when not to smile at strangers


Mostly written on or around July 21st, 2012, the night before crossing into Russia

Dane’s fiddling with making noodles while I lie on a real bed in an hotel room that we’ve taken for the night (at jaw-dropping expense, considering) in Rezneke, Latvia. About 63 km west from the Latvia/Russia border.

 

Lithuania. Or possibly Latvia.

 

From Poland, it was in to Lithuania and Latvia. What to say of the last two days? We’ve not met many locals, but so far Latvians are a little friendlier than Lithuanians. Then again, that’s not saying much – a naturally introverted people, apparently smiling at someone unless you’re a good friend of theirs is considered poor behaviour. Tricky, considering the female lemur is particularly smiley when talking with people :P

There’s not much to say about Lithuania. It has, apparently, a very rich and coloured culture, but we didn’t get to experience it. It’s also incredibly ramshackle which, combined with the still-ongoing rain, made it a little depressing, if still very pretty.

Latvia has also been wet as – which is why we’ve had to shell out for a hotel (there’s nothing cheaper) – but the countryside is my favourite yet. Everything seems to be flowering, although houses here still feature the ubiquitous ramshackle flavour, and the locals have been much more communicative (there is English spoken here!), and have been very bemused by our driving to Mongolia.

Beer is still gobsmackingly cheap, and quite good (as it has been since the Czech Republic), but this Latvia doesn’t really seem to have rest-stops like the rest of Europe (Lithuania did, but thin on the ground). Thankfully, StatOil petrol stations all have free wi-fi!

The change in rest stops has been enormous – since Germany, they have become less palatial, and by this point in the trip, finding any with full service is asking a lot. Although I have now experienced, for the first time, a petrol station bathroom lit with blue light. Apparently, it renders veins invisible, making it difficult to inject heroin…

Actually, we DID find a beautiful lakeside cabin to spend the night in on lake Nirza, but just as we arrived (having driven 20km over loose gravel and mud – thank goodness for 4wd and high ground clearance, as it was slidey as hell and very potholed) we discovered it had been booked.

Clearly in the previous hour or two, as we had been getting there. Ah well – we went on to Zilupe, found nothing, drove to Ludza, found one place to stay which looked shut and scary, and so ended up coming back to Rezneke, where we are now. Something of a detour.

And houses here are generally wooden (no straight lines in sight). The few brick houses we’ve seen are all the identical pale grey – in Poland, things had been painted to add cheer, but not so in the Baltic states, apparently.

Ooh, pro-tip: if you find yourself in Zeneke, go to the Mols restaurant. It’s wonderful – the food is very typically Latvian, we heard, and really, really good. I still reek of garlic :) And it’s full of interesting knicknacks, and the dark ceramics for which the region is famous.

So yes – tomorrow, we head over to Zilupe. The churches so far have been gorgeous, and we expect more of the same. As for civilised toilet facilities – well, probably not. In fact, we’re expecting to have stories of camping with Russian truckdrivers. Wish us well…

—–

*Ah, yes! I decided Dane needed to experience a proper UK greasy spoon for a full breakfast, which we did at 8am on the 14th. It was great, and I tried black pudding for the first time (not bad!). The woman who owned this tiny little place tucked up an alley very near the incredible cathedral in Chichester had given up a hardcore job with much money, status and responsibility, and said she was loving it :P

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