Into Lithuania

By Jane Mountain | July 5, 2013

3581 km so far.

Another day, another country. Ho hum.

Actually, it’s very exciting every time we get ready to cross the border, even if it’s just another unmanned EU crossing. We never know quite what to expect on the other side, and if we have expectations, they are invariably wrong.

I am expecting Lithuania to be a slightly more developed, modern version of Poland. We shall see…

Shopping Blind

Today’s ride was along rolling country roads through forests of pine trees. With the sun beating down, the whole day smelled like roasting pine needles.

Not long before stopping for lunch we passed a field with a small tourist hut in it, and three gazebos at different locations in the field. The rest of the field was empty. The big tourist feature was that each gazebo was in a different country! One was in Russia, one in Poland, and the third in Lithuania. I wonder what would have happened if we started freely walking from hut to hut.

We didn’t stop there, but we did stop at this sign, which we think says something about “Poland ends here” on it.

touring cyclist on the russia lithuania border

Checking the GPS to see if we’re in Russia. We’re not. Phew.

Just before the Lithuanian border, we stopped at the little border town’s “grocery store”. This particular store was housed in a tiny room, the size of many North American living rooms. There was a counter behind which the owner stood and the shelves behind the counter were piled high with all the typical grocery store offerings. Tins of tuna, cheese, fresh veggies, bread, baking… the only trick was, to get what you wanted, you had to ask for each individual item from the woman working.

Fairly inefficient system, especially for us foreigners who need some time to figure out what’s in a package.

Her biggest trade was undoubtedly in beer. There were two picnic tables out back filled with local men drinking, and lots of empties piled up around them. We bought a couple of drinks and some cheese (I know, bad vegans, but our options were limited) and sat in the less-than-fragrant picnic shelter eating our lunch.

picnic shelter in lithuania

The picnic shelter and the parking lot of the little convenience shop.

We chatted with another cyclist who’d come into the store just behind us. He had come from Berlin and was riding to Latvia to a family reunion. Having decided flying was too boring, he took a more interesting form of transport to get there.

After lunch, we went back into the store to try and spend our last bits of Polish zloty. It was then that I discovered I had 100ZL more than we’d thought, so we settled for spending our change and keeping the big bill.

The Invisible Line

We weren’t even sure if the tiny country road we were headed down would actually cross the border, but it did. A simple “Hi, You’re In Lithuania” sign was all that officially marked the change.

The Poland-Lithuania border. Just a sign and a weird guy staring at us.

The Poland-Lithuania border. Just a sign and a weird guy staring at us.

But, as soon as we were across, several cars with Lithuanian license plates drove by. How do they do that? There was nowhere for them to come from but Poland, and we hadn’t seen any LT license plates in Poland. But as soon as we’re across the border, boom, Lithuanian plates.

One of the mysteries of the universe I guess.

We passed by a few campsites, heading towards one we were pretty sure existed a little closer to the first actual town in Lithuania. As we rolled down the drive to the campsite, we were pleased to see that is was an actual campground, with trees, picnic tables, a big lake, and a bar. The other unique thing about this campground is that it is full of people camping. In tents, not campers. So strange for Europe.

We haven’t seen a real campsite since… uh… America?

The campground is also filled with lots of wild animals.

bat made of rusted metal lithuania

My wings are like shields of steel.

We didn’t yet have any Lithuanian currency, and the camping attendant informed us there was no Bankomat in the nearby town. Lucky we’d kept that 100 zloty bill, as the attendant agreed to take it at a very unfavourable rate (for us). That’s OK though, because camping is a lot cheaper in Lithuania. Even with the bad exchange rate, we shaved 33% off the prices we’ve been paying the last few nights in Poland.

Our tent is a little way back from the crowded lake shore in a shady grove of pine tress.

Our tent in its little pine grove.

Our tent in its little pine grove.

From here we have a perfect view of the lake, the far side of which is in Kaliningrad, Russia. We are congratulating ourselves again tonight on having technically completed our Rome to Russia goal, even though neither of us thinks Kaliningrad really counts.  

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  1. Comment by david

    david May 1, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Another pleasant day in the land of people-who-like-casually-crossing-borders… For so many years I thought I was the only one with that hobby,,, David-de-Oregon

    • Comment by Jane M

      Jane M May 2, 2015 at 1:13 pm

      The EU makes it so easy, it’s almost not like crossing a border at all, until you notice that the language, the money, the customs, and the people are completely different.

    • Comment by david

      david May 2, 2015 at 2:24 pm

      Very easy, Jane. I confess to mixed feelings about that ease… in the ’60s when I was a kid my Dad was posted at a certain embassy in Europe. Travel was easy enough, but there was even between Common Market/NATO countries a certain little boy glamor in going through customs, changing your money, etc… and crossing the Iron Curtain of course was a BIG deal; this was the era when it was supposed you could put a wall through a big city….Nowadays this Oregonian submits to more formalities entering California than within Europe. On the other hand, since 9/11 the US/Canada border is a bit less benign…(you BCers will remember when the line through the Peace Park crossing –Blaine/White Rock –could be casually breached to picnic or toss a frisbee.)

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane May 4, 2015 at 9:14 am

      When we lived in White Rock, we’d go across the border all the time, to buy milk, go to the mall, hang out in the US. I’d go across with my friends’ parents (before we were old enough to drive) and no one even asked for ID if I remember correctly. I do miss being able to cross into the US so easily, but I do agree with you about the open borders in Europe. You definitely lose some romance riding into a new country when there’s nothing at the border but some crumbling old buildings. Then again, part of me wishes we could just open all the borders around the world and allow the free flow of people and commerce like we did in ancient times.

    • Comment by david

      david May 4, 2015 at 11:41 am

      I would guess that that tension between “same” and “different” –manifesting at borders as “real change” vs. “perfectly arbitrary” –is at the heart of why some of us engage in international travel… At the eastern end of Peace Park, set off from the main part was an open field on the south side of a very ordinary-looking White Rock residential street; you head south to look at a standard Washington-State-Parks dos-and-don’ts type sign but which started with something like, “You are entering the United States. (The border is the drainage ditch behind you.)” or something like that..the incongruity of something ostensibly so big and meaningful (crossing an international frontier) with the trivial and prosaic (“the drainage ditch behind you..”)…I have a picture of that sign somewhere. … But it does matter to some people: on the same trip I was examining the cement pylon at the Point Roberts crossing, which meant (shades of Baltic borders!) walking around it under the suspicious glower of a fellow in a red uniform who seemed a bit agitated with me…Nice blog, thanks.

    • Comment by david

      david May 4, 2015 at 12:07 pm

      And not only without ID but with your friends’ parents! Yikes. Nowadays you have to be able to prove–in either direction– that you’re not engaging in custodial interference. Or kidnapping. Or the sex trade.

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