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Lack of green

Posted 21 November 2007 - Logroño (ES):

I arrived in Logroño today after a 6-hour train ride along the south sides of the Pyrenees. I haven`t been to Arizona, but I thought the landscape in this part of Spain looked a lot like some images I have seen of Arizona. Flattened yellow pancake hills, dried out rivers. Many aquaducts, but only little water descending from the mountains. The view reminded me that Spain is making me suffer from a serious lack of green.

I took below photo not today but on the way from Madrid to the Costa Blanca. The second one is from the Centre of Europe park in Lithuania:

(© Albacete - ES, Vilnius - LT, 2007)
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Leaving Lithuania

Posted 25 August 2007, Klaipeda (LT):

My last day in Lithuania has been a good one. I talked to many people, got offered a cup of coffee, bought and ate a piece of honey. While the Us Europeans project is progressing, I am finding out that it is more about similarities than about real differences between people. After less than a month, I have to conclude that Europe is more European than I thought it was. Countries are clearly in different stages, but these stages are part of the same continuum. Tensions between tradition and individual freedom, between `us` and `them` in the case of immigration issues - they prevail all over the place. Only the way people deal with these tensions is different and even those differences reside mainly in timing.

About a month ago, I was talking about wedding photos I took but couldn`t post yet? You can now view them on line: here is the place to be.

Holidays in Holland seem to come to an end, which is good news as it means that Us Europeans will soon be posted on more websites. I will let you know which ones. I am planning to integrate more photos into the project, to also include location photos, but I have not yet decided how to do it. Tips are welcome.

Tomorrow will be my first day in Latvia. I`m curious and excited to move on. Lithuania was good, I expect the same of Latvia. I already arranged to sleep at some people`s places through Couchsurfing and expect much of Latvia. It`s the first country on my list that I have never visited before.

Today`s photo: a popular fruit stand at the local market in Klaipeda.

(© Klaipeda - LT, August 2007)
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Playa Palanga

Posted 24 August 2007 - Klaipeda (LT):

Another day in Klaipeda and I thought it`d be nice to leave the city for some sight-seeing along the coast. I took one of the many minibuses to the sea resort `Palanga`. Here`s two photos of the beach:

(© Palanga - LT, August 2007)
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Spell check active

Posted 23 August 2007 - Klaipeda (LT):

Another day in Klaipeda and it won`t be the last one. I have not been able to find any youth hostels between here and Latvia so the only alternative would have been to go back to Vilnius and travel to Latvia from there. But since I am planning to stay in some other places in Latvia before Riga, the Vilnius option did not work. Instead, I will go on a day trip to Palanga, another beach resort half an hour away from here.

I have good news for people who got annoyed with the many typing mistakes I made in previous articles. I downloaded Firefox to replace Explorer as my preferred web browser and it contains an automatic spell check. On top of that, my first note book is full. I already bought another one, but will first fill this one up completely, writing in a different colour and upside down from the backside to the front. Not much other news today. Photo: view on Klaipeda railway station.

(© Klaipeda - LT, August 2007)
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Curonian Spit Visit

Posted 22 August 2007 - Klaipeda (LT):

It was nice to speak to some friends again last night. It cheered me up and made me have a really good day today. I joined a Belgian guy named Tom, who was planning to go to the Curonian Spit. That`s the peninsula `next door`, right opposite to Klaipeda. We took a ferry and rented bicycles, then cycled all the way to the Kaliningrad border (=Russia). Lots of nice pine trees and dunes on the way. I had a bit of a cold this morning but most of that disappeared while we were cycling. The weather is still excellent and it was good to get some exercise.

It may seem as if I don`t take many pictures, posting only one photo a day on this website. I do take many more, but it`s too much work to post all of them. I made an effort today to post three: 1) Mature Lithuanian photo model posing for two men; 2) Secret photo of the mysterious border with the equally mysterious Russian enclave of Kaliningrad; 3) Ferry back to Klaipeda.

No plans for tomorrow yet - we shall see.

(© Klaipeda - LT, August 2007)
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Hot day in Klaipeda

Posted 21 August 2007 - Klaipeda (LT):

With temperatures of over 25 degrees, today was the hottest day so far. If everything runs according to plan, it should not get much hotter than this for the rest of my trip. I left the city of Siauliai this morning in an old Soviet-style train with wooden window frames, curtains and double ceilings. I was not sad to leave Siauliai because I was not feeling much at ease around there. I instantly fell asleep on the train and the two-hour trip was over in a blink of the eye.

I am now in Klaipeda, a harbour city next to the Baltic Sea. I will be staying here for two nights before moving north. In total, I will spend another four days in Lithuania. Then onwards to Latvia, which from what I heard so far, should be quite similar to Lithuania. I will just wait and see.

(© Klaipeda - LT, August 2007)
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Apples from strangers

Posted 20 August 2007 - Siauliai (LT):

It`s 8 o`clock in the evening in the Lithuanian city of Siauilai. I am sitting behind a small desk in the youth hostel, which is completely different from the ones in Ireland. Empty walls, long hollow corridors and no English speaking staff. One old lady is managing the whole place and all she wants to know is how many nights I am planning to stay and whether she can see my passport. I am alone in a room that offers space to four people. That`s not many beds, if you compare it to the 24-person dormitory I used in Dublin. For 4 times the price of this one.

The hostel is not the only difference with Ireland. Today was the first day I was feeling rather unconfortable just walking in the streets. And I would say the hostel is situated in the `better` outskirts of the city. One concrete road cuts this neighbourhood in two. All sidestreets have sandy, rocky and dusty surfaces. Some houses are made of stone, others of wood. Few people in the streets and many aggressive dogs behind the fences. People avoid eye contact or greeting gestures, so whenever you meet somebody in the street you don`t feel like you`ll ever be friends.

It`s not all the time like that. After I was taken to the Hill of Crosses by Rita (friend of Vilda) and Aurimas, I took a bus to Siauliai and got offered two healthy looking apples by an old lady. I ate them with pleasure although I did not know what made her decide to offer them to me.

Photos below: Hill of Crosses, a religious place before World War II, then a political and nationalistic statement during the Soviet era, now a religious place again and in the process of becoming a tourist attraction. Other photo: Still Life of Underwear and T-Shirt, just after I washed them in the youth hostel.

(© Siauliai - LT, August 2007)
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Remaining plans for Lithuania

Posted 19 August 2007 - Kaunas (LT):

After a quick two-day excursion to Vilnius, I am now back in Kaunas. Tomorrow, I will move on to Siauili to go see the Hill of Crosses, then afterwards to Klaipeda and the peninsula. It will soon be time for country number three: Latvia. The first new country on the list, because I have never been there.

Below photo shows a monument for the commemmoration of people that were tortured in Lithuania during the many wars that have taken place on its territory. Another Never Again monument, but everybody knows that similar athrocities are taking place at this very moment, on many different places in the world.

(© Kaunas - LT, August 2007)
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More Lithuania

Posted 17 August 2007 - Vilnius (LT):

My first day in Lithuania was a nice one. I got up at 11 (9 o`clock Irish time) and enjoyed a complete breakfast that Vilda had prepared for me. She only needed to be at work by one o`clock so we could take it easy. We walked to the city centre, where Vilda went to work and I started my Kaunas discovery tour. I first walked to the end of the very long pedestrian street and then made it to the city hall, where a lot of weddings were taking place. The procedure was very interesting and if you want to read more about it, go to Us Europeans for a more detailed report.

I walked on some more, eating Irish muesli and still drinking water from Dublin Airport. I forgot to mention by the way that I managed to complete Ireland within the budget by EUR 5,71 :) Lithuania is a lot cheaper and today I was even able to afford to pay others a beer and eat in a restaurant!

At five, I met Vilda again and she told me she was planning to go to Vilnius with her sister, who has an apartment there, and whether I wanted to come along. That seemed like a very good idea to me, because I was already wondering how I could integrate a visit to Vilnius in the planning before going to the coast and make it to Latvia. Problem solved and since we left by car, I may even be able to see more than I could have if I was on my own and walking.

There also happened to be a Couch Surfing meeting going on and that was the evening plan. We met a lot of Italians and French people, had fun and there was a little dancing involved as well. Pizza afterwards and then off to bed. Tomorrow, we will probably do soms sight-seeing to the Geographical centre of Europe Park and a Soviet sculpture park as well.

(© Kaunas - LT, August 2007)
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Stage 2: Lithuania

Posted 5 July 2007 - The Hague (NL):

The second country on the Us Europeans to-do list is Lithuania. I will be flying from Dublin to Kaunas halfway August and then have about one week to make it to adjacent Latvia.

Although I visited Lithuania before, in 2002, my experience was mostly limited to the city of Vilnius. Which showed itself as a nice city with diverse architecture, many beautiful women, and lots of daylight (which is not a suprise so far up north and during summer). It was an interesting visit because I remembered so well seeing on TV that Lithuania was fighting for its independence back in the early 1990s. Russia still seems to occupy people's minds these days - but in a different way.

Apart from that, I used to think of Lithuania as a small country and never realised that it is still three times as big as The Netherlands. I keep getting confused about their way of saying thank you - ąčiū (pronounced as Achoo which I mix up with Achee which in Dutch both refer to sneezing). Altogether, I still have a lot to learn about Lithuania.

Change of subject, in reference to what I wrote earlier this week about Poland, here's an article that pretty much reflects the same atmosphere.

Tomorrow's posting will be about RSS, subscription to weblog postings, and how useful it is.

(© Vilius - LT, June 2002)
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PhotoLogiX & Summer Break

Posted 1 August 2006 - The Hague (NL):

Just like many of its visitors, the PhotoLog is taking a well-deserved break, which will last until September 1st. Hope to see you back on board by then!

(© Trakaj - LT, June 2002)
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