Daily Archives: July 24, 2012

Day 15: Rest Day in Vilnius

I slept reasonably well; I woke up at 5am but managed to doze off again and woke about 7am. Walli and I had agreed not to meet for breakfast until 9am so I read and mucked around until then.

After breakfast I gave my bike a really good clean and got all the grease out of the chain, degreased it and put more lubrication on it. I was lucky enough to catch Gergo outside by the bikes putting together David’s bike (Australian joining us here until Barcelona) so he had a look at my bike and gave it a bit of an overhaul – it had gotten a bit clunky and stiff.

I told Walli that I would met her at 12:30 as I decided that I actually needed a rest day, not a rushing round taking in all the sights day. So we met at 12:30 and we did another bus tour for an hour and half around the main sights. It was a good bus as it had open windows which were good for taking pictures from. It made a couple of stops; one was the St Peter and St Paul’s church – another beautiful church.

St Peter and St Paul’s Church (photo from Wikipedia)

We went past the Museum of Genocide Victims which is in the middle of Vilinus, and is the former KGB palace. We did not go in – you can go in and see cells, solitary confinement and the execution chamber, but I chose not to. It was sobering enough looking at the bricks of remembrance outside – a stone for each freedom fighter that was killed. Some of the ones I saw inside were just young men in their early twenties. There were 200,000 thousand Lithuanians sent off to Siberia between 1944 and 1953. Before Hitler, Lithuania was known as the Jerusalem of the East and 28% of the population was Jewish. The Jews were all forced into a ghetto and then finally killed.

We saw the Peace Park Memorial complex and the Presidential Palace. Outside there was a group of people protesting but as I can’t read the local language I do not know what they were protesting about.

Presidential Palace (photo from Wikipedia)

We also saw the Vilnius Town Hall and the Vilnius University – one of the oldest in Europe – and the Gate of Dawn, the only remaining gate in the defence walls built in 1600. There is an image of the blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy on the eight oak pieces that make up the gate and there is a chapel above the gate. This gate is believed to have magical healing powers.

Gate of Dawn (photo from MyWorldTravelGuides)

Plus we also saw many other beautiful buildings such as the International Church of Vilnius, National Museum and the Applied Arts Museum.

National Museum (photo from Wikipedia)

We then had a snack as it was 3pm and we had a beer – a Svyturys, unfiltered with lemon, as we had not had lunch, to hold us until tea time. Then we headed back to the hotel to regroup for tea at 6pm with Shirley, Daphne and Walli. We set off to find a restaurant that some of our group had been to called The Kitchen which they had thought was pretty good. We found it but it is closed on a Sunday. Most of the shops here are also closed on Sundays. So Shirley then said how about the Lithuanian restaurant so we headed off to look for it. We found the street but she could not find the restaurant. I asked at another restaurant and they directed us, it was about 50 meters up the road. We also collected John on the way down the street.

The restaurant was called Dvaras Lietuviski Patiekalai. It was a nice meal, I had potato pancakes and herring and fish pudding which is fish pie, plus I shared a bottle of dry red with John. The waitress was wearing tartan which is part of their national dress, so not just the Scotts! I am now very full and quite sleepy and need go pack for tomorrow.

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Day 14: Anykščiai to Vilnius – 125k

1,234km down: 4,991km to go.

So off we set and if I had thought about it I would have clicked: hilly rollers last 15k yesterday – probably be some more of the same today! But I would not have thought rollers and hilly all day!

I had tired legs to start with so told Daphne and Shirley to ride without me, as anyone who rides with me knows I take awhile to warm up, and am always slowish to start. I stopped and took a photo of an amazing church in Alanta. I plodded up and down the hills – pretty much the same scenery as the day before – cows tethered to the side of the road and in the fields, small towns and endless hills. I came up one incline feeling quite tired going about 7km an hour, and a dog rushed out at me – a German Shepherd. After last night’s events I took off and suddenly was going up the incline like a Tour de France rider. Thankfully I got out of the dogs territory before it caught me – I spoke to other riders later who were after me, most of them had had the dog rush out, but by the time Walli went past it was just sitting barking and didn’t chase her. It was probably the busiest morning it has had for years.

As I go past people, especially other riders, I generally call out hello. Some of them smile and wave but some of them just stare ahead and pretend they did not see you, but it adds interest to the day. I had one guy come up to me at a rest stop and say “You are crazy!”. And then he said good on me, and then laughed and walked off grinning, so I am pleased to have bought joy to his day. I should mention we have “Tour de Afrique: St Petersburg to Portugal” number plates on our bikes (will post a photo as soon as I work out how to send it). I am rider number 202. I’m not sure how the numbering works as there are only 19 riders, but I have worked out those going all the way to Portugal start with 2, and those going to Venice start with 1.

I rode onto lunch and found I had caught up with a bunch of riders. I got off my bike and walked up to wash my hands, and it poured – it was like a flash flood, it pelted down. I ate lunch and thought “well at least I got 60k – half the ride – without rain and it’s a rest day tomorrow, so will have warm, dry bed and clean, dry clothes tomorrow” and just like that it stopped raining.

I caught up with John just out of town and rode the next 30k with him. John is a Canadian, 67 year old retired professor and is one of my favourite tour riders. He is a quiet person, but very warm and friendly. I kept up fine on most of the hills but he had to slow down with a couple up the top. After awhile we came across Michele (a 60 year old retired Canadian) – I kept a wary eye on him as it was Michele who I had the crash with last week – plus Brian (60ish, English, retired) and Brett (60 year old, retired sea captain, from Australia. He left work the Friday before the tour started, although he has retired he is technically on leave until November, and then retires but he is not going back to work).
So Brett and I are the only two being paid and accumulating leave whilst on holiday – fantastic!

We rode in a convoy for about 10k and John stopped on the side of the road and we said we would wait around the corner, which we did, but there was a sharp right with a flag which we thought John would see. It started to pour so we took cover under some trees and unfortunately he missed the flag. By the time we realized he had shot past we would not have been able to catch him, we waited for about 10 minutes hoping he would come back during which time the rain stopped. Unfortunately he didn’t. We found out later that his speedometer had stopped going and a further 2k up the road there was a sharp right and gravel so he went a further 25k before he realized he would have to turn back! When he got to the city limits he had had it, and did the smart thing and caught a cab.

We kept on going up some pretty steep hills, Brett and I had dropped Michele and Brian but picked up Rodney. Brett stayed me through town and I saw one flag he hadn’t.

Vilnius is a pretty town with a population of half a million, and I think we met a good proportion on the road into town. A lot of the streets are paved with cobblestones so you have to be quite careful in the wet.

We are staying at a beautiful old monastery called Domus Maria Guest House. I was pleased to get up to my room – yay for the first time in three weeks I had a double bed to myself. I sorted the laundry then went to see what Shirley, Walli and Daphne were up to. Walli was not yet in and Shirley and Daphne had just arrived. I left them to get sorted and went on a cold beer hunt. On the way I bumped into John walking down the street and heard what had happened, we stopped and had a cold beer with Brett and Michele. Mission achieved, I got back to the hotel and Walli, Jen and Rob had just arrived – it was a long day for them but as it turned out not the longest. Jules and Don had also taken a wrong turn and they clocked up 170!! They were just behind me when we left the lunch stop.

We went out to find a Restaurant, but we were all tired so we decided to go to a place nearby. We ended up going to a German restaurant called Vokiski Maisto Restoranas Bunte Gans (doesn’t sound German to me but Walli said it was and she should know she lived in Germany until she was 18).

We went in, it looked ok, we ordered the meals and they took ages to arrive. The couple across from us had an Autistic (we think) child who was quite vocal so by the time the meal came we were pretty over it. Once we had had the meal I was nearly falling asleep at the table and they took forever to bring the bill even though we asked a couple of times.

I had grilled beef and potato pancakes with apple sauce and red cabbage, which was ok but probably a bit rich just before bed. When I got back to my room I brushed my teeth and was lights out in about 2 minutes.

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