So much room for activities
So I walked down 5 flights of stairs today with only one bag and two panniers. That meant only two trips, not 4. Then I put the bag onto my bike and guess what…the flat bottom means it doesn’t roll all over the place. And I only have to strap down one thing, it’s all self contained! It’s the small things these days.
▣ Highly recommend ▣ Boring but safe ▣ Shit. Boring, strenuous & dangerous ▣ Incomplete
What I thought’d happen
I’d have to fight to survive against a population of dreadful drivers
What actually happened
One of the guys working in the hostel, Pauls (yes, with an ’s’ on the end), hired a Kawasaki today for a test drive. So we organised to go for a ride. Whilst I was waiting for him to get himself organised I rode down to Salaspils, about 20 minutes south of Riga.
I’d heard there was an old concentration camp and thought it might be interesting to check out. I get a kind of disgraceful pleasure from visiting creepy soviet remains. It’s shameful. But actually it turns out the camp no longer exists. I mean that in the way that you can’t visit the camp, not that the camp is no longer running, which duh of course it isn’t. I hope.
Anyway, it’s just a memorial now with some funky statues and a whole load of grass. Lame.
Riding with Pauls
If Estonia is the country of manors, Latvia is the country of palaces. Just outside the small town of Bauska, which is close to the Lithuanian border, there are three swanky old palaces just waiting to be explored. Sadly I only got to see one, and whilst it isn’t the most famous, it is still pretty impressive — or at least it looked so relative to rest of the country — which is mostly a shithole. I mean that in the most endearing way, but there’s no sugar coating it. The small towns I drove through on the way were run down, dilapidated, disused.
I didn’t have time to check out the palace interior, partly because I was running out of time but mostly because it’s also a hotel and I hate explaining that I can’t afford fancy things. Especially in a poor as hell country like Latvia.
I settled for a stroll around the beautiful surroundings instead. The atmosphere was soothing. The palace sits on the banks of a shallow river, nestled within a small forest. The only sounds are the rustle of tree leaves and the gentle sound of lapping water. If you’re looking for a relaxing retreat in Lativa (small chance but ok) then this would be a nice place to visit.
Don’t stray off the highway, unless you have a dirt bike
I cannot stress this enough. From Bauska I headed over the Lithuanian border in the direction of Siaulia to see Kryziu Kalnas, the famous hill of crosses. I imagined that I would make it just as the sun set, the strangled light softly illuminating the crosses, the place deserted of tourists as they retire to their hotels.
But I didn’t. I didn’t make it because every single road other than the major highway in Lithuania, no matter how thick and confident the line is on Google Maps, is either chunky gravel, loose dirt or a potholed mess. It ended up taking me forever. In fact, even my bike, and it’s made for this, had a hard time trying to handle some of the larger gravel pieces.
But on the other hand how can you complain when you’re riding through this?
By the time I reached Siaulia it was too dark to continue so I found a creepy deserted hotel to crash at and postponed Kryziu Kalnas and Vilnius to the next day.
But speaking of crashes…you know I thought Latvians were bad drivers…turns out Lithuanians are even worse. As I approached the city of Siaulia on a small highway I noticed that some of the intersection lights were flashing yellow. I assume this means they’re dysfunctional. So with the knowledge that Baltic drivers are goddam awful I approached with caution.
And lucky I did. On the second intersection I noticed a car in the oncoming direction trying to make a left turn across traffic. Suddenly a car pulled out from behind him and into my lane, attempting to overtake the first car in the intersection. The first car made the turn and well, one thing led to another. CRASH – t-boned. All of this happened right as I put-putted casually into the intersection.
I braked hard and skidded to a halt right in front of the bumper of the overtaking car.
Fucking baltic drivers. Seriously.
What I learned today:
- Lithuanian drivers are worse than Latvians, if that’s possible
- Lithuanian roads are worse than Latvia’s, if that’s possible