30.08.2019 - 30.08.2019 21 °C
Well you may ask.
Just as we were leaving Riga we became aware of a controversy that had arisen around a new promotion Lithuania was preparing to boost their tourist dollar/euro. Vilnius was to be labelled 'The G-Spot of Europe'! Puts 'throw another shrimp on the barbie' in a whole new light! Not everyone was as overjoyed about the plan as the promoters were.
Crossing into Lithuania and feeling hungry we stopped at, of all places, "Dino World" a park where families came to experience dinosaurs, to be fair they did have a small zoo as well. Didn't get to see any of the dinosaurs so I am unable to report on them.
Air B&B in Vilnius and a 2 night stay, John was delighted that our main day there was Monday as all the museums across Eastern Europe close on Monday, (don't despair though - we did find one that was open)!
Our highlight though was finding an amazing Armenian restaurant with the most awesome food and gorgeous waitress. Absolutely magic food cooked superbly.
Vilnius has, like Riga and Tallinn, their 'Old Town' with cathedrals on every corner. John Paul 2 is revered here and there are images of him in quite a few places. Nothing of Pope Francis though.
The museum was in the old palace and told the story of kingdoms rising and falling and rising again, such a fraught history for so many of these Eastern European countries, it seems to have bred resilience and perseverance into their marrow.
Off the next day to Ketrzyn across the border in Poland and a currency change again to Zlotys, a very quiet little town, when we booked into the Hotel the person on the desk wanted to know if we needed separate rooms!
We have moved back another hour in time so now 8 hrs behind EST.
The reason we had come to this spot was that it was very close to Hitler's notorious "Wolf's Lair" (Wolfschanze) and John was very keen to investigate. We headed off with images of Tom Cruise in 'Valkyrie' in our mind. An early start definitely paid off , as the queue of traffic as we were leaving was endless, (attesting to its ongoing fascination). Wolf's Lair is a series of bunkers built into an approx 3.5 sq km area, which Hitler had built for the launch of Operation Barborossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union on June 21 1941. The bunkers were built of massively reinforced concrete, dug into the ground and often with walls up to 6 metres thick. The area was set up like a village with residences for various leaders, meeting rooms, typists and secretarial area, a cinema, eating areas etc, set in the most beautiful timbered setting. Before the war this had been a favourite place for people to come and fish or spend time in nature .
There is a clearly marked track with warnings not to leave it, but most tourists took the opportunities to climb inside the damaged bunkers , much of the area had been demolished first by the fleeing Germans and then by the invading Soviet troops. The Germans had also ringed the area with land mines and following the war Polish soldiers were required to come and remove these.
There is a strange, eerie sensation walking through this place, the sun was shining and making patterns on the leaves, the wind was blowing gently and making such a peaceful sound and yet the evidence of the evil that had existed here was all around. There was a real sense too that the unrelenting movement of nature was overpowering the horror with stealth and strength, that despite all nature was supreme. In one bunker there was evidence of lime dripping through forming stalactites.