Saturday, July 30, 2011

Riga to Vilnius

Today was a relatively uneventful day as we travelled from Latvia to Lithuania. The countryside is lush and green and the farms and farmhouses are looking a bit more prosperous as we travel further from Russia.
Village with houses right on the main road
 We stopped at Rundale Palace which was designed by Rastrelli, the architect who designed the royal palaces in St Petersburg. At first glance it was obviously his work, as its appearance was very similar. However it isn't as grand, and isn't decorated with gold. The plaster work and decoration is outstanding. Probably the most unusual feature is a stork sitting on its nest fashioned as part of the ceiling decoration.

Front view of Rundale Palace. It was built in 1741 and there has been a stork's nest on the right chimney ever since.

The view from the gardens at the back - more impressive in my opinion

Stork and nest decoration on the ceiling

Other rooms are beautifully decorated, and the gardens have been recreated with hundreds of linden trees.
Floral embellishment on marble

The Duke's bedroom

Day bed for reclining

Part of the gardens

One of the things I've noticed about lawns everywhere on this trip is that the edges are trimmed, usually by people bending poorly using hand shears. The lawns are very long and usually have heaps of weeds in them. feel much better about my lawn with all its weeds now - perhaps it has joined the nobility.

We also stopped at the 'Hill of Crosses" in Lithuania, where there are hundreds of thousands of crosses placed by the faithful, usually to remember somewone who has died, but often as an act of devotion. It's an incredible place.

Some of the crosses on the Hill of Crosses

On the way there we saw a severe storm in the distance with what looked like a twister. It was still quite stormy at the Hill of Crosses but we missed most of it. A bit later on we came across devastated buildings, with sheet iron twisted and blown around and yellow insulation batts scattered and blown.

The other event of the day was the coach driver, Stan, being pulled over by the police for not wearing his seat belt. Many of us were blissfully dozing when we came to a sudden stop. Caused a bit of excitement as we thought he may have been speeding. It took ages for the police to write out their tcket or warning - Stan said they were writing a novel. He was a bit stressed though as he stood outside the coach having a cigarette or two. He doesn't like the seat belt as it rubs his neck, but nevertheless we keep reminding him to wear it, law-abiding Aussies that we are.

Police in Lithuania are as forgiving as anywhere else

Arrived in Vilnius late in the afternoon after an long drive.

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