An early start again today, catching the 6:50am train to Siauliai. The earlier train was far too early and the later train was far too late. I wanted to get to Siauliai with time up my sleeves to visit the main reason one goes to Siauliai and get to Riga. The train was quite full and as it was long distance my ticket had a reserved seat. They had a menu on board to order drinks and snacks, but nothing too substantial. Luckily I had thought of this last night and bought a can of iced coffee and a delicious raspberry and white choc donut for breakfast.
The train sped through the Lithuanian countryside, the tracks were incredibly smooth and it led me to ponder when my own country will actually put in decent rail, let alone high-speed rail. Lithuania runs a modernised and fast train service to the point it was a lot quicker than a bus or car.
Once I arrived in Siauliai, I walked the 400m or so to the bus station and dropped my bag off at the luggage store. It was still before 10am and I contemplated catching a local bus out to the Hill of Crosses. Instead, I asked a taxi to take me there and back and it cost about 30 euros. Some would say a waste of money given the local bus is a couple of euro each way. I feel though, I’m not travelling to spend it waiting for a bus. The driver was quite surprised I was from Australia but made no mention of kangaroos.
The other benefit of a taxi is the driver drove me right to the info centre and souvenir stall at the Hill of Crosses. I followed the pathway to the hill, which is more of a mound that is maybe 10m tall at most. I first read about this place in a book about weird places around the world. It is indeed weird in so many ways, but I’m happy there are enough people who are so committed to their religion, that they create bizarre places like the Hill of crosses.
It only took me about 20 minutes to walk over it and around one side. That was enough for me, I believe it started as a sign of defiance to their Soviet overlords, but now people come from all over the world to add a cross for someone they loved and is no longer alive, or because they can. Crosses can be purchased on site from the souvenir vendors and I doubt anyone knows how many there are on the hill.
The taxi driver took me back to bus station in time to get the 11:15am bus to Riga, instead of the 12:45pm bus. I arrived in Riga about 2 hrs later after the bus dropped most of the passengers at the airport. I walked outside and took a taxi to my hotel and this was probably the second bizarre place of the day. The building is hidden through an archway of another building. So they include a photo of it on their booking, but you’d never recognise it driving along the street.
The lady at the hotel counter on the not well signed second floor office spoke decent English and she took me back downstairs to the ground floor. She opened a door and said my room is in there and to lock this door because the front door to the building is not locked and to prevent theft. She then disappeared quickly, before I could ask any questions. The room was ok, the provided fan sounds like my old 1979 Corolla when the engine failed. The bathroom is ok, the neighbourhood is run down and it is not close to anything at all.
I walked 30 minutes towards the city and saw a hotel. I asked if they had a vacancy and they said not tonight, but for the next 3 nights they did. I made the booking and I’ll be moving hotels tomorrow. This is about the third time I’ve done this in my life and its always been the hotel was not near anything and I didn’t realise it at time of booking (one place in Nicaragua had a rock hard bed and no fan or AC). Actually, the only place within a 15-minute walk according to the hotel lady when I found her again is a vegan cafe. She suggested a taxi and she would call them now because the hotel reception closes at 6.
So the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” states that if you walk for long enough you’ll be guaranteed of finding a pizza shop. Well, it doesn’t say that, but it should. Without fail, I always will find a pizza shop when I’m hungry and failing to find a place to eat. Actually, I did walk past a vegan cafe that looked really nice from the outside, but I wasn’t sure if vegans were smug in Latvia.
I ate my pizza, ducked across the road to the supermarket to get a bottle of water and an icecream, before I made a hasty retreat to the hotel, to be back before dark. Hopefully tomorrow will be better and I’ll actually get into the old town of Riga somehow.