All great superheros come with a great origin story and being no different, I too have origin story of epic proportions. I would like to start my story by saying it started on a “dark and stormy night,” but unfortunately I can’t, I can say however say there was plenty of water.
It all started out as a simple day of fun and adventures on the high seas. Sailing across the seas we headed to Lithuania. If you are unfamiliar with the country of Lithuania don’t feel bad. I can’t really say I knew much about Lithuania before going there. Lithuania is located north of Europe just North of Belarus and South of Sweden and Latvia (another country you probably never heard about). More curiously to the left of Lithuania is Kalingrad, which is not a country, but part of Russia. Russia wont say it is a colony but it isn’t independent, it isn’t directly connected to Russia, and Kalingrad isn’t it’s first name (used to be called Königsberg).
The original plan for Klaipeda was fairly straightforward. I started with a fairly cursory search of Klaipeda and I was able to identify some touristy type places to visit. The idea was to walking on my self-created self-guided tour. We got off the ship walking from the dock and I was determined, but there was murmuring within the ranks. It was a battle of wills, the end of which saw me getting a taxi. Luckily Lithuania is not like the majority of Europe and the idea of hiring a driver for the whole day wasn’t that expensive.
We negotiated for $25 euros/dollars an hour and at that rate the taxi driver agreed to take us wherever we wanted, which at first ended up being a bunch of ATM machines because in Lithuania they don’t really like credit cards (unlike the rest of Europe) and not all the banks like USA cards. Luckily I have several international credit cards).
The route I originally planned was like 10K (about 6 miles), which was plenty of distance if we had been walking, but with a private driver we had a much wider travel radius. Other than the original itinerary we were not quite sure what to do but luckily our driver knew of some places to go.
Our driver was Lithuanian, he didn’t really speak good English, but it was alright because I didn’t speak good Lithuanian or Russian. He said he was normally a construction foreman, but with the ban on all things Russian due to the Ukrainian war, he didn’t have a lot of work, so has trying his luck learning English.
Our driver suggested that we go to a place called the Curonian Spit. Unlike the name suggests, the Curonian Spit doesn’t have anything do due with a throat maneuver, but what it is, is lots of sand. Apparently there is a story about some goddess named Neringa, who put all the sand there to protect the country of Lithuania.
The Curonian Spit is a national park and has a bunch of interesting things to see which include a bunch of picturesque towns. Perhaps the most interesting thing is at the end of the spit is Kalingrad, which is a Russian colony that has an active nuclear missile. We couldn’t go to Kalingrad on our trip, there was nothing but a little wooden marker between Lithuania and Kalingrad, but considering there were armed guard with machine guns on the Russian side, we had no desire to take even a foot over the line. I was surprised we were allowed to get as close as we got.
The locals take the legends pretty seriously, or at least they try to, because there is a whole hill dedicated to this legend. The place is called Witches’ Hill, and that is where my superhero tale started.
Witches’ Hill is a free place to visit, but that is because I think no one wants to hike up the hill to charge visitors and you have to pay $30 euros to go on the road out there (which is interesting because you don’t have to pay on the way back). On Witches’ Hill there are a bunch of wooden statues that this guy spent two years carving. The hike to “Dragon’s Hill” is classified as easy, but for us landlubber foreigners it took us a bit to get there. As such I felt about half way through the hike I needed a rest so I decided to sit on one of the many wooden benches.
It was while I was sitting on that bench that it happened. I didn’t see it because it was fast, but it was small, I think maybe it was an ant. I definitely felt it though, I got a shooting pain through my arm and I could see that my veins were starting to go purple. At first I was a bit worried, but I was in the middle of the forest so there was nothing to do but hike out. Luckily my arm stopped bruising, but by the time I got back to the car it had started to itch. I did the best I could to explain what had happened to our driver. His immediate reaction was we needed to “disinfect it” so he took out a bottle of cologne and sprayed it. I think that cologne was made with 100 proof vodka, because it stung! But I did have a musty scent on me for like the next three days.
It was kind of funny because my arm swelled up, but the bruise started to go away. It was a crazy Lithuanian miracle. If it weren’t for the fact that there is a 100 ml limit on carry-ons I would have probably bought a gallon of that stuff. As far as super powers go I noticed them as soon as I got back. I find I can swerve through traffic while mumbling unintelligible curses. I still don’t understand Cyrillic but I am pretty sure that is what my handwriting now is (my mom would tell you that is what it always was).
Anyhow, if you get a chance to visit Lithuania you definitely should. You might not end up a superhero like me, but I am pretty sure you will still enjoy the visit.