Suitcase and World: Road Trip Back to Riga. Palanga.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Road Trip Back to Riga. Palanga.

On the grounds of the Palanga Amber Museum.

I can't believe that our Baltic trip is almost over. We leave for home in two days. Time really flew by.  We've had so much fun on this trip. I'm sad to be going back to the reality of our lives back in the US.  Bro will go back to work and I will have to figure out how to gracefully transition into retirement.  For now though, we had another long drive ahead of us.  Today, we leave Lithuania and return back to Latvia.  By day's end, we had arrived back where we started our journey - in Riga.

Our road trip began with a fill up at the gas station, our last time.   Our Hyundai has been extremely gas efficient so despite all the driving we've done, we've only had to fill up a few times.

Our first destination of the day was Palanga, where there is an Amber Museum.  Lithuania is world renown for its amber so going to the museum was something that Ieva recommended we do.

I was back in the navigator's seat today.  Here's what my lap typically looked like our Baltic road trips.  Any piece of paper that had a map on it was in my view. 

We followed the maps and got ourselves from Klaipėda to Palanga.  Finding the Amber Museum was another challenge.  Here are the instructions from Ieva.  Yeah.....we had to fill in the blanks and find our own way.  Gotten used to that after two plus weeks of being on the road!

As we drove through Palanga, a very modern city, we passed what looked like something we would instinctively describe as a commercial hub.  Perhaps not quite the center of town but definitely a place where people would come to shop and eat and enjoy other activities.  We decided to check it out in hopes that the Amber Museum would be close by.

We continued to drive along, looking for a place to park. The street was a wide boulevard flanked by tall shade trees. From the looks of it, both of us somehow felt we were in the right part of town for the museum - traveler's instinct. :-)

We pulled off on a side street and parked in a small, commercial parking lot - easier than struggling with coins to put in a meter.  We walked for quite a few blocks before we got back to that commercial area.  It was just around 9am and the place was just coming to life - shops opening up for business, vendors setting up their stalls.

We neared the end of the pedestrian only thoroughfare and never did see any sign that indicated the Amber Museum was nearby.  We decided to turn around.  Then I saw a young African man, all bundled up in a ton of layers, standing outside a restaurant.  I decided to ask him for directions to the museum.  Not likely he was a local but I decided to chance it.  Actually, I was curious how someone from warm Africa was here in chilly Lithuania.  I asked him about the museum and he gave us directions.  I then asked where he was from.  Liberia.  What was he doing in Lithuania?  Studying.  Was he working at the restaurat?  Yes.  We both chuckled at all the layers he had on.  He had only been in Lithuania for a few months and had not yet adjusted to the temperate weather.  I told him it would get worse as winter came along.  I don't think he had any idea what he would be in for in the coming months :-)  I thanked him for his time and wished him well.

We walked back towards our car.  The young African man told us that we had to continue to walk a few more blocks and we would come to a park.   The Amber Museum would be on the grounds of the park.

As we passed the street that our car was parked on, Bro decided to run back and get his fleece jacket.  Weather was a lot cooler than he had anticipated.  I waited a bit and then continued to walk;  I knew he would run to catch up with me.

The nice African man was right.  We eventually made it to the park.  There was main path leading in.  We simply took it.  It was a beautiful, well landscaped and manicured greenspace and no wonder because it wasn't a park that we were in, it was the Palanga Botanical Garden.

It was a cloudy, overcast Saturday morning but that didn't deter people from coming out and enjoying an early morning stroll through the garden.  I can imagine how crowded this place must get when the weather is more amenable.

Our path took us to the back garden of a large mansion, Tiškevičiai Palace, built in the 19th century by the family of the same name; it was their grand home.  Since 1963, it has been home to the Palanga Amber Museum.

Before going inside the palace, we decided to walk around the lovely grounds, amid colorful flowerbeds.

No rose is safe from being sniffed by Bro! :-)

From the garden, we made our way to the entrance of the Palanga Amber Museum.  A bit odd because the entrance is below ground - it's like walking down into the basement of a building.  Bro got our entry tickets and we headed up the stairs to the museum galleries.  One one floor were rooms decorated and furnished to reflect what the palace looked (or would have looked) like when the Tiškevičiai family was living there. Nothing was described so I have no idea if the furnishings were original or reproductions.  I suspect it's a combination of both.

The museum's collection was located on another floor, spread out across several rooms.  The museum's amber collection comprises about 28,000 items, of  which only about 4,500 items, including artwork and jewelry, are on exhibition.  The collection also includes about 15,000 pieces of amber that have inclusions (i.e., insects or plants) in them. 

I particularly enjoyed peering down into the magnifying glasses to see the pieces with inclusions.

Unpolished amber. 

I think this was a old time amber polishing machine.

Pieces of polished amber.

I always thought of amber as small bits of tree resin until I saw these two basketball sized chunks!

Lots of amber jewelry and even a bulldozer!

Nice chess set!

My last stop was at the gift shop.  I didn't buy anything; just looked around :-)

We weren't inside the museum for long.  I think we were both itching to get on the road.  But, you'll never guess (or maybe you will) who we bumped into on our way out.  The three American sisters we met yesterday at the Hill of Witches and the young Lithuanian who is their guide!  They were just making their way in.  Of course, we all expressed surprise and shared a good laught at seeing one another!  I guess we really shouldn't be shocked.  Pretty certain all tourists follow the same sightseeing circuit. I wonder where we'll meet up with them next?

Back to the car and off to a real park.