Friday, September 13, 2013

Whimsy on The Curonian Spit. HIll of Witches.

King of the Hill!

Today was a fun day. Lots of nature and a bit of sightseeing; a welcomed change of pace from time in the big cities!


When we were at the Klaipeda port last night, we could easily see land on the other side - the Curonian Lagoon separates the Curonian Spit from *mainland* Lithuania.  From the port,  I swear that the distance across the lagoon was no more than a football field. I knew that Klaipeda was close to the Curonian Spit.  I just didn't realize how close.  In fact, that land was indeed the Curonian Spit.  So it was even more surprising to find out that we had to take a ferry over.  What?  It's narrow enough for a bridge but there isn't one I think because the narrow gap is wide enough for ships to come into the port.

So right after breakfast, we got in our car and headed for the port.  It was difficult following Ieva's instructions so instead, we followed the map she had given us.  It was just a short drive from the hotel to the ferry dock - we just had to drive along the water, heading towards the New Ferry Terminal.

As our luck would have it, we arrived just a few minutes before the next departure.  We drove aboard.

Squashed in between the big truck and wall.

Lots of space for more cars.

We locked the car and got out.  Short ride as it would be, we might as well enjoy the view.  It was a beautiful day.  We've been very lucky on this trip.  The only cloudy and overcast days we've had so far have been the ones where we've been in the city where we can easily spend the time indoors while waiting for the showers to pass. 

It's not far to the other side.




It could not have been more than a 5 minute ferry ride.  Swear to God.  Seriously.   A drawbridge.  Simpler solution.  We got back in our car and per Ieva's instructions, followed the road signs to Smiltyne where the Lithuanian Sea Museum, with its Dolphinarium, is located. We found ourselves driving through pretty woodland.  It's peaceful here.

It was short drive and we parked our car in the lot for the Information Center. As we pulled up in to the parking lot, there were several horse and carriages lined up, waiting for customers.  Including Bro and I, there were exactly two customers.  Each driver wanted to know if we wanted a ride.  We graciously declined each offer.  Maybe, they'll have more business later in the day.

The Information Center,  housed in a very charming little brick and wood building.

Inside the Information Center, we found out that at this time of year, the Lithuanian Sea Museum doesn't open until noon and we were not about to wait around so we ended up just going to the Information Center.   We also inquired about the ferry schedule returning to Klaipeda; might as well find that out while we're here.  Turns out we have no worries, plenty of ferry rides between now and nightfall to get us back to Klaipeda.  It was interesting to see that the instructions were provide in three different languages - Lithuanian first, English second and then Russian.  The Russian influence is still very strong in Lithuania.

I was surprised by the ferry start and end times - first ferry leaves Smiltyne at 4:50a and the last one at 2:30a!

Looking over to Klaipeda.  Our hotel is just to the left of the structure that looks like a wired cage.

From Smiltyne, we headed south.....down the Curonian Spit itself.  From my pre-trip planning, I had a good idea of what the sights were for us to see.  Challenge was finding the sights.  Bro had decided that the best solution to this dilemma was to follow the tour buses or as he referred to them, the *Cosmos Tour Buses*, after the coach tour company of the same name.  We were both familiar with the Cosmos tours as we had each taken one, separately.  It was the one and only Cosmos Tour experience for each of us.

Anyway, back to trying to find our way.  One of the most well known tourist sights in the Curonian Spit is the Hill of Witches, located in the small seaside village of Juodkrantė.  We saw the road signs for Juodkrantė but nothing pointing us to the Hill of Witches.  Sharp eyed Bro noticed a tour bus stopped by a sign.  We decided to park next to it and see what the tourists were up to.


We followed them up a dirt path leading in to the woods.  One by one, whimsical wood sculptures revealed themselves to us.  We had stumbled upon the Hill of Witches!


We stood nearby the group as they were being guided in English but quickly enough, we decided to move on ahead of them.

There were no signs telling us which way to go so we just continued to follow the path which meandered through the woods.

There were so many sculptures - a few were signed by the artist but none were described.  They were all unique - different shapes and sizes.  Some were downright cute, others were so ugly they were cute, some were plain ugly while others made you shake your head or shrug your shoulders and there were a few that even moved.  No matter the case, they were all interesting!











It really was a quiet walk in the woods for us, punctuated by a lot of smiling whenever we encountered one of the wooden sculptures.  After we had left the tour group behind, the only other people we ran into were three older women and a younger man.  Of course, we started chatting with them.  The three women were sisters from the US and the man was their guide.  Their grandmother was from Lithuania and they decided to come to see her homeland.  They were just wrapping up a three week trip.  As nice as it was to meet them, we decided to move on.

One of the three sisters taking her photo op.






This was my favorite grouping - the musicians and a couple dancing.



Just about the time that we could spot the main road through the trees, we knew we had reached the end.  There, we encountered a large, wooden teeter totter.  We had to get on to see if it really worked.  Bro got on first and his story is that the moment I got on, he shot into the air.   Calling me fat?   Grrr..... :-)


Just as we were having a bit of fun on the teeter totter, the three sisters met back up with us.  Bro handed his camera to her and she took a photo.  I like how she didn't have us pose so you can see us enjoying ourselves.

Notice that we are balanced on the teeter totter so I'm not fat!  Grrr..... :-)

We chatted a bit more with the sisters before parting ways.  We wished them well on the remainder of their journey.


Back in the car and continuing our trip along the Curonian Spit!  The Hill of Witches definitely put us in good spirits!