When you first wake up on your holiday, sometimes you get the feeling that you are not exactly sure where you are and maybe the things you did yesterday were just a dream. Well, that didn’t happen to us. We were well aware where we were, and that we were on a holiday and had to keep an eye on the clock whist getting ready for the next leg of our journey. Opening the curtains we took a look at the surroundings and quickly realised that the huge building opposite wasn’t some factory with high walls, and barbed wires on top of them, with guards checking out the vehicles going in and out… it was a working prison! Luckily we didn’t open the curtains in our birthday suits! (That could have happened…)
As the neighbourhood prison was a bit of a shock, we quickly peer to the sky and the clouds – maybe there will be some snow today after all! And just before we head to the car, the first snowflakes float down from the gray skies! Winter wonderland, we are ready!
Kaunas, The Second City of Lithuania
As our yesterday’s drive took slightly longer than we expected, we didn’t have neither time nor energy to go around Kaunas as we would have liked to do, so we decided to drive around the town in the morning light, before starting our drive towards Gdańsk in Poland. Definitely time well spent! Based on what we have seen of Kaunas this far, it is a place where we should return (preferably in summertime – and with more time!).
Kaunas has a really interesting history; according to local lore, Kaunas was founded by the Roman Empire during the reign of Emperor Nero. But is this true? You have to ask it from the locals.
The first written down mention of the city is from 1361, which might dispute the claim for the Roman origins, or then not, because archaeological digs around the area have revealed artifacts and other items dating back to the first millennium BC.
During the short drive around the town, the snowfall turned so heavy that some of the snow actually stuck to the ground. As we both are very interested in old towns and characteristic buildings, and Christmas Markets, we just had to take photos at the old part of Kaunas! As Kaunas is the second largest city in Lithuania, it partially explains the amount of cars in the streets. And as the city is old, that means that the streets are narrow, which means that the traffic queues are even longer. But it doesn’t matter, as the Old Town is beautiful!
Kaunas By Day. (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2017
Sadly enough the actual Christmas Market was still closed (as we were out and about at 10:30 in the morning), but the square the market was built was nice and the market stalls themselves were very christmassy – even without the snow.
Ice, Ice, Baby? (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2017
Kaunas definitely surprised me, in a very positive way! Of course the grayness of the day adds to the post-war grayness of the buildings in the city, but the Old Town is be-au-ti-ful! I was left with a feeling that it might actually be a good idea to travel back there for a weekend, preferably in summertime, just to explore more of the city, and see the actual liveliness of the place.
But as the clock is ticking, and we have a longer drive ahead of us, we have to leave beautiful Kaunas behind us and head towards Gdansk in Poland.
Driving from Kaunas to Gdansk
On today’s menu there is 470km and 7 hours of Lithuanian and Polish countryside zooming past our Toyota Prius as we head from Kaunas to Gdańsk.
If it wasn’t yet obvious yesterday, the road trips are something that never go according to Google Maps:
First part, from Kaunas to the border of Poland was pretty straightforward. Only thing to keep an eye out for is the junctions that can actually take you to the part of Russia where Kaliningrad is, as it is really a part of Russia. And being part of Russia means that there might be a sudden need for a visa, and this was something that we didn’t want to find out when we arrived to the border control point. That’s why we took the road slightly further away from the border.
Almost immediately after we entered Poland, a snowstorm started. First there were a few snowflakes gently floating past our car, and then the forests on both sides of the road went gray. The snow was wet, and there was lots of it. Soon the black tarmac was white and there was about 3-4 cm of sleet accumulated on the road, and more kept coming. As it was wet, it stuck to the sensors of the car, and we needed to stop several times to clean then – after finding them first.
After the snowstorm abated and we got out from forested area to a more countryside areas, we found out that they are constructing a new motorway to Gdańsk. Which in itself is a good thing. At least when it is ready and marked down in your GPS system. By the time when we got to these small, twisty detour roads, it was already dark, I am not exactly sure where the whole construction starts, but if that I am sure that I haven’t seen such massive roadworks perhaps ever! These road constructions might be in conjunction with Poland revamping their part of the Via Baltica to make it more modern, and as Gdansk is an important harbour city, they need a modern motorway to connect with the Via Baltica as well?
According to the Google Maps, the drive was supposed to be something in the region of 6 hours and 30 minutes, but it went up to 8+ hours in the end, making us arrive to our destination at about 8 pm local time (there is one hour time difference between the Baltic States and Poland).
But as it is with almost everything else, it doesn’t really matter. We are on our holidays and it is better to arrive late and safely, than try to rush and end up in a ditch somewhere.