Sunday, June 3, 2012

First day of Palanga

First off, let me explain Palanga to you - it's in western Lithuania, and is a seaside town on the shore of the Baltic Sea.
For reference, Klaipeda (the bigger city) and Palanga (the smaller town) are very close together, about 25 km - for those back home, it's comparable to Liberty Lake and Spokane.
Silvija and Lyman (Z's parents) started off the day much earlier than us, since they have a tradition they do each time they visit Palanga - they run to the beach (a distance around 10km), jump in the ocean, then run back to the flat. They love it, for some unknown and clearly insane reason.  The rest of us woke up around 9am, and started the day with delicious Lithuanian pancakes, which are a little thicker than crepes, but comparable. Then, the day's adventures began!!

We started off by heading to some Botanical Gardens, a nearby park that had a garden, a greenhouse, a small zoo, and a museum! 
The sidewalk going to the Botanical Park

The weather in Palanga was so rainy and chilly, that it reminded me of Washington :)

A part of the Botanical Park

A fun little log house that was tucked away by the gardens

There was a bunch of random chickens that had somehow escaped from the cages and were running around.

Which Z promptly started chasing around, armed with nothing but his red umbrella. Which he loves, by the way.
Z, with his precious umbrella
It was SO good to see pine trees again!! I love the Lithuanian countryside :)
Fun little statue by the animal cages.  It looked like it was made from nothing but wood, bark, and wire to hold things together.

A grumpy-pants peacock
Once we had finished wandering around outside (and we caught Z from chasing all the chickens), we headed inside to find the greenhouse!

Also in the same area as the greenhouse and garden was an Amber museum! It was housed in the Tiškevičiai Palace, a Neo-Renaissance style castle built in1893.  Lyman told us the history behind the castle, which was apparently part of a Lithuanian billionaire's collection of 99 castles spread throughout the country/world.  Portions of his castles and wealth were left to his sons, and later abandoned when the Soviet's invaded Lithuania.  One of these castles was converted into the Amber Museum!
The outside of the HUGE castle - the grounds were ginormous.

Some of the rooms on the first floor - the Amber museum was on the second floor.

Some of the Amber stones on display - Amber is made from fossilized tree resin.

Because Amber is practically a fossil, you can find all sorts of goodies stored in the rocks.  In this particular nasty case, that is the remains of a lizard. Delish.

For those Merlin fans, I'm convinced this is an Amber version of the Galator pendent.

More of the beautiful Amber jewelry (which was thankfully lizard free)
After so much adventuring, naturally one would work up quite a Lithuanian appetite! So, Sivija and Lyman were kind enough to take us to a park area, complete with an authentic Lithuanian food restaurant!
An old building outside the restaurant, complete with thatch!

Lyman clamored on up a ropes course we found

This was exciting - it's a ropes course that goes over a zoo!

Also outside the restaurant was a display of old Russian cars of Soviet times

This was my favorite!  It was a small green car built in the 80's that was apparently intended for handicapped drivers, and has the gas pedals for your hands instead of feet.

Once we had actually gotten into the restaurant (there was quite a wait), we tried all sorts of Lithuanian food!!
Vėdarai - pig intestines stuffed with potato
Sava sriuba -  a delicious cabbage soup with meat

Gira - a fermented wheat drink

Kiaules Ausis - Pig's ear

Kiaules koja - Pig's foot
Misko karaliene - A thick cranberry drink
 Overall, it was a seriously adventurous/cultural day.  After trying the food (some of which was good, some of which was slightly disturbing) we headed over to a dance festival in the Palanga main street!  They have an awful lot of festivals here - when I asked Lyman about it, he just said "You need 3 things here to be happy - a job, good food and festivals.  Especially when the government can't supply jobs, they have festivals!"
Precious smallish girls dressed as sunflowers and hopping/dancing all over the place

A statue in the main Palanga square

A bridge going across the creek/tiny river through Palanga
I later climbed down by this creek with Z, and we found some baby ducks!

While we were on the main street, there was a group of random people who were dancing! Elise decided to jump in and join :)

She did awesome! After we passed by a second time, Elise and I both joined in while Lyman and Silvija stood by laughing.

This house started out level with the street, but is apparently slowly sinking into the ground. Lyman was telling us that the ground is very soft here (makes sense since it's by the sea and sand) and this building has been slowly sinking since 1925 when it was built.
A fountain in the town
 Since just one festival isn't nearly enough for Baltic folk, we drove into Klaipeda (the nearby bigger city) for a Jazz festival!
Klaipeda is a port town, and therefore has fishermen statues everywhere :)

This here is something special - a pizza delivery boat!! If you want to munch on some pepperoni whilst fishing? No problem! Just shell out about $120 for delivery, and you're golden.

Just a sunny day on the Baltic sea :)  Don't be fooled though - it was FREEZING!

The industrial part of the harbor - there were easily about 50 cranes set up.

A life-sized checkers game made of driftwood from the Baltic Sea

The crowd at the Jazz festival - it was simply a stage set up in the square with thousands of people cramming around to listen

Z, watching from his shoulder perch

 A recording of Niki Harris, the rockin' Black woman who sang at the Jazz festival. She was so pro-woman, and seemed to be single handedly campaigning to get the Lithuanian people to smile. It actually worked :)  Niki used to be a background singer for Madonna, and is HILARIOUS!
Ended the day with a beautiful Baltic sunset :) (This was around 10pm, by the way. It stays light so late here!)

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