First Stop Vilnius… on the way to Nida

Vilnius airport is rather close to the actual centre of Europe, they say, although from my point of view its is rather far in the east, which relates to the fact that it is the eastern border of the European Union, which is of course something else than the geographical “continent”. I tend to forget that Russia has a large European part, in the same way as people living further south in Europe tend to forget the actual extent of the territories of the nordic countries. On the north-south axis the centre of Europe is somewhere in southern Sweden (Karlskrona). This is my first trip to Lithuania, and only this morning did I realize that I can use euros here. The reason for my trip is a short residency at Nida Art Colony at the coast, in what used to be called Courland, on the narrow strip of land crossing over the bay, the Curonian Spit, actually rather near to the Russian border and Kaliningrad. It sounds exotic and exciting. My first stop, Vilnius Airport, was fairly ordinary. Some form of pastry filled with chicken (yes?!) tasted rather Russian, but perhaps it is one of my prejudices, too. Or a situation resembling the weird similarity of greek coffee and turkish coffee, despite all the differences. And now the shuttle bus is moving, heading towards Kaunas first, and then the next stop, Klaipeda!

Well, actually I am sitting in Smilthyne now. Klaipeda passed quickly, because there was a cab with my name on a paper in the window right where the shuttle bus parked, so I just transferred my bag from one car to the next. A silent oldish and rather fat man drove me to the harbour and charged 4 euro for it, which is decent, I suppose. And the ferry ticket, which I managed to purchase, despite placing one euro in the wrong place first, where it got stuck, but anyway, granted me access to the ferry which was to leave in five minutes. I remember from the travel plan that I was to take the ferry at six, and the bus at ten past six, but it felt stupid not to go on the ferry, since the opposite shore looked so much nicer. Well, it looked nicer, but everything was closed, because it is off-season, of course. So I started following the signs, walking along the shore, after finding the bus stop and confirming the time-table. And after dragging my bag for a while along the flat shore – everything seems rather flat around here – I found this harbour cafe that is open, with a few clients, and enjoyed a bruschetta with gorgonzola, fig jam and a slice of pear with my tea. Not bad. I can imagine this as a real tourist paradise in summer months. They say it has been popular especially with germans since the beginning of last century. Anyway: Next stop Nida!

And yes, Nida really looks like a place with more than hundred years of experience in tourism – picturesque, clean, cosy and peaceful but a little lively too, in the right corners. A friendly guy, the manager, was there to meet me for the bus, suggested we go shopping first, because he had a car and the walk to the colony is about 20 minutes. After packing up, organising my stuff, making the bed and so on and so on, and after I put my feet up for a moment, I was ready for a walk down to the local pub or bar, and found the first one next to the market. The walk down the slope is no problem, but the way up with heavy grocery bags can be something else, of course. Despite my legs still hurting, I am a walker, so I look forward to some nice evening walks…

After spending two days in Nida, meeting the other artists-in-residence, enjoying a meal and sauna together, I have been walking in the forest, among the dunes, between the sea and the lagoon, looking for special trees. But they are all beautiful and fairly similar. So far I have not been able to see the trees for the forest. Fortunately there is still time….