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Baltic Amber Road

by Tara

I wake up at 7:00 AM to stifling sun, blaring techno, and a very grumpy Tyler. Hoo boy, is he cranky after a night of no sleep. We get to work packing immediately. Thankfully there is little but the tent to take down.

As we remove the rain-fly and disassemble the poles, a zombie-like girl approaches me for a light. Upon learning that I do not smoke or speak Lithuanian, she brings her wasted friends over to meet us. We finish packing camp as quickly as possible, while carrying on an awkward conversation with our trashed neighbors:

Tyler Yup.
Drunk Campers NOOO!!!
Me We really are.
Drunk Campers WaaahhhWooOAAAHHHH FAR AWAY!!!
Tyler It is indeed.

Repeat the above two or three more times.

Drunk Campers HEY!! WANT SOME (unknown liquid from a dubious-looking bottle) WATER?!
Us We're okay, but thanks!

The conversation ends when our tent is packed away and we hastily throw everything else into our mess of a car. We give quick hand-shakes all around, hop in our LRC, and drive away to garbled shouts of "Waaaahhhh!! OOHHHH!!! GOOD LUCK, AMEEEERICAAA!!"

Happy to have escaped the campers, we drive into town, stopping at an open wireless network to plan the next leg of our journey. Ideally, we want to leave as fast as possible, and head to Latvia. There, we'll hopefully find a quiet place by the seaside to settle in and catch up on work (and more importantly, sleep).

…until I discover this area is famous for amber! A very, very long time ago, the Baltic sea was a huge forest. At some point during its history, obviously, that forest flooded, making it the Baltic Sea we know today. As a result, petrified sap (amber) has been washing up along the coastline here for ages. It turns out Palanga is just one stop on a trail of amber-related sites, dubbed the Baltic Amber Road.

So, we decide to put resting aside for a later day, and leave to do some site seeing. Our GPS points us towards the town's amber museum, and I park the car nearby in a bit of shade. Tyler is absolutely exhausted, so I tell him to get some rest while I go exploring. Before leaving, I slather some butter and jam on a slice of bread so he won't be so famished. Poor guy, he just wants to sleep.

Upside Down Bee

Then, I get out to put change in the meter, and come back to grab the camera before leaving for the museum. By this time, Tyler is feeling a little more conscious. He decides to come with me after all; he doesn't want to be left behind, saying:

Tyler I have an idea.
Me Yeah?
Tyler Let's go see some more sights. Maybe we could take pictures of them. Then, we could stay up all night writing about it afterwards!
Me *laughing*
Tyler That would be fun wouldn't it?! We never do that!

Clearly, we were both a little tired, because this was hilarious to us.

Off we go, walking hand in hand through Palanga's botanical gardens until we arrive at the museum. We buy tickets, using the ol' "we're students" line to get half off. In this restored 19th century palace, there are thousands of pieces of amber on display, many with ancient bugs trapped inside for all eternity.

Palanga Amber Museum

I love the retro-looking exhibits with writing in Lithuanian and Russian. There are information sheets in English as well, so we can understand what is going on.

Palanga Amber Museum

Mostly, it is just fun looking through the all magnifying glasses at cool pieces of amber. In one, there is a whole swarm of mosquitoes. We laugh about our imagined scenario: they've been flying along as usual, when their leader, Bob, (do mosquitoes have leaders?) makes a wrong turn, sending everyone directly into a blob of sticky sap. Little do they know, Bob's directional error will land them here, in a museum. For all time.

Palanga Amber Museum Palanga Amber Museum

After taking in the sights, we walk to a craftsman's workshop nearby. There, a man shows us how he grinds, shapes and polishes pieces of amber for jewelery:

Amber Craftsman Amber Craftsman

Feeling good about our visit, we walk back through the park, where we stop for a few moments to listen to a girl playing the violin.

Violin Busker

Then, we continue on towards the sea. We emerge from the shady park onto a blindingly sunny beach, packed with people. Waves crash, a loudspeaker blares out something that sounds like advertisements, children frolic and play, and hundreds of people sunbathe.

The Baltic Sea

The more we travel, the more we find we are actually fairly introverted. We can't imagine coming to this place for fun. It is much more crowded than these photos would seem to indicate:

The Baltic Sea

Sightseeing complete, we go back to the car and drive out of the city down a one-lane road, clogged with beach-goers. Heading towards Latvia, we pass through several coastal towns full of bright plastic beach toys, cheap sunglasses, flip flops, and people on fun looking four-seater ATV-like bicycle contraptions. We buy ice cream at one of the many ice cream stands before carrying on.

Tara Buying Ice Cream

Closer to the border, we pass this cool owl sculpture. I say, "ooh, ooh, let's go back!" so, Tyler turns around and drives up to it so I can take a photo.

Wooden Owl

Before we know it, we are in Latvia. As usual these days, border crossing is a non-event. No one else stops at the abandoned checkpoints, but we do, to snap a quick photo.

Latvian Border

When reading about the Baltic Amber Road this morning, I was particularly drawn to the Latvian seaside town of Pāvilosta. I think it had to do with the very first line of the description: "Pāvilosta is a calm unspoiled spot by the sea."


This sounded like the perfect place to settle in for a couple of days. Feeling like we've been going-and-doing-and-seeing non-stop lately, we needed some peace and quiet to sit and do nothing. Well, not quite nothing. Tyler needed a chance to catch up on work, and we are woefully lagging on our journal entries because so much incredible stuff has happened to us lately. Phew!

Following our GPS towards Pavilosta, we drove on the dusty back roads of Latvia.

Dust Cloud Latvian Barn

Tyler really enjoyed it when a slight wrong turn resulted in a narrow grassy path through the wilderness. Our car was FULL of bees and bugs as we drove through:

Secondary Road in Latvia Latvian Countryside

Finally we reached Pāvilosta, a town so little and quiet, I felt right at home. In town, our search for accomidation began, and continued for an infuriating three hours. The first place we looked was perfect, but too expensive. The second place, a room in a small guest-house, didn't have internet as advertised. The proprietor of a third option was at the beach and couldn't be reached, and a fourth, run-down place wanted 60 lats per night (more than $100 USD) which made the first place sound like a budget option.

A nearby campsite was okay, but had zero shade, and it would be a LONG time before the sun set. Around and around and around we drove, getting more and more frustrated. As Tyler's lack of sleep kicked in, he gave up and told me to make a decision without him. Eventually, putting us out of our misery, I drove to the first place we had visited hours earlier. It was perfect, but slightly more expensive than we'd wanted.

Guesthouse Room

At first, I was upset that we'd wasted all of our "rest day" evening driving around and around this small dusty town. Tyler was past the point of no return, and didn't care about anything. He flopped out on the big bed and fell fast asleep. So, I carried our things inside and went off in search of groceries.

Eventually, once we'd rested a bit, we went for a walk, feeling much, much better. What a perfect place to rest up for a few days!

The Karate Kid Baltic Sea Sunset (Pāvilosta) Tyler @ the Baltic Sea
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You guys are at the Baltic Sea! THE BALTIC SEA?! Isn't that just some place on a map that you point to but never actually see?? Sometimes it just hits me while I am reading how crazy far away you guys are and how big/small the world is.
Posted by Amanda on July 6th, 2010 at 8:53 PM
Crazy, huh? And now we're in Russia! Trust me, I know what you mean about how big/small the world is and how far away/close we are. It has given me a whole new perspective on distances!
We miss you!
Posted by Tara on July 28th, 2010 at 4:53 PM
Oh God, please let the next post be, "And Then We Made a Dinosaur!"
Posted by Jeremy on January 5th, 2011 at 6:54 PM