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Expedition Edition 9: Nida and Palanga, Lithuania

Our journey in Lithuania continued as Maggie and I headed west to the town of Nida on the Curonian Spit. If you don't know much about the Curonian Spit, it has a fascinating geographic and political history that's worth a deeper dive than the one I'm about to give. It's a long stretch of land shared by Lithuania and Russia that features the Baltic Sea to the west and the Curonian Lagoon to the east. The land has been reshaped over the last few hundred hundred years and the spit itself didn't exist just a scant Jesus + 300 years ago!

Nida is a quaint town, and probably a little quainter when it's warmer and rains less, BUT we were able to catch a phenomenal sunset over the Baltic Sea on our night there (second and third photos below). We also visited the Parnidis dunes and sundial on our way back up the spit before stopping at Witches Hill in Juodkrantė. Witches Hill features a few dozen art installations all made out of wood along a nice walking trail. It's definitely worth a visit should you find yourself traveling that way.

We took the shortest car ferry I've been on (makes the West Seattle to Vashon Ferry seem like the Mayflower) back to the Lithuanian mainland and drove up to the beach town Palanga, where we stayed at a hotel owned by basketball legend (and former Portland TrailBlazer), Arvydas Sabonis. If you don't know much about Arvydas, I highly HIGHLY recommend you watch the movie, "The Other Dream Team." It catalogs the 1992 Lithuanian Olympic basketball team and features several interviews from former players, including Arvydas. Anyway, we saw a tall blonde-haired woman working at the hotel, figured she might be a relative, and got it confirmed by a bartender that she was the daughter of Arvydas Sabonis. No photo unfortunately.

We then drove up from Palanga though the Hill of Crosses outside of Šiauliai. The Hill of Crosses (second to last photo) is as the name describes it, and is also one of the most remarkable (and kind of messy) sites I've ever seen. It was definitely a highlight of the day. We continued our drive through Riga, Latvia (for lunch) and arrived in Tallinn, Estonia a few hours ago. It was a day of too much driving.

It's been an incredible experience to visit Lithuania for the first time, and one that's difficult to capture in a blog post. I wanted in large part to travel around Lithuania to feel a stronger connection with my mother after her passing last year. If I'm being truthful, I'm not sure it accomplished that, and maybe that was an unreasonable expectation. However, I've appreciated nearly every moment I've had in this beautiful country filled with the kindest people. I wish we were here for longer, but hopefully we'll be back soon.

The photos are below for your perusal. Thank you for reading!

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