Saturday 29 June 2024

Red roof

You have probably heard of green roofs, but we have got red ones.

We have succulents growing on our wood stores and shed, and they have all suddenly grown and are now flowering.

It's an amazing sight, I don't know if it's because of the weather, but whatever the reason, I love it.

They could be alien invader triffids, but sadly, after they flower they will all die.

Saturday 22 June 2024

Oxfordshire day trip

Elaine and Mark are here for the weekend, and after enjoying, I hope, home made quiche last night, we started the day at Oxford parkrun.

We mostly all ran good times, and then we went for breakfast at the amazing Kingsley Café at Eynsham. It's a big biker and classic car café, but also with saddle seats for the horsey set.

We all managed quick outfit changes in the car park and bathroom, and then on to the Cotswold Wildlife Park.

It was an amazing day, and all of the animals seemed to come out to greet us. We started with the camels and their baby.

Then straight on to the rhinos who enjoyed wallowing in the mud.

Then we saw so many different birds, animals, fruit bats, snakes, etc. You name it, we saw it.

Then we saw a little capuchin monkey interacting with a photographer, and Elaine stuck in a cage pulling the same pose with our photographer.

We walked through an open area and came across a pile of lemurs who had just eaten their lunch and were sleeping it off underneath a tree.

Then back home for a well deserved sit down.

Thursday 13 June 2024

Vilnius walkabout

Our last day in Vilnius, and a lovely one for a walkabout.

We started in the old town, and this semicircular 16th century fort that had cannons peeping over the top.

Onwards into the beautiful centre which is full of churches in what I would call the Wedding Cake style.

We passed through an amazing arch under another church and out of the old town.

Then we were out into the suburbs that weren't so attractive, but there was something that I specifically wanted to see.

Darren had sorted out the route and it included a section along the wide and fast flowing river Neris.

Eventually we turned off and walked alongside the extremely busy main highway to Vilnius. At the junction of the E272 where a multi lane roundabout meets the A14 was our destination.

Running alongside the roundabout is the Road of Freedom Memorial Wall, and it can be seen by every vehicle that drives by.

It commemorates a protest in August 1989 that saw two million people from the three countries join hands together in an unbroken chain that stretched for 700 kilometres.

It was in protest of the Soviet occupation and went from Vilnius in Lithuania, straight through Latvia including Riga and all the way to Tallinn in Estonia.

It is in the colours of the Lithuania flag and has cut outs in the shape of people holding hands.

The current population of all three countries is only approximately 5.7 million people today, so it was a huge percentage of the people.

For the record, Lithuania left the Soviet Union in March 1990, and Latvia and Estonia left in August 1991.

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Republic of Uzupio, Vilnius

Last morning in Kaunas and we paid a visit to Spurgine. This is an old style Soviet doughnut shop, with the original decor and non smiling, slightly terrifying staff.

They were great doughnuts, warm and very jammy. Then we caught a bright red train to Vilnius.

Settling down in the hotel I was thrilled to discover that we were less than three minutes walk to the Republic of Uzupio.

In Soviet times Uzupio was a derelict and dangerous place, but then artists started moving into the area, and in 1997, with their tongues in their cheeks, they declared it an independent Republic with a written constitution, including such rules as 'Everyone has the right to appreciate their unimportance.'

The rules are written in at least 20 languages along a wall. It's a very quirky and popular place now, with a lovely square and a statue of an angel on top of an egg.

At the grand unveiling of the statue the artist had unfortunately not finished the angel, so just unveiled the egg and said that one day an angel would hatch out of it.

Nearby, a fat cat statue is balanced on metal railings and the instructions underneath it are to 'touch my ear, have no fear'.

We both carefully stroked the cats ear and little gold earring, and I can confidently say that we are now feeling exceptionally fearless.

Just around the corner was a beautifully decorated café and we sat outside with mango gin and tonics enjoying the sun and the strange atmosphere.

On to dinner at Baking Mad Hidden Lab, a Breaking Bad themed burger bar, and enjoyed homemade crystal meth lemonade and Heisenberg burgers. It was all tasty and really very strange.

I think that one day they may be sued for copyright reasons, and the bad taste menu.

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Kaunas, Lithuania

We arrived last night in the pouring rain and our hotel room was along a dark and scary looking corridor. However, things soon looked up as the rain stopped and we went out for an excellent Mexican meal complete with huge margaritas.

I know that we should really have gone out for a Lithuanian, but I got a bit sidetracked, so we will try again tonight.

Kaunas is the second city in Lithuania, and you probably have never heard of it. I certainly hadn't until a few weeks ago, but it has a very interesting history.

The exact dates seem a bit vague as everything that I read is slightly different.
However, Vilnius was the capital city until 1919 when it was annexed by Poland, and suddenly Kaunas stood in for Vilnius and became the temporary capital until 1940.

Overnight Kaunas started to try to transform itself into a European standard capital. During that time 12,000 new buildings were constructed and lots of them were in the Art Deco style.

They are not usually very big, but all very attractive and individual. The city centre is full of lovely buildings and is very pretty, in a very manageable size.

In 1940 Russia invaded Lithuania, and very soon after that Nazi Germany took it. The Soviets took it back in 1944 and then the Lithuanians resisted and eventually gained independence again in 1989.

On the outskirts of the city is a huge half built concrete hotel that was never completed by the Russians. All the way along the top of it is the longest word in the Lithuanian language - nebeprisikiskiakopusteliaujantiesiems.

I have no idea why its there and it means something about not collecting enough sorrel in the woods.

Well that's definitely enough history and facts for today.

Monday 10 June 2024

Rundāles Palace

Today we caught the bus from Bauska to Rundāles Palace.

It was designed by the architect Italian Francesco Ristrelli, who worked mostly in Russia and also designed the Winter Palace in St Petersburg.

It is also similar in style to Versailles and it has huge intricate gardens.

The Palace was completed in 1768 and had a very chequered history. It was almost destroyed in 1812 in the Franco Prussian war, at other times it was owned by Catherine the Great of Russia, then used as a grain store and early in the 1900s as a primary school.

Eventually it was given to the Latvian state who spent many years renovating it, and finally announced that they had finished in 2014.

It has many beautiful rooms, including at least two vase rooms where you go to appreciate the lovely vases and their plaster stands.

Another gorgeous room was the Rose room, decorated as you would expect.

I can't remember now what happened in the Rose room, and the numerous ones after it.

Duke Ernst Johann's bedroom was one of the most glamorous in the palace and had great views of the garden.

It was disappointing to discover that the Duchesses apartment was not nearly so grand, but she definitely got the best bathroom.

Unfortunately, we missed out the toilet which was a commode, the bath that was a strange shape with a rattan cover on the top, and a basin in the corner. Great ceiling though.

Outside was a knot garden and fountain.

It also had room for an outdoor amphitheatre and low rise maze.

On the way back we stopped of at the postcard viewing spot to take photos of Bauska castle.

The frame swivelled around to get the river too, although it was quite difficult to balance on.

Sunday 9 June 2024

Exploring Helsinki

We arrived in Helsinki in the afternoon yesterday and explored on the way to our hotel.

Top of our list was a square with interesting domes and shapes sticking up from an underground building.

We couldn't be bothered to go into the subterranean modern art museum, but enjoyed the top and strange green statues.

Not too far away is the national library, another amazing building that we thought was by Zara Hadid, but apparently is by a local Helsinki architect.

We reached our hotel, settled in and then fast forward to this morning. We had decided to go for a run around the city sights, but knew that we had to go out early as rain was forecast.

As soon as we left the building it started to drizzle, but not to be put off, we carried along our route.

It was all very different to yesterday, and we completely missed Sibelius's sculpture park. The rain got heavier and we searched for his statue.

In the end we had to give up, and the best that we could do was find a statue of someone beginning with an S.

Passing in front of the national library we were surprised to see a very large hare leaping about on the grass in front of it.

In the afternoon we caught a bus to the airport, and in torrential rain we had to run about 100 metres from the bus stop to the train station.

It took a couple of hours to dry out afterwards and I decided to throw my trainers away rather than than carry them around.

Finally, we are now back in Latvia at a little town called Bauska and have just enjoyed the most fantastic dinner, accompanied by local beer and a massive glass of prosecco that appeared to be on tap.