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Living on the Road - Stage 1: Lithuania
My first destination in Lithuania was Pakūta, a Franciscan monastery in the North Western part of the country. It is located in a remote place, three kilometers from the next village and 13 kilometers from the next town. I had visited this place the year before, so it was not a new experience to adapt to the rules of living in such a monastery. It was possible to stay there and work for free food and accommodation for several weeks.
Pakūta is a very special place which has much more to offer than the daily routine you can expect in a monastery, for example recovery programs for people with alcohol or other addictions. I do not have any informations about the success rate of these programs but during my stay in the monastery I met a young man whom I knew from the year before and who was in such a program at that time, and he told me that he fully recovered and that the program had enabled him to start a new life. Some weeks later I heard a similar story from a driver who had picked me up when I was hitchhiking in Lithuania. I have no doubt that the special social structures you can find in the monastery have a positive influence on the success of these programs.
Another opportunity the monastery has to offer are Summer camps especially for young people with a religious background who come not only from Lithuania, and there is a hall close to the monastery which is used for concerts and other special events.
And there are, of course, the daily masses which are attended by people who come from nearby villages and towns, the Sunday masses are attended by several hundred people from all over the country. But there is a drawback because these people arrive by car. I was told that one of the reasons these people come to the monastery is to enjoy nature. Maybe they do, but I could not because of this car invasion, and I am not sure if the children or grandchildren of these people can enjoy nature because of the environmental destruction caused by these cars. Wouldn't it be better to offer special bus services from nearby towns to limit the damage?
It was a positive experience to live in a peaceful place like Pakūta, to enjoy the company of friendly people and to learn more about life in a monastery but the road was calling ...
On the road
During my time in the monastery I had left this place for about ten days to travel in Lithuania. I had visited Mažeikiai, a town in the North of the country, I attended some concerts of a jazz festival in the port city of Klaipeda, and I spent some days in a small and quiet village near the Curonian Lagoon. After leaving the monastery for the second time, my first destination before returning to Vilnius was Šiauliai, Lithuania's forth biggest city where I had another very positive couchsurfing experience. Back in Vilnius I faced a problem. I needed a new passport, and to get a new passport I needed money which I did not have. As an old anarchist I hate the idea of states, borders and all these things connected to it like passports which are invented by people who want to keep you under control. But there is no way to avoid this, and I went to the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Vilnius, asking for help. I come in contact with bishop Sabutis, and I offer him to work for money until I have enough money for a new passport. Unfortunately he has no work to offer but he promises to help me. Next day we meet again, and he tries to find a special arrangement for me to get a free passport but this attempt fails, so he gives me the money I need for a new passport. I stay for about two weeks in Vilnius, surfing four couches and surviving by collecting and selling rubbish like old plastic bottles or beer cans, making enough money to buy some basic food.
On a warm summer evening I decided to go back onto the road for another trip to the countryside. The driver who picked me up offered me a lift for more than 200 km, we had some interesting discussions about the problems our spaceship Earth is facing, and at the end he bought some food for me. Later that evening a young woman gave me another lift for 60 km, she gives me some money, and after a successful hitchhiking trip in the evening I ended up in the small town of Telšiai where I spent the night in my sleeping bag in a park. I had no plans for the next days, no arrangements for couchsurfing, I just follow the road, expecting the unexpected. It is no problem to find friendly drivers in a country with a highly developed hitchhiking culture. I got some more money from two drivers who enjoyed the stories I told them about my trips, and in the evening I arrived in the small town of Kretinga. I found a place to sleep in the train station, and next morning I came in contact with Regina, a friendly woman who lived in a house near the train station. She offered me some breakfast and, after telling her my story, she offers me to stay in a tent in her garden. I spent about one week in this place before moving on to my next destination, the town of Tauragė. Danute, a music teacher, who was hosting me there, brought me in contact with a local newspaper, and Urte, a journalism student who worked as a volunteer for this newspaper made in interview with me http://taurageszinios.lt/lt/asmenybes/item/391 (unfortunately in Lithuanian only). From Tauragė I hitchhiked to a small village where I spent some more days on couchsurfing before traveling to the Palendriai St. Benedict's monastery which is run by monks who came from France to Lithuania. I want to check if there is a possibility on offer to work there for free food and accommodation. It is not possible but I can stay there for one night before going back to Vilnius again. The time has come to make the last preparations for the next stage of my trip.
Living on the road in Lithuania for almost three months was a positive experience. Hitchhiking is very easy in this country, sometimes I had to wait only a few minutes to get the next lift, in some cases the drivers were ready to drive an extra mile to bring me to my destination. Couchsurfing is also widespread, and I always found friendly hosts. Another problem was to get regular internet access. In most cases I could use the computers of my couchsurfing hosts, in other cases I used unlimited and free internet access in public libraries. Internet access in libraries is on a high standard, and there are always enough computers available, so you don't have to wait. And there are these friendly elderly women who work as librarians and who served me sometimes tea or coffee and some small food for free.
But there is another thing I noticed - the Lithuanian people have changed during the last two decades. I visited this country for the first time in 1988. At a time when the Lithuanians were fighting for the restoration of the independence of their country from the Soviet Union there was this spirit of freedom, people were thinking for themselves, not listening to what authorities were telling them what to do or not to do, people were able to read between the lines. But this ability was more and more replaced by manipulation, people became more and more addicted to money and consumerism, corruption became an essential part of everyday life in Lithuania. Twenty years ago the Lithuanians were much happier.
Stay tuned - there is more to come ...
Here you can read more ...
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