“What were you thinking about today while you were cycling?” my husband asked me while we were waiting for our lunch in a Lithuanian palace, as one does.
“The dead people,” I responded.
“Which dead people?” he asked rather incredulously.
“All the dead people,” I responded rather matter-of-factly.
“So we’re worrying about all the dead people in the world now, are we?” Colin always says that if I have nothing to worry about I find something to worry about.
Today while cycling I was thinking about and praying for family and friends I know who have passed away. Over the past 55 days, I have cycled by many cemeteries and countless roadside memorials for people who must have died in road accidents. Every time I see a roadside memorial, a cemetery, or even a dead animal by the side of the road, I whisper the Muslim prayer, “We belong to God and to Him we return.”
I’ve often thought about all the people who have ever walked this earth who are now long gone and buried within the soil. My grandfather died when I was in university. My father and uncles went and visited him in his grave when they could. My father is now gone as well. My siblings and I will visit him when we can. I will die one day and my children will visit me when they can. But it’s only one or possibly two generations of people who ever really remember a person after they have gone. When those generations pass away as well, the dead in the ground are remembered no more.
The mother of a wonderful American woman I climbed Kilimanjaro with told me recently that she and her husband have been traveling around the world trying to visit the places where their ancestors lived. That really resonated with me. As Alive Nadia, it would be really touching to know that some 200 years from now my great great grandchildren thought of me as a human being who had a life with many experiences and that they wanted to physically touch some aspect of that life. Dead Nadia may or may not be aware that they’re doing that. But Alive Nadia really appreciates the thought.
One of my American cousins (I have an American side to the family for those of you who are not aware) did extensive research for a book he is writing that involved delving into the personal lives of several generations of our ancestors. I have only heard bits and pieces of their stories, but it is absolutely fascinating to be able to connect to family members long gone through their stories. It makes you think of them as more than just a name on a piece of paper or even an unknown being from long ago.
So today I thought of all the dead people. I prayed a lot for the ones I know and thought about the countless lives gone of those I do not know.
Today was an almost perfect cycling day. The weather was gorgeous: bright skies, warm sun, slightly cool breeze. We cycled along the Neris River for just over an hour. We saw lakes, small forests, and acres upon acres of agricultural land. We managed to find a well-paved country road that took us 2/3 of the way from Kaunas to Panevezys. The rest was on a thankfully semi-quiet highway because of the weekend.
With only 15km to go before we got to Panevezys, we saw a sign saying there was a restaurant 700m off the main road. We decided to stop there for lunch. Our total ride today was 120km and we were running out of energy. It turned out to be a palace. A bride and groom were happily strutting around on the grounds getting their pictures taken. The food was wonderful. I ate rabbit in a cream sauce with mashed potatoes and a beetroot salad. We had an apple cake afterwards.
Yesterday we walked around Kaunas, Lithuania’s second largest city and were
surprised by how nice it was. The old town had several churches and a long cobblestoned road lined by small, colorful houses. I was disappointed that with the time we had, I could not find the Kaunas Mosque, originally built in 1860.
We cycled through much of Panevezys, Lithuania’s fifth largest town, while looking for a hotel. It has a small town feel to it, and on this Saturday evening it is very quiet.
One of the advantages of having my husband join me for this last phase of the trip is the flexibility it allows. When I was alone, I stuck to my original plans as much as possible. I was always conscious of the importance of my husband knowing where I was starting from each day, where my destination was, and what routes I was most likely to take. Now that he’s here, we’ve been looking at our maps each evening and deciding if we really want to go to x town by y route or if another destination along another route might be better. It adds to the excitement for me to have that flexibility. A week before my husband arrived, I remember feeling de-energized and just about ready to go home. Having him here with me has been like the trip has only just started. It is amazing how the companionship of a loved one changes one’s perceptions and experiences so much. I would not have given up the chance to solo-tour for anything. It was one of the most enriching experiences of my life. Touring now with my husband is enriching in a different way. I am so thankful to be able to have both experiences.
And the Mosque in Kaunas is so easy to find – just follow the pedestrian street in the picture to its end, turn right, then continue a bit towards the stations and it is in the park on the left… The old wooden one from 1860 was replaced by the stone building in 1930. It survived the Soviet occupation and is open for services today.
Hopefully one day I will manage to go back and find it. It is a very lovely city.