lithuania

Cycling Europe Day 57: My Body Told Me to Properly Visit Riga – My Body Was Right

Listen to your body. I’ve learned that time and again over the years. People about you will always have brilliant advice on what is good or not for you. They will have objections on your lifestyle. They will tell you what to eat and how to exercise. We all have common sense and most of us already know what is healthy and what is not.

I live what I believe is a generally healthy lifestyle. I listened to my body yesterday and it told me I needed a rest. So I gave it a rest.

This morning my husband and I slept in. What that means is that instead of getting up at 6am we got up at 7am. We ate our breakfast slowly, even though neither of us are ever ones to rush through what we feel is the most important meal of the day. We then spent the morning walking around Riga, Latvia’s capital city, and, because I’m listening to my body, I then took a short but much needed nap.

As a rather frequent traveler, I’m surprised and ashamed about how little to nothing I know about the Baltic states. I am incredibly impressed with Riga. It rivals cities like Vienna and Prague in its architectural beauty, in my opinion, yet if you asked me three months ago what the capital of Latvia was, I’d ask you, “Where the heck is Latvia?”

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Cycling Europe Day 56: Good Latvian Vibrations

When I grow up, I want to be a Latvian motorcyclist.

We crossed the border today from Lithuania to Latvia. The 70km ride through northern Lithuania was similar to the past few days: rural. Latvia, on the other hand, almost immediately had a more modern, urban feel to it.

After reviewing our maps, Colin and I found a route that would allow us to get to Riga, Latvia in one 153km-long day instead of my originally planned three shorter days. We decided we would give it a go and if we got too tired midway we’d find a roadside hotel.

It was a whopper. I was fine till kilometer 100. Then a truck passed me way too close. I screamed but kept the bike under control. That episode just took all the energy out of me. We stopped for a big lunch but nothing gave me my energy back. It was a rough 53km until we reached Riga.

Just after we crossed into Latvia and took our commemorative photos at the border sign, we started off on the major road we were on and heard a police siren give an attention signal behind us. I started to pull over, thinking, “This was bound to happen. We’re on a major road. It’s probably illegal for cyclists to use it. To stay out of Latvian jail, Nadia, CRY!” (more…)

Cycling Europe Day 55: I See Dead People

“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. (more…)

Guest Post From the Hubby: Cycling With Nadia

This is the first time for me to publish a guest post on my blog. I’m very excited! It is written by my husband, Colin McFadden, and I will only read it with all of you once it is posted online. 

This time last Friday, I was still at work – very early on Saturday morning I got a taxi, then a train, then I walked, then a plane, then a bus, then a train – and met Nadia somewhere in the middle of Poland.

Within an hour of meeting up, we had unpacked and re-built my bike and were sitting in a restaurant having dinner, listening to local musicians who were playing in the square outside – and it seemed that we had not been apart for the previous 6 weeks – when I’d been going to work every day and Nadia had been on this incredible journey.

When I was preparing to join Nadia I went to the local bike shop to get some spare bike parts and some (cool) bike gear for myself. The manager knows Nadia and had followed some of her blog posts – we were chatting about it all and he recalled first meeting her when she bought her bike, probably about two years ago – when she was a complete bike novice – and how it is incredible that that beginner has now become such a keen cyclist.

I nodded and agreed with him – but I knew that that was not entirely true. The planning for this trip consumed Nadia for maybe a month beforehand, and she is obviously 100% focused on it now. She may do other bike trips in the future, but I know that she will not want to be known solely as Nadia “the biker”. She will find something new to move onto – perhaps (probably) something that she has no experience or knowledge of at the moment – but that she will fully expect that she can research, plan and prepare for and carry out.

And that is the inspiration that I think everyone can take from this trip – if you can dream it, then you can do it – that’s what Nadia did.

But then I’m biased – and am just trying to keep up with her!

Cycling Europe Day 54: Toiling in Lithuanian Soil

It always takes a couple of days after entering a new country to understand its roads.

The day started off beautifully.

The day started off beautifully.

Today was supposed to be a pretty straight-forward and easy 55km cycle. That’s a nothing day. There is a major road, the E67, that links Marijampole, where we spent last night, with Kaunas, today’s destination. We entered Lithuania on that road yesterday and it felt very unsafe. Yesterday, the E67 was a busy single carriageway with a very narrow shoulder and lots of trucks rushing about as if it were the end of the world. We got off it yesterday as soon as we managed and found a nice country road that took us into town. We planned stick to country roads again today.

I checked my digital map and found that, with a bit of smart navigating, we could stay on country roads without going too far out of our way. It was going to be a short day so we had time on our side to deal with any potential difficulties.

The day started out beautifully. It was bright and warm. We made a couple wrong turns to start but were soon back on track. We cycled on nice, quiet, well-paved country roads, Colin waving at the cows and pointing out all the storks to me. Northern Poland and southern Lithuania are full of them – storks, that is.

We came up to a junction. (more…)

Cycling Europe Day 53: Learning By Biking

The good days come just when you need them. It’s been miserably wet the past few days. There is more rain predicted in the next few days. But today we got some glorious warm, sunny weather. We had all our wet clothes spread out over our panniers to give them a chance to dry.

We cycled 92km from Augustow, Poland to Marijampole, Lithuania. It’s so strange how it’s almost always immediately obvious when you’ve crossed a border. The terrain doesn’t change immediately, but the houses, shops, road signs, and sometimes even the people do.

The parts of Poland we cycled through seemed much better off than I had expected.

All our wet clothes were in need of some sun.

All our wet clothes were in need of some sun.

Poland is a beautiful country and the standard of living there seems to be pretty decent generally. The minute we cycled into Lithuania, however, we saw lots of poorly maintained farm houses and homes. There were older more run-down cars on the roads as well. The roads, though, seem well maintained so far.

We cycled through a lot of agricultural land today. I will not lie. There are some countries I’m cycling through on this trip I know virtually nothing about. That’s part of the excitement of cycling through a country like Lithuania. I have no idea what to expect. For someone like me, the best way to learn is by doing. I am really looking forward to learning Lithuania by bike.