Lithuania: Chasing UNESCO, Stalin, and the Wrong Holocaust Memorial

$36 airfare from Kiev to Vilnius could not be beat, and Vilnius provided train access to Minsk, Belarus, so I took the unusual route of Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, then Lithuania.

I had already seen Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses when I was in Latvia since it is closer to Riga than Vilnius. And the Curonian Spit I caught the Russian side in Kaliningrad.

Now it was UNESCO time. I had from sunrise to a 6 pm train for a big loop around southern Lithuania. I started in the Vilnius Historic Centre. I have seen too many historic old towns so was in and out quickly.

Vilnius Cathedral 01

Vilnius Cathedral 02

I drove north to the UNESCO-listed Kernavė Archaeological Site. Empty town, nice museum, the site itself is lumpen hills in a nice setting.

Kernave 02

Kernave 03

Kernave 01

Then my plan crumbled as I learned to have actual GPS coordinates, not just addresses. I wanted to see the Holocaust Paneriai Memorial. I followed GPS to the village of Paneriai near Kernavė. It took quite a while of circling the area to figure out, finally, through what I could understand of German from an elderly villager, that I was in the wrong Paneriai. She kept saying “Vilnus.” I eventually figured out that there is a suburb of Vilnius also called Paneriai. If I get back to Vilnius I will go there, heck, I am so frustrated by my failure I may go back just for that.

Falling behind schedule I raced south over Luthainia’s slow country roads to the stunningly situated Trakai Island Castle. I am just at the beginning of my European castle visiting career so this was fun.

Trakai Island Castle

Further south, quite a bit farther than I expected, to Grutos Parkas, a.k.a. Stalin Land. Very disappointing. Some Soviet-era statues scattered about and some playground and animals for the kids. For what requires a half-day roundtrip from Vilnius I do not recommend it.

Grutos Parkas 02

Grutos Parkas 01

Heading back to Vilnius, way behind schedule, I found just enough minutes to find the “Beresnäki” (Paliepiukai) marker of the UNESCO-listed Struve Geodetic Arc. I had been chasing any one of the 34 commemorative markers of the original 265 stretching from Norway to Ukraine.

I got my car back a bit late, and the rental agency representative agreed to drive me from the airport to the train station so I would not miss my departure for Belarus.

Struve Geodetic Arc Lithuania

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