Yeah, it wasn’t…
Actually today was such a stressful and frustrating day that I can only laugh at it.
And as I’ve always said – the misadventures end up being the best stories to tell later on.
So, by that standard this is gonna be an awesome blog!
The day got off onto the wrong foot right when I woke up as I found out both Chau and Farhad were bailing on me for the day because they had partied too hard the night before.
Of course I was vastly disappointed – I definitely felt abandoned but I wasn’t gonna sit there and beg them to come so I just grabbed my stuff and headed out on my own.
Amazingly I actually didn’t get lost on my 15 minute walk to the rental car store location.
Having Chau as my expert navigator for the last week has meant I haven’t even tried to figure out where I was – I’d just always hand the map to her and let her work her magic.
Alas, I was without that magic today and while I didn’t get lost on my way to get the car, the same can’t be said for the rest of the day.
At the rental place my 34 euro rental quickly climbed to 55 euros as I still had to get insurance and I also splurged for GPS navigation since I was missing my private navigator.
The plan today was to take a 3 hour drive up north to Siauliai to see the Hill of Crosses and then drive back southwest for a couple of hours to visit the cities of Kaunas and Trakai.
That was the plan…
I made good time to Siauliai as the speed limit for most of the way up there was 130 km/h.
It was just after noon as I pulled into the city. Unfortunately it would be another hour before I actually found the Hill of Crosses.
Now, a GPS navigator is actually really good getting you from place to place. Just plug in the destination and it’ll take you right there.
Problem was I only had the town name as my destination and not the actually physical address (not that I think there is one) for the Hill of Crosses.
I had just assumed that Siauliai was a small town and I’d just arrive and easily figure out how to get to the hill.
Yeah, well Siauliai ain’t that small and after driving around for awhile I finally stopped at a gas station to ask for help.
I started by asking the girl (who spoke very little English) if she knew where the Hill of Crosses was.
After getting a blank stare back I asked if she knew where the tourist info office was.
This time I got a shrug and a blank stare.
Well, this wasn’t going as planned…
I finally just asked for a map and went back to the car to try to figure it out.
The map instead was impossible to read or figure out but I did notice a little picture of the Hill of Crosses on the front cover so I went back inside and pointed at the picture to ask if she knew where the picture was.
This got some action! In short order I ended up having 5 different people helping me out including one man who actually drew me a crude map but one that was actually easy to figure out.
A little while later I was on my way to the hill. I actually mistakenly stopped at a local cemetery on my way there. I parked the car, entered the grounds and quickly figured out I was in the wrong place.
I kind of casually walked around for a bit trying to make it seem like I had intended to visit the cemetery and wasn’t just some hopeless lost tourist.
After a few minutes I strolled back to my car and booted out there. Well, that was embarrassing…
I drove a little further down the road and, lo and behold, there it was – the Hill of Crosses.
I didn’t realize it at the time but this would be the only attraction I would see today.
This half an hour I spent there was all I’d see on a day that had me in a car for 8+ hours.
By 2pm I was back on the road heading out of town on to my next destination of Kaunas.
I stopped for a quick sit down lunch on my way back down and it was 4:30 by the time I was pulling into Kaunas.
Now, I can’t for the life of me figure out what exactly my plan was when I arrived in this big city.
It was as if I expected the landmarks to just show themselves and I’d be transported there instantly with no traffic and no problems with parking.
The more I drove around in rush hour traffic, the more stressed I was becoming.
This was supposed to be fun, dammit!
I ended up decided to just bail on the rest of the day trip and just head back to Vilnius. It was already 5pm and I was tired, stressed and, frankly, pretty miserable.
Another hour later and I had arrived back in Vilnius.
Of course it’d be yet another hour before I found my way back to the hostel.
I just couldn’t figure out how to get to the old town so I finally just plugged in the only Vilnius address I had handy which was the location of the car rental company.
I arrived there and I actually was ready to just return the car then and there and not keep it overnight as I had planned.
Naturally their office was closed so I guess I was stuck with this stupid car.
I slowly found my way into the old town tracing back the steps I had walked this morning to pick up the car.
The parking I found near my hostel was 2 euros for an hour but I remember that parking was free from 8pm to 8am so I only had to pay for one hour as long as I moved the car by 8am tomorrow morning.
No worries. I just wanted this car adventure to be over! I paid the 2 euros in the little parking machine on the sidewalk and only then did I notice that this particular parking area was only free after midnight.
Son of a bitch!
Well, I had paid for an hour so I decided I’d go to the hostel for an hour, freshen up and then move the car somewhere else once my paid hour had expired.
I asked the girl at the front desk where there were spots to park and she pointed me to a place where the locals park for free.
The location for down the hill and probably about a 20 minute walk. Once I got there and parked I instantly had second thoughts – was I really willing to lug my backpack over here for 20 minutes in the wee hours of the morning?
I decided no so I once again went back to the car and after all that I decided I was just gonna pay for 4 more hours on the meter (8 euros) and park back where I had just left my car.
Naturally I got lost (again) and actually drove around for half an hour with no real plan other than just hoping I’d see a building or street I’d recognize.
Finally I was back in the old town and back in the town square.
I paid my four hours and just couldn’t help but laugh – I had just driven for half an hour to move my car two spots further down the street.
Pretty much sums up my day.
Anyway, all is good with the world. It was just simply a comical, eye rolling kind of day.
Tomorrow I’m off to the Ukraine and then a few days later I’ll be in Russia. These are both places I’ve always wanted to visit so as miserable as I was today I’m equally excited to get the next leg of my trip started.
Here’s to an incredible upcoming week…
Edit: A little more rental car (mis)adventure happened after I wrote up this blog tonight – read about it tomorrow…