Yesterday was the final full day of the Monsoon. We started off our day with a 2.5 hour walking tour of Vilnius, which included the self-declared independent micronation of Užupis, which is similar to Christianshavn in Copenhagen, sans drugs. There was a Tibet Square in honour of when the Dalai Lama visited, and the Backpacker Jesus statue.
Our final morning in Riga, we slept in before going to the bus station for our 2.5 hour bus to Siauliai, Lithuania. From there, we would be taking a 20 minute local bus to see the Hill of Crosses: a Catholic pilgrimage site that has been active since the late 1800s, and was repeatedly threatened during Soviet rule.
After eating a delicious, healthy and free breakfast at the hostel, Carol and I decided to go check out Sankt Jørgens Sø, a series of human-made rectangular lakes marking the western edge of the city. There were countless runners out and about, as well as families going for strolls with children, making it a quintessential fall Sunday morning in a beautiful European city. Soon we decided to grab some coffee and sit outside of the cafe people watching and absorbing the culture of Copenhagen, which included lost of talented and creative street performers.
Between jet-lag and a late night, most of my fellow Monsooners decided to sleep in this morning. I woke up at 9:00, which for me is still sleeping in, and decided to go for a run through the city. I haven't gone for a run in a while so anticipated a short one or two mile run. But once I got started, it just felt right so the next thing I knew I was doing a four mile run with some sprint intervals and hills training.
My first stop this morning was Slovín, a war memorial and military cemetery. The closest transportation stop is about 10-15 minutes walking from the memorial, and most of that is stairs. I was so grateful that, thanks to on and off rain, it finally cooled off a bit and I managed to make it to the top without being drenched in sweat.
The only two things I really knew about Venice before today was that it had canals and that it would probably be under water within a few years so if you want to visit you better do it soon. But as soon as I arrived, a massive bout of curiosity emerged. How was the city built? Why did they want a city essentially built on water? How much does it cost to live here? Does everyone who lives here own a boat?
One of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip was doing a wine tasting in Tuscany. Why? Because I knew Tuscany was beautiful and I love wine. Erin and I searched around for different options, trying to stay within a reasonable budget, and eventually found one for $50 each. Definitely not cheap, but it was 7 hours long, had tasting at two different wineries, lots of little snacks, and a small stop in the village of Greve so it seemed like we would get our money’s worth. Plus it was one of the cheaper ones.
Let me start this post by bragging on my brilliant friend Natalie. They were basically my personal tour guide today and is essentially a walking history book on Czechia. It was a perfect balance of getting to see the typical touristy things in Prague but also a more local feel to the city. I also appreciated their love for Prague. It's truly amazing how much someone sharing their love of a place can make you fall in love with it too.
Today I was in my element: lots of climbing up mountains (well, hills technically), getting incredible views from up high, and just enjoying the great outdoors. There are many reasons why I love traveling, one of the main ones being the magnificent natural beauty of the world and today we got to experience that combined with a beautiful city that I've fallen in love with in my short visit here.