On Friday I showed them the park; they had rented a car, so we could easily move wherever we wanted. We went to the Visitor Centre first, then we had lunch in Strigailiškis and stopped to feed the swans in the lake by the restaurant.
Then we went to a place near Šakarva to see a herd of deers which are kept in a large fenced area, but as soon as we got closer, one of them screamed an alarm signal, and they all ran away.
We went also to visit Cijonai, the "village of birds", where I could even feed a family of ostriches by hand!
After that, we headed to the Beekeeping Museum, then to Ladakalnis and we finished the tour with the view tower, just before it began to rain!
On Saturday, we planned to go to the International Fireworks Festival in Vilnius, but we left in the morning so we could make other stops on the way. We didn't notice it was a special day, the first one of Autumn, until we had some surprises on the road. First in Palūšė, where people were celebrating the opening of a new handicraft club, then in Molėtai, where there was a big fair to celebrate Autumn, and we stopped there for a while, enjoying the stands and some songs and dances.
Before stopping in Vilnius, we went to Trakai, where, despite the bad weather, we had a walk by the lake and to the castle, and we stayed for lunch.
We then reached the hotel in Vilnius and, after leaving our staff and having some rest, we spent the rest of the afternoon in the old town. We went to the main square and climbed the fort hill to enjoy the panorama, and then headed to the park where the festival would have took place. It was very cloudy, but luckily it didn't rain, so we could enjoy the show. It was a competition between four teams, one from Lithuania, one from Latvia and two from Poland; each of them had to perform three rounds, showing their fireworks with: 1) the William Tell Overture; 2) a song representing their country; 3) any song of their choice. They were all nice, but I think only one of the Polish teams was very good, and in fact they won the competition. But the best show was the one for the ending, made by professionals out of the contest, which you can watch here:
For Sunday, the choice was between two destinations: we could head either to Nida or Riga. We went for the latter, as it was also closer. We made a short stop in Kernavė to see its landscapes and then, after a few hours of driving, we crossed the border and reached the Latvian capital.
The first thing we tried to do was to see the sea, so we looked for the closest point to the coast on the GPS and tryed to reach it but, once near the place, we couldn't find any access to the shore, as it looked like some industrial harbor with no entry for tourists, so we had to go back to the old town. It was late and we didn't have lunch yet, so we stopped in an Italian restaurant we found on the main street. As any Italian abroad, we were very skeptical about how "Italian" could be the food we would find, but we were surprised by some delicious pizzas made with real Italian ingredients and recipe, and even in a wood oven! The restaurant was "Il Patio"; it's not cheap, but if you are around, it's totally worth a stop there for a pizza. We asked for directions and tried our way to the seaside again; this time we headed to Jūrmala as they suggested us. The weather was very bad and it rained all day, so we just spent a few minutes on the beach, and then went back to visit the old town.
It was still raining and already dark, so we couldn't enjoy that much, but we could see some of the main monuments.
Later, my brother wanted to see a game of his beloved Italian football team, Napoli, and luckily we found an English pub screening it. I could try a tasty vegetarian burger while watching the game, and in the end our team won the game 2-1.
Monday was our last day; we headed back to Ignalina, this time passing by Biržai, where we went to see its castle and a very long pedestrian bridge over a lake, which I had missed during my journey. I could even say hi to Tilda, but we left very soon.
We took a longer way back to pass Anykščiai, a Regional Park I was supposed to pass to during the bike trip, because Marta, from Spain, was volunteering there; but she had left after a few months, so I discarded it from my route and now I could use the chance to check out what I missed. There were very nice roads to cycle on around there, actually!
We went back through the North part of the park, by Tauragnai, but we couldn't stop to Taurapilis because of the heavy rain. But when we passed Trainiškis, it stopped raining for a while, so I could show them the old oak.
We went back home in Ignalina, and my mother cooked me some risotto with mushrooms; Blagovesta was just back from Kurtuvėnai, so she joined us for dinner.
Next morning we said goodbye in the Visitor Centre, and they left, just like my holidays; time to go back to the office life now!