by Dr. Denise R. Ames
Back to the Baltic Sea. I am continuing with my series of travels on the cruise ship Nautica to different ports along the Baltic Sea.
After boarding in Stockholm, Sweden, the Nautica steamed its way to the medieval city of Tallinn in Estonia. Next, we headed for a three-day excursion in St. Petersburg, Russia, a memorable experience. Then a short sail to Helsinki for a whirlwind day of sightseeing and quickly absorbing as much Finnish culture as possible. My anticipated exploration of Riga, Latvia was by-passed due to high winds and a storm at sea. Our next destination was Klaipeda, Lithuania.
If you have never heard of Klaipeda, I am not surprised. It doesn’t spring to the lips of a tourist wanting to explore Lithuania as a must-stop place. But it is the third largest city in Lithuania and the country’s only seaport, so it is of importance to Lithuania and the cruise ship-line has a place to dock.
During my day at sea, I went to explore the options for sight-seeing in the seaport city. A tour of a nearby Lithuanian village popped out as a very interesting outing. I rushed to the tour counter to sign-up. I was shocked to find out that the tour was full. I tried to throw around my prestige as the cruise-ship lecturer as somehow entitled to go on the tour. The tour director was not impressed with my pleas. Alas, I was not able to go on the village tour.
My travel companion, Susan, and I decided that we would spend the day exploring the city on our own. There was an Old Town and historic buildings, and numerous museums. It looked as though that would be our best option. When traveling it is always good to be flexible and creative, not always needed on a every-detail-planned cruise ship, but it would be a plus in Klaipeda.
It didn’t take long to explore Klaipeda. It didn’t see that the Lithuanian tourist board was intent on making Klaipeda a memorable tourist destination. Although the old architecture was worth seeing, just off the beaten streets there were many decrepit buildings awaiting the bull dozer or possible renovation.
We ventured into a few museums. One had old Soviet propaganda posters on display, harking back to the days Lithuania was a reluctant part of the Soviet empire.
The Lithuanian people appeared at a superficial glance to be very determined, with a set of the jaw that said to others I am doing something, didn’t matter what, it was something. For instance, there were friendly tussles among the passengers, each vying to get a good spot on the public transportation trolleys that cross-crossed the hub of the city.
The Akmena-Dane River flowed through Lithuania and emptied into the Baltic Sea at Klaipeda. The river was channeled through canals in the city, lined by parks on its way to its final destination, the Baltic Sea. The parks provided a peaceful and relaxing spot to sit and watch the people pass by, wondering what their lives were like, especially in the long, dark winter months.
After searching for a quiet place for lunch, we finally decided to take the short walk back to the ship for lunch. After some nourishment, I felt energized to take a brisk walk along the port and canal and outside the tourist areas before our ship departed. I enjoyed feeling the sea breeze tussle my hair and the sun’s warming rays penetrate my light jacket as I explored the city on foot for the next couple of hours.
Although nothing dramatic stands out during my excursion, I thoroughly enjoy people watching and absorbing a flavor of the city that one often does not get from the tourist hubs. It was a seaport city that was experiencing a declining population, and it felt as though the city had seen better days in the past. But the people were friendly and I felt safe as I wandered about.
Klaipeda will not land on Lonely Planet’s list for must see port cities, but I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the lives of ordinary people living in Lithuania.
About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames
Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.
Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.
Dr. Ames has written 8 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books