Travelling to Lithuania: Medieval Cities And Stunning Scenery.

A castle on a lake, a mountain of crosses and a museum dedicated to the devil. You will wonder why you didn’t consider travelling to Lithuania sooner.

When you tell someone that you are travelling to Lithuania you may get a questionable look! ‘Where is that? and What is there to do?’ You’ll probably be asked. Well, there is plenty to discover in this less visited Baltic country. Do you want to know more about discovering Lithuania? Read on.

Check out Trakai castle when travelling to Lithuania.

Where is Lithuania?

Lithuania sits between Latvia, Poland and Belarus and has a small coastline along the Baltic sea. You may be surprised to hear that there’s a Scandinavian influence here! This is due to Sweden and Denmark being easily reached from the coastal town of Klaipėda.

The capital, Vilnius is found very close to the Belarus border and home to its medieval old town which gives Prague a run for its money.

The old and the new in Vilnius.

Vilnius is a great starting point when travelling to Lithuania

Boasting the largest old town in Eastern Europe you won’t want to miss a trip to the historic centre of this city. In 1994 Vilnius was added to the World Heritage list and whilst exploring this magnificent place you will notice a mix of architectural styles including Gothic, renaissance and baroque.

Top sights to see:

  • Gediminas tower and the castle. Climb to the top for lovely views across the city.
  • The Gates of Dawn. A city gate adorned with a painting of the blessed mother Mary.
  • The Cathedral and Cathedral square. A great meeting place outside this very large decorated Cathedral.
  • The Church of St Anne. A stunning Gothic brick church.
  • The Three Crosses. A large statue topping the hill opposite the castle and a bit of a hike to reach the top!

Not into architecture? Vilnius has much more to offer. With a range of restaurants, bars and clubs, you will find something here that suits your taste. The craft beer scene is really taking off too in addition to a bit of a foodie culture. Lithuanians want to be known for their modern statement restaurants just as well as their local traditional food.

If you are used to very busy European cities, such as Lisbon, then Vilnius will seem relatively quiet. Much like its neighbour Latvia, the towns in Lithuania are not as populated as they could be since many young Lithuanians are migrating. However, with increased tourism, the government hopes to change this.

Vilnius is a great starting point when travelling to Lithuania since it has good transport links, helping you to explore the rest of the Country easily.

Trakai Castle – a day trip from Vilnius

You may not believe in fairy-tales but this beautiful castle, set in the middle of a lake might change your mind. The picturesque Lake Galve is home to twenty small islands and on one of these islands stands Trakai Castle and history museum.

Walking along the bridges over the lakes, you will feel like you are stepping back in time. The Castle walls sprawl out in front of you and the open gates await. You won’t regret taking a walk up to the top of one of the towers for the stunning views of the natural surroundings.

You can get to the small old town of Trakai easily by train or by bus directly from Vilnius. The castle is then only a short walk away. Free maps are usually available at your hotel (if you are not fond of using your phone for directions!)

If you want the place virtually to yourself then visiting in the winter/spring months is the best option. The summer months bring the better weather and more activity options but also many more tourists! Whenever you visit Trakai castle should not be missed if travelling to Lithuania.

The Legendary Hill of Crosses.

The spectacle known as the hill of crosses is the most popular tourist attraction in Lithuania. Situated near the city of Šiauliai, the historic landmark is forever growing as visitors leave their own crosses behind. You can guide your way through more than 100,000 crosses of all shapes and sizes and marvel at some of the beautiful intricate designs as well as the simple.

The Hill of crosses is a symbol of faith and resistance. Even during the soviet rule people risked their lives to plant their crosses on the hill.

It can take you around three hours to reach Šiauliai by car from Vilnius. From there you can take a tour, public transport or drive to the Hill. Remember to take your own cross with you and plant a memory in this eerie but beautiful place.

Kaunas, the city on the river.

Devils in the Devils museum in Kaunas. Add this to your list when travelling in Lithuania.

When you hear words like quaint and pretty used to describe Kaunas you may be surprised to learn that it is Lithuania’s second city.  You can easily and cheaply reach Kaunas from other European countries thanks to the rise of low-cost airlines flying to this destination. The old town here is really a lovely town square and a few surrounding streets. However small the town it is also very nice. If you want to see the local way of life and still have things to do whilst travelling in Lithuania then Kaunas is for you.

Top sights to see:

  • Kaunas castle. Mostly restored today, yet this castle is the oldest stone castle in Lithuania.
  • The Devils museum. A strange and interesting museum and would you believe it, the only museum of its kind in the world!
  • The Kaunas town hall city museum. Dominating the town square a place for weddings and perusing the small museum inside.
  • Cathedral of St Peter and Paul. You will find this Cathedral beautiful inside and out.

When it comes to eating out you will find a small variety of bars and restaurants within and near to the old town.When travelling to Lithuania you won’t go hungry! Prices are cheaper in Kaunas than Vilnius too so you can get a good meal for your money!

Some other things you might want to know when travelling to Lithuania …

Lithuania is part of the European Union and its currency is the Euro. Yes, that’s right, no need to exchange currency if you are travelling through Europe. The weather here is pretty moderate. Temperatures can drop quite low in the winter and summers tend to be mild, though can be wet too. But I doubt you’ll be visiting for the weather!

Well, that’s it! With all of this to offer you would be mad not to consider adding Lithuania to your bucket list. Have you been to Lithuania? I would love to hear what you think and where you are planning to visit next?

Originally posted on Pre-Travels.com

Natural History Museum – Top UK Museums

Another post in my top UK museums series, this time it’s the Natural History Museum in London.

Natural history museum StegasaurusAbout the Natural History Museum.

I love the Natural History Museum it is such an amazing attraction to visit, but did you know it is also a world-renowned science research centre too?  Around 80 million items within five main collections can be found here. These collections are categorised as botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology.The Star of the Show.

The Star of the Show.

To enjoy the best experience in the museum, take the escalator in the Earth Galleries. Through the giant rotating globe into the collection of the story of the earth.  Learn about global phenomenon and try the authentic earthquake simulator.

Earth Gallery - Natural History Museum

My favourite place.

OK, so as you know my daughter is only 8 months old and it was just me and her on this visit, but I loved the interactive exhibits, which are especially great for families! The animatronic T-Rex was absolutely fantastic and also pretty scary. The original Jurassic park was released when I was a child so I was amazed by the collection of dinosaur skeletons. The dinosaur exhibit was definitely my favourite place, you will love it too!

Some other great exhibits.

It’s difficult to tell you where the best exhibits are in the museum because I would probably just tell you to see every single one! However, I know that everyone does not have the time to visit every single object in the museum. So if you have to choose, as well as the dinosaurs make sure you see the Ecology and Origins exhibits. You won’t regret the choice.

Natural History Museum

Facilities.

If you need it wheelchair access is available all the way through the museum and you can borrow wheelchairs free of charge at both the Exhibition Road entrance and the Darwin entrance.

If you need to use the cloakroom check the tariffs and plan ahead as if you have luggage it might cost a lot to store.

Getting there and when to visit.

The museum is open daily 1000-1750 and admission is free however, there is a charge for some temporary exhibitions. If you visit on a weekday you’ll find it less crowded and better for young visitors.

Have you been to the Natural History Museum? What did you think? Tell me in the comments below.

Top UK museums – The British Museum

Top UK Museums – The British Museum.

So I have decided to make the most of the remainder of my maternity leave and take some trips with my daughter.. ( and sometimes bring the husband) to visit the top museums in the UK. The British Museum was on the list already for our trip to London in December, so this is where I will start.

2016 review British Museum
The British museum London 2016 review.

About the British Museum.

The British Museum was founded in 1753. Proudly the first National Public Museum in the World and it is free to enter and explore. The galleries feature artefacts from across the globe.  Collections include Americas, Ancient Egypt, Africa, Asia, Ancient Rome and Greece, Europe and the Middle East. There are also Themes including Enlightenment ,Collecting the world and Living and Dying .

The Star of the Show.

The Rosetta stone is the most interesting and iconic artefact you will find in the British Museum. A ground breaking discovery containing script in both ancient Greek and Hieroglyphics. Meaning we can now decipher the meaning of Hieroglyphics today.

Rosetta stone

My favourite place.

The enlightenment gallery! From reading the titles of the historic books to the busts and sculptures dotting the room. This is my favourite place to walk through and explore within the museum.

As described by the British museum itself: The Enlightenment was an age of reason and learning that flourished across Europe and America from about 1680 to 1820. This rich and diverse permanent exhibition uses thousands of objects to demonstrate how people in Britain understood their world during this period. It is housed in the King’s Library, the former home of the library of King George III.

Enlightenment.

Some other great exhibits.

The Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece exhibits are undisputed  amongst the most interesting exhibits  in the museum. If not only purely due to the scale of some of the items on display.  Partial temples and giant statues will transport you back to ancient times as you wander through these fascinating pieces.

Facilities.

The facilities here are actually pretty great. Especially for families! There’s a family centre with lockers to store pushchairs and any other luggage, benches and tables to eat packed lunches and feed babies and ample changing facilities. There’s a restaurant and two cafes with a good selection of food and drinks on offer with plenty of seating. The museum is wheelchair accessible and easy to get about for wheelchair users.  There is also a large gift shop with a lovely wide selection of souvenirs and replicas.

Download a floor plan here  https://www.britishmuseum.org/PDF/pdfA4_allfloors.pdf

Floor plan

Getting there and when to visit.

The museum is easily reached by walking from London Euston train station and the nearest tube stations are Tottenham Court Road and Holborn.

Admission to the British museum is free and is open daily 10.00–17.30 and on Fridays until 20.30.

I have to say I’m very proud of this museum and would recommend more people in the UK to visit. Have you been? What was your favourite part? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

 

Lisbon – our first family trip abroad

First family trip abroad to Lisbon

This trip to Lisbon was the first time in another country with our baby daughter. We knew it would be different to our previous trips, however we had a wonderful time and managed to do more than we expected.

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Getting from Lisbon airport to the centre was easy. The metro line runs straight to the centre, so within 40 minutes we were at our apartment.

We chose an apartment in the Amoreiras Garden district  Casa Amora. Perfectly located within walking or short Metro ride from the sights but in a quiet enough neighbourhood for a family visit. The great thing about choosing an apartment when travelling with a young baby is that sterilising and heating bottles is easier with a kitchen area!

The metro and tram system are a great way to get around even with a child. Although avoid the rush hour times and you will be more comfortable.

Lisbon is a city of many levels, and with viewpoints accessible by elevators and funiculars there is always a way to a fantastic view.

On our first day we visited the castle which was at the top of my agenda. There was a beautiful view across the city from the top and also home to a family of peacocks! (Which I love).

There were plenty of bars and restaurants to stop at whilst exploring the city. We took our time, relaxed and enjoyed our surroundings.

During our trip we also grabbed a tuk-tuk ride to Belem. We tried the famous pastry dessert and explored the river front gardens before heading to the tower. There was quite a queue to get into the tower without an advanced ticket, however it gave us time to enjoy the view of the tower from the outside.

The bus journey back from Belem to Lisbon centre was pretty eventful. A very full bus and a roadworks re-route meant some very unhappy passengers.. But we made it back in one piece.

We also visited Carmo convent, Parque Eduardo VII as well as some spectacular squares and viewpoints. Lisbon is a lovely city to walk around but there can be a lot of steps and hills!

My first experience of travelling abroad with our baby was actually pretty great. We had a lovely time as a family as it was surprisingly relaxed. I have to admit we visited less bars of an evening than we used to, we ate and had a beer earlier in the day before enjoying Netflix and a bottle of wine back at our apartment.

We grabbed a taxi through cabify back to the airport  (as referred by the lovely apartment owners). It’s similar to Uber so our referral meant a free trip and they also provide child seats upon request!

Overall an amazing start to our family travel in Lisbon.

Here’s to many more family holidays in the future! 🙂

 

2016 review from Travel Geek Tara

My 2016 review! What a year it has been for us!

2016 review
2016 review

Well the year kicked off on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. I managed to stay up past midnight despite being 16 weeks pregnant and sipping non-alcoholic beer… Not our usual kind of trip but I enjoyed relaxing and visiting lots of different Caribbean islands all in one trip.

2016 review
Standard beach, sea, sunbed, feet photo. 2016 Review.

So what happened next? March was quite a busy month.. taking a mini tour of Lithuania great place by the way.  Taking in Vilnius, Kaunas and Trakai. Then moving house when we got back! Shortly after moving my sister-in-law announced her engagement – another wedding to look forward to!

Vilnius
Cathedral Square Vilnius. 2016 review

In May I launched my Etsy store Geeky Wanderlust where I sell travel and vintage style jewellery, fabric items and prints. Just something else to keep me busy..You can check it out here:

On to June.

In June our lives changed forever with the arrival of our beautiful daughter. She is the best and has fit into our lives perfectly. (I’m in love). Of course we sorted her passport as soon as possible to continue our travels with her!

Some more brilliant news came in June.. My sister-in-law is having a baby. Auntie Tara for the second time.

Our first overnight stay as a family was in Leeds in August for our fabulous friends wedding. Then in September we took our first trip abroad to Lisbon. I absolutely loved travelling with our daughter. A bit of forward planning and preparation meant the trip went well, there were a few tears and screams on the plane but I expected that!

2016 review
Lisbon 2016 review

September was a busy month including a caravan holiday with friends to Burnham on Sea and Western Supermare, and a short break to Liverpool. At this point our daughter at 3 months old had spent a significant portion of her life away from home.

December came and so did my brothers wedding. Such an amazing day and very proud to be maid of honour :-).

Another proud moment, the birth of my baby niece. Now these two cousins have some adventures ahead!

Then came a trip to see Santa at Hatton Country World and a Christmas break in London. It was so nice to get away so close to Christmas again. I had such a great time at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, exploring the British museum and meeting animals in London Zoo.

2016 review
The British museum London 2016 review

Just before the year is ending we had some more great news, another of my brothers proposed and she said yes! How exciting!

That’s two proposals, two babies, four weddings, five trips and three countries. What a year.

So whats in store for 2017?

Well, we have already planned trips to Ireland, Rome and Dubrovnik. Revisiting and introducing our daughter to some old favourites. And if that’s not enough I plan to visit the top museums in the UK!

As expected I have less time than I used to which means less frequent blog posts… I have been writing one about Lisbon for two months. (Oops). There are a few more posts in the pipeline but I will probably write shorter easier to write (and read) articles to keep Travel Geek Tara going 🙂

Happy New Year to all of my readers and I hope you will continue to follow my blog next year 🙂

 

 

Lisbon Life – some photography

A small taste of Lisbon life in photographs.

Whilst wandering around Lisbon I managed to snap a few photographs that I think captured the Lisbon life I had witnessed. This is a very short post before I write more about our trip to Lisbon. However I thought these pictures were worth a share.

Lisbon life
A man in a suit has his shoes shined at a small stall near Lisbon’s centre as the world walks by.
lisbon-life-2
A street merchant paints coffee paintings whilst another man sleeps on a bench next to him. Located in the alleyways near to Lisbon castle.
lisbon-life-3
A resident smokes a cigarette through a window between their line of washing . This seems intertwined with the street art on the wall behind.
lisbon-life-4
The Portuguese flag flies against a typical bright yellow painted building.
A lady cleans her rug from a window of her pink home. A neat row of planted pots below.
A lady cleans her rug from a window of her pink home. A neat row of planted pots below.

There was a lot more to Lisbon than I anticipated. I really enjoyed photographing the beautiful and interesting sights and streets. After spending 5 days here there is still more to explore!

Devils museum Kaunas Lithuania

devils museum

Kaunas Devils museum.

Kaunas has some interesting things to offer visiting tourists and the Devils museum is one of those things. A popular place for tourists as its something different to do and is enjoyed by adults and children alike.

Devils museum
The entrance and outside of the Devils museum Kaunas.

On our last day in Kaunas before of flight home we decided to visit the museum while we were here after reading some good reviews. We found art, sculptures and devil themed artefacts from around the world. Worth the visit and passed our time before going home.

The collection was originally collated and put together by an eccentric named Antanas Žmuidzinavičius (1876-1966) who picked up over 2000 Devils from around the world. Now an extension has been built to house the collection because of the ever-growing hoard.

Devils museum
Some of the many devil masks on display in the museum since its opening.

The museum spans over 3 floors and contains over 3000 exhibits. Highlights include Stalin and Hitler devils dancing over Lithuania and a large wooden carving donated as it was said to be causing bad luck to its original owners.  The first floor is filled with traditional Lithuanian devils in many different mediums. Including wood carvings, paintings and ceramics. The second floor contains more comical and strange devils also including items donated by local people.

devils museum
Some funny rather than scary looking devils.

Finally the third floor is dedicated to devils from across the world. It’s amazing to see how different cultures depict the same figure and how they have changed throughout time. Foreign visitors often bring their own devils to add to the collection therefore the museum is ever increasing.

Devils museum
We found devils masks from all around the world while exploring the museum.

About visiting and admission.

The devils museum can be found at V. Putvinskio g. 55, Kaunas 44211, Lithuania.             Opening hours are 11 am to 5 pm daily and closed on Sundays.  Visitors can pay 2 euros to enter and 50% discount for students and senior citizens. We found it’s probably best if you have the right change!

For further information and directions visit the local website here. 

So if you are in Kaunas why not check out this quirky museum and maybe bring your own little devil to add to the collection!

devils museum.
Maybe my favourite piece in the museum.

 

 

Baby passport – how to get a passport for your baby

Baby passport

How to get your baby passport in the UK – my tips.

Gone are the days when a child can travel on their parents passports. Every British child now needs to have their own baby passport to travel even new-born babies.

Baby passport

It may sound like a difficult task to get a baby passport. However it is simpler than you may think.

First things first – your baby needs to be registered and have a birth certificate that can be sent with their passport application. This can take some time depending on where you live. For example Birmingham registry office had a 6 week wait for appointments to register births. There are, however, always cancelled appointments that come up. If you call the office you may get in earlier. (We managed to get an appointment after a week.)




Next  is getting the passport photo right.  Here are the guidelines:

Photos of babies and children.

‘Children must be on their own in the picture. Babies must not be holding toys or using dummies. Children under 6 don’t have to be looking directly at the camera or have a neutral expression. Children under one don’t have to have their eyes open. You can support their head with your hand, but your hand must not be visible in the photo.’

The background must also be cream or light grey. I used a cream blanket to lie the baby on.

To make sure the photos were correct I used the website paspic.com. They quality check the photos and print them at the correct size which prevents problems with the application. The pictures were delivered in a couple of days.

Baby passport
We got our baby passport!

The application is pretty straightforward. Very much the same as an adult passport, however you will need to fill in grandparents as well as parents details.  The passport needs to be signed by someone who has known the adult filling in the form for at least two years and recognise the baby photo.

Here are the requirements of the counter-signatory:

‘Who can sign your form and photo

Your counter-signatory must:

  • have known the person applying (or the adult who signed the form if the passport is for a child under 16) for at least 2 years.
  • be able to identify the person applying, eg they’re a friend, neighbour or colleague (not just someone who knows them professionally).
  • be ‘a person of good standing in their community’ or work in (or be retired from) a recognised profession.

They can’t be closely related to or involved with the person applying, eg:

  • related by birth or marriage
  • be in a relationship with or live at the same address as the person applyingIf you’re applying in the UK

Your counter-signatory must:

  • live in the UK
  • have a current British or Irish passport’

Here is a link to the list of Recognised professionals who can sign the baby passport and photo. There are more to choose from than I realised!

Baby passport.
Our passports ready for our first family trip to Lisbon in September.

So you have your birth certificate, completed form, photos and counter-signatory.. Next send it off and wait for the return!

I sent everything off by Royal Mail special delivery as I wanted to make sure it got there as soon as possible. I also wanted to make sure it got there, not that I don’t trust the post office.

Within 3 weeks from sending everything off we received our brand new baby passport! Quick and easy really :-).

I hope this has helped and makes sense for those applying for their babies first passport. I cant wait to take our new baby on her first trip!

Happy travels!