Finding our way

IMG_2055It started with the car radio.

Since we got the new car, Rasa has been slowly learning all the ins and outs, the bells and whistles (and the weird little oddities) which make up our “lightning car.” One of those things was learning how to set the radio presets, which also means she spends more time in the car actually listening to the radio (which also means Monki hears more songs which I then have to get for her to put on her playlist so she can listen to the music she desires, as opposed to mine, which she has a healthy distrust of).

One day, not long ago, Rasa heard an advertisement for a family fun park about 90 minutes away from us called Labirintų Parkas (or Labyrinth Park in English) where they had a number of walk-through mazes as well as a few other activities and attractions. Thing is, summer is coming to a close, school for everyone is starting up again, and so the idea was to maybe have a last hurrah before fall/winter settles in and we don’t have the time or the sunshine to get away.

Being Rasa, she not only researched this place, but found several other things to do and see in the area. Of course, this meant some discussions about how much we could do in the time allotted and whether or not we should book a room for the night? In the end, we decided to split the difference and just do a day trip, see what we could and leave the rest for another time.

And so, armed with all the knowledge we could gather, we got up early on Sunday morning and started to get ready to go. The day itself got off to an auspicious start as Monki was clearing her plate from breakfast (that’s one of her jobs) and set it precariously on the counter. Rasa grabbed the evidently just heavy enough hunk of cucumber off the edge, which unbalanced the plate and sent it tumbling to the tile floor, shattering ceramic plate bits everywhere. This only set up back a little, as it required a good half house vacuuming. Eventually, though, with this cleaned, the remaining dishes washed, and a travel cooler full of snacks and sandwiches, we hit the road on the way to Anykščiai, where everything was located.

I’d been to Anykščiai once before, with Monika 7 years ago, but Rasa had never been, so it was exciting that it was someplace new. And I’d never seen the mazes, so it was a win-win!

Being us, though, we couldn’t go without some kind of drama, beyond the broken dish. So, this time, it was a fox racing across the road, right in front of us! Rasa reacted perfectly, but it still freaked her out a bit. The fox made it safely across the road, I’m assuming it was chasing a chicken, although I can’t tell you why the chicken was crossing the road.

With that one road hazard out of the way, we arrived at the park, paid our money and headed in. Everything inside was included, bar three coin-operated activities, so we basically had the run of the place.

Since we were with Monki, the first thing we did was ride the train. She loves trains, especially the little kiddie trains they have at Mega, the local mall. Here the train was a tractor with a locomotive overlay. The nice thing about this was it took us around the park so we could see where everything was – not that the park is all that big, but it still gave us the lay of the land.

IMG_2024After that, Rasa insisted we go through one of the hedge mazes, which was, after all, the reason we were there. On our way there, though, we went over the bridge to stop and feed the koi. It was an offering of sorts, since Monki felt bad about leaving Goldie, our goldfish, at home. But then we did get to a maze. We did the circular one first, and there was a great amount of joy to be had when we finally reached the center (we might have gotten there sooner, but we let Monki lead!).

After that, it was really a matter of running around from place to place and doing whatever we could. There was a juggler there, who was teaching various things, like plate-spinning and diabolo and Monki tried her hand at all of it!

They also had water bumper boats, and a summertime ski slope as well as mirror mazes and miniature golf, which we tried and Monki sort of understood, but it was a fairly lame course so hopefully, we’ll get to a cool one at some point when she’s a little older. In the middle of the grass area were a bunch of cages with birds and other animals plus a number of “medieval” games (like horseshoes, stilts, hoop rolling, and tug of rope) were laid out for anyone to pick up and try.

Before we left, we did have to try the actual corn maze (maize?) which was amazing. At the entrance was a sign which read (paraphrasing here) “If you don’t want to sleep in the maze, take a map.” We did. And we sought out the 4 scarecrows scattered throughout before finally exiting. That was when Rasa mentioned there was a hemp maze as well. There certainly was! It was next to, and much smaller than, the corn maze, but was, in fact, made of hemp. While Rasa had never seen actual corn and was constantly stopping to comment on the ears just growing right there, I was the same way about seeing the hemp. My 18yo self would have been quite shocked!

By the time we left, it was late afternoon and the place had gotten quite crowded. But it was time for us to leave…nit because we had to get home, but because there was more for us to see!

One of the major draws of Anykščiai is the Puntukas Stone, the second largest boulder in Lithuania. One of the reasons this is such a draw are the numerous myths and legends surrounding the rock. Last time I was there, there wasn’t much surrounding the big rock but since then, they’ve built up a whole nature recreation area, including a treetop walking path (Medžių lajų takas).

IMG_2084For some reason, Rasa, who is extremely afraid of heights, wanted to do this path, so up we went, past the stone, to the entrance. Once you climb up the nature trail to the path, the path itself is a straight shot, out into the forest…at a height of more than 21 meters (almost 70 feet) and even though the path itself was absolutely flat, at times, the ground dropped away even more, so you could reach a height of 34 meters (111.55 feet) without ever feeling it. The pathway ends at a tower at which you can go even higher or go back down to the ground. I wanted to go up and originally, Monki was going to go with me, but once we were there on the mid-level platform, she changed her mind. I was still going to go to the top, but when I made it around one circuit of the spiral staircase, Monki was freaking out about the height so I went back down and took her to the ground.

The area is right along the Sventoji River, a bridge over which you could see from that mid-level observation platform where the tree top trail ended and Rasa wanted to go and check it out. We found the bridge, a small suspension model, which swayed and moved like nobody’s business! Monki was a bit freaked out by it, but gamely soldiered on. On the other side, there was a directional sign for something called Karalienės liūnas (Spring Queen’s Quagmire) but since it said it was only 0.7km away, we figured we’d hike it.

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That was probably the longest 0.7km I’ve ever walked! Most of it was a paved pathway, but then it veered off to a dirt path and a number of stairs leading down. As we stood there, along with a couple of other groups of hikers, debating whether or not to go see, some people climbed back up and stated firmly that it was ugly and not to waste our time.

Well, who were we to listen to the opinions of others and so down we went (we were the only group of that lot who did) to see the quagmire. They did not lie. It was not a pretty swamp, but it was still cool to go. There was a nice wooden bridge and the quiet of nature.

By that point, though, it was getting late in the day so back up the stairs and along the 0.7km trail to the wobbly bridge and, after a brief stop to check out a little camping area/fishing dock, (where we also found a “Place 2 Kiss”) we made it back to the car for our drive home.

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It was a great day and left us all wanting to see more of the attractions of Anykščiai, including a narrow-gauge railroad and some historical sites. And we’ll probably do it soon since winter (and the new school year) are coming!

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