Mmmm… Salty

We’ve been having a bit of a time here at Chez Greenspon. We’re all fine, or at least we will be, but there are a number of factors inducing stress for all of us. Nothing beyond the normal stress of living, but things which could be easily dealt with singly tend to get exponentially harder when compounded.

So on Friday, March 24, after walking Monki to school, Rasa turned to me and said “Let’s go to Druskininkai today, and go to the waterpark.”

“Sure,” I responded. “Why not?”

Druskininkai is a spa town, about two hours south of us, near the Belarusian border, famous for its mineral salt baths and rejuvenation treatments. But they also have a sky tram and a big, indoor waterpark we’d heard about and since Rasa had never been to the city (and I hadn’t been in over 10 years) it seemed like a great little break from the day-to-day. Plus, Monki has been taking swim lessons so it would give her a chance to show off a bit, which is something ingrained in 6-year-olds.

We quickly found what appeared to be a decent hotel, near the waterpark and the main tourist areas, which had free parking (an added benefit, let me tell you!) And when Rasa went to get Monki from school, she said we had a special surprise trip planned.

Now, this wasn’t what was supposed to happen. No, Rasa and I had talked about it, and we thought it would be more fun to just have the packed suitcase sitting in the hall when they got back from school and then we could spring the surprise on her. Nope. Rasa can’t help herself and while she didn’t tell her exactly where we were going, Monki came in knowing there was something planned. Ah well.

So we had lunch and hit the road, getting to the hotel around 5pm – about 6 hours from deciding we should go. We dropped everything into the room and went out in search of adventure. We had decided on the ride down that the first thing we were going to do was ride the sky tram and see what that was all about and since it was right next to the aqua park and thus, a three-minute walk from our hotel, we were in good shape.

The nice thing about being there on a Friday afternoon, outside of tourist season meant there weren’t going to be nearly as many people as there could be. It also meant a number of things were closed or limited, but we’d be fine. All of which is to say that as we walked up to the tram, there was no one in line. We got our tickets and got one of the two cars heading out all to ourselves.

Here’s the point where I should mention Rasa is a bit scared of heights (and Monki, though she wants to be like mommy and claims the same fear, is not). We knew this going in but Rasa is a trooper and said she’d be okay. And for the most part, she was. The only hiccough was when the car we were riding in went over the support towers and caused everything to shudder and shake a little bit. But we all breathed through it and made it to the other end, the Druskininkai Snow Arena. When the tram stopped, we had a choice: we could get out and join the small queue to return or we could wander around for a bit until we wanted to come back down (we’d bought the round-trip ticket, naturally). There wasn’t really much to do there, we weren’t going into the Snow Arena (a world-class indoor slope used for training and fun) but as we exited the tram car, there was a sign for a “viewpoint” and, in the distance, what looked like a go-kart track.

We went exploring.

The track was first up. Unfortunately, it was closed so we couldn’t try our luck there. But then we thought we could try the viewpoint. We followed the signs and saw it was part of a restaurant, which was also closed. But there was an arrow pointing for the viewpoint! I was determined to try and find it. We went in the direction of the arrow but couldn’t find anything. We even went all the way around the building until I realized that the viewpoint might be inside the building where the restaurant was, even if the restaurant was closed. Rasa was skeptical but sure enough, the door opened and the elevator worked and soon we all found ourselves high above everything, at the top most end of the outside of the Snow Arena. The actual viewpoint was outside, at the end of an outdoor corridor with metal mesh flooring.

While Monki and I headed out, Rasa, who had been great dealing with the heights all this time, wasn’t going out on the walkway where you could see all the way down to the ground, some 150 feet or so below us. This lasted for only a few seconds until she decided she really didn’t want to stay by herself so, walking straight without looking down at all, Rasa made it to the opaque wood floor of the viewpoint (which, during the season, I’m sure doubles as outdoor seating for the restaurant, which we could see through the glass).

Feeling overjoyed at our discovery, we nonetheless didn’t spend too much time up there ­– Rasa spending none of it near the glass walls – and, after a brief stop to peek into the top of the ski slope, headed back down to catch the sky tram back to town.

Once back in town we figured a walk around was in order, all the while looking out for a place to eat dinner. We meandered past several spas and strolled along the riverside as the sun was setting. Rasa and Monki were threatened by a couple of swans – I, of course, stayed several steps up and away from the foul-tempered fowl. Eventually, since precious little else was open, we decided on a pizza place at the aqua park (there are two hotels and a spa also attached to the park) but as we headed back along the riverside, Rasa directed us all to a spot she had read about. Here, the naturally occurring mineral rich water flowed out of a sculpture. A note alongside the sculpture explained, in several different languages (including Russian since, before the war, Druskininkai was a huge tourist destination for Russians and Belarusians), that the water was specifically not for drinking.

Being one to flaunt the rules and find out things for myself, I stepped right up to the water streaming from the rockface, stuck my fingers in and tasted it.




That was the nastiest, saltiest water I’d ever tasted in my life.

Evidently my distaste showed on my face because the next thing I know, Rasa was laughing so hard she was having trouble breathing and Monki was mocking me by imitating the face I made. I’m all about bringing joy to my girls, even at my own expense (often especially at my own expense) so that was good. Our much-needed break seemed to be going well.

Next up was dinner at the “pizza” place we had spotted earlier. Turns out it was a full on restaurant, and being part of the aqua park had a water theme, including a stream running through the floor and a waterfall right behind our table. The food was quite yummy and, after some tasty desserts, we headed back to the hotel room, where, partiers that we are, we were all in bed by 9:30pm.

We took our time getting started on Saturday morning. The hotel breakfast bar didn’t open until 8 and the water park wasn’t going until 10 so we had plenty of time to get up, get food, pack everything and check out of the hotel and still make it to the aqua park to stand in line, waiting for them to start letting people in.

Once in the park, Monki had a great time showing off her new skills. Over the course of several hours we went around the lazy river many times, found the kids’ area with junior versions of the water slides and found areas where a small person could jump into the water, doing tricks like the “ballerina,” where she would jump and spin before hitting the water. I was usually the one to accompany her on these various adventures since Rasa doesn’t know how to swim (the same hold true when we go to our local pool as well). I did get a few minutes to try the adult waterslides, which were fun, but really the enjoyment is in hanging out with Monki while she has a great time playing.

She did want to try the one grown-up slide we could do together, but the two times we walked up the stairs, flotation device in hand, she got scared at the last minute and so we had to walk back down the stairs. The straight-line slides in the kids’ area were, literally, much more her speed.

I discovered about halfway through our day that my water sandals were really rubbing the feet and hurting to walk in. I didn’t know what was wrong until I looked at the size and realized that while I wear a 42/43, these were a 41. This meant that at some point, someone with the exact same sandal swapped shoes with me. I ended up leaving these in the park since there was no reason to bring them home.

After 5 or so hours of frolicking fun, we (the grown-ups) decided it was time to head for home. The child would have gladly stayed until they shut down and kicked us out. The drive home had us running through rainstorms, passing between huge windmills, and chasing rainbows and back in our house, washing machine cleaning all our clothes and swimsuits by 6pm – just over 30 hours after we decided to go in the first place.

And it did its job. It didn’t make all the worries and concerns go away, but we were able to forget about them for a little while, give our brains some breathing room, and that’s a win in any book.

2 thoughts on “Mmmm… Salty

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