Friday, June 30, 2017

Upstream 25: Week's End--Arriving in Jurbarkas (Friday, June 9, Jurbarkas)

We got off to a relatively early start--for us, that means before 10:00 am--with the hope of reaching Jurbarkas before the wind and waves pick up in the late morning/early afternoon.  We woke this morning to very heavy condensation soaking our tent, and often this has been an indication of coming storms.  We shall see.

I've been using a siddur app on my I-pad for my morning davenning, but the I-pad battery is dead, so I did a quick version of the morning prayers from memory.  This is a reminder of the benefits of good, old-fashioned books: no batteries to replace.  Still, it was good to improvise a bit today, no texts, just straight from the heart.

We're looking forward to Shabbat in Jurbarkas.  Our last two Shabbat experiences, in Kovno and Keidan, were both full to the brim with Jewish sites, history, memories and deep emotions. Jurbarkas, too, housed a Jewish community before the war, like nearly every town in this region, but it was not a major center, and I do not have family connections here.  So. . . tomorrow should be less about exploring our roots and more about plain old rest and relaxation.  This is good, because three weeks into our journey, I really need this respite to renew and recuperate.   I've been on the cusp of a cold for the past few days, mostly fighting it off successfully with lots of tea and water and Ibuprofon.  But a real break should help a lot.


As expected, it was a short morning of paddling.  I felt pretty wiped out, so appreciated this easy stretch.  Conditions were terrific: sunny, warm, tranquil, with the lightest of breezes.  We arrived in Jurbarkas around 11:30 and met our contact (via Justas), Osvaldas, just past the main city bridge on river right.  This is the longest bridge in Lithuania, spanning the Nemunas, which has, by this point, collected a great deal of water from its tributaries before it reaches the sea.  We pulled off into one of those tributaries and paddled a few hundred yards upstream to our take out, where Osvaldas loaded our kayak onto a trailer and threw our gear into his van.  Like Justas, he runs a kayak rental business, so knows exactly what he's doing.  He was kind and helpful, eager to hear about our journey as he drove us to our bed and breakfast in town.


The bed and breakfast is lovely, with a gorgeous garden and very comfortable spaces both indoors and out.  The owner/hostess does not speak any English, but is fluent in German, so Rosa's three years of high school German are coming in very handy.  Even I can figure out a bit, from the sprinkling of Yiddish I learned at HUC and along the way.  She, too, is most generous and hospitable. She insisted on doing our laundry for us, and hung all of our wet camping gear out to dry in her yard. We unpacked, settled in, did some shopping for Shabbat--"challah" rolls and wine at the local supermarket just across the street--then ate a late lunch and rested in the peaceful garden courtyard. 
In the evening, we went out for dinner, newly-showered and sporting freshly laundered clothing, then walked around town.  It's a pleasant and unremarkable place, a mix of old wooden buildings and Soviet-era concrete monstrosities, with the usual large and beautiful cathedral on the village square. We noticed that even the smallest homes have large gardens, often with significant green houses. We've learned that this is a legacy of Soviet occupation, when long lines and produce shortages strongly encouraged residents to grow their own.  

We ended the evening with a tranquil stroll through a leafy creekside park.  Then back to the room for Shabbat candles, kiddush, challah--and bed!

Shabbat shalom!

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