Friday, June 30, 2017

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

We wake to very heavy condensation soaking our tent.  This has often been an indication of coming storms, so we hustle through our morning routine, with the hope of reaching Jurbarkas before the late morning/early afternoon wind and waves pick up.  I daven very briefly, we pack haphazardly and we're on the river before 9:30.

Rosa and I are looking forward to Shabbat in Jurbarkas.  Our last two Shabbat experiences, in Kovno and Keidan, were both chock-full of Jewish sites, history, memory and deep emotions. Like nearly every town along the Nemunas River, Jurbarkas housed a Jewish community before the war, but unlike our previous Shabbat layover places,  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 shear rest and relaxation.  This feels right; three weeks into our journey, I need a real 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 true break should help, too.


As expected, we have a short morning of paddling.  I'm pretty wiped out, so I appreciate this rare easy stretch.  Conditions are terrific: sunny, warm, tranquil, with just the hint of a tailwind. Around 11:30, we arrive in Jurbarkas, where we meet Osvaldas--our local contact, via Justas--just past the main city bridge on river right.  This is the longest bridge in Lithuania, spanning the Nemunas, which has, by this point, already collected a great deal of water from its tributaries before it reaches the sea another seventy-two miles downstream along the Kaliningrad border.  We pull into one of those tributaries and paddle a few hundred yards upstream to our takeout, where Osvaldas loads our kayak onto a trailer and tosses our gear into his van.  Like Justas, he runs a kayak rental business, so knows exactly what he's doing.  He's kind and helpful, eager to hear about our journey as he drives us to our bed and breakfast in town.


The bed and breakfast is lovely, with a lush 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 come in very handy.   I'm surprised to find that even I can figure out a bit, from the sprinkling of Yiddish I learned over the years.   Like most of the Lithuanians we've met along the way, our hostess is generous and hospitable. She insists on doing our laundry and hangs all of our wet camping gear out to dry in her yard. We unpack, settle in, do some shopping for Shabbat--"challah" rolls and wine at the supermarket just across the street--then eat a late lunch and nap in the peaceful garden courtyard.

Come evening, we head out for dinner, newly-showered and sporting freshly-laundered clothing. We eat an undistinguished yet satisfying Lithuanian supper, then stroll around town.  It's a pleasant and unremarkable place, a mix of old wooden buildings and Soviet-era concrete monstrosities, with the required splendid cathedral perched on the village square. We notice that even the most modest homes have large gardens, often with sprawling greenhouses. This is a legacy of Soviet occupation, when long lines and severe shortages strongly encouraged residents to grow their own produce. 

We end the evening with a tranquil promenade through a leafy creekside park, which takes us back to the room for Shabbat candles, kiddush, challah--and bed!

Shabbat shalom!

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