It was another beautiful sunny day when we opened the curtains this morning in Ignalina. Our plan for today was to travel to the nearby village of Palūšė, which is the gateway to the Aukštaitija national park. Although the village is quite close to Ignalina, there isn't a regular bus service there and so the guidebook recommended that the best solution was to walk there. The instructions said to walk in a southwesterly direction from the main train station, where we would find a footpath/cyclepath to follow, and so we set off in the direction of the train station.
On the way, we found what we think might be Ignalina's main square. It has a rather odd fountain.
We also found the bus station, where the buses made us feel rather glad that we'd opted to arrive by train yesterday!
We arrived at the train station but were slightly unclear about which direction southwest would be. We saw some other people following a small path alongside the railway lines and wondered whether that might be the correct direction.
We followed them for a while, but stopped after a couple of minutes when we came to a large sign we couldn't understand in Lithuanian. It might have said "This is the way to Palūšė" or it could quite equally have meant "Danger of death". We decided to turn round, which was a good decision because shortly afterwards we found the cyclepath we were looking for.
The path led us alongside a road and then up through a meadow and into the beginnings of the forest.
We hadn't walked far before we got our first glimpse of one of the numerous lakes that the national park is famous for.
We walked for about three miles, through the forest...
...and alongside the lake...
...until we reached the outskirts of Palūšė, where there is a larger lake with a sandy beach.
A small track led upwards from the side of the lake. This was the start of a walk called the Botanical Trail, which had been recommended in the Rough Guide. The route was well-marked with little green arrows so it was impossible to get lost, although we were a bit confused about why the route was supposed to be "botanical" because as we walked it over the course of the next couple of hours, we barely encountered a single flower. There were quite a lot of mushrooms though, and we did pass the odd person out with a basket to collect them. Otherwise we virtually had the forest to ourselves.
At times the pathway was a little overgrown...
..although admittedly this bit did open up to a viewing platform across one of the lakes.
After a few ascents and descents, the path flattened off and followed the edge of the lake. The water was a beautiful colour in the sunshine.
We briefly came out onto a road and then proceeded to walk down through the forests on the opposite side of the lake, ultimately arriving a few hundred metres from where we had started in Palūšė.
The woods seemed very reminiscent of our trip to Sweden earlier in the year.
Palūšė itself is a tiny place, although we did find a small cafe where we were able to get a drink. It's most notable landmark is its wooden church and belltower, which used to feature on one of the Lita notes before Lithuania joined the Euro.
It was definitely a unique church, and there were some unusual woodcarvings in the grounds, some of which looked more pagan than Christian.
There was also a wonderful view back towards the lake.
There is a national park centre in Palūšė but it looked less interesting even than the one in Zernez, so we decided to give it a miss! We began our walk back to Ignalina...
...and within an hour or so we were there.
We went back to the apartment to cool down and write up the blog. Unfortunately, the one catch of this apartment is that the advertised "free wi-fi" actually translates to "2GB of wi-fi" which we appear to have accidentally used up already. We're not too confident of finding an internet cafe in Ignalina, so we may not be online again until Vilnius on Thursday!
Deprived of internet, in the evening we went out for another walk around the lake we could see from our balcony.
8pm probably wasn't the best time to have chosen to go for a walk beside a lake, as there were rather a lot of flying insects also enjoying the surroundings.
Within no time we were deep within the woods again...
...and had a beautiful view back towards the metropolis of Ignalina.
It was tempting to try walking all the entire way around the lake, but we decided we had better turn back before it either got dark or we got eaten alive by mosquitos.