Immediately behind the border starts sharply higher population density and just a short distance from the border is Vilnius – lively and cozy town inside historical settings. The short distance nicely stresses the contrast in atmosphere compared to Belarus, where everything is soviet-style monumental and nearly no historical buildings made it through the war.
First I arrived to Užupis, originally a poor, even earlier Jewish suburb and now the main bohemian-touristic focus point. Then I detoured to a water castle Trakai, on an isle in the middle of a lake that again has beautifully clean water, which is from all sides surrounded by more isles and more lakes. And finally I came once more back to the Vilnius old town.
From Vilnius I headed back northeast through villages and small towns, with a manor or small castle in nearly every town, towards the Aukštaitijos natural park. Whether in the park proper or beoynd it, the landscape is similar: lots of lakes and everywhere so beautifully clean water, ideal for a swim at the end of the daily cycling trip. I bet it would be even more interesting to travel around the entire network of inter-connected lakes on a small boat, rather than a bike – that is what locals seem to do.
And as is seemingly becoming a tradition on this trip, the largest clean lake is a cooling pool for a local nuclear power station.